There it was, Number 11. That one was always going to be his room. He shouldn't. But he could. Besides, he had plenty of faith. He'd never let himself down. Much.
Everyone else was downstairs in Reception, so there was no one to see the Doctor turn the knob and step inside.
It seemed perfectly calm and quiet inside, so much so that the Doctor barely started at the dark-haired figure in Prydonian robes lounging on the far bed. The Doctor pressed his back to the door as Koschei stood up, all languid grace in spite of the robes.
"You," the Doctor said. He was, he had to admit, surprised.
"Me," Koschei agreed, smiling. "Theta."
"Doctor," he corrected.
"Master," Koschei countered.
They smiled at each other, and the floor trembled. The Doctor turned his head to the left to trace the source of the disturbance. He knew without looking Koschei had done the same.
They heard the Minotaur roar. "It's coming," Koschei said.
"Yes," the Doctor agreed.
Koschei smiled again and held out a hand. "Do you want to hide under the bed?" he asked. "Like we used to?"
It was cleaner under the bed than the Doctor had expected. It was dark, of course, though not so dark they couldn't see each other, and narrow enough they had to lay on their backs. He was still holding tight to Koschei's hand, and Koschei folded their arms so their clasped hands were up between their faces.
The Doctor couldn't quite stop grinning. "But this doesn't make any sense," he whispered. "You're not the thing that scares me the most."
"No," Koschei whispered, laughing a little. "You're always far too happy to see me for that, aren't you?"
"Well," the Doctor said, meaning yes.
"All those people I'm going to kill," Koschei whispered. "And you're always happy to see me."
The Doctor could deny it but it would be a lie, and Koschei would know it was a lie, so he decided to skip forward. "Then why are you here?" he asked. "Why is it you in here?"
They listened to the Minotaur in the hall, stomping and roaring. Koschei squeezed his hand.
"Maybe it's not just about fear," Koschei said. "Maybe it needs to be something to keep you here. You didn't run from me, did you, and you're not going. You wouldn't. Not again."
"No," the Doctor agreed.
"Not now," Koschei said, and it was not just a little nasty.
"Then why things people are afraid of at all?" the Doctor said. "Why nightmares? Why not things people love, if the point is to keep them in one place?"
"Not everyone runs when they're afraid, Doctor," he whispered, and there was a faint mocking note in it. The Doctor was far beyond being bothered by it. He squeezed Koschei's hand instead.
"So you're suggesting what's in the rooms— you, Koschei— is meant to be something we'll be afraid of but not run from?"
"Maybe," Koschei whispered. Outside the room, the Minotaur roared and the door rattled. The Doctor barely noticed, and Koschei gave no sign of hearing it at all. Koschei brought their hands, still locked together, down, and inched his head closer. "But you're still missing the point, Theta Sigma Doctor, so I'll finish your lessons for you again. The thing you're most afraid of isn't Koschei or the Master."
"No," the Doctor whispered, in agreement. Koschei's face was now so close the Doctor couldn't see all of it at once.
"Not me," Koschei whispered, under the roaring and pounding. "It's what I represent. It's not me, it's you."
The Doctor jolted back as if he'd been shocked. Koschei was smirking. "Such a bloody narcissist," he continued, fondly. "I represent the worst part of yourself. And that's what you fear. And what you can't run from."
Something cold and solid like truth was spreading through the Doctor's body. Koschei was right. Of course he was right. He wasn't here, he was just a part of the Doctor, the part he'd tried to leave behind, the part he'd failed at. What the Master was was the Doctor's fault, though he'd tried not to take responsibility for it for a long time. The Master: everything the Doctor could have been.
Why can't you be more like Koschei, their professors used to say, and how smugly the Doctor had remembered it when the CIA started calling him in to help with the Master. And hadn't he just been trying not to think about it, when poor Howie had been going off on a different CIA..?
The Doctor shuddered, and tried to avoid looking at Koschei, but there wasn't much else to look at. They were still holding hands. The Doctor listened to their breathing— in sync— and the four heartsbeats that sounded so so comforting and familiar deep inside his brain.
"Oh!" the Doctor said, feeling thick. "It's gone quiet!"
"The Minotaur's gone," Koschei agreed. "Saved by your massive ego again."
"What? What does that mean?"
"Nothing," Koschei said, and finally let go of the Doctor's hand. "Nothing."
They crawled out from under the bed, on their opposite sides. The Doctor hurried to the door and peered out. No Minotaur in any direction.
The Doctor did not close the door as he turned around to face Koschei, who was sitting on the bed, face already sulking. "You're leaving after all, aren't you?"
"My friends are out there," the Doctor said.
"That's always your excuse," Koschei said. The Doctor heard Your friend is in here.
"It's not you I'm running from," the Doctor pointed out. "I wouldn't run from you."
"Again," Koschei said.
The Doctor nodded, but it was difficult. "Only running from myself," he forced out, trying to be cheerful or at least jaunty. He turned around so he wouldn't have to look at Koschei or the accusation in his face— he already knew how that looked. "It never could have been anything else," he agreed.
He slipped out the door in the narrowest possible space and shut it softly behind him. The Do Not Disturb sign was swinging a little as the Doctor ran back down to Reception.