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Mastery

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He looks out over his dominion, and he thinks it beautiful.

Decimation is beautiful, and this little planet is beautiful; the look on dear Lucy's face is beautiful, and oh, the look on the Doctor's so much more so. The Doctor himself is no longer beautiful. Poor thing, he can hardly stand. But there are so many other ways to make weakness, far more creative ways than infirmity, and it will take the Toclafane -- that's a good name, isn't it, Toclafane -- a little bit of time to eliminate one tenth of the population. His moment of triumph is at hand, and it will not do to waste it on mere sightseeing, no.

Lucy relinquishes her grip on the Doctor's arm willingly enough -- she does everything so willingly, faithful Lucy -- and kisses him. Oh, he likes kissing Lucy, too. He grants her an adoring smile and leaves her there at the window, looking out at the orbs still pouring in from the rift in the heavens; her mouth is partway open, her eyes wide. Her awe fuels the thrumming in his veins, that incessant drumming.

And the Doctor offered to rid him of it. To help.

The Doctor comes with him, not willingly as Lucy does, but helplessly, staggering, trembling with age. It is pathetic and feeble and without challenge, and already he is bored of this aged man. It's no fun without the challenge.

Jack is crouched on the floor, and glances up with a look of angry, pretty defiance as they walk past. He kills Jack again, with an offhand pointing of the laser screwdriver, because perhaps having a feeble adversary becomes tiresome very quickly, but he doubts that killing the man who cannot die, over and over and over, ever will.

"Take him," he tells two of his obedient guards. "Tie him up somewhere. I'll make a nice visit later."

He watches Jack Harkness being dragged away, and smiles. It's so good to have people obey him, just as it is good to feel the Doctor, leaning against him, tense with feeble anger. Ah yes, but the Doctor's pathetic like this. He turns to a third guard. "Find me a wheelchair."

And, as an afterthought: "Also a pair of handcuffs."

This guard, too, goes to do his will.

He turns to the Doctor. "What's your plan now?" he asks. "How will you save the world?"

The Doctor just glares at him, helpless.

"Did you tell Miss Martha Jones to save the world?" he asks, and tsks softly. "Doctor, your faith in humanity is admirable. But you know what? They're getting slaughtered down there. All your friends." He pulls a pout, just to see the wonderful spark of anger in the Doctor's eyes. The Doctor's eyes are the only things that haven't changed, he sees; the Doctor might be trembling, breathing raspy, hardly a hair on his wrinkled head, but his eyes are as clear and bright and angry as ever, and oh, that's good. That's how he'll always be able to recognize the Doctor: by his eyes, by their clear bright beautiful righteous anger.

He looks around. Let's see. The American President's aides have long since been carted off, but the Jones family is still standing there, eyes wide with shock and fear and a regrettable lack of understanding; they can't possibly appreciate the scope of what he's done. A small nod of his head and yet more of his black-clad army are escorting Martha Jones' mother and father and sister back to their cells. It all moves so smoothly and efficiently.

One of the guards returns, pushing a wheelchair. The Doctor sits down in it -- helped, of course, by the courteous Prime Minister, who is so very concerned for the old man's health -- and handcuffs are clapped around his veined spotted old wrists.

"Now," he says, stepping back from the Doctor's chair, laser screwdriver out with a flourish (Lucy turns from the window at the sound of his voice; an admiring ready-made audience, listening to him as attentively as he listens to the drumbeat in his head) "Doctor. I really don't think the suit goes very well. Not with the legs you have now." A grin. "I think I understand why you like this planet so very much. Have you ever seen -- Teletubbies, I think it's called? Ingenious."

The Doctor merely gives him a stony look. He's probably trying to formulate some plan. He can probably think of nothing.

"Let me help," he says to the Doctor, a soft mocking parody of the Doctor's earlier words; laser screwdriver still pointed at the Doctor, he activates that clever Lazarus technology, properly this time, and the Doctor screams. He feels the same spike of pleasure watching the Doctor's agony in reverse, and this time the outcome is so very much better: at the end the Doctor is hunched up in the wheelchair, trembling, but only with shock, looking quite young again.

He kneels solicitously before the Doctor's wheelchair. "Better?"

"Stop this," the Doctor tells him, soft and fierce, looking up. He notices again, absurdly, that the Doctor has a smattering of freckles across his nose; it lends his adversary a certain innocent charm. "Stop it, please, we can still --"

"Haven't you learned your lesson?" he demands of the Doctor, laughing. "Or do you want to be very old for the rest of your short days?"

"...What are you going to do?"

He tsks again, disappointed. "So you can stop me? I told you. It's far too late, and --"

A thought strikes him.

"What did you tell her, Doctor?" he whispers. "What could you possibly tell Miss Jones to induce her to leave you and save herself?" He leans in closer. "What lie did you tell her? That you love her, or that you don't?"

"No," the Doctor snarls, jerking back.

He gets to his feet and says, coldly, "Get up, Doctor."

The Doctor gets up slowly, trenchcoat swinging out behind him, hands clasped loosely together in silvery cuffs, and this is the most beautiful thing he has seen yet in a day filled to the brim with beauty. He takes the Doctor's arm and looks up at his wife, who is leaning over the rail above them and watching raptly.

"Unfinished business," he says. "I'll be back soon, I promise."

He drags the Doctor out of the room by his sleeve; the Doctor's still stumbling a little, so he hauls at the Doctor's collar too. The Doctor's head turns, away from him, angling towards --

"We can make a short visit, then," he murmurs, and allows the Doctor to walk nearly on his own towards his half-broken TARDIS, humming with dim red light; it was never much good at disguise. A police box. He watches the Doctor's face, the clenched teeth and all that anger, and he thinks, he can use this.

When they're inside, he lets go of the Doctor; the Doctor stumbles up the ramp and presses his bound-together hands against the mesh separating his body from the console. He leans back against the doors of the TARDIS and watches the Doctor standing there, the set of his shoulders: not defeated. Good; it's no fun if the Doctor ever actually gives up.

He walks up behind the Doctor and murmurs in his ear, "She will fly again, never fear. Imagine all those endless worlds ..."

"Is that what you're doing, then?" the Doctor asks, still in that tight voice -- panic, perhaps, or anger; both. "Earth is your first stop, and now that you've got control of it you're moving onto other worlds?"

"Doctor," he says, laughing, and slides his hands up to rest on the Doctor's tense shoulders, "your role in this little game is not to ask the questions."

The Doctor goes very still. "What is it, then?"

"Still asking questions!" he sings.

He's standing close enough to feel the Doctor swallow. "Master. Please."

And he goes still too. "... I'm listening."

"At least talk to me," the Doctor says, very quietly, fierce. His fingertips are pressed, curling, against the grating. "I'm not -- I'm not asking you to tell me what you're doing, or what you're going to do. But I want to know why."

"So you can help me?" he asks, matching the Doctor's tone, except that his voice doesn't have an edge of desperation. He's completely in control and they both know it.

A long silence.

The Doctor leans forward and presses his forehead against the grating. "So I can understand."

They breathe the silence for a moment: in out in out, matching the beating of their hearts, that quadruple rhythm, the never-ending drums. And he answers the Doctor, speaks right against his ear, and he sees the Doctor's fingertips go white. He says: "I've always heard it. Ever since I was a child, when I looked into the vortex, and that's when it chose me: the drumming, the call to war. It's that simple."

"It's never that simple," the Doctor whispers.

"Oh, but I think you'll find it is. This isn't revenge, Doctor. It's just what I do."

"Then what are the Toclafane?"

He presses the Doctor close against the grating. "I told you," he says, quite pleasantly. "No questions."

The Doctor goes tense all over -- he can feel it, no space at all between them now -- and after a moment asks, fierce and still so desperate, "What do you want?"

He frowns a little. "Mastery, of course. And you want to help people." He releases the Doctor slowly. "You still," he says, and he says it as a statement of fact, "want to help me."

The Doctor turns to face him, the cuffs on his wrists clinking a little with the movement. "I told you," he says. "We're all that's left. It's different now."

"Don't want more deaths on your conscience, do you."

Pain shutters across the Doctor's face and, strangely, far from feeling triumphant the expression somehow catches in his chest. "No," the Doctor says quietly. "Just once in a while I'd like no one to die at all."

He smiles a little to cover the flare of empathy. It's merely the Doctor's weakness. "Then I'm afraid today is not your day."

"No," the Doctor agrees, watching him warily. It's as though the Doctor's eyes are burning, as though with some cold fire, and he finds he absolutely must reach out and touch it, cupping the Doctor's chin in a hand, even as the Doctor flinches and looks away. They both know the Doctor has nowhere to go: here, in the company of the only other Time Lord left in the universe, is exactly where he needs to be. There is no more brilliant trap for the Doctor than this.

"Do you remember, Doctor," he murmurs into the stillness, into the humming of the cannibalized red TARDIS, into the sound of their heartbeats and the sound of their breathing and the sound of the drums, "Do you remember, oh, long ago, when we were at the Academy together? The times we had --"

"What are you trying to accomplish here?" the Doctor asks, cutting him off. His hands are clasped together, white-knuckled, the metal digging into his wrists. "That was lifetimes ago."

"When we were friends," he says mildly, thumb running across the Doctor's cheek, just under all those freckles. "Are you sorry?"

"For what?" the Doctor whispers. His eyes have gone very wide; he looks nearly ready to cry, or bolt.

He steps up to the Doctor, pinning him neatly to the grating, the Doctor's hands trapped between them. "Anything."

The Doctor swallows. "Gallifrey?"

He tilts his chin up a little to look the Doctor solidly in the eye. "Anything, Doctor."

The corners of the Doctor's mouth pull down with some imagined pain. He says, at length, as though the words are being dragged from him, "I'm so tired of being alone."

He steps back, leaving the Doctor standing there, big-eyed and pale. "Your human pets don't satisfy?"

"I see you got yourself someone too," the Doctor snaps.

"Oh, Lucy?" He smiles. "It's politics, Doctor. I needed a wife to become Prime Minister." He examines the cuffs of his suit very closely. "Won't you even pretend to be jealous?"

"You're lonely too," the Doctor murmurs; he looks up from his wrists and sees that the Doctor has taken a step forward, hesitant in his silly pale trainers, wearing again his let me help you look, sheer earnestness and that tinge of desperation. Oh Doctor.

"Oh Doctor," he says aloud, giving the Doctor a mirroring parody of a sympathetic look.

"But you are," the Doctor says. "I can see it."

"And you'll fix it, will you?" he demands, tilting his head a little, letting the disdain show through just the tiniest bit.

"We're all each other have," the Doctor says, and this time in the edge of the Doctor's voice he can detect something terribly important: the Doctor believes this, fundamentally and absolutely. Even now, the Doctor is here first to save him and second to stop him, and that, that, is why the Doctor will not win.

"You're right," he says, looking away, swallowing, very serious. "You're right. I --" He shakes his head. "I'm so tired of the drumming."

Another hesitant step forward. "Let me help," the Doctor whispers.

He closes his eyes for a moment and brings up everything relevant to the situation at hand: the red light, the thrumming of the TARDIS and his own blood, the weight of his feet on the floor, the knowledge of the space around them and the subtle curves it makes between the Doctor's body and his own, the faint beautiful pain in his chest at the thought of having the Doctor here all to himself, and he smiles. So it is that when the Doctor brings his hands up, pressing fingertips against skin, the chain between the Doctor's wrists cool against his cheek, what he is thinking is all the Doctor can see in his mind. No plots and plans, no Toclafane, no worlds burning, no empires: just the two of them, and the drumbeat.

The Doctor drops his hands, trembling.

He smiles a little and, in turn, presses his fingertips to the Doctor's temples: a brilliant sun, a space station, Daleks, a blonde girl in another world, Captain Jack, flickering image after flickering image of death and burning. The Doctor flooded with loneliness and guilt and wracking fear, and a sudden flaring shame for letting the Master see any of it.

"Master --" the Doctor says, his voice cracking; the drums are hammering in their heads.

It doesn't matter who starts the kiss. They've done it before, lifetimes ago, and perhaps the Doctor has different angles and is a little taller, perhaps his bound hands are getting crushed uncomfortably between them; none of it makes any difference. They kiss feverishly, as though it is the only thing that can save them.

When they pull away to breathe, the Doctor's eyes are wider than ever. It's so innocent, this body he has. "We can't," he whispers. "We --"

"-- Are both doing exactly what we always mean to," he murmurs, and backs the Doctor slowly back against the grating again. "You are making me better. I am claiming mastery."

He takes the Doctor's hands, cupping the wrists gently as though they are infinitely precious, and lifts them up to press them to the grating above the Doctor's head. The Doctor flushes a little but doesn't protest; perhaps he thinks that this, of all things this, will a saving grace be. He'll let the Doctor keep his delusions -- does, thoughts still carefully guarded as he kisses the Doctor again, quickly unbuttoning the Doctor's suit jacket and shirt. He slides his hands in, fingertips to the Doctor's skin, just over his racing hearts, twin rhythm feeling out the drumbeat, and inside his own head the drumbeat is suddenly deafening, erasing everything but the feeling of the Doctor trembling a little against him.

"Tell me," he murmurs. "Why are you letting me do this? Why aren't you --" he has no vague gesture to make, his hands otherwise occupied with the feeling of the drums all through them, so he contents himself with a little quirk of the mouth -- "rushing off to save the world? All that stands between you and salvation is a pair of handcuffs and a small army. That's like a walk in the park!"

The Doctor looks back at him, wide dark eyes are still full of that burning, nearly unclassifiable: anger, hope, need. "Because it starts here," he says. "If I can help -- if I can make you see --"

He laughs. "You're going to kiss it and make it better?"

His hands skim down, undoing the flies of the Doctor's trousers.

"Well?" he asks softly.

The Doctor swallows again. "Can't stop now," he says, quiet and wry.

It would be so easy to smile, to murmur, Yes, Doctor, that's exactly what I've been saying all along, and walk away, leave him there, half-undressed and wanting. But that won't be nearly as satisfying as letting this play through, so he says, barely above a whisper, "Ask me, then."

That burning light flares in the Doctor's eyes but he says, just as quietly, "Please, Master."

"Good," he whispers, and slides a hand into the Doctor's trousers.

The Doctor's head thuds back against the grating, so he laughs and kisses the exposed throat softly; not for long, though, because as gratifying as the small noises the Doctor is making are, the real reward is watching him. If he wants small noises he can just as well tie Lucy to the bed and have his way with her. The Doctor is not Lucy; the Doctor's brown paisley tie is loose, his collar askew, his mouth a little open, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, his breath coming in dragging little pants, and that is beautiful.

"Doctor," he whispers.

With obvious effort, the Doctor opens his eyes. "Y-yes?"

He pouts, a very little. "Say it again, will you?"

The Doctor frowns slightly. All the same, he says again, hoarsely, "Master," and then a cascade of Gallifreyan swearwords, hands clenching and unclenching above his head.

He gently kisses the Doctor's dazed half-open mouth and lets the Doctor slide tremblingly to the floor. He wipes his hand off neatly on a pocket handkerchief, tosses it aside, and kneels down next to the Doctor.

"Have you got a plan to stop me yet?"

A moment: then the Doctor gives him a crooked little grin. It makes his eyes crinkle up at the corners. "Oh yes."

He smiles back contentedly at the Doctor. He can afford to let the Doctor think that. After all, he's already won.