The Master hadn't meant to destroy the Earth, really. Or, well, he had, but he'd assumed the Doctor would find a way to stop him at the last moment; he always bloody did, didn't he? It was kind of their Thing. But this time the Doctor didn't quite manage it somehow, and it all went Poof. Not nearly as satisfying as you'd think. Anti-climactic, really, just...zap, no more Earth. He hadn't literally blown it up, so much as imploded it into non-being--maybe that was the difference.
He had, at any rate, managed to escape with the Doctor's TARDIS, dragging the Doctor along as his prisoner, which was a neat little turn of events, he thought at first. "I think I'm just going to keep you," he told the Doctor, with all the malicious glee he could muster. "How's that for a switch?"
"No, we've done that already," the Doctor pointed out, disconsolate. "More than once. Recently, even. You had me in a birdcage. Remember?"
Still, he needed someone to gloat to, obviously, and the Doctor was the only one who could appreciate the neat symmetry of what he'd done: You destroy Gallifrey, I'll take down the Earth. And possibly no one ever had cared about the Earth anywhere near as much as the Doctor had, so really it was all for him.
The Master expected a lot of yelling, recriminations, stony silences, followed by some elaborate hare-brained scheme to get the Earth back, which he'd then have the fun of foiling. Or not. He was prepared to admit that the foiling might fall through, it generally did, but (though this he wouldn't admit) it was mainly just the fight that he enjoyed anyway.
This time, though, the Doctor chose to react in the most tiresome and insufferable way possible.
He went catatonic.
Not right away. There was some shouting at first, some flailing and weeping--this regeneration was a real crier--some days of curled-up-in-a-ball-in-the-corner rocking and muttering in the padded room where the Master had secured him. After a few days of total silence in there, though, he went in cautiously, laser screwdriver at the ready in case of a ruse, and found...mannequin Doctor, basically.
It took him ages to decide that the Doctor wasn't faking it or doing it on purpose somehow. He tried pinching, tickling, inappropriate licking. No response. He tried threats, ranging from the standard (I know a nice little planet full of fluffy kittens we could visit next; want to watch it burn?) to the inventive (dress you up in that French maid's uniform I found in your wardrobe and make you sit across from me at the dinner table like that for the next six months). He considered trying on the French maid's uniform himself to see if that would get a rise, but decided to leave it as a last resort.
He left him alone for a while.
Eventually he gave in and hauled the body down to the medical bay--Rassilon, he weighed nothing--and performed some highly invasive scans which proved pretty conclusively that A) the Doctor wasn't faking it and B) his systems were rapidly beginning to shut down; the damage was going to be irreversible soon.
"I suppose this is your version of post-traumatic thingy," the Master told him crossly. "You never do anything by halves, do you? You enormous sap."
The brown eyes just stared, sightless, uncanny.
The obvious thing would be to let him get on with it, shuffle off this mortal coil and regenerate already. More than likely the next body would come back with a bit more spark to it. He hated to do it, though. He liked this one, was the thing. It seemed to suit his own particularly well: clever and bendy.
Also, if he really thought about it, he was rather offended. "All right," he told the Doctor, "so I should have kept one or two of your"--he spat the word--"companions around to give you something to live for, apparently. My bad! I could have tortured them, you would have tied yourself in all kinds of amusing knots to rescue them--good times! But what about, well, me? Wasn't I supposed to be your next great fixer-upper do-gooder project? Think of all the damage I'll do on my own! And now you're going to, what, leave me to it? It's just irresponsible!"
Not a twitch.
The Master heaved a long-suffering sigh, but there was nothing for it; he climbed up on the examination table and wedged his body up alongside the Doctor's, put a hand to his face, and plunged in.
It was very dark in there. Cold and dark, all the long way down. Sheets over all the furniture, no forwarding address. The Master shivered. He prodded at things, lifted up the sheets, but it was like gray and tasteless candyfloss; everything just melted away. At last he came to a room with something solid in it, just one small thing in the vast echoing silence: an ornate little table with something like a glowing red and orange snow globe sitting in the very center. He walked over, footsteps resounding, and peered close.
Inside, Gallifrey burned, and burned, and burned.
He picked it up and shook it, and Gallifrey became the Earth, imploding. It reformed itself as he watched, only to implode again. He wondered what would happen if he smashed the glass. Then he put it carefully back down on the table and backed up a step. "Theta?" he called out uncertainly, his voice nearly lost to the cavernous room. "It's me. Can we at least talk about it?"
There was, for the first time, a sort of stirring awareness of his presence. The walls of the room seemed to quiver.
"There, that's it," he encouraged, and reached out with his mind for that flicker of consciousness, stroking his way down the neural pathways and nudging them wider open. He'd overwhelm him with floods of sense-memories, the older the better--the Doctor was always a sentimental bastard. That ridiculous daisy. Sun-warmed skin, the clash of fencing foils, the whirl of galaxies overhead, the smell of old books in the Academy library, stolen kisses--
Blinking, stunned, he found himself flat on his back with a hand around his throat in the real world; the Doctor had apparently not only thrown him out of his mind but right off the table and onto the floor. The Doctor was top of him, fingers choke-tight around his neck, teeth bared in animal fury.
"You destroyed the Earth," he snarled, "and I'm supposed to forgive you because we did some snogging when we were boys?"
The Master found this terribly unfair. "We did quite a lot more than snog!" he pointed out. The fingers around his neck gripped tighter. "Ow. Anyway. I didn't say forgive. Did I say forgive? Just don't stalk off in a huge sulk, is all I ask. You're incredibly childish at times, you know."
"The Earth," the Doctor repeated. "Destroyed."
"Well, what do you expect? It's not as though it's my first attempt! Really, in a way it's your own fault for not stopping me this time!"
"Is it," the Doctor said dangerously.
The Master swallowed, as best he could. "Well. In a way, I said. I didn't even mean to destroy it, in point of fact; I was aiming for total planetary mind control. Again. The destruction thing was just Plan B."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, and waited.
"And no one even got hurt! They just ceased to exist. Or, well, if you want to know the truth, they ceased to have ever existed. It was a neat little job, now I mention it, if you're interested...?"
The Doctor wasn't interested.
"All right, I'm sorry!" the Master shouted finally. "But look here, you can't, you can't just leave me!"
The Doctor rolled off of him and fell limply onto his back. "I cannot believe," he said hollowly, "that after all these years--centuries!--you're still resorting to planetary mind control as a way to pull my pigtails." He gave the Master a complicated Doctorish look that should have made him want to break things, but instead he found it embarrassingly reassuring at the moment.
"It's not just about pulling your pigtails," he grumbled. "I do actually enjoy being an evil git, you know."
"I know," the Doctor said sadly. Then, "Can you undo it? The Earth, I mean?"
"Don't know. We could try."
There was a meditative pause while they both chewed on that we.
"Anyway, thanks for coming in after me," the Doctor said at last, somewhat grudgingly. He looked away again. "I got a bit lost. It was...bad."
"You never do well on your own."
"No," the Doctor agreed. "Well, then!" He got to his feet, only a trifle wobbly. "Enough. Things to see to, a planet to return to its rightful spot in the fabric of the universe, I am completely famished, and I would like to be wearing some clothes. What have you been at?" he asked suspiciously, looking down at himself.
"Nothing," the Master protested. "Not that!"
"Hmm." The Doctor frowned at him, then turned and walked away, completely unselfconsciously. "You might try pulling my pigtails a bit less metaphorically the next time," he suggested over his shoulder. "Might be more effective, I'm just saying. After we've got the Earth back."
The Master, following behind, wasn't sure; his plan looked as though it had been decidedly effective after all, in certain lights.