Adric finds them outside the TARDIS hitting round objects with bits
of wood. The Doctor calls it cricket. A game - it's supposed to be fun.
He watches from the TARDIS door as the Doctor throws the ball towards
Tegan, holding the bat. She misses it. Stupid. How could anyone's hand
eye co-ordination be so poor? But the Doctor just laughs, and smiles as
he suggests what she is doing wrong. For once, she doesn't snap back,
doesn't whine. She nods, and smiles back, happy.
"And try and keep your eye on the ball!" the Doctor calls as he throws it again.
Still, Adric watches, not wanting to go back into the TARDIS by himself, but unable to approach the others. He watches as the Doctor takes his turn at bat, and though he's unfamiliar with the rules, he can see the Doctor is good at this game. He can see that the Doctor likes this game. He's comfortable, relaxed in front of the little blocks of wood, the stumps, he thinks he heard someone shout. Here, the Doctor brings the bat forward with an unshakeable confidence as he knows exactly what he's doing, and even when the ball doesn't go precisely the way he's expecting, he can quickly improvise: adjust his stance, the angle of the bat, the force of impact.
Adric can't imagine the other Doctor doing this. He can't imagine his Doctor wasting time playing stupid games.
Then he frowns, his eyes narrow as he has the unpleasant feeling that he is lying to himself. It takes him a few seconds to concede that his Doctor did play games: Adric remembers him playing chess. He remembers him playing chess a lot, against Romana, against K-9, against himself. He remembers his Doctor losing practically every game. But he is sure now, sure that if he really thinks about it, if he really focuses on the memory he can see the Doctor's mouth twitching, concealing a smile because he knows that if he had wanted to, he could have won. Adric doesn't feel annoyed about that: when he played chess against the Doctor he always felt challenged.
Chess, Adric considers, is a game that requires intelligence and skill and a grasp of grand strategy. And the Doctor played chess like he played life; he took control, dominated the board, kept himself as the centre of attention and all the pieces reacted to him. He was unafraid and bold and certain that, in the end, he would prevail.
That doesn't happen anymore.
Adric's Doctor had known chess was just a game and had treated it as such; a mere distraction between adventures. But as he watches the Doctor play cricket, he can see that he isn't distracted, he is happy, content. He probably wants to stand outside hitting stupid balls forever before drinking some leaf-flavoured water mixed with milk.
This Doctor lets the pawns push him around. Adric sees it in the TARDIS every day, when the Doctor lets Tegan or Nyssa have their own stupid way, instead of him. Then when they finally land somewhere interesting, when they are finally doing something worthwhile, he lets everything flow over him, trying to keep out of the way until it becomes absolutely impossible not to act. Luck, Adric feels, is a poor way to win at chess.
Nyssa is at bat now. She's worse than Tegan, much worse. Adric almost laughs, certain that even he can do better, but still he stays in the doorway; he doesn't want to play cricket. The universe doesn't play cricket; it prefers chess, chess without the rules.
If only the Doctor could remember that.
If only he'd remember that instead of wasting time running about on alien grass they could be doing something useful, something worthwhile, something intelligent.
He returns to the console room and stares at the controls, and a mad, wonderful thought occurs to him. He knows how to operate the TARDIS, he could dematerialise. He can leave them to their stupid game and go save the universe by himself.
But as his hand hovers over the controls, he feels a rush of uncertainty. He realises that he doesn't know how to play cricket. Five minutes, he decides, it'll just take five minutes. He rushes from the console room and runs to the library.
Hours later, the Doctor finds him in a chair, a pile of books beside him. Books about cricket. The Doctor raises an eyebrow at the sight, but says nothing.
He leaves Adric to his studies.
And when Adric leaves the library, he shakes his head in disbelief. Nobody, he decides, could possibly really, truly understand that game.