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The Cycle

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“My dear Doctor, I would stand with you at the end of eternity.” The Master's voice was laced with mocking glee as he stood before The Doctor, his defiant demeanour dismissing the trifling fact that he was The Doctor's prisoner.

“Time and again, we meet like this,” The Doctor replied evenly. “It always ends badly. People suffer and die because of you. Let's break the cycle and start anew.”

“Oh, Doctor. Your optimism is always so touching. It almost seems a shame to bring you crashing down to the ground every time,” The Master tempered his mocking tone with a strand of pity.

He smiled as the Doctor sighed. Time to start again.

***

“My dear Doctor, I would stand with you at the end of eternity, as we listen to the death cries of the universe.” The Master's voice was quiet, almost a whisper, almost a threat, almost a seduction.

“Time and again, we meet like this,” The Doctor replied, voice tinged with grief and tiredness. “Every time, innocent people see their lives and loved ones torn apart and lost. All through your actions. No more.”

“Oh, Doctor. Your concern is so touching. All those little creatures in pain, and your noble self comes to the rescue. I do that for you, my friend.”

“You think I help people because I wish to be noble, to be a hero?” The Doctor cried out. “I help them because that is the right thing to do. I do it to stop people like you from doing it again and again.”

“I. I. I. Yes, it is all about you, Doctor,” The Master smiled seductively. “In the end, it will be all about you and me.”

The Doctor could only close his eyes in sadness. Time to start again.

***

“My dear Doctor, I would stand with you at the end of eternity, as we watch what magnificent terrors I have unleashed.” The Master's voice was full of scorn, eyes burning with passion.

“Time and again, we meet like this,” The Doctor replied. “Your magnificent terrors are real peoples' suffering. Think back to all the times you were deliberately hurt by someone. How could you possibly inflict that pain on innocent lives?”

“Innocent lives, Doctor? Surely there were murderers amongst those people? Thieves roaming free and unconvicted. Violent and dangerous criminals in those societies, free to wreak havoc. Why, my dear Doctor, I solved their crime problems with one small action. A trifling matter.”

“It wasn't your choice to make,” The Doctor sadly shook his head. “You murdered entire communities just because you were able to, because you wanted to, not because you were making some sort of moral judgement.”

“Indeed. And who appointed you as my trial judge?” The Master asked.

“You are entitled to be judged by your peers, and I am your only peer,” The Doctor's voice quavered slightly as he thought of Gallifrey, lost to eternity and to all hope.

“Yes, and together we shall stand looking back over eternity, Doctor,” The Master stroked his goatee thoughtfully. 'I shall enjoy seeing that with you.”

The Doctor's voice cracked slightly. "That would be the last thing you ever get."

Time to start again.

***

“My dear Doctor, I would stand with you at the end of eternity, as you submit to me.” The Master's voice was seductive, smooth, and so tempting to The Doctor. He could listen to that voice for all time, watch that gleam in his eyes sparkle as he spoke. Imprisoned in the TARDIS, all he could do was speak, his gift of theatricality indulged by his audience of one. A full house every night.

“Time and again, we meet like this,” The Doctor replied. “Every time, you speak, you gloat about all the horror you create. You expect me to admire your handiwork, to approve of your ingenious scheming. I can't do that. Never.”

“Yet you call it handiwork, like a finely crafted sculpture. My schemes are ingenious. I am flattered by your admiration, Doctor. I hope I continue to earn your admiration,” The Master bowed slightly.

Something caught in The Doctor's throat and he swallowed it down, mind racing, hearts pounding. Time to start again.

***

“My dear Doctor, I would stand with you at the end of eternity, as we watch each other die.” The Master's voice was soft as a breeze of solar particles, as subtle as an aurora’s blossom of ions. The Doctor watched, transfixed by the image of them together, alone with each other as everything they had ever known and loved winked out in the frozen skies.

“Time and again, we meet like this,” The Doctor replied. “Every time, you wage war on those who have never known you, or spoken ill of you. You terrorise innocent lives. You-,” The Doctor cut himself off with a sigh of frustration. “Every time, and it never changes.” He paced back and forth in angry silence.

“If you kill me, it will change things,” The Master tilted his head to follow The Doctor's pacing.

“If I kill you?” The Doctor stared at a wall. “If I kill you, then I am no better than you.”

The Master had not moved, merely placing his fingertips together under his chin. “So, we are equals. We are as one. We stand together, as it were.”

The Doctor's gaze was still laser-focused on one spot on the wall. Time to start again.

***

“My dear Doctor, I always stood with you, then and now. For all eternity.” The Master's expression was impassive, and his voice had given no clue as to if it were a threat or an expression of love.

“Time and again, we met like this,” The Doctor replied. “It always ended badly. The cycle is broken.”

Together, they looked upon the universe as it ended. As some stars winked out, and other stars slumped in on themselves, a dark sorrow settled in The Doctor's chest.

The Master would no longer be a menace to lives now. Anguish and torment lay concentrated here, not gifted to the dead in the past, but held prisoner in The Doctor's hearts and mind, here with The Master at the end of eternity.

Time to stop.