The kiss, when it happens, doesn't feel like anything. That's a lie. It feels like something twisted inside of him until it broke, the splintered pieces of it trying to break free from the cage of his ribs. The Master closes his eyes in a long, slow blink. When he opens them again the Doctor’s retreating, but he’s still there, still standing right there, and the Master has to choose between kissing him again and punching him in the face.
The Doctor's looking at him open-mouthed, with that odd little gleam of fellow feeling he shows sometimes, when he’s fond or nostalgic or making false promises, so the Master chooses the former option, trying to make it feel as much like the latter as possible. He seizes the Doctor's shoulders, lurching a step forward and then another, pressing their mouths together with intent to bruise.
The Doctor stiffens, then melts, and suddenly they're going somewhere the Master's not altogether sure he wants to go. Anxiousness prickles at the Master’s forehead, and if he concentrates he knows he will be expected to do more than just this, this simple press of mouths and his hands on the Doctor’s shoulders.
He pulls away, but the Doctor follows, and the Master doesn't really want to fight this, not when he was the one who began it, chose it, continued it. They could have turned away and forgotten what had happened. They could have gone back to how it was before. But this is the Doctor, the short little man with the dark hair and the quick wit and the light eyes. Those eyes bore into the Master, questioning, seeking, and they never let him forget anything, and they never let him stay the same. They pull thoughts and ideas out of him that he'd thought long gone, long ignored. Perhaps this is just another idea that the Doctor will pull from him, staring it into being.
So it goes on, and the Master's jacket is what is gone and ignored, and the Doctor's umbrella, and his hat. It all goes on.
Later, when the Master is curled up, regretting things, he wishes he had realized earlier that the line between obsession and desire isn't always one that should be crossed.
Time Lords are repressive in their outward appearance but unrestrained in their private life. Young Gallifreyans are perfectly aware of all the bodily functions. They know that for every individual there comes a time when one's urges become too much and the other person is willing and then one fucks and it doesn't mean anything because the marriages are political and the only union that matters is of the mind anyway.
Koschei finds a number of faults with that statement, a neat array of assumptions he doesn’t like and implications he doesn’t trust. Theta finds many more faults, an untidy mass of all the superior nonsense he has had to put up with, all the indignities heaped on him by a static and staid society.
And none of that is important because it is what Koschei was raised with and he supposes it is still what he believes, back in the recesses of his mind.
You want someone so much that it spills over into lust and then you do something about it, expunge the feeling with every touch of bodies. Koschei thinks he understands the concept, in a clinical way. He understands wanting.
"Why are children loomed when we still have wombs?" asks Koschei. He is too old to be asking questions for the sake of it, and too young to understand technical details. But he does want to know.
"Speak up," says his mother. She can't hear him over the hiss and whirr of her robots. Koschei knows that that is why he asked so quietly.
"Never mind," he tries. He's lost what courage he had, and he starts to shuffle to the door.
"No, wait, I've installed playback in this room." His mother rewinds the sound and filters out the mechanical noise and finally there is just Koschei's small voice. He winces at how much higher-pitched and shy it sounds, out of his throat and in the computer.
"A very good question," says his mother, nodding solemnly. Her voice is boisterous and loud and she doesn't believe in bad questions. Koschei is trying very hard to be like her.
"Wombs," she says, in her lecturing voice, "wombs are a useful thing to have. What if our looms stopped working? What if the planet was destroyed and there were only two of us left to bring back the species? It's happened before."
Koschei's mother likes to tell stories, but he lets this one pass. She likes to tell lies as well, and that story sounds like it might be one.
"That's why we have wombs," he says. His fingers brush over the place in his belly where his womb will grow when he reaches twenty-five. "What about the rest?"
"Ah, yes, looms," says his mother. She hops down off of her work-platform, stripping off her gloves. She leans down so her brown hair is brushing Koschei's forehead, and her face grows very distant even as it nears.
"Looms are there because we are not in an emergency situation. We have the power to choose who we copulate with and choose whose genes we want, and they are not always the same people."
"Why not?" asks Koschei.
Koschei has six co-parents, each carefully selected for their contribution to Koschei’s genetics. His mother is the one who selected the other five, the one who wove him, the one who was there when Koschei toppled, blinking, from the loom’s frame. Koschei thinks he can remember the moment, if he concentrates. He has never wondered why his mother was the only one there.
He wonders now, as his mother’s mouth twists, suppressing some emotion that Koschei is not allowed to see.
"Attraction. Love." His mother draws back, fingers tapping on her thigh. "Organic unquantifiables, made of hormones, stimulants, and imagination. We try, but we can't quite get in there and fix it. We can only hope that what we create will be immune." She's itching to be back with her robots, Koschei can tell.
"Thank you," he says.
"Watch for it," says his mother, already returning to her work. "Don’t let it rule you."
When Koschei feels particularly isolated from his friends and their relationships and their problems, he blames his upbringing. It seems the thing to do – parents have such influence on their offspring, and Koschei’s mother is bright and clear and has no patience with the complexities of relationships and emotion.
When he's feeling particularly honest with himself, Koschei admits that his complexities have always felt shallow. He feels, he does, he feels so much that he thinks he might drown in it, but he doesn’t feel the need to be consumed by another person, to be their end and everything. Perhaps he's just a late developer. Perhaps he just hasn't found the right person. Perhaps he was built wrong, or he was broken.
There is Theta, though, and there is Ushas, and Koschei likes them both so much. He tries very hard to make the three of them inseparable. But even when they're apart, Koschei talks about Theta and Ushas constantly.
"Someone's in love," giggles Drax. "Watch out for those unauthorized hormones, you're far too young."
That's a joke. Everyone else has been quietly indulging in steroid hormones for years, now, sneaking supplements from the infirmary and the tutors’ stores. They’ll get their shots in three more years, but starting young is hardly ever censured. The tutors smirk knowingly when they find themselves short, and the students grin at each other, and everyone is slowly growing aware that Koschei is running late.
"Love at last," says Drax. He sighs, a parody of passion-struck Omega, an impression pilfered from the school play. "We should run out the banns."
"It's not that," says Koschei, frowning. But perhaps it is. How should he know? It's not as if he's ever been in love before. Maybe this is it, this all-consuming desire to have Theta and Ushas, to make them parts of him. He wants Theta's enthusiasm and biting sarcasm, and he wants Ushas' clinicalness and disdain. He wants them for himself.
He says this.
"You all would make a lovely triad," says a girl at the next table.
"I don't want to marry them, I just want to be them," says Koschei, and he doesn't understand why everyone else laughs.
Evil people use sex as a tool. Sex is a pleasure, to be indulged in as desired by both parties, with no strings of obligation or coercion. If it is a commodity, then the terms should be open and understood. Sex should not be leverage. Sex should not be the means to a hidden end. Sex should not be a step in a plan. It happens, of course it happens, Gallifrey is the home of politics and academics and constant one-upmanship, and every so often someone is hurt. But they shouldn’t have been. This is what Koschei learned from the Academy’s compulsory education classes; from his mother, when she thinks of it; from his friends, when they make mistakes.
For a while after the Doctor leaves, Koschei is convinced he is evil. It was his fault, and now Theta is gone and Ushas grows distant, their friendship becoming unbalanced and harsh. Koschei is a very bad Time Lord, and no tool should be barred from him, by conscience or restraint. Koschei makes a special effort to use sex while he's working as the War Chief.
It turns out that he's not very good at it.
"Should we go back to your room?" asks the chief scientist, tilting down his goggles prettily. The War Chief smiles, enjoying the rush of power from a successful seduction. One night will bring him closer to the War Lords’ secrets than he has ever been, and the scientist is an interesting enough man, clever in his way. The War Chief starts to walk down the corridor to his room, letting the other follow.
"I can't wait," breathes the scientist, and rests his hand on the War Chief's neck.
The War Chief stiffens and imagines having sex with this man. Possibly he should have considered that prospect earlier, but he was going through the motions and now they're touching and he can't stop imagining what it will be like when they're naked.
And there's nothing disgusting or wrong about it, he knows that, a certainty borne of his youth and his culture and his friends’ unasked for openness. But his mind is repeating "no, no, no," a litany of uncertainty that makes his forehead prickle and his teeth ache. The War Chief holds still a moment longer, trying to take control of himself, and then he makes some idiot excuse and leaves. The scientist stands watching for some time, his face troubled with worry and confusion.
It takes the War Chief weeks to rebuild his working relationship with the science department, to rid it of awkward questions about ‘bad experiences’ and ‘trauma.’ When he’s returned everything to how it was, he resolves to give up on the sexual part of being evil. He gives up on evilness altogether and tries being misguided instead.
Perhaps he can give evil another shot later, if it's really that important.
And still, when he sees the Doctor, he wants him. He wants him so much. This could be love, this could be attraction. It's certainly obsession.
The Doctor looks at him with shock and a bit of fear, and the War Chief takes that as well. He'll take every emotion the Doctor has to give, sucking them up into him until they are the same.
He dies and regenerates, thinking of escape and the Doctor and gets neither of those things, not yet.
His new self is more certain of himself than ever before, and feels it appropriate to call himself the Master. He is older now and he can own to his own desires, what is there, what is not, and what he is still trying to understand.
He is Time Lord aloofness taken too far, perhaps. The Master takes many things too far, and he revels in it. Abstention is just another form of extremism.
The Master does like men, and women, and people who are not either and people who are everything. He likes the shape of a body, and being able to look, and the feel of Queen Galleia's soft skin under the touch of his glove.
She assumes that he wants to sleep with her. It's a reasonable assumption, in this time, this place, this species. Perhaps it's a reasonable assumption for any sexual species. It still makes the Master’s teeth rattle in his head, until he bears down on it, grinning, and reminds himself that he is in control.
They make lovely faces at each other and exchange lingering touches and then the Master kisses Galleia's hand and sends her to bed.
He still feels strange, afterwards. He could tell where things were heading, and he took the path that should not have been an option. The handsome villain does not seduce the beautiful queen and then let her be. There is supposed to be ravishing, in every story the Master has heard, in every story he’s heard. He shakes and shivers from his head to his toes, shaking off the expectations and the role.
The Master will write his own stories, write his own lies.
He likes gloves and he likes cigars and he likes keeping his beard trim and he likes wearing clothes that are interesting and fit him well. The Master does sometimes think of their effect on others, but this is not a major consideration. This feels good and right to him, and that is the important thing.
The Doctor makes interesting noises when tied up to the Keller machine, the Master's gloves stripped off to check his pulse. He makes interesting faces when he discovers the Master dressed as an adjudicator. He makes very interesting gestures indeed when he sees the Master wearing the habit of a priest.
Perhaps it's outrage. The Master can’t be sure. The emotion the Doctor is displaying doesn't quite fit what the Master is used to thinking of as normal for Time Lords in public view, and he cannot identify it with any semblance of accuracy.
When he is in prison, the Doctor comes to visit him. They talk of many things, until the Doctor grows restless.
"I've always wondered how that leather might feel on the skin," says the Doctor. He nods at the Master's gloves, and strokes his own chin, thoughtfully. "They must be very... soft, that you wear them so often."
The Master stares at him for a moment, trying to extract meaning from this inanity. He blinks, and the Doctor looks unsure.
"Very sensual," tries the Doctor.
"Is this a joke?" asks the Master. The Doctor turns beet-red.
Later they have a sword fight and an invasion and they slip back into normality with only a bit of leftover confusion. The Master is glad of it.
When he dies he regenerates wrong, and his body is a crackling miserable husk.
Now people do not expect so much of him - he is a different sort of villain. They expect him to want power and life and nothing more. A broken body is not expected to perform, and the Master rails against it, rails against the way his body is meant to shape his mind. He is more than this form, he is, he is-
But it hurts too much to argue with unspoken assumptions and the body does matter, just a bit, not as much as people think. The Master hurts, and it is hard to think of anything else. He rests for years in his TARDIS, watching Traken, trying to formulate his plan.
When the Doctor arrives, his body is as healthy as the Master remembers, a large body with eyelids and hair and all the things the Master has lost. The Doctor has always had eyelids, in every one of his regenerations. The Master envies him terribly.
Envy. Is it envy that makes the Master yearn for the Doctor’s body, for his being, for his self? The Doctor is in the Master’s TARDIS, and the Master cannot help but touch the curls of his hair, thinking about what it would be like, if this was his.
But it isn’t – the Doctor escapes and plans go wrong. Everything is difficult, when the pain comes in sharp stabs and dull waves. When the Master escapes into another body, another existence, all he feels is relief. Other feelings come later, a succession of emotion, triumph and giddiness and pleasure and yearning for more.
The Master has a libido, in this Traken body. Gallifreyans don't have much of one, Time Lords even less so, when left without the artificial steroid hormone boosts that the Master forwent so many years ago. When Vansell bragged about his prowess in the bedroom, he meant that he had sex once or twice a semester, if that.
It was probably exaggerated, honestly. The Master can't imagine the effort involved in actually having sex that often. Surely it would be more trouble than it's worth.
But now, about once a week, the Master wakes up from a vaguely erotic dream and has to bring himself to orgasm or wait for the arousal to go away.
He also has to sleep now. He's not sure which one of these things is more disturbing.
Perhaps this is more than a change in body, perhaps this is a change in himself. If he has sexual desire, then surely he can desire something, someone.
The next time the Master wakes up with an erection, he tries picturing the Doctor at his feet. That is as exciting as ever. The Doctor conquered and willing to be his, to belong to him.
He pictures the Doctor reaching up to undo his belt and suddenly the Master is frowning, wincing. This is wrong, and he doesn't like it, and he cuts the fantasy off as fast as he can. Bits of it linger, feelings of being touched and wanted that are infinitely more disturbing than arousing.
Tonight he takes a cold shower, cold which he feels more than he once would have. He lets it seep into his bones and his blood, and he pretends that this body is truly his own.
"I have you at my mercy," says the Rani. "You will do this questionnaire."
It is the most bizarre and most typically her thing she could do. The Master feels a nostalgic annoyance for Ushas that goes beyond the familiar feeling of being tied to a gurney. Once he wanted to be Ushas just as much as anything his adolescent mind could think of, and he thinks it might be happenstance that his obsession focused on the Doctor, in the end, and not on the Rani.
"Question one," says the Rani, not letting him get lost in thought, not letting him protest. "How much does your new temperature difference affect your day-to-day life?"
The Master makes a face at her, but the Rani is perfectly willing to extract answers in less comfortable and convenient ways. He answers a laundry list of questions about his new physiology, no question too private, no embarrassment too great. He's more or less without shame, which makes it easy.
"Question thirty-two," the Rani glances down at her pad. "How would you rate sexual encounters in this body as opposed to previous healthy regenerations? Be as explicit as possible."
"I prefer not to say," says the Master, smoothly. Openness only goes so far, and he has an image to maintain.
"That's not a viable answer," says the Rani.
"Not applicable, then," says the Master.
"Oh, please,” says the Rani, and she waits, tapping her pencil against the pad, impatient.
The Master shrugs. He has nothing else to offer.
“You're serious." The Rani cocks her head. "Never, Koschei?"
"You know how it is," says the Master, starting to feel nervous. He'd always thought the Rani would be the one of them most likely to understand.
"No," says the Rani. "Really, never? At your age?"
He hadn't realized there was something so seriously wrong with him. Hundreds of years spent being himself, and he'd always just thought he was a normal Gallifreyan who was just… waiting. Abstaining. Or that it didn't matter. Or that no one would care.
Apparently none of those things are true.
"You're an outlier," says the Rani, and she's interested, fascinated, leaning closer as if she can spot his difference in the drape of his clothes. The Master has always been an outlier, but not like this.
He makes good his escape before the Rani can start any tests.
He's a killer and he's been killed and he's a dreamer and he's been dreamed and he's done many things that he's wanted to and done many things that he's hated.
He could have sex.
But he doesn't and he doesn't and he can't bring himself to care.
Until suddenly he is so angry with the Doctor, and he needs to do something different. Different techniques for this different Doctor, this little man who is so old and so clever and reminds him so much of Theta, long ago. They've fought and they've hated and they've been friends and the Master needs a new way to hurt both of them.
He kisses the Doctor and it feels like a slap to the face, so he growls and they do it again.
He thinks the Doctor enjoys it. One of them should.
The Master feels distant and wrong and slow, he’s an outlier, he should know better, he should understand what he’s doing here. He’s no closer to being the Doctor, to having his body and mind and self. He’s no closer to feeling comfortable, and this skin that he’s living in still belongs to someone else. This experience is teaching him nothing.
Not every experience has to be a learning experience. The Master breathes in and out, taking this for what it is. Not every story has to mean something.
"What are you thinking about?" asks the Doctor, when it's over and the Master is curled up and regretting things and then discarding the regret.
"You," says the Master, slowly. "And me."
He lets the Doctor draw his own conclusions.