Death is stalking him.
It is a curious sensation, a prickle at the back of his neck and a fleeting glimpse at the corner of his eye.
The threads of Time are twisting and tightening around him. Clocks are ticking, he can run, and he does run, and runs far and runs fast, but the countdown has already begun and he has reached the beginning of the end.
And then it will all start over again.
He remembers his last death, dying to save Rose Tyler and doing so gladly, full of love for her and relief that he didn't have to make the hard decision again, so soon after he had made the hardest decision of all.
She had made him better. And he had done the same for her.
He thinks of that man rarely now, the man so full of pain and regret, but if he closes his eyes and concentrates, he can feel rough denim under his fingertips and the heavy weight of leather on his shoulders. It felt as foreign as his suit and trainers would undoubtedly feel to whoever was coming next.
He will be the same man, but not.
Change is coming, new clothes, new face, new life. Everything he is will burn up as it has nearly a dozen times before. Food will taste different. He'll say different things. The universe will be different, because he is. He'll have to learn how to walk on new legs, how to speak with a new mouth and how to live anew.
He'll live even as he dies.
He's died stupidly, and nobly, he's been murdered and he's committed suicide. He's died in battle and he's died for love.
This man, this him, is a good one, strong and clever. Next time he might not be so lucky, he might not be young and handsome and witty. He can admit his own vanity, he loves this him, has since the beginning, when he saved his favourite planet with nothing but a sword and a handful of bravado. This him has seen some amazing things, met brilliant people and he's lived.
Oh, how he's lived.
There has been so much loss.
So much despair.
Mistakes that haunt him, that he will never forgive himself for.
The people he couldn't, or didn't save.
Two minutes on a beach.
A year that wasn't.
Maybe it is time. He's not sure if he can bear much more.
He'd slept, for the first time in ages, and he had dreamed of them, the people he loved, the people who loved him. They shined so bright, so beautiful. He would never forget.
He would never forget.
It is going to happen and it is going to happen soon. So many things he didn't get to do, places he didn't get to see with these eyes, planets he never walked on these feet. He might still view those vistas, walk those lands, but it will be different.
He would be different.
The ghost of his future self is tugging at his sleeve, the man he would become hovering in the shadows, echoing into the past. Would he be a good man? A kind man? This him would never know. He would be dead.
A part of him cowers at the thought of the pain and burning that is to come. Dying hurts. It is not pretty, or neat, it is primal and base, his world exploding in fire, consuming every last drop of him. Skin and muscle and bone, hair and teeth and nails, there won't be so much as a speck left.
And he wouldn't miss it.
Afterwards he does not mourn himself, he can't, he will be too busy with the shock of the new to miss the old. He grieves before he dies, as he laces Chucks for what may be the last time and straightens a tie that will soon be tossed aside and forgotten. He is still flip on the outside, but mentally he lingers on the sound of each word, on the shape of each thought. He misses now what he won't miss then.
Grief, after all, was always for the ones left behind.
There are some who will miss him, some who will be glad to see the back of him. He might see them again, he might not.
He might care about that, he might not.
He's living on borrowed time now, an hour here, a day there. He wants more, more days, more weeks, more years. He's cheated death so often before, surely there are more tricks up his sleeve?
Everything lives, for a moment or for an eternity. In glory or in shame. He's lived his life the only way he can, the only way he knows how. He's been glorious and he's been shamed, he's won and lost and loved and hated. He's been him. He's lived for a moment, he's lived for an eternity.
Everything dies, the beginning leads to the end, the circle completes. There is no life without death, and no death without life.
And now it's his time to die.