The Rain Is Softly Falling
Harry was on a busy planet in the Orestes cluster, enjoying a break from trouble. Just the day before he’d helped topple a totalitarian regime, and consequently, he was feeling a little tired. It took some sweet-talking before the bartender was convinced to sell him a drink, considering that he looked about fourteen, but eventually Harry was left sitting at the bar with a strawberry daiquiri, watching the people around him idly and enjoying the friendly atmosphere.
He was about to take a sip of his drink when another Gallifreyan mind suddenly unfurled against his own, vastly far away. Harry gasped and put a hand to his head, overwhelmed by the feeling of no longer being alone. All his life he’d been a Time Lord alone and lonely, knowing what it was like to be surrounded by other Gallifreyan minds only from the memories he had inherited from the previous Doctor, but those memories were only a pale reflection of what it actually felt like to have another Time Lord around, he now found. It felt like homecoming and belonging and discovery all at once, so inexpressibly wonderful that Harry couldn’t have described it, even if he’d tried.
And oh, the presence in his head was oh-so-very-familiar, even though Harry’s recognition was only based from the previous Doctor’s memories. Harry flung back his head and laughed aloud, filled with joy and triumphant realization even though this could turn out so very, very bad for him.
“Are you alright, mate?” a concerned fellow customer asked him, and Harry grinned wildly, and tossed back his drink all in one go.
“I’m fabulous, simply magnificent!” he declared, grinning hugely, unable to help himself. He had been so very, very alone, and now he wasn’t, and it was all going to end in tears but right now Harry didn’t care. Maybe it was his youth, maybe it was having never known another Time Lord in his life, but Harry was overjoyed and delighted.
The Master was alive.
Somehow he’d bypassed the Time Lord again, and oh, why was Harry even surprised at this point? The Master had always been a survivor, and this – it should have been exactly what Harry expected of him.
Whooping with excitement, Harry ran for his TARDIS, ready to search out his possible-nemesis.
He could remember the last time that the Doctor had seen the Master, that last moment of rapport they had shared – the previous Doctor had dwelt upon the moment with bittersweet longing and regret, revisiting the memory many, many times. Harry only hoped that he met that Master – the one who had proved that deep down, part of him still cared – and not the one who always wanted to burn the world.
Eyes alight with determination and exhilaration, Harry set about the task of finding the other Time Lord.
It took time, a lot of scans, and some plain old-fashioned detective work to track the Master down.
The Master turned out to be on Earth, the way he so often was. Harry found him in the early twentieth century, half-way through building a time machine from various contemporary computer parts and cannibalized pieces of alien tech that the Master had no doubt stolen from somewhere. Harry hoped that it was Torchwood. If anyone deserved to be robbed of alien tech, it was undoubtedly them.
The Master turned to face Harry as he entered the room, his eyes slowly panning over Harry’s form. Harry, for his part, stood and absorbed the changes that had taken place since the previous Doctor had last seen the Master. The Master had regenerated since then; he looked more like some of his earlier regenerations than the young, grinning madman who had taken over the Earth from his position as Prime Minister. Harry hoped that this reflected a shift in his sanity.
“I’d wondered what happened to you,” Harry remarked truthfully, and strolled forward, his hands in his pockets.
The Master went still. Time Lords were reasonably strong telepaths, and this close to Harry, he could feel how different Harry’s mind was from the mind that he’d expected to find. There were strong similarities, true, and so many memories in common: but Harry was not his grandfather, and the Master could tell, now that they were this close.
“You’re not the Doctor.”
“Not the one you know, no.” Harry gave a sad smile. “You’re the only one left who would know.”
“How?” the Master demanded, rage and something more vulnerable taking over his face. “You have his memories, you feel like him – what did you do?”
“I opened a watch,” Harry said simply. He stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled out the fob watch he had opened all those years ago in Aunt Petunia’s attic. He still carried it with him, as a reminder. The Master snatched it from him, traced the concentric circles decorating its case with desperate fingers.
“The Doctor lived out the last days of his life as a human,” Harry said quietly. “He died before I was born, leaving the watch behind for one of his descendants to discover.”
“No.” The Master was shaking. He looked up from the watch with eyes that were wild and full of some desperate, nameless fear. “You’re lying. He wouldn’t…”
Harry said nothing, and the Master’s words trailed away. His hand closed around the watch in a fist.
“He can’t be dead,” the Master snarled, so very, very dangerous, and his eyes were dark and gleaming, but they were also wet. “Damn him! Damn him!”
The Master’s last words were a hysterical shout, and he flung the watch away from him in a fit of sudden rage. It hit the opposite wall, and fell to the floor.
Before Harry’s eyes, the Master went to pieces. The other Time Lord sat suddenly, as though his legs wouldn’t hold him any more, his face contorted in an expression of hatred and anguish. One hand tapped out an agitated beat, while the other wrapped around his knees, and the Master buried his face in his knees and the crook of his arm and went silent. The only sound was the sound of the Master’s frantic tapping.
Harry walked over to where the fob watch lay on the floor, and picked it up. He looked down at the Doctor’s name laid out in Gallifreyan, before he returned to where the Master sat. He stood a respectful distance away, allowing the other Time Lord his grief.
“I wanted to kill him,” the Master said suddenly, into his own knees.
“I know,” Harry replied honestly.
“But I never wanted him to die,” the Master insisted, raising his head to glare at Harry with reddened eyes.
“I know that, too,” said Harry gently. He held out the fob watch, and after a moment the Master took it.
The two Time Lords looked at each other, and there was an understanding there that Harry had never shared with another living being.
“You’re only a child,” said the Master. “How old are you?”
“Forty-three,” the Master repeated in disbelief. “You’re forty-three, and you spend your time running around the universe, pretending to be the Doctor?”
“Someone has to,” Harry told him. “When the Doctor died he left a space in the universe. Time needed someone to fill that space, and the only one available was me.”
“You’re a preschooler,” the Master sneered. “You should be learning about the Laws of Time and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, not playing at being the Doctor!”
Harry just looked at the Master with steady eyes.
“No one ever said life was fair,” he said simply. The Master’s face contorted again, and for a moment Harry was worried, but after a moment the Master’s expression calmed a little.
There was another long silence. Harry didn’t say a word, content to wait for the other Time Lord to work through his feelings.
“You said you’re his descendant.” The Master’s grip on the fob watch was so tight that his knuckles had turned white. “How close?”
“I’m his grandson,” Harry responded evenly.
“His grandson,” the Master murmured bitterly. He stared at the air in front of him, not truly seeing it. “You know, I had so many plans for what I was going to do, the next time I saw the Doctor. I was going to bring him to his knees – make him beg – but he’s gone, and all that’s left is you.”
Harry was unbothered by the sudden venom in the Master’s voice, able to tell the difference between verbally lashing out and potential impending violence. He stayed where he was, concerned for the other Time Lord.
He knew what a terrible person the Master was, how monstrous he had become, thanks to the previous Doctor’s memories: but he also knew how the Master had started out, and remembered the mischievous, unexpectedly earnest boy that the Doctor had befriended long ago on Gallifrey. That boy was long gone, but Harry could see his echo in the Time Lord sitting before him, like a ghost of what had been. He couldn’t bring himself to hate the Master, not when he remembered the whole, sordid descent into madness and tragedy. Not when he, and he alone, knew the Master in his entirety.
“Without him,” said the Master, “what am I?”
Harry finally sat down, opposite the Master. He didn’t care that the floor was hard and cold.
“You’re the man he wanted to save,” he offered quietly, because while he might not be able to offer the Master much in the way of comfort, he did know the previous Doctor inside-out. “The man he fought to stop. You’re the only one left who really knew him, and you’re the last Time Lord left, besides me. You’re the legacy of a dead world and a dead man, but you’re also so much more than that, if you choose to be.”
Harry waited until the Master’s eyes were firmly fixed on him, and added, “Do you want to save yourself, or continue on in this madness?”
The Master gave a bitter laugh.
“If the Doctor couldn’t save me, what chance have I got? You think I can change?” The Master’s voice was mocking, but at least the bleakness was gone. “I will see this universe burn, and everything in it! Including you! And without the Doctor there is no one to stop me!” He glared at Harry.
Harry just smiled, and the Master looked at him in suspicion and confusion.
“Then in that case, I have only one thing to say to you,” Harry commented, getting to his feet. He looked down at the Master with an impish look. “Catch me if you can.”
“You think this is a game?” the Master called furiously after him, as he started to walk away.
“I know it’s a game,” Harry called back over his shoulder. “It always was, remember? The Doctor forgot that, the last couple of rounds. So let’s start over, shall we?”
“You won’t find it easy.” The Master sounded angry and contemptuous. Harry grinned to himself, where the Master couldn’t see.
“I’ll hold you to that!” he called out. As he left the room he risked one last glance over his shoulder, back in the Master’s direction. The Master looked angry, but intrigued, and the broken expression had faded a little. The Doctor’s oldest friend – his best enemy – might be grieving, but Harry had given him a reason to pull himself together, if he could manage it. Harry was willing to bet it was only a matter of time.
“I’m going to regret this,” Harry muttered to himself, knowing that it was the truth, but right now he couldn’t bring himself to care. He’d done the right thing by the Master. The Master couldn’t be redeemed – not that brilliantly mad, fractured soul – but perhaps he could be saved, just a little. Harry had done his best. Now it only remained to see what happened next.
“Sentiment is going to be the death of me,” Harry remarked philosophically, patting the outside of the TARDIS affectionately as he unlocked her doors.