The Doctor leaned against the console of the TARDIS, pressing his forehead to the middle and closing his eyes.
“C’mon old girl,” he whispered, tilting his head and pressing a hand to the glass. “Just one trip back on our own timeline, just this once. Do you remember where we were, once? I need…” he trailed off, voice hitching around a sob. “Just this once,” he told his beloved ship.
“We need him,” he whispered, just barely able to be heard in the silence of the TARDIS. The Ponds were gone, he was alone.
He was alone.
The engines shuddered, like she was arguing with him. “No, I know,” he told her, face still against what might as well have been hers. “I know. Not supposed to, it’ll hurt us, paradoxes and rewriting history…But trust me. We need him. We’ve tried it without him, we’ve lost so many. So many people have come through here and gone off again, we’ve lost so many.”
There was a pause, an expectant moment of absolute silence.
And then the engines started, the noise that brought hope to so many sounding through the air. The Doctor smiled and pulled back, patting gently at the glass of her console. “That’s a girl,” he laughed a little. “You know where to go?”
A couple of switches moved in answer. When he looked at the screen, the Doctor laughed again and nodded. “Exactly when I was thinking!”
He ended up parked directly next to another TARDIS.
His own, in fact, younger and newer and still so unused to humans that she was spitting out errors when it came to getting them home. The Doctor strolled out of his and into the path of himself – an old man, if one only looked at his face, with a ruffled shirt and a dark coat and silver-touched curls of almost-black hair. His younger self, the self he was never supposed to meet, stopped short of him and looked confused.
“Oh,” he said, eyes wide. “Hello.”
The Doctor – old and alone and lonely, the last Timelord in existence – smiled at him and nodded. “Hello. You need to take him with you.”
“…Sorry,” the curls shifted as the breeze picked up and he made a mental note to give himself curly hair again at some future regeneration. “Take who with me?”
The Doctor, long-legged, long-haired and clad in a bowtie and suspenders, pushed back the panicked tears that tried to well up. He was directly altering his own timeline, this was never supposed to happen. It felt like someone was reaching into his chest and pushing against both of his hearts. “The Master. The next time you see him, take him with you.”
“…Now, he would definitely not thank me for that,” his third regeneration scoffed.
“No, he wouldn’t,” The Doctor nodded. “Not yet. One day, he would. Maybe.”
The younger him, the one who had not seen the war yet, the one who had not yet lost everyone, the one who was not alone despite currently traveling alone, looked at him as if suddenly realizing something. “And he would be a help, would he?”
“Oh,” The Doctor felt a few tears slip down his cheeks. “Yes. More than you will know, just yet.”
It took a moment, but his younger self nodded and smiled at him. “I will arrange it,” he said quietly. The words were casual, but there was a hint of an Oath in them. The kind of Oath that would be unbreakable, when it came down to it. “Just you wait,” he reached out halfway, then drew his hand back. “Oh, I suppose we had better not.”
“Perhaps not,” The Doctor nodded.
Then he turned on his heel and walked back to his TARDIS, opening it and slipping inside. Once the door was closed behind him, he moved to the console and pressed his forehead against the glass again. “Alright old girl, we can leave now. Find someplace to wait to die.”
Her noises echoed out and he felt it when she anchored herself somewhere in the universe, some dark point away from where his past had taken him.
It would hurt a little, being rewritten.
Or maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t remember it.
“Oh, this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into!” The Master’s snarl was loud and clear as their hands were clasped together.
The Doctor laughed, legs clad in red-beige-white striped trousers flashing along in long steps as they ran together. “Oh, we’ll see how this ends!” he laughed again, grinning when the Master looked back at him, frowning and rolling his eyes. “And we will do it together!”
“As if I could leave you!” The Master yanked at their joined hands, dragging the Doctor out of the way of a laser blast. “I swear, if I were to leave you for even a few minutes, you would end up dead!” he pulled the Doctor faster, their shoes hitting the ground in time with each other. “The number of times you have started flying our ship and – That ridiculous scarf! How many times – How many times have you taken off with that thing hanging out the door, Doctor? How many times?”
With another laugh, the Doctor unlocked the TARDIS and threw himself in, followed closely by the Master. “We’re still alive, aren’t we?”
“This time,” The Master huffed out, rolling his eyes again. He turned and clutched the Doctor’s face in his hands, palms on his cheeks. He was shaking, the Doctor noticed. “Do you know what it would be like for me, if you were to die?”
“As bad as it would be for me if you were to do so,” the Doctor slid a hand over the curvature of the Master’s skull, pulling him close and pressing their lips together. It took a moment, but the Master relaxed into it, pushing the Doctor against the doors. It was only when they needed to breathe again that he pulled back, angling their foreheads together.
“Master,” the Doctor smiled at him, letting his fingers bury in the shorter hairs at the nape of the Master’s neck.
“There always is an awful lot of running, Doctor!”
“Oh yes!” the Doctor called back to him, long brown hair flying back in the breeze as the Master fought to keep his trench coat. “As if there would be anything else!”
“Uh,” the Master – no, not the Master.
The being in front of him was not the Master right now. Too human, too scared and too human. Too fragile and too soft, the product of the Chameleon Arch. The war had hurt them both, had taken too much from them.
The Master would have died, if he hadn’t switched himself out.
The Doctor watched him, himself freshly regenerated, and felt hollow. He’d had to do awful things – horrible things, things that would get him marked as a traitor and a betrayer if their people had survived. “Yes?” he asked quietly.
“I do not mean to be rude,” the young man said, absently tucking his fob watch into his pocket, like he was completely unaware that it was even attached to him. “But who are you?”
“…A friend,” he said after a moment. New teeth that felt too big when he tried to talk. He could feel ears that were big – he wasn’t handsome, this time. He hadn’t wanted to stand out, hadn’t wanted to be anything special or amazing. His face was kind, he hoped as he looked at the human who had once been the Master and tried to feel anything other than a Void-like terror deep within him.
“And, uh,” the human looked at him, brushing dark hair out of his eyes. “What’s…Pardon me, but I seem to have…” his eyes glazed over for a moment, staring off into nothing.
The TARDIS had taken a hit, just before the Master had needed the Chameleon Arch. It had been a risk, using it, but it was the only way to be certain that he survived. It was possible that things had gone wrong in the change. “Seem to have what?”
“Do you know who I am?”
The Doctor winced, moving a little closer to him. “Your name is Yana,” he told him, smiling. “Professor Yana. You’re currently traveling with me, companion and friend. We’ve just gotten out of an attack on our ship, took a couple hits. Think we might have smacked our heads a bit.”
He could see the moment the artificial backstory filled in the gaps in his mind, pushed along by the words the Doctor spoke. “Oh,” Yana laughed, relieved as he nodded. His eyes were wide and intelligent, light in color. His skin flushed as he continued to laugh, one hand coming up to brush his hair behind an ear. “Well, thank you. Um.”
“Right, right,” Yana nodded again, smiling.
There was only a hint of the Master within that smile.
Yana stayed back from him, after that.
Friendly, easy to speak to, but they slept in separate beds. Yana was a good man, intelligent and a spark of wit that was almost familiar, but between the humanity he wore and the ninth regeneration the Doctor wore…
They were two new people and the relationship they had shared had to be buried for the time being.
The Chameleon Arch needed time to repair itself. It was too dangerous to simply open the watch and return the Master to them.
They needed the arch to keep him safe.
Rose Tyler was a lovely young woman.
The Doctor loved her and he loved Yana and he loved the Master and it was almost too much for his two hearts to bear. One was gone and one was distant and the third…
Rose loved him.
She was easy to love, easier to love than the Master. Easier to love than Yana, even. Yana who kept himself distant and alone.
Rose Tyler was a wonderment, in the universe. A balm to his wounds, someone he wanted to be better, for. She made him want to do better, to keep going in search of something good.
She gave him hope again.
The Doctor turned in time to see Jade start to burn, her hands engulfed in flames.
“Sorry for the impropriety, ma’am!” a voice called out as arms wrapped around her waist. Yana met his eyes for just a moment as he threw his coat over her hands, smothering the flames and dragging her out of the room. When he ran back in, the temperature had risen but Yana paid no attention to the change. “Doctor!” he called. “I’ve got this, what do you need?”
“Push it down!” he called back. “Is she alive?”
“Hurt, but yes,” Yana looked at him, his hair blown into a wild wave around his face, the dark brown of it catching the Doctor’s eyes. “She will live, Doctor!”
“Good!” he turned back to the fans and ran down the hallway.
Jack Harkness was a change.
The nineteen-forties and the first hint of something wrong in the air – a sense of something spiraling towards them as their time marched on. Jack Harkness rescued from a ship about to explode and the air filled with the scent of a paradox. It wasn’t an easy thing to stomach, knowing a friend was to be a paradox in some way, sometime in the future.
The Doctor watched as Jack flirted with Yana and he frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. “Jack.” He said, voice barely steady.
“What, can’t I even just talk to someone?” Jack chuckled, raising an eyebrow. “Maybe even do a little more than talk?” his mouth curled into a smirk as he looked Yana up and down. When he met the Doctor’s eyes again, he took a small step back, his smile turning baseline friendly again. “Alright, not into it.” He nodded as the Doctor watched Yana relax a little, seemingly confused even as he did.
Later, when they were alone together, Jack cornered the Doctor and leaned into his space. “Doctor, who is he?”
“…He’s,” the Doctor looked away. “It’s complicated.”
“When isn’t something connected to you.” Jack rolled his eyes. “Complicated how?”
“He was mine,” the Doctor met Jack’s gaze, leaning against the wall of his room. The TARDIS hummed around them, discontent. “There was a fight. A war. The Time War. He was mine, one of my people,” Jack took a sudden breath, startled. “Had to turn human to save his life. The TARDIS needs time to fix itself. Then I can fix him.”
“So he’s stuck like that until you can fix it,” Jack crossed his own arms, clutching nervously at his elbows. “Fix him.”
“Yeah,” the Doctor nodded.
“I’ll do my best not to flirt with him,” Jack assured him after a moment. “Humans based in a twenty-first-century mindset, bit more prudish than me. Plus,” he cleared his throat. “He was looking to you to rescue him. When I was flirting, I mean.”
The Doctor looked at him, startled and wide-eyed. “What?”
“When he was panicking,” Jack grinned. “He was looking for you to help him. It was only when you did that he relaxed. Whatever was done to him to save his life, I think he’s still in there somewhere.”
“…Thank you,” the Doctor whispered.
The transmat beam hurt.
Hurt them all, really, tore into their heads and made them sick and dizzy and the first thing beyond realizing that Rose was gone that the Doctor was aware of was that Yana’s signature was not able to be found anywhere within the platform. Rose was in the games, Jack was in one of the reality shows, Yana was nowhere to be found.
When the effects of the transmat cleared up a bit, the Doctor remembered clutching tightly at Yana’s hands and telling him to hold on.
The TARDIS had tried to keep them there, had tried to keep them safe.
The TARDIS had only managed to divert Yana somewhere.
Rose took in the Time Vortex and Jack Harkness died and lived again, finally the paradox and fixed point he was always meant to be.
The Doctor smiled at Rose, in love with her and in love with a being apparently gone forever, and said something he hoped was reassuring before the Regeneration energy overtook him and forced the change.
He blacked out for a moment.
When he came to, Rose was looking horrified at him and there was another set of memories that felt like something he had experienced secondhand.
Always so weird, something to get used to and something to work around until he did.
Rose was gone.
The Master was gone and Yana was gone and Jack was gone and Rose was gone and the Doctor was all alone again. Alone and alone and alone, forever and always.
How old had he been when his older self had decided that it was too much loneliness?
What amount of faces had he worn?
Canary Wharf and the lists of the dead haunted his every breath and the Doctor wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and never open them again. He couldn’t stop it, couldn’t change it, couldn’t save them.
And the four he loved were gone.
She was good, kind and resourceful and brilliant and he could not love her. She was too much like the four of them and nothing like them, all at once. She was her own person and he just wanted a friend, at that point.
But she loved him.
Or, he thought as he watched her, she loved what he represented.
The freedom of the stars, the adventures he could bring her on. The escape from an overbearing family that never seemed to appreciate her. Martha Jones was a wonderful woman and he could only offer her the love of a friend.
His hearts were taken by too many missing people.
And then Jack Harkness returned.
The end of the universe was a terrifying place, filled with refugees-turned-passengers and the worlds had all gone dark. There were no stars in the skies and the Doctor had never felt so far from home as he did while standing under them.
He introduced himself to the people in the silo and vaguely heard them chattering over a radio connection to someone they addressed as the professor.
Martha and Jack followed him, awed by the differences in the world around them, and he told them what little he knew. The tenacity of the human race, the survivability of it. The way they just kept on living, no matter what. Introduced to the professor, face-to-face, was nothing special.
Not until, “Professor – what was it?”
“Professor Yana,” the man smiled, the slightly distracted smile of a man with too much on his mind. “I’ve bounced from shuttle to shuttle my entire life. Took a hit to the head when one of them crashed, must’ve erased some of my memories.”
The Doctor nodded, watched as Yana tugged absently on the chain of the fob watch in his pocket.
“Doctor?” Martha caught his attention, looking at it for a second.
Martha stepped forward, Chantho a step behind her. The two of them had been talking, off to one side. Chantho and Martha had quickly become friends, whispering and laughing.
The conversation about the hand was a little awkward.
Jack could not stay dead, which was even worse.
And then, like the universe was aligning to break his heart again, Yana opened the fob watch and regained the broken memories of the Master. Became a Timelord again.
Left them at the end of the universe, having panicked and become angry, shot Chantho and left her to die slowly.
Time travel and teleportation without a vessel was rough.
And a man named Harold Saxon was Prime Minister.
“Say my name,” came the Master’s new voice.
“Master,” the Doctor looked up to see a camera watching them. “Psychiatrist’s field day, that one. Come find me, I can help you.”
“Help me how?” the Master demanded. “I’m Prime Minister. I don’t need your help.”
“Please,” the Doctor watched Martha and Jack watching him. “I can fix your memories, fill in the empty spaces. I just need you to come find me.”
Jack watched him with pity in his eyes, arms crossed over his chest.
“What, you? Sanctimonious old Doctor, the one who fixes people. As if I need to be fixed.” The Master’s laugh was bitter and cold. “Tell me, Doctor. Who am I to you?”
“…You,” the Doctor took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment. His shoulders slumped and his throat felt rough. He looked back up at the camera, making as much eye-contact as he could. “You are everything. I lost you twice, I don’t want to lose you again. Master,” he shuddered, his breath catching. “I don’t know what your memories are telling you, but I know some of it is wrong. There was a war, we nearly died. The only way I could save you was by helping you lock yourself away – Please!” he felt himself grow desperate when the Master scoffed. “The equipment was faulty, but it was a risk we had to take. If I hadn’t helped you, you would have died.”
Tears were rolling down his face.
“…Doctor.” The Master’s voice was a whisper, deranged and broken. “Doctor.”
“Come to me,” the Doctor hissed the words out. “Come to me and we can end this now. I can give you back your memories if you will just come to me.”
“Give me five minutes.” The Master said after a few seconds of silence. “Close your eyes and count for me, Doctor.”
The Doctor nodded, closing his eyes and waiting.
“Doctor?” Jack’s voice came from his right, cautious and tense. “What’s going on?”
Martha’s voice was a gentle whisper and if his hearts were not halfway broken and already too in love with too many others, he would love her, too. Concerned for him, even as she was panicked, her family in danger and in custody.
For the first time in a long time, the Doctor heard the engines of the TARDIS from the outside of his ship.
The doors opened and the Master stepped out, draped in a trench coat that looked like a dark version of the Doctor’s own. His hair was an ash-blond color, his skin fair, his eyes dark once more. He wore black leather gloves, one hand clenched around the laser screwdriver that had been tucked into a compartment in the console of the TARDIS. “Doctor,” he greeted, chin raising.
“Master,” the Doctor felt his hearts beating faster and he took a step forward, then another, running to collide with the Master as the other Timelord did the same. He could feel a hand going tight on his back, clenching in the fabric of his coat.
“Doctor,” the Master hissed it out, seemingly unaware of anything other than him.
“Seems like you need one, right about now,” the Doctor pulled back, almost grateful for the hands clenching in his clothes, refusing to let go of him. He put his hands to the Master’s temples, closing his eyes. “Here,” he whispered. “Let me in.”
The Master’s eyes closed, his laser screwdriver dropping to the ground as he curled his hands around the lapels of the Doctor’s coat. “Help me,” he muttered. “Let me remember, Doctor.”
The air around them seemed to glow golden, the Doctor pressing their foreheads together. “I had to watch you leave me,” he said softly. “First because your memories were gone during the war, then because of the transmat. The TARDIS clung to you, specifically, because your memories were tied up in the Chameleon Arch. Here,” he reached into the Master’s pocket and pulled out the fob watch that still sat there. “It managed to transfer them at the last second, locked away in the secondary gears.”
“Oh,” the Master seemed to shudder for a moment, his entire body going nearly-limp. The Doctor caught him and pulled him close. “Oh.”
“Because the transmat was so strong and the TARDIS was pulling you in the other direction, you ended up at the end of the universe,” the Doctor explained. “I didn’t want to lose you but I didn’t know where you’d gone.”
Jack held Martha back. “I think a Timelord can only ever be in love with two people at once, three at a stretch.” He grinned at her. “Between the Master, Yana, and Rose, the Doctor hit his quota for being in love.”
They shared a glance, shared the same exact feeling of being in love with a being who would never love them.
But seeing the Doctor standing with the Master, together, both of them near tears…
It felt like the universe was finally put to rights.
The Titanic was an unmitigated disaster.
Even with the Master helping him.
Donna Noble was a breath of fresh air.
The Doctor laughed as she and the Master snapped sarcastic dry-wit back and forth, just about equally matched. It was amusing to watch, especially since he knew they were both having fun. The Master’s bleached-blond hair, a change from how he’d worn it as Harold Saxon, shifted as he flapped a hand in her direction and pushed a lever on the console.
Donna snarked back at him, then turned to the Doctor. “I was born in Chiswick and now I am here!”
The song of the Ood flowed freely now and the Doctor felt the Master slip his hand into his, stealing space in his pocket.
Donna was near tears as she listened to it, a smile on her face.
The Master’s hearts were beating in time with the Doctor’s and the somewhat-insane Timelord turned to the Doctor, pressing their foreheads together. “I love you,” he whispered.
The library was terrifying.
River Song introduced herself to him as a soon-to-be-friend, a smile on her face as she looked between the Doctor and the Master.
Davros and his plans, every last one of the surviving companions, a nightmare of a situation –
The Master screamed his rage out in the depths of the TARDIS. Another cascade of shattering glass followed the noise. The anger that drove the Master was of a mournful friend, the loss of another, the death of someone important.
Donna Noble was gone. No human could survive with a Timelord mind in their head.
To survive, they could not exist for her.
The Master was gone.
They had stopped for a refueling and the Master had gone off to retrieve some things he had wanted from stores in the area.
The day started with refueling and dark attitudes and ended with the Doctor having to rescue both Wilford and the Master.
The Doctor managed to drag himself through the farewell tour, then returned to the TARDIS and met the Master’s eyes. “It’s time,” he said quietly.
The Master nodded, tugging at the collar they had put on him. “I would imagine,” he said, his eyes the only thing that betrayed the panic he felt. He curled his hands around the collar and fell still, watching the Doctor from where he sat on the bench. “You took a good amount of radiation into your body to protect your human – You have such big hearts for your pathetic humans, Doctor, one day it will kill you for good.”
He made a noise that sounded somewhere between a laugh and a sob.
The Doctor laughed, then tensed up under the pain from the coming Regeneration. “Still be here when I change?”
“Would I be anywhere else?” The Master rolled his eyes. “Like you could get rid of me that easily.”
The change ripped through him, even more violent than the last one. It burned through him, burned away everything but the basis for his existence. His memories were only so much dust in the wake of a disaster, only so much ephemera in a world that did not seem to care.
When the Doctor opened his eyes, he was a new man sauntering away with someone else’s memories again.
The TARDIS rattled, thrown off course, things catching on fire. The Master shrieked wordlessly and clutched at the bench seat, eyes wide and knuckles white. “Doctor!”
“Eyes, nose,” the Doctor felt for the various bits, blinking a couple of times. “Legs, one head, long hair!” he grinned at the Master. “Hah!” he snapped his fingers, waggling them, then nodded. “Right, right, all good – Oh!” he leaped for the TARDIS controls. “We’re crashing!”
“Yes, we bloody well are!” The Master snapped at him, managing to gain a relatively steady footing and lurch for the other side of the controls. Between the two of them, they managed to get it somewhat steadied.
They weren’t able to change the flight path. The TARDIS was too damaged for that.
“Does this seem at all familiar?” the Master shot at the Doctor as they rushed to keep themselves upright and keep the TARDIS from being completely a wreck. “You’ve just regenerated, the TARDIS is a mess, and something is happening with me that should not be?” he gestured at the collar he still wore. “I think this thing may be deadlocked on to me.”
“We’ll fix it,” the Doctor promised.
Before he could say anything else, the TARDIS landed with a heavy thud and something felt off. The both of them stared at the doors.
The screens told them where they were, of course, but it was hard to tell if that was the truth or if the TARDIS had been too damaged to give an accurate reading. When the Doctor ventured towards the doors, everything went well up until he actually got right next to them. Once he was within five feet, he simply slid back as if thrown across the room. “Well.” He addressed the doors, frowning. “We’ve landed sideways.”
“Oh,” the Master huffed out air, rolling his eyes. “Wonderful.”
“Get some rope,” the Doctor smiled at him. “I’ve got a plan.”
“You always have a plan and it is almost always because I have one too that we’re still here,” the Master pulled a coil of rope out of a storage area and tossed it to the Doctor. “And your plan is?”
The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and pointed it towards the doors. They opened inward and he grinned. “Now,” he pulled a grappling hook out of a different storage area and tied the rope onto it. “We need to climb.”
Amelia Pond watched them with fascination in her eyes, the Master noticed.
Like she wasn’t quite sure if she were awake or not. Like she thought she might have been dreaming. A Scottish girl in an English village, bored and alone and abandoned through the sheer force of her aunt’s work schedule. Even more alone because children at school made fun of her and her accent.
The Master grinned at her when she looked at him, then took the Doctor’s hand in his own.
She was interesting.
The Doctor took a deep breath, looking back at the house for a moment before the TARDIS caught his eye. “No!”
“What?” Amy whipped around to stare at him.
“No no no no no! NO!” the Doctor took off running towards the TARDIS, unable to get the doors open and pounding on them in frustration. His shoulders tensed up and he stared at the doors with horror in his eyes. “She’s still rebuilding, won’t let me in, I need her to open her doors though!”
“It’s just a box!” Amy shouted from behind him.
The Doctor turned his head only slightly, anger flashing in his eyes for a moment. “He’s still in there!”
“Wait,” Amy turned at the sound of Prisoner Zero exiting the house to come find them. “Who’s still in there?”
Pressing his entire body to the doors, the Doctor closed his eyes. His forehead was against the sign on the left door, one hand laying flat right next to it. His other hand was bunched into a fist and pressed into the area near the handles. He could feel him, he could feel the Master on the other side. They were so close to each other, yet so far away. He would never be able to get the other out in time. The entire horde of Genghis Khan hadn’t been able to get through and neither could he.
“The Master,” he whispered.
He heard a set of four knocks from inside the TARDIS and pulled back with a small gasp.
Not enough time, can’t stay and rescue the Master, the entire world is in danger.
If he loses the world, he loses the Master anyway.
The Doctor went away.
The Master understood.
Adjusting his bowtie, the Doctor approached the TARDIS and pushed at the doors, testing them.
They opened easily and he stared at the differences of his ship. The coral was gone, replaced by a sleeker inside. He liked it, even though he had been fond of the rougher looking interior. “Oh you sexy thing,” he muttered.
After a moment, he spotted the curled up ball of the Master’s body at the base of the console. “Master!”
Rushing forward, his arms reaching out to pull the Timelord closer, the Doctor hesitated when the Master looked up and golden light escaped from his eyes, his nose, his mouth. The regeneration leaked out of him, slow and constrained, like he had been holding it backed. “Doctor,” he hissed the name out, looking relieved and afraid. “I’m so…”
“No, you’ve –”
“I am so sorry,” the Master managed to string the full sentence together. “Managed to hold on until I saw you again.”
“You’re alright,” the Doctor curled a hand around his cheek, stroking a thumb over the bone of it. “See? You’re alright, you’re perfectly alright.”
“Sort of,” the Master tried to smile but it came out as more of a grimace.
Without warning, he lunged forward and pushed the Doctor back with as much strength as he could manage. In the second after he had, the Master reared back and exploded into golden light.
The Doctor threw an arm over his eyes, staying as close as he dared.
When the light died down, the Master stared back at him with the same eyes in a different face. His hair was a soft ash color now, with only the faintest hint of brown. Freckles ran rampant over his cheeks and nose, softer than the ones on Amy’s face. His skin was smooth and fair, almost too pale, and the Doctor looked at him and smiled.
“Haven’t regenerated like that for a very long while,” the Master said, shaking his head. “Trauma regenerations. I almost forgot how much I hated them.”
The Doctor moved close again, dragging the Master into his arms and pressing their foreheads together. After a moment, both of them shaking, the Doctor kissed him, clinging to him as if he were the last spark of light in the universe.
The Master laughed into the kiss and pulled him closer.
“Did you know that Amelia grew up calling us the Raggedy Doctor and the Rumpled Master?”
He was alone in his TARDIS.
He hoped his younger self had actually listened to him. Had actually taken the Master with him.
The Doctor wasn’t alone in his TARDIS.
A hand tapped on his shoulder and the Doctor turned, smiling at the Master. The ridiculous being that he was, the Master still wore the hospital gown and shorts he’d been rescued in. The Doctor pressed their foreheads together, feeling something in the very fabric of the universe shift.
“Master,” he whispered, nuzzling him.
“Doctor,” the Master grinned at him. “You’re acting like you haven’t seen me in a long time.”
“Am I?” the Doctor laughed, brushing away the tears that were on his cheeks. Why had he been crying?
“I guess I was just really worried about you,” he said instead, stepping back and holding both of the Master’s hands in his own. “Now!” he said, laughing a little when the Master snorted at his sudden change. “Clothes. You can’t spend the rest of forever in a hospital gown!”
The Doctor stood at the console, listening to the Master rummaging through the small wardrobe now kept at the base of it.
“Anything of mine, down here?” the Master called up to him.
“Should be something.” The Doctor called back, glancing at a screen. “Took that tie of yours, from your last regeneration.”
“Oh, thanks ever so much,” the Master’s voice was thick with sarcasm. “Unless you want me starkers, anything else?”
The Doctor took a moment to think, blushing as he realized what he’d just implied. An entire tie did not an outfit make, not on most of the planets they visited. There were some nearly-nudist colonies, where it was required to have an accessory, but there were no plans to visit one of those right now. “Remember that ridiculous jacket of yours? With the,” he flapped his arms for a moment. “Sleeves.”
“So that’s where it got off to,” the Master sighed. “Better than nothing, I suppose, but I am not finding anything to wear, here.”
“It looked daft, much better when you wore a suit.” The Doctor put the TARDIS on autopilot, patting gently at the center part of her console. “Here, I’ll come and help.”
“I looked daft? And what do you call that damnable bowtie?”
The Doctor made a face and came down the stairs just in time to see the Master holding up his old jacket. “Oh, this won’t do at all.” He muttered. “Here,” he handed it to the Doctor. “You work on that. I need to find a shirt.”
“Work on it?” the Doctor raised a brow. “What do you mean?”
“Pull the sleeves off,” the Master shrugged. “I need to find trousers. Can I…” he hesitated, then glanced at the Doctor.
“Anything that is in there,” the Doctor began, feeling the need for seriousness that was hanging in the air. “Is yours to choose from. Anything you find, no matter what it is.” He pulled the sleeves off carefully, unpicking the seams.
The Master seemed relieved and began digging through again, a small smile on his face. They sat there in silence for a few minutes before the Master laughed. “I remember these!” he held up a pair of plaid trousers. He glanced at the Doctor. “And you laughed at a jacket I wore.”
“Don’t mock me, Master.” He leaned over and nudged his forehead against the Master’s shoulder.
“Found my tie,” the Master said in return. “Hold it for me for a second?”
The Doctor took it, then watched as the Master pulled out a pair of white-beige-red striped trousers, measuring them against his legs before standing up and pulling them on. When he nearly fell over, the Doctor caught him, pressing him against the wall. “Don’t fall over. Won’t make your headache any better, trust me.” He smiled. “Cricket bat, long story.”
His thumbs pressed against the shape of the Master’s hips, his hands roaming a little. He squeezed at the small amount of softness he found.
“Oh,” the Master leaned into it, his eyes half-closed. “Your hands are really on me, aren’t they, Doctor.”
“You’re wearing my old trousers,” the Doctor leaned in, the tips of their noses touching. “Tends to do things to a mind. Especially with our history.”
“Good,” the Master arched up against him for a moment.
In the next moment, the Doctor had pulled away and begun searching through the storage areas himself. “Now,” he said, just a hint of teasing in his tone. “Let’s find you a shirt, shall we?”
“Sometimes I really do hate you, Doctor.” The Master pressed a hand against his face, taking a few deep breaths to try and calm down.
The Doctor handed him a white button-up shirt, helping him close it. It was from his seventh regeneration, as close in size to the Master as he could find. “Wasn’t this an entire outfit at some point in your life?” the Master raised an eyebrow, smoothing the shirt into the waist of the trousers, buttoning them shut as well.
“Not with that shirt,” the Doctor stared at up him, crouched by his feet. “And don’t mock me.” He handed the Master a pair of shoes, an extra pair from his previous regeneration. “Here, these ones will match.”
“Thank you.” The Master sat down to pull them on with the pair of socks the Doctor had tucked inside of them. While he was doing that, the Doctor snagged the tie from the pile of things he had been handed and looped it around the Master’s neck. “I am not certain I trust you with a tie – You do wear that bowtie, after all. You might make it into one, somehow.”
“I used to wear a tie,” the Doctor pushed one of his hands out of the way. “And bowties are cool.”
He moved back to take in the full effect, handing the Master his jacket.
Together, they looked ready for adventure.