Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR RECEIVES AN UNEXPECTED GUEST</b>
At first, the Doctor was certain that the object huddled against the doors of the TARDIS was a tumbleweed or scrap of garbage blown in from the nearby settlement. The land around him was flat, endless and empty, and the wind blew something fierce. The dominant species on this planet was an airborne biped, dependant on the strong winds to get aloft. The Acamarians were pack-rats, constructing nest-like dwellings out of whatever odds and ends they found scattered across the open plain, dwellings that often shed bits of wall and roof during windstorms. The Tardis was the only upright object for miles around, so it was only natural that some bit of roving flotsam had fetched up against it.
It was only when he came right up upon the huddled shape that he realized that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
The shape was not a pile of garbage, nor a grounded Acamarian, but a man. He was thin and stringy as a hare, his ribs rippling under pallid skin with each breath. His sun-bleached hair was shaggy and patchy in places, neatly complimented by days of rough stubble. Livid bruises blossomed across most of his body, crossed here and there by bright stripes of broken flesh. He'd clothed himself in the ragged remains of a blanket – a standard-issue Gallifreyan prison blanket, the Doctor noted – and seemed to care little for modesty.
The man was not a man at all, but the emptied-out shell of a Time Lord.
The Doctor fell to his knees beside him, unable to resist his first impulse, and stretched a hand out to touch him. The Master recoiled and his head snapped up, white teeth stark in an animal snarl.
"Don't touch," he spat, clawing his way along the TARDIS, away from the Doctor. "Don't touch me!" His eyes, bleached from their former brown to a white-blue, were enormous in his gaunt face, and the Doctor realized in that moment that he was completely out of his head.
"Alright," he said, forcing the tremor from his voice. He'd gotten good at that lately – projecting a coldness he didn't quite feel. "I won't touch you. But you're sitting right in front of my front door." He tilted his head and sat back, bracing his shaking hands against his knees. "You'll have to move."
The Master fixed him with a blank stare, and for a moment the Doctor wondered if he'd heard him. Then the Master lurched forward and said, teeth chattering, "The drums, Doctor. The drums – I can still hear them, pounding, echoing, deafening – the drums! Can't you hear them? Can't you-" Before the Doctor could react, he reached a hand out and laid claw-like fingers against the Doctor's chest, spanning the space between his hearts.
"You're frightened," he said, suddenly lucid. "Your hearts- you're frightened of me. And why not?" He threw his head back and laughed, long and uncontrolled. "Here I am, naked, weaponless, half-mad, and you're still scared of me."
The Doctor rose abruptly and brushed his coat off, as if the Master had left some sort of filth on him. He could not deny the accusations, but why bother even addressing them? "How are you here?" he asked. "You were drawn back into the time lock, and I doubt our dear friend Rassilon would make the same mistake twice, so he can't have sent you back."
The Master leaned back against the door of the TARDIS and gave a huff of a laugh. "Sometimes, Doctor, when you wish for something hard enough, it happens. I learned that from your little tale-telling Companion."
"I should leave you here." The Doctor folded his arms and gazed down at him, feigning a grim nonchalance he didn't feel. "I should let the winds scour you away. Isn't that what you would do?"
The Master grew still, the remaining color draining out of his face. "You wouldn't do that to me."
"You wouldn't. They'll find me – I'll be consumed by this drumming." He stumbled forward and clutched the hem of the Doctor's coat, dragging him back down to his level. "You can't leave me," he pleaded.
The Doctor knew he was right.
"I'm going to regret this." He dropped to his knees and grasped the Master under his arms, noticing how he flinched away, how his pulse raced. This close, the Doctor saw the tracery of blue veins beneath his thin skin and old, poorly-healed wounds. He lifted him up, half-carrying him, and after a moment's pause to reconsider the situation, opened the doors to the TARDIS.
The Master was surprisingly harmless. For the sake of his own peace of mind, the Doctor had hurried him down through the TARDIS's maze-like hallways, showing him as little as possible. He took switchbacks and unnecessary backways, ensuring that the Master would have quite a time getting back to the control room if he decided to make a break for it. He was in terrible shape, and by the time they finally reached the small guest room beside the library pool, he was very near to collapse. The Doctor doubted he'd been able to pay much attention to anything on the way down.
He lay the Master down on the small, neatly-made twin bed, wrinkling his nose a moment at the thought of an unwashed body mucking up the sheets. The moment the Master's battered skin touched the bed he left streaks of rusty red behind.
He was asleep within moments.
The Doctor stood at the edge of the bed, looking down on his age-old nemesis with mingled pity and disgust. This was not the impossibly clever mind he'd grown up with. He had no trace of his razor-keen wit, hardly a scrap of his legendary ego. Whatever the Time Lords had done to him, it'd shattered him completely. The Doctor was too cautious to feel safe, but he relaxed his guard just slightly – just for a little while.
He knew he ought to take certain precautions. He could lock the doors, but that wouldn't keep the Master out if he was determined enough. He needed a way to keep track of him, and wouldn't be able to follow him around constantly.
He tugged the corners of his bowtie reflexively, adjusting it out of habit. It was the faint tug of the band around his neck that made him think of it. A collar – why not collar the Master? It wouldn't be the first time. He darted out of the room and moved briskly down the hall towards one of his store-rooms, and the TARDIS, perhaps sensing his needs, made certain that this particular room held what he was looking for. A moment of rummaging through boxes and cases of suspicious origin produced a heavy brown leather collar with a small, silvery box fixed to one side. The buckle held an old-fashioned lock, all the more difficult to open without the key. The Glass Jackals of the Lich Nebula used just such collars to keep control over their hounds. The box held complex tracking devices, capable of pinpointing the wearer's exact location even through time and space itself.
The Doctor crept back into the spare room and crouched by the bed, waiting a moment to be certain that the Master was still sleeping. He was deep under, his breathing steady and regular. Even a touch to his shoulder didn't wake him. As the Doctor slid his hand beneath his head, he no more than sighed in his sleep. It was the work of a moment to fasten and lock the collar, but the Doctor found himself lingering, his fingers caught in the Master's shaggy, unkempt hair.
What had brought him here, of all places?
Before leaving, the Doctor made a quick circuit around the room to check for any objects the Master might be able to turn into a weapon. He found nothing but a few old, heavy, waterlogged books, but the Doctor doubted he'd be able to lift them, much less use them as bludgeoning weapons for a while.
It was time to leave. The Doctor had an appointment to keep, and couldn't risk lingering on this world any longer – especially if the Master had other Time Lords on his trail. He stopped at the side of the bed once more and tugged the blankets up around his emaciated body, then forced himself to turn away and leave him. He locked him in, made a mental note to check on him in an hour, then turned his face and his thoughts away from the wounded Time Lord in the spare room.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
<b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR DISCOVERS THAT ALL IS NOT WELL</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR DISCOVERS THAT ALL IS NOT WELL</b>
The Master had been sleeping for hours. He'd hardly stirred, and once or twice during his hourly visits the Doctor had leaned close to make certain he was still breathing. It was clear that he'd recently begun regenerating, but that the process had been halted somehow. The energy of the Vortex clung to him like a second skin. This was strange, for the deep wounds on him did not seem to be healing, as if something was impeding the process, and the Doctor found himself completely flummoxed by this. Surely the Master would welcome a new regeneration and the renewed strength it would bring. Hadn't he been given a new cycle not so long ago? This was not his last life, not something he'd need to cling to.
The Doctor found himself in a rare moment of stillness as he monitored the TARDIS's controls. He leaned against the railing, gazing up at nothing in particular, his bowtie undone and hanging around his neck. He hadn't felt still or safe since he'd brought the Master on board, and the sustained stress was tiring. He knew that Amy would be waiting for him, and that he ought to go pick her up, but he was afraid of exposing her to the Master. Indeed, now that he'd brought him on board, he wasn't sure what to do with him.
He let out a long-suffering sigh and pushed off the railing, pacing slowly around the center console. He'd grown to hate the empty echo of his feet on the glass floor. Even with Amy and Rory along he felt alone, and filled the empty space with stuff. Words, mostly – his, Pond's, rarely Rory's - all helped distract him from his restless mind. A short while ago he was convinced that he was, again and indefinitely, the very last of the Time Lords, and now the Master had once more dropped right into his lap.
He wasn't certain how to feel.
A ringing from the small box strapped to his wrist pulled him back to the present. It was the other half of the Master's collar, and the ringing meant that he was moving – impossible, unless he'd unlocked the door. Which was more likely than the Doctor was willing to admit.
He threw the TARDIS into auto-pilot and lurched down the stairs as the ship shuddered into automatic. The Master had only gone as far as the library pool, but the Doctor wouldn't put it past him to get into trouble there. There were hundreds of valuable books stashed along the stories-high shelves, not to mention weapons schematics and in-depth blueprints of the TARDIS. He tripped and stumbled as quickly as he could through the warren of rooms and hallways, pausing only to check the Master's location on the little box strapped to his wrist.
He reached the library and swung around the doorframe, screwdriver in hand, hair and coat all askew from his mad dash, expecting to find the Master with a makeshift weapon in hand.
Instead, he found the Master submerged beneath a mountain of fleecy soap bubbles.
He'd turned the Jacuzzi into a giant bathtub and was almost invisible beneath the foam, his skinny body floating in the steaming water. A series of small, colorful bottles lined the rim of the pool, and a bar of blue soap floated in a dish at the periphery of the soap-bubble island.
"Close the door, you're letting the steam out," he said, propping himself up against the edge.
The Doctor gaped at him, then shut his mouth and the door abruptly. Whatever he was expecting, it wasn't this. "How did you get out? I locked the door, I'm sure of it – and there can't have been anything you could've used to pick the lock."
"Haven't you learned anything?" the Master asked with a patronizing smile. "You can't have expected a simple door lock to keep me in."
"In the state you're in, I'm surprised you made it to the door, much less past it," the Doctor replied, his tone sharp to cover his own discomfort. He knew how he ought to feel – he ought to be furious, perhaps even a little bit frightened. He ought to feel that it might be better to eliminate the Master while he still had a chance. Yet, standing before the only other Time Lord in existence, he found himself unable to hate.
The Master shrugged. "Again, you underestimate me. How long have we known each other? I'm very disappointed in you, Doctor."
"You do realize that's laundry detergent you've used in the… Jacuzzi."
The Master looked down and sniffed the bubbles, then glanced at the row of soap bottles. "Well, if you'd had a proper guest bathroom, I wouldn't have had to use laundry detergent in your Jacuzzi."
"Always an answer for everything," The Doctor muttered. "You could have asked, instead of breaking out of your room." He circled around him, screwdriver still in hand. "The last time we met, you'll remember, you tried to drop the Time War on me, so you'll have to forgive me for being cautious."
At the mention of the Time War, the Master shuddered and turned away. Though the water was hot enough to throw clouds of steam, he shivered as if caught in a draft.
The Doctor squinted at him and drew a step closer. He could see now that the Master was still ghost-pale and weak, leaning on the edge of the pool because he couldn't hold himself upright any other way. The Doctor dropped his guard a fraction, and felt a short-lived stab of pity.
"What did they do to you?" he asked, half to himself.
"The burning, and the drumming – the sky was rent through, black with smoke, and the corpses lay like garbage." The Master curled in on himself, hands tucked around his knees. He wasn't speaking to the Doctor, but to himself, words spilling from him in a toneless mantra. "The Daleks scoured our planet of life, and we threw bodies at them until there was nothing left. All gone – our home, our families, all gone and drowned in the drumming, the sound of the drums!"
His voice rose to a shout, and then he slipped suddenly beneath the water's surface, unconscious.
The Doctor didn't think. He dashed to the edge of the pool and plunged his arms down to hook under the Master's shoulders, hauling him out and dragging him to dry ground. With swift efficiency he pumped his palms against his chest, forcing a few weak wheezes of water out of his lungs. The Master choked and drew a shallow, shuddering breath, and though he came to quickly enough, it was clear that he wasn't really all there. Whatever madness had grasped him at the mention of the Time War was still with him, and he stared at the Doctor with stark white eyes and did not recognize him.
The Doctor gathered him up, wrapped in his own slightly soggy jacket, and carried him, unresisting, back towards the guest room. He was disturbed by how light the body was, how clearly he could feel his spine and ribs. This was more than the savage insanity that had gripped the Master the last time he'd returned to life. At least then he'd still been strong, self-assured. This time he was a mere shell with moments of lucidity.
Now would be the time to finish him off, put him out of his misery. What if the other Time Lords used his head as a conduit out of the time lock again? What of the multitude of times over the centuries that the Master had tried to end him? Why could he not feel the cold distain for him that he had for the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Sontarans?
He lay him down again on the rumpled sheets and covered him over with a few spare blankets, watching until his shivering subsided and he slipped once again to sleep. The collar still lay securely around his neck, and the controls seemed undamaged. At least the Doctor knew what sort of man he was dealing with now – one who was apparently too ill to make it very far. This was a small comfort to him.
He locked the door again on his way out, and after a moment's consideration, pushed a nearby cabinet in front of it as well.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
<b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR RECEIVES SOME RELUCTANT HELP FROM AN OLD FRIEND</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR RECEIVES SOME RELUCTANT HELP FROM AN OLD FRIEND</b>
"I need your help, Jack."
Jack set his pint glass down on the scuffed chrome bar top and flashed the Doctor a grin. "You must, if you found me all the way out here."
"Last outpost with TARDIS parking," The Doctor said with a shrug and a thin smile. "I don't think you come here by accident."
"You know me, Doctor. Always waiting for you." Jack signaled the bartender for another drink and drained the dregs from his glass. "Like the new regeneration, by the way. Nice nose. Not sure about the bowtie, though."
The Doctor snorted and turned his attention to the bright blue cocktail in front of him. "What is this? If I recall correctly, it is never a good idea to let you order the drinks. Last time I did that I woke up with a cat on my head and no pants on."
Jack laughed. "It's harmless. Favorite cocktail of the Blue Binders of Delta Scorpi Eleven. Little vodka, little distilled Norgoglr, nothing a Time Lord can't handle. Me – I prefer a little old-fashioned earth whisky."
The Doctor sniffed at the drink and stuck a finger in, tasting cautiously. He wrinkled his nose and shook his finger dry, then pushed the glass away from him. "Like I said, never a good idea."
Jack shrugged and took the glass, setting it down next to his own. "Your loss. So what'd you come here for, anyway? Not very often you ask for my help."
"I need to borrow something, and I hope you still have it. Now, you're not to ask questions or make assumptions or anything like that. I promise you, it's not what it sounds like." He took a deep breath, looked intently at his own hands folded on the bar top, and said, "I need the Atraxian lead, if you don't mind."
Jack stared at him a moment, then burst out laughing. "The Atraxian lead! You want the Atraxian lead, and you want me not to make assumptions. Sorry, Doctor – too late for that." He leaned over and set his shoulder against the Doctor's, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "So, who's the lucky lady? Or man? Can't say I'm not jealous-"
"Jack, leave it," The Doctor grumbled, shaking him off. "I told you, it's not what you think. I have a… guest. A rather meddlesome guest, and I need the lead to keep an eye on him."
"You going to share names?" Jack asked with an edge of seriousness, all teasing aside. "I like the lead for kink factor myself, but that's a pretty hefty piece of equipment for 'keeping an eye' on someone."
The Doctor glanced up at Jack, then looked away again. "You would be so disappointed if I told you."
"First, tell me that you still have what I need."
Jack nodded. "Yeah. Kept a little collection back on Earth, stuff that I thought I might need after... after I lost Torchwood." He took a swift drink, then followed it up with the blue cocktail, grimacing at the alien burn. "You'll have to take me there – vortex manipulator's on the fritz again."
"I can't take you inside the TARDIS," The Doctor replied abruptly. "Not with my… guest. That would be such a bad idea."
"You're starting to worry me, Doctor. If you're asking me for the lead now, how exactly have you got this thing secured now?"
The Doctor shifted in his seat, looking sheepish for a moment. "He's locked in my spare room. Behind a cabinet." Seeing the sudden look of horror on Jack's face he added, "It's a very heavy cabinet, I promise. No chance of shifting it."
"A cabinet." Jack leaned back, surveying the Doctor warily. "You need the Atraxian lead to control this thing, and you have him locked up behind a cabinet."
"He's in no fit state to escape," The Doctor countered. "Can hardly stand up. He's been through hell and back again, suffered a forced regeneration that seems to have stopped short and- oh dear, now I've ruined it."
Jack jumped off his barstool and backed away, looking left and right as though he expected the Master to leap out of nowhere at him. "That's not possible. He died, and even if he hadn't, you wouldn't dare-" He squinted at the Doctor incredulously. "But you would, wouldn't you? That's what you were going to do with him, if Lucy hadn't shot him. You were going to keep him."
"What would you have done?" The Doctor snapped. "Honestly, Jack, if the very last, the very last member of your species showed up at your door, broken and dying, would you have left him there?"
"Do you know how many times he had me killed?" Jack demanded, lowering his voice a notch. A few of the other bar patrons were looking their way, bemused. "He's going to get away from you, and when he does it's going to be bad. He had the entire planet hypnotized in, what, six months? You know what he's capable of-"
"I know!" The Doctor started, surprised by his own intensity. "Look, are you going to help me or not? I don't need a lecture."
"Maybe you do." Jack sat back down, though he still seemed wary of getting too close to the Doctor. "Sure, I'll help you. You always know what you're doing, right? Let me just finish this drink." He tossed back the rest of his whisky and the blue cocktail in two bracing swallows, then slid a few bills across the counter and stood up, holding his coat around himself like a shield.
"You're not coming with me, Jack."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Then you're not getting the lead. I told you, I can't get myself back to Earth right now. The TARDIS is my only ride. Trust me, I'm not looking for it either, now that I know you've got a crazy ex-Prime Minister in your back room."
The Doctor weighed his options, looking from Jack to the door and back again. He shifted, clearly agitated, then nodded towards the exit. "You should be fine as long as you don't go wandering. Just one short hop, Jack – you're on your own after that."
"Thanks, Doctor," Jack said, clapping him on the shoulder, a grin creeping tentatively across his features. "Just like old times. You promise me one hop, I get a couple more centuries under my belt."
The Doctor gave a wry smile and pulled the door open for him. "Just, look, whatever you do – steer clear of the library pool, alright?"
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
<b>IN WHICH THE MASTER MAKES SOME DEMANDS</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE MASTER MAKES SOME DEMANDS</b>
They heard the music well before they reached the doors to the TARDIS. Jack chuckled uneasily and remarked that someone must have left their ship's radio on, tuned to mid-2000's Earth pop hits, but the Doctor knew better. A year that never was trapped in the Master's own personal jukebox had given him intimate insight into his nemesis's choice in music, and this was pretty much it. No one else at this bar would even know who Pink was, much less leave it playing loudly in their empty starship.
The Doctor threw open the door and raced for the stairs, calling for Jack to stay where he was. How could the Master have escaped? Perhaps he'd made a quick recovery and was even now hijacking the TARDIS's controls. He hadn't been in the main control room, but there was a secondary piloting array in the basement. It was hidden behind camouflaged, coded doors, but since when had such security stopped the Master?
The Doctor skidded into the library wing and thrust an arm out towards the door, screwdriver in hand – and found that nothing had changed. The door was still blocked, with nothing to indicate that the cabinet had ever been moved. He crept along the hall, glancing over his shoulder every few steps, carrying his screwdriver like a gun and feeling very silly. The TARDIS's sound system pumped Pink at a near-painful volume, the perfect soundtrack to his pursuit of shadows.
When he'd at last decided that it was safe to do so, he shoved the cabinet aside with his shoulder and opened the door. The Master was inside, alright, sprawled backwards on the bed with his feet on the wall, bits of a dismantled wall panel littering the floor beside him. He hardly blinked when the Doctor entered, and at first the Doctor wondered if he'd heard him at all.
"You never use the sound system. It makes her feel so unwanted," he said suddenly, tilting his head back and opening his eyes.
The Doctor was growing tired of feeling so unbalanced. It was hard not to gape and stare and stammer, and he wished the Master would attempt to assault him so that his caution and anxiety were finally warranted. "You took her apart?" he managed at last, gesturing at the pile of parts on the floor, shouting over the music. Now he noticed the hole in the far wall with wires and tubes hanging from it and piled on the floor, and was strongly and nauseatingly reminded of the Paradox Machine. "You can't do that!"
"I think I just did. Anyway, I was so bored. It's dull as bricks in here, Doctor." He rolled over onto his stomach and fixed the Doctor with a withering gaze. "And you took my blanket."
"You're not here on holiday, and- wait, your what?"
The Master sighed and snatched up two of the cables leading to the hole in the wall and touched the ends, shutting the music off. "My prison blanket, the only object I came in here with. What did you do with it?"
"It's… still in the library, I assume, but- look, don't try and change the subject!"
"I want it back."
This time there was nothing to do but gape at him. The Master was serious. Petulant and obtuse though he was, he did want that dirty, ratty blanket back, and the Doctor didn't know what to make of it. He would have preferred his crazy ravings to this quiet, serious madness.
Jack saved him the trouble of coming up with a response. He'd followed the Doctor down, certain that he'd meet with trouble, and he didn't bother to announce himself before bursting into the room past the Doctor.
"Freeze, you sorry bastard!" he barked, whipping a gun out of his coat pocket. "Trust me, unlike the good Doctor, I have no reservations about filling you with holes."
The Doctor snatched Jack's gun and shook it in his face, grasping for the appropriate words to express his outrage. The Master laughed and sat up, and both men turned to scowl at him.
"Handsome Jack, never a dull moment with you," he said with a charming smile. "Yes, I'm sure you would enjoy filling me with holes, but let's be honest – that's the Doctor's job."
"Jack, go back upstairs," The Doctor said, thrusting the gun against Jack's chest. "You're really not making this any easier."
"I'm not sure that's a great idea-"
"Just go," he snapped and pointed at the door. Reluctant and suspicious, Jack took his leave, but not without shooting the Master another poisoned glare.
The Master gave the Doctor a sly grin. "I think I like this new regeneration of yours. Seems you've got a spine again. Now, about that blanket."
The Doctor sighed and leaned against the wall, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Alright, I'll fetch it for you. But it needs a wash first. And you have to promise to stop taking the TARDIS apart. It's doing a number on my nerves."
"I'll see your prison blanket and raise you three square meals and some entertainment," the Master replied. "You haven't thought to feed me, have you? I'm starving."
"We'll stop by a butcher when I drop Jack off."
"Ah, Doctor," he smiled, "So accommodating. How did you know I was craving a nice, juicy, red, raw, dripping steak?"
The Doctor grimaced. "You might let me cook it first."
"Meat, Doctor," the Master growled, his expression taking a sudden feral turn. "Haven't lost the craving. Better watch your back. Better watch your Companions. Nothing I love more than fresh meat."
The Doctor backed out of the room without a further word and locked the Master in again.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
<b>IN WHICH JACK AND THE DOCTOR VISIT NEW YORK</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH JACK AND THE DOCTOR VISIT NEW YORK</b>
Jack was a man not given to fits, but he was pacing the TARDIS's control room now as though he was, far too agitated to be still. He'd thrown his coat over the railings and let his suspenders hang against his legs, perhaps to combat the feeling that he'd walked into a trap. This was madness, truly, to keep the Master inside a vessel like the TARDIS, in which he could cause enormous quantities of mayhem if he wished.
"And naked? Nothing but that tracker collar and, soon, a leash. You told me not to jump to conclusions, Doctor, but I find that I can casually walk up to them, even, and they're still there. Tell me you're not keeping him for-"
The Doctor slammed a hand down on the TARDIS's console and turned an uncharacteristic glare on him. "I'm not. I told you, I found him outside the TARDIS – I don't know where he came from or how he got there. I'm not sure what else you expect me to do with him. It's not as if I can drop him off on the nearest habitable world and wish him the best."
Jack held his hands up in an apology. "Alright, okay. I get it. You've got a tiger by his tail, and you're doing the best you can with him. Still, it's just not decent." He laughed, slightly uneasy. "The least you could do is give the guy something to wear."
"We need the lead first," the Doctor shrugged. "I don't want him wandering about in here. Too many things he might break, or touch. Though the two are synonymous, I suppose. And he's hungry."
Jack raised a brow. "Hungry? That sounds a little ominous."
"Mmm. The last time he came back, he ate a couple of homeless blokes, and time knows what else. Nearly ate Donna Noble, I think, but she was too clever for him. Or I was too clever. Either way-"
"He ate people?" Jack took an involuntary step back, his face a mask of disgust. "He seems so much more charming every minute you spend talking about him."
The Doctor fixed him with a withering gaze, then turned back to the console. He knew Jack was right, and that the Master was an incredible liability – but what else was he to do with him? For the time being, the only thing he could see to do was to keep him caged. A solution was sure to present itself. It always did.
"Look, if you have any ideas, I'm all ears," he said at last, turning to face Jack again. "I certainly don't. Not yet. I'm working on it, but for the moment the best I can do is keep him locked up in my spare room behind a cabinet. He's getting bored, and that is extremely not-good. The sooner I have the lead, the sooner I can start to work with him."
Jack considered him silently, then gave a single, slow, grudging nod. "You really think you can fix him, don't you?"
"Well, I am the Doctor," he replied with a fleeting smile. "I have to try."
"New York, then," Jack said, moving to stand opposite the Doctor, brushing his hands lightly across the console. "Try for 2009 or so. Maybe later. Lower East side. You want help parking this thing?"
"I suspect I'm going to get it, whether or not I say yes." The Doctor peeked around the central pillar with a smile. "Just don't touch the parking break." He felt a little tension leave him with Jack's resistance, and was happy not to be left alone with the Master. There was still the matter of Amy and Rory Pond, but he had a time machine – he could afford to leave them be for a while. It wasn't safe yet.
With Jack's help, they managed to make a reasonable landing in a small, urban park in roughly the middle of 2009. Even better, they were right on target for time of day – it was 11:30pm on a Wednesday evening and quiet as the grave. As the TARDIS's trademark whistling, whirring landing echoed across the empty playground, not a single thing stirred, save for a homeless man who suspected he was too drunk for this nonsense. Even he looked up for only a moment, and then forgot that he'd seen a blue police box land not ten yards from his favorite bench.
It was hot and humid, sticky and unpleasant, and both men left coats and jackets inside the TARDIS. Jack breathed in deeply and huffed a satisfied sigh at the mingled smell of garbage and Chinese food, then turned an exuberant grin on the Doctor.
"I always wonder how I would've done as a New Yorker, you know? Anything goes in this town. Well, except Torchwood – but I heard rumors that they might try starting up again in a few years. Their last captain had a strong fondness for cats. He was a little eccentric."
"That sounds familiar, doesn't it?" the Doctor asked, quirking a smile. "So, tell me about this former Torchwood weapons cache. Seems a busy city like this would be a terrible place to hide anything. People always moving, always poking their noses in – noplace more than this city."
"No wonder they kept rebuilding it, eh?" Jack chuckled. "Always sort of wondered what they saw in Old York."
After taking a moment to get his bearings, Jack set out south down the small, mostly residential street with the Doctor in tow. He'd had little cause to visit New York in recent years, but during his tenure at Torchwood he'd made plenty of trips to restock his collection. The Manhattan branch of Torchwood had failed spectacularly in the 70's during a particularly violent weevil outbreak, and once UNIT had cleaned the mess up they'd disbanded the entire organization. The deep underground complex had been fumigated and locked, but that hadn't stopped Jack fro excavating one of their small, secured bunkers. The labyrinth of tunnels, pipes, basements, and transit lines kept the installation carefully hidden – it was almost impossible to get an accurate scan of the place, even for alien tech.
Jack brought them to a massive brick building on the corner of Grand Street and Pitt, not five blocks from where they'd parked the TARDIS. The Doctor had to admit, grudgingly, that it was indeed easier to land in a particular time and place with more than one pilot. At first, he'd intended to drop Jack off somewhere safe and entertaining – a planet full of sexy people, perhaps – but now he was reconsidering. Having an ex-Time Agent along was dead useful, and if it came to a fight, he didn't have to worry about Jack's health and wellbeing. If Daleks, toclefane, and the Devil Himself couldn't keep Jack down, nothing could.
Jack brought them around to a back door and gestured proudly at the blank, uninviting brick wall. "Abrons art center. Former theater, current performance space, with the catacombs mostly abandoned – though this year I think they're hosting some kind of haunted house down there." He pressed his ear to the door for a moment, then stepped back and waved at the lock. "If you wouldn't mind?"
The Doctor obliged, and had the door open in short order. The Screwdriver felt awkward in his pants pocket, and Jack made an indecent remark as he passed him by, which the Doctor obstinately ignored. The building was completely black inside, windowless and empty. Jack had thought to bring a flashlight, and once illuminated it became clear that the theater was far from abandoned. Footprints traced paths through the dust on the floor, and someone had left a rain slicker hanging from a peg by the door. They were facing a long, whitewashed hallway which turned the corner into what might've been a small green room, but was not cluttered with theatrical cast-offs.
"You always pick the strangest places, Jack," the Doctor said, peering over a pile of old stage lights. "Though I must say, this is less conspicuous than Welsh monuments and Big Ben. Good job."
"It wasn't me, it was Torchwood," Jack replied. "If it'd been my choice, we would have build this right under the Empire State building. Where better to hide something than in plain sight?"
"Ah, Time Lord technology," the Doctor smiled. "I shudder to think what you would do with a TARDIS."
They moved steadily downward from there, past the creaking backstage floorboards and catwalks of the theater to the catacombs beneath the stage, and then further still through a trapdoor hidden beneath rotting sandbags. Someone had done their homework, though – dusty and decrepit though the rout was, it was well-laid and well-hidden. This was clearly a back entrance or bolt-hole, and spent quite a long time pretending to be an old sewage line or maintenance tunnel.
Eventually they reached a series of locked steel doors, each with a different key mechanism. Jack knew the codes and combinations to each of them, and shortly they reached the final door: a tall, heavy oak affair with a simple lock made entirely of wood. This was damn clever – they'd anticipated sonic, which was no mean feat.
By the time they finally broke into the old bunker, both men were drenched through with sweat, shirts sticking to them. The Doctor was regretting his hair, now plastered over one eye. Worse yet, the bunker was completely airless, its ventilation systems long since shut down or clogged with debris. It was like living in a rat-infested oven.
"Hurry up and find it," the Doctor grumbled. "After this, I'm taking us to a planet made entirely of ice. I always enjoy the hospitality of the Neural Mastodons of the Undying Star. They made fantastic snow-cones. Of course, that's all they make, but, well. That's what you get when you live on an undying star, I suppose."
Jack rummaged through the boxes and bags strewn around the edges of the room, plucking a few small items here and there to keep for himself. He'd left his squareness gun here several years ago after the battery had died, having no way to power it. The Doctor was sure to have a power pack for it somewhere aboard the TARDIS, and it was his favorite weapon.
"Ah, gravity forceps! Always handy in a pinch," he said, stuffing the small implement into one of the smaller, empty bags. "Ground area-scope, completely useless here, but handy to have along. Ballistic auto-knitter… maybe not this time."
The Doctor paced impatiently. "The lead, Jack, before we melt into a permanent feature of this timeforsaken bunker."
"Alright, don't get your suspenders in a twist. Just revisiting some old toys, is all. Ahah, here we are-" Jack straightened up and held out a palm-sized red disk. "The Atraxian lead. Extendible version, for convenience." He flipped it over and held it out to the Doctor to inspect. "See, you program it on the back here – pull this little tab to attach it to your subject. It's got a twenty-foot retrieval range, and I'm pretty sure you can program the entire TARDIS as 'home'."
The Doctor turned the disk end over end in the light, checking it once with the Screwdriver to be certain it still worked. The Atraxians had been as practical as ever in its design, and it was ideal for his purposes. While the subject was inside whatever space had been designated as 'home', the lead functioned just as an ordinary dog leash would, though it was impossible to remove without the proper key and came fully loaded with shock settings. Once the subject moved a predetermined distance from 'home', however, he would be teleported immediately back inside the boundary, unless his keeper was holding the other end of the lead. In other words, while the Doctor would need to keep a hold on the Master while they were inside the TARDIS, he would be unable to leave without an escort.
"Jack, you're a lifesaver," the Doctor grinned. "This is perfect. Come on, let's get out of here. We'll need to pop by a butcher on the way out – do you know of any night-butchers in the area? Preferably, we'll need someone who sells entire goats."
Jack decided it would be best not to ask. He merely smiled and nodded, and explained the geography and layout of Queens.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
<b>IN WHICH THE MASTER MAKES A MOVE, AND THE DOCTOR MAKES A RESOLUTION</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE MASTER MAKES A MOVE, AND THE DOCTOR MAKES A RESOLUTION</b>
The butcher at the 24-hour market – a startlingly large, maze-like bargain grocery called, appropriately, 'Trade Fair' – was not overly surprised at the late-night request for the forequarters of a lamb. Indeed, they were not the only shoppers in for strange midnight munchies. Compared to the man pushing a cartful of instant coffee packets and cat food down the narrow aisles, Jack and the Doctor were nearly normal. The butcher wrapped their purchase with nary a question and even tied little plastic handles to it, explaining with a genial smile that the front half of a lamb is a rather heavy thing. He advised them to cook it low and slow, and bid them a pleasant evening as they left.
"And you wonder why I hide things here," Jack remarked as they left the market, hauling their purchase between them. "These people wouldn't notice alien tech if it slapped them in the face."
They reached the TARDIS without incident, and once inside with the doors locked the Doctor instructed Jack to once again remain behind in the control room. He explained that someone would need to man the controls, but Jack knew better. Whatever was about to happen to the half-a-lamb, it wasn't going to be pretty.
The Doctor hauled the meat down towards the Master's prison, and halfway there he picked up the sound of banging, loud, insistent, constant - no shouting, no splintering wood or breaking metal, just the heavy thump of a fist. He hurried his pace, the slaughtered animal bouncing wetly against his hip, its brown paper wrapping coming undone. Blood and grease made his burden slippery and hard to hold.
The pounding reverberated down the Master's hallway, accompanied now by the faint rattle of the cabinet as it jostled against the shaking door. The Doctor dropped his package and thrust the cabinet aside, then thumped his fist against the door in return, and was relieved when the noise stopped for a moment.
"I've brought you your dinner," he said, taking a cautious step back. "Just what you requested. I want you to stand back now, so I can open this door."
He heard his captive take a few sliding, shuffling steps, accompanied by a low, inhuman growl. Unnerved, he picked the meat back up and unlocked the door.
Before he could touch the handle, the door flew open, knocking him backwards. The Master lunged, tearing the package of meat from him and hauling it back into his room, teeth bared like an animal's. His eyes were wide, sharp and savage, and he snarled again, the sound and insanity of it sending a shock of instinctive terror through the Doctor's hearts. He leaped to his feet and lurched forward to slam the door shut, but found himself transfixed, fascinated and horrified all at once.
The Master had dragged the carcass to an empty corner of the room and crouched over it, fingers buried in its ribcage, tearing chunks of raw flesh from bone. His face was already smeared with blood and gobbets of fat. He ate like a wild beast, sucking every morsel from the bones, thrusting his tongue inside to lap out the rich, red marrow. Though the Doctor stood in the open doorway, he hardly acknowledged him, save to crouch over his meal and growl as if warning a competitor off of his kill.
In ten minutes it was over. The Master licked his fingers and nipped a few last shreds of flesh from the long bones, the mania draining from him as he found his hunger satiated. Stomach full, bones picked clean, he turned a clear gaze on the Doctor and smiled.
"Just what I was in the mood for. Thank you, Doctor. Oh, but what a selfish pig I am – I haven't left you a scrap."
The Doctor's hearts turned to ice. He'd just watched this man skeletonize half a sheep, and was now being drawn into what sounded like a perfectly sane, reasonable conversation. Everything about this was wrong – the Master's very existence was wrong. The rapid cellular decay that had plagued him at his last resurrection seemed to have gone, but the madness remained, made infinitely worse by the perdition of Gallifrey's burning.
"You might have saved some for later," he said, struggling to stay calm. "That was expensive. I don't really have the facilities to keep you stocked up with sheep carcasses, either."
"You left me starving," the Master replied, rising to his feet and slinking forward. Blood streaked his bare chest and thighs, dribbling slowly down towards his ankles. "Starving and naked, collared like a dog, and you're complaining about the price of mutton. Seems you're having trouble with your priorities."
The Doctor took an involuntary step backwards, his hand on the doorframe. "Well, you'll forgive me for seeming rude – I'm just having a little trouble with how you even came to be here. Most of my visitors come with their own clothing, anyway."
The Master was quick, energized by his meal, and grabbed the Doctor by his shirt collar before he could duck out of the way. Using the Doctor's own struggles to escape, he thrust him out into the hall and against the far wall, pressing his gore-smeared body up against him and pinning him there. Emaciated though he was, he had steel in him, and the Doctor found himself hard-pressed to escape him.
"This is not how you treat guests," the Master said, his voice soft and soothing. "I know about your delightful little companions. You don't lock them away. Why, I'm almost… insulted." He straightened the Doctor's bowtie and shirt collar, though he still held him wedged between the wall and his hips. "If this is going to work out, we must trust each other, don't you agree? You're going to help me with the drums, and I'm going to try very hard not to kill you."
The Doctor couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so conflicted. Loathing mingled with traitorous shivers of longing, and he hated this new body for being unable to break the bond that lay between him and his life-long enemy.
"There will be ground rules," he managed, squashing the slight tremor in his voice. "And we're going to need to work on personal space. Boundaries. That sort of thing."
"It's always boundaries with you." To his surprise, the Master let him go, sliding away from him and taking a step back towards the room. "I know about the Atraxian lead. You'd better go and get it. I need a shower and a change of clothes – and you still haven't brought me that prison blanket."
The Doctor cleared his throat and brushed his hands down his shirt, now ruffled and covered in filth. "Right. If you could just step back in the, ah… the, room. Yes, you're room. I'll come and get you shortly."
The Master obliged, eyes fixed on the Doctor as he stepped back into his prison, a knowing smirk lingering on his blood-caked lips. "I'll be waiting here with breathless anticipation."
The Doctor locked him in, then fell back against the wall again with a shudder, pressing a hand to his hearts.
Jack didn't bother asking about the bloodstains. He gave the Doctor a look that said exactly what he was thinking and a great deal more, to which the Doctor responded with a flustered cough and a distracted request for the lead. He was grateful for Jack's silence, but shuddered to think of the conclusions he was probably leaping to. There was nothing else for it – even he wasn't sure what'd just happened, and felt that trying to explain might make things worse.
He took a moment to clean himself up and throw on a fresh shirt, regarding himself for a moment in the full-length mirror in the wardrobe room. He'd never been one to worry over his regenerations, but for the first time in a long time he found himself wondering how others saw him. Was he a handsome man? He liked to think so, but he was never quite sure. It was not something that concerned him, generally. This body seemed a little more solid, more compact than his previous shell, and he pressed fingers to his chest and sides experimentally, feeling the muscles move beneath his skin. This was young flesh by human standards (and this was how he measured – his people had gone, so why shouldn't he?), smooth and unblemished, marked only occasionally by fresh scars.
What would the Master see, if he were to look upon this new body?
The Doctor felt a flush of embarrassment and shame creep up his neck, and he threw his shirt on and turned away from the mirror. How could he even consider the Master after all he'd done? There was no logic in his continued obsession with him. And obsession it was, there was no escaping that – he'd felt such a rush at the smallest touch of his flesh, even as the Master held his life in his hands. It was the same every time, inexplicable and inescapable, and Jack was right in part – he had rescued the Master because of this. When he could have done away with him once and for all, he'd given him mercy.
But then again…
Was he not in control this time? The Master was his captive for once, and despite everything the Doctor felt confidant that he could overpower him if need be. He held him collared and, shortly, leashed. The thought sent a thrill of secret delight through him, and he felt a smile come unbidden to his lips. He felt giddy as a schoolboy as he realized that this time, for once in his life, the Master was under his power.
In that moment, inspired by a single moment of introspection, the Doctor resolved never again to find himself beneath the Master. He was clever, stronger, and the Lord of Dreams had reminded him that he could be cruel as well. The Master owed him his life, and the Doctor would not let him forget it.
Kindness still came before the lash. Feral dogs might be broken without a single harsh word or blow, and it was so with the Master as well. As the Doctor descended once more to the Master's prison, he found himself whistling, almost jovial.
He found he was quite looking forward to taming the wild beast in his spare room.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
<b>IN WHICH WE MEET A TELLER OF TALES, AND THE MASTER COMES CLEAN</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH WE MEET A TELLER OF TALES, AND THE MASTER COMES CLEAN</b>
Far and away from the TARDIS, the Earth, the Doctor's new resolve and the Master's hunger, a planet lay waiting to receive its most esteemed visitors. It was a small world, a pale little planet revolving gently around a white dwarf. It shouldn't have existed – the star should have burned too cold to support a living planet. Yet there it was, defying all logic, spinning quietly through the cosmos and keeping to itself for the most part.
The entire planet was as colorless as its parent star. Plants fed on a different sort of energy altogether, and the vast empty planes that covered most of this world were seeded with long, fine, white grasses. Deep, dark, impossibly blue oceans dotted the planet like a leopard's spots, and rivers ran like sumi ink through its forests and fields. Travelers who knew of this planet called it the unblemished diamond, the silver world, the impossible jewel. Its inhabitants called it Gintsuru, which meant 'silver wanderer' in their own language.
Upon the highest peak, guarded from snow and high winds by an energy field – indeed, very similar to cities of the long-dead world of Gallifrey – sat the capitol of all Gintsuru, the seat of power and commerce. The city had been built with the purest white quartz, mined from the living heart of the mountains upon which it sat. Tall spires mimicked the snowcap peaks that surrounded them, crossed by a network of roads and bridges that sparked like dew on spider's silk. Long airship docks stretched out from the city's center, radiating like the points on a star. On such a small planet in a backwater of a system, there was little intergalactic trade to be had. Such a majestic city could not have been built on the back of one species alone, however - and the one thing that Gintsurians had was something that every other race needed.
The Gintsurians held a power even Time Lords did not: the ability to see the very threads woven into the tapestry that was an individual life. Other races called them the Storytellers, and that suited them just fine.
Once, long ago, the Storytellers and Time Lords had done a brisk business between them in altering the destinies of other worlds. Though both races held a strict policy of non-interference, their unique gifts muddied the waters of fate without any special assistance. Over time each species grew jealous of the other, and eventually they ceased contact. The Storytellers had seen the burning of Gallifrey and looked on as the Time War raged, outside of and beyond it, observing the end of countless stories.
The Storytellers no longer bothered with the Time Lords' tale. As far as they were concerned, the story had ended, and they ignored lingering plotlines like the Doctor's. There was one among them, however, who watched the passing of the Doctor's life with great interest.
He made his home well beyond the capitol city. Among his people he was somewhat of an outcast, deemed eccentric and far too self-centered to work as part of a cohesive community. This did not bother the Kyuubi in the slightest, and he enjoyed his dubious celebrity status among his own people. He shared a deep underground complex of caves with a single human male, and he stole for a living.
On this day he strode the boundary of his holdings with his companion in tow, gazing skyward and lost in thought. As with all of his kind, he seemed perpetually young by human reckoning, no older than twenty-eight. His skin was chalk-white, and his fine, soft hair was the white-blonde of an albino's. Each member of his species took on some sort of fairy-tale trait, from the limbs and adornments of animals to the trappings of mythical beasts and legends. The Kyuubi was, as his name suggested, very fox-like, with pricked white ears and three soft, black-tipped brush-tails. His wrists, elbows, and ankles were touched with downy fur.
Beside him, his companion was nearly swarthy – tan, tall, with a swimmer's solid build and a mane of rich chestnut hair, Romney Cooper was the Kyuubi's ideal opposite. He'd been plucked from his not-quite-ordinary life a decade ago and hadn't looked back since, never questioning his fate too deeply. Like the Doctor's companions, he was along for the ride, come fair or foul weather.
"I think we're going to have a visitor soon," Kyu said, halting suddenly and turning to face Rom, his pale blue eyes bright with glee. "My old friend – mmm, though I doubt he'd say the same of me. His tale's grown tangled of late, and he has a plot device that he's not quite sure what to do with."
Rom had long since grown used to Kyu's way of speaking. Though he'd never be able to read the stories himself, he understood enough of what Kyu saw to make sense of it. "This wouldn't be your mysterious Time Lord, would it?" he asked.
"Perhaps." Kyu fell gracefully to sit, cross-legged, in the grass, and patted the cool earth beside him. "I never tire of reading him."
"From what I hear, you never tire of trying to convince him to whisk you away in his mythical blue box," Rom laughed, dropping to a seat beside him. "Watch out – I might get jealous."
"Naturally, you'd come along as well." Kyu plucked a few blades of grass and combed them through his fingers, thoughtful again. "I do wonder, though. It's always hard to see his story with any clarity, but I sense a particular darkness lingering over this portion of it. Something has come back into the tale that ought not be there."
A world of time and space away, the Doctor was having a struggle with the logistics of privacy and leashes. He'd gotten the lead attached without any trouble, but he would need to either stand in the shower stall with the Master while he washed or let him go, and neither option seemed particularly promising.
"Come now, Doctor, either strip down and get in here with me or let the leash go," the Master said, tugging impatiently on his collar. He was standing half-under the shower spray, but could go no further. "These awful old 40's models have been known to run out of hot water rather quickly."
"You might run," the Doctor said rather lamely, trying to avert his gaze and keep an eye on his prisoner at the same time. It wasn't working very well. "And I just washed up. Can't you just… spin around a bit? Rinse one side at a time?"
The Master grabbed the end of the lead and pulled, hard, dragging the Doctor into the room a further few inches. "Just let go of the damned thing. Where am I going to go? Out the air vent?"
The Doctor finally relinquished his hold and backed out of the small bathroom. "I'll be standing right out here."
"I'm sure you will," the Master said, rolling his eyes and snapping the shower door shut.
The heat and steam felt better than he would've liked to admit. Imprisoned in the filthiest cell, having nothing but an empty corner for a lavatory and a stale, piss-scented blanket for warmth, he'd come out the other end of his captivity filthier than he could remember being in his life. The brief, ill-fated stint he'd had in the library Jacuzzi had drawn away some of the stench, but he hadn't had time to properly scrub himself clean. Now fresh, hot water poured down over him, pulsing like little needles on his skin, bullying away the dirt and filth. He scoured himself with his own nails first, and thought about his imprisonment, and the muck, and the stink, and the drums grew louder.
I must be clean, I must-
Louder they came, over the sound of water on tile, over the omnipresent hum of the TARDIS's controls, over his own increasingly labored breath.
In these moments he could not think. He could not see. He could not hear, save for the four beats, endless and overpowering. He could taste nothing but the iron tang of blood in his mouth, and his whole being longed to bury teeth and fingers in living flesh. Each time, these things were constant – each time, something was new. The drums drove him to claw the dirt from his body, reminding him of the stink and rot and pain and shame of his Gallifreyan cell.
They can smell me, can't let them smell me, can't let them-
He hissed in pain as his fingernails carved out a crescent of skin from his forearm and snapped out of the madness just as quickly as he'd entered it. His pale eyes locked on the bright spatters of blood on the floor, and he retched.
Sometimes the madness left him stronger, full of rage, ignorant of pain and fear. Sometimes, as now, it left him emptied out, weak, sick. The sliver wound on his arm stung, and the pounds of raw animal flesh working their way through his guts made him suddenly nauseous. He braced himself against the far wall and tilted his head back against the cool tiles, closing his eyes and focusing on the white noise of water to dull the throbbing drums.
Eventually his hearts slowed, his stomach ceased churning, his knees stopped shaking. He pulled himself upright, despising his weakness, and thrust his head beneath the shower spray again, losing himself in the heat and thunderous noise. Quite deliberately, he pulled his thoughts away from his imprisonment and towards his current situation. As he lathered his filthy hair, he allowed himself to linger on this new Doctor, processing for the first time all the particulars of his latest regeneration. It was a fine body, to be sure, and the Master had detected a bit of resistance in him. There had been no weeping, no gratitude to see him, only anger and the careful concealment of emotion. This was not what he'd been expecting.
This was a Doctor who, if pushed, might very well push back. He'd need to be careful in getting what he wanted. First, the drumming – this time, he'd accept help. Now there was an added danger to it, for if Rassilon had used his head as a conduit once, what was to stop him doing it again?
While he was at it, he reasoned, why should he not have a bit of fun at the Doctor's expense as well? He couldn't remember the last time they'd shared such close quarters for an extended period of time, and beyond the tricks and teasing he loved so much, the Master knew that the Doctor wanted him. He always did. It would be an endless entertainment to try and crack him, to draw out that wrathful god that lurked beneath his skin. It was always the Doctor's way to resist him at first, to play coy, and the longer he kept it up, the better it was when he finally broke.
The Master lingered quite a while in the shower. There was a lot of him to clean, skinny though he was, and perhaps his contemplation of his captor kept him occupied a little longer, as well. Whatever the reason, when he finally emerged, towel-clad, sweet-smelling, his damp hair tousled and sticking out at odd angles, he seemed distinctly more at ease.
"You'll want this back," he said, handing the lead's end to a nonplussed Doctor. "Never know what a naughty fellow like me will get up to, if you don't keep an eye on him."
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
<b>IN WHICH THE MASTER SELECTS AN OUTFIT AND CAUSES SOME PROBLEMS</b><br /><br />You remember the humor tag you saw on this fic? Yeah. Sorry about that. Sometimes I can't help myself.
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE MASTER SELECTS AN OUTFIT AND CAUSES SOME PROBLEMS</b><br /><br />You remember the humor tag you saw on this fic? Yeah. Sorry about that. Sometimes I can't help myself.
Dressing the Master was a trial and a half. Again, the Doctor had to unleash him, standing guard at the door to the wardrobe room and thinking worriedly that it'd been a long time since he'd checked for secret doors and exits in this part of the TARDIS. He knew Amy had wandered in here to poke around, but he himself had taken to storing his limited selection of clothing in his own room. It'd gotten terrifically crowded in here, the closets stuffed with coats and shirts and pants and dresses and all manner of sartorial things, so much so that it made the Doctor's head spin just to look in. His own former coat and suits hung in a place of prominence near the door, not yet put away, and as he waited for the Master to choose something to wear, he moved over to the coat rack and ran his hand along the brown wool. It'd been a good old coat, serviceable and flashy, warm as anything. They'd had plenty of good times. He'd thought often of picking up a new coat for himself, for his current jacket, though comfortable and scholarly, left a lot to be desired in the warmth department.
"Oy, are you done yet?" he called, peering past a forest of trousers and smoking jackets. "How long does it take to pick out a shirt and a pair of pants, honestly? I did it saving the world, last time."
"It's not that easy when you're sorting through a millennia's worth of bad fashion," the Master called back, his voice slightly muffled. He must've been deep in the fur coats, possibly lost.
"Oh, you're one to talk," the Doctor scoffed. "You must've worn every awful collared jacket ever invented for bipeds. Maybe even some invented not for bipeds. That's why it took me so long to notice you when you were masquerading as the prime minister – a normal shirt collar!"
There was a scuffle and a bang of overturned coat racks, and after a few seconds the Master thrust his face from between rows of vests, scowling. "You've got a bow-tie. And if we're going to go down memory lane, let's discuss this monstrosity, shall we?" He pushed his way out into the room, clad in nothing but an extraordinarily long, striped scarf. It wound twice around his neck, loose coils draped halfway down his chest, the rest folded around his arms and dangling below his waist in something partially resembling decency. "How is this even practical?" he demanded.
The Doctor blinked, put a hand to his chin in thought, and tried very hard not to stare at what the loose end of the scarf was hiding. "That is monstrously indecent," he said at last. "Go put some pants on. I'm going to have to get that dry-cleaned. What if I'd wanted to wear that again? Now it's all covered in your… bits."
"I thought you liked my bits," the Master smirked, tossing the loose end of the scarf over his shoulder and sticking his chest out for effect. The Doctor coughed and very deliberately averted his eyes, then made a shooing motion.
"Go on, back in the wardrobe with you. Go pick something normal."
"Like that's going to happen with this lot," the Master snorted. He did as asked, though, and wandered back into the maze of clothing. The Doctor sighed and sat down in a chair by the door, long legs thrust out in front of him, and began to toy with the sonic screwdriver, flipping it from one hand to the other for lack of anything better to do with himself. After a few moments of silence, a sudden shout startled the sonic right out of his hands.
"Why do you still have this?" the Master demanded as he once again excavated himself from the racks. This time he had on pants – sensible brown trousers – but on his top half wore something the Doctor wished he could forget.
"I keep everything," he said defensively, looking down to retrieve the sonic as a way to avoid looking at the eyesore the Master was wearing for a few more moments.
"Look, I know you had a big question-mark phase, but this." He gestured in disgust to the question mark-motif sweater vest he'd pulled on. "Where did you even find this? Did you have this made, or what?"
"I'll have you know, that was all the rage in the Para-dimensional Dimension back in early 1,204 Squid."
"It should tell you something that this was a fashion in a dimension that doesn't technically exist," the Master muttered, pulling the sweater vest off. "I'm going to burn this the first opportunity I have." He chucked the sweater vest at the Doctor and dove back into the wardrobe.
The Doctor felt he had a point, but that was no reason to let him follow up on his threat. He folded the vest and set it beneath his chair, trying to think back to the question-mark era and recall what, exactly, had made him think it was a good idea.
The Master's next outfit made the Doctor drop his screwdriver again. Amy Pond had left a few things behind after her most recent departure, deciding that if she was tired of repeated trips home to change. One of these was an overlarge red sweater that was charming on her.
It was not quite so on the Master, especially without any sort of garment underneath.
The Master clearly disagreed. He strutted forth in his borrowed finery, the end of the sweater barely covering his thighs. To make matters worse, he'd picked out a pair of black strappy heels – heels that, the Doctor had to admit, made his legs look fantastic.
"What do you think? This must belong to one of your companions, unless you had a secret girly phase I don't know about."
The Doctor choked a bit, flushing pink to the tips of his ears.
"No, I really don't think that's appropriate. At all. And it belongs to Amy Pond, so you'll need to give it back."
"I don't think so," the Master replied, testing the heels with a little slide across the room. "It's so breezy and comfortable! Your latest companion must have excellent taste."
Jack chose this precise moment to walk in on them.
"Doctor, I thought you might need backup and- whoa! Hello there." He skidded to a stop, not at all sure of what he was seeing. "My, that's… quite an outfit you have there."
"Why, if it isn't handsome Jack," the Master said with delight, his face lighting up like he'd just heard Christmas was coming early. "You're just in time. The Doctor and I are having a little fashion show. He seems opposed to this one – I can't imagine why. What do you think?"
"Honestly?" Jack tilted his head, hands on hips, desperately reminding himself that the Master was a psychotic killer. For once, his logic was in complete disagreement with his loins. "It's kind of… short. Don't you think you might want some pants with that? Leggings? A skirt?"
"Jack, please don't encourage him," the Doctor said, almost pleading. "This is absurd. Pond would surely object."
"So, what I'm getting from you both is a… no," the Master said. "I suppose you're right – red really isn't my color." He faced away from the pair and bent down to unstrap the heels, and Jack was seized with a sudden choking fit. The Doctor gaped, fish-like, and hoped fervently that Amy would forget about this sweater entirely and never wear it again.
"I need to go check on the, ah… the thrusters," Jack said, backing slowly out of the room. "And my e-mail. And possibly tidy up that guest room you put me in, Doctor. Might be a while. Don't wait up."
Thankfully, the Doctor had quite a reprieve to recover his senses. The Master had delved into the very deepest layers of the closet, and it took him a while to come up with something else to wear.
He next emerged in his most normal selection – a rather snappy cream suit and boater, the jacket accented handsomely in red. "Now, I did rather like this one," he said, taking a turn in front of the mirror. "Very 70's, and yet still very classic. I could do without the question-mark shirt collar, but I suppose you can't have everything."
The Doctor couldn't suppress a slight grin, relieved that he wasn't wearing a skirt. "Very popular with the ladies, that one," he said, standing up and circling the Master, admiring his own former clothing choices. "I cut a dashing figure back then, didn't I?"
"You were fairly popular with the lads as well, if I recall," the Master said, his thin smile taking on a faintly sinister edge. "Who was that one charming boy you traveled with? It started with an A. Alan, or Alex…"
The Doctor stiffened, the smile dropping abruptly from his face.
"Ah, Adric! That's the one." The Master turned to face him, sly as a fox. "Whatever happened to him? You seemed so very fond of him."
"He died," the Doctor said shortly. "Cybermen. I'd rather not talk about it."
"Oh, how tragic," the Master said with an eerie pantomime of pity. "Couldn't save him, could you? Or perhaps you might have – did you have a little lover's spat? Let him wander off into danger? It wouldn't be the first time."
"He died saving the entire human race," the Doctor snapped. "All of human history would've been blinked out in an instant if it wasn't for him."
The Master laughed. "My, you must have been quite enamored of him. Oh, well – bad luck, I suppose. That seems to be a problem your companions have. Wiped memories, alternate realities, and some… well, some just get fed up and leave, don't they? Like that awful Martha Jones-"
The Doctor, rarely prone to violence, dragged the Master forward by his shirt collar, getting right up in his face. "You aren't even worthy to speak their names," he spat. "They were brilliant, all of them – they still are. And here you are, taking cheap shots at people you hardly know."
The Master was taken aback, and in the moment it took him to come up with a retort, the Doctor tossed him away in disgust.
"You're a pathetic excuse for a Time Lord," he said dismissively, turning to leave. "Go on, wear that if you'd like – I'm not playing your games anymore. I've got to go keep an eye on the TARDIS controls. And, incidentally," he turned briefly, his face a placid mask once more, "I'll know the moment you leave this room, so don't try anything funny."
Before the Master could come up with a response, the Doctor had gone.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
<b>IN WHICH THERE IS A CONFRONTATION, AND JACK RETHINKS HIS POSITION</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THERE IS A CONFRONTATION, AND JACK RETHINKS HIS POSITION</b>
The Master was uncharacteristically subdued after the Doctor's outburst. He spent a little while combing through the wardrobe, looking for something a little closer to his style, but not quite as ordinary-human-being as he'd been during his past few dalliances with humankind. There seemed to be no end to the Doctor's collection of silly jackets and coats and hats and shoes, but he eventually managed to dig out a pair of perfectly normal charcoal slacks, a silvery vest, and an unadorned black button-down. He kept the cream-colored jacket, for he'd been telling the truth – he had found the Doctor's fifth incarnation to be a dashing fellow, and the jacket deserved to see daylight again. Every piece hung from his thin frame, right down to the slacks that'd needed to be cuffed to keep them from pooling at his ankles. He wondered how long it'd take him to put the flesh back on his bones – wondered if he ever would. The drums kept him constantly on edge, whatever his outward appearance might say, and he found it hard to sleep at night.
He was certain that the Doctor would come for him again shortly, unable to leave him be for more than a few moments without locking him up. The collar chafed his neck, rubbing him raw around its margins, and the end of the lead dangled inconveniently to his navel. He could loop the end through the D-ring on the front of the collar, keeping it somewhat out of the way, but it was still a hindrance and long enough to allow the Doctor to catch him easily. The device itself was too complex for him to disable without considerable time and effort and the use of several mirrors.
"Doctor, I'm ready for my afternoon constitutional now," he shouted, pacing the center of the room. "Ready for walkies." He circled, facing this way and that like a dog searching for a scent, then slammed his palm against the wall. "Let me out of here!"
He couldn't know that his captor was too far above to hear him. Instead, he assumed he was being ignored and raged at his own impotence, unable to cross the threshold of the open door without the Doctor's permission.
Jack finally pried the entire story out of the Doctor, though not without great resistance. He had, of course, been absent at the time of the Master's last resurrection, and the Doctor spared him some of the more gruesome details. It wasn't worth the psychological trauma to remind him that, for a brief while, everyone on Earth had been the Master. Jack still had vague memories of the nightmares that had preceded the event, but nothing more than that.
"I think you should bring him to the Storytellers," he said when at last the strange tale was ended. He'd taken a seat on a set of stairs leading up and out of the control room, cagey and watchful for the Master. "That sounds very similar to your escape from the year that never was – minus the adoring crowds, of course."
"I've thought the same thing, myself," the Doctor mused. "It's strange – he shouldn't have had the knowledge to utilize such technology. Still, it wouldn't be the first time he's worked something out through sheer willpower."
"A Gallifreyan prison at the end of the world might be sufficient motivation," Jack said with a humorless laugh. "Funny, though. Of all the places he could have picked to escape to, he chose your TARDIS. He must've known you'd lock him up, or worse."
The Doctor turned away under the pretense of adjusting the controls, hiding a twinge of a smile. "Oh, I'm sure he knew exactly what I would do when I found him. A mind like that, even broken and twisted – it was calculated, and that's what worries me. Still-" He turned back to Jack with a madcap grin. "Thanks to you, I've got him under lock and key."
"Yeah, great. Very reassuring."
Already on high alert, Jack was the first to hear the thumping from below. He turned sharply towards one of the staircases and rose to his feet, glancing back at the Doctor for reassurance. The Doctor took a quick look at the collar's monitor, and relaxed immediately.
"He hasn't moved," he said, raising his brows in pleasant surprise. "He's still in the wardrobe room. I left the door wide open. Curious – I wonder what's keeping him there?" He looked back up at Jack, and his companion felt a slight chill at the coldness he saw there. "Shall we see how long it takes him to join us?"
Jack started, frowning. "What? Forgive me, but that sounds like a terrible idea."
"No, I'd like to see what he'll do," the Doctor said. "This temper tantrum can't last forever. Obviously, he wants me to come and fetch him – I'm surprised he didn't leave and force me to follow him."
Jack was less than convinced. If the Doctor was unpredictable, the Master was twice that and infinitely more dangerous. He was already wary of the Doctor's judgment when it came to his nemesis – was the Master not the very last of his kind, and did the Doctor not move planets to save lives like his?
"You have no idea what he could be building down there," Jack protested. "I mean, the TARDIS sound system – he hacked into it through his bedroom wall. He built a laser screwdriver in 2007. Aren't you at least a little worried?"
The Doctor shook his head and circled the TARDIS's central console with long, erratic strides, flipping switches and adjusting sliders. The central column began to hum and move, pulling slowly out of idle mode as the Doctor directed his craft towards some as-yet unknown time and place. "Ah, Jack – I know the Master better than you ever will. Yes, he could build something awful out of the TARDIS's insides, but he won't. Or, if he does, he won't use it on me. He knows he needs me for the drumming-" He circled back around and tapped four times on Jack's head. "But he won't admit it. So he has to keep me happy, more or less."
"So, where are we off to, then?" Jack asked, knowing he'd lost. "You going to take him to the Storytellers like I said you should?"
"Reluctantly, yes." The Doctor drummed his fingers on the edge of the console, pensive. "I'm not sure that they'll have what I need, but you're right – it's as good a place to start as anywhere."
"See," Jack said, forcing a grin. "Sometimes I have good ideas."
The Master felt the subtle shift in gravity that accompanied the TARDIS's flight and stopped in the center of the room, closing his eyes to listen. There it was – the low, quiet whine of engines somewhere deep within the ship's heart. He'd flown enough TARDIS models himself to be able to read the sounds they made, guessing the approximate location and time period based on were they'd been last. The Doctor's TARDIS was especially easy to read, for her engines burned hotter and louder than the newer, more streamlined models. They didn't seem to be moving much in time, but they were flying very far from Earth – far enough to take them to one of the outland galaxies at the very edge of the habitable universe.
At last, overcome with curiosity and hate, he walked out the open door and towards the central room. He wasn't sure what he'd expected – a lockdown, perhaps, or some sort of automated security. What he got was somewhat galling. As he left what he'd thought was his prison, nothing happened. The Doctor apparently had not thought him enough of a threat to program security protocols for him. The Master bared his teeth in a silent snarl of outrage, hearing the Doctor's last words to him – pathetic excuse for a Time Lord.
He bellowed the Doctor's name and leaped up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Madness had robbed him of his ability to remain cold and calculating when so angered, and while he should have thought to craft some clever retaliation, all he could think to do was to fix his fingers around the Doctor's throat.
The Doctor was expecting him. As he lunged up the stairs, slavering like an animal, the Doctor caught him by the collar and held him at arm's length, smiling faintly.
"Excellent choice – I did rather like that vest," he said, the very picture of calm. "But what have we said about boundaries?"
Jack watched the exchange, pinned to the spot by shock. He'd known something was different about this Doctor, but this little display was too much for him. The Doctor he knew wasn't capable of such coldness, such empty force.
"You left me – ignored me – left me there alone! How long would you have left me there, Doctor?" the Master spat, still reaching for him. "Not a single drone to watch my escape, either. Not a single locked door. Am I not enough of a threat to you, now you have my measure? I could have killed you so many times-"
"But you haven't, and you won't," the Doctor replied, all seriousness now. "You listen to me now- no, listen," he snapped, shaking the collar violently as the Master went for him again. "You listen to me this time. Now, I can help you, or I can send you back to where you came from – never forget that." He loosened his grip slightly as if to reward the Master for backing down, though he still held him well away. "You asked me once what it felt like to watch Gallifrey burn. Do not forget that I brought an end to the Time War while you ran from it."
The Master gave a strangled hiss from between clenched teeth but, like a beaten dog, he looked away and gave in to his captor. His wrath was like a storm pent up in him, raging behind his pale eyes, but locked away for the time being. He wounded pride festered and bit at him, but – shameful though it was – he could not best the Doctor with brute force.
"Much better," the Doctor said quietly, and released his charge.
The Master struggled with himself a moment longer, then went still. His face snapped up, placid save for the rage behind his eyes, and smiled. "Why, Doctor – I didn't know you had it in you." He turned to face Jack, and the man couldn't suppress a shudder at the feral madness staring up at him. "Handsome Jack, I can see why you've come along. This one seems quite a handful."
This was the only weapon he had left – language. Though he knew he'd been beaten, and he knew that they knew he'd been beaten, he felt like he could maintain a little control by talking away the shame. It unnerved Jack at least, and that alone quelled a little of his bloodlust.
"Well, you know – can't take care of himself, can he?" Jack said with an abrupt, hoarse laugh. "Someone's got to keep you aliens in line."
The Master looked him over, smirking, and Jack had the extremely uncomfortable impression that he was being sized up like a sheep for the slaughter.
"Who better than a man who can't die? That's still true, isn't it? Oh, I had such fun with you during our delightful holiday-that-never-was. Do you remember?"
"That's enough," the Doctor said. The Master kept his eyes locked to Jack's a moment longer, then turned back to the Doctor with an empty smile. Jack let out a shuddering breath and ran a nervous hand through his hair.
"Where are you taking me, Doctor?" the Master asked, slinking closer. "What infinite delights await us?"
"Sit still a moment, and I'll show you," the Doctor replied, turning back to the TARDIS's controls. "If you're going to be allowed out and about, you'll need to start behaving like a proper passenger."
"Mmm." The Master did as bidden and took a spot against the railing, watching the Doctor as a serpent might watch a rat. "A passenger, you say." His voice dropped to a throaty growl, and he was rewarded with an ever-so-slight stiffening of the Doctor's spine. "Perhaps a… companion? How quaint."
The Doctor busied himself with the console, drowning out the quickening beat of his hearts with movement. There it was again – that tone that could unhinge him. It didn't matter that the Master was only talking to cover his disgust at being beaten. Indeed, that he knew precisely what to say to gain back a sliver of an edge frightened the Doctor deep down and reminded him of how cautious he had to be.
"Well, I don't know about you," the Master said, his tone casual again as he addressed Jack, "But I am so looking forward to this little jaunt. I do hope they have funny hats or some other such idiotic little thing we can purchase for a souvenir. Take some photos back to mum and dad. Buy fancy drinks with umbrellas. Oh, what fun we shall have – right, gang?"
This time, Jack didn't rise to the bait and answer. He joined the Doctor at the TARDIS's controls, feeling a bit more at ease on his feet and with his hands busy.
He was beginning to wish the Doctor had left him in Queens.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9.5
<b>IN WHICH THE AUTHOR GOT TIRED OF THIS SEXUAL TENSION BULLSHIT</b><br /><br />Yeah. I'm almost sorry for this one. Almost. Gratuitous porn warning!
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE AUTHOR GOT TIRED OF THIS SEXUAL TENSION BULLSHIT</b><br /><br />Yeah. I'm almost sorry for this one. Almost. Gratuitous porn warning!
The tension between them came to a head later that evening. The Doctor had locked the Master in for the night and retired to his room for the evening, worn out by the events of the past few days and in dire need of sleep. Even Time Lords needed time to recharge.
He’d locked his door, twice. Though he had both the collar monitor and the lead’s remote control close at hand, he didn’t trust the Master not to cause trouble, especially with how well-behaved he’d been recently. Still, he trusted his door locks, and felt safe enough to undress and relax a little. First the shoes, tossed haphazardly to one side; next the jacket, hung over one endpost of his bed; then the bowtie and shirt, tossed atop his shoes. His room was warm and inviting, the walls a gentle, coppery paisley pattern lit with the same orange glow that filled the main control room. It was a comfortable temperature for bare skin, and soon enough the Doctor was bare to his boxers, standing thoughtfully in the middle of the room. He took a moment to admire his spare surroundings: a simple double bed, four-poster and covered in warm blue quilts; a rich mahogany bedside table stacked with books he hadn’t finished; a bureau that stood mostly empty. The place was too new to have much else for decoration, but he didn’t mind. It was soothing to have a space so empty to rest in at the end of the day.
He stretched out on the bed and plucked a book off the top of the stack on his bedside table. American Gods – a fascinating read, though he found he couldn’t much focus on it this evening. Restless, he flipped through a chapter, tapping his right foot against his ankle. Comfortable though his nest of blankets was, he couldn’t seem to lay still. His mind still buzzed by at a million miles an hour, and tired though he was, he couldn’t seem to calm it.
Keyed up though he was, he didn’t notice the locator on the table going off until it was much too late. He jumped up when his door banged open, but the Master was on him before he could get to his feet. The Doctor noticed two things right away – first, the Master had somehow fashioned a sonic screwdriver for himself. Second, the briefs he wore in addition to his nightshirt seemed barely adequate.
“I’m going to start tying you up at night,” the Doctor said, and thrust his shoulders hard against the Master’s restraining hands. “Didn’t we have a little chat about personal space?”
“Yes, and boundaries,” the Master grinned, throwing his weight into holding the Doctor down. “I’ve just decided to ignore that part. You didn’t mean it, anyway.”
The Doctor relaxed a moment, assessing his position, focusing on each little shift in the Master’s posture. “How did you manage a screwdriver in so little time?”
“This thing?” He shrugged and tossed it to the floor. “Child’s play. You’re lucky I didn’t have enough time for lasers.”
As the Master set his hand against his shoulder again, the Doctor made his move. He jerked the opposite side of his body up against the Master and managed to wrench his hand free. The Master snatched at his wrist, but the Doctor had already snagged the dangling end of the lead.
“You slippery little bastard,” the Master laughed, rearing back against the pull of the lead. “That’s not fair at all!”
The Doctor wrapped his hand in the lead a few times to strengthen his grip and lunged upright, wrapping his free hand around the Master’s waist. “Neither is ambush,” he retorted, a wild grin springing, unbidden and unexpected, to his lips. “You’ve thrown your screwdriver away – I’m guessing this is supposed to be some kind of social call.”
The Master tangled his hands in the Doctor’s hair and pulled him closer, tearing a kiss from him. At first, the Doctor resisted, straining against the Master’s grip, but he was suddenly aware of his own heartbeats and forgot himself for a moment – the few seconds necessary to lose himself completely. He jerked savagely on the lead and captured the Master’s mouth with his own, snagging his lip in his teeth, thrusting his tongue inside, savaging him until neither of them could breathe. They broke apart, gasped in a few lungfulls of air, then came together again in desperation, each seeking the upper hand.
The Doctor won, and surprised himself with it. Lightheaded though he was with the taste of the Master, he still caught a slight shift in balance and used it. He thrust his knee between the Master’s thighs and was rewarded with a gasp and a moment of distraction; he had his adversary on his back in an instant. Now, knees locked against the Master’s sides, one hand fixed firmly on the lead, he had him under his complete control. It was quite a rush.
“Gotcha,” he said, breathless and elated. “This isn’t going quite according to your plan, is it?”
The Master was silent a moment, panting and glaring up at his captor, fingers locked tight against his thighs. He opened his mouth to snap a reply, but the Doctor was waiting for this and rolled his hips firmly against his captive’s; the Master’s retort turned to a strangled moan and he arched, digging his nails into the Doctor’s skin.
“No. No, this time I have the upper hand,” the Doctor said, tugging hard on the leash and bringing his face down close to the Master’s. “And I’m going to enjoy it, too.” He rose up on his knees and shifted back, still pulling on the leash, forcing the Master to sit up on his knees as well. The Master clawed at his wrists, attempting to pull the leash free, but the Doctor gripped his hair and yanked his head backwards in return. The Master hissed and loosed his grip, clenching and unclenching his fists in helpless fury.
“You brought this on yourself,” the Doctor murmured, pressing his lips to the straining column of the Master’s throat. “You can’t just barge into someone’s bedroom and expect things to go well for you. Now… behave yourself, and I promise you won’t regret it.”
He released the Master’s hair and drew him closer by the lead until at last his adversary’s cheek lay against his chest. The Master still trembled with pent-up outrage, but there was a small, secret part of him that loved this, wanted every moment of this.
“Much better,” the Doctor murmured, his voice soothing. Carefully, being certain not to let the Master loose, he relieved him of his nightshirt. His free hand slipped between them, caressing the Master’s thin body as he re-familiarized himself with every part of him. The Master’s hearts thrummed as fast as a frightened animal’s, and though he tried to trap his voice between his teeth, he couldn’t entirely stop his small noises of pleasure and want. When the Doctor’s searching fingers finally found his erection, trapped and straining against his briefs, he let out a startled yelp and thrust his hips against the Doctor’s palm. The Doctor laughed and pulled his hand away.
“Don’t worry, I’ll give you what you want. But first, I think you owe me something for barging in here.” He swung his legs off the bed and stood, bringing the Master with him, walking him backwards until they were both standing at the center of the room. The Master clutched at his sides and bucked his hips against the Doctor’s, groaning deep in his throat at the delightful friction, but the Doctor put a swift stop to that. He thrust down against the Master’s shoulders, forcing him to his knees.
Once there, desire mingling with humiliation in a heady cocktail of pleasure, he needed no further instruction. He thrust his face against the Doctor’s cloth-clad erection, rubbing his cheek against him like a kitten, tugging at the waistband of his boxers as if asking permission to continue. For a moment, the Doctor couldn’t think of what he ought to do next, and his breath came in swift gasps. Then he remembered that he was standing over his greatest adversary, and he took a firm hold of the Master’s hair.
“I knew this was what you wanted all along,” he crooned, rolling his hips against the Master’s face. “Go on – go to it.”
The Master needed no second bidding. He yanked the Doctor’s boxers down and nearly purred with delight at the feast presented to him. He took the base of the Doctor’s substantial cock in one hand and slowly, very slowly drew his tongue up the underside of it, savoring every inch of him. The Doctor gave a shuddering moan and struggled to keep his hips still, jerked the leash slightly.
“Don’t play around,” he groaned, watching the spectacle before him with eyes full of need. “Come on – I know you’re hungry.”
The Master chuckled, a low and throaty sound, and kissed the tip of the Doctor’s erection. “So impatient. But you’re right – I’m starving.” With that he wrapped his lips around the Doctor’s cock and drew him in, eyes closed in bliss. The taste of him never changed – sweet and salty at once, musky and intoxicating, touched with the complexity of his long, long life. It was like honey and wine to him.
His Doctor’s preferences never changed, either. The Master knew just what buttons to press, where to thrust his tongue against his cock, when to tease him. The Doctor was undeniably in control of the situation, but it was the work of moments for the Master to unhinge him. His own erection pulsed almost painfully against his stomach, but he ignored it for the moment, more desperate to hear and feel the Doctor come than to relieve his own need.
The pleasure was so intense, so overwhelming, the Doctor thought he might go blind with the force of it. It’d been too long since they’d come together willingly, but now that he had him back, had the glorious heat of his mouth on him again, he never wanted to let him go. Time Lords had great stamina, but he didn’t want the long, drawn-out, teasing road to climax – he wanted it now, wanted the overpowering rush, wanted to feed the Master what it was he so desired. He let the pressure build, held back as long as he was able, then tightened his hold in the Master’s hair and began to thrust, filling his mouth and throat mercilessly. The Master choked around him at first, but soon grew used to the pace and swallowed him down with abandon, moaning and purring against the flesh that filled him. He gripped the Doctor’s ankles, bracing himself, spurring him on-
Jack woke up with a bellowing gasp, soaked in sweat, his cock pressing painfully against the pajama pants he’d borrowed from the Doctor. For a moment he didn’t realize were he was, and when he did he fell back with a frustrated groan, clutching at his forehead. What in the seven hells was that? How could he be having wet dreams about the Master? The Doctor, he could understand – he’d wanted to tap that for a very long time.
Disgusted though he was with himself, it was impossible to ignore his raging, persistent hard-on. He gripped his cock and failed miserably to think of something besides his extremely vivid dream, and bit his lip as he came, hard.
He would have some difficulty looking the Doctor in the eye in the morning.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
<b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR HEARS A STORY</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE DOCTOR HEARS A STORY</b>
"Why are we standing around here, again?"
Rom and Kyu waited on a rocky promontory several miles from the Fox's den, both leaning against the bole of a tall, broad-leafed tree. Kyu had instructed Rom to dress well that morning, but had been tight-lipped as to the reason. These past few days he'd been nearly buzzing with energy, tidying his home and charting elaborate diagrams on bits of parchment. The man had his suspicions, but Kyu frequently had these fits of activity for no discernable reason. This vigil was certainly odd, but Rom had learned to expect the unexpected.
"We'll see it before sundown," Kyu said, repeating the same reassurances he'd offered all day. "I know it's to happen today, but time can be a tricky thing. Always shifting. Don't worry – I promise you won't miss it."
Rom nudged a shoulder against Kyu's and laughed. "Bastard, keeping your secrets. It's getting cold out here!"
"Be patient," Kyu chuckled. "I promise, I'll warm you right up when we return to the den. Might have a good story this evening, as well."
And so they waited, an hour more, then two, and their small, white sun began to sink low against the horizon. Still Kyu watched, taut as a pulled bowstring, scanning the vast plains for any sign of movement. All was still, save a passing herd of shaggy silver-white ungulates.
When he at last heard what he'd been waiting for, the sound shot through him and lit every nerve on fire. He let out a wild whoop of glee and turned to Rom, grinning wide. "I told you! Sun's not down and here they are – nearly late, but not quite. Come, I want him to know we've been waiting!"
Rom knew better than to ask. He pelted after his Fox, chasing the bizarre, metallic whine carried to them on the wind.
Gintsuru was not an easy planet to get a lock on. It was uncharted for the most part, and the TARDIS always had quite a fight tearing through the temporal energy that surrounded the place. He was always especially careful not to cross his own timeline – the TARDIS wanted a reference point and struggled mightily for a familiar point in time.
"So, yes – Storytellers! Bet you've never been to visit them, have you, Master?" The Doctor circled the console with long, uneven strides, attempting to keep a hand on every single instrument at once. Jack manned one end, flipping switches and turning dials as ordered, but was in constant danger of being knocked flat by the Doctor's legs. It didn't help that the TARDIS itself was shaking, lurching from side to side as she rode the temporal turbulence that surrounded their destination. For his part, the Master clung to a railing and made disparaging remarks about the Doctor's abilities as a pilot.
"No, I never have," he sneered. "Why bother? From what I heard, all they ever do is sit around and tell stories. Frightfully boring, isn't it?"
The Doctor laughed. "How do you think I got the better of you, that year that never was? Stories! Words! Language! There's not a thing in the world that's stronger than that. You, with your brute force and, what was it, lasers – completely blindsided."
"Fool me once, Doctor," the Master said with a scowl. "Next time I'm just going to murder your companions and save myself the trouble."
The Doctor shook his head and, as the TARDIS made a particularly ferocious lurch in the Master's direction, leaned in close, bracing himself on the railing. "Ah, but that's what you always say. Not very good at the follow-through, are we!" He swung back up to the console and thunked a fist down on a large, particularly shiny silver button. "There we go – hold onto something now, everyone-"
The TARDIS groaned and lurched again, and at last worked out a viable landing sequence. Jack struggled with his wide panel of controls, completely out of his depth with the bucking, shaking time machine. Advanced spacecraft – no problem. An ancient, wonky TARDIS piloted by fewer than half of the recommended crew – definitely a problem.
"Doctor, we're coming in a little fast," he shouted over the whine of the emergency breaks and rumble of straining mechanics as the TARDIS punched through the wall of the vortex. "Shouldn't we slow her up a bit?"
"No!" the Doctor crowed. "This is the best part. Well – not as good as when they say, 'It's bigger on the inside' – but nearly. Here we are- nearly there now-"
The TARDIS materialized in one piece, not smoking or sparking, landing with hardly enough impact to flatten the white grasses around it. A quick glance and his instruments told the Doctor that they'd landed precisely where and when he'd wanted to, and he grinned at his two passengers in triumph.
"I hate to say I told you so, but – I told you so," he said as he circled past Jack. "Now, it's probably a bit nippy out there, so I'd suggest coats and hats. Perhaps just coats. Not just hats, though, that'd be silly. I'm going to need the end of that lead, Master."
The Master grudgingly passed him the looped end of the lead. There was no point in resisting – he'd be in a better position to gather information outside of the TARDIS. Anyway, he was going stir-crazy and didn't think he could handle indefinite hours locked away in the spare room.
"Know that I'm going under protest," he said, straightening his coat lapels. "I think you're a daft idiot, and that this is going to be a pointless exercise."
The Doctor wound the lead end around his hand twice, giving him a strong grip while still allowing the Master a good five feet of leeway. He had an awkward moment in which he wasn't sure what to do with his leashed Time Lord, all too conscious of the connotations of their arrangement, but called up his recent victory over the Master's ego and steeled himself for what was to come.
Their small entourage was already waiting for them. Kyu's face lit up like the sun and he took a deep bow, the long sleeves of his coat brushing the ground. A bemused Rom did the same after starting a moment at the man on the leash.
"Doctor! I've been anticipating this visit," Kyu said. "And a new face, as well – though I see you've brought the Falcon with you." He smiled, sly and knowing. "Mmm, a Falcon dressed in Crane's clothing. That coat suited you much better, Doctor."
The Doctor was used to Kyu's mannerisms, but the Master was not. "I really hate creatures that speak in riddles," he said with an elaborate eye-roll. "Especially transparent ones." He glanced at the Doctor and added, "You said they'd be clever."
"Well. I'm sure he doesn't want to show his hand right away," the Doctor shrugged. "In any case – it's good to see you again as well, Kyuubi. Been getting on alright?"
Kyu might've had something clever to say in response, something worldly and revealing, but he lost his moment as soon as Jack Harkness stepped forth from the TARDIS. Rom's attention had been drifting a bit, but the moment he laid eyes on the Captain he launched straight for him like an over-enthusiastic puppy.
"The Face of Boe!" he exclaimed, reaching out to shake a bemused Jack's hand. "Jesus, it really is you. Who'd have thought? You're the whole reason I joined the Time Agency – that I ended up here!"
Kyu was startled to silence for all of two seconds, then laughed, dropping all pretense of formality. "Sorry, he's not normally like this," he grinned. "Rom – down, boy! Give the man some air!"
Jack chuckled and shook Rom's proffered hand, clearly pleased to have been recognized. "Nah, nah, it's alright. Always happy to have a fan. What's your name, kid?"
Rom suddenly realized what a starstruck fool he must look and cleared his throat, grasping for any remaining shreds of dignity he might have. "Romeny Cooper. Joined up with the Agency after you came to speak to my class back home. Best decision I ever made."
"The Agency's defunct now, isn't it?" Jack asked. "Ran into an old friend of mine, told me the whole thing had been disbanded. I went MIA a while ago."
Rom nodded. "Yeah. When it went belly-up, I decided to shack up with this guy." He quirked a thumb in Kyu's direction. "Second-best decision I ever made."
"Well, I'm glad to see our childhood ambitions fulfilled at last," the Master interrupted, "But has anyone else noticed that it's cold out?"
"He's right," Kyu nodded. "Better finish up introductions indoors. Come on – the den's not far from here. None of my people should notice your TARDIS - none of them bother to venture this far out from the capitol."
Kyu's den was gloriously warm after the chill wind of the open plain. The vast complex stretched out over more than a football field's worth of land, divided into small, individual warrens. The sitting room was the largest space in the den, big enough to accommodate a dozen deep, comfortable sitting mats and a scattering of chairs. A large, round firepit sat at the center of the room, keeping the place cozy against the deepest chills; a network of air vents and intakes kept the room smoke-free. Though the place was clearly hewn from the living earth, the room had a refined charm to it, with walls and floors covered over in soft, silver-blue wood and glass tiles. Small orange globes ran up the walls to provide illumination, a new feature since the Doctor's last visit and, no doubt, a reference to the TARDIS's interior.
"So, you've come to ask me for help," Kyu said once they'd all settled comfortably beside the fire. "No, don't deny it – it's written. You've come to ask me for help with your newest… companion."
"His captive," the Master interjected, and gestured at his leash in disgust. He and the Doctor sat as far apart as they could manage with the lead snaked between them obscenely.
"His companion," Kyu replied, his expression serene. "You came to him to stop the war-drums."
"Still not impressed," the Master said, disdainful. "Come now, Storyteller – tell me something I don't know."
"The Doctor gets the first tale." Kyu flashed him a wink and rose, reaching for his hand. "Been a while since I've gotten to be in a locked room alone with him. And this face! You get younger and younger every time."
"I can't let go of the lead," the Doctor protested, flustered by Kyu's advances. "It's Atraxi-"
"I know what it is," Kyu said. "Atraxian lead. Can't let go or he'll teleport immediately to whatever thing you've programmed as his cell. Doesn't have to be you holding the lead, though, Doctor – you've got this big, strapping ex-Time Agent with you. Surely he can handle this skinny bastard."
"I've always wanted a fox-pelt coat," the Master sneered. "Come – why don't you try your chances?"
"Patience, you wild beast," Kyu laughed. "Go on – give him over to the Captain. If he acts up, Rom will sit on him."
Rom nodded with great enthusiasm. The Master gave him a sidelong glance, appraising. "My, my. Perhaps I'll have to try and make a dash for it."
Reluctant though he was, the Doctor couldn't ignore Kyu's request. Storytellers had their rituals, and if he wanted to get anything out of this little jaunt, he'd need to play by Kyu's rules. He gave a stern warning to the Master and Jack both, reprogrammed the lead to accept Jack's biological signature, and gingerly handed the end of it over. The Master sat quietly, though the Doctor could nearly feel the resentment brewing in him.
"Come along, Doctor. This won't take a moment," Kyu said, grasping the sleeve of his coat and guiding him down one of the many corridors that radiated off of the central room. Just down the passage lay a small, sparse room, furnished with a pair of floor cushions and nothing more. A tangle of tree roots covered the raw ceiling, and the walls were bare earth, unfinished and still living. The small space was dark and womb-like, and as soon as Kyu closed the door on him, the Doctor felt the Storytellers' magic at work.
Kyu sat across from him, his features lit only by the faint bioluminescent glow of a small fungus covering the tree roots above. In the dim light he seemed more of an animal, his eyes alight, his features sharp and vulpine. "I am going to tell you a story now," he said, his voice low and even. "Let it work upon you – this is the first step in finding what it is that you seek."
And with that the tale began, and the Doctor lost his hold on everything but the words spinning out before him.
Once upon a time, when the world was new and the Eye still burned bright in the hearts of all of your kind, there lived a beast we call Falcon. He desired to obtain mastery over all things, believing that with his wit and clever strength, he deserved the world entire. Falcon, fierce, bright, merciless, raked the sky with his sharp, sharp talons and tore the fabric of the world with his cruel, cruel beak, and loosed upon it horrors beyond reckoning.
Once upon a time, when the world was new and the Eye still burned bright in the hearts of all of your kind, there lived a beast we call Crane. He desired to heal the hurts left by creatures such as Falcon, and in his deep and unrelenting mercy found himself an enemy of his kind. Cast out, hunted by his people, Crane held dear to the one creature that still tied him to his lost homeland – and this creature was Falcon.
Strange a pair though they were, Falcon and Crane could not help but be bound to one another. Each time Falcon visited his wrath upon a world, it was merely a summoning call for Crane. Each time Crane soothed the hurts of a world, it was an invitation for Falcon to oppose him. They fought across ages, each seeking to gain the upper hand, each needing every moment of their conflict – a perfect balance between destruction and rebirth.
It came to pass that the Eye was lost, and your kind passed from this world. Falcon and Crane remained at the very last, bound up by hate and love and an eternity of conflict. Crane thought Falcon lost in the purge, but knew deep down in his heart that his hated enemy, his beloved brother remained somewhere in the world, waiting for him.
When Falcon returned to himself, brought to life by the simple suggestion of a human being, he was filled with wrath and hate. He dug his talons into the End of All Things and rained destruction down upon the earth, and all the while cried out for Crane. When the pair came together once more, the whole universe sang with it, rejoicing in the reunion of two ancient foes.
They fought once more across the ages, and the depth of this conflict is too great to tell of here. Suffice to say, Crane took the day once more, as he always must – but this time, Falcon paid a terrible price. To mend the hurts he'd caused, to save the Crane's life, he walked into hell.
How long he spent there, no man may know, for what is time in a place of timeless suffering? The inferno broke him, took him apart and pieced him together again and again, seared his flesh and mind, robbed him of every scrap of sanity he had. Here would this tale end for a lesser beast, but the Falcon did not have it in him to die. In his terrible and beautiful agony he cried out across time infinite, clutching and clawing at the one thing he still held in his shattered mind.
My people tell of a magic locked deep within the heart, the power to rip the fabric of time and space and span galaxies with a thought. This is a dangerous magic, made possible only when the mind is able to focus on a single thought sharp as the point of a needle.
For one splendid moment, Falcon thought of nothing but Crane – of the enmity they shared, of the eternal bond they shared, of a deep, overpowering, unrelenting love. The skies parted for him and he was lifted from his purgatory, brought back into life once more by Crane's infinite mercy.
Here, the tale grows muddled. Though cast from hell, Falcon was wounded in heart and mind, a lost child wandering the labyrinth of his own tortured psyche. Crane himself had little left to offer him, emptied out by the savage inevitability of loss. One thing is for certain – just as the world wept with joy when Falcon and Crane came together once more, she will weep again if they are torn asunder.
When the Doctor finally returned to himself, he was startled to find that he'd been crying.
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
<b>IN WHICH THE MASTER SUFFERS A NIGHTMARE</b><br /><br />This chapter is NSFW and contains graphic m/m sex.
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE MASTER SUFFERS A NIGHTMARE</b><br /><br />This chapter is NSFW and contains graphic m/m sex.
They were to sleep in the den that evening, as was customary among Storytellers. Kyu had shared his knowledge, and his guests were in turn expected to stay and infuse his home with the energies of their own personal plotlines. It was a way to enrich a Storyteller's dwelling, to recharge the strange magics they relied so heavily on. Where the Time Lords they resembled were reliant on time itself, omnipresent, Storytellers were bound up in the lives of other creatures.
The evening had gone startlingly well, all things considered. Jack and Rom hit it off like old friends, with Rom hanging on his hero's every word and Jack soaking in the attention like a lizard in the sun. They'd each been expected to share a story, and they had – all save the Master, who remained silent the entire evening. Kyu had taken him away to read the tale of his life and had come back somewhat shaken himself. The Doctor would not share the story he'd been told, of course, and didn't expect the Master to do any differently, but he was desperately curious.
When it came time for sleep at last, the lead made things very awkward. There was nothing else for it – they'd need to share, and the Doctor would have to spend the entire night with a good hold on the Master's leash. He was grateful to all involved for leaving off the smart remarks; Kyu merely showed him to one of the larger sleeping chamber and assured him he'd come get them for breakfast in the morning.
In the way of all fox-dens, even this, the larger of the Fox's bedrooms, was small and close. It was dim, filled with an orange glow from bioluminescent fungi growing in small alcoves in the walls. Two thick bolsters lay side-by-side on a wooden floor, deep enough to negate the need for any sort of bedframe. The paneled walls were covered over by rich tapestries, and the heat of two bodies quickly filled the space, making the piles of down sheets at the foot of each pallet somewhat redundant. A scant few feet separated each pallet, and the walls themselves prevented them from being moved further apart. Even if the beds themselves could've been pushed apart, it would have done them no good – the Doctor needed to keep a hand on the lead at all times.
"Isn't this disgustingly cozy," the Master scoffed, nudging one of the pallets with his foot. "I bet you love this, don't you?"
"We're being polite," the Doctor replied, not meeting the Master's eyes. "Just one night, then we'll pop back to the TARDIS. You've got a bit more freedom there."
"Mm, freedom." The Master fell to sit cross-legged in the center of one of the pallets, forcing the Doctor to stumble forward a few paces with him with a jerk of his neck. "That's not what I'd call it, but suit yourself. Whatever soothes your conscience." He thrust one leg in front of him and began to work on his shoes, savaging the laces.
The Doctor kicked off his own boots and draped his jacket over a hook on the wall, then sat across from the Master, one ankle up over his knee. "I'm trying to help you."
"Yes – this is very helpful." The Master chucked his borrowed coat in a heap by the door and began to work on the buttons of his vest, eyes locked on his own hands. "Quaint little stories, a night spent in a fox-hole with you – just what the Doctor ordered. The drumming's still there, just as loud, but I suppose even this must have a point, eh?"
The Doctor didn't bother with a reply. He stretched out on his back, ankles crossed, arms folded behind his bed, eyes gazing aimlessly at the featureless ceiling. What point was there in explaining? The Master wouldn't accept a word of it. Better to get this evening over with and start fresh in the morning.
"Don't tell me you're sleeping in that awful coarse shirt."
The Master's question startled him out of silence. He glanced over at the other Time Lord and felt his hearts hitch at a teasing sliver of skin exposed beneath parted rows of buttons, the curve of the Master's back as he worked his arms free of his sleeves. Lucky the Master was looking away – lucky the Doctor had a moment to catch himself. He'd spent days following the Master's naked body around, but the act of undressing itself stirred memories he'd rather not have had at this particular moment.
"No, I suppose not," he said, swallowing down the sudden lump in his throat. "Just thought – a bit warmer, you know. Suppose it's warm enough in here as it is." He rolled into a sit and went to work on his shirt, self-conscious and certain the Master was watching.
The Master flung his shirt and vest atop the coat, then rose up to his knees, fiddling with the buttons of his slacks. He seemed entirely unconcerned with the Doctor's state of dress, wholly focused on a hook that seemed to have caught on a stitch. The low, orange light lit every hollow of him in perfect relief, highlighting the corrugation of his ribs, the chasm of his belly. A tracery of old wounds still crossed his skin, and bruises that'd been a livid purple just days ago had faded to a sickly green.
Even so, the Doctor knew if he chanced a look, just a single look, he'd be done.
He shucked off his own slacks and burrowed immediately beneath a pile of sheets, feigning a chill. The lead burned like a live coal in his hand, his eyes darting along its length towards the man kneeling beside him, then back again at his own knuckles before he could linger too long on his enemy's bare skin.
"Don't you let go of that now, Doctor," the Master murmured, rising just long enough to kick his slacks off. "Never know what mischief I'd get up to with a TARDIS all my own." He lay down himself and immediately rolled to face the wall, pulling the sheets up around his chin. Nothing but a shock of white-blonde showed above the blankets.
The Doctor breathed a long, silent sigh and turned the other direction, edging as far away as he could without drawing the lead tight. The room seemed far too close, too hot, and the Master burned like an afterimage in his mind.
Had the Fox spoken true? Had the Master's memories of him been strong enough to rip him through the fabric of space and time itself? Of all the things he could've chosen to save himself, all of the planets, the people, the time periods, even one of his own TARDISs, he'd chosen the Doctor's TARDIS a mere heartbeat away from their last meeting. In terms of the Doctor's own personal timeline, the Immortality Gate might as well have been yesterday.
Stranger still, the Master would not have known how to escape. He might've had the theory, but it would have taken an incredible force of will to actually execute such a maneuver without a Storyteller's help. Time Lords hadn't the biological equipment to make use of thoughts and words in such a way. Indeed, it'd taken billions of voices raised in chorus at once to force a story into working for the Doctor. The Master had done it with one voice, one violent push.
And yet, the Doctor could nearly feel the waves of resentment and hate pouring from him. The Master had saved his own life, but at great cost to his ever-delicate ego. The Doctor hadn't a clue what to do with him once he'd fixed what was wrong with his head, but he imagined it'd be something like releasing an extremely angry, extremely toxic snake.
The orange glow dimmed as the fungi sensed a decreased activity in the room, and soon enough it was black as pitch. The Doctor couldn't sleep, his head too full of worry, but the Master was out in an instant. In the silence, the Doctor could hear each even breath. It surprised him for a moment – he expected some manifestation of the drums, now that the Master's subconscious had taken over.
The Doctor drifted off, eventually. It was a restless sleep, his body still preoccupied with keeping a hold on the end of the lead, so when the Master's first small, quiet whimpers stretched out across the room, he awoke almost at once.
It was dark and cold and empty in his tiny cell. He thought he might go blind simply from staring into the blackness, trying to make sense of the shapes that floated before him. After a time he could no longer tell whether his eyes were open or closed. After a time he memorized the exact dimensions of his prison by feel – step-step-step-step-turn, step-step-step-step-turn, and over and over again, as if They'd built this prison to fit with the pulse in his head.
His other senses became razor-keen to make up for his lack of sight. The beast within him could smell the burning flesh beyond the walls of his prison, could hear the death rattle of a whole world gone to shit. With nothing else to occupy himself, he could not but envision what was happening beyond – the bodies, the bleeding wounds of the world, the very spine of Time Itself cracking under the strain. Why would they keep him here, locked away in isolation? It was torture beyond reckoning, beyond the physical hurts they'd inflicted with such precision upon his arrival. Even the whitewashed agony of the mind probe was nothing compared to the darkness. With the image of Gallifrey burning etched in his mind, he hardly felt the oozing wounds on his back and arms, the sting as broken flesh brushed against the foul, piss-stained walls.
And so, he screamed. He screamed until he could taste blood, until he could no longer tell whether he was still screaming or rasping soundlessly. The noise echoed on and on, joining the thunderous drum-beats, deafening him and overwhelming him.
The Master's near-silent whimpers rose to a howl of abject terror, a mindless noise that drove into the Doctor's brain and forced his limbs to action. He crossed the space between them in one swift, fluid movement, wrapping his body around the Master's, cradling him as he would a terrified child. The Master clutched at his arms, digging nails in hard enough to draw blood, wriggling backwards into the Doctor's embrace as though the only way to escape his demons was to burrow beneath the other man's skin. The nightmare went on for what felt like hours, and each panicked sound from the Master's throat tore straight through the Doctor. The Doctor's brain hadn't caught up to things yet, hadn't quite taken in the fact that he'd so readily leaped to the Master's defense. He felt the press of the Master's thin spine against his chest, yes, but he hadn't processed it. His entire being was focused on stopping whatever it was that had the Master in such a state. Small words poured from him in an endless torrent of whispers, his lips pressed against the shell of the Master's ear so he'd have a chance of hearing them over the sound of his own screaming.
In reality, the Master woke within minutes. His cries cut off abruptly, and his whole body grew stiff and wary in the Doctor's embrace. Even awake, he hadn't quite shaken off the nightmare's grip, but he was very quickly realizing what had happened. At the same time, the Doctor's mind at last caught up to events, and he felt his hearts leap spectacularly into his throat.
"Got a little cold, did we?" the Master said, his voice quiet and still shaken, but still enormously irate. "You really ought to stop breaking your own rules – you know, boundaries, personal space."
The Doctor cleared his throat and attempted to shift away, but found his arms still held tight, fingernails catching him like fishhooks. "You might want to loosen up a bit," he suggested, tentative.
The Master's fingers uncoiled slowly from the Doctor's arm, but did not release him entirely. He felt the blackness encroaching at the edge of his consciousness and knew the moment he slipped back into slumber he'd be back in his cell again, alone and blind. The heat, the solid presence of the Doctor at his back drove the terror away and seemed to clear his mind, reminding him that he'd made it out. He'd escaped.
The Doctor felt every tiny shift in the Master's posture and was shocked to find him relaxing, muscles loosening in miniscule fractions. As he did, his body sunk back against the Doctor's chest, conforming to the shape of him – fitting against him as if he'd been made for this. The Doctor was aware of every bone pressing through pale skin, of the place where the waistband of the Master's stolen boxers brushed beneath his navel, of the slowing rise-and-fall of his chest. Pale hair fluttered against his ear with each of the Doctor's exhalations.
They couldn't stay this way, wrapped in such tentative stillness. The Doctor was on edge, ready for the Master's retaliation, and the Master himself struggled to balance his own ego with his need to escape his own head. Something had to break – someone had to act. In desperation, and because he could no longer stand the tension between them, the Doctor took the initiative. He pulled his arm free and pushed down on the Master's shoulder, rolling him over onto his back, allowing him to get a knee around to his opposite hip. If he didn't move now, if he didn't act on the flood of heat rushing through each nerve, he thought he might die – and so he dropped the length of his body against the Master's and caught his lips in a hungry, demanding kiss.
The Master pushed against him, fighting back with teeth and tongue, gripping the hair at the back of his neck tight with one fist. He was well and truly trapped – each arch of his spine, each thrust of his hips only brought further under the Doctor's control. When had panic and confusion become such sudden, insistent arousal? He thrust against the Doctor, groaned aloud into his mouth at the delirious friction, pulled him down and set his teeth against his shoulder.
The Doctor twisted up and away, holding the Master down with hands braced on his upper arms. His briefs had hitched down along his hips in the struggle, and his cock throbbed against his stomach, reminding him with great insistence of how warm and inviting the Master's body had been. He panted, struggling to regain some semblance of rationality, fighting the urge to run fingers, tongue, teeth over every inch of his enemy's skin. The Master lay beneath him, stunned for the moment, flushed lips parted as he drew in deep lungfulls of air.
They came together again, and this time the Doctor didn't hesitate in thrusting a hand between them, shoving the Master's boxers down around his thighs. The both of them gasped, moaned around tangled tongues, rutting against one another as though they'd been waiting their entire lives for this. The Master drew his nails down the Doctor's back, leaving angry red furrows behind, and in return the Doctor bit down against the Master's collarbone, eliciting a startled yelp from him.
"Don't- don't fucking bite me," the Master laughed, yanking hard on a handful of the Doctor's hair. "Never- nnhgod, never used to be into that."
The Doctor bit him again just to show he could, leaving imprints on his neck just below the edge of his collar, and the Master shoved at him in another frantic bid to push him off. The Doctor merely settled his hips more firmly against his captive's, thrusting against him with long, slow strokes. The Master's shoving turned to clawing and grasping, his breathless laugh to a low, guttural moan.
At last, even the close press of their bodies wasn't enough. The Doctor sat back on his knees and let the Master go, wrapping the fingers of one hand around the both of them, closing tight around hot, wanting flesh. The Master thrust against him, needing more, reduced to base desires by the Doctor's unexpected forcefulness. This was not usually the way things went for him, but on rare occasions, when the pair of them shared a moment of impatience, he wanted to get off and nothing more, and let the Doctor have his way for once. It kept things interesting, at least.
In any case, his present circumstances had driven the nightmares off completely.
"Come on," the Doctor breathed, thrusting against the Master, stroking his thumb against the head of his cock, pulling at the lead. "Come for me, you bastard, you horrible, beautiful monster, don't keep me waiting-"
The Master couldn't, even if he'd wanted to. All the stress and rage and fear he'd crushed down deep seemed to vanish in an instant, seared out of him by white-hot sparks of pleasure as the Doctor's strokes grew quicker, driving them both on. He writhed, fucking the Doctor's slick, closed fist with everything he had in him, now clutching the sheets as if the world was crumbling away from him.
He came with an explosive cry, the Doctor's name and a Gallifreyin expletive mingled into one long, drawn-out syllable. The Doctor milked him dry, coaxing every last shuddering spasm from him, then barreled over the edge himself.
Utterly spent, he settled again atop the Master's prone form, grinning to himself at the slippery sheen that now covered the both of them. The Master lay spread-eagle, eyes closed, gulping air like a drowning man. It took him a long while to recover, and when at last his breathing slowed and his body relaxed, he seemed too exhausted to push the Doctor away. The most he could manage was to shift the Doctor to one side, leaving them entangled side-by-side, a sticky mess between them.
"I'm going to kill you in the morning," he murmured, tightening his fingers once more in the Doctor's hair.
"Oh, I've heard that one before," the Doctor chuckled. He couldn't quite believe that this was happening – that the Master hadn't already pulled away, scooted as far as the lead would let him.
Lucky for the Doctor, the Master was more concerned with returning nightmares than with an evening spent in his arms. Though part of him raged against such easy compliance, he felt such a deep, lethargic gratitude that he was entirely unable to resist the Doctor's embrace. He was certain that this would come back to haunt him in the morning.
Perhaps the both of them felt the lingering effect of the Fox's stories. Perhaps they'd simply tired of fighting for one night. Whatever the reason, this last pair of Time Lords drifted, for once, into effortless slumber, limbs and bodies entwined.
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
<b>IN WHICH ROM WALKS IN ON SOMETHING HE RATHER WISHES HE HADN'T</B><br /><br />This chapter is NSFW
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH ROM WALKS IN ON SOMETHING HE RATHER WISHES HE HADN'T</B><br /><br />This chapter is NSFW
For good or ill, the Doctor woke first.
Perhaps he'd realized he was sleeping next to a time bomb, ready to go off the moment the Master opened his eyes. Perhaps he simply needed less sleep than his still-healing counterpart. Whatever the reason, even in the darkness of the den, he woke with the dawn and found himself in an extremely complicated position.
He and the Master were still entwined, his legs and arms held inextricably by the Master's own limbs. Worse yet, his subconscious had clearly been replaying the previous evening's events over, and the Doctor was in a rather compromising state, especially considering the proximity of his hips to the Master's rump. There was nothing he could do about it, not without waking the sleeping dragon, and so he focused very hard on unappealing things – the Slitheen, Sontarans, apples.
It didn't work. The Master's subtle shifts against him undid all of that, and it took a great deal of self-control not to indulge in the moment and take advantage of his fellow Time Lord's slumber. He rolled his hips experimentally and shuddered with delight as his cock slipped so perfectly against the cleft of the Master's ass and the small of his back. Now that he'd had a taste of him, he felt like he'd never have enough. Their reunions were always so brief, and more often than not they parted ways before either of them could have their fill. It left the Doctor feeling quite desperate for every second of intimacy he could pull from his adversary, his mind and body trained to expect a sudden disappearance.
All the more enticing was his sudden desire to do more than lay down and let the Master have him. There had been times in the past when he'd been in control of their relationship, but it most frequently went the other way – usually to an extreme. The Master had an almost pathological fondness for bondage, for black leather and excessive levels of control. This time around the Doctor found he'd rather fight back, force a little submission from the Master for a change.
Of course, none of this was relevant right at this moment. This was not the time nor the place to test out his newfound desire for dominance. The second the Master woke there'd be hell to pay, and here he was trying to get a quick wank in before he noticed.
He had no time to calm his raging Time Lord hormones. The Master woke mere moments after the Doctor's hips stilled, but it was much too late. In a second he'd picked up on exactly what was going on, perhaps even guessed a little bit of what the Doctor had been thinking.
"Well, this is just delightful," he said, his voice flat and icy. "Good old Doctor, soothing away the mad Time Lord's nightmares, taking him to bed to boot." He broke away from the Doctor and sat up, straight-backed, the lead pulled tight.
The Doctor sat up as well, attempting unsuccessfully to cover himself. He could smell the sex that clung to them, and his gaze didn't miss the faintest flush touching the Master's skin. "If I remember right, you were pretty well in on it, yourself," he countered. "Sort of… clinging on. I thought it was a pretty good time."
"I can see that," the Master said dryly, eyes dropping to the other man's groin. "Looks like you might've been trying to take advantage. Shame, Doctor."
"You're just unhappy because you couldn't get me in ropes and chains this time."
The Master scoffed and turned away. That was too close to the truth to acknowledge, and he found himself at a bit of a loss. It'd been good. Brief, but good, and something that he'd needed, when he got right down to it. He could never admit to it – his modus operandi was to take what he wanted from the Doctor, make him want it so badly that he forgot all about the Master's own needs.
"I haven't forgotten – you wanted to keep me. Remember that? Suppose you've regenerated since, so the memory might be a bit fuzzy. I'm starting to understand your logic."
The Doctor shook his head, annoyed. "Not at all. I told you I'd fix whatever's wrong with your head, and that's what I'm going to do."
He found himself exhausted with the mental gymnastics involved in keeping the Master so close. Their long-term enmity left them constantly on edge, each trying to gain the upper hand. To be stuck in such close quarters, forced into aiding one another, with the Master quite literally leashed to the Doctor, turned their relationship upside-down.
"Tell you what – once I've done that, when all of this is over, you can dash off as you always do, put into place whatever petty schemes you've set by, and I'll give you a bit of a head start before chasing you down to stop you. That's the way it's always been, isn't it? That's what you want – to be chased, to feel devious and important. Right now you're a skin-and-bones madman, and you came to me, remember. Let's just try and make the best of this, and you can save up all of your wounded pride to fabricate some sort of elaborate revenge plot once I've cured you."
The Master turned sharply, lips peeled back in a snarl. The madness lurked like a parasite deep in his subconscious, silent until strong emotions brought it to the fore. Anger tied neatly with the war-drums in his head, creating a feedback loop that could only end in an explosive outburst. He launched himself at the Doctor, knocking him backwards onto the second pallet bed, and aimed a furious punch at his jaw. The Doctor caught his fist and wrenched him off, rolling him over onto his back and pinning his wrists above his head.
"None of that," he snapped. "Look at yourself! Where's the Master I know? This- this animal, this thing inside of you is going to eat you whole, and I'm not sure how I'll handle losing you again. There, I've said it. I've said it! Will you just-"
The Master tore an arm free and clutched at the Doctor's throat, squeezing and pushing until at last the Doctor was forced off of him. He leaped on him again, this time locking both hands around his neck, holding just tight enough to hurt, digging his nails in each time the Doctor made to throw him off again.
"You made this monster of me," he hissed. "I will not lay down like a tame dog for you!"
Thinking to regain a scrap of dominance, the Master moved up the Doctor's body and forced a kiss, mimicking his adversary's actions from the night before. He still held the Doctor's throat in a strangle-hold and felt a surge of triumph at his hoarse gasps and the look of panic on his face.
Neither of them heard the quiet tapping at their door. Breakfast came early in Kyu's den, and he'd sent Rom to wake their guests and invite them down to the sitting room for a casual meal. The heavy wooden doors muffled sound, and Rom heard nothing but a quiet scuffling from the guest room. He assumed it'd be someone turning over in their sleep or perhaps dressing themselves, and when he received no response, he pushed the door open and stepped inside.
"Good morning, gentlemen – I've come to invite you down to- ah."
The Master hardly moved, yet managed to shift in demeanor a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees. His snarl became a thin smile, and the rigid lines of his arms and back softened to slinky elegance. He still held the Doctor down by the neck, but when he turned to face Rom he seemed almost inviting.
"Breakfast, yes. Go tell your Fox that we'll be down shortly."
Rom shuffled backwards with eyes like saucers, and had to take a moment to recover after he'd closed the bedroom door. He'd never felt particularly threatened by any of Kyu's guests, but this man had murder in him.
Once he'd caught his breath and remembered where he put his heart, he took off down the hall back to Kyu's room, grinning with a mix of excitement and sheer terror and, perhaps, a hint of arousal. The magnetism between the pair of Time Lords in the spare bedroom was nearly palpable.
Kyu's bedroom was much larger than the guest room and furnished handsomely with exotic dark woods and a great deal of silk. The floor was covered over in an assortment of plush animal skins and gaudy throw rugs, covering nearly all of the high-gloss cherry floorboards beneath. The bed was a single, gigantic white cushion filled with down and piled high with smaller pillows, more of a nest than anything. The Fox sat at the center of this plush opulence, leaning back against Jack's broad chest and toying idly with his vortex manipulator.
"They're absolutely, completely, 100% fucking," Rom announced as he barged into the room and dove immediately into bed with the pair. "Right now, actually. Asphyxophillia. I think I was almost killed for walking in."
Jack laughed in shock. "I don't know if I believe you."
"I told you so," Kyu smirked. "God, you people. I saw it the moment they walked off the TARDIS. I said to myself, self – there's a couple of people who're definitely fucking."
"Fucking violently," Rom added. He'd taken his place behind Jack, curving long legs around both the Captain and his Fox.
It'd taken all of ten minutes from the time they'd shown Jack to his room to the time Jack showed up at their door, and a further fifteen for them to end up in bed together. Rom and Kyu had been an item for years, but they never said no to a third, or a fourth, or a fifth. All in all, they made an ideal threesome – Kyu's attitude towards sex meshed neatly with the 55th Century's, and Rom had never wanted to shag something as much as he wanted Jack. By the time they'd all finally passed out in happy exhaustion, they'd already become fast friends.
"That's why he's so dangerous, though. The Master, I mean." Jack captured one of Rom's hands and ran a thumb absently over his knuckles. "Right now, there's exactly one thing standing between him and probable genocide, and if he and the Doctor hook up? I don't know. I mean, I get that they've been at this for a long time, but everything's different now."
Kyu nodded thoughtfully. "The last living Gallifreyans, tied together in love and hate. Theirs is a long tale – classic, though. I've been charting the Doctor's life for a while. May have to move on to the Master."
"I could tell you stories," Jack replied flatly. "Trust me, it's best not to get any more involved than you already are. I'm not looking forward to getting back into the TARDIS with the pair of them, especially now."
Rom scattered kisses along Jack's shoulders and the back of his neck, tightening his fingers around his hand almost possessively. "Then don't," he said. "Stay here with us for a while. I want to hear more about your time in the Agency – and let's face it, that was a damn good lay last night."
Jack turned and caught Rom up in a kiss, easing him gently back into the pile of cushions behind him. Kyu joined in indulgently, letting his long, pale hands wander. It'd been a while since they'd had such an accommodating visitor, and he found he got just as much pleasure from watching the Captain with his boy as he did from being actively involved.
"Best I've had for a long time," Jack grinned. He felt a brief, small stab of remorse at this little white lie – but the past was past, and there was no use in revisiting old hurts. Ianto Jones would forgive him for it, if he could.
"Seems like our guests will be a little while," Kyu observed, criminally casual. "Let's not roll out of bed just yet."
And they didn't – not for an hour more, during which time they more than made up for the angry, hateful sex happening in their guest bedroom.
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
<b>IN WHICH AMY POND PLACES A CALL</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH AMY POND PLACES A CALL</b>
Somewhere deep in the blackness of space, in a place that was outside of and beyond the flow of Time, something stirred and reached out for the last living TARDIS and its nomadic pilot.
Alone in a field of white grass, the last living TARDIS groaned with the sudden strain of a pulling, a tugging on its heart. It lasted only a moment, and when it’d gone the TARDIS was silent again, just as still and patient as it always had been.
The shift was so subtle that the Doctor didn’t notice it, not at first. He was too preoccupied with the Master’s existence to pay much attention to anything else.
Indeed, the only two creatures to notice the minute disturbances in time turned out to be a pair of ordinary human beings.
At the end of their most recent journey, the Doctor had dropped newlyweds Amy and Rory off in a quaint seaside town for their honeymoon. It hadn’t been his idea, and Rory had needed to drop some pretty heavy hints before he finally got the picture. Even after all this time, the Doctor still had some trouble with certain human customs, and this was one of them.
Even Amy had to admit, a long weekend without monsters was a nice change of pace. The Pandorica had driven the both of them to limits they didn’t know they had. Rory was resigned to picking back up with the Doctor in a few days’ time, and perhaps even looking forward to it in his own quiet way, but he especially had needed this time to get to know his new wife and remind himself that they had married.
Amy had grown more and more edgy as days passed without word. The Doctor had promised to pick them up at the end of the week, but he’d yet to keep an appointment like this. With her luck, he’d show up in five years’ time, and by then she’d definitely be pregnant, if not looking after a rugrat or two already. How would she travel with him then? Not that she wasn’t looking forward to raising a litter of super-gingers with Rory – she just thought it was a bit soon.
If she was honest with herself, she’d been waiting for the TARDIS since the day they’d arrived. She’d had a good time, made sure Rory knew just how pleased she was to have married him at last, but she couldn’t shake the wanderlust brought on by her travels with the Doctor.
When she heard the sound she went from dead sleep to complete alertness in less than a second, sat bolt upright in bed, looked around wildly for flashes of blue light on the walls. It was still dark outside, and the clock blinked a Rory snuffled in his sleep and turned over towards her, wrapping an arm around her waist.
The noise stopped, and Amy panicked. Had he missed them? Was he having trouble with the TARDIS? She should go to him, find the source of the sound – Rory would understand. If she didn’t flag him down, it might be another year before he showed up? Gently, carefully, she disentangled herself from her husband and the bedsheets and swung bare legs out over the edge of the bed. It was absolutely silent now, and she jumped a bit at the creaking floor as she set her feet down. These old cottages – couldn’t take a step without waking the dead.
Amy crossed the cold floor to the window and peered out, halfheartedly covering herself with folded arms. Outside – nothing. Not a single trace of the TARDIS, of the Doctor. A full moon hung heavy over the coastline, lighting up each grain of sand, each foaming whitecap, and she couldn’t see even a single footprint.
In her disappointment, it took a moment for her to realize what was wrong. They’d been dropped off at this cottage, reservations made, sometime in June. It was only logical – they’d wanted to enjoy a little sun, a little swimming, share an ice cream cone on the boardwalk.
Currently, the boardwalk, the sand, and the surf were covered over in a thick blanket of frozen, fluffy whiteness.
“Rory,” she said, her voice a bit strangled, eyes glued to the scene outside. “Rory, you’d better come look at this.”
Rory stirred again and buried his face in her pillow, torn between a desire to sleep and the urgency in her tone. “Mmmhhcome back to bed, Amy,” he mumbled, hoping (but not believing) that she might listen to him.
Amy would not be dissuaded. “Rory, what day was it yesterday?”
“16th,” Rory replied after a moment’s thought. “Why?”
“16th of what?”
Rory blinked the sleep from his eyes and sat up, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “16th of June. Come back to bed, sweetheart, it’s freezing-“
“That’s just it,” Amy said, turning at last to face him. Her expression forced Rory fully and completely awake. “Outside – it’s snowing. How can it be June if it’s snowing?”
The Master managed to be civil at breakfast. His proper metabolism seemed to be kicking in again, and he’d lost most of the ravenous hunger he’d picked up after his botched resurrection. All in all, despite lingering injuries (that shouldn’t have been lingering) and the occasional fit of madness, he was in pretty good shape. This morning’s bout on the bedroom floor had made that quite clear. The Doctor hoped dearly that he wouldn’t show any bruising. Lucky for him, once the Master had taken his aggressions out on him, he’d let him up and calmed back down, becoming nearly reasonable once more.
They broke their fast in Kyu’s spacious dining hall, a room located close enough to the surface to feature large skylights. Natural light filled the space and warmed it thanks to panes of heavy, insulating crystal, and pale wood helped brighten the place considerably. They sat down around a low table on small, square cushions and ate from tidy bone bowls, each dressed in loose, flowing white garments provided by their host. Breakfast consisted of fresh fruits and boiled grains, long slices of salty preserved meats and small sweet-cakes, a feast laid out to honor guests.
“You didn’t have to go to all this trouble, you know,” the Doctor remarked as he lifted slices of fruit into his bowl. A white peel concealed vibrant pink-orange flesh with purple seeds, dripping thick gobbets of nectar.
“Come ‘round more if you don’t want to be treated like a guest,” Kyu laughed. “Anyway, it was no trouble. Standard-issue breakfast. Still, I’m sure it’s better than what your humans offer you.”
The Master still dealt exclusively in meats, but he was being practically dainty with them, shredding the long strips with his fingers and licking the small, resulting flakes off with quick flicks of his tongue. The meat was good – salty, sweet, fatty, almost like prosciutto, and he wondered about the animal it’d come from. It was probably something big and succulent, and he wished he had a rib or two to gnaw on. Rom could hardly take his eyes off of him, entranced and afraid all at the same time, and now and then the Master would glance sidelong at him, daring him to make a move.
“So, what’s the plan?” Kyu asked, filling a near-awkward silence with words. Everyone was thinking the same thing, but none of them would dare even joke about it – the Doctor’s mortification would ruin the entire morning, not to mention the Master’s complete unpredictability. “You have your stories, and I hope they help – I’m not sure what else we can do for you.”
“I’m not, either,” the Doctor admitted. “It’s strange – I feel there’s something I’m missing, but I can’t for the life of me figure it out.”
“That’s nothing new,” the Master said, not bothering to look up from the meat between his fingers. “You’re incredibly dense.”
Jack stepped in almost immediately like a parent attempting to head off an argument. “Well, I know one thing that’s changing. I’ve, ah… decided to stay here for a while, Doctor.” He looked sheepish, almost apologetic. “Thought they might be able to help me out with the thing where I can’t die.”
The Doctor gave him a small smile and nodded, though inside his stomach lurched. What would he do with the Master all by his lonesome? Jack had been a handy buffer, though he supposed that wasn’t at all fair. “I thought you might. You know I’ll have to take the vortex manipulator. Can’t leave that type of technology in his hands.” He nodded to indicate Kyu.
“Mmm, sorry to be losing you.” The Master looked up at Jack with a thin smirk. “Going to miss the freak. Haven’t even had a chance to kill you yet.”
“And you won’t either,” Jack retorted, half lurching to his feet. “What, didn’t get enough of me the last time?”
“Actually, if you want the truth, I was a little bored,” the Master said. “You just lost your novelty.”
The Doctor stood to prevent a brawl as Kyu and Rom shuffled back from the table, but they were all saved the trouble by the sudden ring of a mobile phone. Rom jumped a bit and rummaged around in the wide pocket of his shirt, digging out a battered, bright orange, ancient-looking communications device.
Everyone stopped and stared at him. Rom gave an apologetic shrug and flipped the device open, just as confused as they were. The phone hadn’t worked as a phone for years. He kept it on him for the apps.
“Hello? This is Rom speaking,” he answered, tentative.
He listened a moment, brow furrowed.
He handed the phone to the Doctor.
Two minutes and a number of expansive gestures later, the Doctor stood and announced quite dramatically, “We have to go now. Amy Pond is in danger. It’s been lovely, and I’m sure we’ll be back for another visit soon, but we’re going to need to get our things and head off now.”
“So suddenly?” Kyu asked with a frown. “You have a time machine. Surely you can stay for lunch.”
“This is something different. This is what I’ve missed,” the Doctor replied, and set to work gathering some of the whole fruits in a napkin to take with them. He thought of the Master and added a few slices of meat. “I’m not entirely sure what it is yet, but I expect we’ll find out when we get there. Come along, Master.” He grinned, bubbling over with frenetic energy once more. “We’ve got work to do!”
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
<b>IN WHICH THE MASTER MEETS THE PONDS</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE MASTER MEETS THE PONDS</b>
To say that the atmosphere inside of the TARDIS was tense would have been a massive understatement. The Doctor had avoided thinking about the way it would be, just the pair of them, especially after the past few days, but he no longer had anywhere to hide. Worse, he had to keep an eye on the Master all by his lonesome, and he found it increasingly difficult to consider locking him away for long periods. If he was honest with himself, he enjoyed the company, volatile though it was.
For the sake of convenience, he'd lashed the Master to the flight deck railing, giving him a long enough lead to allow him some movement without putting him in range of the center console. The Master held a packet of the preserved meats from breakfast, nibbling now and then. For whatever reason, the winds of sanity blew fair and he behaved himself, leaning casually against the rail as though there by choice.
"So, tell me about this latest in a long string of young, female assistants," he said, licking a bit of grease off his finger. "Amy Pond, was it? Sounds… spicy."
"She's Scottish," the Doctor replied. He was having a time with the TARDIS's controls, navigating with both hands and feet, switching off between the two. "And sort of… ginger. And married. Very important, that. Got a husband, name's Rory Williams. Or, Pond, now, I suppose."
"I'm surprised you're going back for her, then. What the hell are you doing, anyway? This would be much easier if you would just engage the time stop and leave it."
"Shows how much you know about these old model 40's," the Doctor scoffed. "Time stop's broken. Of course I'm going back for Pond – sounds like she's in trouble. Something about snow in June."
The Master nodded knowingly. "Ahah! Snatching the damsel in distress right out from under her husband's nose, then. It's all becoming so clear."
"It's nothing like that," the Doctor retorted, flustered. "There was a crack in her wall when she was little, you see, and I had to go and fix it – very long story. Lots of nasty monsters and things."
"So you're a handyman now? Good to know." The Master hopped up to sit on the railing. "While you're at it, fixing wall cracks, you might want to look to your navigation. I'd be happy to lend a hand-"
"Not on your life." Despite his objections, the Doctor did slide around to check the navigation console and found that the Master was entirely correct – a thin trickle of steam puffed from between a pair of panels, and they'd slipped off-course by a few years.
With great difficulty and an endless string of commentary from the Master, he finally set the TARDIS down where he wanted it – out front of the small seaside cottage he'd left the Ponds at, exactly six hours after he'd received the phonecall. The sun had risen over the frozen coastline, warming away the clouds and touching the fluffy white snow with gold. It was most definitely not June.
The Doctor left the Master tied, knowing it'd be awkward enough to explain him without showing up with a man on a leash right off the bat. In any case, it was cold out, and the Master had a hard enough time keeping his emaciated body warm. No, best to leave him safe in the TARDIS and hope he didn't find a way to cut the lead.
He stepped outside and took a moment to get his bearings. Time felt a bit muzzy here, marching along in the proper order but with a sort of laziness to it, as though it didn't quite care whether it'd gotten the year right. Further, he felt the presence of the TARDIS like a body in the center of a mattress, a divot in the temporal landscape that drew particles of space-time towards it. If left this way, the TARDIS would eventually drift out of synch with the rest of the world. He had hours before that happened, thankfully, but he clutched the key in his pocket nervously all the same.
It was cold, and though he didn't usually bother with such things, his Time Lord biology giving him minute control over his own internal body temperature, he wanted to get inside and out of the snow as quickly as possible. He could hear Amy already, calling out the closed window to him. Snow crunched underfoot as he marched up to the front door, melting unpleasantly in the bottoms of his shoes.
Amy pelted downstairs and threw the door open for him, beaming despite the strangeness of their situation. She'd bundled up in a gaudy orange sweater, no doubt something leftover from a previous guest – orange was not her color.
"Doctor! Thank goodness you're here – have you noticed the snow outside? You left us here in June. Don't tell me we've been, I dunno, hibernating or something."
Rory lingered by the stairs, hands stuffed into the front pocket of a hoodie that'd seen better days. He waved awkwardly, overwhelmed into silence by Amy's enthusiasm.
"Yes, I had, actually," the Doctor agreed, easing his way past his ginger companion and into the front room. "Very strange. Time's doing something a bit odd here, and I haven't quite figured it out yet. By the way – got an old university friend visiting. Calls himself the Master. Very dangerous fellow. Hope you don't mind."
Amy almost missed it. She was halfway through another explanation on why snow in June was wrong, then stopped short, squinting up at the Doctor. "Old university friend? What, like from Time Lord U?"
"Something like that," the Doctor replied with an uncomfortable little laugh. "Prydon Academy, actually, but that's a story for another day. Point is, he's come along with us, and I don't want you to be alarmed. He's a bit… mad."
"I thought you were the last one," Rory piped up. "Time Lord, that is. Is this other guy- is he a Time Lord as well?"
"Oh, clever Rory – yes. He is. Second-to-last Time Lord, if you will." The Doctor circled around the room, looking aimlessly for something to help ease a little of the awkwardness of this conversation. There was so much to explain, but in the grand scheme of things Amy and Rory had been with him only a short span. They had no way of comprehending the complexities that existed between him and the Master. The Time War, for starters – he'd hardly ever even tried explaining it to them. And he'd nearly put it all behind him, shedding his sorrow and guilt with his last skin, so how could he impress upon them the all-encompassing need he felt to keep the Master with him, to fix him?
"Well, you're a bit mad yourself," Amy said cheerfully. "Nothing new there. We've already packed – left a check on the table for the owners. And that's another thing." She tapped on the Doctor's chest thoughtfully. "If we're not in June anymore, where are all the other people? We only had this place booked up through the end of the week."
"Your own personal timeline hasn't shifted," the Doctor said, struggling for words to explain a phenomenon that he, himself, was only just realizing. "It's still June, only the planet has sped up around you and thinks it's February. I think, were we to walk away for a bit, the snow would stop. Time would snap back to the way it was. It's almost as though- well, as though you were a time vacuum, I suppose."
Amy snorted, offended. "Time vacuum? Not bloody likely. I'm done with being some kind of weird, crazy time anomaly – that's your job, buster."
"I'll fix it," the Doctor replied, smiling in an attempt to look reassuring. "Time vacuum's a rare phenomenon, but all you've got to do is find the source and plug up the hole. My guess is, it's not you. You had a lot of me rub off on you with the whole Pandorica mess and the crack in your wall, so it's probably- well, me again." His smile became a rather strained grin.
"So, back in the TARDIS, then," Rory said with a faltering smile of his own. "After this maybe we can get a bit of real peace and quiet, eh?"
The Doctor clapped Rory on the shoulder. "Good man. Bit of peace and quiet. Yes, that's precisely what we need. Come along, Ponds – we've got a time vacuum to plug."
Introductions had gone fairly well, in the Doctor's opinion. The Master hand't threatened to bite anyone's face off, and had been particularly civil towards Amy. Of course, there'd been that awkward moment when the Doctor had needed to explain the lead binding the Master to the railing, but Amy, unflappable Amy had seen enough strange things during her tenure as companion that she gave him only a brief, appraising look before accepting the situation. Rory seemed far less convinced.
"It's got a shock setting, so if he gives you any trouble, just give him a shake and he'll leave off," the Doctor said, tapping the silver box attached to the side of the collar.
The Master sulked beside him, bristling. This was the ultimate low – tethered, on display like some wild animal, entirely unable to do anything about it. Still, determined to undermine the Doctor's dire warnings, he squashed down his irritation at such treatment and instead flashed a winning smile and said, "Now, that would be rude. Dear Amy won't see any trouble out of me. Why, I think we're going to get on just swimmingly."
Amy was, for her part, completely taken in. The Master wasn't using any sort of hypnosis on her – she was simply fascinated with the existence of a second Time Lord and didn't think he looked able to cause trouble even if he wanted to. Skinny little bag of bones – he'd probably break his own arm if he tried. Wouldn't even be much of a match for Rory, and that was saying something.
"Don't worry, Doctor," she said cheerfully, patting the Master's arm. "I think I can handle this one. Right, blondie?"
The Master glanced at the Doctor with a sickly-sweet grin. "Oh, I think she can."
"No, but really – he's dangerous, I promise you," the Doctor said plaintively. "Once summoned up a Chronovore out of Atlantis. Nasty stuff."
"Oh, it wasn't all that bad," the Master scoffed. "You crawled back out of the Vortex easily enough. Merely a training exercise."
Rory cleared his throat and held a hand up as if asking a question in class. "What's a Chronovore?"
The Doctor and the Master answered in unison: "It eats time."
They glanced at each other, a sly smile and a reluctant lopsided grin, and Amy and Rory felt as though they'd missed out on something important. And they had – with three simple words and a memory, the Doctor and the Master recognized once again the vast shared history between them. The humans they traveled with on occasion could hardly even begin to understand – and that was to say nothing of the psychic link that had once connected all Time Lords and that now bonded the pair of them like a lifeline.
"God, the pair of you – get a room, why don't you" Amy huffed, shattering the moment – probably for the better.
"Sorry – it's a thing," the Doctor said with a cough. "But not like that. Just a… time… thing. Well!" He lurched away and centered his attention on the console, scrubbing fingers through his hair. "Let's get going, shall we? The TARDIS seems to have some idea of where she wants to go, and I don't have any better ideas. So! Let's see where she takes us, shall we?"
"That sounds perfectly safe and reasonable," Amy replied with a touch of sarcasm.
The Master rolled his eyes and turned to Amy. "Some things never change. I could tell you stories-"
"Don't you dare!" the Doctor called, shooting him a poisonous look around the center column.
"Oh, no, please – do dare," Amy grinned, hopping up on the railing to sit beside him. Rory leaned up against her other side, trying to crush an upwelling of doubt and nerves. He didn't share Amy's casual estimation of the other Time Lord – there was something very wrong about him. Something to do with the eyes.
Amy, on the other hand, seemed to take to the Master immediately, chatting him up like they'd been friends for years. The Doctor was too busy wrestling with the TARDIS to notice just how much she was sharing with him, and didn't see the sudden stiffening of his posture, the color draining from his face when she spoke the word, 'Dalek'.
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
<b>IN WHICH THE MASTER COMMITS AN UNFORGIVABLE CRIME</b><br /><br />Cleanup on this whole fic starts in December. If you have any suggestions for me (or would like to be my beta~), please let me know! I want to make this fic the very best and most entertaining it can be.
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE MASTER COMMITS AN UNFORGIVABLE CRIME</b><br /><br />Cleanup on this whole fic starts in December. If you have any suggestions for me (or would like to be my beta~), please let me know! I want to make this fic the very best and most entertaining it can be.
The Master paced to the extent of his lead, now drawn out to its full length. Anger boiled off of him in near-palpable waves, and his eyes had gone wide and stark again, heralding the slow slip of his rational mind. The Doctor hadn't seem him like this since his first few episodes of insanity – hadn't seen him this full of rage since the Year That Wasn't, in fact. It was to be expected, of course, and the Doctor wondered why he hadn't gotten this revelation out of the way sooner. He could have given the Master's wrath some time to burn out – though, in his experience, it took a damn long time for the heart of a star to cool.
Amy and Rory had gone, herded to a guest room with not-so-subtle hints from the Doctor. Even Amy had grown uncomfortable with the Master's rising madness, though in her naiveté she pitied him for it.
The words came out a strangled hiss, his voice tight with remembered terror and bottomless rage. The Master pulled again at his lead, straining at the collar, blistering the already-reddened skin around his neck and the base of his throat. He'd cut a little strip of flesh from beneath his jaw, leaving a smear of rich crimson on the leather.
"You never told me – the Daleks! I thought you'd killed them all – burnt them. What, then-" He leaned his full weight against the lead, staring wildly into the Doctor's eyes. "Whatwas the point of ending it, if you couldn't even-" His words choked off in a snarl and he spun around to bang his open palms on the railing, four beats repeating.
The Doctor knew he'd lost the fight for sanity, for the moment. He could only watch in horrified fascination as the Master drummed his hands against the metal in time to the unending beats in his head, bringing his hands down hard enough to leave long, ugly bruises behind. His lips peeled back from teeth gritted so hard his jaw muscles stood out, his face contorted into something animal and wretched to look at.
The rising madness and sound of drums brought the Time War again before the Master's eyes, and though he squeezed his lids shut tight, he couldn't escape the flames, the stench of burnt meat and circuitry. He stood before the Cruciform once more, twice more, a pair of bodies paralyzed with fear, one of them straining to flee – the second trapped, forced to watch it fall over and over again.
The Doctor broke him out of it with shock. He felt his hearts torn out of him by the sight of such insanity, and just as he couldn't stop himself reaching for the Master to sooth his nightmares, he couldn't help but run to his defense once again. He punched him, hard, sending him crumpling to the floor in a shivering heap.
This time the Master didn't break from his madness right away. Quick as a flash, he clutched at the Doctor's face and pulled him to his knees, pressing his forehead hard to the other Time Lord's. Rich, wet blood trickled from his nose and the corner of his mouth, smearing his fingers and the Doctor's face, and before oblivion hit the Doctor recognized the salty-sweet tang of him.
And then the Master forced his way inside the Doctor's head, and the Doctor knew nothing more than the blinding, white-hot agony of it.
The Master raped his memories without compunction. That was the only word for it. He drove into the deepest corners of his head in a way he hadn't dared since they were too young and stupid to know better. Now the animal in him forgot the deep-held rituals and protocols necessary to a species so dependant on telepathic links, intent on just one thing – a ravenous hunger for the Doctor's thoughts. He savaged his mind, ripping into him with psychic talons, plucking forth the bits he was most interested in and leaving behind ruptured hollows.
And oh, the drumming.
The Doctor didn't have time to properly defend himself. He'd left his mind mostly unshielded, a habit of laziness he'd picked up once he'd lost the billions of other minds connected to his own. There were parts he kept hidden from himself, from passing minds that might brush his own, but these were loose protections, of little use against the beast ravaging his thoughts. He saw the whole span of his past three regenerations flicker by in an instant, infinite heartache and bottomless joy mingled into a deafening cacophony of psychic noise, pulsing through his skull to the rhythm of his hearts.
The Master found the Daleks, found each time they'd resurfaced, and he devoured the thoughts in a rage as if consuming them might erase their existence. In the end, impatient and demanding the whole story from him, he blanketed the entire span of the Doctor's recent memories and took them in, gobbling them up like a greedy child. The mental backlash for the both of them would be beyond imagining, but the Master wasn't thinking of that right now. He wanted, and he was going to take.
At last, satiated, he pulled away, leaving the Doctor's mind to shrivel back from the violent invasion. The Doctor's nose ran scarlet as well, and blood-tinged tears streaked down his cheeks. He curled in on himself with empty, wide-open eyes, unable even to breathe. His thoughts and memories were still there, in-tact, but wounded, and the very act of thinking hurt him. Automatic bodily functions kicked in, his respiratory bypass leaving him without the need for breath for the moment. Ripped neurons wove back together seamlessly. Burst blood vessels mended, and the torrent of blood gushing from his nose and tear ducts slowed to a trickle.
Everything went white, and he fell unconscious.
He came back to himself less than an hour later in a puddle of his own blood, his entire skull throbbing, feeling dirty and sick. The Master sat beside him, knees drawn up to his chest, bruised palms held upturned. His eyes still held a trace of madness, but the wild beast had gone again just as quickly as it'd surfaced. That was the way of it, these days – now that the Master had begun to recognize the monster within, he was finding it easier to control. It helped that he, too, was suffering from his wrathful assault on the Doctor's consciousness, though not with the same intensity. The shattering pain of the link breaking had brought him back to himself, and now he felt emptied out and more than a little ashamed.
The Doctor crawled up onto his hands and knees, each movement sending a shudder of pain and dread through him. What if the beast came back? Could his bruised mind handle another attack like that? The Master had seen to the very core of him without his permission – had plucked every thought from him like a falcon slaughtering field mice. He felt losses he'd thought he'd put behind him as though they were fresh – Rose, Martha, Donna. Reinette. Gallifrey. He felt Rassilon's gaze pierce him anew, felt blind panic as he watched stars blink out of the sky. At the same time he felt the incredible, unquenchable joy as he watched Van Gogh realize his legacy, as the Empty Child lived, as Rose came back to him the first time full of Time Itself. Somehow, the bright points made the pain easier to bear.
They lingered in silence for a long, long time, neither one capable of meeting the other's eye. At last, the Master rose to his knees and approached, reaching a hand out to brush the Doctor's shoulder; the Doctor flinched back violently and crawled in the other direction, scalded by his touch. The Master drew back, his face drawn in sorrow. He was still angry, unquestionably so, but the beast had gone a step too far.
The Doctor shuffled across the deck to sit with his back to another set of railings, placing a good few yards between himself and the Master. He watched him warily, gathering up his thoughts and raising his mental shields, determined not to be caught unawares again. He hadn't caught the drumming, thank Time, but as he came back to himself, something else tickled at the back of his mind. Something important.
When he realized what it was, he nearly lost himself again. He panicked, scrabbled upright, slipping in a patch of blood, eyes locked to the Master. Oh, why had he not seen this sooner? It was so glaringly, nauseatingly obvious now that he had it, now that he'd felt him pressed against the inside of his skull.
"You're empty," he wheezed.
The Master glanced up at him sharply. "What do you mean, I'm empty?" he growled. "I'm right here. I- surely you felt that."
The Doctor shuddered. "I did. I felt every bit of you. You-" He stopped short and turned away, doubled up, retching dryly. The Master licked parched lips and hunched his shoulders, fighting off another wave of shame.
"Don't ever do that again, by the way," the Doctor rasped once he'd recovered. "By Rassilon's balls, you bastard, I should throw you out into the Vortex- I should leave you behind on some rock, let those damnable drums eat you up-"
The Master leaped to his feet, chest heaving with emotion. "I'm sorry!" he bellowed, digging his nails into his palms. "I didn't know- I needed to see. And you! You destroyed everything, but they're still there. They're still out there!" He fell back against the rails, blinking back tears of rage and anguish. "What I just did to you is nothing, nothing in comparison. I saw them take the Tower – I was there when the Cruciform fell, and I was made to watch it happen over again until it was burnt into me. I saw them rupture Time itself, the Eye laid bare-" He gasped in a deep lungful of breath and forced his body to stillness, forced his racing hearts to slow: One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, drawn out to a normal place.
"I tried," the Doctor said helplessly, feeling the sorrow and regret wash over him anew. "I am still trying. If I hadn't ended it, things would be so much worse. Please, you have to understand. And you! There's something so wrong with you." He took a step forward, hesitant and afraid. "I knew it the moment I touched you, but now I can see. You aren't really here. There's a great bleeding hole in Time where you're standing. You're- you're empty."
The Master gaped at him, unwilling to believe what he was hearing. He felt no different – oh, there was the madness, but he'd had that in him forever, hadn't he? Hadn't he and the Doctor joked about that when they were boys, about how his own heartbeats would drive him over the edge someday?
"The only thing I can think of," the Doctor continued, speaking because it was easier than thinking, "Is that when you ripped yourself out of the Time Lock, a great big chunk of you stayed. When you touched my mind, it was you, but it was also... it was a void. A complete nothingness. It was like my head was filled up with a vacuum flavored like Time Lord. Damn – it's so hard to explain!" He banged his own fists against his head as if trying to shake everything back into place.
The Master caught on and felt suddenly that he needed to crawl out of his own skin. The horrors he'd so recently escaped seemed to close in around him again, not figments of his imagination but painfully real, and his hearts raced once more. "The time vacuum," he whispered, gripping the railing until his knuckles stood out a stark white.
The Doctor shook his head, begged, "No. No, no, nonono-"
The Master stumbled forward and clutched his shoulder, shaking him to silence. "Doctor – it's me."
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
<b>IN WHICH FISH CUSTARD IS NOT ON THE MENU</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH FISH CUSTARD IS NOT ON THE MENU</b>
"Alright. So! Let's talk about the flow of time and what happens when it goes wrong."
The Doctor had called Amy and Rory back up to the console room once he and the Master had gotten cleaned up. If they noticed the change of clothes – a fresh shirt for the pair of them and the absence of the Master's borrowed coat – they didn't say anything. The TARDIS's many floors would have prevented them from hearing what went on, and the Doctor had cleaned up any trace of what'd happened.
The Master had been startlingly cooperative. He'd been let off his leash to wash up and came back just as requested with hardly a grumble. It might've been the lingering effects of his forced entry into the Doctor's head keeping him a bit off-balance, or perhaps he'd just decided it was smarter to wait for his chance to cause mayhem rather than snatching the first opportunity. Whatever the reason, the Doctor was grateful to him for his behavior, though he wouldn't say so aloud.
"Amy Pond, you and I have rather tangled timelines," he said as he paced the center console, restlessly checking on every control. "So – when something happens to me, temporally, that's going to be a problem for you until you can shuck off my influence. That's rather difficult, your being human and all."
"So what's that got to do with blondie over here?" Amy asked, jerking a thumb in the Master's direction. The Master, subdued, spared her the briefest of glares before returning his blank gaze to a point just over her shoulder. He wasn't leashed, but he still stuck to his customary place at the railing, leaving the Doctor a wide avenue to pass by.
"Well, he and I are… more… tangled," the Doctor replied, searching for an explanation the Ponds would understand. "All the Time Lords used to be connected, mentally. Beyond that, the Master and I have always been… close." He glanced at the Master, a small frown furrowing his brow. "Best enemies, that sort of thing. So, when something goes wrong with his timeline and he's in close proximity to me, things can go badly very quickly."
Rory seemed to have caught on to the seriousness of their situation and nodded, solemn. Quiet as he was, he'd learned to take things in stride. Amy was a bit more vocal, as always.
"Sounds kinky," she said, wiggling a brow. "So he's the problem, is he?"
"In a manner of speaking," the Doctor nodded. "He was in a place that he shouldn't have been able to get out of – but he did. Now there's a hole in time, and we're all being pulled backwards across our own timelines, which is very bad."
"I'm standing right here," the Master interjected at last. "I can hear you."
"Well, chime in any time," Amy replied, hopping up on the railing next to him again. "Can't you just go back to wherever you came from and patch things up?"
The Doctor snapped out an answer in an instant. "No, absolutely not. There is not even the remotest possibility of that being an option."
Both Amy and the Master looked up at him in unison, Amy with a startled expression, and the Master with one of reluctant gratitude. The notion had weighed heavily on him since they'd realized what was wrong, and he knew that if he had to, the Doctor could send him back into the Time Lock. It'd be the quickest, simplest, most elegant solution, and perhaps there was a bit of poetic justice to it as well. The Master kept on running, but found himself back on the front lines again and again.
"In the first place, it's impossible," the Doctor continued, offering up a lie with the utmost sincerity.
"In the second, it'd be like sending me right into hell," the Master finished, addressing Amy but staring straight at the Doctor.
"Worse than the crack in your wall," the Doctor agreed, tearing his gaze away and offering Amy a faltering smile. "Much worse. So, we're not sending him back. I'm the Doctor, after all, and I'm clever – clever enough to see another way."
The Master snorted and rolled his eyes, looking away. Amy felt suddenly uncomfortable, like she'd just had a peek into something she really shouldn't have seen, and hopped off the railing in favor of leaning against Rory.
"Listen, Amy – you must be hungry, and the Master's been a bit peckish lately himself. Why don't you take him down to the kitchens and fry him something?" the Doctor suggested, eager for a moment to himself. His mind still ached, and the room was much, much to crowded. The more distance he could put between himself and the Master's psychic presence, the better.
"I refuse to do that awful fish custard thing again," Amy protested.
"Don't worry," the Doctor replied with false cheer. "He's on an all-meat diet now. Take Rory along. I'll be down shortly."
Of course it was a risk letting Amy and the Master run off together, but what else could he do? Better to let him free now and see the extent of his depravity. Amy was fairly good at handling herself, and there was Rory to think of – between them they should be alright. And what would the Master do, anyway? Hold them hostage? He'd have to be awfully quick to fashion a weapon out of bits of the kitchen before the Doctor came to check in on them. There were kitchen knives, certainly, but Amy and Rory had had worse.
That's what he told himself, anyway.
Once the Ponds had gone, he at last felt his hearts slow and his tense muscles relax, recovering a little from the animal fear and stress of being so close to his attacker. Funny – the infinite physical wounds he'd put up with over the years were nothing compared to this.
Then there was the matter of the time vacuum to consider. He honestly had not a clue what to do about it. Even now the TARDIS was fighting him, pulling inexorably towards his past, and he knew it'd get even harder to keep her on course. Right now he was maintaining a steady position in a calm bit of the time stream just as he had when the Master first came on-board, and he was managing to keep them there without too many adjustments – but this was only the beginning.
The worst of it was, he knew exactly where they were being pulled.
Amy Pond knew her way around the TARDIS kitchen better than the Doctor himself did. Time Lord metabolism was a slow thing, thanks in part to a lower core temperature, so she often had to scavenge for herself and Rory while the Doctor carried on, completely unaware.
"Just because I'm Scottish doesn't mean I'm good at frying things," Amy said as they rounded a corner into the kitchen, finishing up a rambling diatribe that the Master had only half-listened to. "I've got a deft hand with a salad spinner, let me tell you."
Things had shifted a bit since the TARDIS's last incarnation, and the Master took note. For one, the whole place was much cleaner, devoid of the twisted roots and branches that'd held the poor thing together post-Time War. It was still a bit of a mess, filled with refrigerators of varying sizes and colors and cabinets placed at awkward heights. The wire floor was covered in haphazardly-placed kitchen mats, and the Master suspected this was Amy's work. The one thing the Doctor had gotten right was an enormous gas range with a pair of wide ovens, big enough to cook a feast for a full TARDIS crew. Not that the Doctor had ever had use for so much culinary firepower.
"No thanks on the salad," the Master said, pulling a face and making a beeline for the largest refrigerator. "You humans and your greens." He rummaged through the meat drawer and pulled out a loin of some kind, carefully packed in shrink-wrap. "Are you any good at roasting things?"
"Well, yeah, but that's going to take at least an hour," Amy replied, snatching the loin away and knocking the Master out of the way with her hip. "Find me some ground beef and an onion, and we'll talk."
Rory pottered around, gathering up pans and kitchen utensils, giving the Master a wide berth. He was unpredictable, and Rory hated unpredictable. He didn't like having reasons to live up to his reputation for steadfast loyalty.
"I've got some bacon over here," he volunteered. "Not sure it's from a pig, though."
"Of course it's not," the Master said, taking the package and squinting at it. "Pork bacon is disgusting. This looks like grade-A Narkul fat."
"And you're going to have us cook it, aren't you?" Rory asked, resigned to his fate.
The Master grinned and ran a tongue over his teeth. "Oh yes."
Amy set about doing what everyone expected her to and started up a pan of meat and onions for the Master. It could be worse – it could be fish custard. She'd seen the Doctor eat even stranger things, and was grateful that this Time Lord, at least, seemed to want relatively normal foods.
"So, this… time vacuum… thing," Rory offered, taking a tentative seat across the table from the Master. "The Doctor wasn't very forthcoming with his information. How worried should we be?"
The Master cracked his neck, forcing back a scowl of irritation. Rory had nothing to offer him, and was a mere annoyance; at least Amy was entertaining. He had no idea of the inner strength locked within his mild-mannered shell, and even if he had it'd probably only irritate him.
"You're a human. Any temporal energy you might've picked up sits on you like dust. I'm sure it'll be the work of a moment to brush it off, and then we'll drop you back in your proper timeline and you won't need to worry."
"Hey now, blondie," Amy called from the stove, "Watch who you're calling a human. Rory was a Nestene Duplicate once. We know a heck of a lot more than you give us credit for."
The Master rolled his shoulders and turned slowly to face Amy, no longer attempting to contain his disdain. A handful of nasty retorts came to mind, but the girl was cooking for him, and whatever it was, it did smell delicious. Best not to start anything – the memory of the beast lurking behind his eyes was still painfully fresh. "I would laugh if I wasn't starving to death."
"You men," Amy snorted. "Alien, human – you're all alike. It's always 'don't wander away, Pond', or 'cook me something, Pond'. What do you do without your human girls?"
"We suffer considerably," the Master replied, dripping sarcasm. "I'm not going to spend hours trying to teach you lot the fundamentals of temporal physics. You'll have to pick it up as we go along."
"You just watch us," Amy retorted as she piled a plate high with meat and onions. "Rory and me – we're good."
The Master didn't bother responding. He snatched the plate away and began to wolf it down, forgetting his earlier promise to himself to eat politely. Amy and Rory glanced at each other, then scooted away a few inches.
"Time Lords, eh?" Rory muttered under his breath.
Amy, recalling fish custard, wrinkled her nose and nodded. "Yea. Time Lords."
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
<b>IN WHICH THE TARDIS REQUIRES ASSISTANCE IN LANDING</b>
Author's note: <b>IN WHICH THE TARDIS REQUIRES ASSISTANCE IN LANDING</b>
Time passes in a string of infinite realities, some fixed, others ever-changing. To a Time Lord, it passes like an ocean, wave upon endless wave breaking on the shores of the Present, the Here and Now. It's a dizzying truth, and part of a Gallifreyan's long maturation is simply adapting the brain to see anything but the white noise of Past, Present, Future. The Untempered Schism fits like a key in a psychic lock, freeing the mind to see into the terrible, glorious, never-ending vastness of Time Itself – a dizzying prospect to a child of eight, having lived hardly an eye-blink among the ancients.
Because of the enormity of it all, things are missed; moments in time slip by unnoticed; irregularities remain invisible until a Time Lord finds himself actually in that moment. In this way the tug, the pull of the time vacuum passed the Doctor by until the Master assaulted his consciousness with it – but now that he knew it was there, he felt it every ticking second, grating at his nerves and sending a rising panic gnawing at his brain.
He couldn't go back. When a window had opened between his reality and the End Days of Gallifrey he'd felt every shard of hurt and regret all over again, and then he'd chosen to send his people back once more into the flame. Twice now he'd picked the rest of reality over his own birthright (no, more than that – dozens of times, though never quite so spectacularly as when he'd ended the war). He wasn't sure he could do it again.
And so, he paced. Paced around the console, paced up and down the stairs, paced from control to control with an increasing overage of restless energy.
Pacing seemed the order of the day lately. He'd received no distress calls from the kitchen, and when he'd peeked in on the Ponds and the Master via one of the monitors scattered around the room he'd seen nothing too alarming – disturbing, perhaps, but with the Master, this was nothing new. It sent a shiver of distrust through him to see Amy and the Master sitting across from one another, smiling and joking like the best of friends. Rory seemed to have picked up on it as well, for he sat with his arms crossed, a look of deep misgiving on his honest face. This acquaintance would end badly, he was sure, but what could he do? Better that the Master smile a lie to Amy's face than do her physical harm.
Too many foregone conclusions, eventualities he wasn't prepared to deal with. He hated the not-knowing, especially now, in this body. A Time Lord should not be at the mercy of the universe – he'd only recently remembered that, and it galled him to feel helpless. Perhaps the Master was rubbing off on him.
What an awful notion.
The TARDIS gave a sudden and almighty lurch, throwing him out of his thoughts and off his feet, rolling him down the stairs before he could grab anything to hang onto. A shriek drifted up from the kitchen, Amy's; a string of curses followed from the Master. As he pulled himself upright and dashed to the navigation panel to assess the damage, the Doctor heard footsteps pounding up the hall, three sets. Well, at least none of them had been seriously injured in the turbulence.
The Master was used to negotiating a TARDIS's fits of misbehavior and emerged into the control room first, hair all askew and a stain of grease on his shirt. "What in the name of Rassilon's bloody ballsack is going on?" he snapped. "We weren't even driving anywhere, just hovering, you idiot-"
The TARDIS lurched again, throwing Amy and Rory bodily into the room after him. Amy yelped again and Rory shouted his dismay, but the Time Lords standing above them seemed to have gotten a grip on the situation, riding the waves of turbulence with ease.
"It's your fault," the Doctor snapped back over his shoulder. "It's probably your crazy head thing." He made a wild, open-fingered gesture over his own head to illustrate his point, wafting his perfectly-curled forelock into disarray.
"Shut up, the both of you," Amy shouted, hauling herself up the stairs and trying not to tumble over again. Rory crawled up after her, much more comfortable with four legs on the ground. "You can bicker once we've landed this thing!"
Without being invited, the Master took up a position at the mechanical controls, hands flying across the various dials and knobs. The Doctor stood right beside him at the helm, and without a word passed between them the pair worked in perfect harmony to slow the TARDIS's wild descent through the Vortex. Information passed across the still-sore neural connection between them, and though the Doctor winced at the brush of the Master's mind so soon after his forced entry, at the same time he marveled in how easily they stilled back into these roles. When one wasn't trying to murder the other, and when the safety of one guaranteed the safety of the other, they made an incredible team.
"Amy, that big red button there- yes, there. Hold that down until I tell you to let go," the Doctor called, glancing up at the redhead. "Get Rory on the cooling system – I need those numbers. Come on, come on!"
The Ponds snapped into action, Amy alight with the thrill of adventure, Rory looking concerned about the odds of having a long lifespan. They'd helped the Doctor pilot his TARDIS enough to have a vague notion of how the thing worked, but in contrast to the Master's instinctive knowledge they seemed suddenly and depressingly simple. The Doctor forced away such notions and reminded himself to be grateful for the help.
"Rory, numbers," he shouted over the groan of stressed metal. "Are we melting?"
Rory squinted at the readout and called back, "Four-hundred and seven and climbing – that seems high. Is that high?"
"This fool runs his TARDIS hot," the Master snarked before the Doctor could reply. "That's practically balmy for him!"
The Doctor chose to ignore him. "If it hits seven hundred, tell me. If it hits one-thousand-and-twelve, well, I think we'll know. We might burn up before then." He flashed a quick, open-mouthed smile. It didn't exactly inspire confidence.
With four people at the helm, two of them Time Lords experienced in the model-40's temperamental antics, they had a relatively good chance for a successful landing. Eventually the Doctor left off telling the TARDIS where in the time stream to land; the vacuum's pull was too strong, and he'd be better off trying to take off again than controlling the precise date of their arrival.
All the while the Master felt the tug and pull of time stronger than any of them. It nearly took the breath out of him, and the longer they rocked in the turbulence the more painful it became. His mouth twisted into a grimace, and he answered every one of the Doctor's queries with short, irate barks. Normally he'd be happy to wreak havoc in such a spectacular fashion, but this was a problem. He, too, knew where they were headed if this kept up; the entire reason for their current misfortune was the inescapable pull of a Time Locked Gallifrey. The Storyteller had been full of crap, then – this was only a temporary reprieve, and it'd be up to Time Lord technology to set it right.
Ah, well – Storytellers had always been the inferior species, anyhow.
Something else tickled at his consciousness, too unimportant in their current state to worry much about. It'd hit him later, perhaps as he attempted sleep – even as the pull of the time vacuum ripped at his very being, the drums seemed to have gone quiet.
The TARDIS eventually dropped free of the Vortex and materialized inconveniently several thousand feet above Salisbury Plain.
"What kind of TARDIS materializes in the upper atmosphere?" the Master shouted over the sound of the TARDIS falling like a rock towards certain demise. "They weren't meant to fly!"
"Clearly you haven't flown with him as often as you pretend," Amy called back with a grin. "Happens to me all the time!"
The Doctor reached across to the mechanical controls and wrenched the handbreak. The familiar and somewhat comforting vwoorp-vwoorp of the TARDIS's usual landing distorted to a crazy, high-pitched whine as the ship slowed its descent, and sparks blew spectacularly out of the center column, very nearly scorching Rory's eyebrows off.
This wasn't good enough for the Master. He shoved the Doctor bodily out of the way and punched a complex series of commands into the navigation screen, and the whole ship wrenched to a sudden, heart-stopping stillness. They hovered, spinning gently, smoke pouring from cracks-that-weren't-cracks around windows-that-weren't-windows, the top light flickering feebly; and then they dropped again.
The Master had calculated this and dropped them through a very small window of spacetime, so when they fell out of stasis once more they had only a few yards to drop. The TARDIS crashed to earth with an almighty eruption of soil and sparks, but managed somehow to stay upright in the small crater it'd made.
The Doctor leaned against the console a moment, hair in his eyes, hands shaking; the Master scrubbed both hands through his own hair and grinned.
"That's how you land a model-40 crashing out of the Vortex in this type of atmosphere," he crowed.
The Doctor glanced over, and his glance became a glare, which the Master gladly returned. They were both panting hard in the wake of near-death; the Master's pale cheeks flushed, and the Doctor sucked in a sharp breath, running his tongue over his lips. He watched the other Time Lord's pulse race in a quick flutter at the base of his throat, felt a sudden surge of heat flood through him, leaned an inch forward with lips parted-
"Oy! Get a room, space-boy!" Amy barked, rapping on the TARDIS console.
The Doctor turned, color rising to his cheeks. "What? What? We're not even- Amy Pond, that is highly inappropriate!"
"I think it's highly appropriate, actually," the Master interjected with a small, smug grin.
Rory just sighed, a deep and resigned sound.
"Look, now is not the time for chatting," the Doctor said quickly. "We're at the site of the Pandorica. Any moment we'll have thousands of Nestene Duplicates descending on us, not to mention the danger of a triple paradox, and I am not ready to deal with all of this a second time."
"So what do you propose we do?" the Master asked, lifting a brow.
The Doctor was saved the trouble of answering by a tapping on the door. Amy perked up and nudged Rory out of the way so she could take a look at the external monitors. As soon as she saw who it was standing patiently outside of the TARDIS, her whole face lit up.
"Oh, Doctor," she grinned, eyes flashing with amusement. "You'd better put your space lover away. Your space wife's at the door."
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
This story will be on an official hiatus until the end of January for a much-needed reworking of earlier chapters.
Author's note: This story will be on an official hiatus until the end of January for a much-needed reworking of earlier chapters.
River Song. At the TARDIS. Unexpectedly. Well – this was just perfect.
The Doctor was on guard immediately. He dragged a hand through his hair, attempting to corral his fringe into something resembling decency, then prodded mournfully at his half-undone bow-tie – no time to fix that. The jacket, he could straighten out; the singed fabric of his shirt collar, he could not.
And, oh, by the noseless dogs of Barcelona – the Master was still here.
"You can't be seen here," he said, gripping the Master's shoulders and turning him bodily towards the stairs. "Go down to the library. Read some books. You like books. Lots of books to choose from down there. I've even got that awful autobiography of yours-"
The Master dug his heels in and pulled himself free with a ferocious scowl. "Not bloody likely – what did she mean, space wife? You have a wife? When did this happen?"
"Need I remind you – Lucy Saxon?" the Doctor scoffed. "As long as we're on the subject of wives, and- Amy Pond! Do not open that door!"
Amy Pond, eager for a throwdown, had indeed opened the TARDIS doors. She curtsied to River, grinning like a Cheshire cat, and River knew immediately that she'd walked into something a bit more interesting than usual.
She returned Amy's curtsey with the dangling edges of her coat, then mounted the stairs to the TARDIS console, eyeing the two abashed Time Lords with evident delight. The Doctor took a step backwards, but found himself unable to flee any further, now trapped between is space wife and his space lover – one, smiling in a most unnervingly indulgent way; the other fairly vibrating with jealousy.
"Hello, sweetie," River purred. "Had a bit of a rough landing?"
"Sweetie?" the Master exploded. "Sweetie? Doctor – who is this woman?"
"She's his space wife," Amy Pond offered, prancing up the stairs to join them. Rory groaned and rested his head in his hands, wishing he had some sort of bomb shelter to flee to.
River glanced at her, brow raised, then chuckled and shook her head. "You're really attached to that theory, aren't you?" To the Master she said, "I know who you are, and I must say, it's an honor."
Two Time Lord jaws dropped in unison. Amy bit her sleeve to fight off a giggle.
"Wait, wait a moment – you know him?" the Doctor asked, recovering first. He'd had a bit of time to get used to River's asides and took this one in stride, not even bothering to go through the cycle of denial and questioning that usually accompanied such statements. "How do you know him?"
River grinned and opened her mouth to respond, but the Doctor stopped her with one finger upraised, a resigned half-smile on his face. "No, wait. I know. Spoilers."
"Oh, he's learning," River cooed, patting his cheek.
"I've never met this woman in my life," the Master protested, struggling to find his footing again. He felt foolish. "I think I'd remember your wife, Doctor."
"Oh, yes you have," River corrected genially. "Do you remember flying lessons? That would have been, oh, your Fourteenth? Looks like someone's trying to grow his stunning goatee back."
The Master brushed a thumb and forefinger over the bristly beginnings of his brand-new goatee and frowned. "That was you?"
The Doctor turned to face him, gaping. "That was you?"
"Oh, lovely – you do remember," River beamed. "What I wouldn't give to take a spin in a proper TARDIS again. I don't suppose you have yours here? No? Well, you wouldn't be traveling with him if you did. By the way, love the blond look. Wasn't the Doctor-"
"Wait just a moment," the Doctor interrupted. "River – you've got to stop this time-hopping business. You can't honestly have been to my far-distant future and his far-distant past. It just doesn't work like that."
"Timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly," she replied airily. "What did you do to her, anyway? Poor girl looks like she's been through hell. You should've let him steer."
The Master preened a bit, little less murderous now.
The Doctor looked sheepishly at the console and noticed for the first time how very… blackened the whole thing looked. Dropping out of time and space across a very turbulent timeline had done a number on her, but how could he explain any of that to River? She wasn't even supposed to be here.
"Listen, River. You have to trust me. You need to go now – you've got some plan that involves dressing up as Cleopatra, and you've got a very important message to give me. Only you musn't tell me that you've seen me, and you must pretend as though you hadn't met me here at all. Do you understand?"
River fished her journal out of a pocket and flipped through, scanning a few entries. "Mmm, yes. I thought so." She looked up at him again, completely ignoring his request, and asked, "Will you show me to the wardrobe room? Things do move around so much – I'm not sure I remember where it is."
"River, you can't stay here," the Doctor protested. "You've got a job to do."
"And I need your help to do it," she replied. "Where am I supposed to get a Cleopatra costume in this century?"
Amy had been listening quietly, her only response to the conversation the occasional grin and stifled laugh. Now, though, she perked up and stepped forward, bouncing excitedly. "Doctor! We're supposed to give her the costume, aren't we? It's like that bit with the screwdriver."
"Will someone please explain what's going on?" the Master demanded, looking rather grumpy again.
"No time," the Doctor said, feeling much more on top of things now that he'd realized what was going on. Perfect – the very thing that was liable to kill them all in the end was also the thing saving their lives at this particular moment in time. "We'll be here momentarily, and we can't be here when we get here. That's very important. Amy, close the doors, will you? There's a draft."
River seemed to take to the Master quite naturally, flattering him at every turn. It all seemed genuine, too – she wasn't just buttering him up, but genuinely admired him for his work. The Doctor did his best to ignore this. At least it was keeping the Master from attempting murder – though they'd have rather a lot to talk about later.
He and River, as well.
As they made their way to the wardrobe room, River was kind enough to fill the Master in on events. It was a very condensed version, but it would have to suffice – at least the Master, being who he was, grasped the various temporal anomalies that'd led up to this moment. He managed not to show an instinctive tremor of fear when she mentioned Daleks, though the Doctor caught the brief surge of panic skating across their shared brainspace; he winced internally and realized that this, too, was something they'd have to confront soon.
"Sounds exciting. A shame I missed it," he said once she'd finished. "I would've loved to be the one to put him in the box – though, if I had, he'd have never gotten out of it."
"Oh, I know you would have," River agreed with a knowing smirk. "That would've been a bit messier, I think."
The Doctor rolled his eyes and decided not to respond. Between the pair of them he'd never get a word in edgewise. Why Amy and River liked the Master so much, he'd never know, but it was quite a problem for him. Hypnotism – it had to be hypnotism.
"Sounds kinky," Amy chimed in, ribbing the Doctor. "You never told me you were into bondage."
The Doctor looked around at them plaintively and at last locked eyes with Rory, who could only shrug in sympathy. Good old Rory. Never appreciated him enough. He'd have to change that. It was important to have at least one ally.
River squeezed his shoulder, then brushed past him and into the wardrobe room. "It's no use, Doctor. You're outnumbered."
"Don't remind me," the Doctor said wearily.
They all crowded into the room, and Amy made an immediate beeline for the red sweater she'd left behind; the Doctor flushed bright pink a moment, a fact caught only by the Master, who grinned like a shark. Amy merely folded the sweater up and tucked it under her arm, pleased to have it again, and the Doctor couldn't bear to disillusion her. Hopefully she'd have it cleaned before wearing it again.
River made her way towards the back of the closet, knowing already that this was where the Doctor kept the strangest of garments, the odds and ends he'd picked up in his travels. The Cleopatra costume was genuine, collected via accidental theft, and she'd never been able to get out of him whether he'd ever put the thing on. She liked to think that he had. He was always so uninhibited when he was drunk.
"So we're essentially saving ourselves, yeah?" Amy asked, perching lightly on the chair by the door. "If River hadn't come here to pick up her disguise, she'd never have been able to warn us the way she did."
"That's an interesting theory," the Doctor replied. "Time can be rewritten – it may be this way because of the way things turned out. I'm not sure. We'll have to see what happens."
"That'd be, mmm, how many times I've saved your life?" the Master asked.
"The tally keeps on rising, too," River called from the wardrobe. "I'd tell you about it, but that would be breaking the rules."
The Master shot the Doctor a smug grin, to which the Doctor responded with a slight sulk. Leave it to River to pit them against one another – she was probably stretching the truth anyway.
"Surely I've got a higher score," the Doctor scoffed, rather a bit harder than necessary. When no response was forthcoming, he turned plaintively to the wardrobe and repeated, "Surely?"
River poked her head out from between hanging coats and raised a brow at him.
"That doesn't look good," Amy offered. "Better fix that before your future has a chance to happen."
"Is everyone forgetting," the Doctor exclaimed with wild hand gestures, "The thousand-and-some-odd Roman soldiers – who aren't actually Romans, by the way – bearing down on us at this very moment? River, shouldn't you be heading over there?"
"Just a moment – will someone help me with this awful headdress?
River wrestled her costume out of the wardrobe, snagging bits of gold on the scarf rack. The wig was a real struggle to maintain, its polished black locks prone to tangling. The Master stepped forward first to help, taking the gaudy headdress and wrinkling his nose at it.
"Tell me you've never worn this, Doctor," he said, throwing a plaintive look over his shoulder.
The Doctor sighed in exasperation and threw his hands in the air, knowing that any answer he gave would be the wrong one. "Just get going, will you? You don't want to be late. And, River-" He stepped closer, glanced over his shoulder, then bent close to her ear to whisper. "Don't tell me about the Master. I'm not sure I'd be… ah… well. You know how it is."
River patted his cheek reassuringly. "That's so sweet – you think I'd tell. Oh, my Doctor. So old, and yet still so… well." She smiled, thin and perhaps a little melancholy, and added, "I'm not sure you're able to, now. Be careful, Doctor. The heart's a funny thing."