“There’ something wrong.”
The Doctor frowned, clanking around under the TARDIS control panel, rather energetically whacking it with a spanner. His long legs were sprawled out and the only thing visible, boots resting close-by to where he’d tossed his tweed jacket and a whole other selection of random bits of technology and metal that appeared to pretend to be tools.
“What’s the reading now?” He asked after another whack with his spanner.
“Circle, little ¾ circle with a dot in it. Circle with two lines.” Amy said vaguely, puzzling over the display. She then stopped to pick up his jacket.
“What angle are the lines at?” the Doctor asked, sounding exasperated with impatience.
“Uhm...” Amy walked closer to the display looking over it. She then gave Rory a hopeless look over the control panel. He shrugged. “Forty....eight degrees? And maybe 170 degrees?”
“Maybe?” The Doctor huffed and scrambled backwards from under the control panel, looking sooty. He got to his feet and looked over, rolling his eyes. “Amy, that’s nothing like 48 degrees. That 37.67 degrees and 154.92 degrees. Come on, it’s easy stuff this, can’t you tell by just looking at it?”
He tapped the control panel as if it was obvious and he was trying to explain the alphabet to an adult.
“So? What does it mean anyway?” Amy said, shrugging off his being pedantic. She offered his jacket back to him but he ignored her, too distracted.
“It means that we’re losing power. Or have lost it. Quite a lot, actually like something’s feeding from it.”
“Not good?” Rory asked.
“Very not good.” The Doctor wriggled the spanner, thinking, and looked at the dials again. He then groaned and flung the spanner into the rest of the pile of tools. “Right! We’ll have to refuel at the rift. Charge us up like a big old battery - buzz! Maybe that’ll kick start us a bit. Come on then Ponds, dress for Wales; we’re off to Cardiff.”
His frustration apparently shoved aside and the energy of adventure back again, the Doctor hopped over to man the controls and piloted them to Cardiff.
“Is there..uh.. much to see in Cardiff?” Rory asked, watching him. He had never personally been, but he could hardly imagine monsters and aliens crawling about the place. That was a relief. He’d rather that his new wife wasn’t killed off when he finally had her. A peaceful honeymoon seemed nice. Just a pity that he was probably with the two least peaceful people on earth. “Nothing nasty?”
“Not unless you count Torchwood as nasty.” The Doctor muttered, frowning to himself in disapproval. He then suddenly slapped his forehead. “Oh! Of course! No, they’re gone now. Well, the Welsh Torchwood branch. Got blown up. Terrible business. The 456 I think they were called. I was busy. Well, kind of busy. Been a rough year. Very rough, but crikey...Torchwood gone, children chanting doom and I was swanning about deflowering a tudor mona-“
He paused, letting the half uttered word ‘monarch’ hang in the air. He looked slightly guilty and then waved a hand dismissively.
“Buuut you don’t need to know about that. Rough year. Not quite myself. Well, not me, my other self. Him. Me. Very confusing. Irresponsible. Probably. Still I can’t hold you human’s hands all the time, you’ve got to defend yourself without me sometimes....ugh, poor Jack. No wonder he was in that bar.”
He ran a hand through his hair and set about landing the TARDIS during his little babbling rant.
Rory and Amy gave him a blank look, amused and used to his rambles by now, knowing that no matter how interesting they seemed, getting more information out of him in that state was hard and wearing. Better to just absorb what they could and move on. Amy smiled fondly, though. She loved him like this – all manic purpose and bubbly eccentricity. Just like when she was a kid. Her Raggedy Doctor.
It wasn’t long before the TARDIS touched down with its characteristic groan in Cardiff square, materialising seemingly out of nowhere to any stunned passers by. The Doctor had piloted it straight under the rift so that he could try and recharge the TARDIS’ power, but it was sure to take a while. He sighed lightly once he had her set up and tugged his bowtie a little neater absent-mindedly. Soon Amy and Rory reappeared, Rory having pulled on a turtleneck jumper with jeans and a coat, and Amy having gone for thicker leggings under her skirt and baggy jumper, completed with gloves, beanie-hat and a scarf.
“Aren’t you ‘dressing for Wales’?” she asked, looking the Doctor over.
“I am.” The Doctor said, with a wave of his arms in demonstration. “Timelords can survive in the vacuum of Space for over 20 minutes, I’m sure I can handle Wales.” He boasted lightly then headed out of the door. Amy followed him, pulling Rory along by his hand.
“Really?” Amy asked, sounding curious. She smirked when the Doctor stepped out into the pouring rain and smugly wriggled the umbrella she had found at him.
“Yes ‘really’. Why, do you think I’m lying?” The Doctor pouted and extended an arm for the umbrella. Rory passed him his so that he’d share with Amy, and the Doctor nodded in thanks before opening it.
“River says you always lie.” Amy pointed out.
“River says a lot of things.” The Doctor muttered. He took a few steps backwards to admire his TARDIS and smiled. “There! She’ll be all set up for a couple of hours, I bet. Who wants fast food? One of the best bits of the 21st century- that. Fast food.”
Rory wrinkled his nose. “Yeah? I don’t see what’s so great about it. Give me home cooking any day. It’s healthier too.”
“Bah. I’ve barely managed to live more than a few years at a time in the last decade, the least of my concerns is getting fat.” The Doctor smiled. “Anyway, I don’t know if I like fast food yet. Amy?”
He grinned at her and Rory rolled his eyes. Of course the Doctor always went to his partner in crime when he was in threat losing an argument. Amy puffed out her chest in mock-importance and smiled teasingly at Rory.
“I agree. I demand that we have a happy meal.” She said with a dramatic air.
Rory laughed and gave her a squeeze. “Traitor. Ok, come on. The Doctor’s buying.”
The bustle and queues and noise of McDonald’s had the trio bumped and nudged into lines, but the Doctor was smiling, drinking in the little slice of social history and ignoring Amy’s complaints at having to wait. He watched the set of servers slamming out trays of food almost simultaneously. There would be a flurry of activity as they got the food ready then: One, two, three, four – all the trays were out and the next row of people moved forwards to make their orders. Order received, fetch out burgers, chips, drinks; one, two, three, four; orders collected; next people.
The Doctor watched them intently, the rhythm of their work clutching at a ball of grief that had formed in his chest that he hadn’t expected.
“Doctor?” Amy asked, frowning a little in concern at the Doctor’s suddenly intent and brooding expression.
“Chicken nuggets!” The Doctor announced suddenly, the expression washed away as quickly as it came – perhaps too quickly to be convincing. “I’ll have chicken nuggets and chips.”
“Ok...” Amy tried to ignore the change, assuming that she had just been mistaken, “I’m having a burger, so if you want to try some of mine, you can do.”
“Perfect.” The Doctor nodded, but couldn’t help letting his gaze drift over warily to those eerily timed servers. They never faltered in their rhythm, and he could still hear the trays slamming down in that perfect beat: one, two, three, four. He swallowed nervously, mentally scolding himself for being so sensitive even now. He was being silly, but he couldn’t stand to be around them any longer.
“I’m – I’ll go get us a table. You order.” He said quickly, then swept off through the crowd to find one, almost bumping into a family in his haste to get away.
Amy blinked, watching him leave, then exchanged a glance with Rory. “Whatever you say, Doc.” She muttered.
When Rory and Amy returned the Doctor had that faraway look again, watching a small group of children playing with one another in singing nonsense and drumming on the table. The rhythm was the same; he had no doubt about that. But it couldn’t be. He must be going mad, seeing patterns that weren’t there. If people could hallucinate in sight, why not in sound alone? He needed more sleep. But most of all, he needed to let the Master go. Properly and forever. He was alone again. He needed to realise that.
His own hearts were beating hard in his chest in the same rhythm. Oh gods how he needed to let go. He was a different man now: the Master was in his past – Ten’s past.
He blinked back into reality when he realised that Amy and Rory were staring at him. The beat of his own hearts still seemed deafening. He forced a smile. “What?”
“Are you actually ok, Doctor? You’ve been acting weird since we got here.” Amy said firmly.
“I’m just thinking, Amy. Don’t you ever think?”
Amy settled back and unwrapped her burger, eyeing up Rory’s chips rather than her own. Other people’s food always tasted better, in her opinion.
“’Course I think.” She replied. “So what is it that’s bothering you so much?”
“Just thinking about an old friend. Well, I say ‘friend’...” The Doctor paused over whether he should mention the drums or not. They wouldn’t understand, they didn’t know its significance. They probably would tell him he was being silly. He probably was.
“Yeah?” Amy looked interested but the Doctor didn’t indulge her. He instead turned to try his food. There was hopeful pause before he spat a chicken nugget across the room.
“Eugh.” He made a face.
“Big baby.” Amy laughed, giving him half her burger and looking amused at the shocked look on Rory’s face. Thankfully the Doctor managed to eat his burger once he’d tried dipping it in his Pepsi.
Later, they headed for a walk around to explore Cardiff, trying to kill time as the TARDIS charged. The Doctor was happy in distracting himself from the drums that he seemed to hear everywhere on the street by chatting about his past adventures. However, as they passed electronics shop with a line of TVs in front, something on the currently playing news caught his attention. He dashed inside and up to the biggest TV, whipping out his screwdriver to turn up the volume. When Rory opened his mouth to ask what the problem was, the Doctor ‘shh’ed him and crouched so his face was inches away from the screen.
The Newscaster was in a hospital ward, in a line of apparently sleeping patients; she soon explained that they were coma patients. What struck them, and everyone in the hospital, was what they were doing. Each held out their right arm and slammed out the four-beat rhythm on the bars of their bed.
Over and over. They didn’t tap, they hit it with all their might, many with red-purple bruises developing on their abused limbs.
The Doctor’s hearts turned to ice. There was no doubt; he wasn’t imagining it.
“This is eerily familiar.” Rory muttered. The Doctor sharply told him to shh again.
“What’s wrong with them?” Amy asked, and the Doctor dismissively waved a hand at her and listened for the name of the hospital. Once he had it he made to dash out of the shop, leaving his companions to chase after him. He paced around close to the window outside, running his hands through his hair, the images of the coma patients playing in the live footage in the Tv screens displayed behind them, all synced in unison much like the patients themselves had been.
“No, no, no , no, it can’t be him.” The Doctor said, mostly to himself, his voice pleading. “He’s dead. Properly dead, for months! He’s locked in time! He used up all his energy: He. Cannot. Be. Here.”
Amy caught his arm to stop him pacing and tugged him, looking him in the eyes firmly, demanding answers. “Who? Tell us what’s happening, Doctor.”
The Doctor’s face was desperate and confused and – she was sure – even frightened.
“The Master.” He said.
Then, just like that, the muffled drumming noise from the TVs within the shop stopped. The reporter turned around and started to announce the change in surprise, but soon gasped as all of the coma patients slowly opened their mouths in perfect unison, and the limbs that had been drumming were held frozen in elevation as if they were in mid-strike and something willed them to stop. Then they all took an inhale and united to give one long terrible scream.
The trio started in shock, eyes wide at the scene as they turned to witness it on the shop window televisions. Their eyes widened in horror as, it seemed, once the coma patients started screaming they could not stop. The Doctor stared at the screens, his face pale. “We have to get to that hospital.”
With the TARDIS out of action, Rory guided them into a taxi that seemed to frustrate the Doctor as he willed it to go faster to their destination. Amy leant over to the Doctor, thw buzz of adrenaline in her veins.
“I don’t get it, what is ‘the Master’?” She asked.
“Is it like the Dreamlord?” Rory asked.
The Doctor didn’t look away from the window as he watched the streets of Cardiff speed by, his voice quick and intense.
“No. He isn’t. He’s a Timelord, just like me. Before I met you, Amy, I was in a fight and I got badly hurt and he was there too. I thought that he had been killed: he should be dead. But, oh, the Master does have a knack for finding a way to live: through old age, execution, fatal injury, war, murder...oh he always comes back.” He shook his head, frowning, his voice somewhere between admiring and bitter.
“But if he’s supposed to be dead how is he controlling the coma patients?” Rory asked.
The Doctor sighed. “He was always a skilled hypnotist. Admittedly he got lazier and more violent as he grew older, but I don’t think that he ever lost that. He can get into people’s head, either with a silver tongue or – in this case – directly and intrusively through force of will.” He tapped his own temple. “Now he can’t manage it if you have a strong enough will to oppose him, of course, but these people are unconscious. Deeper than unconscious...but I don’t understand how he got in there in the first place. They’re just people and he doesn’t have a body – it was fragile enough already, it must have burnt up when he used up all of his energy in killing Rassilon. But, however he did it, he’s inside them. What’s more, I think that he’s wider than just the coma patients.”
He looked gravely serious and nodded to the cabbie behind the glass. He was tapping his fingers on the steering wheel:
“He’s everywhere.” The Doctor murmured, looking spooked. “But the hospital is different to this. He’s making a scene with that. He’s calling to us, he has to be.”
Rory and Amy were silent for a while, digesting that information.
“Is he dangerous?” Rory asked after a long pause, putting a hand on Amy’s arm protectively.
The Doctor’s smile was grim. “Absolutely. He’s the most dangerous creature in the universe. Apart from me.”
“But you’re a good guy.” Amy said with an uncertain laugh.
“I try to be. Doesn’t make me any less dangerous. In fact, it might do just the opposite.” The Doctor’s expression was dark and Amy regretted saying anything.
As they neared the hospital the Doctor fumbled and withdrew his psychic paper in preparation. In turned out that only a glance at it was required – there were so many doctors and journalists swarming about the scene that they were soon swept into the chaos. As they neared the wards the faint sound of screams grew louder and louder – long shrieks of apparent agony, interrupted only for the patients to take the occasional simultaneous breath. Once inside, the Doctor managed to get them in by claiming that they were a specialised team of medical consultants, and he did his bst to usher out the most of the journalists and stray nurses.
As soon as they were finally alone the screaming stopped abruptly, punctuated by one land drumbeat. The patients lay frozen in eerie yet somehow alert silence.
Amy’s heart was hammering. Rory reached over to squeeze her hand.
“Master?” The Doctor said, carefully.
The silence dragged on, then all of the patients spoke as one, their different voices of the young and old meshing together in one wave.
The lights on the displays of the life support screens flickered and Rory realised that the coma patients hearts were in distress – erratically beating in fast panic even if they were completely still. He walked warily closer to them.
“Doctor. You found me. Clever boy.”
The unified voices were detached yet somehow seemed to find a way to sound like they sneered. Amy shivered, her lips twitching as if something was pulling her to speak too. Something inside her.
“And with fresh new pets too. I cannot see them but oh I can feel her. And the other is not human.” The voices said.
Rory frowned, prickling at being dubbed inhuman, but he had more important matters on his mind. As he became gingerly close to the life support machines, he seemed hesitant to touch them, but read their readings. The organs were reading as under stress, breathing forced and unnatural, heartbeat wild. After a pause he forced himself to risk touching the wrist of a little girl to measure her pulse and check her vitals.
“How? How can you feel Amy and Rory? How are you doing this? You’re dead!” The Doctor demanded.
“Doctor, they’re burning up. Their pulses are erratic – he’s killing them with this!” Rory interrupted, frowning.
Amy wavered, feeling light-headed and as if she was overcome with vertigo. A sick dizziness washed upon her suddenly and she soon found that her chest was tight as something felt like it was scrambling its way through her very blood. She opened her mouth in a gasp to try and tell the Doctor, but she soon found that she had lost control of her voice.
“I was six billion people, Doctor. Don’t you think that when all the physical effects of my Master Race withdrew, that I didn’t make a mental mark? I became them, and they were me, you can’t just delete that imprint.”
Amy felt a strangling stab of all consuming panic as she realised that she was speaking for him too, her Scottish accent mixing in with those of the coma patients. Rory and the Doctor whipped around to stare at her and Rory ran over, putting his hands on her face and looking into her wide, frightened and disorientated eyes. But, unlike the patients, she still retained enough awareness to look back.
“Get out of her!” The Doctor shouted.
“She’s strong.” Amy and the coma patients murmured. “She’s fighting me. She can’t win. With enough concentration I could tear apart her mind using my drums. Crush everything about her. All her sweet little memories of you, Doctor. Why shouldn’t I?”
Amy’s hand shot out to grip Rory’s jumper in a white-knuckle grip, and it wasn’t clear if this was the Master’s action of threat or Amy’s desperate attempt to cling onto an anchor or lifeline. Her head jerked to look at the Doctor blindly, and it was clear that that particular action was completely the Master. Amy’s expression was still her own, but the voice grew ragged and intense as it was ripped from the throats of her and the coma patients, creating a surreal effect.
“It HURTS, Doctor. It hurts so much. I’m dying. I’m being torn to pieces across this link and the drums won’t stop. They won’t. My energy fades and Gallifrey and the time lock are sucking me in and I WILL NOT DIE!”
The patients and Amy screamed the last few words, a cracking desperate agony in them. The Doctor’s expression faltered, sympathy eroding the anger gradually. A painted strain took hold of his expression as he tried to remain firm.
“I said: Get out of her.”
“I’m part of you too, Doctor.” Amy and the patients said with increasing, quieter desperation. The life supports flickered and electricity crackled. The alarm tones began to sound as they reached critical level.
“Stop it! You’re killing them!” Rory yelled, feeling Amy’s pulse, now impossibly fast.
“The energy I used to injure you when you met me again made a mark. An Imprint of my personal life energy signature. It’s still in your veins. I used the DNA link that you have with your TARDIS – a tiny link – but just enough to draw energy from her through you. Just enough to anchor myself in this reality and fight the time lock. Your TARDIS is keeping me alive, Doctor. It and my imprint within the humans are keeping my mind, energy, and very atoms alive. Help me. If that link is severed then I am flung into the vortex and that time lock on Gallifrey and I dissolve into nothing. Forever. I need energy. Give me energy.”
The Doctor closed his eyes with a deep breath, containing himself. When he opened his eyes again they were hard and his voice was grave.
“Get. Out. Of. Her.”
“I saved you!” Amy and the coma patients screamed, and the drumming started again with frantic force. Amy slammed her fists against Rory’s chest. “You promised me! I WILL NOT DIE!”
Nevertheless, a second later, Amy suddenly collapsed as the Master severed his link with her. Rory caught her and checked her over.
“Find me in the TARDIS’ Artron Energy coil. I will try to collect in there. Draw me out, Doctor. Find a way. And don’t you dare betray me. If you do you truly are a murderer, and Rassilon was right.”
There was a kind of surprisingly fragile venom in the coma patients’ voices that caught the Doctor off guard. Before he could make any response all at once the Coma patients slumped to unconsciousness again, their muscles finally relaxing and their vitals calming.
He was gone.
The silence that followed in the ward was long and horrible, only broken by the quiet shifts of Rory’s movements as he tried to rouse Amy. The Doctor was perfectly still, a kind of shell-shocked gravity to him. Rory glanced up; wanting to demand that he help him take care of Amy, but the expression on the Doctor’s face stopped him from saying anything. Amy had told him of those occasions when the Timelord seemed impossibly old. He had glanced at it with the Pandorica, and here it was now. It was a silent intensity and sadness; a great stillness and watchfulness in him that made it seem that his expression was one carved into the very cliffs and mountains themselves through aeons of erosion, rather than moulded in flesh and bone.
Finally, Amy groaned and the Doctor and Rory leapt to help her as she regained consciousness.
“Amy, are you all right?” the Doctor asked.
Amy nodded, but was pale. “Yeah, of course I’m all right.”
“Don’t move.” Rory said anxiously as she tried to stand up.
“What...what happened to him?” Amy managed. “He was inside me. I could feel him all over: In my blood, sitting inside my head. He was me, for a minute...and that sound...”
“Yes. The drums. That’s kind of his thing. You know like the kid at school who insists on wearing sunglasses in all weather, or those rappers who wear clocks around their necks to stand out? Well, this is his little calling card. Not very fashionable, though. Don’t think it’ll catch on.” The Doctor joked with the kind of fragile humour that always comes in the most appalling of situations.
Amy laughed, playing along. “So he’s a musician.”
“Percussion, mostly.” The Doctor smirked.
“I don’t care much for the rest of the band, though.” Amy said with a nod to the now peaceful coma patients. Another round of laughs and that was that. The seal on the tension had been broken and its contents dispelled. For now, at least, they could pretend that it was all in their past, and that the implications of the coma patients being used so cruelly, or the fact that Amy’s mind had been effectively raped, could not touch them. They had more important things to do then dwell on their shaken sense of morality. The Master was in the TARDIS and, even though all common sense screamed at the Doctor that he should leave his arch-enemy to his fate, his hearts begged him to go and save his friend. He always followed his hearts. Over-thinking never led to anything good anyway, he thought. Over-thinking led to his destructive pride on the Mars Base. Over thinking would make him like Rassilon. He always prided himself on being impulsive, so long as it was for the right reasons. After all, an impulse was what had gotten him into trouble over 500 years ago. It had made him meddle to save a life. Impulse had led him to run away rather than face the punishment for this ‘crime’, and impulse had given him his precious TARDIS. He could never regret any of that.
“Come on you two, back to the TARDIS. I’ve had quite enough of Cardiff.” The Doctor said.
As they walked into the TARDIS, anew eerie feeling of being watched struck them, now that they knew that they were not alone. Somewhere, in this vast complicated ship’s workings, the Master’s energy flowed.
“What are we going to do, Doctor?” Amy asked, casting a wary eye up to the Tv screens, as if expecting them to flicker to life of their own accord.
The Doctor ran a hand soothingly over the control panels. “We get him out.”
“How? And then what?” Amy asked,. She wasn’t sure if the Doctor intended to get rid of the Maser or save him. Knowing the Doctor, she felt that it had to be the latter, but the Doctor hadn’t actually agreed in so many words. The Doctor thought for a few long moments before slamming his hand down in triumph.
“Well, we can’t actually get him a body until we can extract all the data of him and analyse it. Once we have that we can grow a clone for him – just a hop skip and a jump to the 107th century to do that. But until then we do need to draw him out of the TARDIS and keep him safe before he weakens any more. Now, technically the energy can exist outside of the TARDIS, provided that it keeps near to the TARDIS to leech of her energy. If I add a perception manipulator or two we can help him look and feel like he used to, which will help his personality cope with the change without going madder than he already is. But for this to work, he needs something to hold on to and that we can use to contain his loose life energy while we wait to grow a proper body for him. Now, if we go to Chula, they have nanite technology. These are tiny intelligent robots smaller than cells in size. A bunch of these can hold his energy and give him enough of a form to be workable when used with the perception manipulators, and he’ll be kept happy until he gets his body. It would be fragile and have a big risk of burning out if he uses too much energy or strays too far away from the TARDIS, but it gives him some freedom. It drags him out of the time-lock completely and will keep him safe with us.”
Amy nodded slowly. “And...are you sure that you want to help him? Don’t get mad, it’s just...well, you said that he was essentially dangerous, and I know that when he was in me he felt evill,” She felt that it needed saying.
“I’vve known him as my best friend for 902 years, Amy. What’s more is that, for once, he has actually asked for my help. We free him. He’ll be my responsibility. I made a promise to him that I’d help him and I will.”
Amy and Rory nodded in understanding.
“Ok.” Rory said. “What can we do to help?”
“I need you both to do your best and scroll through the computer and look for any anomalies. You don’t need to know exactly what you’re looking at, but try and find this symbol.”
He drew it out on a piece of paper and passed it to them.
“This is the artron energy regulation section. If he’s in here, which I suspect that he is, then the computers should act weird in response to the intrusion. Remember, my TARDIS is a living thing, she can feel in her own way. She won’t like it at all, so will show symptoms of discomfort like any creature. As you two do that, I’ll go find some nanites.”
“Is the TARDIS charged up enough to travel?”
“I’m sure we can limp our way there. It’ll have to do. Come on.”
The Doctor moved to dislodge the TARDIS from the rift and set her flying, heading for the destination of Chula. Once they landed he ran out, leaving Amy and Rory to deal with the computers. It was an endless process for them, so easily kept them busy for the few hours that the Doctor was gone. However, soon after he returned, clutching a metallic tube in his hands, they had found the artron energy display unit. It quivered and the screen occasionally flickered or froze, or the energy signal took sharp dips or spikes.
The Doctor shuffled over and smiled at it. “Well, he’s definitely in here.” He nodded. “good work, Ponds. Now, I need to get in and put the nanites into the energy coil. I’ll then draw them back out again and hopefully the Master will have attached to them, ok?”
“Ok.” Amy nodded and went to join him while Rory watched the computers. She wanted to see this for herself.
The Doctor moved down to the lower levels of the TARDIS, under the control platform, stroking a hand over one of the side walls, fingers seeking out a service hatch and opening it, slipping through. They were taken to a lower level, where pipes had branches out like tree roots from the central column that was now above them. Amy watch in wonder as a soft golden glow pulsated gently through them, almost like a heartbeat of its own. The Doctor walked out into a set of white metal corridors, heading down them and into another room. This one was vast, with machine technology that seemed to be made out of a kind of glass. This joined on to countless filaments of apparently organic metal that spread out and curled around to cover all the surface of the air above them, like the dried out intricate skeleton of a leaf.
“Here we are.” The Doctor said, moving to the central diamond shaped console that attached to the machine and the strange filaments.
“It’s beautiful.” Amy said with a smile of awe.
“She is, isn’t she?”
“What does it do?”
“Artron energy is a sort of energy that unites everyone and everything. It is a life energy given out by the universe itself. It defines each component or person in time. Time travellers have a different artron energy signal because of this, you see. It’s powerful stuff, literally the matter of the soul, some would say. This machine helps the TARDIS navigate throughout the time vortex by sensing the artron energy changes and using them as pinpoints. In a way, it’s because of this that we have the problem that she is always far more inclined to draw us into important events or dangerous anomalies in time. The artron energy signals in these people and events are always stronger, like a kind of gravity for her. Or maybe it just excites her.”
He smiled warmly.
He grinned. “Yup. W-o-w.”
He took the tube and placed it on the control panel. He then typed and fiddled at the machine for some minutes before pulling out a cable and attaching it to a bolt at the top of the tube. More typing and then a shiver passed through the delicate network of living-metal and the nanites were drawn into the machine itself. The Doctor looked up, watching patiently, chewing his lip. “Come on, find him...” he muttered. It was a few long minutes before another shiver passed through the machine, and the display leapt and stuttered before calming. The Doctor took a few deep breaths before typing again and ever so carefully drawing the nanites back out.
“Did it work?” Amy asked.
“I hope so. Just let me set up a perception filter to sync in with his memories of himlsef and Dna encoding...” The Doctor said. There were several minutes of more typing and deep concentration. Finally he gave a nervous smile. “ok....” he unattached the cable and then held the nanite tube in his hands, he used his sonic screwdriver to jettison the tube’s cargo and it flowered out shimmering randomly in the air before drawing together.
It appeared to take on the form of the Master perfectly: blonde haired and scruffy as the Doctor had last seen him, but completely naked.
This apparently didn’t faze the Master in the least.
“Ah, Doctor!” The Master grinned, stretching and flexing his fingers experimentally. He fixed his eyes on the Doctor, taking him all in now that he could see once more. “I see that you’ve regenerated. Cute.”
“And I see that you’re a natural blonde. D’you mind? There’s ladies present, and I don’t’ exactly want to see it either.” The Doctor countered, averting his eyes. He took off and then thrust out his jacket to him so the Master could cover himself up with it.
“Ooh, and this ‘gen’s cheeky too. I approve.” The Master said. “Anyway, she seems fine with it.” He gave Amy a charming little smirk.
“Oh. My. God. Wait, that’s Harold Saxon!” Amy exclaimed in utter disbelief.
“Always a pleasure to meet my loyal voters.” The Master cooed and with a sarcasm that was somewhat warped and half-hidden by the layers of charm he included so effortlessly.
“Well I didn’t vote. My aunt did.” Amy admitted.
The Master made an exaggerated childish pout that made Amy smile in amusement. “Maybe next election. Maybe I can find ways to persuade you.”
“But I thought you’d died. Your wife killed you – she was arrested and everything.”
“Which means I’m single...” The Master purred.
“Master. Stop it.” The Doctor said firmly.
The Master gave him a quietly challenging look and a sneering smile. “What is it with you a redhead lately? You’re collecting them like Pokémon cards.”
“I said: stop it.”
“Are you jealous because you want her or because you want me all to yourself?”
The Doctor made a noise of irritation and abandoned the argument, turning to make his way back to the upper levels of the TARDIS, expecting them to follow. “Come on. I need to do some tests.”
Once they had climbed back up, Rory was waiting for them. He looked curious and wary. Soon the penny dropped.
“Yes, yes, yes. It’s Harold Saxon. We know. This is going to get very tiresome very quickly until we all accept this fact and move on. The prime minister was an alien imposter.”
Rory still looked stunned, unable to help staring. “But...but I bought his book.” He exclaimed, lamely.
“Ooh, did you like it? I thought that it was quite good.” The Master replied, voice threaded with irony and arrogance.
“I’ll admit that he did do a good job of integrating. He always did have an eye for the details.” The Doctor muttered.
“I’m an artist, really.” The Master grinned, and walked over to the TARDIS controls. The Doctor shadowed him, not trusting him one iota with her.
“Master, we really need to talk. The form you’re in right now is extremely fragile. I need to take you through what you can and can’t do. Push it too far and you might dissolv-“
The Master waved a hand at him dismissively and interrupted. “Oh shut up. We can get to that. Doctor, I’m ALIVE. Let me live a minute.”
The Doctor sighed and nodded, watching him. He marvelled at him, unable to take his gaze from him as the rogue Timelord strokes his fingers covetously over the TARDIS keys, the pale line of his back shifting like a cat moved, something predatory and proud in him even when he was dressed in the rather ridiculous attire of the Doctors jacked tied by the arms sideways like a loincloth. The Master was here and alive. The Master was with him. Finally.
They gave the Master a couple of minutes. Rory, Amy and the Doctor watched him as he broke away form the console and walked around, exploring the room and the new TARDIS design, taking a few deep breaths as if the air had never tasted so sweet to him.
“Master?” The Doctor prompted, getting impatient again.
“A suit. I need a good suit.” The Master announced.
The Doctor gave a rough sigh. He had to be patient. He knew that the Master would only come around to listening to what he had to say in his own time. On his own terms. “Whatever you want, Master.”
The Master gave a smug smile and strode off to find the wardrobe and get changed.
Rory and Amy looked at the Doctor and he gave a bemused smile in return.
“I think what this situation calls for is a nice cup of tea.”
Later, the group had gathered in the kitchen, sitting around a sandy coloured polished stone breakfast table, clutching mugs of tea. When the Master re-appeared some time later, he was dressed in a black suit with a crisp white shirt and a red tie. It contrasted with his still scruffy appearance as he had apparently chosen not to shave, and he seemed pleased with it.
“Well?” he cast a flirty smirk at Amy and she gave a smile of approval back.
“You know that you’re not actually wearing that. The perception filter just makes it look like you are.” The Doctor said pedantically.
“No wonder it fits me so well.” The Master replied casually to shrug that ego-denting remark off.
Rory passed the Master a mug of tea, then took a seat next to Amy, getting close and subconsciously territorial of his new wife now that the Timelord seemed so taken with her. The Master noticed the subtle change and gave Rory a condescendingly amused look as he took the tea.
“Thankyou.” He said, completely in-genuinely.
“You’re welcome.” Roy replied a little stiffly, nudging an inch closer to Amy.
“What was your name again?” The Master asked him smoothly, sizing him up.
“Rory Williams.” Rory replied with a little firmness to his voice.
“I shall remember that.” The Master said, meeting his eyes in a subtle understanding and calm challenge.
“I hope you do. And your name?” Rory replied, not backing down. Of course he knew his name, but he tried to reassert a little control and to dismiss the Master’s quiet domination by asking it.
The Master smirked at his cheek. “The Master.” He said, giving each word important weight.
“Of what?” Rory asked, being difficult on purpose, determined not to back down for Amy’s sake. Their sparring was small and subtle, but each man was aware of what the little victories meant. Rory didn’t want to be taken as a pushover and the Master didn’t want to be slighted by a human getting the last word.
“Everything.” The Master purred proudly.
“That must keep you busy.” Rory replied with more than just a hint of sarcasm. The Master inhaled to reply, but the Doctor cut them off by waving his hand for attention. The interruption was important. Rory had had the last word. Human -1 Timelord-0.
The Master gave the Doctor a look of annoyance, The patiently disapproving look the Doctor gave back showed that the timing of his interruption was completely intentional.
“What?” the Master snapped.
“We need to talk about your body and what’s happened to it here.” The Doctor said.
“It’s called puberty. Some of us went through it, though not you apparently. How old is this new body of yours – 12?” The Master replied.
The Doctor ignored him. “Your mind, DNA and energy coding have been put inside these nanites. I then layered on perception filters to allow you to have a proper form and to keep you feeling like yourself. These still link to the TARDIS to help stabilise you and keep you in this time period. But if you use up too much or expel too much energy or stray too far from me or the TARDIS, then you’ll die.”
The Master looked bored. “Are you done?”
“I have no doubt of that.” He took a long sip of his tea. “So I need to go steal someone’s body again. Such a pity. I was enjoying being a Timelord.” The Master sighed, a palm drifting across his chest, as if he would miss his two hearts.
“No. Absolutely not. We’re going to grow you a new one.”
The Master wrinkled his nose. “Eugh. You’re going to put me in a lump of chemically manufactured meat that’s been grown in a test tube?”
“That’ll take forever. And I’ll be tasting disinfectant for weeks.” He complained.
“Tough. That’s your option. Take it or leave it.” The Doctor said firmly.
The Master gave him a sulky look.
“You’ll feel just like your old self again.” The Doctor added. “Heck, you could even customise it. You could have your brown hair back if you wanted.”
“Mhn. No. If I start modifying it there’s no end to when I’ll stop.” The Master admitted.
“So you’ll do it?”
“Seems I have little choice since I can’t leave here until I have a body. And I’d rather not possess that.” He nodded to Rory with a look of distaste. “or you.”
“Once upon a time you were dying to possess my body.” The Doctor said with a cheeky smile.
“Once upon a time I was a walking corpse and a snake. We all make mistakes.” The Master countered. They both laughed. Amy smiled at them, captivated by listening to their conversations. The Doctor seemed content with one of his kind around, and by what she heard there was no doubt that they really had known one another for centuries. She was relieved that the Doctor had someone to chat to. She had (perhaps foolishly) worried that once she and Rory were married that he might feel like a third wheel.
After their tea it was all systems go once more. While the Doctor liked to think of their life on the TARDIS as easy going and care free, in reality it was always rather busy and hectic – always moving and hopping from one time to the other to the other at an eager pace. The Doctor seemed more content with his TARDIS’ energy levels now and while the Master in his current form was still a drain, it was a less acute one. The Doctor seemed confident enough in their power levels to forgo recharging her fully at Cardiff again and instead headed straight out to the 107th century so that he could get the Master’s body established. Throughout the journey, Amy couldn’t; help but keep casting glances at the Master. He mystified her: in her gut she knew that there was evil and cruelty in him – she had felt it while he was in her mind. But he had such charisma that she couldn’t help but be drawn in. Plus her curiosity about the man having been Harold Saxon, being one of the mysterious races of Timelord, and knowing about the Doctor’s often closely guarded past fascinated her in a truly addictive way. As the Doctor was busy piloting his TARDIS Amy stole glances at the Maser, watching as he paced around the control room or tried out his energy manipulation, smiling as the blue-white electricity crackled between his fingertips. When she noticed that Rory caught her staring she retreated back to him and took his hand in hers.
Eventually the Doctor landed and grinned at the Master.
“Ok, we’re here. C’mon let’s go get you a body.”
The Master drifted over a little unenthusiastically. “Let’s just get this over with.”
The TARDIS doors opened to great planes of white concrete, with older houses nestles tightly together, betraying thousands of years of architecture that was carefully preserved, yet left to everyday use and arranged in a layering of tightly packed buildings. Above them great leviathans of white concrete and glass skyscrapers soared up impossibly high – each like its own village with the amount of people it held, and each like the finest of marble sculptures in smoothness and beauty.
“Where are we?” Amy asked, looking at it all in awe.
“London: 107th century.” The Doctor confirmed.
“And this is in our dating system, yeah?” Rory asked.
“Oh yes. Over 86,000 years in the future – this.” The Doctor beamed.
“Just a little hop forwards.” The Master said with a smirk. “Nothing compared to when you found me.”
“No journey can compare to when i found you. I’m not even sure the old girl could travel that far again.” The Doctor snorted.
The Master smiled in quiet pride and Amy looked intrigued, but the two men said no more about it.
“The hospital’s there.” The Doctor said, getting back down to business and pointing out a wide skyscraper made of what looked like a single moulding of glass. “They have a private department downstairs which grows clones. Usually it’s for terminally ill patients that are rich enough. They transfer themselves into a new healthy body. Currently the clones are only ever taken form current adult samples of DNA encoding. They passed a law that only adults or kids can be cloned into their current form, so as to stop people using it for immortality. Also, clones have to be like living meat only – no brain activity of their own. They exist purely as vessels for consciousness to the transferred into. No ethical implications, since being without their own minds and consciousness they’re not technically ‘life’, you see?” the Doctor explained.
“Very educational.” The Master said, looking bored again.
As they walked further away from the TARDIS the Master gave a little shiver, feeling odd and a little spacey. The drums grew louder and he waved an arm experimentally, half afraid that he might disappear. He felt the Doctor’s warm fingers clasp gently around it, those green compassionate eyes lock with his.
“Don’t worry, Master, just stay close to me. We’re not straying far.”
“I feel drunk.” The Master muttered, bitter at his own vulnerability.
“You’ll get used to it. Don’t use your electrical energy or you’ll get weaker, like before. But this time food won’t sustain you until you have a body, ok?”
“Understood.” The Master said, a grudging expression on his face. He despised this: being so dependant on him, feeling fragile. But the Doctor was reassuring, he had to admit. Of course he always was. Yes, he hated it. The hospital and it’s chemically grown clones didn’t seem so bad now, when faced with this tenuous alternative.
The Doctor seemed to see his uncertainty and gave him a soft smile. “You have to trust me.”
“Oh, I trust that you don’t want to kill me. But I don’t trust that you’re competent enough not to cock it up and kill me in the process.”
“...Well thanks for that vote of confidence.”
“You’ll be fine.” Amy insisted, patting the Doctor’s shoulder to stop the Timelord looking so put out.
Soon they entered the huge atrium of the hospital – beautifully tiled in white marble and black slate, the corridors wide enough for any emergency trolley, though they doubted that blood had ever been permitted to sully those halls. The emergency reception was elsewhere, closer to the car park. This entrance was designed to impress and reassure the private patients.
“It’s a bit posher than my place, eh?” Rory commented with a laugh, looking around.
“Just a bit.” Amy agreed.
The Doctor strode forwards to speak to the receptionist and the Master hung back with Amy and Rory. When the Doctor returned he was smiling and reached out for the Master’s hand. The Master took a step to the side out of his way. The smallest look of disappointment flicked across the Doctor’s face but soon left.
“Good news – they’ll let us in. You need to come for scans – they need to make a copy of your DNA data. I have to vouch for you since it’s so unusual, but I’ll make sure that we get around it.”
The Master looked sceptical. “Is that an issue that it’s technically a resurrection?”
“Well, given that you’re a very endangered species, and that you didn’t technically die 100%...plus I helped the owner’s grandmother...well I think that they might make an exception.”
“ ‘Endangered species’ – nice.” The Master huffed.
“Like it or not, it’s true.” The Doctor sighed. “Come on.”
The Master was led with the Doctor down into the lower levels of the hospital, he and the Doctor were escorted by a nurse. They soon met up with the consult – a man in a practical white coat with tightly curled greying black hair and beard.
“Ah, so this is our patient.” he asked, giving the Master a curious smile.
“It is.” The Doctor nodded. The man walked over, reaching out and touching his shoulder. The Master frowned at him.
“Could you take the perception filters down?” The consult asked the Doctor. The Doctor looked at the Master for confirmation and he gave him a reluctant nod. The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the Master, switching it on. After a pause the Master’s body appeared to dissolve into light and soon only the drifting firefly like glow of the nanites floating in the air. The consult took a step forwards and touched some lightly.
“Nanites. Remarkable. And they contain his data?”
“Yes. DNA encoding, energy signal and his consciousness.” The Doctor nodded. “His consciousness and memory and energy were all intact, his body just faded away, that’s all.”
The consult nodded thoughtfully.
“Well, I won’t lie to you; this is something new to me. But with the way we create our clones, I believe that if we can download the data that the nanites contain then we can create a body from the information they give us and start it from scratch. We can manipulate a growth from neutral base cells.”
“Please try your best.” The Doctor said with a smile.
“Oh I will. This is remarkable: it could be a fantastic development in the field. And creating a Timelord, no less – why they’re the stuff of legend!”
He reached forwards and cupped some of the nanites. The others shifted to follow him. He then moved to walk down the corridor to another room. It was a huge white place with an advanced computer attached to what appeared to be like a very advanced MRI machine. The consult passed the nanites he had inside it and the others followed. He then moved back and set the scan off. It took a good 20 minutes, but once it was over he released the nanites. The Doctor reached out, pressing his screwdriver again, and the perception filter returned, shifting and reforming into the Master.
“How do you feel?” the Doctor asked, looking anxious.
“Odd. Fine.” The Master said, running a hand over his face.
“Well the download was successful.” The consult said, looking pleased.
“How long will it take?” the Doctor asked.
“Mhm. Usually we can grow them in two to three weeks, but with this case we’re looking at a month or more.”
“Fine. We’re time travellers, so see you in a minute.” The Master smirked.
“No.” The Doctor said quickly. “You need to do it in real time. If your timelines don’t sync up, you host body might reject you because it won’t recognise your mental and energy imprint.”
“Oh great.” The Master rolled his eyes.
“Come on, it’s only a month. That’s nothing. You can travel with Amy and Rory and me. See the stars. And maybe...well maybe-“
“Maybe the beauty of the universe might wow me so much that I could have a miraculous conversion to good?” the Master laughed.
“No...I...no, that’s not what I meant.” The Doctor muttered guiltily.
“That’s exactly what you meant. And you forget: I’ve seen the universe. I’ve seen the stars.”
“Not all of them. Not in every time period.”
“Do you think that any new ones would change me?” The Master scoffed.
“Each new place is a whole world of endless possibility. There’s far too much to take in there, more to do than can ever be d- wait, wait...no, that’s the Lion King again.” The Doctor fumbled.
The Master gave him a long look.
“Why, out of all the billions of Timelords, did the village idiot have to survive?” He sighed. He turned and headed back to where the TARDIS was parked. “Well, if anyone needs me I’ll go lock myself in a bedroom for a month and escape your idiocy.”
“Nice.” The Doctor snorted. He let the Master go and turned back to the consult, clasping the man’s hand in his. “Thank you. So much. You will look after him, won’t you?”
“I shall. You can rest easy on that. I’ll see you soon, sir.”
“See you soon.”
The Doctor gave him a last warm smile and then hurried after the Master, before the rouge Timelord got any clever ideas about piloting the TARDIS off without him.
Once they were back on the TARDIS the Doctor explained the situation to his companions while the Master stalked off to sulk for a while. Rory was less than enamoured with the idea of having the Timelord around him and his wife for any extended length of time, but kept his opinion to himself in the face of how cheerful the Doctor was. Amy on the other hand, seemed genuinely pleased. She wanted him around so that she could get to know him and – most importantly – quiz him about the Doctor’s past.
Despite the Doctor’s enthusiasm, and his attempts to lure the Master out by visiting places that the Doctor thought he would love – from the volcanoes of Alachae to the vast cities of Rekarnoom – yet they saw head nor tail of the Master for days: the Timelord apparently having retreated into the great Labyrinth of the TARDIS. It was when the TARDIS had landed on a stunning boat which was skimming a candy pink ocean, that the Doctor finally gave a groan of defeat.
“Ugh, I hope he turns up soon. He could be up to anything down there. I could wake up and find that I’m sitting in another paradox machine, or worse.”
“Maybe be just got lost.” Rory suggested.
“Hardly. I bet he’s hiding out just to be stubborn. He obviously doesn’t want to be here.”
“Don’t take it so personally, Doctor. Maybe he just doesn’t like feeling so dependent on you?” Amy suggested, watching as a great fish leapt out of the water.
“Probably.” The Doctor admitted with a sigh.
By almost a week the Doctor gave up in trying to satisfy his taste, and even a particularly dramatic run in with a vast alien space ship which left the TARDIS shaking, crashing, and spinning in the wake of its gravitational pull did not rouse the Master from hiding.
That night, after a long day of the Doctor and Rory teaming up to try and fix the damage to the TARDIS, they all turned in for the night at last.
Amy lay on her back in her nightie, listening as Rory snored. She had thought that it was adorable at first; Rory only ever seemed to snore when he was over-tired. But, after lying there for over an hour listening to it, it was starting to get on her nerves. After another half an hour she finally gave up the hope of sleep with a sigh and got up, padding quietly through the dark to open the door. She might as well get a snack, she thought. Amy picked her way through the dark corridors. Over time she had become familiar with the little section she called home: namely their bedroom, a lush bathroom, the kitchen, control room and a library that acted as a living room which – to both her and the Doctor’s disappointment – no longer had a pool in it after the TARDIS had redesigned herself. The Doctor was still looking for that pool after a year. As mysterious as the moving pool was the Doctor’s bedroom. Amy had never actually figured out where it was, but she thought that it lay deeper in the TARDIS. Indeed, she never really saw him in transit to it, but for the rare occasion when the Doctor ran into the control room in a towel and still wet from a shower in order to pilot them past disaster. Though once she was sure that she had caught him wandering about the East wing of the TARDIS in blue striped pyjamas, though she could never really remember if she had dreamt it or if it had actually happened. She wondered if it was a general Timelord thing to be so private and secretive. She gave a sudden hiss of pain as she was snapped out of her daydream by stubbing her toe. She hopped, trying to rub it when something else caught her attention. In the space of the silence she heard, from deeper in the TARDIS, the softest sound of music. From this distance she couldn’t work out what it was, but it sounded upbeat and pop. Her craving for snacks and the pain in his tor forgotten, she quietly crept back through the dark in search of the sound, first through the familiar, then the unfamiliar darkness of the TARDIS. She started to wish that she had a torch, especially when she almost bumped into a few walls. After a while the music became steadily louder until she could pick it out as ‘She’s My Man’ by the Scissor Sisters. She couldn’t help but smile and when she saw the warm glow of light she pushed open the door and stepped in tentatively.
The first impression was the comforting wave of music that was up in high volume, cheerfully playing. The room was lit with a warm glow and was stuffed to the rafters with shelves and shelves of alien technology, bits of metal and pieces of architectural accessories, like some great bric-a-brac shop that was generations old. There were work tables and some half finished machine parts, in the centre of the room, at another work table in a copper colour, there sat the Master dressed loosely in a silky black dressing gown, working on a small device and humming along to the music.
Amy hesitated, glancing around, and then stepped in.
“Oh, so there you are.” She announced.
The Master looked up, an intricate piece of wiring in his hand. He then set it down and raised an eyebrow. “Here I am.”
Amy walked forwards until she was leaning on his table.
“Master, it’s half two in the morning.” She pointed out.
“And you’ve been gone a week.”
“Six days, actually.” The Master replied, looking at her steadily and then returning back to his work. On the table, countless tiny components were laid out in an organised grid and were being assembled into something in the centre. Amy couldn’t fathom what it was. Amy watched him for a while and took a seat opposite him on the table. His hands moved with surprising grace, nimble fingers assembling and soldering minute circuit boards and what looked like some kind of bulb. She watched how intent with concentration and intelligence his eyes were, but they were slightly duller than before, and purple bags were shadowing under his eyes.
“Master?” she pressed.
“Oh what now? I’m busy.” He snapped.
“The Doctor was worried about you.”
“Let him be worried.” He snorted.
“Are you upset with him?” She asked.
“No. Not particularly.”
“Then why are you avoiding us?”
The Master gave a rough sigh and paused in his work again, fixing her with a look that made her uneasy.
“I’m not his pet. Just because you choose to be at his heels 24/7 doesn’t mean that I do. I’m here for a month, and then I’ll leave. It won’t be a moment too soon.”
Amy nodded with a frown, looking him over. “He’s only trying to help you.”
“And he did. So what? He should be happy. Another bit of polish for his halo.”
“He’s not that shallow.” Amy said with a firm, defensive edge to her voice.
“Oh how the hell do you know? You don’t know him at all.”
Amy glared at him, and when the Master reached out for a tool to start working again her hand darted out to press down on his and keep him sill.
“I know that he’s been travelling all over places he thinks you’ll like in order to draw you out. I know that he won’t stop talking about you. I know that he’s upset and worried. And he’s probably got a right to be – I mean, look at you: have you even slept?”
“Of course I haven’t.” The Master snapped.
“No. Not since I was resurrected.” He muttered bitterly. “They’re too loud.”
“What are?” Amy looked concerned.
“The drums. The bloody drums!” He snarled, a hand reaching reflexively to clutch the back of his head. “They won’t let me sleep. At all. So I’m keeping occupied. I’m...I’m used to it.”
Amy was quiet for a few moments and the Master made a face of disgust at the sympathy in her expression.
“What are you making?” She asked gently, accessing how far to press him and wondering if the Doctor would explain to her later about the drums.
The Master cleared his throat and tapped the table. “Laser screwdriver.”
“What? Like the Doctor’s sonic?”
“Mhm. Mine’s better.” He smirked. “Laser is more...robust.”
She looked down in fascination at it, wondering how so many pieces could fit into such a small handheld device. “Cool. Do all Timelords have them?”
“So who came up with this first: you or the Doctor?” Amy asked. The grudging silence she was met with gave away the answer. She smirked at the Master’s stubborn pride.
“What are you awake for, anyway?” the Master asked after a pause.
“Oh me? Rory was snoring.” Amy laughed.
The Master smirked. “One of the hazards of marriage.”
“You were married to that Lucy woman, yeah? Did she snore?”
“No. Cold feet.” The Master laughed and Amy joined in.
The Master then looked up as the song switched to ‘I can’t decide’ and he gave a small warm smile at the memories. Amy tilted her head in interest.
“Well, I’m disappointed.” The Master announced out of the blue, fixing his eyes with hers again. Amy met them and got the odd feeling of his magnetism, like it was impossible to look away. She never knew how he did it. What was worse was, by the smug look that he got in his eyes, he KNEW he was doing it.
“Why?” Amy asked.
“I had rather hoped that you left your sleeping husband and came down in a –frankly quite flimsy- nightdress for another reason.”
His eyes crinkled in a smile and Amy swallowed, a slight flush rising to her cheeks when she realised that she couldn’t immediately refuse or dismiss him. After a beat of a pause she exhaled and regained her confidence, bushing her hair back and giving him a rather defiant look.
“You can hope all you like. I only came here ‘cause I heard the music, Master.”
The Master smirked. “So why is your hand still over mine?”
Amy started when she looked down and realised that she hadn’t pulled it away after stopping him. She tried to but the Master caught her hand before she could, pulling her a little closer so that she was forced to lean over the table to him.
“Tell me Amy, why are you wasting time with that auton?”
Amy debated yanking her hand away, but the relaxed but strong grip the Master had on her, plus the almost paralysing effect of his stare, made her think that she would only embarrass herself in the unsuccessful attempt.
“I’m not wasting my time.” She said firmly, flexing the fingers of her captured hand. “and he wasn’t an auton when I knew him. I grew up with Rory.”
“Cute. So why is he plastic now?”
“Who cares? I love him.”
“So? I feel that that’s never stopped you before, has it? You know, a certain brand of person joins the TARDIS and has the guts to stay here and put up with the Doctor. That kind of person wants adventure. That kind of person won’t accept rules or boundaries at face value.”
Amy was silent, trying to look anywhere but his face. Failing.
“And you love him too.” The Master continued. “The Doctor.”
This time Amy did try to jerk away in anger. The Master held her fast.
“Yeah, only like a big brother! Let go!”
“Let’s not get Freudian with that: family is one big melting pot for repressed incestuous instinct.” He smirked with a roll of his eyes.
The Master chuckled. “I can see why he chose to keep you.”
“I am NOT his pet.” Amy said stubbornly.
“No. No you’re not.” The Master purred.
Then the Master pulled Amy forward in one bold movement and before she knew it his lips locked with hers. She resisted for a second but soon found herself relaxing into it, lips parting in an invitation that the Master took full advantage of, his free hand moving to touch her face and his tongue probing to meet hers. He didn’t flinch or struggle like the Doctor had, he embraced it, and enjoyed the silent tussle as each of them tried to assert some dominance over control of the other, to win the right to lead. Amy felt satisfied with a subtle victory when the Master moaned first.
Amy started back to reality and pulled away in surprise as she heard the Doctor’s shocked voice.
“D-Doctor!” She gasped, a hated herself for the look of complete guilt that she knew must have appeared on her face.
The Master smirked, finally releasing her hand, running a tongue over his lips. “Evening Doctor.” He cooed. “You’re up late.”
“I heard the music.” The Doctor replied cooly.
“Doctor, I...” Amy started.
“You don’t have to explain.” The Doctor said quickly with an exasperated sigh.
Amy bit her lip, unable to stop feeling like a chastised child. She tried to focus on something else – anything. Like, for example, how the Doctor was in his striped pyjamas. At least she hadn’t imagined them. That was something.
“Amy, I'd get back to your husband if I were you.” The Doctor firmly added when it was clear that she wasn’t moving.
Amy nodded quickly, tucking her hair behind her ear and standing up. She glanced between the two Timelords uncertainly, then hurried out, glad to get out of there and annoyed at herself for acting as if she had done something wrong. Yet she was increasingly upset at the unshakable feeling that she had. She found when she retreated to her room and found Rory on his side, snoring peacefully, that she had never been so thankful for that sound. She pulled up the covers and slipped into bed, settling at her side behind him, and wrapping an arm over him, resting her cheek against his back, feeling the slow movements of his breathing. Feeling how precious he was.
Back in the machine room the silence that stretched on seemed endless. The Master finally broke it with a cruel smirk.
“Are you planning to stand there and glare at me all night?”
“Master, what are you playing at?” The Doctor asked, voice serious and stiffness in his stance that showed that he was restraining himself – thinking of what to do.
The Master looked back with a look that was crafted to appear innocent, yet only turned out looking tauntingly amused. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Amy Pond has a husband, Master. A good husband. He looked after her while I was gone, he died for us, he survived impossibly though her memory of him alone and he waited two millennia in order to keep her safe. I will not let you destroy that just so that you can get a cheap thrill.” The Doctor’s eyes were hard.
The Master couldn’t help but laugh. “Gods! You’re so adorable when you’re trying to be serious.”
“I am serious. You leave her alone.”
The Doctor ignored that. “I know the effect that you have on people.”
“She didn’t stop me.”
“It’s Amy. She wouldn’t. Whenever she sees a curiosity she leaps to explore it – it’s just who she is. You shouldn’t encourage her.”
“Well then, that’s her husband’s problem isn’t it?”
“It’s my problem too. I’m making it my problem. So I’m warning you Master: if you stay in my TARDIS, you have to respect my companions and you behave. I’m putting my faith in you, but that faith can only stretch so far.”
The Master gave him a long look, his expression hardening. “So I play by your rules?”
“And if I refuse?” he sneered.
The Doctor frowned at him, looking him in the eyes. He then turned away and walked back to bed.
“You won’t if you know what’s good for you. And me.” With that, the Doctor left.
The Master stood for a while, glaring at the door before breaking away and returning to his work, turning the volume up.
The next morning, the Doctor was at breakfast, picking doubtfully at a banana when Amy wandered in, trying her best to be casual. The Doctor looked up, abandoning his banana to the realms of more food that he couldn’t stand. It was starting to get depressing. He wondered if he should start compiling a list.
“Hi Doctor.” Amy sat next to him, then after a moment or two pulled the cut up banana over to her side and started to eat the bits the Doctor hadn’t touched.
“Where’s Rory?” The Doctor asked, trying not to make it sound like an accusation.
Amy equally tried not to look guilty. “In the shower.”
“Did you tell-?”
“No. No. He doesn’t need to know. It was just...well, just a thing. A bit of fun.” Amy said. The look she gave him was at first firm, then rather pleading. “You won’t tell him?”
“No.” The Doctor sighed. “No. The Master played his part in it anyway.”
Amy nodded with a sigh of relief. “Thankyou.”
“We all make mistakes.” The Doctor assured her. “I’m old enough to have made a few myself.” He smirked.
“Elizabeth. Marilyn.” He gave a cheeky smile.
Amy laughed. “Why on Earth would you give her the TARDIS phone number anyway?”
“She’s very persuasive.” The Doctor pouted.
“Oh, I bet.” Amy grinned. The Doctor laughed and gave her a little shove to shut her up. Amy giggled and stuck out her tongue.
After a while the Doctor was surprised to find the Master had emerged from hiding and had wandered into the control room, inspecting the buttons and the display screen. He was in his recent contrast of scruffy and immaculate; dressed in a sharp black suit and white shirt with a black tie and shined shoes, but still with his scruffy stubble and also rather haggard from lack of sleep.
“Where are we going?” he announced as they arrived, giving Amy a smile. She avoided his gaze and went to the opposite end of the control room.
“You joining us?” the Doctor asked.
“I’m here, aren’t I? Show me why you love being a tourist so much.”
The Doctor smiled and nodded gratefully. “Brilliant.”
He slammed down the lever and the TARDIS leapt into action with her distinctive groan. Soon Rory came stumbling into the control room as the TARDIS lurched.
“Woah! Where are we going?” he exclaimed, staggering forwards and gripping onto Amy. She laughed and helped him up.
“We’re going dreaming” the Doctor grinned. The Master gave him a quizzical look.
“What?” Amy asked.
“The Holo-decks of Greater Lamia. It lets you experience short landscape-based memories and dreams in real life – think of it like a living cinema.” The Doctor grinned.
“Shall I bring popcorn?” Rory joked.
“I don’t see why not.” The Doctor laughed.
It wasn’t long until they arrived, the TARDIS settling down in a carpeted hallway of what appeared to be an impressive building. The four of them stepped out and Amy’s first impression, aftr the neat surroundings, was of a steady low hum. They walked down the hall, the Doctor distracted with trying to find his psychic paper again, and she stopped with a little gasp when they passed a window. Outside, the blackness of space, pinpricked with countless stars, enveloped them. Close to them, floating at various levels and distances, spaceships surrounded them. They were all different shapes and sizes – one huge and circular, some wedge shaped but the majority cylindrical and white.
“Where are we?” she breathed, peering out and craning to look around.
“I told you – Greater Lamia. But that is a name of the recreational ship in the Arwa fleet, which is now all around us. You can hear the engines. Listen.”
“Where are they all going?” Rory asked, noticing the steady drift of the stars. They must be travelling incredibly fast.
“It’s a long term exploration fleet. It’s a whole community – a city that is built to last generations. It’s searching to colonise and seek out new life, but they have no set co-ordinates and want to research and record their findings as they go, which is why they’re not in stasis sleep.” The Doctor explained. “The Holo-deck was made to give them some freedom and to entertain them and even log memories for historical reference.”
“And they’re all human here, yeah?” Rory asked.
“Yes, all human.”
“You can smell it.” The Master grumbled.
The Doctor gave him a look and carried on, soon finding other people in a whole variety of colourful clothes. There seemed to be a fashion for delicate chains in the crewmember’s hair, but otherwise they couldn’t be more different from one another. Some were dressed in maroon uniforms with sweeping collars and boots with thick grips and with communicators attached to their uniform lapels. The rest seemed to be civilians, with many either dramatically older or younger than the crewmembers, suggesting that they were family or retired officers. Most here walked around energetically with relaxed smiles, having specifically travelled here for a break. Rory hoped that the fleet was so full of people that they wouldn’t be easily recognised as strangers. It seemed very tight knit here.
The Doctor led them through to the main area of the Holo-deck and they joined a queue of people waiting to go into one of the numerous single rooms. Once they reached the front the ticker-inspector gave them a curious look and the Doctor flashed his psychic paper. The Master pouted lightly at being refused being able to use his own particular ‘methods’ for getting them through. Once they had shown their ‘pass’ they were let through as a group into one of the rooms. The place was completely black, with black reflective walls that appeared to have the finest mesh of glass and metal under their surface. Rory walked up to inspect a wall as Amy crouched to look at the identical floor. The Doctor admired their curiosity while the master looked bored.
“So how does it work?” Amy eventually asked, returning to them.
“There’s instructions on the back of your ticket.” The Doctor said. “But basically it’s like a big old psychic receptor. It reads your concentration and imagination and projects your thoughts for the whole group to experience. It also links to their minds too, creating what’s essentially a collaborative dream or hallucination – see? Fundamentally simple but clever, At the moment the machine can only focus on static environments: the technology isn’t developed enough to deal with creating fictional people that you can actually interact with. You can only interact with one another, and the detail of the projection is really dependant on your own memory.”
“So why didn’t you take us further into the future?” the Master criticised, thinking it shoddy that they should experience inferior tech.
“Because I think that this fleet is cool. Shush.” The Doctor prodded him.
“I think it’s cool.” Amy said, looking down at the back of her ticket. It read:
*~Welcome to the ‘Pride of Lamia’ Holographic Experience~*
Please take a moment to collectively relax. When you are ready, simply choose a member of your group to lead the simulation. Once you have chosen:
1) Get everyone stable and comfortable.
2) The leader places their palm on the wall or floor.
3) The leader must focus on their chosen environment. The HPE receptors will amplify the memory.
4) All close your eyes and clear your minds to begin. When you open your eyes you will be in your environment.
5) To end the simulation, the leader must clap three times.
“Awesome.” Amy smiled.
“And with me and the Master joining in, the projections should be more vivid, Timelords are fairly psychic creatures naturally, sp we should be able to link up with everyone and the machine more easily.” The Doctor grinned.
“How do we not walk into the walls?” Rory asked.
“A tiny energy fields repels you if you get too close.” Amy replied, reading the safety instructions.
“Shall we get to it, then?” The Doctor said cheerily. “Who first? We should start with something fairly simple.”
“Ok, I’ll try.” Rory said. He walked over to a wall, widened his stance, and then placed his palm on it. He frowned in concentration as he focused on the place from his memory that he wanted them to visit. “Ready?”
The others nodded and closed their eyes. He swallowed and did the same.
They were all overcome by a dizzying rush of vertigo that would have sent them stumbling if they hadn’t have braced themselves. When the dizziness cleared they were all on a stretch of pavement that was next to a modest strip of beach with dirty-gold sand. The sound of seagulls screeching filled the air over the respiration of the tide of a blue-grey sea that crashed onto the beach. The sounds and sights of bright amusements mingled with the smells of salt and vinegar and the bustle of a throng of crowds of people, although all of these people seemed to be oddly out of focus – the details blurred. Amy’s hair was tossed by a chill breeze, but the sun poked through mottled patches in the slightly overcast sky. Rory started at it all – the tatty donkeys taking young children for rides, the amusements and the tiny funfair, the ocean and the rising cliffs, and the wall of an old castle in the steep hill behind them.
“Where have you taken us?” Amy asked, though recognised it as an English seaside town.
“Scarborough.” Rory said in awe. “I came here on my summer holidays when I was 11. But...wow. It’s all so real.”
He walked to the railing that divided the risen pavement from the beach and put his hand on it, feeling the coolness of the metal and the sharp flaking on the old paint under his palm. It was exactly as he remembered it. Even more than he could remember.
“Nice choice.” The Doctor said.
“Why are there donkeys?” the Master asked, looking both bemused and bored.
“You ride them along the beach for maybe 10 or 20 feet when you’re a kid.” Rory replied.
“I...well I’m not sure actually. Why not?” he shrugged. “I loved it.”
“Humanity’s talent for creating pointless ‘traditions’ never ceases to amaze me.” The Master snorted.
“Like you can talk. You have met our people, haven’t you?” The Doctor said in his companion’s defence.
“I never much liked the Timelord traditions either.” The Master replied. “Ours also had more time to gather dust.”
The Doctor laughed in apparent agreement and they walked down the seafront for a while, breathing in the cold seaweed tinged air.
“Ok, ok. My turn!” Amy said after a while with a bounce. Rory smiled and clapped his hands three times and with another lurch they were in the black room again. Amy took over, holding Rory’s hand and touching the wall. Once they closed their eyes the vertigo set in, as they opened them they found that they were inside the TARDIS.
The Master laughed at her. “This was the best that you could come up with?”
Amy blushed and glared at him. “I didn’t...I didn’t choose it specifically.”
“Master, if you can’t decide on a place then the machine picks the most special place in the user’s mind. Personally, I’m flattered.” The Doctor smiled at Amy.
“Yes, well. You get zero points for imagination, Amy.” The Master said.
“Do you want a go?” the Doctor asked him.
The Doctor sighed. “Ok. Fine. My turn.”
Amy clapped her hands three times and they were back in the black room. The Doctor touched a wall and they closed their eyes and the scenery leapt again, the landscape blurring and reforming.
Soon they found themselves in a far more alien landscape. Vast stretches of fields of long red glass surrounded them, rising up the slopes of the base of a great mountain which held silver-leaved trees that scattered across its surface. The mountain dominated the landscape and had grown to touch a rust-orange sky. The clouds were thin and wispy, only draping over the faint stars like delicate cobwebs as a sun rose in the horizon to join another smaller one that already faintly illuminated the sky. There was a long warm breeze that rippled the grass and brought with it a scent like freshly cut sandstone.
The Doctor let out a slightly shaky breath and smiled, looking over meaningfully at the Master. Amy and Rory stared at the view, and Amy crouched to run a hand through the grass. “Where are we now?” she asked.
“Home.” The Doctor replied softly, watching the sunrise.
“Gods, you’re such a sap.” The Master grunted, but couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sunrise either.
“This is where you come from?” Amy asked.
“Yes. Gallifrey. These fields belonged to the Master’s dad. We used to play here a lot as kids.” The Doctor replied. ”It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Amy nodded. “How come we never visit here properly. I mean, I know that you said that your home planet is gone now, but what about in the past?”
“Can’t. It’s time-locked. No one in or out.” The Master said.
“Oh. Sorry.” Amy said.
The Doctor gave her a small smile that didn’t quite match the sadness in his eyes, and turned back to watch as the sky gradually lightened from rust orange to amber in colour.
The Master watched him, hesitated, and then reached out, touching his fingertips to the Doctor’s temples. The Doctor gasped as the scenery lurched and when it settled the landscape took on new vibrancy as the Master mingled his memories with the Doctor’s.
The landscape was all of a sudden seen through even more Timelord eyes. The grass’ detail was incredibly clear, the shine of each blade of grass distinct, the fading stars above them brighter, and a sixth sense of the sheer ancient age and power of the mountain permeating their consciousness, the light smell of the sandstone mixing with the crisp scent of morning and the slight moisture in the air. The delicate clouds had more form and all the colours in this place were of a more vivid hue. Finally in the background was the soft four beat rhythm of the drums as the Master’s injured mind leaked over into the shared dream.
The Doctor looked steadily in surprise at the Master, a lump forming in his throat. “Thankyou.” He murmured.
The Master didn’t acknowledge the thanks, but turned back to the view. “Trust you to dream of fields and nature rather than our magnificent cities. You’ve always been a bloody gypsy at hearts.” He gave a small smirk.
The Doctor gave a laugh that was a little choked up. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Hippie.” The Master teased.
“Fascist.” The Doctor laughed.
The Master grinned and they all watched as Gallifrey was bathed in the light of a fresh new day.
From then on the Master accompanied them in their travels as they waited the full month that his body needed. Initially the Doctor re-visited some of the places that he thought the Master would -like eager to impress him. Inevitably danger also lurked in every corner, and soon they were battling the megalomanias and running through time. But for a couple of instances when the Doctor’s firm policy of non-violence was interpreted by the Master to mean horribly maiming people rather than killing them, and on one occasion when the Doctor threw the offending laser screwdriver into a sun, it all ran smoothly and the weeks flew by. The only pervasive blight on their contentment was the Master’s stubborn insomnia. One week turned to two and two to three, then four, and still the Master couldn’t sleep. By the end of the month his sanity was frayed and breaking, frequently snapping and collapsing completely for hours at a time, leaving the Doctor’s experience and Rory’s medical knowledge to try and struggle to pick up the pieces and drag the Master back from the feral quivering madness and into some form of composure. It was in the period of recovery after one such episode that the big day finally arrived. The Master’s body was finally ready and they made their way back to the great hospital to collect it.
The Doctor fidgeted with nerves, terrified that something might go wrong in the process between detaching the Master’s mind from the nanites and in placing his mind and energy into the dormant clone. The Master himself showed nothing, drifting on autopilot now in exhaustion, but the Doctor noticed him repeatedly tapping out the drumbeat on his thigh as he walked, showing that he was nervous too.
“It’ll be ok.” The Doctor told him once they were inside and put his hand on the Master’s shoulder. The Master gave a sudden jerk as if it snapped him back to reality and he turned to look at the Doctor, his self conscious pride visibly warring with his exhausted vulnerability as he formed his reply.
“Once I have a body, will I sleep?” He hated how it sounded so unsure and fragile and wished that he had been able to create a better response, but his mind dragged slower than before and his madness twitched and tugged so hard at his self control now that he didn’t have much energy for the verbal sparring that his ego required. Still, enough of the dregs of his pride remained that he didn’t look the Doctor in the eyes as he said it: that he folded his arms and that he quashed the darkest part of his mind that was muttering that death was the most perfect kind of sleep. That death offered freedom from the drums. He wanted to destroy that part. Tear it to pieces as a weakness that he wouldn’t tolerate.
The Doctor gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I think so.”
Soon they met up with the consult again, who was thrilled to see them, which the Doctor took as a good sign. They were taken even further down into where the clones were held and he soon came to the Master’s tank. The doctor and the Master stared in surreal awe and the body hanging in the gel of the tube, a breathing tube and nutrient drip attached to it, its chest riding and falling slowly almost robotically. It looked exactly like the Master, but fresher and newer. Countless machines monitored it and the Doctor noticed that they read no brain activity at all.
“Here you are.” The consult said with a soft pride in his voice. “Exactly matched to your DNA – two hearts, a dual circulatory system, a bypass respiratory system, enhanced retinas, heightened brain connections, the supplementary sensory glands...I must say that growing it was a fantastic learning experience for us. Your species is quite remarkable.”
“So long as it doesn’t reject my mind.” The Master grumble,d his patience wafer thin.
“Thank you. So much.” The Doctor said to the consult. “How do we get him inside?”
“He needs to transfer his consciousness into this machine here and that will link it up and resituate it within the clone’s brain.”
“Good. Hurry up.” The Master said.
The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and turned it on, and the Master dissolved back into nanites. The consult then transferred him into the machine and started setting it up. The doctor stepped closer, placing his palm on the cool glass of the tube and watching as the machine flashed and whirred. The process was slow and meticulous but they both wanted it to be perfect. After what felt like an age the Doctor’s breath hitched in expectation as the body twitched.
The Master felt a brief rush of pain as he finally got a grip and the body accepted him, the brain activity leaping to life. He could feel the tubes burn in his throat and nose, the prickling of his new nerves as they started to feel for the first time. The weight of his organs, the stiff ache of his unused muscles, the slight sting of the chemicals in the water. It was awful and it was perfect – he was alive. His eyes opened and his chest spasmed as he tried to take a breath on his own but the machine’s respiration monitor regulator wouldn’t let him. He could see the blurry forms of the Doctor and the consult through the thick glass. His legs kicked a little in reflex.
“Just relax, we’re getting you out.” The consult told him, sounding thrilled.
The gel was drained away and the tube opened, taking its time so as to avoid sending the new body into shock. They took him out and removed the tubes, wrapping a blanket around him and rubbing his chest vigorously like a newborn to encourage him to breathe on his own.
The Doctor grinned at him. “Welcome back, Master.”
The Master panted in gasps until he fully caught his breath and he looked at him, flexing his fingers and bending his knees, shivering. He could feel his hearts thudding in his chest. He felt real. “I didn’t leave.” He said, unable to stop a smile. “And by the way, I can taste the bloody disinfectant. Like I said. I think that I might complain to management.”
The consult gave a good natured laugh and he and the Doctor gently helped him to his feet. The Master’s legs shook, but after walking him around for a few minutes he managed to stand up on his own two feet unaided.
“Will he be ok?” the doctor asked. “Does he need any aftercare?”
“Just take things easy and slow for a couple of days. Give him plenty of liquids and keep him off solid foods for a day or so, then wean him back onto solids incrementally.” The consult said.
“I’m not an infant.” The Maser complained, sounding a little healthier in his fresh body, even if mentally he was sleep deprived and fragile. The consult gave the Doctor a look, raising his eyebrows.
The Doctor nodded, understanding instantly. “Don’t worry; I’ll look after him no matter how much he moans.” He chuckled.
The consult smiled. “Bring him here if there are any complications, but please keep in contact anyway. We’ll want to know how he’s doing; this really was a revolutionary procedure.”
“I promise.” The Doctor smiled, putting an arm around the Master to support him. The Master shrugged him off and the Doctor smiled that he was getting back to his old self. After more thanks and some paperwork they returned to the TARDIS.
After Rory and Amy fussed around the Master in curiosity, inspecting his new body, the Doctor sent them off to try and find the Master something comfortable to wear. The Doctor tried to live up to his namesake, but the Master – while always happy to be waited on hand and foot – didn’t like being treated like a patient. The Doctor sat him down in the kitchen wrapped up in his blanket and set about making him a strong coffee since he was still complaining about the taste in his mouth. Once it was made he placed it in front of him.
“How do you feel?” the Doctor asked.
“I’ve been worse. This is...sort of refreshing.” The Master replied, his voice a little hoarse from the tubes making it sore.
“At least you’re safe now.” The Doctor smiled.
“Yes. Yeah true.” The master admitted. He didn’t want to say thank you but the men’s eyes met for a couple of significant moments and they both understood.
The master started to tentatively sip his coffee and Amu and Rory returned, plonking a hoodie and some jogging bottoms on the table for him.
“Back to dressing like a tramp, I see.” The Master commented.
“They’re comfy aren’t they? No-one’ll see you.” Amy rolled her eyes and pushed them closer to him. The Master pulled his blanket closer around himself and slipped his new clothes on under it. The Doctor immediately turned to the task of making him soup. “It must be a relief to be finally safe though.” Amy said, and stepped aside as the soup arrived.
“I never much felt like I was in danger.” The Master sniffed. The Doctor gave a smile as if he took that as a personal compliment and the Master rolled his eyes then focused on his soup.
“Doctor, are we having some down time for a while, then?” Rory asked. “The Master shouldn’t travel or strain himself while he’s like this.”
“I know. And I think we will. I’ll park Her at the Lion’s Head Nebulae and we can relax and turn in for the night.” The Doctor replied. The days and nights in the TARDIS were always irregular, With no sunrises or sunsets, and in chasing around all different time periods, one never 100% knew what ‘their’ time was, but for the Doctor’s innate sense of the passage of hours and minutes within his own TARDIS environment. They slept when they were tired and ate when they were hungry and shrugged off routine and convention with the casual ease that the Doctor still adored after centuries. But, right now, he knew that the Master needed sleep, and his companions looked tired too. Amy and Rory bid them goodnight and retreated to their bedroom, and the doctor cleaned up as the Master finished his soup. Once he did the doctor gave him a smile.
“Goodnight, master. So try and sleep, ok?” he said.
The Master gave him an irritated look that seemed to say ‘of course I will’ and stood up. The doctor moved as it to help him and he batted him away. “I’m perfectly capable of walking to my damn bedroom, Doctor. They didn’t give me a body with no legs. Goodnight.”
The doctor watched him leave anxiously and sighed. He then headed off to his own bedroom, turning the lights off as he went. “Night night old girl.” He murmured to the TARDIS, and then closed the door to his bedroom.
It was hours later when the Doctor’s dreams were disturbed by a noise. The dream subconsciously picked it up before he did, dragging his memories and fantasies back to the Year That Never Was, to when the Master had forced the Doctor to watch as he tortured Jack. But it took a good while before the Doctor realised that the screaming was actually coming from outside the dream. His eyes opened and he frowned into the darkness, mind still thick with sleep. But he definitely heard it in the distance. He gradually realised, however, that the screams weren’t those of pain like in his dream, but were angry desperate screams of frustration. His breath caught in his throat and he sat bold upright, tossing his sheets aside and climbed out of bed, hurrying to open his door and to go out into the corridor, reflexively picking up his sonic screwdriver as he went, like a knight reaches for a sword. As he hurried down the corridors and hallways, following the noise, he knew that it had to be the Master. By the time he reached the part of the TARDIS that the Master had chosen for a bedroom, the screaming had died down to an unsettling silence. The Doctor reached for the door handle, hearts hammering.
“Master?” he called. He hesitated when he didn’t get a response and then tried the door handle, finding it locked. He paused a moment longer, but his worry soon outweighed his restraint and he used his sonic screwdriver to unlock it, warily opening the door. Inside all was dark, but as his eyes adjusted he finally saw the Master’s bed with its sheets twisted and tossed, the Master himself curled into a tight foetal position among the scattered pillows, his hands on his head and shaking with barely repressed frustrated sobs. The Doctor’s hearts ached for him and he walked over.
“Get out,” the Master said savagely, voice broken, still shaking and twitching, knuckled white with the grip he had in his hair.
“No. I’m not doing to do that Master.” The Doctor said gently. He moved and sat on the bed next to him and wordlessly wrapped his arms around him as if offering protection. The Master was far gone – a twitching muttering growling sobbing mess – utterly defeated. The Doctor felt a strong sense of déjà vu and pulled him closer.
“You need to calm down. Breathe Master. Please.” He said. The Master forced himself to take deep calming breaths, still tight in the foetal position, no energy left to fight the Doctor’s embrace. The Doctor stayed still, holding him until he calmed down and his shaking ebbed away. “is it the drums? Won’t they let you sleep?” he asked softly.
The Master gave a miserable shake of his head and the Doctor nodded patiently. “That’s ok, Master. Let’s stop fighting for a minute, ok? Just stay here with me and try to relax. You don’t have to sleep.” The Doctor told him, trying to take away the pressure that the Master put on himself. The Doctor reached to re-stack the pillows, one arm still around the Master as if he was half afraid that the Timelord would fall to literal pieces if he left him for even a moment. Once they were stacked he shifted back, taking the Master with him, and sat back against them, stretching his legs out and half-laying at a gentle relaxed angle. He gently arranged the Master so that he was laid with his head resting against the doctor’s chest, still tightly curled with his hands clutching his head.
“Don’t try to sleep, Master. Just relax.” The Doctor said again, his voice quiet enough to be lulling. He was dimly reminded of centuries and centuries ago when he’s held his children like this after their bad dreams or when they were ill. It stirred a bittersweet sadness in him that mingled with his protective love for his friend. He had promised that he’d help him, and that he’d be there for him, even if the Master’s pride tried to fight it. Gently but firmly the Doctor used his free hand to pull the Master’s hands firmly off his own head. After initial resistance the Master gave in and let them drop. The Doctor then stroked soothingly through the Master’s hair. It was oddly soft and almost fluffy from the new and unused body. The Doctor thought of how cruel it was that in such a new beginning that the Master was still dogged by the problems that had plagued him all his life.
The Master eventually calmed down, too defeated to complain or resist the Doctor’s caring gestures, or even to overanalyse how pathetic he thought that he must look. His mind knitted slowly together and back into his control. While it was still dominated by the drums, he felt like he could think again, even if he was sluggish, exhausted and emotional from the weary battle. He tried to heed the Doctor’s advice, to stop battling for sleep and to just exist. He relaxed against him, putting aside hating being this needy or having him so close, putting aside the humiliation of defeat. Instead he focused on the weight of the Doctor’s arm around him, the warmth of his chest pressed against the Master’s cheek, and the soothing stroke of the fingers through his hair. They stayed that way for quite a while, the Doctor’s calm patience a relaxing influence that made the master feel safe and secure once more even if he disliked that he had to be so vulnerable and open to receive it. Over time, though, the Master became aware of something new. Four beats. But they weren’t his drums. His drums were loud and invasive announcing and provoking war and penetrating his sanity. This four beat rhythm was gentle and real and earthy, and brought with it a sense of comfort, safety and peace. He closed his eyes and focused on it.
One two three four. Thud-thud Thud-thud.
The more he focused on it, the less he focused on his drums that simultaneously beat. As the two played, the Master found that his drums receded, quieting and softening, he found that if he focused on that organic beat he could pretend that the drums didn’t exist at all and that he only chose to listen to that second beat.
Soon, with his ear pressed against the Doctor’s chest, it was all that he could hear: The Doctor’s hearts-beat.
The Doctor waited in content patience, happy to spend all night with the Master even if it only helped him one iota. He knew that the Master would probably hate him and blame him in the reflex of bruise pride because he felt so vulnerable. The Doctor would let him: it didn’t matter right now. He smiled in loving relief as he felt the Master’s muscles relax and his head loll in the telltale signs of dawning sleep.
“Goodnight Koschei.” He whispered and couldn’t help but lean down to kiss the top of his head. The Master’s eyes half opened and before the Doctor realised, the Master tilted his head up so that he could catch the kiss on his lips. He held him there soft, long and simple. When they parted the Doctor’s face was flushed, his eyes wide with shock and his mouth open to speak but no words finding their way out. The Master looked back at him and swallowed, also silent, before returning back down to rest his head on the Doctor’s chest, shuffling a little closer to him. The Doctor sat in stunned silence and watched as the Master lay, trying to sleep again, close and warm and utterly at peace. The Doctor watched him as his breathing shifted to deep slow breaths, and knew that he had finally fallen asleep. He smiled and put his arms gently around him again, leaning back against the pillows and closing his eyes.
Life truly was made up of good things and bad things – each tiny isolated moments that weaved together to create a tapestry of his life. Right there, in the dark with the Master in his arms and his taste still tingling on his lips, the Doctor felt like this room was the only place in the universe that mattered.