You can smell him on the wind.
Underneath the smell of rubbish, underneath the smell of discarded lives that the people of London pile up into big, disgusting heaps, he's there. He's hiding, and maybe in a place like this, he could hide from others, but he can't hide from you. You know his smell. It's a sharp, pungent tang; the familiar smell of Time and Eternity, mixed with the blood he's spilled and the burning smell of energy. His life force is raw and split open, and no planet could hide his scent.
Which means, of course, that he can smell you, too.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
He's playing your song. Four beats. A long pole pounding against an empty container, over and over. Calling to you. Over and over until you find him. Because that's what he wants, isn't it? To draw you in, to pull you closer. His own personal version of the cloister bell, calling out danger.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
You shouldn't run to him, and you know this. You know how wrong it is to want to run to him, you know how wrong it is to give in to what he so obviously wants. After all, this is all a game to him. To him, you're darting across a chess board and he's trying to find some sort of a strategic advantage. It doesn't matter if you want to play, the moment you chase him, you're playing. You're playing, and he's already got the lead. You know this, but you still run to him. You don't have a choice; you have to follow, you have to find him. Your feet pound against the cold, dusty ground as you chase him down.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
And there he is. Standing across the field from you. Standing there, screaming out in frustration. The black king and the white king, across the board. All of your pawns have been used up, and it's just you against him. You can't checkmate another king without at least one pawn and you know this, but it doesn't stop you from running towards him. Never giving up, never resigning. You've lost your fair share of games to him, but you won't, not this time.
He roars. It's a pained, animalistic sound. He roars and you can feel his pain, you can taste it in the air. It's sharp and palatable on the back of your tongue. He's dying, he's burning up, he's a ball of energy held together by the strength of his own will. After all, he's never given up a game to you, either, no matter how many times you've bested him.
A stench hits the wind. It's like burning hair and rotting flesh and it's him but it isn't. He's dying. He's dying and he's burning up and you stare, open-mouthed, at what he's become. What he's doing to himself. What he's doing in order to win.
And he leaps away, blasting out more energy to give himself the advantage. You stare for another moment, watching him go.
It's not cheating, of course. He's still only moving the number of spaces across the board he can, he's still only moving in the directions he's allowed, but he's holding back the clock, just a little while longer. Giving himself extra time, because he could never win this game in 35 minutes. He wants more time to beat you.
Which, of course, means that he's doing this to himself for you.
But this is the way it has always been.
And you chase. You run over long, rusted planks and slid across slick rock paths, but you chase because you must. Because this is the way the game has always been played. He has never chased you, you will always chase him.
When you fall too far behind, because you are always the one who falls behind, he waits. Waits and laughs, because games are supposed to be fun. His bones and muscles show through the limited energy holding him together and another blast of that terrible stench hits you.
"Please," you call, because it is always you who calls first. "Let me help!"
He tilts his head to the side, disgusted by this offer. You, offering to resign? Well, that would hardly make the game worth playing, would it? After all, games are meant to be won, not given. This is how he's always seen it, and you know this. It doesn't stop you from offering, just as you've always offered.
"You're burning up your own life force!" you say.
He knows this. He knows what he's sacrificing in order to win, but you doubt he's ever cared about anything but winning.
But this is not a game. Not to you.
He laughs and he runs again, and you chase. You chase because you always chase. He moves and you react because that is what you're programmed to do. It's deep within you, it's in your DNA, it's in the shape of your chess piece.
You like to imagine that if this were a game, you'd both be kings, each trying but unable to best each other.
You're not, of course. You have no power in this game.
You've always been his pawn.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 883