ntently focused on his work, the Master rerouted a red wire, removed a green one entirely, and snapped the cover back onto the remote controlling box, leather-clad fingers swift and delicate.
“Well,” he said, turning it over in his hands. “That was even simpler than I anticipated. This switch…” He brushed his thumb over it, surreptitiously checking to see if the Doctor flinched.
The Doctor didn’t.
“…will fire a concentrated pulse of electricity at the nearest life form.” The Master smirked faintly, angling the antenna at the Doctor’s chest. “Would you like to help me find out how it affects Time Lords?”
“No, thank you,” the Doctor said. “And—out of curiosity—do you ever take those off?” He nodded to the Master’s impressively pristine gloves.
The Master blinked once, then set down his latest creation, freeing his fingers to tug briskly at his sleeves. His eyes darted briefly to the Doctor’s ruffled ones, almost as if he might like to take the Doctor’s wrists and adjust his fellow Time Lord’s sleeves with equal care.
“Rarely,” he answered instead. “They serve a multiplicity of purposes, merely one of which is preventing me from leaving fingerprints.”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. “What matter is it to you whether you leave fingerprints or not? It’s not like yours have been documented.”
The Master paused for a fraction of a moment before becoming quite interested in his new favorite weapon. “Certainly not, no.”
The Doctor opened his mouth to inquire, but the Master tucked the device beneath his arm and half-turned for the door. “I’m afraid I have an appointment, and I’d rather not be late.”
“You also have a time machine,” the Doctor said.
The Master frowned. “I believe that punctuality is, at least in part, a matter of perspective.” Almost imperceptibly, he inclined his head. “Doctor.”
Somewhat against his will, the Doctor smiled. “Master.”
The Master swept out of the designated Truce Room, which was in fact a quiet parlor in a nice club which never asked why gears and other pieces kept disappearing out of the grandfather clock. The Doctor remained in his armchair for a few minutes more, listening to the irregular ticking, and then got up to pay a visit to UNIT headquarters in order to see about a hunch.
Sending the files monitor out for a Code Epsilon (whatever that meant) was the work of a moment, and it didn’t take long to skim through UNIT’s “Persons of Interest” files and discover a rather telling report. The Doctor glanced at the date, and, sure enough, it was almost immediately after the Axon incident—the Master had been arrested in London for attempting to set fire to a police box, at which point he had been fingerprinted, filed, and locked into a cell, all the while protesting vociferously and articulating remarkably innovative threats.
The report went on to detail how the culprit had managed to escape said cell by threatening an armed guard with nothing more than a toothbrush and an emery board. The guard, found duct-taped to a chair an hour later, had been fired on the spot and left in his predicament while his less-incompetent colleagues had started out in search of the convict. Fortunately for their own job security, he hadn’t gone far: they tracked him to a quiet alleyway, where he was painting elaborately upon the blank brick wall.
When they caught his attention—apparently a difficult task over his grumbling—he stared at them. All four policemen reported that they felt disinclined to apprehend him for reasons they could not explain, and their would-be captive took his palette and retreated into a sophisticated townhouse, which then proceeded to disappear.
Everyone involved was now undergoing regular weekly counseling.
In his amusement, the Doctor almost missed the photograph clipped to the back of the file. It must have been taken just as the Master had turned around to face his pursuers, as he was standing in front of his half-finished mural and looking slightly startled. The twist to his mouth and the angle of his eyebrow made it clear—at least to one familiar with his expressions—that he was irretrievably drunk, and the subject of his painting was unmistakably the Doctor, ruffled sleeves and all.
The Doctor considered the photo a moment longer, and then he tucked it into an inside pocket of his suit jacket, replaced the file, and made his way through the halls to his TARDIS, grinning just a bit.