"We're only just beginning, you know," he says.
"It's long since been over, you know," he says.
He knows what he's handing to the old man on his left, but he's extremely curious about the cards to the old man on his right.
"You could just ask, you know."
"Finding out now would simply spoil the end for you, young man."
He adjusts his spectacles and toys with a cane between his fingers.
He straightens his black collar and wears an eternally twisted smile.
Rubbish hand, two eights, an ace, a three and a four.
He sighs and scratches his sideburns.
"Skaro." He tosses a chip to the center.
"That bad a hand, is it?" The twisted smile becomes more of a smug smirk.
"Hmmm? Were you trying to be witty there?"
His expression turns nothing if not more sour.
"I don't think that's technically yours to bet."
"I think I will bet what I like."
"I could bet the stars of Asteroth, but it doesn't mean I could shell them out should I lose."
"Ah, see, but I don't aim to lose."
"Funny that you will anyway."
"Asguard." The chip goes into the center of the table.
No one questions that this mighty planet belongs to him.
He fingers the chips in his hands.
There aren't many, but they're precious.
All he has, actually.
"Pick a planet," he says, motioning towards a chip with his cane.
"Pick a person," he says, motioning towards a chip with a gloved hand.
Though it unnerves him that they both said the word simultaneously.
"It's all how you see the universe. You'll understand, one day."
"Once you control it all. Own it all."
"Don't listen to him, my boy. Think about how you see the universe, now."
"The universe that's made you alone."
"You can't lie to me. You can lie to him, but you can't lie to me."
That twisted smile never vanishes, never quits.
"Companions will keep us from being alone."
"You'll grow bitter about being alone."
He keeps all of his cards.
He discards one of his cards.
He discards everything but the ace and the eights.
At least he's got one pair if nothing else.
"And nothing else."
"Oh, do be quiet."
He bets Andromeda.
He bets the entire Nosido Cluster.
But he can't fold. That's not the sort of man he is. That's not the sort of man he's ever been, or ever would be.
He looks down at the only chip he has left. Funny, he thought he was holding a good deal more.
"Think about how much you have to lose before you bet."
"Think about how little you have to lose before you bet."
He tilts his head a little to the side. "Hardly worth the Cluster, but if it's all you have…"
"It's all you have," he whispers, leaning over. "But he hasn't got it, you know."
He thinks of the chip, warm and smooth underneath his fingers.
He wonders how long he's had it, if it's worth it to stay in the game.
"Don't give it up, Doctor."
"Give it up, Doctor."
He laughs. "Appropriate."
"I've always known your cards, Doctor. Look at your hand."
A dead man's hand.
The past scowls.
The future laughs.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 746