By: Memory Dragon
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who, nor do I make any claim to.
Summary: Running for his life with the Master, the Doctor finds someone he just can't leave behind.
Characters: Third Doctor/Delgado Master/Simm Master
Warnings: More choking. Nar seems convinced I have a thing for it, but really it's just a convenient way to threaten people when they are unarmed. And it's much more immediately threatening and personal than say, a gun.
Notes: So I meant to get this up yesterday, but I kind of forgot. ^_^;;; Forgive me? Plus, the second part is where things really get going. If you liked the first bit, I think you'll like the second part even more.
Thanks: Many, many thanks to nemaline and narwhale_callin for betaing this. Cy might have taken forever and a day with it, but I still love her. And Nar gets bonus points for putting up with me when I send her
The Doctor awoke to hands on his back gently rubbing out the tension in his shoulders. He moaned as the Master hit a particularly rough spot on the way up to his neck, but didn't complain as the Master massaged out the knot. "Still falling asleep while working on a project, Theta?" the Master asked lightly, wonderful hands still proving their mastery of the art of massage. "You'd stay up all night before a test cramming and I'd always wake up to find you like this. You'd never have gotten to class on time if not for me."
The Doctor let out a sharp breath as the Master's fingers deftly worked out another knot, arching into the touch lightly. "And you're still willing to help me relax before giving me the news I'm about to be late, I take it? How very thoughtful of you, considering you've never had to pull all nighters."
The Master purposefully rubbed a little too hard, earning him a glare thrown over the Doctor's shoulder as he continued to chuckle. "I studied instead of cramming the night before. I also did my school work during normal hours instead of procrastinating."
"When I didn't manage to drag you out for something more entertaining." Which summed up a good deal of their life at the academy: Theta getting them into trouble and Koschei finding some brilliant plan - or lots of groveling and/or angelic looks that fooled no one - to keep them in the professor's good graces so they wouldn't fail the course. It didn't always work, and Koschei had always been just a little resentful when they ended up in detention because of it, but overall the trouble they'd gotten into had been more than worth it.
"Have you made any progress?" the Master asked after a few minutes of companionable silence. The Doctor glanced over to the blond Master in the bed, still sleeping peacefully with the help of sedatives. Behind him, the Master was carefully looking everywhere else.
"I've managed to stabilize the regeneration for now, at any rate. Without knowing what caused it to go wrong, however, it's just been guesswork. I don't think the problem was caused by regeneration, actually, but I can't imagine what else could send the body wrong like that." Whatever the Master had meant by 'resurrection,' it wasn't by any means the Doctor knew of.
The Master could think of a few ways, but he didn't offer to explain any of them. Instead, he kept up the steady massage of the Doctor's shoulders, which the Doctor really couldn't find the will to argue with when all was said and done. The Master's hands were absolutely heavenly at the moment, to the point where he had trouble keeping up with the conversation. "You said he's stabilized for now?" the Master asked.
The Doctor had to think about the question and not the massage. It took a few seconds for him to respond. "I told you, it's all been guesswork. I can't tell if I've fixed the problem or just patched... I say, have you gotten better at this?"
The Master chuckled again, a low, rich sound that the Doctor couldn't help but enjoy as he leaned in to speak into the Doctor's ear. It was an unusual intimacy for this regeneration of the Master, and the Doctor shivered in pleasure at the thought of not being the one to initiate the close contact for once. "You shouldn't let your guard down, Doctor," he said in a low pitch. "I could kill you easily while you're this distracted."
For a moment, the Doctor froze. Then he forced himself to relax into those hands again, annoyed at letting the Master key him up. "You wouldn't," he said with absolute conviction and no small amount of indignation. He'd been very relaxed before that, and it'd undone half of the Master's work by tensing up again.
There was an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds before the Master pulled back and took those wonderful hands with him. "No, not right now," the Master finally agreed, though there was a strange look in his eyes. Still limping, the Doctor noted vaguely, though he seemed to have a lot more energy than he had earlier. The Master must have been really bone-tired before, to show how much pain he'd been in.
As the Doctor's eyes flickered over to the Master's shoulder, however, the other Time Lord quickly intervened to change the subject. "What is the next step? If the future me is healed to the best of our knowledge, what else can be done?"
"Your shoulder-" the Doctor started.
"My dear Doctor, I'll survive." The Master's tone of voice ended the conversation, though he lightened up after speaking, returning to a polite mask. "I usually do and will, if this fellow is any proof. Now, what else can be done?"
The Doctor sighed, letting it go for now. Later, he was going to have a good look at the Master's wounds even if he had to knock this Master unconscious as well, but right now they had other things to focus on. "Well, now we can see if you have any better luck getting in his mind to figure out what's wrong with him. Every time I've tried, I've been met with a blank wall. He might respond better to one of his own."
"And once we find out what's wrong?"
The Doctor shrugged, since he really hadn't thought that far ahead. Hopefully, there would be something in the future Master's mind that would give them a clue of what to do next. He'd been rather banking on that. "I suppose we'll see from there. Maybe if you get through to him more than I can, you can calm him down."
The Master sighed, obviously not thrilled with the lack of plan but not offering anything better. Again, the Doctor was under the impression that the Master had a few more ideas than he was willing to discuss, but since this was his future self they were contemplating, the Doctor wasn't all that worried. His own later regenerations would have considered such a move sheer folly around the Master and had, on occasion, told him that, but at the current time he still had a decent amount of unshakable trust that the Master wouldn't cross certain lines.
"It will be easier if he's awake," the Master said finally, crossing over to the bed. He looked down directly at his future self for the first time, his expression turning to that of disgust. "I can't say my sense of style has remained intact, unfortunately."
The Doctor stifled a small laugh, grinning in spite of himself. While he certainly had no room to talk as far as previous and future regenerations went (he was particularly dreading to be that chap with the eyesore of a multicolored coat), this time he wasn't the one under scrutiny and could afford to laugh. Besides, though this Master was half-crazed and occasionally violent, the Doctor had grown rather fond of him in this new regeneration's rare, calmer moments.
"He should come around a few minutes after you take the patch off his hand," the Doctor said. "Just be careful. He's not always aware of where he is and he's tried to strangle me a few times."
The Master raised his eyebrows as he peeled the patch off his older self's hand. "You think he doesn't know it's you?"
"Of course not. What nonsense are you going on about now?" The Doctor was, of course, still trying not to think about the occasional accusation the older Master threw at him. He was still convinced that the fire had to be a misconception on the Master's part, not a willingness to act on the Doctor's.
The Master, on the other hand, wasn't quite as naive. "He did say you would leave me to burn," he said politely, like he was talking about nothing more upsetting than bad weather. The Master knew what he was personally capable of and he knew that not every regeneration of the Doctor might be able to forgive him as easily as this one did. It was very possible that one time the Master would go too far and the Doctor might be pushed to do something he would later regret, but that didn't stop the event from happening.
Stubbornly, however, the Doctor insisted on his future self's innocence. "I wouldn't. There must be some mistake, or he didn't know the full circumstances."
The Master tilted his head in question, about to say more when his future self came around with a moan. He cried out in surprise and pain as the blond Master gripped his arm with a bruising force, jarring his bad shoulder as he was pulled forward. For a while his vision went blank as he hissed, but the Doctor quickly stood up and took his future self's shoulders gently. "It's alright, old chap. Just relax. It's only you and I in here, so let go of his arm."
Slowly, the older Master released his grip on the current Master's arm, raving softly about the drums. Relief from the pain left the current Master breathless for a moment, and he fought to school his features back into a polite mask. His future self's words finally sunk into his consciousness after a few long minutes of pain. "The drums, the drums... Doctor, they won't stop. I don't need them anymore, they don't need me anymore, but they won't stop..."
"There, there. Just calm down now, there's a good fellow," the Doctor said over the constant flow of words. He'd slipped his arm around the older Master comfortingly and the younger Master was all too aware of how the Doctor's proximity would affect the drums. The Master had to remind himself that getting jealous over his future regeneration would serve no purpose, despite how much he longed for the quiet solitude promised by being held in those arms. After a short while, the older Master's raving came to a halt as he rested his head against the Doctor's shoulder limply.
"Are you alright?" the Doctor asked, eyes glancing up at him with no small hint of worry.
With his good hand, he waved the Doctor off dismissively. He was very careful not to move his other arm that was now hanging limply at his side, all of his previous work to convince the Doctor he wasn't in pain gone to waste. If he'd known this would happen, he might have forgone the soreness he'd gotten from not going easy on the back massage earlier. "I see what you mean about being violent," he said instead, referring back to the earlier warning.
The Doctor wasn't convinced at all, but the Master was already leaning forward and placing his fingers over his older self's temples. "Wish me luck," he said simply and didn't wait for the Doctor to do so or protest as he dove into his future regeneration's consciousness. "Contact."
At first, all the Master met with was a blank wall. Unfazed, he pushed through without a thought of how it might hurt his future self. The blond Master screamed and tensed, but the younger Master just grit his teeth and kept on. The Doctor was babbling something, but the Master ignored that and pushed deeper.
It was there that he learned the true meaning of being burned.
The Doctor was the one who finally broke the contact, forcefully dragging the darker Master away from his now raving future self. He looked between the two of them helplessly for a few seconds before finally touching the blond Master's temple and placing a hypnotic suggestion. "Sleep," he said. "There's a good fellow, just sleep for now."
The Master trembled uncontrollably as his future self was lulled to sleep. It was like the destruction of Terileptus all over again, but ten times worse. He was shaken by the things he'd seen his future self do, by what was done to them and to Gallifrey...
Sometime along the line, the Doctor had slipped an arm around him, simply holding the trembling Master against him as he waited for the man to speak. The Master didn't even attempt to stop himself from clinging to the Doctor, the only survivor of that terrible burning. It was a full fifteen minutes later before the Master could speak, resting his forehead against the Doctor's neck as the trembling finally lessened. "It's gone," he said.
The Master shuddered, grateful for the Doctor's arm tightening around his waist. He wasn't prone to needing physical comfort in this regeneration, but the Doctor's arm around him served as a reminder that he wasn't the only one still alive and he accepted it greedily. Still, it was a while longer before he could bring himself to explain it. When he did, the Doctor froze completely. "Gallifrey. It's gone. It... It burned in the Time Lock. It's just... gone."
The Doctor was holding him just a little too tightly now. "Nonsense. What do you mean, gone?" he asked sharply. When the Master didn't answer, he swallowed and tried a different question. "What about the Time Lords?"
"They burned." Abruptly, the Master pulled away, putting all of his will into controlling himself. He shuddered once more before he stood up and clasped his hands behind his back as he fought for some semblance of control. He didn't need the Time Lords. They were the ones who betrayed him, not just Ailla, but all of them by what they'd done to him by giving him the drums. They might not have deserved such burning, but the Master refused to regret the loss.
The Doctor was still stunned, half reaching out to the Master again as the words slowly sank through to him. They burned. "And I didn't help you?"
It was tempting, to let the Doctor think that. Especially considering it was the Doctor who would eventually lead Gallifrey to this fate, to watch her burn and walk away as the sole survivor. Savior of the galaxy at the cost of his own people. The Master, however, shook his head. "No. The first time I... he ran away and hid. The second time he walked in willingly." To save you, among other things, the Master thought to himself. He hadn't seen anything in his future self's head about the Doctor burning him intentionally, but that didn't mean it hadn't happened. Most of what his future self had been thinking about was the recent events, which meant the other burning had happened in the past, if at all.
The Doctor relaxed, looking pleased for a moment before remembering the situation. It had really bothered him, the Master realized with no small amount of interest. How intriguing. It really might be worth it to let the Doctor know what he would eventually do to his own world, but not right now. The Doctor was speaking again, bringing his mind away from those thoughts. "Why would you walk into a time lock willingly? That doesn't sound like you at all."
"Revenge," was all the Master said.
"Ah," the Doctor said uncomfortably. He looked over to the future Master with a sorrowful gaze, still trying to take in all that the current Master had found out. "Was it worth it?"
The Master smiled grimly. Out of all the chaos in his future self's mind, that was the one thing that was remarkably clear. "He thinks so."
The Doctor frowned, presumably about to sprout off some nonsense about how seeking revenge wasn't the proper behavior for a good Time Lord or something equally naive. Knowing this would simply lead to an Argument, he cut the Doctor off before he could start. He didn't want to hear it right now, not after all of that. "I do believe something can be done about the state of his mind though."
That distracted the Doctor sufficiently, the Master noted with a smile. Though considering the fact the Doctor was still trying to come to terms with the eventual destruction of their home planet, he was more than willing to be distracted. "Can you?"
"Yes. I believe if I can shut out some of the more recent memories, his mind and thoughts should be able to resume normal patterns." The Master made sure his voice was level with equal parts of confidence and reasonableness as he spoke. He didn't lay it on too thick, knowing the Doctor was too well versed in his tricks to fall for any sort of gentle suggestion and any more would put the Doctor on guard.
Even with those precautions, however, the Doctor wasn't convinced. He rubbed his cheek thoughtfully, glancing up at the Master, not with suspicion but with concern. "I'm not sure that's possible, much less very safe. Are you sure about this? After what just happened..."
"I won't deny there isn't some risk involved, but this time I will be prepared for it," he said honestly. With his hands forming a steeple in front of him, the Master paused as if considering it. "I'm reasonably sure I can pull it off, however. He's in no condition to resist me."
"Are you sure it will work?"
No. As a matter of fact, the Master knew it wouldn't. But the Doctor hadn't been able to get through the block and he wouldn't know that. The Doctor also couldn't know his real plan, so this made for a decent misdirection. If the Doctor knew of his true plan, he would try to stop the Master, despite it being the only viable option. So he didn't say that, instead confidently meeting the Doctor's concerned eyes. "It's the only chance he's got. Never fear, my dear Doctor. I can take care of it."
Finally, the Doctor nodded. Imperceptibly, the Master relaxed once his bluff was accepted. "I suppose he needs to be awake again for you to start?" the Doctor asked, eyes glancing down to the sleeping form of his best enemy.
The Master agreed, despite the difficulties that it would create. His sleeping mind was even more chaotic and there was a chance his future self might wake up into one of his lucid moments, which would help a great deal.
"Good," the Doctor said, earning him a raised eyebrow. For someone who was a lot more attached to their people and home planet, he was taking all of this rather well... Then again, the Master realized, he might just not be taking it at all, which was rather more like the Doctor. Denial always had been one of his favorite pasttimes... "That means," the Doctor went on to say, "there's time for me to take a look at that shoulder of yours. And your leg, come to think of it. You're still limping."
The Master did not exactly tense, but he did have to grit back a snarl as he controlled his temper. The last thing he wanted after his complete loss of control earlier was for the Doctor to see him even more vulnerable. "My dear Doctor, I hardly think-"
"Don't be a stubborn fool." By this point the Doctor was standing up and taking his good arm to lead the Master to the chair the Doctor had occupied earlier. This time the Master did growl softly, adding a glare for good measure. "Oh, don't be tiresome. I'm afraid, old chap, you're not getting out of my TARDIS without letting me have a look. So you might as well let me while I can still do some good."
What the Doctor didn't say was that he would continue to keep pestering him until he said yes and the Master was in more than enough pain right now to do without that. With a sigh, the Master nodded and sat down, realizing that it would also give the Doctor something to concentrate on other than Gallifrey burning. Under normal circumstances he'd have used that against the Doctor, but the slight quiver in the Doctor's hand only served to remind him of his own horror at the thought.
The Master started to unbutton his shirt, barely managing to bite back a hiss of pain as he did so. Unfortunately, he couldn't hold back a wince. "Let me," the Doctor said, taking over for his fingers. He found he was grateful when the Doctor started to remove it and his suit jacket because the pain almost overwhelmed him as it slid over his shoulder.
He'd bandaged the wound himself before coming to wake the Doctor, but it had been awkward and painful and the Master wasn't able to find any pain killers. Despite the Master's protests, it was probably sound reasoning to let the Doctor look him over. That didn't mean he had to like it.
He hissed as the Doctor pulled off the bandage, digging his nails into the armrest as the Doctor tutted. "A laser weapon," he remarked sympathetically. "Nasty business. Good to know the CIA haven't gotten any friendlier."
The Doctor continued to talk soothingly as he worked, sometimes humming, but never silent and pitying for which the Master was appreciative. He didn't even bother to protest when the Doctor's fingers started probing his right leg. "Fell on it wrong," the Master prompted resignedly. "I twisted it."
Merely nodding, the Doctor kept up his soothing humming. It was almost as mesmerizing as the Master's hypnotic suggestions and if he didn't know the Doctor better, he'd have accused the man of foul play. As it was, he simply allowed himself to enjoy the rich sound without, of course, showing his enthusiasm too much. It wouldn't do to let the Doctor know how much he was enjoying this, after all. It was a pity the Doctor never consented to join him on his conquests. He might have come to really appreciate moments like this.
Finally, the Doctor stood up and pat him on the back fondly, reaching over him for two pills which the Master took obediently. Under normal circumstances, he'd have suspected poison. But this was the Doctor and a regeneration of the Doctor that had gone pale at the mere thought of leaving him to burn. Besides, it was a pain killer and oh, did he need it even though he already felt a little better for the Doctor's ministrations. He was more relaxed, for one, and the brace that was now fitted to his ankle kept him from accidentally jarring it more.
"There you go, old chap," the Doctor said. "You should have let me see to that last night."
The Master shook his head, looking back to his sleeping older self. "You had other things to attend to."
"He's lucky to be found by a regeneration of you that's so obliging."
That, the Master conceded, was a very good point. His future self was aware of that fact too, in the brief flash of clarity that had recognized him. The Master had gotten the distinct impression that as long as it was a future regeneration, most of his following bodies would have just left him, the blond included. He could see why too, since the Master decidedly didn't want to make a habit of this. It had been a long time since he'd had to stick his neck out for someone else's welfare, even if it was technically still his own.
The rest of the time passed pleasantly, as they hadn't yet lost the ability to really talk to each other. The Master felt a pang at that, knowing from what he'd seen of his future self's thoughts that it wouldn't always be the case. The Doctor made them lunch, then proceeded to overtly -overtly- steal bits the Master didn't eat fast enough (or act quickly enough to slap the Doctor's cheeky hand away) and they discussed the Blinovitch Limitation Effect and fencing until the blond Master started to groan quietly.
The Doctor quickly moved to calm him, leaving the Master to prepare himself for what he was about to do. No second thoughts, mainly because he wasn't the sort of man to second guess himself, but he did have to force down some well deserved worry over his own sanity for doing this. There was, as he'd seen in his future self's thoughts, no real danger to him as of yet and he could just leave now... But his current regeneration still had enough remnants of Koschei to stop that line of thought before it got very far. Besides, it was poor etiquette to abandon something he had already put so much effort into.
"Are you ready?" the Doctor asked finally, cradling the Master's future self against him as he looked up with worry at the current Master.
Now or never. The Master didn't speak, but he nodded as he sat on the edge of the bed. He took a deep breath and arranged his fingers over the blond's temples. "Contact," he said lightly, plunging himself into chaos.
This time he was prepared for the assault on his consciousness and he did the mental equivalent of gritting his teeth as his future self's mind battered him about. The emptiness was terrifying, but he knew to expect it. Forcing the hollow nothingness where the other Time Lords should be - where the Doctor should be - to bend to his will instead of controlling him like last time, it finally settled into a ceaseless dull ache. It unnerved him, but it didn't control him.
He couldn't stay in the chaos for long, however, not without it driving him mad as well. The Master looked around for the small bit of calm he knew must still exist; that was where his future self would be hiding. Finally, he found the eye of the storm and made his way to it as quickly as he could. It was a relief not to be constantly battered around and he let his consciousness form into an avatar of his body as he walked forward. "You might as well show yourself," he called out, waiting politely with his hands clasped behind his back.
His future self shimmered into being, curled up on the ground with his hands over his head in a rather pathetic position. The Master cleared his throat disapprovingly, but his future self ignored him.
"You always were such a prick," he said finally, still not uncurling. "What do you want? Come to laugh at the follies of your future self? Got a ticket to the freak show? Come see one of the two remaining Time Lords in existence and watch him burn off his own energy!" The Master on the ground paused as if considering it. "I might even go along with it, so long as there's candy floss. I do like candy floss..."
"Have you been taking lessons from the Doctor on babbling?" the Master asked conversationally, disdain arching his eyebrows.
"There you go, politely mocking everything." His future self uncurled enough to look up at him with a scowl. "Always the gentleman, losing all those chances to win simply because it was below you and unsportsmanlike. Following him around like a forlorn puppy and jumping for his tricks because you deluded yourself into believing he would come with you. You're pathetic."
The Master snarled before he was able to control his temper, not needing to ask who his future self had meant. He had fallen, as his future self pointed out, rather naively into a few of the Doctor's traps, it was true. Even the humans had managed to force him to do their bidding a few times, but it wouldn't happen again. "As I'm sure you well remember, considering you made those same mistakes."
His future self laughed, a sound that wasn't quite sane even in the center of the storm. "I did like being you," he admitted quietly, before jumping right back on the defensive. "Why are you here?"
The Master smiled at the obvious accusation in his future self's voice, bringing his hands up in a placating movement. "I am simply here to help. You should remember, I'm not desperate enough to try and steal your new remaining regenerations. Yet, at any rate."
His future self sneered, then turned smug. "You noticed then, 'bout the new set?" The Master merely nodded, content with the knowledge that he would survive. He always did, after all.
When he realized his younger self wasn't going to congratulate him, the future Master frowned. "So you're here to help me. What's the plan then? I assume you have one, or you wouldn't be here."
"And you don't have one?" he asked pleasantly, taking a small amount of pleasure at pushing back at his future self.
"Of course I have," the older Master snapped. His hazel eyes betrayed the truth, however, and the truth was that he was scared. "Tons of plans. Plans of what to make for dinner, plans to take over a few miserable planets - I've been Prime Minister of Great Britain and President of the United States, by the way. Something for you to look forward to. I've got plans to take over nuclear power plants, plans to build weapons that can destroy galaxies, even plans to watch Clangers reruns once I get back to the 1970's."
"But nothing for how to get yourself out of this?" the Master asked in disgust. What had he fallen to?
That brought his future self up short, trembling lightly even in the mindscape. "They're too loud," he said softly, holding his head again as he rocked back and forth. "The other Time Lords, they muffled it in my head. But they're gone now, all gone. They gave the drums to me on purpose and now it's so loud... Can't you hear it?"
At this, the Master dropped all mockery and closed his eyes. For the first time since he was eight, the Master admitted it softly. "Yes, I can hear them."
He missed the momentary compassion in his future self's eyes, which was just as well because it was gone the moment the blond Master remembered himself. "What's the plan then?" the older version of himself asked, jumping to his feet and rubbing his hands together.
The Master opened his eyes, amused at his future regeneration's energy. He made sure to keep his expression safely neutral as he explained, however, because the last thing this version of himself needed was that kind of 'approval'. "The way I understand it is that our brain was put under too much stress after forcing our way through the time lock, correct?"
"Is that your final answer?" his future self snapped in a voice that wasn't his own, looking bored with the conversation. "Give the man a cigar. Wait, you actually liked those. Smoking kills, did you know? I knew I liked it for a reason."
The Master ignored the useless chatter, taking that as a confirmation of his summation. "Then I propose to take some of that stress. Half of it, to be precise. It should be bearable at half and it won't transfer to your new set of regenerations so it won't double up."
His future self's hazel eyes widened and he tensed immediately. "You're crazy," he said, then paused as he pressed his lips together. "No, I'm crazy. I must have heard you wrong. You want to what?"
Arching his eyebrow, the Master didn't bother to repeat himself for a blabbering idiot... even if that idiot was himself in the future. "Do you know what that would do to you?" his future self snarled once he realized the Master was indeed serious.
He bowed his head in acknowledgment, not revealing any of his doubts in his stance. "I don't imagine it will be pleasant. I've seen in your head how things... change from this point on, for lack of a better word. There isn't much of a choice, however."
The future Master's eyes widened again as he worked out just what that meant. "He'll stop being able to forgive you," he said wearily. "The things you'll do from here on out... He'll watch you burn and not lift a finger to stop it. You could just leave me, maybe avoid all of that. Maybe even avoid all of this to begin with."
He shrugged, not letting the information bother him. The Master had, obviously, survived the encounter despite the Doctor's refusal to help. However much that fact might hurt, survival was what truly mattered. "I hardly need the Doctor's approval of my actions. It will be..." The Master paused, searching for a word that didn't give away any emotional context. "...regrettable, that he insists on clinging to those ethics of his, but I believe I could stand to benefit from the exchange. As you pointed out, I am, perhaps, a bit too trusting on certain matters."
The blond Master closed his eyes at the sheer ruthlessness of his younger self, curling up again as he covered his head with his arms. "I lied," he admitted. "He does forgive us again. And you'll hate him for it, for coming too late and for giving it too easily or not at all. It's ironic. He's the one asking me to come along with him now. Too late. Far too late. And the noise in my head... It's so loud..."
Kneeling down next to his future self, the Master touched his shoulder in a way that wasn't exactly comfort but wasn't unfriendly either. This future regeneration frightened him just a little, because it unnerved him to think he'd ever be this honest and vulnerable with anyone, other regenerations of himself included. He himself, after all, spent the whole conversation still calculating words and motions that revealed as little as possible about his intentions. Even now, he couldn't bring himself to openly comfort his future self. "Are you ready?" he asked finally.
"Contact," his future self said with no further warning. The Master screamed.
* * *
The Doctor watched the two Masters with no small amount of worry, trying desperately not to think about Gallifrey and the flames of that alternative world. Neither of the Masters moved, locked in whatever mental conversation they were having. He wanted to pace the floor or do something useful, but the future Master was still leaning against him, head resting against his shoulder as if in sleep, and if he moved away the blond Master might accidentally disrupt the other Master's concentration.
It was peaceful like this though. The Doctor could almost see his old friend in both of their faces and he found himself reminiscing on the days before 'the Master' had been born, when it'd just been him and Koschei. Despite the sorrow it caused him, it was still better than thinking of Gallifrey burning. Oh, the trouble they had gotten into...
He gave the Master in his arms a friendly pat on the shoulder, starting to hum absently to distract himself. A human aria this time, along with solving a few math problems in his head to keep from getting bored and thinking. It was a good ten minutes later and he was just about to try and reach for a book when the darker Master gave a small cry of pain and collapsed.
As the future Master showed no sign of stirring, the Doctor laid him back against the bed to free his hands up. Shifting over, he carefully took hold of the Master's shoulders and helped him sit up. "Are you alright?"
"The drums..." the Master gasped with a pained expression.
The Doctor's eyes widened as this Master clutched at his jacket much the same as the future Master had. "Sh," he said, shifting the Master to a slightly more comfortable position against him. He didn't understand the drums or why the Master heard them, but he did know his presence had a lessening quality that would hopefully do the Master good. "It's alright. There's a dear fellow... Tell me what happened. Did it work?"
The Master didn't respond, though he looked like he was in a lot of pain. Frowning, the Doctor traced his hand down the Master's cheek, pausing just above his beard. The Master gave a small groan before going limp against him. "Master?" he called, using the Master's chosen name to his face for the first time since... He didn't know, to be honest, but the Master needed to wake up and prove he was okay. He shook him gently, trying not to jar the Master's shoulder. "Come on, old chap. Wake up."
Surprised by the sound, the Doctor looked up to find a pair of hazel brown eyes staring at him from across the bed. The future Master was sitting up, scowling, and looking around with a keen intelligence that he'd never seen there before. "I beg your pardon?" the Doctor asked, uncertain how to handle the Master now that he was fully awake.
"I said leave him," the Master repeated, looking disdainfully down at his past self as he swung his legs over the side of the bed with a wince. "He'll be fine. He just needs to sleep it off. Unless you want to keep feeling me up like that while I'm unconscious... if so, can I watch?"
The sheer vulgarity of the suggestion was appalling, but the Doctor didn't let go of the current Master just yet. That would be like admitting it and he wasn't sure he wanted to do as the Master commanded. "You shouldn't be getting up yet," he said instead, huffing softly in offense. "You were badly wounded, you know."
He put the current Master down after that, lying him at the foot of the bed because the future Master was obviously going to disregard his advice and fall over in his attempt to stand up. They were both predictable to a fault sometimes, the Doctor thought as he managed to catch the blond man before he fell forward. "I did warn you," he said, not bothering to hide the smug 'I told you so' behind his stern expression.
Helping the Master sit back down, he watched the dizziness fade from his eyes and acted as if he didn't notice that the Master willingly stayed limp against him after. "I take it you're feeling better?" the Doctor asked, hiding his charmed expression when the Master snuggled closer.
"It worked," the blond Master agreed without elaborating. He closed his eyes wearily and leaned his head against the Doctor's shoulder. "You've fixed the regeneration as well, haven't you?"
"As best I could." The Doctor sighed and shook his head, glancing back at the stabilizer. "I don't know if it will hold or not, but right now you're stable."
The Master nodded against his shoulder, his arm hesitantly linking with the Doctor's. For his part, the Doctor was rather enjoying the cuddling. It wasn't something the current Master liked to do too often and in this regeneration the Doctor thrived off close contact like this. "Why..." the Master started, pausing for a moment. "What happened? It feels like I've got a few broken ribs and..." He shifted, lightly wincing. "A fractured collar bone."
"I don't know what happened, to be honest," the Doctor said, fingers automatically going to probe the Master's collar bone. None of the scans had shown a fracture earlier, but he hadn't been looking too closely at the future Master's shoulder when there was so much else he was trying to heal. Perhaps he'd just missed it? It was hard for the Doctor not to show the anger he still felt upon seeing the numerous bruises the Master had accumulated and some of that made its way into his voice as he spoke. "That's how we found you, bruised and beaten. You don't remember?" Still, that might be for the best, if the Master couldn't remember who to get revenge on.
"No." Shaking his head and looking pained, the Master looked so weak that the Doctor started to wonder if there had been something else the scanners had missed. Or maybe this was a side effect of the loom stabilizer? It wasn't like the Master to show just how much he hurt, though with this regeneration... Honesty and bluntness was both a vice and virtue to him, as the Master went on to prove. "What's to become of me then? Am I to be kept as a pet to be trotted out once the War starts up again as a weapon?"
Frowning, the Doctor shook his head. He couldn't feel anything wrong with the Master's collar bone, but if it'd been a hairline fracture he wouldn't. He needed to run another scan to be sure... As to the actual conversation, well, that was just ridiculous. "Good heavens, no. That talk about using you as a weapon is absolutely preposterous! No... I'm not sure what's to be done with you yet. I suppose we'll try and get you to your proper time line, but for now you should stay here and rest." Yes, that would be the best course of action. The future Master staying with him for a while and perhaps more snuggling like they were doing right now since this Master didn't seem to mind it. "You can get your strength back up and-"
It happened so quickly that the Doctor barely had time to notice the Master's hand clutching at something out of his line of sight. This Master was fast - much faster and stronger than he looked - and had over-powered him before the Doctor could even realize the earlier show of weakness had been a sham. The Doctor bit back a shout as his wrists were forced above his head with a bruising grip and he was only allowed to struggle for a few seconds before a cold, sharp metal object was placed against his throat. Where in heaven's name had the Master gotten that? The Doctor stilled as he realized it was the pocket knife from his own jacket that the Master must have picked. The fool must have gotten it while he'd been hugging the Doctor's arm. "So you've become a common thief and murderer now," the Doctor asked coldly.
"Shut. Up," the Master said, drawing out the two words with a low level of maniac energy and a snarl. "You always talk so much, Doctor. So much noise over the drums." The Master straddled him, blocking the Doctor's attempts to slowly bring his foot up to kick the Master off. The Doctor couldn't hold back a hiss of pain as the Master's nails dug into his wrists. "So much noise, Doctor. And you only get worse with age."
The knife was pressed further against his throat and drew blood, but the Doctor schooled his features to be calm. He needed to figure out what this regeneration of the Master was playing at and he needed to do it fast. "You're hardly prone to silence yourself this time around," he said levelly, making a passing attempt to free his hands. He was rewarded by the Master starting to choke him slowly with the blunt edge of the knife.
"Shut. Up," the Master said again with more anger. "Hush now, or I'll make you. I've got all the noise I need at the moment."
"And how... do you propose... to do that?" The Doctor gasped. "You've got... your hands full... and-"
The Master's mouth covered his with a bruising kiss, forcing his tongue into the Doctor's mouth after painfully biting down on his lip. Oh. That's how.
The Doctor was gasping for breath by the time the Master pulled back, more because of the knife at his throat than the kiss. "There are... nicer ways... to ask for that... you know," he managed to say with the help of his respiratory by-pass system.
The Master lessened the pressure on his throat fractionally as he laughed, allowing the Doctor to cough and fill his lungs. He wanted to rub his neck, but the Master still held his hands pressed against the mattress in a way that was sure to break the bones if the Master wasn't careful. It didn't seem like he was going to be careful either, so it was up to the Doctor to try and put his hands at a less fragile angle.
"Why should I ask when I can just take?" the Master asked once his manic laugh died down. "And how do you know that's what I want?"
The Doctor had been about to retort that asking was the polite thing to do when the second question threw him off. He simply didn't know how this regeneration of the Master would react, and he couldn't plan and outthink him accordingly. "What do you want then?" he asked hoarsely, still trying to gauge the Master's mood.
"This," the Master said. He tossed the knife away carelessly and reached up to the Doctor's temple, fingers pressed against the side of his face. "Sleep," he said, sending a hypnotic suggestion along with the word. The Doctor felt his eyes widen as he tried to fight the suggestion, but this Master was a much stronger psychic than even the current Master, and certainly a lot stronger than him.
"Sleep," the Master repeated, his voice almost gentle as he released the Doctor's hands. "Sleep and forget about everything that happened since you found me. You will remember nothing."
"But..." Why was he fighting? And who was this? The Doctor found he couldn't remember, but he knew he still had to fight. This was important...
The man leaned over and kissed his forehead, caressing his cheek with a tender movement. "Just sleep, would you? I'll watch over you, Theta."
Koschei... The Doctor thought with absolute certainty before he fell asleep, the trust of several centuries relaxing him. Koschei would watch over him. It was alright.
The Master eased off the Doctor, leaning down and kissing him with a sweetness that he'd never show the Doctor while he was awake. He arranged the Doctor more neatly on the bed and had been about to reach down and unlace his shoes when he saw his younger self staring at him. The Master stiffened, disliking being caught doing something that sappy. "I thought you'd sleep for longer."
His younger self shook his head dismissively, then winced in pain at the movement. "With all the racket you were making, it was impossible to rest. Was the violence really necessary?"
"Yes," the Master said defensively, though his younger self hadn't spoken accusingly but with a detached interest. The violence had been necessary, because he did remember bits of the time after he'd escaped from the time lock. Bits of the Doctor singing to him, of clinging to the Doctor's shirt and sobbing against his shoulder. The Master had needed the violence to prove to himself he wasn't that weak. Now that he had found his sanity again, he was stronger.
He turned on his younger, darker self with a sneer, falling back on hurting him too. The Master didn't like accepting help from others, not even his past self. "Did it excite you? Want to join in next time? Or should I just start describing how good it felt to crush his throat while kissing him?"
What his younger self made of that, his face didn't show, though he did frown disapprovingly at the invitation. He'd forgotten how stuffy he'd been when he was younger. "I'll pass on that kind of entertainment," his younger self responded. "There is still one matter that needs to be taken care of, however. My memory."
"Sure you don't want to remember?"
"I'd rather not," his younger self said firmly. The Master supposed he really couldn't blame him. While the foreknowledge must be tempting, especially to attempt to change things to win against the Doctor... it wasn't worth the price of knowing about the War, not to this particular regeneration. He still had too much of Koschei in him. That would change in the next body, who had only known himself as the Master, but for now... The Master nodded.
Leaving the Doctor, he shifted over and touched his younger self's temples, leaning his forehead in until they were touching. "Where did you leave your TARDIS?" he asked before starting.
"The Eye of Orion." The Master raised his eyebrows at his younger self, who merely shrugged. "The Doctor's choice, not mine. The CIA is after me as well, so I'd appreciate it if you let me remember that much."
The Master didn't respond, instead closing his eyes in concentration. "Sleep. You won't remember anything about this encounter, so just sleep now."
"The drums..." his younger self murmured, falling against his shoulder.
"The drums will go away," the Master said, holding him tightly. It was a lie, but it would calm him enough to sleep. Besides, he had no plans of keeping the drums now that he'd found out their true purpose. The Time Lords were never going to use him like that again. "I'll make sure of it."
And what would he be without the drums? He'd asked the Doctor that before and it still shook him to the core, but he couldn't cling to them any longer. He supposed he would just have to find out.
He held his younger self like that for a while, reassuring both of them in the way he couldn't while they were both awake. Apologizing was more the Doctor's thing, but in this case he apologized for what his younger self would go through in the future, all because of an action that he wouldn't even remember. Then he dampened the drums and the stress from what they'd done as much as he could, leaving only the imprint of where his TARDIS had been left and that the CIA were looking for him in his younger self's mind before pulling away.
The last thing he wanted was to sleep at the Doctor's feet, past or present, so he pulled his younger self up and laid him out properly next to the Doctor. Putting them in separate beds would be too much for his broken ribs and he didn't think either of them would mind. Then he went back to untying their shoes and placing them at the foot of the bed, since one should never wear shoes to sleep. He didn't pull the cover around them, because that would be just a little too much like tucking in children for bed. Rassilon, they were both so young...
He let his hand trace down the Doctor's cheek one last time before turning to leave. The Master didn't look back.
* * *
The Doctor woke to a strange tickling sensation on his neck. What had happened? He and the Master had been running from a short and fuzzy dictator, hadn't they? That didn't explain why it felt like a beard was tickling his rather sore neck. Only one thing for it; might as well open his eyes and see what was going on.
He was surprised to find himself in the TARDIS medlab with, of all people, the Master curled up against him. Well, that explained the beard tickling him. No, the Master wasn't just curled up to him, he was clinging to the Doctor, almost like he was having a nightmare.
"It's alright," the Doctor said softly, his voice pitched low enough not to actually wake the Master as he pulled the man a little closer. "There's a dear fellow. No need to be afraid."
If he was surprised by how naturally he'd fallen into trying to comfort the Master, the Doctor was even more surprised by the Master willingly inching closer and nuzzling his neck. It tickled and was a little sore, but it wasn't an unpleasant feeling. In fact, none of this was unpleasant. He found he rather liked the Master pressed against him and it brought back so many memories...
How had they ended up like this? After a quick glance around and finding his shoes not stolen, the Doctor let out a small sigh and decided it didn't matter. Maybe when the Master woke up, they could have a fencing match, possibly segueing into something more... Yes, just the thing he needed to cheer him up after Jo's departure. It was a quiet moment, but right now that was all the Doctor needed.
Memory: Well, I hope everyone liked it. <3
Two quotes of the fic. Really, the Shakespeare one is just tacked on because we've been talking about Hamlet so much...
"Truly great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence."
"Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go."