The first time they touched him, really touched him, not like a doctor helping a patient but as the Doctor touching him, it was so tentative and delicate that he felt electricity arcing across his skin.
Light touch wasn't safe.
Light touch was the first drops of acid rain before it starts to burn, an unknown spider on your face, the way the air changes just before the missile hits and a time-bomb erases not just memories but events themselves. It was sudden panic; it was fight or flight.
The first time the Doctor ran their fingertips softly over his face, the Master lashed out, grabbing their hand so hard he almost dislocated their fingers.
But he pulled the Doctor’s hand to him, instead of swatting it away. Pressed their fingertips into his skin. The Doctor had felt the electricity, too, but hadn’t understood it. They thought it was nerves or titillation, didn’t catch that it was flashbacks. When the Master pressed the Doctor’s fingers to his cheek, he let them feel it all and, despite the stabbing ache far under his skin, despite the crunch of joints where he was gripping their hand too hard, they understood.
Deep pressure hurt, but everything hurt.
Deep pressure was safe.