(France, Earth, 1145)
"The Scissor Sisters," the Master says.
The Doctor stares at him in astonishment over the console. The Master is grinning down at him over the banister of the helix staircase, the ring on his hand making a little ting noise against the metal every time his fingers come down absently tapping out the drumbeat.
"The Beatles," the Doctor says. "That's classic."
"The Bee Gees," the Master says, looking altogether evil.
"Queen?" the Doctor suggests, grasping at straws.
The Master considers this. "All right," he concedes, and comes down to look at the console readings over the Doctor's shoulder. "So what's the latest quest of goodness and light?" Apparently spotting the coordinate readings, he groans. "Earth? At least go somewhere interesting."
"Earth's interesting!" the Doctor says, a little affronted. "Pick a year."
"Oh, so I get to pick the vacation spots now?" The Master makes a show of thinking very hard. "Six billion."
The Doctor sighs. "The Earth's gone by then."
The Master laughs. "Exactly!"
So he's not in such a cooperative mood after all. The Doctor turns away and punches in a random navigational algorithm for Earth: the TARDIS will factor out all the year/location matches for major wars, plagues, and disasters. The Doctor feels too tired today to save the universe; he's already doing that, second by second, every moment the Master is here with him.
The past few days have been strange and intense in a way the Doctor really doesn't care to examine. They can't be in the same room for more than a few minutes without the crackling tension reaching an unbearable pitch. The Master has spent quite a lot of time watching whatever visual entertainment broadcast stations the TARDIS can pick up; she also supplies him with jelly babies, and the Doctor often finds himself wandering through the room where the Master's watching telly and filching a few sweets from the bag, then wandering back out. It gives him an opportunity to brush his hand against the Master's and call it an accident.
He doesn't think about what the Master said in the quantum room. He was angry. They both are, and afraid. It doesn't matter what the Master says: he's the Doctor's responsibility, and they understand each other, and if the Doctor is making up excuses, then the Master is too. They can't bear to part, and the Master knows it-- it's in the way he doesn't smack the Doctor's hand away too hard when he steals jelly babies, and in the way he looks at the Doctor when they're pretending the Doctor's not looking, and in the way he says the Doctor's name.
"Here we are!" the Doctor says, as the TARDIS lands with a bump. He squints at the readings. "Oooh. 1145! France!"
"Hooray," the Master deadpans.
"Come on," the Doctor says, looking up with a grin. "Let's go sightseeing! It might be fun."
"1145," the Master says. "In our best suits."
The Doctor glances down at himself. "It's not really my best suit, this one--"
"Tunics," the Master says, sharp and precise. "Swords. Robes. Boots. Flashy sightseeing has its place, and this is not it."
"All right," the Doctor says, deflating a little; it is a good idea. They go up to the wardrobe room.
Ten minutes see them wandering through the small, rather muddy city of Paris, dressed in scholarly robes (long enough to hide the Doctor's trainers; he really likes the red ones). They come upon a thriving market near (and somewhat inside) a church. The Doctor buys a loaf of hot bread near the church door and some spiced wine near the baptismal font. The Master toasts him somewhat ironically; he's almost certainly not wishing the Doctor good health.
"''Scuse me," the Doctor says cheerfully to the wine vendor, "but do you happen to know if the King is in residence?"
The vendor snorts. "Sure he is. Out at his hunting lodge in the forest of Vincennes."
"How long is that on foot?" the Doctor asks.
The vendor shrugs. "Four, five miles. You'll get there today if you've got urgent business, anyway."
"Great," the Doctor says happily. They leave the church; he turns to the Master. "Fancy a look? I love a good medieval castle."
"What I can't figure out," the Master says, "is whether your mind really does shut down and your mouth runs on automatic prattle mode, or if you genuinely enjoy this."
The Doctor looks at him properly, going serious. "If you want us to go back and sit around on the TARDIS, we can, you know."
The Master winces. "Medieval castles. Right. Hooray."
So they go. The walk is pleasant; it's early enough in the autumn for the trees above them to still be vividly green, but late enough that the day is fairly cool. The Master hums something to himself; a moment's listening and the Doctor can tell the song's in a quick measure, one-two-three-four. He opens his mouth.
"Not today," the Master says, not looking at him. "Don't try to help today. We're sightseeing."
No more is said until they reach the castle of Vincennes, which really is, as the vendor said, not much more than a hunting lodge. Still, it's large and well-fortified and the Doctor hasn't gone hawking in a very long time. It might be fun.
They're stopped by a guard at the door, so the Doctor digs in his robe pocket and comes up with the slightly psychic paper. He expects it will say something like let the nice men in for a bit of feasting and hunting or even let that man in for some feasting and hunting but please put the other one in the dungeon for safekeeping. What he's definitely not expecting is for the guard to snap to attention, call at once for a second guard, and say, when this guard appears, "They're to be taken at once to Queen Eleanor." Moments later they're being hurried off along the corridor.
Any idea what this is about? the Master murmurs dryly inside his head. The Doctor flinches. It's no real violation of space; telepathic communication between Time Lords is as intimate as a murmuring very close to one's ear, but no more than that-- it gives the Master no particular access to his thoughts. All the same--
All the same it catches terribly in his chest and makes his hearts beat too fast and for a moment he's nearly overwhelmed by the shock of this nearly-forgotten contact, and the Master can hear that, judging by the smirk that flickers across his face. Even so, after a moment the Doctor's able to reply, calmly enough, I only thought the paper was going to let us in, not give us a private audience.
Oh, how lucky we are, the Master returns dryly.
They've crossed an open courtyard and come to a heavy wooden door; the guard knocks, and after a moment a woman's voice calls, "Enter."
The guard opens the door and bows low. "Your Majesty," he says. "The learned envoys you sent for."
"Finally," the Queen says dryly, and comes to the doorway to take the psychic paper from the guard's offering hand. She is richly dressed; her hair is red, and she has a proud face-- she is not pretty, but something in her bearing makes her stunningly beautiful all the same. She reads the paper; for a moment a puzzled frown flashes across her face, but she looks up at the Master and the Doctor and smiles charmingly. "Come in, gentlemen."
They enter; she shuts the door behind them and goes back to her chair by the window. She sinks down into it. There are no other chairs in the room; the Doctor and the Master are left standing. "I'm afraid you've caught me working on a tapestry," she says. "Louis is forever urging me to work on tapestries. He insisted on it all through my pregnancy, and he insists on it now. He doesn't believe it's quite safe for me to take up my hunting and hawking yet, and when I read excessively he becomes uncomfortable." She tilts her head a little and smiles another dazzling smile. "But your paper said you were here to listen to my concerns about Louis, not the woes accompanying the birth of darling Marie. Your names, gentlemen?"
Feeling rather delighted, the Doctor says, "I'm the Doctor. And this is--"
"A magister from Saxony," the Master says, with an insincere charming smile.
"Saxony?" Queen Eleanor's eyebrows rise a little. "You sound quite French, Magister."
"An unfortunate side-effect of my education only, your Majesty," the Master says, still smiling.
"I sympathize, Magister." She turns her attention to him. "And you, Doctor? What is your field of study?"
"Oh, a little of everything," the Doctor says; he's grinning too, he notices, and it occurs to him that perhaps the Master's smile isn't as insincere as all that. There's always something wonderful about being in the presence of a human who's really alive. "You know, philosophy, astronomy, medicine..."
"How learned," Eleanor says, sounding honestly impressed. "Then perhaps you will be able to succeed where I have not-- a few great men talking to another." She considers the half-finished tapestry hanging on the arm of her chair, frowning. "My husband is... troubled, gentlemen," she says. "Many men who have his ear whisper that I will be his downfall, and he has withdrawn from me. It is perhaps my own fault that I cannot regain his confidence-- I have, I am told, a regrettably short supply of piety and austerity, and Louis seems to have these virtues in such abundance he doesn't quite know what to do with them." She sighs. "I doubt you will believe me, but I don't want you to speak with him because I have some political machination in mind. I sincerely want what is best for my husband and for France, and if I do not know my husband's mind, I cannot do my job as a queen. Will you do this for me?"
The Doctor and the Master glance at each other. "Of course," the Doctor says. He knows Eleanor's marriage is already troubled, and he knows it only gets worse in the following year while they're on crusade; it isn't his job to save her marriage, especially since the history following her divorce is quite important to this planet. There's nothing wrong with saying hello to Louis VII, though, or giving Queen Eleanor some peace of mind.
She stands. "I shall arrange for you to have an audience with my husband tomorrow," she says, "as he is out hunting today and it is doubtful he'll be back before nightfall. I should also recommend you eat in your room: there is no need to announce your arrival to our whole court."
The Doctor bows and the Master inclines his head a little, and they're ushered out of the Queen's chambers and then taken by a guard to a suite further inside the lodge. There's a window looking out onto the forest, a fireplace, a table, two chairs, and a bed. The Doctor eyes the bed with a distinct sense of déjà vu.
The Master laughs. "Shall we take turns sleeping?" he asks.
The Doctor doesn't deign to answer.
It's already twilight: a dinner of bread and pork and oranges and wine is delivered by a man in Aquitaine livery. They eat in silence; halfway through the pork, the Master says, "Eleanor really is something, isn't she," and the Doctor says, "Yes," but after that there is nothing more to say. The Doctor is aware of every breath the Master takes, every small shift of movement, and it terrifies him. Of course it was going to be like that at the beginning. The only other Time Lord in existence-- of course he was going to be hyperaware. But it should have gone away by now. He should at least be used to the Master's physical presence. But it hasn't; he isn't.
They don't much need sleep this night, but they both go to the bed anyway, and lie down as far apart as they can. The Doctor finds himself breathing exactly as the Master does, and he wants to scream. He doesn't. He forces the awareness down and down, viciously, and some horrible time later he sleeps.
When he awakens it's pitch black in the room and the Master has gone.
He stumbles out of bed and gropes his way to the door of the room. In the corridor there is intermittent, fitful light provided by flaming torches set into the walls at odd intervals. The Doctor can feel the Master, still somewhere in the lodge, so he sets off, following the tug somewhere in his chest.
He hasn't gone ten feet when he runs into the Master heading the other way. The Master's hair is in disarray and he looks quite pleased with himself; a startled look briefly crosses his face when he nearly runs head-on into the Doctor, but it soon replaces itself with a smug grin. "Hello, Doctor," he says. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Where were you?" the Doctor demands.
"Walking," the Master says.
The Doctor grabs the front of his robes and shoves him back against the wall. "Where were you?"
The Master laughs, but he's breathing rather too hard, and his eyes glitter in the light of the torch set in a bracket by his head. "I wasn't tired," he says. "I went for a walk. Get the hell off me."
The Doctor gets the hell off him.
The Master straightens his robes. "Back to bed, then," he says coldly.
Neither of them sleep any more that night, although they both lie rigidly in the little bed for hours. It's probably a miracle neither of them turns and punches the other from sheer tamped-down panic.
In the morning, they're given breakfast-- bread and wine again-- and taken to the king's private chambers, where they are announced as a doctor and magister of Saxony, sent by her Majesty the Queen. To be sure, however, the Doctor offers King Louis VII the slightly psychic paper; where before the king had looked irritable and troubled, when he reads the irritation melts away and leaves the troubled look all the more pronounced.
"Please," he says. "Sit down, gentlemen."
They do so; their chairs have no arms or backs, but at least the king's room has enough seats for an audience.
"Are either of you familiar with the matter of visions?" Louis asks, tapping the arm of his chair absently with a hand. "Your paper tells me so, Doctor."
The Doctor grins a little. "Then I must be."
Louis smiles back, rather awkwardly. "Yes." He stares down at his knees. "I have been needing to say this for some time, but my barons would think me mad and no one in the Church wants to listen to anything I say these days."
"Then," the Doctor says, "please." His grin goes a little crooked. "Unburden yourself."
Louis laughs a little and takes a deep breath. "Shortly after my daughter's birth," he says, "I had a vision. In my mind's eye, I saw a great-- cataclysm. Like a-- a tunnel, or a fantastic whirlpool, but made of every colour in which God has ever painted-- blues and reds like the most vivid of flowers. And then-- you must forgive me, gentlemen; the things I saw are far beyond my comprehension, and I must relate the inconceivable to the tangible world, feeble as the attempt may be."
"It's all right," the Doctor says softly. "We understand."
The king looks up at their faces and sees, the Doctor supposes, startlement, but no disbelief. "Strangely, Doctor, I really think you might." Louis sighs and runs a hand over his face. "I-- trust you gentlemen have heard of the catastrophe at Vitry?"
The Doctor has, and nods, but the Master says, impatiently, "No, sorry, just came in recently from Saxony, you know. What about the vortex-- er, that whirlpool of yours?"
"But surely--" Louis says anxiously.
"Last year his Majesty's army assaulted the town of Vitry," the Doctor says, placing a hand on the Master's arm and squeezing a little, warningly. "The town was burnt. Hundreds of people had gone to the church for refuge, but--"
"We didn't realize in time," Louis says, pleadingly, going a little pale. His voice has taken on the air of a man who has repeated a story dozens of times in the vain hope someone will eventually believe him. "And I keep dreaming-- of the flames--" The Master makes a small impatient noise and the Doctor tightens his grip on the Master's arm accordingly. King Louis, however, straightens a little and clears his throat and says, quite steadily, "I've been under pressure from Abbot Bernard for some time to atone for that terrible sin." He smiles a little, sadly. "He's angry with Eleanor, you know, and Eleanor tells me I shouldn't listen to him. My God, it's like a lion's den."
"The whirlpool from your vision?" the Master asks.
"Yes, of course. My apologies." Louis runs a hand over his face again. It shakes a little. "When the image of the fantastic whirlpool faded, I found myself-- suspended in the heavens, it seemed. All around me were lines of light, like a spider's web. And it came to me that if I could comprehend the place in which I found myself, I would be gifted with knowledge as great as God's." Louis swallows, oblivious to the way both his guests have gone very tense and still. "Even in my vision, of course, I was horrified at this great blasphemy. And this, gentlemen, was the point at which I believe I triumphed over temptation, and God gifted me with a greater purpose."
The Doctor finds his voice. "What purpose, your Majesty?"
"I imagine that is why Eleanor sent you," Louis murmurs. "She seeks to understand me. But at Christmas I intend to announce it officially in any case, so there is little harm in telling you: I intend to go on a great crusade to capture the Holy Land. I dream of it too." He leans back in his chair and regards them. "You see, gentlemen, I awoke from my vision with a conviction; with a calling. I understand that, to atone for my past sins, I must go to war again."
The fingers of his right hand drum against the arm of his chair. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap-tap.
"What's that?" the Master asks sharply, fixing his gaze on Louis' hand.
The king abruptly stops his tapping. "Just-- just a noise in the back of my head," he says. "Like a reassuring little call to the crusade. It's no matter."
"No," the Master says, in a strange, tight voice. "That ring you're wearing."
"What, this?" Louis asks, holding up his hand and considering the signet ring on it with some confusion. The Doctor recognizes it too, with a jolt of shock: it's identical to the one the Master wears. "It was a gift," the king says, "from the Count of Champagne upon our return to peace. Beautiful design, isn't it."
The Master stands abruptly. "The Doctor here will be better at discussing visions than I am," he says, still in that terrible tight voice. "I must go." He strides from the room.
The Doctor itches to go after him, but he turns to the king and says, quiet and fast, "He's not used to royalty-- he doesn't-- I'm sorry. I think you're right about your vision." He gets to his feet. "I'm so sorry, your Majesty, I really can't stay."
It's not difficult to find the Master, not with the waves of a peculiar fury coming off him to follow. A few minutes' searching and he comes to the source: Queen Eleanor's room. A modicum of caution makes him open the door quietly, and inside--
Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Master are kissing with something approaching equal fury, as though they're trying to crawl inside each other's skins. The Doctor clutches hard at the doorframe; he can feel it, the hands and mouths and sheer anger, can feel it so vividly his knees go weak. But some of the anger is his-- the Master isn't allowed to do this--
The Master senses it and pulls away to look at the doorway. Eleanor does too, and merely gives the Doctor a look, but the Master's shoulders go very tense. "You've gotten what you wanted, my lady," he says. "You won't see me again."
"I know," Eleanor says. "What shall I give you as payment?"
"Nothing," the Doctor says, breathing hard. "We're leaving. Now."
"As the Doctor says," the Master murmurs, and kisses the Queen's hand. She smiles at him, rather suggestively, but says no more, merely closes the door behind them when they leave.
"What did you say to her?" the Doctor demands.
"Only that Louis is going on crusade," the Master says. "After all, it's what she wanted to hear."
"You were kissing her," the Doctor says furiously.
"Yes," the Master says. "Jealous?"
"Of you? Don't be stupid."
"Of her," the Master says.
The Doctor clenches his teeth very hard and keeps walking. They're nearly a mile from Vincennes when the Doctor speaks again. "Louis," he says. "Louis heard the drumming."
"He saw the vortex," the Master says shortly. "And he heard the drumming. He'll go to war. So I'm not a special snowflake."
"It didn't make him want to take over the universe," the Doctor says. "It can be controlled. It doesn't have to be obeyed."
"He didn't have it for nine hundred years," the Master snarls.
"And he saw the Matrix," the Doctor says, his voice shaking a little. "How is that possible?"
"I don't know," the Master says, and it sounds almost like a lie, but it isn't.
"That ring he had. It was like yours."
"Yes," the Master says, and breathes out shudderingly. "I was found with it in my pocket in the Silver Devastation. Fancy that."
"And nothing else," the Doctor murmurs.
"Just that and the watch," the Master says, and his voice shakes with barely suppressed fury at the universe.
A long, horrible silence.
"Beethoven," the Doctor says, very softly.
"...McFly," the Master says, with the beginnings of a very small grin.
"Can we at least agree the Spice Girls were rubbish?"
He can see the Master giving him a sideways look.
"Yeah, all right," the Master says.
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