(Silver Devastation, Beta Serpentis, 5523)
He closes the jewelry case slowly, smiles down at it, and pockets it. He looks around at them all: Leo, confused, Qworenn, nervous, Martha, resigned, and the Doctor, with such naked relief in his face that the Master wants to laugh.
He quickly reviews his time as Harry Saxon and wants to laugh rather more.
"If we might move this little tête-à-tête inside the TARDIS," he says. "I believe you wanted some answers, Doctor." The relief on the Doctor's face turns to confusion, and the Master doesn't bother holding back laughter this time. He goes into the TARDIS, bouncing a little, and hears the others following him warily. He sits down in the Doctor's chair, spins a full circle, and beams around at everyone, wondering idly how long it will take Martha to slap the Doctor for being so stupid as to bring him back. He estimates probably three minutes. "Now!" he says. "First I think I'll get this out of the way: no, I'm not behind this." He pulls a pout. "Oh, don't look like that, Qworenn. Sometimes even mass-murdering megalomaniacs take the day off. Watch a bit of telly." He leans forward; she takes an involuntary step back. He smirks a little and directs his next words to the Doctor. "It's always the women, you know."
The Doctor just raises his eyebrows. Good: that means he's back on form and taking his cues like a good boy. We won't talk about Harry Saxon because there's nothing to talk about.
"Lucy," the Master says.
He'd first met Lucy about two months after arriving on Earth. She was pretty, and so obviously vapid that he knew immediately something was up. Insatiably curious, he'd gotten her father out of a spot of financial trouble and taken her for a spin in the TARDIS. She had come brilliantly alive in there: mouth a bit open, face alight, and the Master had thought her beautiful, and known then he wanted her, and so wanted to break her. He'd taken her on a little trip to Utopia.
"Of course the irony of the whole thing," the Master says, spinning idly in the chair, hands clasped together, grinning at his audience's absolute rapt attention, "is the etymology of utopia. Miss Jones?"
"Er," Martha says, blinking. "Paradise? A perfect place."
The Master shakes his head. "Doctor?"
"Greek," the Doctor murmurs. "No place. A place that doesn't exist."
"Exactly!" the Master says happily. "Clever, isn't it? Utopia. Bye-bye, kids, have fun in your rocket ships searching for nowhere! But I had the coordinates, and I thought, why not? Let's see what happened to my children from Malcassario. Let's give Lucy some perspective."
Utopia had been a cold and barren world in the middle of the dying universe. No one had questioned their presence; they were freezing and starving and angry and desperate, and didn't ask questions. Lucy had turned to the Master, her face vivid in its very blankness, and she'd said, calmly, Harry, let's save them. Let's make them better.
How? he'd asked, tolerantly amused.
She'd shown him.
"Hold on," Martha says. "Lucy did that? Lucy made the Toclafane? She's the one who made those horrible-- those mad pickled future humans?"
The Master beams at her. "Bit of a shocker, isn't it?"
"How?" the Doctor puts in. "I never saw the inside of those spheres, but they couldn't possibly have been physically powered. You're telling me Lucy engineered perfect weaponized spheres capable of flight, motor control, life support systems--" The Master nods, still beaming, and the Doctor turns. "Martha. Leo. Would either of you even begin to know where to start?"
"No," Martha says.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," says Leo.
"Qworenn?" the Doctor asks.
"Maybe if you gave me a year and a research team," Qworenn says dubiously. "What do bedtime stories have to do with apparently lethal spheres?"
"Nothing," the Doctor says. "How long did it take Lucy?"
The Master shrugs. "About a month before they took over production. She came up with the basic concept in about three seconds flat, though." He leans the chair back a bit. "Come on, Doctor, you don't think genetic manipulation and a paradox machine was my first idea? It just made Lucy so very happy."
"All very fascinating," the Doctor says, "but you still haven't told us what exactly Lucy's behind that's relevant here."
The Master stares down pensively at his laced fingers, then back up at the Doctor. "Then tell me, Doctor, what you have pieced together, so I might fill in the blanks. You were so very sadly remiss about telling Harry anything actually useful."
"Lazarus Labs," the Doctor says.
The Master shrugs. "Another whim."
"After Lazarus' death," the Doctor says, "she apparently continued funding, but the lab's name was changed. Now it's Prydonian Labs."
"Is it?" the Master says in delight. "Oh, now I'm almost certain. That's clever of her too. What else?"
"That woman who had my family hostage," Martha says, stepping up next to the Doctor. "Miss Ridley. She works in the Ingram Psychiatric Ward, where-- where..." She turns. "Doctor."
"Oh no," the Doctor says. "Oh no no no, we were there and we didn't-- She couldn't figure out a Rubik's cube-- they remember--" He turns to Qworenn, suddenly beaming. "We've found the evacuees!"
"In a psychiatric ward?" says Qworenn.
"--More to the point," the Master says, getting to his feet, "one apparently funded by Lucy. Oh dear."
"I didn't say that," Martha says. "I said someone who used to work for you was working there. Lucy's not funding it at all. It's funded by a woman who doesn't exist. Rosamund Something Something Ingram."
The Master goes still, holding up a hand. "What are the Something Somethings, Miss Jones?"
"I can't remember," Martha says, looking a little affronted.
"Hold on," the Doctor says. "Plaque near the elevator?" Martha nods. He makes a face, thinks about it, and says, "'This ward funded by the generous donations of Rosamund Anne Natalie Ingram.'"
"Oh," the Master says, scrunching up his face. "Now I feel dirty."
The Doctor reaches for the controls. "We have to get back now," he says. "Before she-- does something to them."
"Just a moment," the Master says, catching the Doctor's arm before he can actually set coordinates. He revels in the Doctor's sharp, quiet little intake of breath, and doesn't let go until the Doctor steps back a little from the console. "We have a time machine," he says. "Don't you think it might be fun to figure out what's going on before we charge in, banners flying?"
"Yeah," Martha says unexpectedly. "Who are we dealing with here?"
"The Rani," the Doctor says. "She's a renegade scientist."
"Time Lord?" Martha asks.
"Not at the moment," the Master says. "That's the impressive bit. She's absolutely human at the moment, which is nice, because it means my taste can be excused. Anyway..." He squints over the TARDIS controls. "Chameleon arches aren't a hundred percent. They do a better job on the body than the mind--"
"And it wouldn't surprise me if the Rani had tinkered with hers," the Doctor puts in. "Programmed in memory commands so she'd start remembering when she came in contact with Time Lord technology."
"Bingo," the Master says, and beams up at the Doctor, who grins back. "But I know too much," he says, "so she turned me human and rigged that fob watch to kill me. Bit of a bad job, really."
"Oh, is that what happened?" the Doctor says.
"More or less," the Master says. "Oh, come on, it was Lucy, of course I was going to give her a kiss hello, especially after she was nice enough to break into the TARDIS and unlock that handcuff I was in." Of course the fact that Lucy accomplished these tasks with a sonic screwdriver might have been a tip-off, but the Master was so used to the Doctor's at that point, he hadn't thought much of it; he'd been more preoccupied by Lucy, looking magnificent with her hair down and her eyes wide, saying, Oh Harry, thank God I've found you. "And then she stuck that chameleon arch on my head and switched it on before I could do anything."
"So why didn't she get rid of that jewelry case?" Leo asks unexpectedly.
"Too busy gloating, I imagine," the Master says, and ignores the knowing smirk the Doctor flashes him. He's above the Doctor's petty taunts.
...No he isn't.
He kicks the Doctor absently in the shin.
"Ow!" the Doctor says. "All right, what's she going to do with all the evacuated human Time Lords in that ward of hers?"
"Kill them?" Martha suggests. "Leo just got a big supply of junk and trinkets and that from her; maybe it's rigged chameleon arch stuff."
"No," the Doctor murmurs, "there wouldn't be any point in killing them."
"You wouldn't have to stick with poison," the Master points out. "You could have other sorts of drugs. So a Time Lord opens their nice little trinket, gets hit with some drug the Rani designed, bam, and back comes all their Time Lord biodata and grafts with whatever's just been put in their system."
The Doctor frowns, raking a hand through his hair and causing it to stand on end. "That doesn't seem very efficient though, does it? As Qworenn pointed out--" He gives her a nod and she nods faintly in return, looking very young-- "the evacuation went wrong. The evacuees are scattered-- we can only hope they're all in London-- Martha, how many people were in that ward?"
"Fifty? A hundred?" Martha shrugs. "Can't be all the evacuees."
"Exactly," the Doctor says. "And giving all those trinkets to Leo? That's suspect too. She wants me in this somehow."
"Not to mention she seems to have taken my ring," the Master puts in. "She might have saved herself some trouble and taken Louis', if they're meant for the... same thing." He turns on Qworenn, who shrinks back a little, wavers, and then raises her chin to look at him properly. "You said something was scattered."
"Keys to the Matrix," Qworenn says.
"Scattered how? Through time?"
"I-- I think so," Qworenn says.
"Keys," the Master says, turning back to the Doctor, whose face has lit with comprehension. "I never noticed a damn thing-- I never thought to activate it, but one must have gotten into the TARDIS I used to get away."
"And the Rani needs it to find out where all the Time Lords are," the Doctor breathes. "But she's never used the Matrix before. She probably has no idea how to get in."
"...Do you?" Martha asks. They both turn to her; she's wearing a faint frown and probably hasn't been able to follow most of this, but she's asking all the same.
"Yes," the Doctor says. "Which would explain why she wants my attention."
"Hold on," Leo says. "Keys to the Matrix? Is there gonna be a bit with a red pill and a blue pill soon?"
"What?" the Doctor says blankly. "The Matrix-- has stuff. Memory stuff. Biological imprints, memories of dead Time Lords-- you know. Information!" He turns to the controls. "Anyway, it's extradimensional, so it survived the Time War."
"Take the blue pill," the Master stage-whispers to Leo.
"So where are we going, Doctor?" Martha says, actually managing to insinuate herself in between the Doctor and the Master. Very brave of her. Clever, too, the Master thinks, smirking a little, and resists the urge to accidentally-on-purpose touch her inappropriately only because he knows he'd be feeling the retaliatory slap for days.
"Back to Earth," the Doctor says. "You, Leo, and Qworenn are going to go through your shop and sort out all the chameleon arch parts, so we'll know what she's rigged. The Master and I--" he glances briefly over at the Master-- "are going to find the Rani and have a good talk with her."
The Doctor drops them off behind Leo's shop a moment after they left; Martha turns back to see the TARDIS dematerialize behind them, and feels a twinge of unease, but lets it go.
(Just before they landed, she worked up the courage to actually pull the Master aside. He'd come willingly enough, looking amused, but Martha really can't shake the horrible feeling that he's just smilingly waiting for an opportunity to kill her as violently as possible.
"Why are you helping us?" she'd demanded.
"My stint as Harry made me see the error in my ways," the Master replied, eyes very wide. She'd just looked at him. He'd sighed and said, matter-of-factly, "To get back at the Rani, Martha Jones."
But that's not quite it either, Martha feels.)
Leo hurries inside the shop, pulling out his mobile. "Dad? Hi. Listen, I need to go through some stock-- Oh, that's all right, bring Tish with you. Could you just take over for an hour or two? No, now. Dad, just bring your lunch with you. Okay. Thanks." He grins over at Martha. "Hey, here's the Jones family saving the human race."
"The Time Lord race," Martha corrects him, going to the counter to make sure the cosmetics case is still there. It is. "Which makes this new and exciting."
"I don't feel very comfortable about this," Qworenn says, hovering nervously by Martha's elbow. "This is a Time Lord affair, not a human one. Should we be dragging more humans into this?"
"Sorry," Martha says; Qworenn might be one of only three Time Lords in the universe, but she's still acting like a worried teenager, and Martha doesn't have time for it right now. "I guess you aren't temporally-sensitive enough to remember the year that wasn't, but I'm Martha Jones and I'm quite capable of saving the world."
Qworenn stares at her.
Martha's mobile rings.
"Excuse me," she says, and picks up. "Yeah?"
"Hey, Martha," Jack's voice says. "I thought I should get a status update."
"Oh," Martha says, suddenly rather unsure whether to laugh or cry. "Well, the Master's back, but it turns out a lot of Time Lords evacuated from Gallifrey and are hiding as humans in London now, only some of them got misplaced and a lot of the rest of them are locked up in a hospital ward by an evil scientist who is apparently Lucy Saxon, who is also a Time Lord, so me and Leo and Qworenn-- she's a Time Lord too-- we're going through Leo's shop, cos Lucy Saxon shipped a lot of rigged chameleon arch parts over and we need to sort through them so nothing bad happens to the Time Lords when they start opening their stuff."
"...Oh," Jack says.
"Listen, if you break every speed limit law in the country, do you think you could be here in an hour or two with your alien-tech-sensing gadgets?"
"Sure," Jack says. "The team's tired of sitting on their hands anyway. I'll let Owen drive."
"Don't die," Martha says. "...Thanks, Jack."
"Anytime," he says.
"Right!" Martha turns to Leo and Qworenn, putting her mobile away. "Let's get to work, then."
Qworenn holds her ground. "Why are we doing something because the Doctor and the Master tell us to? They might be wrong. It's the Doctor and the Master."
"We're doing it," Martha says quietly, "because I trust the Doctor." Qworenn opens her mouth. "Yes, even with the Master there," Martha says swiftly. "You don't want to help us save the Time Lords, you can leave this shop now."
Qworenn looks away. "I'll help," she says.
Leo hangs up a CLOSED sign. A few minutes later, Clive and Tish arrive, somewhat bemused and clutching sandwich halves. Given a brief rundown of the situation, they're more than happy to help; Tish finds a pop channel on the radio, and they spend a fairly enjoyable hour-and-a-quarter going through all of the inventory sent in by Ms. Ingram. Then the Torchwood van squeals to a halt outside and Jack's team piles out and into the shop, setting off another round of introductions, which culminate in Owen attempting to chat up Tish right in front of Clive and Martha stepping on his foot with her heel. Then the alien tech scanners come out and they get down to business.
And they're left alone in the TARDIS, the Doctor and the Master.
Then, "You-- you--"
The Master obviously can't think of the words to express what he's feeling. The Doctor can guess. Shame might be a top contender. He just stands still and waits.
"Stop looking at me like that!" the Master snarls. "Just-- stop, stop being all sanctimonious, good for you, doing the right and chivalric bloody thing--"
"It wasn't you," the Doctor says. "Not really. I couldn't have--"
"Yes you could," the Master says, seizing the front of his shirt. "You could have taken as much advantage as you wanted and you didn't."
"--Oh," the Doctor says, suddenly understanding. "Oh, you wish I had."
Because then the Master wouldn't have to take the responsibility. There would be someone to blame. There would be an excuse. There would be a memory without the consequences.
"So why didn't you?" the Master asks quite pleasantly. "Was it because I was human? Is it that you so miss having any contact-- any contact at all-- with another Time Lord? Have you missed this?"
It's not really unexpected, but the Doctor has no defenses up and the feel of the Master suddenly in his mind, setting nerve endings alight from the inside, is nearly too intense to bear. He makes a soft choked noise and sways in; the Master's no longer gripping his shirt, but has his arms wrapped around the Doctor, hands pressed against his back, supporting him. The Doctor feels a sudden wave of shocked anger-- this is definitely taking advantage-- but the Master's expecting this and takes it all and feeds it back into the Doctor's head; the Doctor's fingertips ache a little with the intensity of it, and he definitely whimpers this time.
"But wait," the Master murmurs. "Surely, Doctor-- there are other Time Lords now-- it cannot be because you feel alone."
"Let go of me," the Doctor mumbles, hanging onto the Master's shirt, which doesn't really help his case.
"You told me once," the Master whispers, leaning in and pressing his forehead against the Doctor's, perhaps as a sensory aid to this recollection, "that I need you. That I need an audience or there's really no point."
The Doctor's eyes drift shut. It feels, illogically, as though there's suddenly not quite enough air in the console room, and all the remaining air far too warm. "It's true," he says quietly. "You do."
"But you need me, too," the Master goes on, very softly, pulling the Doctor closer against him. "You need someone who thinks as quickly as you do. You need someone to challenge you. You don't need a vapid human cheerleader. You need someone to make you feel past that static in your head. You need someone to see all that you've done and forgive you for it."
"Isn't that yourself you're describing?" the Doctor murmurs.
The Master stays quite still, but strikes out with his mind. This time the Doctor's expecting it, and absorbs the blow; the Master's momentarily off-balance, and in that moment he nudges his way into the Master's mind. It thuds around him, every single thought torn apart by the drumbeat before it can reach coherence, and the Master makes a small noise like a sob and clutches at the Doctor's back.
"Stop it," he says hoarsely.
Static or drums, drums or static. The Doctor cups the Master's face in his hands and kisses him; one of them bites the other's lip and they taste blood and the other one kisses back very gently in retaliation, but the Doctor's already lost track of who's doing what, whose fingers winding in whose hair, who pulls away first to tug off coats and undo buttons. The Doctor's fingers stutter for a moment across the Master's cheek, the flutter of his fingertips and the flutter of the Master's eyelashes both as exact as the drumbeat, and the Doctor thinks all the same it might just be the hammering of their hearts.
"I don't need you," he says.
"Harry thought you needed therapy," the Master returns, grabbing his tie and pulling him towards the staircase.
"The Rani--" the Doctor protests.
"Time machine," the Master says.
They stumble their way down a level, managing to discard their shirts and the Master's belt and tie on the way, but he hangs onto the Doctor's tie so determinedly that the Doctor thinks it's not worth the effort of wresting it from him. "I don't," he says, as the Master tugs him towards a room he distinctly remembers as having a bed in. "Really. Because."
"If you're about to tell me you haven't gotten laid since you burned Gallifrey--" the Master says.
"There was this one time in France," the Doctor confesses.
"Well, that's a relief," the Master says, tugging the Doctor into the bedroom and using him to bodily close the door, pinning him against it. "Although it's usually in France, isn't it?"
That means Romana.
"I don't want to talk about it," the Doctor says, surprising himself; he was nearly ready to start going on about inventing banana daiquiris.
Surprise flares briefly in the Master's face, too; then he grins. "I hate banana daiquiris," he says, and seizes the moment of sudden slightly pained gratefulness in the Doctor's head, holding it like a warm idea between them. "You need me," he whispers.
"Symbiosis," the Doctor says, avoiding his eyes and ducking his head to work on undoing the Master's trousers. The Master catches the Doctor's wrists in his hands; the Doctor looks back up at him. "Yes," he says. "But you're scared too."
The Master's hands tighten painfully for a moment. Then he lets go, steps back, face blank, leaving the Doctor standing against the door. The Doctor thinks for a moment he might actually tell the Doctor to get out of the way. Instead he raises his eyebrows a little and says, "More comfortable in a bed."
They manage to remember to take their trousers off before getting onto the bed, for which the Doctor is faintly proud. And then he has trouble thinking of anything at all, because the Master has crawled on top of him and is kissing him fiercely. The Doctor arches up against him and clutches at the duvet and begins to lose track of which limbs and dragging little breaths belong to whom. He's forgotten how good this is; knowing, precisely, what pulls them undone, fingernails dragged up the Master's spine and soft kisses to the corners of the Doctor's eyes, a particular way the Master twists his hand and the Doctor nearly biting through his lip again. The drums fade and they kiss away blood and somewhere the world is burning and the Doctor never wants to end this.
They lie in each other's arms, trembling.
The Doctor slowly pieces together which hands and arms and legs and face belong to him. He aches and he has bruises down his arms and his lip is slightly bloodied and, madly, he's still wearing his tie, and the Master is giving him such a dazed satiated grin, his hair standing crazily on end, that the Doctor doesn't care at all.
"They used us, you know," he mumbles. "Figured, maybe if one of us ran away, the other might not."
"Mmhm," the Master says. "That mean I win?"
"No," the Doctor says. "Means I was stupid, though."
"Here's to bravery," the Master says, patting the top of the Doctor's head lazily.
"...The Rani?" the Doctor asks after a minute.
The Master groans. "And to perseverance," he says, but he sits up and tosses the Doctor his trousers.
They go upstairs together to set a course.
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