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Decoherence

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Sixty-two years. Sixty-two years is an entire lifetime for many humans. Sixty-two years is an eyeblink for a Time Lord in one mental mode. It is an eternity for a Time Lord who has slowed down his perception of time so that he might savor every last one of the seconds of those sixty-two years. Nearly two billion seconds. (He cannot help but enumerate them.)

He can, if he wishes, count them, but that is a waste of his mind. And worse, it is a remind that they are dripping away. He does not wish to keep an accounting of them. He wishes to be surprised when they end. (He cannot help but count.)

A Time Lord can control his experience of time. He knows where he is in it, and in which direction he is moving. He feels his own motion through the quantum foam. He can slow himself down, so that he feels the elapsed time in a day the way she does, the way Clara does. He stops begrudging her this need to sleep, to dream. (He lies awake beside her and watches her dream, committing her ever-deeper to memory.)

Time has an arrow. It is asymmetrical; it points toward a state of greater entropy. Not even Time Lords can alter this, for it is a physical law. The wave function collapses; entropy increases. This is observable even in individuals moving at will through time and space in a little blue box. (He denies this, for surely this system is not closed and with the expenditure of great energy he can alter the entropy level measurably.)

There comes a day when she looks at them in a mirror and tells him that they match now, that she is as gray as he is. He shakes his head and tells her he has no idea what she's talking about, she looks exactly the same as she ever has, and would she stop wittering about and help him open this safe? (He starts choosing adventures that do not require quite as much running.)

Somewhere there is a crack in the fabric of space-time and beyond it is Gallifrey. The infinite schism and the unimaginable Time Lord technology that ripped it open hold the solution to his problem. He is aware that they may well clap him in irons the moment they see him, but he is certain he can escape them and steal one more great secret from them. (He has planned this theft for nearly forty years now and is confident.)

The human body renews itself every seven years, but it does so using a blueprint that becomes ever more blurry. Entropy increases. Systems fail. He takes her to all the pretty places he has known or read of, to the quiet peaceful corners of the universe where the high-energy collisions of civilizations do not happen. She shakes her head at him but he refuses to discuss it. (He is superstitious in this way: if he does not look inside the box, the wave function will not collapse.)

There is part of him that has forgotten she is human, that expects when she breathes her last that golden light will suffuse her and burst out and that the regeneration energy will rebuild her into something unexpected, something she will look into a mirror and be shocked by. He is there, holding her hand, so that he will be the first thing she sees and it will continue on, an infinite cycle. (He knows this will not happen, for in those sixty-two years he has not managed to find Gallifrey.)

He is aware that he will recover from this as he has recovered from every one of the losses that came before her. Some day his chest will stop aching for her, some day he will stop reaching out for her hand. Some day he will reach for a hand and it will be someone else, because she told him to find someone to travel with, and the sooner the better. He consented, because that was what he always did when Clara told him what to do. Get on with your life, you stupid old man. Some day soon he'll work out how. (He knows time will take away this too from him, as it takes everything.)