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Lead and Follow

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The Master sipped his brandy, watching the Doctor dance. It wasn't often he let himself indulge in sulking, but the Master was fairly certain that was what he was doing right now, sitting in the corner of a club in the early 21st century in San Diego with his drink and watching the Doctor laugh as he spun Miss Grant around. Worse still, the Doctor hadn't even noticed he was there, or if he had (which was more likely), he was flat out ignoring the Master's presence.

The Doctor, now free from his exile on Earth, hadn't even looked for the Master once he had a working TARDIS again. The Master had set up a whole trap for the Doctor on an alien moon that had been, like he was being right now, completely ignored. It had been no fun without the Doctor to provide an intellectual challenge, and so he went searching for what could have held his enemy up. And this was how he found the Doctor, in a club, dancing while the Master had been left to his own devices.

That was a fairly decent enough reason to sulk, truth be told.

It hadn't just been his imagination then that the Doctor had been avoiding a direct encounter that time with Kronos. The Doctor was up to something, a something that included ignoring the Master and-

"Are you going to just sit there all night and be gloomy?" An American voice asked, interrupting the Master's paranoia. He glanced up at the young woman, who stood with her hands on her hips in front of him. She was about his height, with shoulder length blond hair that was a mass of perfectly curled ringlets. She was dressed in a typical manner for someone her age at this sort of club. The Master found he entirely disapproved of how much skin the billowy halter top showed, only being held up on her body by a gold chain that wrapped around her neck. At least she was wearing a decent set of black slacks to go with it and not some ridiculously short skirt like Miss Grant preferred.

"My dear young lady," the Master said, not bothering to hide his disdain, "I do believe that it is none of your business if I do."

"Oh, now there's a sexy accent. Don't hear many of those," the woman said with a grin. She held out her hand in front of her as if she expected the Master to take it. "Come on. Nothing to be shy about. Let's dance!"

Before the Master could so much as tell her no, he was already being dragged out of his seat and on to the dance floor. "Guys can't say no when a girl asks," she told him as he refused to move another step forward. "It's the law. You're only making this harder on yourself and I'm not giving up."

"I hardly think-"

"Aw, come on," the woman said, cutting him off. "I've seen you watching that guy in the red jacket and frills all night and he's just a show off. You won't get his attention sitting in the back corner."

So now even these useless Americans noticed the Master was trying to get the Doctor's attention. Pity the Doctor was still oblivious. "I fail to see how dancing with you will change that," he said as he pulled his hand away from her.

Unfortunately, the annoying woman didn't seem to get the hint. She just continued talking. "To make him notice, duh! I mean, you could just go up and ask him to dance, but if you're too shy..."

The Master clenched his fists as he found himself wondering if this infernal woman would be missed if he used his TCE against her. "Being 'shy' is not the reason he's ignoring me. I've already asked him to join me several times." He hadn't asked for a dance, technically, but he had asked the Doctor to rule the world with him many times in the past.

"He said no?" the woman asked, incredulous. "And he's ignoring you? What a douche! You so totally don't deserve that. No one does."

Now, there was a reason to spare the woman. Maybe he could use her to make trouble for the Doctor, since she was inclined to be sympathetic to the Master. Although, her terminology could stand to be less crude. "As you say," he said, not admitting that her being sympathetic could have other beneficial uses to him; it would be too much like admitting he wanted to talk to someone, and he was far too proud for that.

"You should find someone else then," the woman said, glancing in the Doctor's direction. "Since he obviously doesn't appreciate you."

"There's no one else who is worthy of my attention." The Doctor was the only one who could challenge him. There was no point in trying to find 'someone else'; there wasn't anyone, and the Master's ego wasn't his only source for that information. It was a simple fact that no one, not even any of his people, could offer the mental stimulation that the Doctor gave him.

A calculating look entered the woman's green eyes; for the first time, he noticed the unusual amount of make-up the woman wore to hide the dark circles under them. The Master noticed, then decided it was nothing he need bother with. Just because she was being sympathetic to him didn't mean he wanted to know her troubles in return.

"Okay then!" the woman said as she snapped her fingers. "If you're not giving up on him, then we just have to make him pay attention!"

This human thought that she could gain the Doctor's attention where the Master had failed? If he were to be perfectly honest with himself, she did stand a much better chance due to being young, energetic, and human, but the Master wasn't keen on being honest right now and he rather resented the implications. "I don't need-"

But the woman was pulling him on his feet and out to the dance floor again, without so much as a by your leave. It was outrageous behavior, even for an American. From an outside vantage point, the Master almost admired her audacity, but right now he didn't appreciate his sulking being interrupted. He didn't appreciate his sentences being interrupted either. "Young lady, I insist that you-"

"My name is Lizzie. Lizzie Matthews," the woman said.

"I didn't-"

"And you are?" Lizzie asked, cutting him off again as she stood across from him, still holding his left hand.

"You will stop interrupting me," the Master said, pushing a hypnotic suggestion with the words.

Lizzie Matthews' eyes glazed over for a moment, but then she shook her head. "Have I been doing that? Er, sorry. Actually, I am really. I sometimes get over excited and don't think. I didn't mean to interrupt you constantly."

There was a reason he hated Americans. They were generally loud, obnoxious, and too stubborn for mind control to work. If he were judging her right, he could probably still control her with a bit more effort, but as long as she was apologizing for it now, he would forgive her this time. That, and the level of control it would take would only cause a disturbance in the middle of a crowded dance floor.

She continued to stand there and he belatedly remembered she had asked for his name. "You may call me Victor Adon, Miss Matthews," the Master said moodily, still trying to decide what to do with this woman. Sympathetic or no, she was starting to be more trouble than she was worth and it wasn't like she was actually listening to him.

"Well, 'Mr. Adon', show me what you can do!" she said, holding his left hand expectantly as if she were waiting for something.

A brief glance around told the Master what she was expecting. Their position looked remarkably like how the other dancers stood at the end of a movement. He looked back at Miss Matthews, who was raising both her eyebrows.

This might be the easiest way to get rid of her, he realized. "I don't know anything about this dance," he admitted, hoping that would be a fast ticket back to his seat to sulk.

Miss Matthews' mouth formed a small 'o' as she took this in. "So this will be a bit of a longer project than I thought," she said, crushing his hope to just be left alone. "I can teach you the basics, Victor. I did say that guy you're watching is a show off, right? Odds are, the better you get, the less he'll be able to ignore you!"

He bristled at how familiar she was getting, using his given name. Alias or no, the Master wanted a bit more respect than she was giving him. However, she didn't seem to notice since she was moving to stand by his side and facing the same wall as him. "The basic step in West Coast Swing is done in a six count," she explained. "You're going to start by taking a step back on your left foot."

Resigning himself to the lesson, the Master learned the basic step, left and right side passes along with how to spin his partner. What was he doing, letting her drag him around like this? A simple 'no' or 'I'm leaving' would probably have shaken this pestering woman off, yet here he was, letting her teach him the basics of a silly human mating ritual. The fact that the Doctor had been quite good at this dance was irritable, but that didn't mean he also had to waste his time as well and learn the movements.

The fact that learning the dance might gain the Doctor's attention whereas his last plot to take over the Moon of Helrini had failed was a much better excuse. She had been right on one thing: the Doctor never could ignore someone in the room who was better at something than him. Then maybe he could lure the Doctor back into his trap.

Now that was a thought worth pursuing.

"You're quick on picking this up," Miss Matthews said as the song ended. It was the first time he'd gone through a full song, even if he still only knew the very basic steps.

"When I decide to do something, Miss Matthews, I prefer to do it well," the Master said. A glance toward the Doctor told him he was still being ignored, but that was now to his advantage. If he was going to practice and become a better dancer, it was better that the Doctor didn't know what hit him.

"Lizzie, please. All this 'miss' business is weird. How'd you know I'm not married, anyway?" the woman asked. "It could be Mrs. Matthews, ya know. Lots of girls my age are married."

"You happen to lack a ring on your left hand, Miss Matthews," the Master replied.

There was a hint of something dark in her eyes, but it was gone within seconds. The Master didn't ask; he didn't care so long as she was still useful to the half-formed plan he had started plotting.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right on that," Miss Matthews said with a cheeky smile. "Still, Lizzie. I'm not having my newest dance partner calling me 'Miss' all the time."

Before he could say anything, another human interrupted them. Americans. He could see why the Doctor preferred to stay on the other side of the pond for the most part. "Sorry, but can I steal your partner for a dance," the man stated, not asked. He was already leading Lizzie away.

"I'll be back in a few, Victor!" Lizzie said with a wink. "Keep practicing!"

The Master was almost tempted to give the whole plan up, but then he caught a snippet of the Doctor's laughter. The Doctor was on the other side of the dance floor with some human woman who had the gall to blush at whatever he was saying. The Doctor would regret this.

* * *

It was a few dances later before Lizzie came back, and by that point another useless human was asking the Master for a dance. "You can't say no when a girl asks," Lizzie chided him with amusement as he was dragged off.

So he let 'Jessica' cart him off for a dance. By the time he had returned Jessica to her seat, Lizzie was whisked away again. At least he could sit in silence and flesh out his plot more while she was gone.

The rest of the night ended up as a hit and miss. It wasn't like he needed Lizzie for his plan specifically, but she had given him the idea in the first place, and none of the other women that he had danced with were as good. If he had to learn from a human woman, it would be from the best that he could find.

The Doctor had left earlier in the evening, taking Miss Grant with him. Now that he had a plan, the Master paid them no mind so long as he wasn't discovered. The Doctor had been taking Miss Grant here ever since the Time Lords had lifted his exile, so the Master knew he would be back eventually.

When the DJ announced it would be the last song though, the Master started to get impatient. This was hardly how he'd intended to spend his evening and if he were going to go through with this plan, he wanted to start learning now.

Unfortunately, Lizzie had disappeared. He didn't think she had left; he'd been watching the door to make sure of that. As the song ended, he caught sight of her coming out of the bathroom and wiping her eyes.

Though he didn't care about her problems, it was only polite to wait for her to compose herself before acknowledging her presence. "Miss Matthews, I would like to-" he started.

"Victor!" she exclaimed as she heard him speak. "Sorry. We missed each other the whole night, didn't we? Would you like to get some breakfast?

"My dear Lizzie, I believe I said something about not interrupting," he reminded her.

"Oh. Sorry again." Lizzie at least looked abashed and properly apologetic. "The offer for breakfast still stands?"

'Breakfast' wasn't exactly what he'd call a meal at 2:30 in the morning, but he nodded his assent. "I would be only too delighted to accompany you. I've been hoping to ask you a few questions about lessons as well."

"So you're really going to keep up with dancing? That's great!" Lizzie made no attempt to hide that this pleased her, which made the Master suspicious. She couldn't have another reason for this, could she? Perhaps she was put up to this by the Doctor... No, she was much too simple a creature for that kind of scheme.

For whatever reason, this made her happy. Though it baffled the Master, it was something he was willing to use to his full advantage to ensnare the Doctor in his trap.

"Do you know where the IHOP is?" Lizzie asked. "It's only a few blocks away."

The Master had never heard of an 'eye-hop', but finding such a place wouldn't be difficult for his TARDIS. He gave her an affirmative and was very surprised to be drawn into a hug.

He stiffened automatically, looking around to see that this was a common gesture of parting for the rest of the club. That didn't mean he approved of having his personal space so invaded.

"I'll see you there!" she said as she detached herself from him to say good-bye to some of the others. He put it down as another American trait he was going to have to put up with for his plan to work. It might just work to his advantage as well, since one of the main objectives of his plan was to make the Doctor jealous. The Master was nothing if not resourceful of his surroundings.

Getting to the International House of Pancakes (which turned out to be nothing of the 'international' sort, since as far as he could tell, the restaurant chain was local to the United States and had no real international dishes) wasn't a challenge. He arrived five minutes before Lizzie and waited outside the restaurant.

It was a nice night. The Master wasn't romantic enough to be prone to stargazing and the city had too many lights anyway, but the Californian air was warm and clear, and he wished he'd brought a cigar with him. He didn't often have quiet moments like this.

"Look at you, getting here before me," Lizzie said as she walked up. "I didn't even see you leave. How did you manage that?"

"That, my dear, would be my secret," the Master said. He had no intention of trying to explain the workings of a TARDIS to a human.

Lizzie laughed at this and accepted his arm to go inside. "You know, I didn't think British people actually spoke like that. I thought it was just a stereotype in the movies. It's like you're right out of some foreign fairy tale."

"I'm hardly that, Miss Matthews," he said with a low chuckle. She scowled at the name, but got a taste of her own medicine as the waitress came by to seat them before she could respond.

Once they were settled and had ordered, Lizzie dove right in with questions. "What do you do for a living, Victor?"

"I'm a scientist," he lied easily. "I research various uses for chronon molecules." Back stories were always the easy part of a disguise. He'd gotten top marks for creativity back at the Academy. "I have a research lab at the state university." Berkeley would have been more prestigious, but sadly a bit distant. One makes do with what one must.

"That sounds important," Lizzie said, being properly awed regardless of where his fictional lab was located.

The Master had judged correctly that a bit of technobabble would go right over her head. "It is very important, my dear."

"And what about that Doctor guy? He's not a medical Doctor, is he?" Lizzie asked, a puzzled look settling on her face. "He wouldn't even give me an actual name, just 'Doctor'."

"Did you talk to him?" the Master asked, because he certainly hadn't told her the Doctor's name. The last thing he needed was this prying human giving away all of his plans with a few misguided questions.

"I danced with him while you were with Jess," Lizzie explained. "I needed to see how much work we've got ahead of us. He seems like a nice enough guy, though. How'd you meet him anyway?"

Her straight-forward question threw him off. Did all Americans suffer from this blunt curiosity? He didn't see any harm in the truth, however, and she was bound to be nosy if he made her a part of his plans. Curiosity was a regular human trait, not just an American one. "We met while we were at the Academy. We were...good friends for a time."

Lizzie's eyes lit up as she read into the phrase 'friends.' "So he's like a childhood sweetheart? That's so cute!"

He winced at the phrase. 'Cute'? That was hardly a word befitting a Time Lord of his stature.

Lizzie seemed to understand her mistake and cleared her throat. Whether or not she perceived that she was within seconds of being shrunk to death as she started laughing was another matter entirely. "Sorry. I didn't mean to-ah... Really though, you've had a crush on him all this time?"

As his hand started to reach for his TCE, he reminded himself that he needed this infuriating woman to teach him to dance. Well, not needed, since he could find someone else if he really had to, but convenient all the same. Killing her now would put a damper on that, though he was sorely tempted.

"Oh, come on. I'm sorry, I really am. I shouldn't have laughed, I know, but there's no need to get uptight about it," she said, drinking the acidic substance humans called 'soda.' "I think it's great, that you've known him this long. But what happened that he's ignoring you now?"

"That's not a matter up for discussion, Miss Matthews, and it's hardly important," the Master said with a scowl, as she rolled her eyes at the name. The last thing he wanted to do was to tell this woman he'd just met all about his relationship issues with the Doctor.

"So what is important?" Lizzie asked, not losing any of her humor despite the Master's testy reply. If anything, she seemed more amused that the Master was unwilling to talk.

"What's important now is getting the Doctor's attention," the Master said, hoping that would get her off the topic sufficiently. He could probably get away with mind control here, but he didn't want to test his theory about her resistance in so public a place.

"Then we need to teach you to dance!" Lizzie said with growing excitement. "He can't ignore you if you're the best dancer in the room! I've wanted to start some private lessons to prep for Swing Diego, but I couldn't afford it. But semi-privates are a little cheaper."

Lizzie continued to explain about her friend and the lessons, to which the Master gathered she wouldn't be teaching him herself. Sadly, she was technically still required as a partner in those lessons, so he couldn't be done with the woman altogether.

Despite her inane questions about his life, she didn't speak much about herself. That suited the Master just fine. As far as humans went, she wasn't too stupid or grating (though she was close), and she was very, very pretty. The latter being important as part of his plan to make the Doctor jealous. She was just the sort of pretty young thing the Doctor tended to surround himself with.

Two could play at that game.

* * *

He'd left Lizzie that night with a promise that she'd set up the lessons by the next night the club was open for West Coast Swing. However, instead of using his TARDIS to go directly there, the Master searched around for a beginner's class to ground himself in the basics.

The Doctor wasn't there the next time he went to the club, but the Master set about his plan to convince people he had been coming here longer than the Doctor. His goal was to slowly hypnotize about half the regulars and let the others fill in the details themselves. Not something he could do all at once, but he was used to being patient once a plan was in motion.

Content that his daily quota of hypnotism was filled, the Master sought out Lizzie to show off his new moves. She was standing off to the side, staring at her cell phone as if she were about to cry.

He cleared his throat politely. "Good evening," he said.

"Victor!" She brightened up immediately, snapping the cell phone shut. The Master did not inquire. So long as she preformed her function as part of his plan, Lizzie's personal life was no concern of his.

"Would you care to dance, Miss Matthews?" he asked instead, offering his hand.

"I'd love to, Sir," she said with a giggle, taking his hand as he lead her out to the dance floor. "Let's see how much you remember."

She winced as a new song started; some human female going on about girls from this trivial area of the planet, but it was a good beat and it was only a few counts before he simply stopped paying attention to the words.

First, he proved he remembered all the moves she had taught him, pleased in spite of himself at her praise. It was, naturally, ridiculous to assume that a Time Lord wouldn't be able to remember a few simple steps. But he was hardly one to argue if she was going to stroke his ego.

When he pulled her in for one of the new moves he had learned though, a look of dismay crossed her face. "Who taught you how to do the whip?" she demanded.

For his part, the Master merely looked surprised. "I took a class two days ago," he said, not remembering the human's name. It had been more of a hassle than anything, being in that studio with all those humans. Those sorts of lessons seemed like a slow and ineffective way to learn the dance. "Was it wrong?" he asked.

"It was Blake, wasn't it?" she asked, launching into a rant before he could even decide if the name rang a bell. "He always shortcuts when he teaches the whip. One of these days, I'll strangle him for teaching new dancers bad habits."

The Master glanced across the room at the other couples dancing as he pulled her through a left side pass. Two other couples were doing 'the whip' as it was called, and it didn't look like he'd gotten any of the steps wrong.

Asking him to stop for a moment, Lizzie settled them both into the start of a basic. "Okay, you see Yesenia and Matt over there?" she asked, pointing in the direction of a couple that looked to be in their fifties. Not for the first time, the Master noticed that this dance attracted a variety of age groups to the dance floor. He and the Doctor were hardly out of place in this club. "West Coast Swing is known for the connection between the leader and the follower," Lizzie continued. "It's what makes the dance have that elastic look. Watch how they end each basic."

The Master watched the couple carefully. Despite the bouncy quality of the song, the couple never lost a certain smooth grace to their movement. If he was going to learn this dance, he'd like to eventually move like them.

He saw what Lizzie was pointing out after a few eight counts. Each movement looked like they were stretching apart like a rubber band, coming back together with the same fluidity of movement. "It's a bit harder to see on the fast songs, but those two are fantastic dancers," Lizzie explained. "That connection is how a good lead tells his partner what move he's going to do next. A weak connection can mean the follow getting confused and not understanding what you were trying to do. So lean back a little."

Doing as she asked, the Master felt resistance against his hand as Lizzie leaned back opposite of him. He could clearly feel the difference and how easily he would be able to pull Lizzie into a pass once she stopped resisting.

A connection, as she called it. Was that why the Doctor hadn't fallen into his last trap? He'd assumed the Doctor would just come searching for him now that his exile had been lifted, but perhaps it hadn't been a 'clear lead' as Lizzie put it. This was something the Master would consider in his next plot. The Doctor could be pathetically dense at times.

"Now, Blake taught you to lead a whip with a fish hook, right?" Lizzie asked.

"That is the term I recall him using," the Master said, beginning to see the difference between his lead and what Lizzie was getting at as the older couple demonstrated the move as if for his benefit.

"Well, that's the right lead, but what Blake forgets to mention is that you need to use your body, not your hand, to lead the move. It gives you a more solid connection than just waving my hand around."

They spent the next song working on his connection and by the end of it, he was gratified by a smile from Lizzie as he correctly lead her through the whip. Dancing took a lot more effort to learn than he had originally thought, but he found the prospect wasn't as bad as he had first imagined either.

Thanking her, he escorted Lizzie off the dance floor and found himself another partner. By the end of the dance, he had hypnotized the woman into thinking he'd been dancing here for the past month.

The next dance, he saw the woman called Yesenia without a partner, so he asked her for a dance. She complimented that his connection was very solid for a beginner, which he counted as good progress.

The Doctor wouldn't know what hit him.

* * *

Three weeks of semi-private lessons with a man named Joel and the Master was showing marked improvement of his technique. He was about to head to the club again when the phone started ringing.

He had gotten a cell phone to blend in with the time period since he was going to be here for a while, though the device seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth. He rarely had much use for it and had almost forgotten about it completely. Starting at the ring tone, he found the offending noise-maker easily enough. Unlike the Doctor, the Master kept his TARDIS tidy enough to find things.

Lizzie's number popped up on the caller ID. "Hello, Lizzie. How are-"

"Victor! Are you on your way to the-oh, sorry. I interrupted you again, didn't I?" Before he could even respond to that, Lizzie rushed forward. "But that Doctor is back! He's in the club now and I wanted to warn you."

So the Doctor had made another appearance, had he? The Master had reached his goal for hypnosis by this point, but he didn't think he was quite ready ability wise to set his plan in motion just yet. "Yes, you were quite right to call me. Would you inform the others that I regret a necessary absence tonight?"

"Sure thing," Lizzie said. "Do you want me to keep an eye on him? He's brought that woman with him again."

"As you wish," the Master said. Miss Grant was no threat to him as far as the Doctor went, though she did have an annoying habit of taking the Doctor's attention away from where it should be; namely on the Master. "Thank you for informing me, my dear. Good night."

"Oh, but-"

The Master had already cut the call. When she didn't ring back, he assumed it mustn't have been that important. With a sigh, he picked a book and settled for reading instead of searching for a club in a different city to practice. It wouldn't be the same.

The next day, he received a text from Lizzie asking if he'd like to go out for dinner at some restaurant called 'Friday's.' He called back, rather than continuing with that deplorable form of communication and found that she was very excitable. She interrupted him at least five times, so the Master could safely assume she had some news of the Doctor and skipped the rest of the afternoon to go directly to the restaurant.

Even the Master occasionally had problems with such precise jumps. His TARDIS chose that moment to make a small hiccup and he ended up twenty minutes late. He consoled himself that for the Doctor and that rickety old type 40, such a leap would have left him at least a century off.

The hostess directed him to the table Lizzie was at with a bored wave. Walking up to the table with an apology ready (traffic was the all too easy excuse in San Diego), he was surprised as Lizzie threw down her cell phone on the table and ran into him.

"Are you alright?" he asked, not entirely sure of what to do with the woman as he steadied her from falling over. Her mascara was running down her cheeks, and he hoped he wouldn't have to sit here and comfort her as he pretended to care.

"Victor!" she said as she backed away. "I... I'm sorry. I'll be back in a few moments." Lizzie ran off towards the restroom, leaving a vaguely relieved Master to take his seat at the table she had just vacated.

He slid her phone closed and placed it where she'd been sitting, ordering a pinot noir for himself and a mojito for Lizzie. Humans seemed to appreciate alcohol when they were upset, and he had seen her drink one at the club before.

He sipped his wine as he contemplated what he knew of Lizzie. The Master had, in the course of making himself a part of the 'Westie' community, come to learn a bit of the gossip surrounding her. It was obvious that she wasn't very happy, despite her cheerful demeanor. It was all very human things, from what he'd heard, but since there was no reason to blackmail Lizzie, the Master ignored them.

Now, however, it was highly unlikely he would be able to avoid it. She would likely feel the need to explain and he would have to sit through however long it would take her sob story to receive whatever news she had about the Doctor. The Master sighed and ordered another drink. This might be a long night.

Eighteen minutes later, Lizzie returned to the table. Her make-up was touched up to the point you couldn't tell she'd been crying, which the Master took a moment to admire. It was another form of disguise, and Lizzie apparently wasn't short on skill when it came to hiding her unhappiness.

She was a lot more subdued than he had ever seen her, as she took her seat across from him, but she smiled. "Sorry for making you wait like that," she said.

"My dear Lizzie, not at all. I must apologize for being so late, myself," the Master countered amiably. "I trust everything is alright?"

"Yeah," she said, not looking at her cell phone as she slipped it into her purse. "Just a fight with... Well, I'm sure you don't care about all of that."

She was giving him an easy out of the conversation, but he couldn't afford to look callous. She was one of the best dance partners he had found and the last thing he needed was to have to apologize to her if she took exception to him for not being sensitive enough. Humans, women in particular, tended to mean the opposite of what they said when they were emotional. "On the contrary," he said. "If you-"

"You're here because you want to know about the Doctor, right?" Lizzie said. The interruption this time was on purpose and just a touch desperate. She really didn't want to talk about it, did she? It was one of the things he'd always liked about Lizzie in the past, but now he couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. It wasn't like he wanted to hear about her life, but he had planned on the necessity and now those plans were completely obsolete.

Still, he should count his blessings. He nodded for her to continue, and he could see the relief in her eyes. "He knows you're here," she said, taking a sip of the mojito absently. She looked down at it in surprise, then back up to the Master. "Did you get this for me? Thank you. Victor, I..."

"It's quite alright, my dear." She had lost her chance to tell her sob story as far as he was concerned, and he was far more interested about what this new information about the Doctor . "You were saying?"

Lizzie swallowed and regained her composure, this time smiling more genuinely. "Yeah. Well, I think Laquisha must have said something about you, because after a dance with her, he immediately started asking all these questions about you and what you looked like. That's not the weird bit though."

American wait staff had the worst timing. A waitress chose that moment to ask for their orders. Once she was gone, Lizzie looked back over at him. "Where was I?"

"The 'weird bit,' was how I believe you described it," the Master said with just the slightest bit of impatience.

"It was seriously weird," she said, infuriatingly not giving him any more information as she motioned with her hands. "Really. I think that girl who he brings with him is unhinged or something. When they found out I was taking semi-privates with you, she kept trying to convince me that you were some evil alien who wants to take over the universe and that you were dangerous. She seemed to think you'd hurt me."

At this, the Master laughed. Miss Grant certainly did know how to make an impression. "Is that her story now?" he asked. "I must apologize for Miss Grant's behavior. I'm afraid that the Doctor doesn't care for my experiments and has filled her head with all sorts of nonsense."

"It was crazy," Lizzie agreed. "I mean, you're a little odd and all, chasing a guy half way across the planet, but whoever heard of aliens with British accents?"

A 'little odd'? And he wasn't chasing after the Doctor. He was trying to lead the Doctor to him! "Quite," he said coldly, taking a drink of his wine.

"Oh, don't get all stuffy again. I think it's cute the way you go on about him." That was not the adjective to make the Master feel better. If Lizzie noticed, she didn't show it, however. "Besides, you've been nothing but nice to me. Unless you're some secret ax murderer, but then you'd think they'd tell me that instead of the alien part."

While he was glad that the Doctor and his companion had been so ineffective, he didn't like all this talk about how nice he was. He was using Lizzie as a means to an end; being 'nice' was just part of the disguise.

Although... Lizzie brushed a few of her curls behind her ear, her other hand immediately pulling back after reaching toward her purse and the cell phone. It was obvious she wasn't happy, despite how she tried to be cheerful, and she had been a tremendous help with his dancing. Even pawns deserved to be rewarded occasionally and it might further his plot to make the Doctor jealous. Plus, he couldn't have her being distracted by all these issues while he needed her to dance her best when they finally caught the Doctor's attention.

He considered it as she toyed with her straw, finally deciding on his course of action. "What if I told you what Miss Grant said wasn't entirely false?"

"You mean you are a psychotic megalomaniac?"

The Master gave her a cutting look that Lizzie merely grinned at. "I believe I told you the Doctor was vastly exaggerating my experiments. Why don't you start by trying to find your pulse."

Humoring him, Lizzie raised her wrist and felt for her pulse. "Yup. Heart's still beating."

Ignoring the sarcasm, the Master pushed up his sleeve and held his hand out to her. "Now, my dear, try to find my pulse."

Again, she humored him, her small fingers wrapping around his wrist. He had to help her find the vein, but her eyes widened when she felt the difference. "Whoa, that's weird. Is it supposed to feel like that or is that some kind of trick?"

"For a human, no," the Master said, leaning in slightly with a smile. "But for someone like me, it's perfectly normal."

"You mean Jo was telling the truth when she said you were an alien?" Lizzie asked, disbelief and doubt in her green eyes.

"My dear Lizzie, if you require more proof, you'll have to wait until after we've finished our meal." The Master leaned back again as he spoke, waving his hands outward.

"But how-"

He got no small amount of satisfaction when the waiter returned with their food, effectively interrupting her.

* * *

"It's... Are you Mary Poppins or something?"

The Master winced. When he had taken Lizzie to the new statue by the pier, he had gotten a lot of pleasure at seeing her marveling at his TARDIS. A proper TARDIS, not like that piece of junk the Doctor had stolen.

That, however, wasn't the proper response. Americans had to mess up everything, didn't they? There had to be something she could have compared him to with a bit more dignity.

As he sulked over her words, Lizzie started to run her fingers over the console. "Don't touch that!" the Master snapped, snatching her hand away.

"Oh, sorry," she said sheepishly, looking around once more. "This is seriously cool though. Except, I didn't picture you having a space ship that's all... white and blinding. Are those filing cabinets? Don't you have computers for that stuff?"

Did all of the Doctor's companions go through this phase or did he avoid Americans for this reason? He had to remind himself that this would all be worth it to see the Doctor's face when he realized the Master had made his offer of the galaxy to someone else. "My dear Lizzie, relying too heavily on computers can lead to one's own destruction."

And he was awfully fond of those cabinets.

"Really though, all of this? It's... You can go anywhere, up in space?" The TARDIS hummed as she gingerly touched the paneling, surprising Lizzie further. He shouldn't let his TARDIS show off like this, but he didn't allow visitors in often. He wasn't going to argue if his TARDIS wanted to make an impression.

"Anywhere you like," the Master said, gesturing his arms wide. "I don't make this offer lightly, you understand, but just for the moment, the universe is yours to travel, should you be looking for a vacation."

"Like I could afford that," Lizzie said ruefully. "Besides, I've got to be at work in the morning."

"Money is hardly of consequence to a Time Lord, my dear," the Master said, preparing the TARDIS to take off. "And speaking of time, I don't believe I mentioned this was also a time machine. We could go somewhere for weeks and I'll have you back in five minutes."

"No way," Lizzie said, looking around with renewed wonder. "Like, seriously? A space ship and a time machine? Is that even possible? I should... this sounds fantastic and like a trick, doesn't it? I should be suspicious of you and they did warn me..."

"Then why aren't you?" the Master asked, genuinely curious about the answer. He wasn't the Doctor, who gained people's trust simply by existing. He bred loyalty and devotion through mind control and greed, and while the former was still an option if Lizzie became unmanageable after seeing all of this, he hadn't yet touched her mind beyond his first attempt to keep her from interrupting.

This trust Lizzie had developed for him was quite baffling, though he was currently relying on it. The Master was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, after all.

Lizzie looked over at him, for a moment looking every bit as vulnerable as she had been earlier at the restaurant. "Because you're doing this to cheer me up, right? Even if you are some alien with a complicated scheme to take over the world, you've been nothing but nice to me. And..." Lizzie paused and looked away. "I saw how unhappy you were, that first night in the club. I still want to help."

'Unhappy', was it? The Master turned away from her and set the coordinates. Let her think what she will; he didn't care as long as she was still his pawn to move. "Now that we've settled-"

"Hang on," Lizzie asked, forcing the Master to count to ten before snapping at her for interrupting him again. "Did you do something alien to everyone at the club to make them think you've been here longer? I just thought you'd somehow convinced all of them to play along."

"I think this would be better discussed over tea on the planet Midnight," the Master said, pulling the controls to set them in flight. The middle column of the time rotor started to rise and fall in a steady rhythm that gained a more appropriate noise of awe from Lizzie. "Miss Matthews, allow me to present you to the rest of the universe."

"Mr. Adon," Lizzie said with a small grin, "this is crazy, but you can kidnap me any day!"

* * *

Two and a half months later, the Master couldn't help but smirk as the Doctor walked in and fell right into his trap. It was an admittedly less deadly trap than usual, but the fruits of his labor were finally ready to be tasted and the Master wasn't a picky eater. He got the same thrill he always had meeting with the Doctor, and this was no time to relax.

He sat in a shadowed corner as the Doctor came in, drinking a glass of wine. The Master was wearing a dark-button up shirt, a nice pair of trousers and his dancing shoes, all but the latter at Lizzie's insistence. She said it would help him 'fit in' and make his claim of having been here a while more plausible. A disguise was part of plenty of his plans, though he usually didn't let a human drag him through a shopping mall to help 'pick something out for the big day'. Still, she had a good eye for a human, and he had to admit he looked quite handsome in it.

The Doctor, on the other hand, was still behind the times with his smoking jacket and frilly shirt. At least it was one of his better colors, a dark grey with red lining. He was without Miss Grant this time as well. Now this was an interesting development.

He watched as the Doctor made a beeline for Lizzie, who was giggling over a Smirnoff with Joel. It was conveniently near where the Master was sitting and he didn't have to strain to hear what they were saying over the music, though he had slipped a mic on her just in case.

"Miss Matthews, may I have a word?" the Doctor asked as he approached her.

Joel excused himself to find a dance partner as Lizzie smiled prettily up at him. "Shoot," she said innocently, twirling one of her curls in her fingers.

"About the man Jo warned you of last time we were here, has he turned up again?" the Doctor asked as he glanced around. The Master remained hidden, but he knew the Doctor could sense him in the club. This time, he wasn't being ignored.

"You mean Victor?" Lizzie asked with another coy twirl of her fingers. "Really, Doctor. It's no big deal about his experiments, and the fact that you're both aliens doesn't bother me at all. Just because he's gotten over you leaving him, doesn't mean that you should go around telling people he's an evil psychopath."

This was obviously not how the Doctor had envisioned this conversation. The Master found himself wishing he had put a camera on Lizzie as well while the Doctor sputtered. This would have been worth recording. "My dear young lady, that man is a dangerous criminal."

"Do you say that about all your ex's?" Lizzie asked, feigning boredom. "Look, if you're going to keep saying all these bad things about Victor, you can find someone else to talk to. He's nothing more than a sweet old man who works with those chronon molecules, or whatever they're called."

"Has he hypnotized you into saying that?" the Doctor asked, half suspicious and half in disbelief. It was a ridiculous question, the Master thought. He would never use mind control to have someone describe him as 'a sweet old man'. Quite frankly, he was going to have some strong words with Lizzie on the subject sometime soon.

"As if," Lizzie answered. "Would a 'dangerous criminal' take me to the resort planet Midnight just to cheer me up? Then we went dancing on Minarius IV and that was amazing. I'd never danced with an alien before. Well, I've danced with you and him, but that doesn't really count, not when you both look so human. This guy was like, blue. And my God, he could move his hips!"

Camera phones, the Master decided, were a perfectly marvelous invention, in spite of his earlier protests against the device. Oh, the quality was negligible at times, but it currently was very suited for recording the Doctor's face.

"You look like Time Lords," the Doctor said sulkily, before bordering on incredulous. "He really took you off-world?

Lizzie just nodded and smiled even more coyly up at him. The Master couldn't have trained her better, though he had certainly coached her extensively on what details to mention. Speaking of... "Yeah," Lizzie said. "He asked me if I wanted to see the universe with him. In a like, non-creepy or stalker-ish kind of way. He's been extremely polite, you know. If I'd known British aliens were such gentlemen, I totally wouldn't have been waiting around here for my Prince Charming. He's taken me to see some absolutely gorgeous planets. Oh, and Versailles! With petticoats and everything!"

Now was probably a good time to make an entrance before Lizzie started trying to get the Doctor to take her to Gallifrey. She would wreck havoc on the students at the Academy, despite her promises to be good if she saw any 'hot guys'. Finishing his wine, the Master made his presence known by coming up behind them. "My dear Doctor, what a surprise to see you here."

"It's hardly a surprise," the Doctor snapped. "You knew I was here and have set up some sort of trap. I'm not sure what it is yet, but I know it's bound to be harmful to everyone here."

"No, that's not paranoid at all," Lizzie murmured sarcastically, earning her a sharp glare from the Doctor.

"I assure you, Doctor, I'm here for simple recreation," the Master said pleasantly. "You can take a look around, if you're not convinced. Just ask anyone how long I've been coming to this establishment."

The Doctor rubbed his chin, suspicion written plainly across his face. "I don't believe you. You're up to something here and I intend to-"

"Listen, Victor! It's the live version of Layla! This is like, one of the best songs for West Coast. Sorry, Doctor, but I'm going to have to steal my partner back now!" Lizzie said, excitedly grabbing the Master's hand as she made her way to the dance floor.

The Master shrugged over his shoulder at the outraged Time Lord they left behind. Every single time Lizzie had interrupted the Master before was worth it for the expression on the Doctor's face as she did it to him.

Apologizing to a man who they bumped into on their way to find a open spot on the dance floor, Lizzie almost collapsed against his chest in giggles as he drew her into a closed starting position. "Did you see his face?" she asked as they ended the starter step and the Master spun her out. "He looked like he'd have a fit! And you look like the cat that got the cream."

The Master was feeling particularly smug, it was true. If he was a cat, then the Doctor was his mouse and he wasn't adverse to playing with his food before the kill. "You played your part well," he told Lizzie, pulling her back into closed position as a couple of other dancers got too close to their track to keep Lizzie from getting run over.

"Hey, do you remember that move Joel taught where you lead with your hands on my hips?" Lizzie asked deviously.

"I do seem to recall it," the Master said.

"Cause he's looking right at us. I think we should make him even more jealous."

At this, the Master laughed. His hands were already sliding down to her hips as he walked her forward. "That does sound like a splendid idea, my dear."

The Master gave Lizzie another dance before she was stolen by another partner. Rather than go back to the Doctor, he found another partner himself, who was just walking off the dance floor. He did this a few times, even gaining another dance with Lizzie, and refusing to acknowledge the Doctor who was still sulking in his seat and waiting for the Master to return.

He was just beginning to tire and was coming up with a way to avoid the Doctor for a song that he could sit out on, when the Doctor appeared at his shoulder. "Well," the Doctor said testily, offering his hand in an obvious manner.

For a moment, the Master considered forcing the Doctor to ask properly. However, his excitement at finally having his plan unfold erased what was left of his patience, and he took the Doctor's hand as the other Time Lord looked for an unclaimed spot on the dance floor.

They didn't start in closed position, which the Master took more for uncertainty than a gaffe on the Doctor's part, though the Doctor didn't look nervous at all. He had the audacity to assume the lead, but Lizzie had been prepping him for this ever since he had invited her into his TARDIS.

Instead of his usual smooth spin, the Master reverted to the triple step that women used. He didn't, as some men did when they followed, mimic and adopt a more feminine style of dancing, but he followed the right steps and hit the music with a small kick at a break, earning him a bit of mumbled praise from the Doctor.

After a few more eight counts, the Master stole the lead as the Doctor tried an underhand pass. Now the Doctor showed uncertainty, stumbling in the spin and not quite making the coaster step at the end of the move.

Their connection was broken after that, the Master noted. While the Doctor was quite good at leading, he apparently had no practice in the reverse position. Typical, always expecting the Master to follow him.

Well, this time the Master was the one in the lead, regardless of their dancing roles. He let the Doctor take back his position with a small incline of his head, and the Doctor scowled as he lead a move with both the Master's hands. The Master was the better dancer and he could feel through the renewed connection that the Doctor knew it too.

It was nothing short of glorious.

The Doctor didn't let that stop him from showing off for the rest of the dance, but the Master focused on more subtly upstaging him. Lizzie had once told him that the purpose of the lead dancer was to show off the partner in West Coast Swing, which the Master used to his advantage with every triple step. He had the feeling next time he danced with the Doctor, the other Time Lord would be more well versed in following. The Doctor hated being upstaged.

As he slid down the Doctor's arm and back into a coaster step, he caught Lizzie's wink from off the dance floor. She had been a particularly useful pawn, he would grant her that. He should reward that somehow and-

The Master glared up at the Doctor, who had taken advantage of his distraction with an attempt to dip him. "Good to know I have your attention again, old chap."

A new song started, but neither the Doctor nor the Master moved to find another partner. This time the Doctor did pull him into closed position for a starter step, keeping him close for a good several eight-counts. "Are you going to let me go," the Master asked, slightly annoyed as he had less control in closed position.

"I rather like you this close," the Doctor said with a grin, all too aware of the Master's plight.

There was a very simple way to get out of this. When the Master decided he'd had enough of it, he 'slipped' and squashed the Doctor's toes nice and hard with the heel of his shoes. His point was gotten across quite nicely, and the Master found himself pushed out into a free spin where he could once again control his movements. He smiled apologetically at the Doctor. "I'm terribly sorry. I don't know what happened."

"Is that how you want to play it?" the Doctor asked with narrowed eyes. However, instead of being annoyed, he sounded aroused by their struggle for control. Aroused and looking at nothing but the Master.

The Master walked forward on his left instead of his right, needing an ungainly stutter step to get himself back on track. He hadn't planned on this. Making the Doctor jealous, yes. Leading the Doctor back into one of his intricate traps for another battle of wits summed up his plan exactly. Having the Doctor kiss his forehead as he placed the Master's hands around his neck before he could slide away, no. At least, not in front of everyone at the club whom he had come to know during his stay in 21st century California. This was... something he had to consider.

When the song ended, the Master did pull away this time. "Thank you, Doctor. It has been... interesting," he said as he looked around the dance floor. Lizzie was dancing with Matt, so he asked one of the other women to dance, even though he was a bit distracted.

The Doctor was gone the next time he looked around. He sat out a song, waiting for Lizzie, before someone else asked him to dance. Finally, he grabbed a cigar and went outside, needing some fresh air.

He wasn't all that surprised to find the Doctor waiting for him. "There you are, old chap. I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to wait all night."

"I came here to dance, not to cater to your whims," the Master shot back. As he attempted to light his cigar, the Doctor plucked it from his fingers. The Master scowled. "I don't recall inviting you out here."

"You're up to something," the Doctor said, looking at the stolen cigar in distaste. "Something nefarious, no doubt. You always are. And I intend to stop you."

"My dear Doctor, how do you propose to do that when you don't even know if I'm actually plotting anything?" There was nothing left to stop, after all. The Doctor had fallen into his plot without even realizing it and the Master was sure if he took off in his TARDIS to the Moon of Helrini, the Doctor would follow. His plan had worked perhaps a bit too well, because now he wasn't certain if he wanted to leave. Now that he had the Doctor's attention, starting into one of their usual games didn't feel quite right.

"I should think that was obvious," the Doctor said with an unbearably smug grin. Before the Master could verbally shoot him down, the Doctor leaned down to kiss him.

It was just like when Lizzie had re-taught him the whip. The Master was suddenly aware of the connection between them that had been missing. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt the Doctor's arms circle around his back to keep him in place. The Master's own hands were pulling the idiot back down as the Doctor tried to pull away for a short, teasing kiss. He could feel the Doctor's intent, intent that was focused solely on him and it was a glorious feeling.

As far as ways to stop the Master's plots went, this was a rather good one. The Master was rapidly coming to the conclusion that he wanted to be stopped for the rest of the night and possibly a good portion of the next morning. The Doctor's own signals were impossible to misinterpret and the Master wasn't about to waste this new-found connection.

A little while later, the Master found himself being pushed down onto a bed. He let the Doctor think he was still in the lead for just a while longer. He was, after all, quite curious as to what the Doctor's designs for pursuing him for once. It wasn't often the mouse chased after the cat.

* * *

Lizzie moved away from the door as Victor and his Doctor walked off. She sat down in one of the more secluded areas of the club with a sigh. "I wonder if I'll ever see him again," she said to herself, not expecting a reply.

She was, therefore, quite surprised when she did get one. "Oh, he pops back up when you least want him to, usually," a man said from behind her. Another British accent. Given that this man seemed to be acquainted with Victor, this man was probably another alien. Would all the British people she was ever going to meet turn out to be aliens? Seriously, who ever heard of British aliens anyway? She'd have thought they'd sound more, well, alien.

Turning her chair around to see her unexpected conversationalist, Lizzie decided he was definitely another alien. His long, shoulder-length brown hair wasn't too outlandish, but the velvet jacket definitely was, even if they weren't at a club. If there was one thing Lizzie noticed about the Time Lords was that they had issues fitting in with the current fashion. She had to convince Victor that it would be a good disguise before he'd even considered wearing something that was actually normal.

Something was off, though. The man looked scruffy in ways that were contrary to the man's overall fashion sense, and his jacket was torn in quite a few places. "Are you okay?" she asked.

"Fine, just fine," the man said. "I remember your name. Uh... Molly, Missie, Liza... Ah, ha! Lizzie! Lizzie Matthews, wasn't it? He told me about you."

Victor had? If she did see him again, she was going to have to talk to him about that. She'd thought that Victor wasn't the type to gossip, though. "So you're one of them too?" she asked, wanting confirmation before she assumed too much.

The man nodded. "I wanted to see something good. This was such a good night, Lizzie. Can I call you Lizzie?" Without waiting for Lizzie to confirm it, the man continued on. "You know, I think he was genuinely fond of you. I've been watching all night and it's hard to think of another time the Master looked like he was enjoying himself that much."

"The Master?" Lizzie asked.

"That man. What did he use as an alias this time? They all blur together after a while of pompous alter egos."

"Victor," she said. Victor had admitted before that it wasn't his real name, but he'd never explained what his real name had been. She had to agree that 'the Master' did sound kind of pompous. Then again, so had 'the Doctor'.

Right now though, she was more concerned with this man. For him to know that this particular night had been good... "Are you from their future?" she asked, uncertainly. "Will they be alright, Victor and the Doctor?"

The man sighed. "You're more clever than he gave you credit for. They will have an argument in a few weeks and split again. Quite normal for them, though they lasted a bit longer than usual this time. They're both so very young and foolish, but this was a good time."

"So it was all for nothing then?" Lizzie asked, her spirits dropping.

"I wouldn't say that," the man said. "You kept him out of trouble for a few months and you both enjoyed it. What made you approach him, by the way?"

Lizzie shrugged, looking back at the dance floor sadly. "I was... I was really depressed at the time and I thought that if I made someone else happy, it would be easier for me to smile too. That I could still do something good."

"Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie. You don't know how good this was, do you? All this, because of how clever and kind Lizzie Matthews is, cheering up someone to-" The man started coughing violently as he leaned forward.

Lizzie was immediately on her feet. She placed her hands on his shoulders and helped the man sit up again. "You aren't alright. You should be in the hospital."

"They'd kill me in one of-" the man coughed again, but he recovered quicker. "They have killed me in one of your hospitals, come to think of it. It doesn't matter. I'll be regenerating soon."

"Re-what?" Lizzie asked, feeling useless. Would one of their hospitals really kill him? Well, she supposed if aliens really were that different, they might. "Look, I'll get you to your TARDIS then and you can get proper help, okay? You have one, don't you?"

"I see he didn't explain that one," the man murmured to himself. “There’s nowhere for me to go now, not with everything—I just wanted to see him again, before—To see something good. And this was so very good, Lizzie.” It looked like he was having problems breathing, but Lizzie didn't know what to do. The Heimlich? No, that was only for when someone choked.

The man clutched at Lizzie to keep her from moving away. "But I couldn’t save—I couldn’t—I did the right thing, didn’t I? Didn’t I?"

Lizzie was half terrified of this madman. He wasn't like the Doctor or Victor, like a normal human. There was something so very alien in his eyes; eyes that were like a storm of death and sorrow that nearly threatened to overwhelm her just by looking into them.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she choked out. She tried to run her hand soothingly along his back, but her eyes widened as her fingers met with a wet, sticky spot. She didn't have to bring her hand into the light to know it was blood. "Oh, my God! Stay here. I'm going to call an ambulance. Look, I'll stay with you to explain that you aren't human, I promise. Just wait there while I get my cell!"

"No time," the man said as she detangled herself from his grip. "I've stayed too long..."

"Just stay still!" Lizzie said, frantically running off to find her purse.

By the time she returned, the mysterious man was gone. He only left behind a streak of red on the back of the chair.