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Crossed Paths

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The Master stood overlooking the terrain. It was nothing but a yellow-brown, sandy, dusty, desolate region. Its only features being large and small rocks with a scattering of dry shrubs. The only life he had encountered so far were small lizards scurrying from rock to rock and a few predatory birds picking up the creatures that didn't scurry fast enough. "Why," he asked out loud, "do I always end up in places like this? Damned thing can never break down more often on nice resort planets can it?"

He sighed. His attention was then drawn by the clattering of stones behind him. He turned and peered down the hill side. It was a man, presumably a man, climbing his way towards him. He was too far away for the Master to make out any features, but when the other looked up at him he suddenly stopped and disappeared behind some rocks. "Wait!" The Master shouted, quickly running down the slope in hopes of catching the newcomer.

Approaching the boulder, he finally received a response. "I'm not here! You don't see me! I do not exist! Therefore there is no reason for you to speak to me!" Coming around the huge rock the Master found a man in a green coat with curly hair that fell to his shoulders sitting on the ground, his back turned towards him. The man held up a hand. "Not here! Go away!" He then mumbled something about calculations and began drawing in the dirt.

For all purposes, the Master did not recognise the man. But the presence was all too familiar. "Doctor?"

The man paused his drawing for a moment, but shook his head and then continued, "Sorry, not me. Wrong person. Please try again later."

The Master stood there utterly confused. Walking past the man, he looked out over another valley. Down in it, not too far down, was an unmistakably blue box. The Master whipped around and stared at the Doctor's back. What was this? Another regeneration? Already? Honestly, the man went through bodies like a Dalek went through turtle wax. The Master walked up and crouched beside the Doctor who added humming to his purposeful ignoring. Tiring of it, the Master grabbed him by the shoulders and forcefully turned him about. He was met by a pair of vivid blue eyes and finely boned, pale features.

The Master gasped his surprise, but the Doctor immediately pushed him away and jumped to his feet. "Oh, this will not do at all," the new Doctor moaned, "this is certainly ruining something somewhere sometime."

The Master was too stunned to even try to follow the Doctor's ramblings. This one was, for lack of better phrasing, very pretty. He watched him pace with wide eyes, completely enamoured. This was even better than when he was blonde and fancied cricket!

The Doctor stopped his pacing and turned to face him. "So don't you see?"

The shook himself out of his daze. He hadn't been paying attention one ounce. "I'm sorry, you're going to have to run that by me one more time."

The Doctor growled in exasperation. "Being the way you are now, you cannot know me as I am now. Because for you there is another me. And you don't know me now until technically there is another you. But now that you do know me now even though for you there is another me must mean that before you became the other you, you knew this me. And that just creates quite a paradox! Do your eyes occasionally turn green?"

The Master leaned back on his hands, staring up at the fast-speaking Doctor. He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion as his mind caught up with the Doctor's words. "No, why?"

The Doctor waved his hand as if he were waving away the question. "Just trying to establish context."

"Right..."

The Doctor clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "Well, perfectly lovely seeing this you again. Hope it never happens again. Bye-bye." He then scampered off towards his TARDIS.

The Master finally got to his feet and chased after him. "Wait! What about me? You can't just leave me here."

The Doctor turned and started walking downhill backwards. "Oh, I can and I'm afraid I must. Web of Time and all that!" The Master caught up with him just in time to get a blue panelled door closed in his face. He stood back as the familiar increasing whirr began and the light at the top of the box lit up. Only a few seconds later the equally familiar decreasing whirr and thunking followed. The Master took off a black glove and inspected his nails as he counted under his breath. "Five, four, three, two, and...one." On cue the TARDIS door opened and the Doctor stepped out, looking a bit sheepish.

The Master smiled. "Problems?"

The Doctor glared at him and with a spin of frock coat he turned back into his time machine, closing the door behind him. Putting the glove back on he chuckled softly to himself and found a convenient boulder to sit on and wait. The wait this time was about half an hour. The Master kept himself amused by tossing pebbles at the TARDIS, hoping to chip some of that annoying blue paint.

The door opened the door again; one of the pebbles bounced off the Doctors chest. He gave the Master a look of great annoyance. The frock coat was gone as was the cravat, leaving the collar open, and his sleeves were rolled up at the elbow. "Don't give me that look, Doctor, it is no fault of mine that dinosaur of a machine is constantly on the fritz." The Doctor stood in the doorway, saying nothing and glaring. "if you need my assistance in any fashion all you have to do is ask. I will not offer it otherwise."

The corner of the Doctor's mouth twitched as if he was desperately struggling to not say his next words. "I may require your assistance."

"Ah, but you didn't say the magic word."

The Doctor's lips almost turned into a sneer that didn't sit well on his pretty face. "Please." He said quickly and not very loud. The Master thought of goading him more and making him repeat it louder, but thought the better of it. The Master stood, the Doctor went back inside his TARDIS, leaving the door open. The Master followed, wondering it is he is going to do in the future to make the Doctor so bitter.

As with the Doctor, the Master had to take a moment to adjust to the dramatic change in appearance of the TARDIS. "Going through a Gothic phase, are we?" The Doctor was putting his coat back on, and just gave him another look. "Now I really think if we're going to work together we ought to have a far more civil interaction? The silent treatment isn't going to get us very far and it would be most indecent of you to just point and grunt in giving me directions."

The Doctor placed both hands on the console. "Look, I do not, unless you have failed to notice, enjoy having to depend on you. In fact my pride is taking a bit of a beating right now."

The Master chuckled and stood next to him. Oh, this one was absolutely delicious. He inhaled deeply. The Doctor smelt of cinnamon and tea. "My assistance has a price you know, my services always have a fee...is this velvet?" He took the liberty of running a hand from the Doctor's shoulder down his arm, applying more pressure to his touch then was necessary to just examine the fabric.

The Doctor jerked away from him. "I had thought as much. As much as I figured that the only reason you were out in the middle of nowhere is that your own TARDIS has been damaged or just malfunctioning as well. They just don't make them like they used to. So if you help me with my TARDIS I'll help you with yours. A 'You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' deal."

The Master smiled. He was certain that his idea would have involved more than just back scratching. But oh well, the arrangement would be beneficial anyway. "All right Doctor, you have yourself a deal."

The Doctor perked up and clapped his hands together. "Right then! To work!" He grabbed a large bag that looked like an old fashioned doctor's bag . He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and dived underneath the console. His voice was muffled when he addressed the Master again. "Would you be a good fellow and hand me a spanner?" He held a hand up and wiggled his fingers in expectation.

The Master started rifling through the bag, but finally realised what was going on. "I thought you needed my help to figure out what was wrong with this thing in the first place, not to stand around holding spanners for you! Don't you usually have some sort of plucky earth female to do that for you?"

The Doctor slid out enough to look at him. "At the moment, no. And they're not always 'plucky' earth females. There were some that I would describe as being rather unplucky. Now give me that spanner." He pulled himself up off his back enough to snatch it out of the Master's hand, then immediately went back under.

The Master sighed and lent on the console, bored. He stared at the unmoving column then started drawing in the dust that had settled on the polished wood. Didn't he ever clean? No one spoke for a few minutes except some mutterings of the Doctor's while metal was clinked and gears were turned. "Have you tried reversing the polarity of neutron flow?" The Master suggested.

The Doctor slid out from under the console again with narrowed eyes aimed at his black-clad companion. "Of course I did! It's the first thing I tried! I'm not some simpleton First Year at academy!" With that he pushed himself back under.

The Master chuckled, knowing the question would annoy the hell out of the Doctor. He crouched to get a look himself at the goings on under the console. He started poking and prodding at some bolts and exposed wires. The Doctor slapped his hand away, not leaving his concentration from the compartment he was working on. "Don't touch anything!" He growled in frustration and dropped his arms and just stared at the console's underbelly. The Doctor ran his tongue thoughtfully over his lower lip. The Master couldn't help that his thoughts wandered to the unprofessional. The Doctor furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. "Fetch me the thing in the bag that looks like a shiny trapezohedron."

The Master grumbled something involving how his name implied the opposite of "servant", but did what was asked of him. Handing the object to him he asked, "What does this do anyway?"

The Doctor shrugged, "I have no idea, but at this point I'm willing to try anything." He unceremoniously shoved it into the opened compartment. The TARDIS seemed to groan in protest, making the Doctor quickly pull it back out. "Sorry, Old Girl," He said. The Master rolled his eyes at the way the Doctor always treated his machine like some sort of person. Though he heard earth men do something similar with their automobiles. The Master sat back on his haunches and pondered. "You may say that this is another stupid question..."

The Doctor had an arm over his eyes, clearly distressed over his lack of success. "What?"

"Ah, have you attempted to fold back the Omega configurations?"

The Doctor sat up like a bolt, hitting his head on the console as he did so. He rubbed the top of his head as he exclaimed, "Of course! It's so simple it didn't even cross my mind!" He scrambled to stand up again, almost knocking the Master over from his perched position. He started frantically pulling at switches and levers, and with a final push of a button the column started up again. The Doctor clapped excitedly. He turned to the Master, who had stood and brushed himself off, with a huge grin and arms wide. "Thank you!"

For a brief, heart stopping moment the Master thought the Doctor was going to hug him.

But he didn't. He just turned back to the controls. "Right then. I'll just find the coordinates of your TARDIS and get it fixed up in a jiffy, just as I promised. Quid Pro Quo and all that." As the dematerialization process began the Master held his breath, and finally wondered why it was he was so interested in stealing this crate when its condition was no better than his. When they rematerialized safely and the column stopped rotating he finally let his breath out. The Doctor gave him his wide grin again. "See, no problems now." He gathered up his tools back in the bag. He clapped the Master on the shoulder. "Time to see if we can't suss out your dilemma."

Outside, the Master unlocked his TARDIS, once again cloaked as a grandfather clock. He ducked inside, but noticed that the Doctor did not. The smaller man stood in the doorway, his expression darkening again as it did when he taunted him about needing his help. "Well, come on. Your turn to hold the spanner."

"I just realised," The Doctor said, any of his enthusiasm from earlier vanishing, "that in me doing this you can take advantage of the situation in more ways than one..."

The Master walked back to him, smiling a Cheshire smile. "You know Doctor, there was a time when you didn't mind so much mine 'taking advantage' of you." He reached out and brushed a stray curl off his forehead.

The Doctor smacked his hand away. He lowered his eyes. "I had a weakness then, and I made decisions that in the end were mistakes."

"Are you telling me Doctor that you no longer have your need to be loved?"

The Doctor looked up at him through his chestnut curls. "No, but I'm definitely no longer so desperate."

The Master gave a closed-mouth chuckle. "Oh Doctor, did I really treat you so bad?"

The Doctor set his jaw and fought to not tell him about going beyond anything he had done to him before and going so far as to try to steal his very being, to confiscate all his lives. "I would tell you, but besides the problems that would be created in the web of time I would hate to see you pleased by your future schemes."

The Master smiled again. "What if I gave you my word of honour that I will not put a finger on you to harm you or...otherwise."

"Your honour is not much to go on."

"Now Doctor remember I have helped you before. I put myself at great risk to help you, all of you, through the Dead Zone."

"Oh yes, but only because it benefited you in some way. In the end you still used me to reach your end."

"The only thing I want is to get off this rock of a planet. And it was you yourself who offered in assisting me. So are we actually going to do something about it or are we going to stand around talking about it?" The Doctor didn't move. "Trust me. Please."

The Doctor gave a resigned sigh, straightened, and finally followed the Master in to his TARDIS. He plunked the bag on the controls and looked over all the dials and screens displaying information. The Doctor laughed. "Well, it just looks like you exhausted dynormorphic generator again!"

The Master gritted his teeth in annoyance. "I know that. The problem is, I don't have the parts to replace it."

The Doctor began humming while rifling through his tool bag. "Aha!" He pulled out a cylindrical object with wires sticking out of it. "This should do. You can do the honours while I stand here holding a spanner, shall I?" The Doctor laughed, and the Master found himself laughing, too. He was amazed at the speed of this Doctor's mood changes. Just a moment ago he stood in the doorway, embittered and suspicious. Then he was laughing and joking. He even seemed to watch the Master go about replacing the dynormorphic generator bits with mild interest.

Seeing that the Master successfully made the installation, the Doctor closed up his bag and lifted it off the control panel. "Well, then. Best be off, go our separate ways. You have some havoc to read on some unsuspecting planet I wager." With that he headed towards the door.

The Master called after him. "Wait!" The Doctor stopped. "I want to know, I don't know why I do, but after everything we've been through, after everything I've done...do you ever forgive me?"

The Doctor seemed to contemplate this for a moment, then shook his head. "No." And he walked out.

Outside the Doctor stood by his own TARDIS as he watched the Master's dematerialise. He had watched him kill people he cared about, can clearly remember the pain of his own lives being drawn out of him. All because of that man. And yet even after all that, everything they went through, when the end came he couldn't stand by and let death come to the Master. He had reached out a hand...

The Doctor let out a frustrated sigh before going back inside his newly repaired TARDIS. He always hated telling bold-faced lies, but he thinly consoled himself by saying that telling the truth would somehow have effected the Web of Time.