For Sale: One Body - Used
A/N: With the news that Wolf 359 has been added as a category to ffnet, I've decided to kickstart it by crossposting my one and only (so far) W359 fanfic here. Unfortunately, ffnet formatting doesn't allow strikethrough, which I used heavily in my original version of this, so I've had to substitute that with square brackets instead. Enjoy.
Eiffel is not gone, but sometimes Doug wishes he were.
Is that a terrible thing to wish? It probably is. Doug doesn't tell the others. They don't need to know. Shouldn't. After all, it's just another way in which Doug has failed. In which he's not the man he's meant to be.
Meant to be. Meant. To. Be. There is not meant to be for Doug. Only who he is now. Except he doesn't even know that much.
If Eiffel was gone, that would be a start. If Eiffel was gone, Doug could find his own way. But Eiffel will never be gone. You cannot live a life and not leave something behind.
For sale: one body - used.
There is a ghost in Doug's secondhand bones. It carries scars and shadows and fears that haunt him, that belonged to another person, another life. That constantly remind him that he is just a houseguest. Temporary. Replaceable. He's just here to water the plants and walk the dog until the real owner returns.
It's a house half lived-in; the furniture is gone, but the marks remain. the others show him the home videos and perhaps with enough practice, enough guesswork, enough luck, he can bring the house back to an echo of what it once was. What they remember it to be. But it never will. He can buy the same sofa or fit the kitchen with the same cabinet doors but it'll never be the same. The hinges won't squeak the way they used to, the furniture will be just a shade off, the tables clean and unscuffed. It will never be right; the uncanny valley of masonry. An illusion, and none of it means anything to Doug.
It isn't Eiffel's house anymore. It's Doug's.
Communications Officer Douglas Eiffel isn't here right now. Please leave a message after the tone.
Eiffel didn't like spiders. So neither does Doug.
(Doug discovers this the first time a harvestman skitters across the kitchen floor. He freezes, and phantom feet dance across his stomach. Hairy and slimy. Why was it hairy and slimy?)
There's a story to that, but it's not Doug's.
Eiffel was teetotal, so Doug is too.
Wait. No. That [wasn't] isn't quite right.
There's a vicious thirst that claws at his throat, a monster that was a ghost even in Eiffel's time. There would almost be some satisfying irony in the knowledge that Eiffel had been haunted too, if only it didn't stalk him also.
(Doug reaches for a bottle only once (it's understandable, he reasons, after everything) but hesitates. It's one of the few times he listens to the echo that was once Eiffel.)
There's a story to that, but Doug doesn't ask.
Eiffel knew sign language. So Doug does too. Honestly, that surprised him more than he cared to admit, and not only because there was no mention of it in the logs. But the first time he meets his daughter (Eiffel's, Doug's, his, his daughter) he finds meaning in her gestures and his hands know a language that is all fingers and thumbs; fitting, for a man whose memory is much of the same.
There's a story to that, but Doug doesn't want to know.
He learns anyway.
Officer Eiffel isn't here right now. You can leave a message if you like. He won't get back to you but you can try if that makes you feel any better.
Spoilers: It probably won't.
He does try. He did try. He wanted to be the Eiffel they wanted, they knew, they missed, but for all the echoes in his soul, there's not enough. He's not enough.
He learns that.
This is Doug [Eiffel]. But you don't want to talk to him, do you? Too bad. He's all you're getting.
There are phrases he uses without any thought. They don't make sense once he says them - they're a throwback to Eiffel - but they're carved into his tongue regardless. References he doesn't know, but the muscle memory is there. It remains.
Down the rabbit hole. Up the spout.
The dark side. The other side.
There's no place like home.
One is not like the other.
One goes unnoticed. The other gives them hope.
[His friends.] Eiffel's friends. The others. Maybe his friends in time. But they were Eiffel's first. They will always be Eiffel's first. And they hear the throwaway references and they hear Eiffel. Not Doug. Eiffel. They don't understand that those lines mean nothing to Doug, that his [Swiss cheese brain] addled mind is just pulling words from a hat. It's not his fault if the others assign meaning where there is none.
In time he memorises Eiffel's remnant dictionary and discards it. Learns the words that give the others hope and marks them in bold. Warning. Do not use. [Do not pass go. Do not collect 200.]
Carve away Eiffel until only Doug remains.
Whoever he is.
Sorry, folks. [Your Eiffel is in another castle.]
Eiffel is not here, ask again [never] later.
Eiffel is not here, [don't] try again.
Try again. Try again until you become the person they want you to be.
Pick a card, any card. It doesn't matter. It's wrong. It's always wrong.
You're not him, the looks say. You're not Eiffel. You're just a stopping point, a hiccup, a bump in the road. You are not real.
Eiffel was paranoid too. It's just another thing they share. Just another thing that lingered after its use-by date. But Eiffel's paranoia wasn't always wrong. Which means maybe Doug's isn't either.
Maybe they would trade Doug for Eiffel in a heartbeat. Less. Not that they say as much. They don't need to. They just keep a-knock-knocking at that door in the hope that, one day, Eiffel will answer.
Eiffel isn't here right now. Don't leave a message. Please. Stop.
Eiffel is not gone, but [sometimes] Doug wishes he were.
A/N: Do I think this is the canonical way Doug dealt with the outcome of the finale? Probably not. Do I think his friends would ever intentionally make him feel like this? Of course not. But do I think that living under the shadow of the person you used to be could have these kinds of consequences? Definitely. And fanfic thrives on the what if. So here is me pushing all my feelings after the finale onto controllable angst and really having fun with formatting options.