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Of Broken Pieces

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“Show me the rest.”

He sniffs, turns his head. “I’m not sure you would be able to—”

“SHOW ME THE REST!”

She lunges for him and they go down together, crashing onto the grass. He hits hard, all the wind knocking out of his lunges, the Doctor on top of him, and pushes her off with a flash of annoyance. Then, he forces a chuckle.

“Wow. Didn’t know you had it in you, Doctor. It’s almost impressive.”

She doesn’t answer him. She doesn’t raise her head, and a moment later, when he props himself up on hi elbows and turns his head, he sees why. Catches the sniffle, just before the wind wisps it away.

She’s collapsed upon the ground, curled loosely in a ball, but this time she’s not asleep. He can hear that now, the quiet, choked sob, one and then another, rising and falling, and just behind a curtain of hair, strewn messily across her face, he can see the redness of her cheeks, the tears staining them.

Broken. She’s broken. He stares, stunned, and so much so that even the expected glee doesn’t bubble up. Nothing does. It’s funny, almost, because he’s been waiting for this moment all his lives, and now that he has it, it brings him no satisfaction.

She hasn’t cried like this since they were children. Not to him, not without rage and bluster and anything else she could muster. Back then, he would cry all the time, and none of the boys knew why, but they treaded around him as if on glass, mindful of their caretakers’ strange warnings not to bother the weak, crying boy who slept in the barn because he was ashamed—of what?—and would never make a Time Lord, or even a soldier. It was only Koschei who approached, first out of curiosity and a hint of rebellion, and then because he couldn’t look away. The boy was beautiful when he smiled. He was beautiful when he cried too, and Koschei never could quite decide which he liked more.

Now, she cries like a little boy again, all snot-nosed and messy and quiet like she’s trying not to be heard, and he can tell that he’s really done her in this time. Finally, after so many years of trying. The Doctor, so special and so self-righteous, finally brought down to size.

It almost hurts to see.

The Master hesitates, his next jab dying on his lips. He can’t even move. He can only stare at her, paralyzed in a strange new uncertainty that he doesn’t understand. Any other day, he would revel in this. Any other day, he would take this chance to send a boot into her gut, just to drive the message home. She’s nothing, and he’s beaten her. For all her airs, for everything that makes her special, he can strip it all away and make her hurt .

So why isn’t it giving him any satisfaction?

She’s still crying, weak and pitiful, shoulders shaking, and all he sees is that boy in the barn. His first love. His only love. The one who cried without cause, except he knows the cause now, and it hurts the Master too, but it’s not supposed to hurt him like this. It’s not supposed to hurt him because of her .

“Shut up,” he tells her, trying to be sharp but it catches on the edge and softens, and she doesn’t listen anyway. Never listened to him. “Shut up ! you don’t get to cry like this, you don’t get to cry because you’re special and different and—and—”

She only curls in on herself, hunched and pathetic, and he almost wants to hit her but something stays his hand. Instead, he reaches out, and for some reason even he can’t fathom, lays a hand on her shoulder.

She flinches. Only for an instant, but he jerks his hand back. However, she grabs it before he can fully draw away and clings, like a child clutching a toy, her arms wrapped around his forearm and her cheek pressed to his wrist, her tears staining his skin, and now he couldn’t pull away even if he wanted to.

“Don’t,” she whispers, harsh and biting and seeking all at once, a thin layer of desperation hidden under all that noise, “I don’t—”

“Fine.” He spits it, but that one comes out wrong too, and his whole plan is falling around his ears, and before he knows what he’s doing he’s inching closer, letting her draw him in, pull herself to his lapels and bury her head against his chest, that crying boy seeking comfort once more.

He doesn’t know what to do with himself. This isn’t what he wanted, this isn’t what he planned . But the Doctor was always beautiful when he cried, even when his nose turned red and snotty and his eyes went all swollen and his tears melted into the Master’s shirt, and she’s beautiful now too. He hates that he thinks it. He hates that the Doctor’s weakness has dragged him down, surrendered his barriers and pulled him to her level, so low his nose might as well be pressed into the dirt

She was supposed to break cleanly, just how he wanted. Instead she’s broken like a cracked egg, bits of shell everywhere, and he sure as hell isn’t going to clean her up, but—but—

He’s never been good at saying no.