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Fickle Fortune

Fickle Fortune
By: Memory Dragon
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who, nor do I make any claim to.
Summary: The Master learns the hard way that luck does indeed have everything to do with competition dancing.
Characters: Delgado Master, Lizzie Matthews (not Borden...  XD)
Warnings: Lots of dancing and themes of suicide in the last bit.
Rating: PG-13 for the suicide themes
Notes: So I wrote this sequel to Lead and Follow, even though it didn't really need it.  Technically, it's not a sequel, since it takes place during the original fic, but still.  Normally, I wouldn't write a sequel just to have more of an OC, but people apparently wanted more.  Also, I've never actually been to Swing Diego, so all the convention bits are based off my memories of Dallas D.A.N.C.E. instead. 
Thanks: Many thanks to narwhale_callin for betaing.  Hopefully, he is Sailor Moon villain-ish enough for you.
Dedication: For _rubber_chicken and Allonym, who both wanted more Lizzie.  You now have more Lizzie and Master dance adventures across time and space.


After the Kirestra V Universal Swing Fest, the Master was not overly impressed with this "Swing Diego" that Lizzie kept going on about. Even fifty years into her personal future, it wasn't anything more than a group of humans getting together for one weekend to compete for meaningless trophies. There was the prize money, of course, but the Master knew plenty of easier ways to get money that didn't involve the chance of getting a bad dance partner.

However, Lizzie had desperately wanted to go. She talked about it non-stop during their lessons and he was taking her to impressive destinations for the sake of making the Doctor jealous. After all, there was nothing like showing the Doctor how happy Lizzie was for taking up the opportunity that he had so frequently turned down.

He wasn't here to cheer her up, though that was a side effect of their travels. A pleasant one, though, he'd admit that. Nothing had overtly changed in her demeanor, but she smiled more frequently - even occasionally when no one was watching. Her smiles felt real and less strained, and the Master counted that as a good thing. After all, the Doctor would become suspicious if he saw that Lizzie was unhappy under all the make-up and smiles. He wouldn't be as jealous as the Master wanted him to be if he were too caught up thinking she was being controlled. No, Lizzie getting cheered up was merely part of The Plan, and was therefore a perfectly acceptable side effect.

The Plan which did not include being put in the embarrassing the amateur level of competition.

"It's nothing about your skill level, that you're competing in the novice level," Lizzie consoled him as they got on the lift. "You just haven't earned the points to advance to the next level, since you've never competed under this system."

"I claimed second place at Swing Fest and that was a universal competition," the Master said, trying to keep the sulky tone out of his voice.

"And that's not for another thirty centuries," Lizzie said, patting his arm. "It won't be that bad. If you get enough points here, the Doctor won't realize you've just skipped around. You could use it as part of your plan to make him think that you've been dancing longer than him!"

"Or I could hack into the system," the Master said, knowing it wouldn't work even before he said it. The judges of the event now knew him and there had been a bit of a scene when he tried to hypnotize one of them. They would think it suspicious if he suddenly had points. That didn't mean he couldn't suggest it anyway. It made him feel better to complain.

"They'd remember you," Lizzie said, reaffirming his conclusion. "Though, you could, like, go back a few days and try it? Then your points would already be in the system and you wouldn't have to hypnotize them at all."

He was very tempted to do just that, but he still winced at the suggestion. He wasn't that desperate to mess around with the Laws of Time just for a dance competition, and Lizzie did have a point about earning the points properly. The Doctor might accuse him of manipulating things. This way, he could even tell the Doctor which tournaments to verify he had earned his right to compete in the masters' level. He bet the Doctor couldn't claim that kind accomplishment. "Only the foolish attempt such things once they enter the time stream," the Master said instead, a little regretful.

"Oh, so it's one of those time rules?"

"The Laws of Time," the Master corrected.

"Yeah, those," Lizzie said. She smiled up at him. "At least this means you should have an easy time winning! You've gotten much better, Victor, so it shouldn't be a problem for you in the lower levels. You'll be up in the masters' in no time!"

He was the Master. He should already be in the master levels. It was true that everyone had to start somewhere, but he preferred not to start at the bottom. Still, there was no helping it now. He would just have to do this the old-fashioned way.

At least the hotel was nice. Lizzie had asked him why they were staying at the hotel when the TARDIS was only a few blocks away. He'd told her it was to fit in better, but really, the Master simply liked luxury. Yes, he could have much more state-of-the-art rooms on his TARDIS, but that was without room service. Lizzie, of course, didn't mind either way so long as he was the one paying the bill.

"There's the warm-up for the novice Jack and Jills," Lizzie said as they walked into the ballroom. She pulled him into a quick hug and kissed him on the cheek, a customary invasion of his personal space to which he had resigned himself quite some time ago.

He didn't know if it was Americans or just dancers in general, but they were all too affectionate. He allowed it with Lizzie because of eventually needing it to make the Doctor jealous, but everyone else learned to stay clear. Lizzie was the exception only because she ignored or was oblivious to the warning signs and - for whatever reason - didn't fear the Master.

"Good luck!" she said as she pulled away.

"My dear Lizzie, I assure you luck has nothing to do with it," the Master said.

Lizzie was about to say something, but someone came and asked her for a dance. She winked at him instead as she was lead to the dance floor for one of the last songs before the competition started.

He checked in to the contest, glaring at the judge as he did so. The fat little man who was resistant to hypnotism glared back. If it hadn't been for Lizzie, the Master would have killed the man without a second thought to get his way.

Sadly, the same reasons that he had taken Lizzie as his partner in crime worked against him in this case. She was the same sort of young, pretty thing that the Doctor liked to take with him, which meant that she was perfect bait to make the Doctor jealous. It also meant she had sensibilities. She was, so far, ambient towards his past as a renegade Time Lord, but that would change if he killed someone where she could get wind of it. He had put too much effort into his plan to lose that now, even if it was just to murder one annoying little man.

So instead he looked toward his potential partners, trying to size them up.

"You don't know who you'll have to dance with," he remembered Lizzie explaining on Kirestra V when he had first come across the contest. They had been watching the competition, sitting on the ground for front row seats as two names were announced. "Or what song you'll get. It's the luck of the draw. Sometimes, you'll get a really good partner and a great song and magic happens. Sometimes, not so much."

He didn't recognize any of the girls, but then, he hadn't danced in this time period before. A lot of them looked nervous, but a few were chatting comfortably with each other. Then he looked over to his competition. The Master dismissed a good two-thirds of them out of hand, knowing a novice wouldn't stand a chance against him. A few looked to be veterans competitors, and those he took more seriously. Earlier he had seen the list of who was competing, and a few of them were only a couple points away from the intermediate division. These were the ones he'd have to beat out, as they would work harder to make sure they received points to propel them forward.

He checked in, then meant to take a closer look at his fellow competitors and mentally sabotage a few of them. However, he caught sight of Lizzie out on the dance floor, spinning to a flawless pose at a break in the music as both she and her partner free styled for a few counts. Then she laughed and said something to her partner, smiling up at him.

The Master watched her elegant movements with a critical eye, very pleased with the result. She was an excellent dancer, worthy of the plot he had set in motion. She was as happy as he had ever seen her as well, so the Doctor would have no facts to base his suspicions on.

"See something you like over there?" One of the other contestants - no more than a mere boy, barely twenty - said, coming up beside the Master.

The Master stopped smiling, schooling his features into a frown at what the boy was implying. The boy was tall with brown hair and tanned skin, obviously a native to the beaches around here. "I'm afraid I don't catch your meaning," the Master said.

"It's her, ain't it?" the boy said, motioning towards Lizzie with a whistle. "Damn. Don't blame you. Dude, she is hot."

"Miss Mathews is an accomplished woman," the Master said, disapproving entirely of the boy's tone. He looked the boy over again, not liking what he saw. There was something off about him, the kind of feeling that people usually got around the Master. He decidedly didn't like this boy's attention on Lizzie. "I suggest you leave her well alone, young man."

"So you're a friend of hers?" the boy asked, ignoring the warning in the Master's voice.

If the little fool was going to persist, the Master had no qualms with brainwashing him right now. Except the fat little mentally resistant judge chose that moment to walk by. The same one that had promised him removal from the convention entirely if the Master tried any more 'weird behavior.'

Internally sighing, the Master settled for a more blatant threat. "It would be in your best interest to leave her alone," he said. He would have expanded on the reasons why, but the Master of Ceremonies was coming on and asking for everyone to clear the dance floor.

The first half of the competition was done en mass, so the Master found a good spot in line and waited for the judges to announce the order of partners. This part of the contest was easy. His first partner was nervous, but he was able to put her at ease with a bit of hypnotic suggestion. He didn't recognize the song that was playing, but it was simple enough to count for the breaks in the music as Lizzie had taught him.

As the Master danced with his partner, he mused over what it would be like to dance with the Doctor. The Doctor would be a lot taller than his current partner, and there would be velvet brushing under his fingertips as he held his partner in closed position. The Doctor's hips moving as hers did, eyes staring intently on him...

The Master nearly missed a break and he quickly banished those thoughts to focus on the competition. After a minute and a half, the DJ quit the song and they switched partners. The new song was faster and more difficult, but this was one he was familiar with and had danced a few times with Lizzie. His new partner wasn't nervous at all and after exchanging pleasantries, they started dancing.

The Master quickly came to the conclusion that this Samantha Sanchez was practically as good a dancer as Lizzie. She was pretty, too, though a quick scan of her mind told him that she wasn't nearly as intelligent. However, such people were easy to mold to his will and they had their places in his plans.

Still, Lizzie was sufficient at the moment. And much more preferable, despite her stubborn resistance against mind control. Right now, all he needed was Ms. Sanchez's dancing ability to help him get to the finals, and for that she was more than adequate. He spun her around, smiling in approval of her low arabesque and swan-like arms.

There was one more partner switch and song change before the contest was called to a halt to announce the finalists. While everyone waited nervously to hear if their name would be called, the Master stood smugly off to the side. If the judges weren't blind, he'd make the finals easily.

Sure enough, his name was the fourth called. He only paused in his smugness to frown as the boy who had shown interest in Lizzie started celebrating as well. C.J. Reddington, if he had heard the MC correctly.

The Master was looking forward to beating him in the finals and seeing that cocky smile wiped off his face. It wasn't anywhere near the mental stimulation the Doctor could offer, but he was more than willing to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

He was shaking hands with one of the other competitors when he was attacked. The Master staggered back as Lizzie half-tackled him with a brilliant smile. "Congratulations, Victor! You were amazing out there!"

Regaining his balance, the Master attempted to frown reproachfully at her for the undignified hug. It came out as a fond exasperation that the Master wasn't going to admit to. He supposed he could forgive her this time, since she was congratulating him. "What about the rest of my competition?" the Master asked as he detached from her as soon as it was acceptable to do so.

"You'll have your work cut out for you, with a few of them," she said, glancing over at the guys. But then she turned back to meet the Master's gaze with a grin as he was straightening his tie. "But with a good partner, you shouldn't place any lower than third."

"I plan to place higher than that, Miss Mathews," the Master assured her.

"Yeah, yeah, of course," Lizzie said with a wink. She smiled and grabbed the Master's hand as the music started up. "They still play Sheryl Crow in this time! I love My Favorite Mistake!"

"Lizzie, I should be watching the comp-"

"You can't say no when a girl asks." He could actually, when he knew Lizzie wasn't watching, and had done so several times. But Lizzie refused to take 'no' for an answer and the Master consented to be dragged over to the dance floor rather than set himself up for an argument he couldn't win without destroying his plan. Sometimes, the Master wondered who was leading whom.

Speaking of leading, that was apparently what Lizzie was expecting to do. The Master stopped short, leveling her with a stern glare. "Lizzie, out here-"

"-Is exactly the sort of place that the Doctor will ask you to dance in, if everything goes according to plan," Lizzie said. "You'll have to get used to people seeing you following. Besides, you need the practice."

The Master still didn't move. It wasn't that nonsense about being embarrassed as Lizzie implied either. He was supposed to lead, and though Lizzie's plan made sense, that didn't mean he liked it.

Lizzie was no help at all, standing there giggling at him. "Do you know what the job of the lead is?" she asked.

"To lead," the Master said, feeling that was obvious.

"Actually, it's to show off their partner," she said after making a buzzing noise. "The job of the leader is to make sure their partner looks good, which means clear leads and giving your partner the freedom to play at the right moments."

The Master still didn't move, not understanding the point she was trying to make. If that was supposed to convince him, it wasn't working. "I fail to see your point, Lizzie."

"Aw, come on. You're trying to convince him that he's leading you instead of luring him in, right? So all you have to do is show him up! Followers always have way more room to show off." She tugged at his hand expectantly, waiting for him to make up his mind. "You said you wanted to be a better dancer than him, right? Well, I'm pretty sure he hasn't bothered to learn to follow. You could totally outclass him!"

Now she was making a surprising amount of sense, so much that he actually stepped forward when she tugged a second time. "Start on your right foot," she reminded him and he quickly fixed his position. In for a penny, in for a pound. It wasn't like Lizzie would give up either, not when she was in teaching mode.

Following was a lot different from leading. The steps were different, for one, but Lizzie had already taught him those differences. The main difference, though, was not having to plan ahead for his next move. Resentment of having to follow aside, it was dreadfully dull.

As the song ended, Lizzie kept hold of his hand. She frowned lightly at him, considering something. Had he done a wrong step? A quick glance through his memories told him that he had done the steps right, if nothing else. "Is something the matter?" he asked, becoming more perplexed as she stayed quiet. Lizzie was almost never quiet.

"Just trying to think," she said, sparing a brief glance around as the next song started. "Your technique is good, but... Look, see that couple over there?"

The Master followed her hand, glancing over to see two men dancing together. The man who was following was moving outrageously femininely. The Master then turned back to Lizzie with a matching frown. "I hope you're not suggesting I act in such a ridiculous manner." If she was, that Sanchez woman from earlier was suddenly looking like a much better prospect.

Lizzie took one look at the Master's face and nearly doubled over laughing. But before he could decide to just leave her on the dance floor, she managed to control herself. "Sorry, sorry. I wouldn't dream of implying that," she said as she wiped her eyes dry. "No, just watch. He's exaggerating everything so it should be easy to see. Watch how he follows."

Turning back, the Master watched for a few more seconds. Other than disapproval at their behavior in public, the Master was unimpressed. "I'm afraid I don't see what-"

Lizzie flicked his nose, and he scowled at her. "Don't be stubborn. I thought that Time Lord head of yours was supposed to be clever." Wisely, she didn't wait for him to respond to that, rushing forward. "Fine, see that couple to the right of them. Compare the girl who's following to that guy."

She smiled to humor him as he let her know of his indignation with a stern look. Realizing the effect was somewhat lacking, the Master silently cursed the fact that she wasn't afraid of him. He needed that quality to convince the Doctor that she wasn't just an accessory, but it did have its drawbacks from time to time.

Finally, he turned back to see what she was so insistent about. With a side-by-side comparison, however, it was easy to see the point she was trying to make.

"Her technique is very good," Lizzie said. "She never misses a step, her turns are precise and fluid, and she doesn't anticipate the next move. But how would you describe her dancing?"

"It's very dull," the Master said slowly. "And lifeless, without any personality. She won't make it past novice."

"Now, what about the guy who's following?"

The man, on the other hand, was very good. Despite the Master's disapproval of his styling, every basic was finished out with flair, either with a small kick or hand movement that fit the sassy beat of the song. The follower never missed a lead, but he also did things that the other man couldn't lead, like styling or playing with the music. Then, on an under arm pass, the man reached up to his partner's arm and stopped himself for a break before pushing off back the opposite way. That definitely hadn't been lead. The Master could see the surprise on the other man's face.

"You're currently dancing a lot like that girl," Lizzie said when the Master didn't comment. "You're just reacting, not doing any thinking of your own. That won't impress the Doctor. Just because you're following, doesn't mean you're off the hook about planning. You've not only got to follow, but also, like, incorporate your own ideas so that they flow with your partner's. Following isn't passive."

A counter-attack? No, not quite, but the principle was the same. He still had to plan, but it was a different sort of planning. More the sort that the Doctor did, thinking on the fly and reacting with his own plans. Though the Master preferred a more long-term plan, there was value in this manner of thinking as well. And it would be good practice if he ever had to outwit the Doctor at his own game.

Learning how to follow didn't seem nearly as tedious anymore.

"Ready to keep going?" Lizzie asked, without the smug 'I told you so' the Doctor would have given him. For that, the Master was satisfied enough to put any thoughts of Samantha Sanchez behind him.

Lizzie started them off again. It was a slower song this time, giving the Master time to consider each movement and start to add some of the tasteful movements he had seen Lizzie do. It was all going well until he lost his balance on an unfamiliar triple step spin and nearly crashed into Lizzie.

She laughed and helped steady him. "Now you're getting it! We can practice more on the TARDIS later."

She switched hands and let the Master lead the rest of the dance, proving that she knew him a bit better than he'd like to admit. Learning was all well and good, but stumbling around like a beginner in front of all these humans was something the Master would rather pass on. Her point was made, and so they both moved on to enjoy the dance.

A few dances later, the MC called for the dance floor to be cleared. He got another hug and a kiss on the cheek from Lizzie before she ran off to find a seat.

The second half of the competition was much different from the first. Instead of dancing together in a group as the judges walked around, they were called up pair by pair to take the dance floor alone. The Master took one of the chairs set aside for the finalists and waited patiently for the contest to start up again.

He wasn't nervous in the slightest, ignoring the idle chatter around him in preference of silent mental preparation. Finally, the noise of hundreds of dancers lulled as the MC started the finals.

The Master was fourth in line and he carefully watched the competition to see what he would have to beat. The first four couples were good for the novice level, but not up to the Master's standard. He was sure he would have the contest well in hand if this was the best the convention had to offer.

When it was his turn to draw his partner's name from the hat, the Master was certain that nothing could go wrong. And then the MC announced his partner's name and the bland girl from earlier stepped forward. How she had made it to the finals with her level of dancing, the Master couldn't say. Still the Master refused to let this deter him. He had come out on top with much less to work with before.

"I'm Josie," the girl said, offering her hand. She was a lovely girl, with short, raven hair and blue eyes. Unfortunately, she looked to have just about as much personality as her dancing. She was what Americans would call an 'ice queen' with none of the mystère that one needs to pull the look off.

"Victor," he replied as he took her hand, deciding that she would fit in well with Time Lord society if she had even half a normal human's brain. They moved into closed position and waited for the song to start. Using the close contact, the Master attempted to slip into Josie's mind unobtrusively. He had been watching the woman carefully earlier, and he was sure he could influence her to add more expression to her dance. Except when he tried to get into her mind, the Master was met with a blank wall.

Humans should not have such mental blocks. He tried again, only to meet with the same results. The girl's mind was as solid as a metal wall that refused to give way. What was it, some sort of trauma that forced her to close herself off like this? He was half tempted to force his way through, but the music was starting and he didn't want to have to explain to Lizzie why his partner suddenly collapsed on the dance floor.

This wasn't supposed to happen. He lead her through a starter step before pushing her out into open position. He kept smiling pleasantly - Lizzie had warned him the judges look for things like that - but in his mind he was furious. He wasn't going to lose this competition because of dumb luck!

He refocused his attention to more difficult movements and all the breaks that he could lead without too much dependency on one's partner. If he couldn't have her show more personality, he could at least show off technical skill. In that, Josie was proficient. If nothing else, she followed every lead, no matter how difficult the move.

After a minute and a half of dancing, the song faded to an end and the crowd applauded. "Thank you, Josie," the Master said politely. She nodded and returned to her seat, making no show of noticing the cold fury that had been in his eyes.

The Master sank into his own seat, one heart beating anger and the other disappointment. He didn't even bother glaring at the man who patted him on the back. "Tough luck, man," he said in consolation.

Tough luck indeed. He was the Master! He didn't need luck to win a competition as simple as this one. That was how the Doctor did things, trusting to luck. He simply needed a partner who didn't dance with the imagination of a brick.

He couldn't hypnotize the judges into giving him first place either. It was worse than when the Doctor foiled one of his plans, if just because now he also lacked the pleasure of the battle of wits. He only had the universe and luck to blame.

He watched the remaining dances with disinterest. When the judges left to confer amongst themselves, Lizzie sought out the Master and gave him a much more subdued hug. "Sorry for what happened," she said. "But I heard the others saying it was the best dance they had seen with her. I still think you'll place well."

"My dear Lizzie, it's merely a dance competition," the Master said, more for himself than for her. "It's hardly the end of the world."

"Yeah, but you were looking forward to it," Lizzie said, ignoring the glare he gave her. Then her face brightened and she snapped her fingers. "I know! Dequan was telling me about an ice cream place that just opened up not far from here! Why don't we go and get some ice cream? They won't announce placements for a while yet."

Ice cream? He had tried it before, but had never been that impressed with the stuff. It also sounded more than a little childish, to be cheered up with ice cream. This regeneration had a sweet tooth that none of his others had, though. It sounded fairly appetizing, but... "The intermediate division Jack and Jills are up next," he said.

Lizzie waved it off, not looking disappointed in the slightest as she quoted his words back at him. "It's merely a dance competition," she said, attempting to speak in his accent before stumbling partway through the sentence and going back to her own voice. "It's not like I can't watch it some other time. We can get some ice cream and come back in time for me to compete!"

The Master considered it. How much did he want to be selfish? He was certainly angry enough to just take her up on her offer. Except she had talked constantly about the Jack and Jills and he knew it was her favorite event.

With a sigh, the Master shook his head. She was a valuable pawn and it was only right that he rewarded her occasionally. "We can leave after your competition," he said finally.

"Are you sure?" Lizzie asked, toying with her earring.

"Quite sure, Miss Mathews. It's hardly something that can't-"

He was cut off by a sudden armful of Lizzie as she hugged him tightly. "I don't care what the Doctor or his friend says about you. I think you're wonderful."

The Doctor wasn't around to be made jealous, so the Master only hugged her back for the socially required amount of time. He did allow himself to give her a fond smile as he pulled away, because as minions went, Lizzie was by far one of the most endearing he'd ever had. She then took his hand and dragged him away to find a seat, talking animatedly about past Jack and Jill competitions she had seen.

As the MC called to clear the dance floor again, though, there were very few seats left. They both looked around, but as people migrated back to their seats, they were rapidly running out of choices where one could still see the dance floor. Lizzie looked up at him forlornly.

Inwardly, the Master cursed. His show of good grace was being worn thin, but at the same time would be rendered meaningless if Lizzie couldn't actually see the dancing. But the alternative was both demeaning and beneath him - not to mention hell on his knees - and he wasn't going to let a pair of green eyes and curls convince him to sit on the floor.

Glancing over to the front seats again, the Master weighed the pros and cons before walking over. "Excuse me," he said to the couple who were seated right in the middle. "I believe someone in the lobby was looking for you." He put enough hypnotic suggestion in his tone that the couple wouldn't question it. He quickly put the impression of waiting for someone in their minds and finding that person when they reached the lobby, so that they wouldn't come back and complain.

"Ah, thank you," the man said, as they got up to leave. "I'd forgotten we'd asked Matthew to drop by."

As they left, the Master gestured to Lizzie to take the now vacated seat. However, Lizzie frowned at him. "That wasn't very nice," she said.

"But it was effective," the Master replied, taking a seat. She sat beside him, but he could tell she wasn't happy. The Master didn't understand her. She didn't mind when he was hypnotizing people to make everyone at the club think he'd been around longer or getting into the masters' division, but she took offense to this? He put it down to a human sentiment that he would simply never understand.

But soon enough the misstep had been forgotten, and Lizzie was smiling as she chatted animatedly to the person she had just introduced herself to on her left. When she glanced back at the Master, she smiled at him and squeezed his hand in thanks. Well, at least the Doctor wouldn't find fault in how happy she was.

As they watched the intermediate couples dance, Lizzie pointed out good technique for both the leader and the follower. She had long since realized the Master was a visual learner, in that she could point a move out to him and he could replicate it. To take his mind off his loss, she had him evaluating each couple as if he were a judge, ranking them in his head. In his bitterness, he judged harshly, but he slowly relaxed and started to just enjoy watching.

There was a bit of a longer break between the intermediate and masters division, and the Master enjoyed a few songs on the dance floor before wishing Lizzie luck. This time he sat out the last dance to make sure he had a good chair for the competition.

Lizzie passed through the first round with ease, he noted with satisfaction. "I hope they don't play one of those R&B songs," she told him during the break. "I'm terrible at dancing to those."

The Master glanced towards the DJ and then smiled reassuringly at her. "I'm sure you will do fine," he said as another dance partner claimed her.

The problem of 'R&B' music was easily solved by a bit of hypnotism, as was another attempt of someone to steal his seat. That settled, the Master sat down and waited for the contest to start, feeling rather pleased with himself.

Lizzie's name was the penultimate name called, and he saw her laugh nervously as she introduced herself to her partner. So far, the other dancers had been good, but the Master had no doubt Lizzie was better. As the music started to play, the Master was pleased to note it was one of Lizzie's favorite songs. A jazz singer lamented about how they could have had it all, and Lizzie and her partner came alive on the dance floor.

Her partner was good, and the Master attempted to watch his technique. Except his eyes were constantly drawn to Lizzie who far out shone him. As he spun her around and caught her by the neck, Lizzie slid out with a fluid grace that was unparalleled. She glided from movement to movement as she spun effortlessly into the music's phrasing. Lizzie didn't listen to the music, she felt it.

The Master smiled quietly to himself as the music faded and the applause began. Perhaps there was something to be said about having such high quality pawns. They were a lot of trouble, but they paid off in the end. He would have to remember this for the future.

He was certain Lizzie would make first place. Which was why he was very disgruntled when it was not only announced that Lizzie and her partner had made second, but also that the Master had gotten fifth place. And the annoying idiot Reddingtion, who he'd warned away from Lizzie, got first.

He let Lizzie mollify him as she dragged him off for the promised ice cream after the invitational Jack and Jill. The ice cream was, in fact, very pleasing to his sweet tooth this regeneration, especially when Lizzie introduced him to hot fudge sauce.

"Thank you for bringing me here," she said as they walked back to the hotel. The California air was clear and warm, and it was an enjoyable night for a walk. He only wished that the cars that passed them weren't so loud.

In fact, despite getting fifth place and the judge who was too stubborn to be hypnotized, the Master was surprised to find he had rather enjoyed the day, and he was looking forward to a night of more dancing. For a human mating ritual, it was surprisingly complex and the exercise was invigorating. He had never expected to enjoy this plan as much as he was. "The thanks, my dear, are all mine, as you were the one to suggest it," he said.

"Even though you got fifth place?" she asked.

He gave her a sharp look of reproach at that. But Lizzie took his hand and squeezed it as she gave him a cheeky smile, and he supposed he could forgive her after the hot fudge. "Fifth place is still really good. And there's still Strictly Swing and the Pro-Ams tomorrow," she said encouragingly.

"Then we shall have to take first place in those," the Master responded, already plotting a strategy. The rest of the walk back to the hotel was filled with amiable chatter, though the Master couldn't help but wonder how different the night would be if the Doctor were here.

* * *

Around four in the morning, the Master was getting a little weary. Lizzie could go on dancing until six, but the Master wanted some peace and quiet away from the loud music and humans. He looked around to tell Lizzie that he was headed to their rooms, but he didn't see her anywhere. However, given the number of humans around, that was hardly a surprise. He did a brief mental scan for her familiar presence, but found nothing in the ballroom.

The Master thought back to the last time he saw her, which had been about forty-five minutes ago when they had both needed a breather. Excusing himself from another dance, the Master went to the lobby to have a quieter place to scan for her.

When she wasn't anywhere to be found on the first floor, he started to get worried. Being inconsiderate wasn't among her many faults and she would have told him had she gone anywhere. He ducked back into the ballroom to ask if anyone had seen her, growing more annoyed with the search.

"She did say she'd been looking for you," a woman who had been sitting at their table told him.

"Thank you," he said, scanning the room once more. Then he caught sight of a note on the table that he had missed earlier since he'd been looking more at the dance floor. Picking it up, he saw a short message in Lizzie's bubbly writing. "Check your phone," was all it said.

The Master didn't waste his energy glaring at the piece of paper, though he was sorely tempted to. Cell phones were a necessary evil in Lizzie's time and he appreciated that she would keep the message private, but that didn't mean he liked the annoying devices. The last movie the Master had gone to see had nearly resulted in one man losing the movement in his hand entirely.

Searching his pockets, the Master pulled out his T.C.E., a Clangers key chain, a pair of handcuffs, a detonator to a bomb that could destroy the city, and an etheric beam locator before he found the cell phone. Returning the other items before any humans could remark on the strange things he carried in his pockets, the Master checked his text messages. There he saw a note from Lizzie which explained more.

"Sorry I couldn't catch you! You were dancing and I didn't want to interrupt. Spilled a drink on my dress. Gone to the room to change."

Well, he supposed that was a decent reason not to wait around to catch his attention. He checked the time stamp on the message and realized she had only left ten minutes ago. If he were lucky, he could catch her before she left again. And knowing how long Lizzie took to get ready, the Master was willing to bet his luck would be quite good this time. He didn't even waste time texting her back to tell her to stay where she was.

The elevators weren't a problem at this time of night, when the majority of the convention was still dancing. It was nice to be away from the crowds and music finally, and the Master leaned against the back wall of the elevator and relaxed. Humans were always so loud, especially with their thoughts. He hadn't developed a headache yet, but it had been close and staying around that many humans was starting to become a trial.

His head was not helped by the yelling match that he walked into when the elevator doors opened. That idiot boy who had gotten first place from before was...

The Master walked swiftly over and grabbed Reddington's arm tightly, forcing him to let go of Lizzie and pushing him away. "When a young lady says no, you should respect her wishes," the Master said coldly despite how his anger could have burned the boy to ashes where he stood. Again, he was filled with a feeling of wrongness looking at the boy, as if something weren't quite right.

"What are you, her dad or something?" Reddington asked snidely. "This don't have anything to do with you. Get lost!"

The idiot attempted to push the Master aside. The Master didn't move. "Victor, look out!" Lizzie shouted as the Master caught Reddington's punch. He held the idiot's fist with an iron grip.

"I'm not afraid of you, old man!" Reddington said as he attempted to jerk his hand away. The Master held on tight. "This ain't any of your business, so jack off! Or just you watch it, when you-"

Slowly, the Master started to twist the boy's arm, applying more pressure to the wrist. When the boy cut off with a yelp of pain, the Master let go. "I believe I told you to leave Miss Mathews alone," the Master said, watching the boy stumble back with cold distaste. "This is your only warning, Mr. Reddington. If you continue to persist in this foolish-"

"Reddington?" Lizzie asked.

He spared Lizzie an annoyed glance. On top of being interrupted, he was being interrupted while threatening someone for her sake and he didn't appreciate it. However, when he had walked in earlier Lizzie had been furiously fighting off Reddington herself, flushed and angry. She had been holding her own against the boy, though the Master was glad that he had gotten there when he did. Now, she just looked stricken, looking Reddington over with a desperate look in her eyes. She started to tremble lightly, backing up against the wall. "Your last name is Reddington?" she asked.

While the Master was distracted by Lizzie, Reddington stepped closer to her. When he saw Reddington's teeth shift to a inhuman point, the Master cursed himself for not realizing earlier why things had felt off. Reddington obviously wasn't human. "That's it. Be afraid. Your emotions will be mine!" the creature snarled, reaching for her temples.

This time, the Master didn't stop twisting the creature's arm until he heard a very satisfying crack. Normally, emotion parasites would be of particular interest to him if he could use them in a plot, but he wasn't going to allow a stupid creature ruin his current plans.

"You bastard!" Reddington shouted. "You broke my arm!"

"Lizzie, if you would return to your room, I will take care of our unwelcome guest," the Master said, not bothering to be gentle as he dragged the creature towards the elevator. It was rapidly becoming less human as its own emotions disrupted the disguise.

Lizzie looked at him, her eyes wet and worried. They widened as she saw the purple skin as the disguise flickered. "But-"

"I'll get you both for this when my brothers hear of it!" Reddington yelled. "You and that little whore!"

A good yank on the creature's broken arm shut it up again. "You needn't worry for my sake," the Master told her as he pulled the idiot into the elevator. He held it open just long enough to see her nod and disappear back into her room.

In the elevator, the Master shoved the boy against the elevator wall and reached into his jacket pocket. The creature's black eyes gleamed as it thought it saw its chance. "I'll take your emotions too, you-"

Before it could lunge, the Master put his T.C.E. to work. Within seconds, the creature was no larger than a small toy. Leaning down, he picked the body up just as the elevator doors opened. It was simple work to dispose of the corpse, as a trash can was nearby. He quickly retrieved the remainder of Lizzie's things that she had left at the table while changing and returned to the rooms. He didn't fail to recognize the irony of stopping an alien's attack on innocent humans. But Reddington had chosen the wrong victim this time and the Master wasn't someone to be trifled with. Let the Doctor be bothered if there were more of them. They were none of his concern so long as they stayed away.

He paused at Lizzie's door, wondering if he should check on her. She generally preferred to be alone when something upset her, but the Master couldn't shake the feeling of wrongness at the whole situation. He at least needed to check and make sure that emotion parasite hadn't done anything to her before he'd gotten there. Instead of knocking at her door, the Master entered his rooms and looked to the connecting door between their suits. It was still ajar from when Lizzie had come over and asked how her hair looked earlier in the day. Carefully, he pushed the door open a little more so that he could see inside.

Lizzie was sitting in the arm chair by the desk, not looking up. In front of her was her cell phone, opened to some social networking site. In her hands was a very ornate dagger from the New Chinese Republic on Drexsis 6 that the Master recognized from his TARDIS store-rooms, though he didn't know when she had gotten hold of it. She turned the blade over in her fingers and her eyes never left it.

When she placed the dagger against her wrist, the Master was reassessing his decision in killing Reddington. That death had been far too quick and painless. Though the fact that she had the dagger with her meant she had obviously been considering this for a while, not just after this recent encounter. The Master watched Lizzie as she stared down at the pale blade against her darker skin.

He was well-versed in psychology. The Master would have no problem talking an ordinary man to suicide, even without hypnotism. He could also talk a man off the ledge if his plan required it, and had done so on one rare occasion in the past. It would be a simple matter to convince Lizzie to put the dagger down. The question was, did he want to?

The Master watched the tears roll down her cheeks in silence. Lizzie was a valuable pawn, to be certain, but she wasn't irreplaceable. It was none of his business if she wanted to kill herself, though he'd much prefer it if she waited until after his plan succeeded. No one in her home time period would be surprised if she committed sucide, and if he left the body at her house to be found, the Master doubted any suspicions would be cast his way. She was known to be depressed and unhappy, after all.

However, it was a waste of potential to let her die now. And while she wasn't irreplaceable, she was certainly preferable to have as his dance partner. For a human, she was surprisingly endearing and though he didn't want to admit it, he had become quite attached to her. He had put an awful lot of effort into her as well, making sure she knew what to say to the Doctor and keeping her happy. At least, he thought he had been making her happier. How much had she changed if she still kept a dagger with her?

Either way, it was well within his right to stop her from wasting his hard work. In fact, that's what he should do: go in there and stop her foolish ideas of suicide. He stopped himself before he went in, though, regarding her again. She didn't appear to have actually been affected by the parasite. The creature would probably have waited to try anything on her until she had been truly afraid, and Lizzie had been more angry than frightened when the Master had interrupted. Knowing what he did of Lizzie, he didn't think she would go through with it. She had lived through the depression this long, after all, and she had definitely been happier these past few weeks with him.

And, if the Master were going to be honest, she had more than earned the right to make that decision herself after all she had taught him. She was a valuable pawn, but this was her choice.

She pressed the dagger against her wrist, drawing a thin strip of blood. The Master carefully closed the door, letting Lizzie make the choice for herself.

He walked out to the terrace and lit a cigar, looking out over the city as he waited. After thirty minutes of enjoying the California air, the Master went back inside and glanced at the clock. Almost five am? He didn't need to sleep, though he wouldn't mind a few hours. A quick mental scan told him Lizzie was still alive, so he pulled out an e-reader and started to read Asimov's Foundation. Or at least, he tried to. He found he was too distracted to really focus. He sighed and decided to look in on Lizzie again.

He was surprised when he nearly ran into her as she opened the connecting door. "I'm sorry," he said as he stepped aside and allowed her into his suite. He looked her over critically, noting that this was the first time he had ever seen her without make-up.

Lizzie was always carefully made up, from her mascara to her nail polish. It was a carefully maintained mask that kept her outwardly cheerful to the rest of the world. Without it, he hardly recognized her. She looked so plain, with her eyes bare and flushed. Her hair was down, messy ringlets framing her face and her tank top and pajama pants were wrinkled and crumpled. She looked older, with more lines showing than her make up usually allowed.

Plain, but still pretty, the Master noted. There was a tragic air about her like this that the Master had never seen before in her. He suddenly realized just how very little he actually knew about Lizzie's life and it left him at a slight loss of what to say to her.

"I should have knocked," she murmured, saving him the trouble of thinking of something. She didn't look up to meet his eyes. "Can I ask you something?"

The Master nodded curiously, ushering her in. He debated tea, but Lizzie was human and needed sleep at some point. He knew how she reacted to caffeine and it would take a good five hours before she'd settle. Instead, he offered her a seat on the couch and sat down beside her.

Lizzie didn't speak for a few moments, but the Master waited. Was she going to tell him what was wrong this time? He honestly didn't know and part of him wondered if he ever would. The gap between him and this alien creature was greater than he had ever imagined, and he realized a large part of that was his own fault for never trying to understand her.

Finally, Lizzie spoke. "You saw, didn't you?"

"I did," the Master said, wary of her question. Humans were supposed to stop others from committing suicide, weren't they? Would that admission make her upset that he hadn't done anything? She didn't look upset, just... tired.

"You didn't try to stop me," she said. There was no accusation in her tone, and the Master couldn't read her.

He considered his words, deciding the truth was the best answer he could give. "You didn't seem to require my assistance to come to your decision."

Lizzie nodded and closed her eyes, not giving away any of her feelings despite the lack of her usual mask. The Master found it unnerving, because he was so used to seeing her smile. Humans generally weren't this hard to read.

"I must seem pretty pathetic compared to you," she said.

The Master shrugged. Lizzie was many things, but he didn't think pathetic was one of them. "I've never seen the value of ending my own life, but it's hardly any of my business if someone else wants to leave the world. I didn't think you would go through with it."

Again, Lizzie made no notion of if his words affected her. "And if you thought I would?"

"It's your decision," the Master said. "Though I would appreciate it if you waited until after the Doctor fell for our trap."

At this, Lizzie opened her eyes, gazing at him curiously. "Would you care after the Doctor came?"

The Master shifted uncomfortably, wondering how to answer that. With a lie, obviously, but Lizzie was acting so oddly that he didn't know which one. He certainly couldn't tell her he would probably never see her again so it wouldn't matter either way. Though some small part of him he didn't want to admit existed was actually saddened at the thought of never dancing with Lizzie again.

Then Lizzie laughed. Not a vibrant one like her usual laugh, but a quiet sound that softened the tension and sounded just a little heart-broken. "I won't make you answer that one then," she said. He frowned at her, knowing she had come to her own conclusion regardless of his answer and he wasn't sure if he liked it.

"What was he? He was an alien, wasn't he?" she asked, both out of curiosity and to let the Master off the hook of the earlier conversation. "Like you?"

"The creature was far from like my race, Lizzie. It was a Toclafane," the Master lied easily. He wasn't about to let her know that he had never actually come across that race before. Even Time Lords weren't aware of all of the lesser races, and this alien in particular was unknown to the Master. It had died easily enough, which suited him perfectly well since it wasn't part of any of his plots. "An emotional parasite. It was likely trying to scare you, so it could feast on your fear." Though it would have had to change tactics, the Master decided. Lizzie was unlikely to be frightened by the threat of rape, not when he knew the kinds of things she kept in her purse to ward off unwanted attention.

Lizzie looked down, the knowledge erasing the smile she had managed earlier. She shuddered once, and the Master looked over to the thermostat to make sure it wasn't too cold for humans in the room. "Please don't call him an 'it'. It's unnerving. He... He said he had brothers?"

"I wouldn't worry about them." This time, the Master wasn't lying. There was no way to trace the creature's murder to him, though he certainly wasn't going to tell Lizzie that the creature was killed. But Lizzie needed a more substantial answer than that, which would require a bit more fabrication. He made sure to use the pronouns that were less unsettling to her this time. "I suspect he was lying, as Toclafane usually work alone. I erased his memories so he wouldn't remember either of us and gave him the hypnotic suggestion to go home for the weekend. I've made sure he won't hurt anyone else."

Lizzie relaxed at that, though she didn't look back up. "I knew his father. Or grandfather, whatever generation he was. Were they all..."

She cut herself off and leaned against his shoulder then, closing her eyes. Hugging, he tolerated, but this was-

"Do you mind if I stay like this, for just a little while?" she asked, her voice cracking as if she were once more on the verge of tears.

The Master sighed, reaching for his e-reader. He was making far too many allowances for her, despite how he knew this was low maintenance for most humans. They better make first place tomorrow.

But for now, he'd let her rest against his shoulder.


Memory:  That felt a lot longer than it actually was, even with cutting out the next day of competition I decided I just didn't want to write.  >.<  Ah, well.  It's over now, at least.

Quote of the Fic:

"We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?"
-Jean Cocteau


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
Heh. Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. <3 I did write it largely for you.

The Clangers keychain is a must have for every fan. XD And of course he's got a bomb. Gotta have a back up plan, if the Doctor comes along. <3
Dec. 15th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC)
Aha! I finally had time to read this one!

And YESAWESOME Reddington is definitely Sailor Moon-villain enough for me in this one. ^_^ AND you killed him in the elevator! YAY!

This is still made of awesomesauce, and I especially love how you've reworked that scene with the Master's thoughts re: Lizzie's depression. It works quite A LOT better this time, very smoothly and logically. And I appreciate that the Master stole the chairs through hypnotism this time. :D

Man, I love your Master-and-Companion adventures.
Dec. 15th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
Like I said, he was originally supposed to die. I just didn't keep writing. XD Glad the other reworks pleased you. <3
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )