“REGENERATE!” the Doctor screamed at the dying body in his arms.
The Master looked back at him, pain and arrogance mixed together as the Doctor had never seen them before. “I win.” He breathed once, and his eyes closed.
For a moment, the Doctor froze, options blazing through his mind almost too fast for him to follow them. As one flared into focus, he considered it, tempted, almost rejecting it . . .
He closed his eyes, and shifted his hands to the still body’s temples. The last remnants of the sheer power of human faith gathered around him as his brow furrowed in concentration.
. . .
He was in that other body, feeling its wound, the wetness of the blood, the coldness of the floor, the warmth of a pair of hands on the head. It hurt. Fortunately, its eyes were closed, or he would have seen his own face screwed up in concentration, and he might not have been able to stay focused. He turned, away from the face and the skin, into the other Time Lord’s mind.
Immediately, the Master pushed back against him. Here was the indominatable will that had come back from the dead before - twice. Now it turned in the opposite direction, into that vast darkness, fleeing from him and pushing him out at the same time. If that will hadn’t been dealing with the incredible pain of a mortal wound, hadn’t been encumbered by the misfiring synapses of his own dying body, the Doctor could never have won. He knew that - he had faced the Master’s will over and over and over again, beating it back but never beating it down. But here, he was cheating, using the death he was trying to avert as his cover.
The enormity of what he was doing scrabbled at the Doctor’s consciousness. This is wrong. This is as wrong as anything can ever get. What are you doing? He pushed harder, his mind focusing to a single point, a mental scalpel blade. This incarnation had had an unusual fondness for actually using his telepathy; most of his incarnations had felt it was too great an invasion of privacy, but he had been lonely for so long, and the direct touch of another mind alleviated that in a way that even the touch of another flesh did not. He had thought, this last year, that all that was practice for the work he had had to do, tuning in to the Archangel Network telepathically with no amplifying technology. Now, he understood that that, in its own turn, had been nothing more than practice for this moment.
That single scalpel-point bored into the Master, into everything he was - the facade of Harold Saxon, the echo of the drums, the memories of Professor Yana, that madness for domination and power and above all, above everything, control. Mastery.
He felt the Master screaming as he broke through, broke into his mind. He cut through cleanly, damaging as little as possible in his incredible hurry; he looked downwards - inasmuch as he was facing anywhere, inside someone else’s mind - and dove.
There seemed to be a sort of gravity, pulling him as he went. Faces flashed past - Harold Saxon, first and fleetingly; Professor Yana next, and for longer than the Doctor would have expected - how long had the Master lived under the Arch? Then a proud, cleanshaven, American-looking face surrounded by the ridiculous collar of an ornate set of Time Lord’s robes. Several identical faces, the one once worn by Nyssa’s father. A crumbling, dead visage. Several more identical faces, bearded and greying and unutterably cruel.
They were all shouting at him. Hands that didn’t seem to be attached to the faces - well, he was inside them, they didn’t really have to be, now did they? - clutched at him, yanked him back, tried to strangle him, choke him, tear him apart. He kept pushing, cutting through them - cleanly here, raggedly there, slipping through the spaces between them when he could. As he went further down, the resistance seemed less, somehow. One pair of hands tried to bat the others away from him. They were dark brown, wrinkled, with cracked skin that seemed to be flaking off. You, you who were facing your own end the first time - you, out of all of him, still want to live?
A faint voice, disturbing and grotesque, replied yes. Even if it means you win, once more, I want to survive.
Should it frighten him that only the last incarnation of Koschei, before he abandoned that first body - the last original - wanted to live more than it wanted to win? Whether it should or not, it did.
He kept diving, feeling the essence of his old enemy parting before him and closing behind. The last pair of hands slipped from his face. As he continued to drop through darkness, a darkness that he began to feel closing in on him, he glimpsed two more faces - the Keeper and that American EMT. They were voiceless, but he could read what they were saying. Please. Help us.
Somehow, the fact that they were there, that some tiny sparks of the essence of the two men whose bodies the Master had stolen were still within him, made the abomination the Doctor was about to perform slightly more palatable. He was not just imposing his own will on his old friend, stealing his own body from him; he was also preserving some portion of the two innocent men that the Master had, in turn, stolen bodies, stolen lives, from. It helped, a little.
The darkness closed in faster; the voices faded. He was running out of time. All he could hear now were the drums, echoing away up above him somewhere, faster and softer.
He felt what he was looking for under his hands. There was no visual representation, here in Koshei’s soul; there was only a velvety softness that represented the mind-body interface. Parts of it were rotting, dissolving under his feet, as the Master died. The Doctor groped and fumbled until he found something that throbbed with the energy of Time itself, and then, with all the force he had left in him, everything he'd been given, he twisted.
The flood of golden light spread out immediately, rushing backwards and upwards like a wave, passing back through the path the Doctor had come, sweeping him along with it. He began to see his own faces alongside the Master’s old ones, the same energy, he realized, sweeping through his own body. That was fine. If that was the price this incarnation paid for such a gross violation of another Time Lord’s body and mind, then he deserved it many times over.
Wait - no - something else, neither him nor the Master, grabbed and anchored him. Another sort of Time was running through him in the opposite direction, from the present back to the past, warm and sweet and also golden. He felt himself again in his own body, with a pair of lips pressed against his, tasting of adrenaline and lust and the future. He opened his eyes and inhaled sharply as Jack pulled away from him, his smudged face sharp with fear.
“I thought we were going to lose you. You were going with him,” accused the immortal. The Doctor dropped his eyes to the glowing form in his lap, wondering how Jack could stand to touch him after what he’d just done, much less still want him.
After an interminable moment, the light faded. Harold Saxon’s neatly pressed suit hung awkwardly off of a skinny, ginger-haired boy with a prominent nose and pointed features. If he’d been human, he couldn’t possibly have been more then seventeen.
Jack still looked like he didn’t really understand what had happened. “I know he wanted to be young,” he ventured, “but that seems a little ridiculous.”
The Doctor shook his head. “Help me get him into the TARDIS. If the Paradox Machine is destroyed, we should be able to get into some of the other rooms, and he needs to be in a Gallifreyan space.”
. . .
“Are you sure that it’s going to be okay, leaving the two of you alone together like that?” asked Martha, her eyebrows knotted.
The Doctor shook his head gently. “He’s never going to forgive me. What I did was . . . worse then rape, and something very close to blasphemy, in human terms. But he’s too dangerous to keep on Earth, and I’ve kept you from your family and your studies for too long.” And I don’t know what else I might do, now that I’ve shown I’m capable of that. Sacrificing a companion, even killing one outright, would be a misdemeanor in comparison. And you don’t deserve that.
Martha’s scowl deepened. “I understand. Well, no, actually, I don’t - I can’t, I know. But remember, I’m a doctor, too, or almost. If someone were dying in my arms like that - no matter who they were - I think, if I thought I could save them, even if it were through the worst sort of invasive procedures, that I might. I might do it anyway, just because being a doctor - a Doctor - means that you fight on the side of life, always.”
The Doctor smiled, with effort, and raised a hand to her cheek. “I’m afraid it doesn’t always work like that. Death is not always a Doctor’s enemy. Just chat with Jack about that sometime.”
“In his case, I think it’s more a matter of Eros being stronger than Thanatos. But I never really had my Freud straight.” She leaned in and handed him her cell phone. “Call me if you need anything, okay?”
“I will. When I think it’s safe, I’ll come back. I may not look like this anymore, you realize - but the TARDIS will be the same.” If it’s ever safe. He hugged her tightly, slipped the phone in his pocket, and turned back to his home - now the Master’s prison, and for a long time, at least, his own.