Genre: Dr Who, Eleven, Master (Simm) post ‘The God Complex’ (spoilers for same)
Summary: What the title says
Author’s note: Dedicated to http://unknown20troper.livejournal.com/ Who in response to my post here: http://best-enemies.livejournal.com/527769.html?view=4721305#t4721305 went out of her way to search out a veritable feast of Eleven with SimmMaster images, gifs, a fic and some artwork. Thank you!
Image Copyright BBC Televison
The readings are faint, but unambiguous enough. He stares at the screen until the image blurs, and he blinks and shakes his head. This isn’t possible, shouldn’t be possible, and he hardly knows whether to be glad or afraid. A little of both, perhaps. He sets the co-ordinates.
‘Follow the signal, old girl,’ he says quietly, wondering if she’ll obey him. Omega knows she has reason enough not to want to, after everything the Master has done to her. But she’s sentient enough to know that this is important to him. She always takes him where he needs to go...
London, England... 2011:
The sound of the Tardis engines is loud in the deserted wasteland, the light from its interior the only relief from the night time darkness. The sky is overcast, low clouds threatening rain –or worse- and a chill breeze whips up eddies of debris; it flutters around the Doctor’s feet as he steps from the Tardis onto earth hard from weeks of frost.
He stands for a moment, letting the hum of the Tardis interior fade away, listening and reaching out with his senses. If the Master is here then he should feel him – he’s always been able to before. And if he can sense the Master, then the Master will be aware of his presence too... but there’s nothing.
‘Something’s wrong...’ he turns back into the Tardis, striding across to the scanner where he’d seen the signal, plain as day. And yes, it’s still there – a tiny white blip, pulsing steadily in time with the Master’s heart beats. He’s alive, and he’s here...
‘So why can’t I feel you?’ He fishes out his sonic and aims it at the screen, transferring the fix to the device and then pocketing it again before patting the console reassuringly. ‘This won’t take long, old girl... thank you.’
When he steps from the Tardis again, snow has started to fall. He looks upwards at the steadily falling flakes. The breeze has dropped and the night is muffled, sounds absorbed by the dense material. He pulls the door shut and stands for a moment to let his eyes acclimatise before pulling the sonic out again and flipping it on. He takes a bearing and then sets off across the uneven ground.
The signal takes him towards the skeleton of an old warehouse and he remembers the last time he was here – another body, dread suffusing every thought, governing every action, believing that each step would take him closer to his own destruction.
Except of course, it hadn’t been about the Master at all, had it? It had been Wilfred... he wonders how the old man is, how Donna is faring in her new life. He should check on her... perhaps he will, when this is over. She won’t recognise him, of course, and nor will the old man. Perfect, then; that’s what he’ll do. But in the meantime...
He checks the sonic again; he’s close. And still he can feel... nothing. He wonders how the Master has managed to escape the Time Lock; it shouldn’t be possible. Evidently nothing else has got out though – the readings would have been off the scale by now had that happened.
He’s under the frame of the building now – without a roof it’s useless as shelter, so why would the Master come back here? The implications aren’t good – but there are no readings to indicate massive artron energy loss, so that must mean that he’s either healed, or he’s lost so much that it isn’t registering. Ah... could the Time Lock have rejected the Master? He glances at the sonic one last time before shoving it back into his pocket; he should be able to see the Master now.
He stands still, turning slowly on the spot as he scans the area. There really isn’t anywhere much for someone to hide – piles of twisted metal, lumps of broken girders, corrugated sheet metal, broken bricks and pipes and... a large section of pipe against the back wall; large enough to conceal a man, certainly.
Swallowing down his apprehension, the Doctor steps resolutely forward; for some reason he’s treading lightly, even though any sound he might have made is being muffled by the ever thickening carpet of snow. Any deeper and he’ll be audible again, that scrunching sound peculiar to snow would give him away, but for now he’s virtually silent. He rounds the end of the pipe cautiously and stares into the cavernous interior.
At first he can’t see anything and then gradually he becomes aware of the sound of slow, harsh breathing, as if someone is in pain.
‘Hello?’ His voice echoes flatly back at him, his own breath misting the air. The sound doesn’t change tempo. Whoever is here, he’s oblivious to the Doctor’s presence, it seems. And that’s not good; not good at all. There’s only one thing for it.
‘Coming in,’ he warns, and pulls himself up into the pipe. The metal is ferociously cold, even to him – quite possibly it would stick to human skin. It’s been here a long time.
Inside the pipe itself, it feels slightly warmer, as if whatever body heat its occupant emits has been trapped within the space. He shuffles forward on his hands and knees and bumps into something – someone - lying on the floor of the pipe. He reaches for the sonic again and activates it.
Light floods the suddenly small space, and a bundle of rags lying by the Doctor’s right knee moves. He reaches out to touch it – a booted foot. The breathing becomes louder, faster.
‘It’s alright; I’m here to help you...Master?’
A low whimper is the only response and the Doctor shuffles forward until he can see the pale reflection of a face in the gloom. As the light falls on the pale skin, its owner moans and tries to turn away; hastily the Doctor adjusts the setting so that the light is softer.
‘Sorry, sorry – Master, is that you?’ He leans closer and his heart sinks.
It’s the Master, true enough; he still bears Harold Saxon’s face and the stark white hair of his wholly inadequate attempt at disguise; the features are dirty, just as before, but now he’s thin and gaunt, his eyes and cheeks sunken, his stubble thicker than before but not yet a full beard. Hard to tell how much time has passed for him.
The Doctor reaches forward to grip the Master by the shoulders – he can feel each bone, hardly any flesh on him at all. The Master shudders and draws a pained breath. ‘Doctor...’ he whispers. He blinks, his eyes roaming the Doctor’s face in a series of random movements and the Doctor realises with horror that the Master is blind.
‘What happened to you...?’ he asks quietly, because the Master’s thin frame shakes with every word the Doctor utters, as if the sound hurts him.
The Master convulses, and it takes a fear-stricken moment for the Doctor to realise that he’s laughing. Laughing...
‘You...know...’ the Master manages before his breath deserts him and he lies panting.
‘Well, I know that you got pulled back into the Time Lock, yes,’ he says quietly. ‘But how did you get out again? And what of Rassilon?’
The Master gathers his strength for a moment or two before replying. ‘He... regenerated. Prison.’ He grins sightlessly at the Doctor. ‘Your...mother...sent me...back.’ He closes his eyes. ‘Tired...’
‘My mother sent you back? How?’ He remembers his mother’s tearful face as he’d hesitated, torn between two choices.
The Master takes a deep breath; it rattles in his throat and the Doctor gently squeezes the too-thin arm. Mad and murderous he may be, but the Master had been a good friend once. And he hadn’t asked for what had happened to him; that has to count for something, even if it doesn’t excuse some of the terrible things he’s done.
‘They wanted...to kill me...’ he whispers, his features twisting. ‘She... kept me... alive...’
‘But how did you get out?’ There is only one way something –or someone- can get out of a time lock, the Doctor knows, and Rassilon had found it, by inserting a link into the Master’s mind. It had lain there for centuries, ticking away and slowly driving the Master insane – but once that link had been broken there should have been no way for the Master to get out. The laws of physics dictate that he should still be there, dying over and over on the final day of the Time War, for all eternity, trapped with anyone else who was on Gallifrey at the time...a cold chill runs down his spine. The laws of physics also dictate that the status quo be maintained... nothing should be able to enter or leave the time lock once it is in place; the white point star had managed only it because of its size. But the Master hadn't been there originally... and a living person is an entirely different matter...how the Master managed to survive the journey back is a mystery.
‘It rejected you!’ The Doctor’s startled tones reverberate around the pipe and the Master grunts, flinching at the sound.
‘Sorry, didn’t mean to shout. They wouldn’t heal you...but she stopped your total disintegration. How did she...oh.’
‘Yes. So now... you know.’ He coughs. ‘But you know... I almost wish... she hadn’t...’
‘No, don’t say that. My mother gave her final regeneration for you... you are not going to waste it, Master! Come on...’ he grabs the Master’s arms and hauls him upright – it’s shockingly easy to move him; he weighs next to nothing.
‘No... Meant... what I said... before...’ the Master whispers against the Doctor’s shoulder as he’s pulled backwards towards the end of the pipe.
‘Sorry, long time ago, don’t remember...’ the Doctor says loudly, ignoring the Master’s gasp of pain. When the Time Lock runs down, as eventually it will, then his mother will die, as will everyone else who has run out of regenerations. He of course won’t be around to witness that; nor will the Master, that much seems certain now. He is not going to let that sacrifice be for nothing.
‘Yes, yes, I know – not your fault, yadah, yadah, yadah... just shut up and save your strength, will you?’
‘Stubborn...’ the Master mumbles, before falling silent. Apart from a groan as the Doctor pulls him down from the pipe and into an awkward fireman’s carry, he remains silent on the journey back to the Tardis, for which the Doctor is rather thankful; the snow is still coming down heavily and the uneven terrain is now a uniformly and deceptively smooth white floor. It takes all his concentration. He stumbles several times but manages not to drop his burden. As he carries the Master the final few feet he’s absurdly gratified to see the Tardis door swing open.
‘Thank you old girl,’ he murmurs as he steps into the welcoming interior. ‘Can you find the sickbay for me?’
The Tardis hums and chimes softly and a new door appears on the first level. He smiles – ground level would have been easier but she has her way of doing things and nothing will change that now.
The Master stirs again as the Doctor gently deposits him onto the diagnostic couch. As he lays him out and steps back he suppresses a groan of horror; clearly the Master’s arms and legs have been broken at some point; he must have been held in a stasis field afterwards so that nothing would heal. He has to be in absolute agony.
The Doctor feels a surge of incoherent rage –Rassilon is far madder than the Master has even been. To have taken the mind of a child and twist it to his own ends, and then reject and ultimately torture the adult like this is just...
‘I’m so sorry, Master,’ he murmurs. And he no longer has a zero room, he remembers. There’s only one thing for it...
‘Don’t...’ the Master whispers. ‘I don’t... want it.’ The Master knows him of old, of course.
‘And how are you going to stop me?’ He stares at the Master’s sightless eyes, willing him to see sense. Or, at least, the Doctor’s version of it.
‘Playing...God...again... I see...’ The Master’s pale face twists in what might be a smile.
‘No. You’re in too much pain to be able to think straight. You’ll thank me for this, later.’
‘I’ll be back in a moment. Don’t go...’ he stops himself, but the Master barks a laugh.
‘Chance...’ he whispers, chest heaving as he fights for another breath.
The Doctor swallows; he really doesn’t have much time. ‘Yes, well...’ He hurries from the room.
On the flight deck, the Tardis hums serenely to herself. Does she know what I’m about to do? The Doctor drops down to the lower deck and reaches for his tool box.
The Master hasn’t moved –unsurprisingly, since even breathing is evidently an effort beyond simply painful – and his eyes are closed. Only the shallow rise and fall of his chest under the filthy clothing shows that he’s still alive. Barely, the Doctor realises as he presses two fingers to the pulse point on the Master’s throat. There’s a chill emanating from his body now which can only mean that he’s on his last reserves. Death is probably less than an hour away now.
The Doctor prays that he’s taken enough from the Tardis to sustain the Master – it will mean sacrificing a considerable number of her remaining years and one more of his own regenerations; but at least they’ll be on equal footing, him and the Master. Perhaps then they can find some kind of peace...
‘Master,’ he says softly. And then again, more urgently, when the Master doesn’t respond; and still he remains unresponsive. That’s it then, he realises. It’s now or never.
He leans over the Master and takes the thin face in his hands, gently turning him so that they are face to face. He leans in and touches his lips to the Master’s, softly pushing them apart with his tongue... and breathes out; one long exhalation. At first, nothing happens, and he begins to fear that he’s too late. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, he feels the Master’s muscles tense. He’s coming up out of the death trance, becoming aware of his body again. He feels muscles clench and quiver as the re-awakened nerve endings carry messages of pain to the Master’s brain.
/Come on Master, open your eyes, please.../ He stares at the darkened lids, willing them open; when the Master finally gasps and they fly apart, he’s startled and almost breaks the connection. But he manages to hold the Master’s gaze, and the sightless eyes are caught – the golden glow of artron energy streams from the Doctor’s eyes into the Master's and slowly the fog of blindness recedes, leaving them clear and sighted once more. The Doctor continues to exhale, feeling his own energy levels drop even as the Master's rise. Only when his head starts to spin and the blood starts rushing in his ears does he realise that he should have stopped far sooner.
With an effort he shuts his eyes and pulls away – for a second the Master’s mouth follows his, hungry for more, and then he falls back against the pillows, blinking and swallowing as he registers where he is and what has just taken place.
The Doctor staggers backwards and drops into a nearby chair; he feels weak and sick, but pleased beyond description.
‘Well...’ his voice is hoarse with relief. ‘I wasn’t entirely sure if that would work...but it seemed worth a try.’ He should check the Master’s vital signs; but for the moment his legs feel way too weak to support him and falling flat on his face in front of the Master has never been a terribly good idea.
‘Doctor...’ the Master’s voice is restored – the smooth tones send a frisson of joy down the Doctor’s spine. It had worked.
‘That’s my name,’ the Doctor says, because anything else is beyond him right now.
‘Sanctimonious...’ It’s old banter, a centuries-old knee-jerk reaction, which does nothing to hide the Master’s profound relief on discovering that he’s still alive.
‘No. Not at all. I just didn’t want you to pip me to the post.’
‘Hah!’ The Master rolls his eyes, and then fixes his gaze on the Doctor. He looks him up and down, taking in the youthful appearance, and the fact that the Doctor is evidently too weak from the ordeal to stand. ‘So, Doctor... new face, eh? What was it this time? At least you can’t blame me.’
The Doctor takes a deep breath and fights the urge to laugh. The Master has never responded well to laughter, especially the Doctor's. ‘I can, actually. You left the nuclear bolt running...’
The Master’s eyebrows jerk upwards. ‘I did? Hmm. But I did have rather a lot on my mind at the time...’ His expression clouds, his demeanour changing; it’s as if the sun has gone in.
The Doctor swallows. Here it comes. ‘Yes, of course you did. Rassilon, for one. Master, I owe you an apology. If I had realised what the drums really were...’ he stares at him, holding his gaze. ‘I could have sorted it out... we could have solved it, together.’
The Master swallows. ‘You always did have an inflated opinion of yourself, Doctor. If I couldn’t work it out –and obviously I didn’t – then what makes you so sure that you could have? Because evidently you didn’t.’
‘Fair point, fair point. Look...’ The Doctor takes a breath and levers himself up out of the chair. He walks to the Master’s bedside and looks down at him. Are those tears on the Master's lashes? Obviously he’s still feeling a little woozy too, or he’d be up and off plotting.
‘Don’t think this means that I owe you one, Doctor’ the Master says, looking up at his saviour. He doesn’t seem at all concerned that the Doctor is standing over him, in the dominant position. Or that his eyes are wet.
‘Never. So, business as normal, then?’ The Doctor knows that his chin is wobbling; he chooses to ignore it.
‘You mean you’d let me go? Bit of a turnabout, isn’t it?’
‘Well, if you start trying to take over civilizations and causing general mayhem, then obviously I’ll have to stop you... but I’m hoping you won’t feel the need to do that, now that the drums have gone.’
The Master looks surprised. ‘How did you know?’
‘Because you haven’t drummed your fingers once.’
The Master nods. ‘You’re not as stupid as you look then.’
‘Well, at least I don’t have terrible hair. Honestly, how could you ever have thought that would in any way be a credible disguise?’
‘I wasn’t exactly thinking straight at the time.’
‘No, you were too busy eating tramps. Tramps...Master, how could you?’
The Master shudders. ‘I’d rather not talk about that, if you don’t mind.’ He blinks. ‘Although now I come to think of it, I am rather hungry.’ He grins, and for a moment the Doctor fully expects to hear the ravenous growl of the Master’s empty stomach again. But there's no blue shimmer, no leak of energy; even the Master's limbs are straight again, healed. He smiles down at the Master.
‘Mmm, me too. I know a nice little restaurant...’ he stops, and looks the Master up and down. ‘But you’ll need to get cleaned up first.’
The Master grins lasciviously. ‘That’s the first sensible thing you’ve said since I got here. Doctor. Care to join me?’
The Doctor blanches. ‘Oh, now, I’m not sure that’s appropriate...’
The Master’s grin vanishes. With one more look down at his stinking clothes, he levers himself upwards, drops his feet to the floor and stalks away.
‘I can see I’m going to have to work on you...’ he grumbles.