The Doctor stretched out the kinks in his brand new back and adjusted the round glasses he’d found, peering at the scanner in the Tardis. It flickered at him, making him squint. Or perhaps he was short-sighted now. He tapped the side of the scanner firmly, “Come on, old girl, where are we? Remember, I told little….” He paused. The Doctor held out a hand about hip height, considered and lowered it to about knee height. “Little red headed girl. Yay high. Forget her name. Forget my name. Thingy. I promised thingy I’d be back for her.”
The Tardis obliged by fixing the image on the scanner, showing him a vibrant purple sky, snow white grass and a rather spectacular sun. Gaxila, bordering on the edge of the Castille Galaxy. If he remembered correctly, it was one of his old friend Romanas’ favorite planets. Or would be one of them. The Doctor slapped his forehead as if to jolt the newly regenerated brain into shape, to knock the swirling timelines in his thoughts into some sort of order. He looked at the scanner again. It showed a peaceful scene, some sort of Market Day. The people wandering in front of the Tardis appeared to be a mix of Victorian and early Sycorax, which made for some rather fantastic costumes. He grinned to himself, touching one of the figures as they wandered past. “Look at you!” He addressed them without expecting a reply, the gentle tap on the screen turning into a half fondle of the Tardis scanner. She hummed comfortingly, attempting to ease the new Time Lord into the swing of things. Gold, black, emerald green and cyan danced past her scanner, before he spied something that made his new lips twist in a pattern both familiar and unfamiliar.
In the center of the rough circle making up the market itself, was a large onyx monolith. The inhabitants bustled around it, a few occasionally stopping to admire the intricate architectural design that had gone into the construction of said monolith. It rose four heads higher than the people themselves, with smooth sides of stone leading up to an ornate mantle. The Doctor frowned, grinned at the fact he could still frown and considered. That particular type of design was not due to happen on Gaxila for at least the next one hundred years.
There was also something familiar about the arrogant way the monolith had simply plonked itself there, like it deserved to be adored. Intrigued, the Doctor hopped over the silver railing raising the console from the floor and dropped to the floor with a bounce. He ran a hand through the floppy mess of dark brown hair…still not ginger…attempting to right it before giving up and gently pushing open the Tardis doors.
The air outside smelt like cinnamon. Did he like cinnamon? He clacked his lips together. Must remember to eat. He should have asked little…the Doctor made the knee high gesture again…for some more fish fingers. What a delightful concept – fish that had fingers. He grabbed hold of his own forehead for a second, forcing himself to focus on the scene around him. He saw that the Tardis had managed to park herself neatly behind two rather pretty flower beds. A burst of red and pale pink roses butted up against the blue of his Tardis, setting the old girl off nicely. He supposed it was about time she had a little adornment. “You vain old thing,” he told her, amused. The Doctor noticed, with a jolt that shouldn’t have happened that there was a man trampling, no, jumping up and down on his right flowerbed.
No-one should have been able to sneak up on the Doctor. His last regeneration had been one of razor sharp reflexes and an even sharper hairdo. He should have been aware of their presence at least a few steps back. But this man had been completely silent, up until the moment he’d decided to positively murder the roses. The midnight black of his clothing was somehow familiar and there was a coiled poise that struck a chord, a dangerous, thrumming cord in the back of the Doctors’ mind as he moved. The suggestion of velvet tugged at his memories as the Doctor closed the Tardis door behind him.
“Excuse you,” he barked, “those are my flowers!”
The man stopped, one black booted foot half raised over a particularly innocent looking red rose. The man was a little taller than the Doctor, dark hair swept back to reveal a pair of almost jet black eyes. They sparkled. Full lips shifted to one side in a smirk as the man bowed slightly, spreading velvet coated arms to the Doctor.
“My dear Doctor,” the man said smoothly, his voice sounding like water running over concrete. The man amused himself by adjusting the jet cufflinks adorning his sleeves, before planting two gloved hands firmly behind his back and waiting.
“Borusa?” The Doctor asked, hooking his fingers in behind his braces. They were rather good braces weren’t they? All twangy and…wait, this wasn’t Borusa. Borusa was much older. And dead. On Gallifrey. Also dead. Ow.
“Try again, Doctor.”
The Master waited for the Doctor to get his bearings impatiently, one finger tapping slowly on the other behind his back. 1-2-3-4. He tilted his head to one side smoothly to get a better look at this particular regeneration. After a long, long moment in which the Doctor appeared to be fixed to the spot, undertaking the same staring contest, the Master decided he liked this one.
Or maybe not.
This Doctor might even outrival the floppy haired blonde one, the Masters’ other favorite incarnation. The Fifth Doctor had been so delightfully…hungry. The Master did like this regenerations' clothes however. It was about time the Doctor stopped messing about with bright coats, long coats and stupid hats and settled on a decent suit jacket, like the herringbone one this Doctor was wearing. A shirt, black pants, boots not too dissimilar to his own and what in the name of Omega was that around his neck?
Neck thing aside, this Doctors’ jacket rested on new muscles. Tall, wiry, somehow like a spring loaded up and waiting to be released. There was something feline in this Doctor, a kitten with Attention Deficit Disorder, the sense of playfulness. And something else. The Doctor was frowning at him.
“I know you,” the Doctor said, “look, would you stop crushing those? They’re my roses!”
The Master had lowered his boot firmly onto the innocent rose and was promptly twisting his foot to ensure the petals splattered in their death throes. “I hate roses,” the Master replied curtly, stomping on one last one.
The Doctor looked at the remaining roses, huddled up against the Tardis as if for security. “Why? What have they ever done to you?” He sounded curious rather than annoyed, like he wasn’t quite sure what a rose was yet. Perhaps it hunted you down when you weren’t looking and blinded you with its…petals? No. That couldn’t be right. He could see a blonde mess of hair in his mind’s eye for a moment, a Union Jack. He knew her name. Her name was something to do with this flower.
The Master arched one slate dark eyebrow in his direction, lips twitching upwards. “How far along in this regeneration are you, Doctor?”
The Doctor waved his hands expansively about, as if he had little control over them. “I don’t really know. I think it was yesterday, but it might be tomorrow.” He grinned, the smile cracking across his face. “It’s marvelous isn’t it?” The smile was infectious; it made the other Time Lord look much younger suddenly. As if all the world was not lost. It was a particularly endearing gesture, one that made the Master smile in return, before he caught himself.
“I see your sense of time has not improved, my dear Doctor. You appear to be fresh into this one.”
“I could be fresh,” the Doctor admitted, “I could be sarcastic. I could be quite funny. I think I might be in fact.”
The Master shook his head, “It appears you have the same appalling sense of humor as your fourth regeneration, Doctor. Do tell me if you see any annoying mechanical dogs.”
“I used to have one of those! Do I still?” He looked unbearably saddened when the Master shook his head.
“Not all of this is working just yet,” the Doctor added. “Roses?”
The Masters’ face twisted in displeasure. The Doctor watched the process with something akin to fascination. Even the distasteful expression on his face looked exquisite.
“You’re quite something aren’t you?” The Doctor burrowed his chin into his hand and watched the Master. The Master looked smugly pleased.
“I am universally, quite something. And I do not share, Doctor. You would do well to remember that when you meet her.”
"Oh so its' a her. I thought maybe I had an affair with a plant."
"This ones' brain composition is rather more that of a vegetable, Doctor."
The Doctor chuckled and shook his head. "So you followed my Tardis just to destroy the symbols of a woman I'll one day meet and that’s it?" His green eyes flickered as he made the connection.
Roses. It suddenly connected in his mind as the regenerated synapses fired. Earth flower. Pleasant smell. Many colors. Blonde Earth girl. Ninth. Tenth. Pretty. More than pretty. Adored him. He ad…something there. Blocking. Couldn’t reach her anymore. One of his hearts had broken. This man had found him like that. Helped him. Been furious with the roses. With Rose, the Doctor put together. This man hated Rose. Hated what Rose had been, almost been. Jealous. Possessive.
The Master looked up sharply, face tense. The dark eyes searched the Doctors' face intently, waiting for the rest to connect. "That is my name, Doctor." He drew one hand out from behind his back and proffered it to the Doctor. "It would be most remiss of you to forget the rest of the story between us, my dear."
The Doctor smirked and winked. The Master had the uncanny feeling he'd just been had.
"I always know you," the Doctor said, his eyes focused firmly on the Master. "In every lifetime, across every time line. I always know you."
The Master found himself swallowing. The Doctor was evidently more eloquent in this regeneration. "And I you, my dear Doctor. In case you get a big head to match that rather oversized chin of yours, no I was not following you. Have you come to stop me this time too? That is our usual game," he asked, his voice like honey. His arms were folded behind his back, his gaze holding the Doctors' and a small smirk hiding amongst the manicured beard.
The Doctor swung his arms wide, encompassing the whole of the village square in his gangly pose. "That depends!" he said, with no small measure of excitement. The focused eyes were now suddenly wide and bright, sparkling as he bounced, literally bounced, the Master thought, over the roses towards him. The man was clearly made of elastic. His eyebrow rose as he considered a thought crossing his mind, shaking his head slightly to get rid of it. The Master stroked his chin, granting the Doctor an indulgent smile as he bounced to a stop in front of him. "On what your dastardly plan is this time, boyo. Spot of mind controlling all the peasants? Building a tower to yourself? Your Tardis looks a bit like that already, mine doesn't. Blue box you know, simple, unassuming. Bit like me. What is your plan? Is it mind control? It is mind control isn't it? Are you planning on controlling all the vegetables perhaps? Have them rise up in a mass vegetarian revolt? That would be brilliant!"
The Master found himself with a slightly open mouth. He closed it and mentally tried to separate the Doctors' many sentences into one paragraph that made sense. The Doctor was watching him avidly with those bright, shining eyes, bouncing without moving as he waited for the Masters' answer. "If you must know, Doctor, do stand still...I'm rather interested in observing how the succession of the Seven Kingdoms turns out."
The Doctor stared at him for a moment, before he suddenly slapped the Master in the shoulder and exclaimed. "Of course! The Seven Kingdoms of Gaxila! And a battle for succession huh? Hmm, that means this must be the Battle of the Lion vs the Wolf right?"
"Quite," the Master murmured sardonically, "Doctor, you would have known this if you'd bothered to look at the Tardis databanks before stepping outside."
"Where's the fun in that eh?" The Doctor exclaimed again, at a louder pitch than before. A peasant woman carrying a basket stepped away from the two of them quickly, skirting the Doctor with a wary glance.
"I apologize, Madam, he's clearly brain damaged in this regeneration. Doctor, do keep your voice down."
The Doctor obediently jammed his finger to his lips, his eyes roving over the top of them to take in the square around him. Now that the Master was no longer trampling those lovely roses by his Tardis, he was able to take in the sights a little more. Even if his gaze did keep slipping back to that velvet tunic, the gloved hands and those dark, dark eyes a little more than they strictly needed to. Beyond the Master, banners depicting a golden lion decorated the square. He could delineate villagers wearing the symbol, but here and there villagers were wearing the symbol of a wolf.
The battle was due to happen in...The Doctor glanced at the watch on his right wrist...three days and 23 hours precisely. Maybe 22 hours, give or take. The Lion would win the battle with a clear victory, decimating the army of the Wolf. It would begin an almost unheard of reign of peace and prosperity in this part of the galaxy. In fact it was from this very battle, the Doctor thought, pulling forward a strand of his light brown hair to see if it was still as brown as it had been yesterday. It was unfortunately, still brown and not ginger. Rassilon's beard, was it too much to ask for one gin...wait...what was he thinking about?
The Master had stopped pretending to watch the villagers and had leant himself against the wall of a nearby house, where he was watching the Doctor. He observed that the rapid fire flow of the Doctors' words obviously came from rapid fire thoughts, which seemed to be something even the Doctor was having trouble keeping up with. Suddenly, the Doctor span on his heels and pointed a finger at him, "It's this very battle where Gaxila begins a wonderful reign of peace and wealth and health and all that lovely stuff. Where the Lion makes a firm choice to lead them into exploration, peace and knowledge rather than conquest and domination, which is what they're heading towards right now."
The bouncy, energetic Doctor suddenly disappeared before the Masters' eyes. In his place was the same man, but with a heavy weight to his shoulders. He looked much older, the eyes much wearier. Resigned and concerned perhaps. "And you plan to stop that," the Doctor stated. In this regeneration there were echoes of the Doctor who had paid the ultimate price to save the world.
"Peace and prosperity is rather boring," the Master replied. "A millennia of progress and exploration sounds like torture to me, Doctor. Wouldn't you rather have a nice war?"
"You're denying these people the right to their future!" His eyes, previously such a brilliant green, had darkened to the shade of an oncoming night. He pointed a finger firmly into the Masters' chest, his fingertip brushing soft velvet.
"Not at all, my dear Doctor. Please, don't upset yourself. Red doesn't go well with this regenerations' skin tone," the Master replied calmly. The Doctors' mouth twitched, the strong lips curving upwards in a smirk, before his eyes shadowed and narrowed a second time.
"They have the right to that millennia of exploration, Master, no matter how boring you think it is. We're not all psychopaths."
"Says the man who pushed a Sycorax off a ship into nothing," the Master commented. His name had been spoken a thousand times by the Doctors’ regenerations – in fury, in love, in despair, in hope – and he never tired of hearing it. In every utterance was the promise that they would still be there at the end, no matter what sin was committed.
"Don't you ever get tired of fighting, Master?"
"We have our roles to play. Mine is to be the thorn in your side, Doctor," the Master replied steadily.
"Oh, you are much more than that, my dear Master," the Doctor replied. There was a warm smile on his face - this regeneration had much less to hide than the others. A warmth that was not hidden behind the ruins of war or bravado. As if this younger regeneration was so much older, so much more tired of keeping the mask on.
"If I didn’t have you, Koschei, who else would I show off to?”
"Is this all for me then Doctor?" The Master asked, the deep voice low and dangerous. He took a firm step closer to the Doctor, nostrils flaring at the scent of tweed and Artron energy emanating from the other Time Lord.
"Well, you and my conscience, yeah," the Doctor replied. “And the Tardis does get a tad cross if I misbehave. Women, eh?” He glanced backwards at the Tardis with a slightly sheepish expression as if half expecting her to open her doors in annoyance. She, of course, did nothing. But let him try and find the kitchen later.
"Please, Doctor, I don't want to be compared to your conscience. It's such a restricted thing,” the Master commented.
"And yours isn't? Mr. Control?”
"Doctor, mine is rather wild."
The Doctor swallowed, staring for a long moment. He stared for such a long time and so intensely that the Master wondered if he had perhaps finally met the mental train crash that had been bound to happen from so many racing thoughts altogether. Finally, the Doctor blinked. A shy smile crept onto his face, nuzzling at the high cheekbones before settling there.
"Are you flirting with me?" The Doctor arched a dark eyebrow and chewed his lip. He glanced hastily at the peasants passing, in case any of them could help him out. Emotions were tricky things. Not as tricky as bacon, but close.
"You are an innocent," the Master said delightedly. “When did that happen? Your Fifth regeneration was quite…fun. The less said about your Sixth, the better.”
"I am not an innocent! I have a wife you know!” The Doctor looked quite offended, running two big hands over his face and frowning over the top of his fingertips.
Dalek Khan would have been proud of the expression that crossed the Masters’ face. Actually Dalek Khan would have been proud of any expression, not having a face and all.
The Masters’ face was a study in darkness, onyx eyes glittering dangerously. His full lips were drawn back in a silent snarl and his black gloved hands were clenched so tightly together that the leather creaked.
The use of his name seemed to make the Doctor realize his error. Green eyes flicked guiltily to the Master and he reached out with a hand to the other man. The Master took a step backwards reluctantly. “Not like that, Koschei. Never like that.”
The Master relaxed muscles he didn’t know he had and waved a hand to indicate the Doctor should explain himself. The Doctor was spluttering over a stream of words and turning a rather delicious shade of crimson.
“Not really married, no. Sort of. I was this sort of robot thing, or rather, there was a robot me and I was inside it. And robot me had the wedding ceremony but instead of me saying my name, I said, take a look in my eyes, River. And she did and I had a little wave and then I fixed the Universe. Again.” The Doctor looked quite proud of his explanation, splicing his fingers beneath his bright red braces.
“Of course,” he added, glancing away, “don’t tell River we’re not married because she’s a bit, you know, hooked on me.”
“Quite,” replied the Master. He wondered if perhaps this regeneration had already taken a few too many knocks to the head. His explanation had barely made sense, other than that the Master could tell he would now hate rivers as well as roses.
“Doctor, may I remind you I let you run around and take in strays, but I do wish you would stop giving the things false hope,” the Master instructed.
The Doctor paused, mid ramble about the villagers behind them, having caught the Masters’ words. “You let me? Listen bucko, no-one lets me do anything. I’m the Doctor!”
“Bucko?” The Master snorted with laughter.
“Nothing wrong with bucko. Perfectly good word. I like words; you can do anything with words. I wrote a book once. Well, I tried. Got bored. There was this, what are you up to?” The Doctor realized that the Master had actually started to walk away.
The Master took three more steps, then paused and turned, glancing pointedly at the Manipulator Watch he was wearing around his wrist. “I thought I could perhaps carry out my genius plan, have a nap and return before you finished this particular sentence, Doctor.”
“Well, that’s offensive,” the Doctor muttered. He crossed the space to where the Master stood in the center of the village square in two long legged bounds and placed his hands on the Masters’ shoulders and shoved.
“Did you just shove me?” The Master had to question himself. He was the Master. He did not get…shoved. “You’re going to crush the velvet.”
“Oh dear,” the Doctor commented. “I’m quite proud of my verboseness this time around. You’re quite proud of your velvet…whatever this is…17th Century vampire gone wrong?”
“Now, that IS offensive, Theta,” the Master replied, “I must insist you make amends.”
“Have I come to make amends?” the Doctor asked. The Master found himself looking up sharply, unable to tell the Doctors’ meaning from the spoken words. The Doctors’ eyes danced. A wicked grin whipping across that rather handsome face, the Master thought, he had the look of a stern executioner and a misbehaved schoolboy at the same time. It was a rather heady combination. The Masters’ finger slid beneath the collar of his coat and his throat.
“I thought I’d come to stop you,” the Doctor added, winking.