The Doctor had always had a weakness for striking clothing. Shirts, ties, trousers, coats, waistcoats, shoes, spats, cravats, braces, jumpers, hats, gloves, scarves, boots, and even, occasionally, cloaks: all were embraced by his cavernous wardrobe. Indeed, his current incarnation would boast to anyone who would listen that the popular Earth song, ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ had been written with him in mind. As, he would continue (if they didn’t stop him), had ‘Alien in a Frock Coat’ by the Squiggly-Wigglies of Rygolian, and Blue5New’s ‘Stop That Man and Ask for his Tailor’ and that had been at the top of the intergalactic charts for five weeks.
He liked to cast a distinctive silhouette. He liked to be instantly memorable. Occasionally, he would be forced to remove his clothes for torture, etc, which was uncomfortable and upsetting, but he always made sure he got his clothes back before the dénouement of his adventure. It was important to maintain standards.
There were, in fact, only four scenarios in which the Doctor voluntarily removed his chosen outfit: when adopting a disguise (which he hardly ever did), when asleep (which he hardly ever was), during sex (which he hardly ever… felt was appropriate) and when bathing. These last three vulnerable activities he preferred to take place in the comfort of his own home and nowhere else, unless he was desperate or had forgotten what his values were after a dodgy regeneration. This was because in many ways, the Doctor’s clothes protected him, and there was nothing (too) dangerous in the TARDIS. His clothes also helped reassure him of his identity (increasingly necessary in this regeneration), but the TARDIS made sure he didn’t lose track of that. He still didn’t much like nudity as a concept, but as long as he was in one of the TARDIS’s bedrooms or bathrooms, with the door firmly locked, he was happy with it.
He was not at all happy to find himself hauled out of time and space during what had promised to be a long bath, and deposited on someone else’s dusty stone floor. He was less happy when he looked up, wet and naked, from that floor and found a man regarding him with a mixture of confusion and amusement. This man was very short and wore a neat, grey-striped beard and moustache. He, unlike the Doctor, was fully dressed in a dark Nehru jacket and trousers, indeed even his hands were clothed in black leather gloves.
“Oh, so it’s you,” the Doctor said sourly. He sat up in a way he hoped conveyed a sharp irritation, rather than a desire not to be completely exposed. “I take it I've been summoned. This is a summoning, isn't it? That was your sort of thing, if I remember rightly.”
“Hello Doctor,” the Master said. “Verbose as always. I would hardly have noticed you’d regenerated if you hadn’t grown an even more ridiculous hair-style.”
It was, at least, the wrong Master. That was the good news. The Doctor’s current Master was a little bit more mad than the Doctor liked him, and was currently taking an extended holiday in the Eye of Harmony, where, the Doctor hoped, he would re-think his priorities. This Master, on the other hand, was primarily concerned with conquering the universe and then giving half of it to the Doctor, which was embarrassing, but ultimately preferable.
“So did you bring me here for a reason?” the Doctor enquired. “Or were you expecting a giant squid? As I recall, those summonings you were so fond of often turned out rather differently than you’d planned. More importantly,” he continued, without giving the Master a chance to answer, “are you about to send me back to my TARDIS? I was actually in the middle of something, hard though I know it may be to believe.”
The Master chuckled. “Of course. Your yearly bath.”
“One I was very much enjoying,” the Doctor continued, ignoring the insult, “so if you wouldn’t mind returning me to it, I promise I won’t say anything about this the next time we meet.“
“My dear Doctor,” the Master said, squatting in front of him — the Doctor rearranged his arm so that he was still shielded. “Do you really think I would leave you stranded, out of time, unclothed-”
“Ah. So, you had noticed,” the Doctor murmured in a more than usually husky tone. It was a cheap move, and one the Doctor felt uncomfortable making for a variety of reasons, but he found himself more than usually at the Master’s mercy. Any advantage would be welcome at this point.
“Your predicament had not escaped me,” the Master said, maintaining eye-contact, “but a gentleman never makes light of an enemy’s weakness,”
“A gentleman would have given me his jacket.”
“One can be too kind,” the Master answered, with a slight smirk. “The jacket is silk and I fear your mid-bath state would ruin it. I would, of course, be happy to lend you a lab-coat or a dressing-gown, until some more suitable clothes can be found. But, as for my sending you back, I’m afraid that, at the present, is quite impossible. The device I used to bring you here is malfunctioning and I wouldn’t trust it to return you to the warm water from whence you came. It was supposed to extract you from the time stream in your third incarnation, but this is your…?” He left a space.
“…I’m not telling you that,” the Doctor said, scandalised. “Next you’ll be asking how old I am.”
“Still sensitive about passing that first millennium?” the Master said, great amusement in his voice.
“No, I’m worried about disrupting your time stream,” the Doctor corrected. “It’s bad enough that you’ve broken the laws of time getting me here, bad enough that you’ve invaded my privacy, kidnapped me and ruined my bath - I’d rather not make things worse by giving you anything you can use to alter your own future, if it’s all the same to you. And,” he said, because he found he couldn’t let it go by, “for your information, I am not, nor have I ever been, sensitive about my age. But, even if I was, I think that I’m looking rather good for it, whatever it is, wouldn’t you say?”
This last bit came out rather differently than the Doctor had intended. Earlier, the innuendo had been controlled; this one had escaped him accidentally. Unlike the last time, however, he saw the Master frown before another reassuring smile spread out across his face. “But what makes you think I’ve kidnapped you?”
“It is the usual term,” the Doctor began.
“I was attempting to rescue you,” the Master said, as though this were the most natural thing in the world. “Your third self, of course. The one who has been trying to escape the Earth for the last three years of his life. I should perhaps have appraised you of my plan first, but I assumed, if I was successful, you could make the decision to stay with me, or return to Earth, from here. Unfortunately, there do seem to have been some unforeseen complications.”
“My appearance, rather than that of my Earth-bound third self,” the Doctor supplied.
“Which, I assure you, was an accident.”
“An accident that still leaves me trapped aboard your TARDIS with no way back to my own.”
“Yes, unless you can fix my device,” the Master agreed smoothly.
“…I’m sorry? Could you run that by me one more time. Unless I can fix-”
“Doctor,” the Master said, with some frustration, “you know I have always respected your technical expertise.”
“Well - yes,” the Doctor said, flattered despite himself.
“Only last month I was forced to enlist your help with the Keller machine.”
“Was it that long ago? It seems like only yesterday-”
“And this particular problem does seem to require you,” the Master said firmly. “The device I used is, in essence, a time scoop, but, in order to bypass the restrictions placed on your third self by the Time Lords, and to be sure of… picking you up, even if you were tinkering with your ship, I decided to route power from the remote link to the Eye of Harmony in my TARDIS.”
“Ah,” the Doctor said, beginning to see what was going on. He had, of course, identified the room they were in as the Master’s cloister room almost immediately, but he had assumed this was just the Master’s idea of being impressive.
“Unfortunately,” the Master continued, “there seems to be some sort of disturbance in the Eye. A disturbance, I imagine, in your particular time stream and your particular TARDIS, as it appears the time scoop has collected you, rather than any of your past or future incarnations.”
“Mm,” the Doctor said.
“You wouldn’t happen to know what that disturbance was?”
“No,” the Doctor lied. “Must be the Time Lords messing around again - you know what they’re like.”
“Well, in that case,” the Master said, standing up out of his crouch, “I see no alternative, Doctor. You will have to return to Gallifrey. It’s rather inconvenient for me, at the moment, but I’m sure-”
“Wait a minute,” the Doctor called, as the Master walked away. “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” The Master turned back. “Just because I don’t know what the disturbance is, doesn’t mean I can’t fix the machine. Where is it?”
“Behind you - on the dais surrounding the Eye.”
The Doctor twisted his head and, as promised, saw a small, neat box about the size of one of his hands sitting incongruously on the Gothic stone. At one end it was connected by a thin red wire to a small computer terminal, and at the other to the Eye of Harmony.
It was just far enough that he couldn’t reach it without standing up, so it was impossible to tell if the box was actually a fully functional time scoop, or something nasty, like a smoke bomb that would cause him to lose consciousness the moment he touched it. It might conceivably be both. But it was this Master, and it was, therefore, entirely possible he was telling the truth - even about his intentions. Over the centuries, the Doctor had (occasionally) suffered minor pangs of guilt over how he had treated this Master. Seen from a certain angle, his behaviour was potentially responsible for the Master’s later descent into madness and malice. Perhaps now was the time to make it up to him — by believing him. Nothing improper.
“You said something about finding me with a lab-coat,” he said, turning back to the Master.
The other man inclined his head. “I did. Whilst I’m away, would you like any particular tools? Or would you rather I choose a general selection?”
“Oh, I think a general selection should be fine,” the Doctor said, willing the Master to leave.
Unfortunately, this must have been evident because the Master smirked slightly and said, “I take it you’re planning to cower on the floor until I return?”
Rather than answer that, the Doctor gave him the most withering stare he could manage. The Master chuckled and left to (the Doctor fervently hoped) locate the promised lab-coat.
Once he was sure the Master was out of sight, the Doctor got to his feet. His hair was still extremely wet and, in an attempt to stop it dripping into any electrical equipment later, the Doctor squeezed as much water as possible out onto the floor. Then, he looked for somewhere to dry his hands, but there was no fabric in the room at all — not even a set of ostentatious velvet drapes. The Doctor suppressed a growl of frustration and wiped his wet hands on the stone ledge around the Eye, which didn’t help. This done, he sat down on a different patch of stone and reached for the small box attached to the Eye.
It was, as he’d expected, a dimensionally-transcendental case for a much larger piece of equipment. Inside, the various components and wires that made up the time scoop were orderly arranged in a square pattern that looked a lot like New York City seen from above. The Doctor stuck his index and middle fingers into the box as far as they would go, gripped the first piece of wiring he could feel between them, and tugged.
Before long, he had managed to evacuate most of the time scoop from the casing. There were a few big pieces that refused to leave through the narrow opening, even after he had bent the sides outwards, but, after peering at them, the Doctor established that they were part of the correctly function ‘scooping’ mechanism, and he let them be. Sorting through the multicoloured wiring pooled at his feet he located all the bits he didn’t recognise, pulled them out and threw them into a corner.
He had re-established the broken connections and was attempting to return the repaired time scoop to its case by the time the Master returned.
“All finished and in under ten minutes,” the Doctor told him cheerfully, brandishing the box with its new wire-train. “That must be a new record. I haven’t quite been able to get it all back in, but, in the circumstances, I think we can dispense with purely aesthetic considerations, don’t you?”
The Master raised an eyebrow, but before he could verbally agree (or otherwise), the Doctor had abandoned the scoop and turned towards the attached computer terminal. “It wasn’t difficult, at all, really. The Eye is permanently disrupted,” he explained, as he tapped in numbers, “so your modifications, ingenious though they were, were unfortunately never going to work. All I did was rebuild the time scoop; restored its factory settings, if you like; rebooted-” A large white blur dropped into view and, after a moment’s confusion, the Doctor accepted the lab-coat he had completely forgotten about in his enthusiasm for his own cleverness. “Oh. Thank you.”
The Master leant forward as the Doctor pulled on the stiff, white coat. It was slightly too narrow across the shoulders, slightly too short in the sleeve, and the Doctor felt suddenly very awkward again, even though he was now clothed.
“These are the access codes for your TARDIS?” the Master asked, having scrutinised the long streams of digits the Doctor had already entered.
“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. “Well — they’re the access codes for my TARDIS, give or take a few fives and eights, a couple of threes.” He began adding these. “I thought it would be easier to home in on my TARDIS, rather than fixing the calibration properly. There’s also less chance you can use the time scoop for nefarious means after I’m gone.”
He finished the final number-stream and stood up next to the Master, who was still peering at the screen in apparent interest. The Doctor found that, this close, he couldn’t help noticing the strong smell of cigar smoke that seemed to hang around the Master. He found that it was not so much unpleasant, as it was distinct: the smell of this Master. None of the later ones had smoked — presumably the attraction of setting tobacco on fire and breathing it in waned after one had spent several years as a burned-out husk.
“I wouldn’t bother memorising these numbers,” he told the Master, rather than dwell on these melancholy thoughts. “The TARDIS changes them automatically once a week, every week.”
“An excellent precaution,” the Master said. “Otherwise you would undoubtedly be overrun with calls from distant relations, old enemies and Jehovah’s witnesses.”
“Eating all the best Liquorice Allsorts and taking too long in the bathroom,” the Doctor agreed. “Speaking of bathrooms, I think that it’s about time I returned to mine.”
“Though,” the Doctor said, hurt by the speed of this response for some unfathomable reason, “of course, I could always stay a bit longer.”
The Master raised an eyebrow again. “Why would you do that?”
“Well,” the Doctor said, rather lamely, “for a start, I think I’m supposed to eat all your Liquorice Allsorts. You know, old enemy appearing suddenly in your TARDIS. I’m quite partial to those little round ones covered in-”
“Doctor,” the Master interrupted.
“You’re not that old,” the Master said, with a mocking smile. He activated the repaired time scoop.
“One thousand, three hundred and twenty two,” the Doctor retorted, as the blue-grey triangle distortion closed around him.
For a moment, he could still see the Master smirking on the other side of wibbly-wobbly field enclosing him. Then the Doctor felt himself deposited roughly on his own bathroom floor. Without much hope, he checked the bath water, but it was cold.
Bloody Master, the Doctor thought to himself, and went off to find some proper clothes.
The Doctor had never been the kind of man who believed it was acceptable to sleep naked, just because nobody was likely to see you. In his middle-lives he had largely favoured long pyjamas, but his early selves had been fond of long, white nightshirts and, at the beginning of his time in this current body, it had been these that the Doctor had dug through his wardrobe to find. The striped nightcap he had worn from time to time, he left behind. In this body, the night shirts made him look sort of dashing, and he felt the blue bobble on the end of the cap spoiled the effect — even though nobody was likely to appreciate it.
He did not feel very dashing as he hit the floor of the Master’s cloister room with a painful thump about a week after he had first made painful contact with it.
He had been asleep. The Doctor, like all but the most elderly Time Lords, did not sleep very often. In fact, what with the Daleks and the Time Lords both (figuratively) breathing down his neck, he hadn’t slept in what approximated to three weeks, and hadn’t really missed it. But, when he did he sleep, he liked to continue being asleep until woken by his alarm clock or the cloister bell.
“This may seem highly amusing,” he muttered, without opening his eyes, “but, let me assure you, that it isn’t.”
“The same could be said of your little stunt on Axos,” the Master said coolly.
The Doctor groaned into the uncomfortable stone floor beneath his face. “That was eight hundred years ago. Can’t you go and bother someone else? My third self is probably sitting around in his laboratory, not really up to anything. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to engage in some light verbal or physical sparring with you, after you put me back on my ship.”
“I’m afraid that is out of the question.”
“I thought it would be,” the Doctor said wearily. “You know, this is all feeling very familiar. Am I at least wearing clothes this time?” He felt for the edge of his nightshirt and pulled it further down his legs so that it covered his knees. Full embarrassment was apparently waiting until he was properly awake to spring at him. That was the good news. “Well?” he asked the floor. “What do you want? An apology? I can do an apology. I’m sorry about the thing with the Axons. Now, can I, please, go home?”
“No, Doctor, you cannot,” the Master said. “Whenever you are ready to sit up and behave like a reasonable person, you will find a pair of trousers folded to your left. I will be waiting for you in the library — I expect you remember where it is.”
The precise sound of the Master’s footsteps on stone faded. The Doctor made a single-hearted attempt to go back to sleep, just to spite the Master, but eventually he was forced to admit that he was awake. Having done this, he sat up and looked around for the trousers.
He did remember where the library was. Either that or the Master’s TARDIS (as considerate, or as devious, as her pilot) rearranged the corridors for him, so that the Doctor believed he remembered where the library was. Whichever it was, he found the library quickly and inside it the small, round table set with tea and what looked suspiciously like Liquorice Allsorts in a bowl.
The Master, sitting in a large, green armchair at one side of the table, indicated with one hand that the Doctor should seat himself in the opposite chair. Gingerly (the trousers, like the lab-coat, were slightly too tight), the Doctor sat and, after a moment’s contemplation, the Master said, “Explain, please.”
“Explain what?” the Doctor said, though, of course, he knew very well. “How telephones work; what the correct procedure is for addressing the third queen of Gamagamapeng; why, after five regenerations, Braxiatel still has exactly the same, ridiculous moustache? I’m afraid not even I can help you with the last one, but if it’s either of the others I’ll give it my best shot. Are these for me?” he asked, reaching for one of the round, pink, beaded Allsorts. “How very kind you are.”
He popped the sweet into his mouth and chewed. Then, when the Master seemed disinclined to humour him, swallowed and said, “Oh, come on. I was never going to go with you, you must have known that. It was very flattering in its way, but you also killed a number of people every time you showed up, and the affair with the Axons was no different, was it? How could I look at myself in the mirror, if I’d said yes after that? Not that looking in the mirror has ever been a favourite pastime of mine, but, I admit, it’s something I do enjoy from time to time.”
“But surely,” the Master began.
“Never,” the Doctor said firmly. “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever,” he added. “I never say yes and I never will say yes. Trust me, I was there. In fact, though I shouldn’t be telling you this, you could save yourself a lot of future bother by cancelling any plans you have to take over Earth in the 1970s or ‘80s right now.”
The Master gave him a long, appraising look, and then shook his head, smiling. “No, Doctor, I don’t believe you. You would never tell me about my own future so guilelessly.”
“I could be double-bluffing you.”
“I don’t think so,” the Master said. “You seem far too comfortable here with me, in my TARDIS, to be visiting it for the first time in a thousand years. And I know that, while you hate your exile, you do have some feeling for the planet Earth. I should never have believed you’d abandon it to the mercy of Axos. That was foolish of me. Under other circumstances, however? If the Earth was safe? Well. You would have to be a fool yourself to refuse my offer and I know that you are not. No, Doctor, I don’t believe you at all.”
“Well, you’re too smart for me,” the Doctor said, with a rueful smile. He was experiencing another of those pangs of guilty regret, but the Master seemed to interpret this as another sign he was right.
“Now, my dear Doctor, you know very well that you are practically my equal,” he assured the other Time Lord, whose eyebrows rose. “In point of fact, I believe I will have need of those excellent brains of yours again very shortly.” He lowered his voice confidentially. “I have recently acquired a full copy of the Matrix of the Time Lords.”
“Yes, I remember,” the Doctor said, and this time he grinned properly. “Who do you think gets sent to round you up and bring you back?”
“Do you succeed?”
“That would be telling.”
The Master chuckled. “Of course it would. But you seem to have curious double standards about that. After all, you’ve already told me you were sent somewhere in pursuit of me. Do I dare to hope somewhere more remote than London?”
“Mm,” the Doctor said, taking three new sweets. “The Time Lords give me, or rather gave me, a temporary parole.”
“Our next meeting is away from Earth, then?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said reluctantly, “we next meet away from Earth.”
“Yes, well, I wouldn’t read too much into it, if I were you.”
“Wouldn’t you?” the Master asked.
“No,” the Doctor said. “Here, have a Liquorice Allsort.” He held out the bowl of sweets which the Master refused. “They’re really rather good, though, as you know, I prefer Jelly Babies as a rule. It sounds better, too. Have a Jelly Baby. Much better than, Have a Liquorice Allsort. In any language actually. Mm,” he considered this as he popped another sweet into his mouth. They were very good, “well, perhaps, we could have a bowl of each next time.”
“I don’t understand,” the Master said. He began, as the Doctor had hoped he would, to pour the tea. “Next time?”
“Next time my other self refuses you, as he will; next time you summon me here in my jimjams to have a go at me for it, as you will,” the Doctor said, as the long overdue first cup of the day was passed to him. “Take your pick. I assume this version of me is at your mercy, since you seem to have cracked the cipher controlling the access codes to my ship.”
“I did,” the Master agreed. “I believe the three cipher numbers are the combination of your as yet un-used locker in the UNIT common room; the telephone number of an Islington flat, where you once attended a party; and your current age. One might almost think you had intended me to break the ciphers.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Doctor said. “I wouldn’t do something like that. And I will, of course, be changing the current ciphers as soon as I get back to my TARDIS.”
“Indeed. Then I will be sure to break them at my earliest possible convenience,” the Master replied.
“I’d expect nothing less of a dastardly criminal genius with nothing better to do,” the Doctor said and accepted a second cup of tea, without really thinking about it.
“I know it doesn’t look like it,” the Doctor said, when he next appeared in the Master’s TARDIS, “I know, I know, but I do have some normal clothes this regeneration, I promise. You just seem to catch me at odd moments.”
He was dressed in a long purple and white toga and sandals, having recently returned from Ancient Rome. The time scoop had closed around him in the wardrobe room just as he had been about to exchange the toga for his cream trousers, shirt, waistcoat and green velvet coat. Frustratingly he could actually see the coat lying over the back of a chair while the wibbly-wobbly triangle carried him off.
Under normal circumstances he would have just worn his normal clothes out into Rome, but this had been Gallifrey’s business and, in the current political climate, it wasn’t at all a good idea to draw attention to yourself if you were on Gallifrey’s business.
“I have long suspected that life is simply one, long odd moment for you, Doctor,” the Master said, looking distinctly smug, either because he wasn’t wearing a toga, or because he’d managed to get in a jibe so early on. “Shall we?” he asked, gesturing into the TARDIS with one leather-gloved hand. “I’ve taken the liberty of acquiring two bottles or Foolovian red, which I think you’ll find pleasantly unusual.”
“Ah. Trying to get me drunk,” the Doctor said, “I see.” But he was already walking in the direction the Master had indicated. The alternative was to insist that the Master return him to his own ship, which the Master would agree to immediately. Then he, the Doctor, would be forced to return to Gallifrey, where he would report to the tiresome head of the CIA and, if he was lucky, talk to Romana for few curt minutes, before being posted somewhere else in a silly costume. Meanwhile, in the Master’s TARDIS, both the company and the wine were excellent, in their own ways. It was an easy choice — which the Doctor found pleasantly surprising in this time of galactic uncertainty.
“Another odd moment, Doctor?”
The Doctor looked down at his clothes, but no — there were the green velvet coat, the silver waistcoat, the starched trousers and Grace’s ex-boyfriend’s ex-shoes, which still fit him perfectly. For once, he had arrived in the Master’s TARDIS exquisitely dressed.
“Sorry?” he said. Perhaps, after all, he had heard incorrectly. Being scooped out of space and time tended to have an adverse effect on the hearing.
“Where were you this time?” the Master asked. “Undercover at a Lord Byron look-alike competition?”
“No, I’ve met the man. We look nothing alike,” the Doctor said nonplussed. Then he said, “Sorry, let me get this straight: are you making fun of my clothes?”
“Not at all,” the Master said. “I do apologise. It’s just you told me you had normal clothes this regeneration-”
“I do have normal clothes!” the Doctor protested.
“So I naturally assumed,” the Master continued smoothly, “that you were either undercover or attending a fancy dress party. I see now that I was mistaken.”
“Good,” the Doctor said. “Otherwise I would have been forced to ask who you’re supposed to be. Dr. No, I presume.”
The Master tutted. “That would be beneath you.”
“Isn’t it lucky I don’t have to say it, then?” the Doctor said, grinning. “Now, I think last time I was here you said I could see your gardens this time I was here.”
The last time he had been here had been very pleasant (certainly far better than the meeting with Co-ordinator Narvin that had followed back on Gallifrey, which had been very dull). The two bottles of wine had been delightful, if not nearly strong enough to get either Time Lord drunk, but that was a good thing, too. With each confidence, each lazy joke or fantastical theory, the Doctor’s inhibitions had lowered. Actual intoxication would have been dangerous — for the Web of Time.
If it hadn’t been for the dull meeting awaiting him on Gallifrey, he might have stayed longer that last time. This time, however, the Master had chosen a good day to summon him from the ether. There were no meetings or imminent disasters looming, and the Doctor felt that he in some way deserved to be strolling through the Master’s gardens at this moment.
They were very beautiful gardens: exactly the sort of place one might expect to be attached to the residence of an Indian prince, and wouldn’t at all expect to find inside the space ship of an infamous renegade, unless well acquainted with him. The grounds were populated by a wide variety of well-tended, brightly coloured plant-life, gathered from across the galaxy, and there was a large mountain in the far distance, which was smoking contently, like the Master in the middle of a successful scheme. The volcano been there last time the Doctor had visited these gardens, many hundreds of years ago, but it was still an impressive piece of artificial geo-engineering, and worth visiting every couple of millennia.
“I suppose you have some sort of evil plan for all of this,” the Doctor said, gesturing at a large blue plant that he recognised as being extremely rare, even on its native Pluto.
“Oh, but surely you already know,” the Master deferred.
“I’m trying to keep up the pretence that I don’t know your future,” the Doctor protested, “you could help. And, while I don’t remember being attacked by ornamental shrubs personally,” he continued, “not ones controlled by you anyway, or poisoned with anything Plutonian in origin, that doesn’t mean nothing of the sort went on in another part of the universe. You didn’t spend all your time annoying me, even while I was on Earth, though I’m sure Alistair would agree that sometimes it felt like it.” He grinned at the Master, but the other man’s expression had darkened.
“…You do have plans for the rest of the universe?” the Doctor said and couldn’t quite keep it from sounding like a question.
“Not currently,” the Master told him, looking away from the blue plant at which he had been glowering to stare at the Doctor.
“I see,” the Doctor said to give himself time to think. “But - I suppose, Earth is a good central position, universally speaking. Actually I’ve almost lost count of the number of other species who wanted to set up a base of operations there. You’ll have a difficult time defending it once you’ve got it, I’m afraid, but the theatre is very good.”
“I shall make a point of going as soon as my rule begins.” The Master walked away, catching one of the outstretched branches of the blue plant as he passed and snapping it off between his fingers. “Perhaps you will good enough to accompany me when that day comes.”
“I’m sure I would be delighted,” the Doctor said, glad that potentially awkward topic had been avoided. “Feel free to summon me from space and time, if it ever happens. Shakespeare, I think. I could go for some Shakespeare. I knew him, you know, when he was just a boy captured by Daleks, and later when he was Richard the Third.”
There was a pause just long enough to become awkward and then the Master said, “You never say yes, do you, Doctor?”
“Really? I was under the impression that I had,” the Doctor said. “You, me, Shakespeare. The Daleks are optional, of course.”
“It’s been troubling me for some time now,” the Master continued, having apparently ignored this, “how easily I managed to break into your TARDIS.”
“Yes. Almost as if I didn’t mind, wasn’t it?” the Doctor said. He rubbed the bottom of his face to hide a smile. “I admit-”
What he was about to admit (that he had really enjoyed spending time with the Master again, particularly now he didn’t have to worry about being half naked or dressed in a toga) was lost as the Master said, “Almost as if none of my future selves had ever been allowed to examine your TARDIS and ensure such puny precautions were replaced by locks unbreakable even to myself.”
“…Yes,” the Doctor agreed. “I think I said something to that effect in the library, didn’t I? That was the truth, I’m sorry. Perhaps I would have eventually been desperate enough to throw myself on your mercy, as it were, but the Time Lords revoked my exile. I take it that’s just happened for you.”
“You were never desperate enough,” the Master repeated.
“That was a very poor choice of words,” the Doctor said, keeping his voice level and free from any of the pity that would infuriate the Master further. “I meant-”
“Tell me, Doctor, why exactly do you think you’re here?”
“You’re the one with the time scoop,” the Doctor pointed out, “I’m simply a harmless bystander. A bystander, anyway.”
When the Master crossed his arms and raised his chin, rather than taking the opportunity to explain himself, the Doctor said, in a tone of resignation, “Is it why I think it is?”
The Master raised an eyebrow. The Doctor faltered. Surely the Master must know that the truth, if the Doctor was forced to speak it, would sound very much like: because you’re obsessed with me, and my third self, quite rightly, refuses to have anything to do with you, whereas I’m trying to avoid my own time period and feel bad about letting you fall into the Eye, even though you deserved it.
But he didn’t want to hurt the Master, particularly not this Master, so he said, “Let me put it another way. How would you react if I did this?”
It was a kiss. A light, testing the waters type of kiss, but a kiss nonetheless — a press of lips against lips. Though he hadn’t had much opportunity to test the theory, the Doctor was fairly sure he was a good kisser this regeneration. He remembered Grace gasping, Do that again, on his first evening. The Master didn’t gasp, or order him to continue, but his right hand gripped at a sleeve of the Doctor’s velvet coat.
“Favourably,” the Doctor murmured, as he drew back, “I see.” He was about to repeat the experiment, when the Master stepped away from him. The Doctor frowned. “Less favourably. Is something wrong?”
“I just want to be quite sure you know what you’re doing,” the Master said.
“Yes. I think I do,” the Doctor said slowly. “It’s been a while, I admit, but I have a rough idea-”
“I know it must be hard for you, Doctor,” the Master interrupted, “but this is no time to be glib. Are you in full command of your faculties? Do you fully comprehend the enormity of your last action and the consequences likely to ensue as a result of it?”
“…We’re talking about sex, aren’t we?” the Doctor asked - glibly, because he couldn’t help it. “Unless you want to go to a movie first. Roller skating?”
“The movie, rather than the roller skating.”
“The sex,” the Master said, emphasising this word in a way that was oddly distracting.
“Then I’m all for it. What about you?”
The Master began to chuckle.
“Something funny?” the Doctor enquired.
“Not at all,” the Master said. He still looked worryingly amused. “Follow me.”
The Doctor did so, though he couldn’t help feeling something had gone wrong. He had definitely been in control of the conversation until the kiss — he had hoped, in fact, that it would help him maintain the upper hand. The kiss should have distracted and appeased the Master; instead it seemed to have sharpened his purpose, whatever that was. Meanwhile, as they walked in silence through the Master’s garden, the Doctor found his other, more important thoughts being pushed aside to make way for ones about sex.
He was, as he had said, all for it, though he rarely had sex himself, because it tended to make things complicated. It would definitely make things complicated now, but he had, the Doctor consoled himself, already lived through most of the consequences. The Master’s stolen Trakanite incarnation had spent a good deal of time leering at him, as if to say, Moralise all you like, for I have seen you naked and whimpering in my bed. The Doctor had always felt this was extremely unsettling and unfair, because he had never (despite being tempted on occasion) had sex with the Master, in his bed or otherwise. Presumably, though, that was where they were going now, and the Doctor was rather looking forward to it. Ideally, there wouldn’t have been such a long walk before they could get to the sex, but he hadn’t really expected this Master to pull him down amongst the alien flora. Although that would have been-
“You have now been quiet for almost ten minutes,” the Master informed him, “which is, I must tell you, an improvement of nine and a half minutes on your previous record.”
“Good to hear I can still surprise you,” the Doctor said. “Sorry, I was just thinking about,” sex, “something that happens in the future.”
“Indeed. Something pleasant?”
“That,” the Doctor said, rather than answer, “would be telling. Ah, look — a door. At last.” He suspected that had sounded suspiciously relieved, but the Master seemed not to notice and simply opened the door that was hanging unsupported in the middle of his garden. Behind it was a darkened room and it took the Doctor’s eyes some time to adjust as the door closed. When they did, he blinked again, just to make sure, because most of the room seemed to be filled with a large, entirely unnecessarily opulent bed. The walls were panelled in dark wood and elaborate gilt sconces were mounted at regular intervals: candle flames flickered in a breeze from the garden.
“This is where you sleep, is it?” the Doctor asked, raising an incredulous eyebrow and a smile. “In the 19th century?”
“Very droll,” the Master said. The Doctor shrugged modestly. “But no, I sleep elsewhere. I selected this room for you, my dear.”
That his name had been missed off the endearment did not escape the Doctor, but all he said was, “I’m going to take that as another dig at my clothes.”
“You may take it however you like,” the Master said. “As for your clothes - I think you should take them off, don’t you?”
“In the circumstances,” the Doctor agreed, “though I’ll remember the insult. You’re sure you wouldn’t rather see a movie?” he said, as he slipped out of his coat.
“No, thank you.”
The Doctor removed waistcoat, cravat, shoes, socks and trousers. He spared a moment to be embarrassed that he was in a body that had never worn underwear — it looked keen, when he had simply never got used to them this regeneration. The lockers in Grace’s hospital had yielded a Wild Bill Hickok outfit, but no spare boxer shorts. Grace’s ex-boyfriend had left his shoes, but taken the sofa and all his pants. However, the idea of any of any of his earlier, underwear-wearing selves having sex with the Master was even less comfortable and so he passed over the thought.
“Aren’t you going to get undressed?” he enquired.
“Later, perhaps.” The Master smiled a smile unlike any he’d given during their tea in the library or their stroll in the garden; a gloating, dagger-sharp smile.
The Doctor pulled his shirt over his head. He held out a hand to the Master, and, in a last attempt to regain control of the situation, gave a gentle order, “Come here.” But the Master didn’t move — or rather no part of him moved except his eyes, which ranged over the Doctor’s body.
“You have seen me naked before,” the Doctor reminded him, with an awkward grin.
“But the situations were quite different,” the Master said. “It would have been terribly rude to stare while you were huddled on the floor, besides I think — you were trying to distract me, though of course that was unnecessary. Now, however,” he lingered over the Doctor’s middle, where a thin line of hair ran down towards an already half-hard cock, and then raised his eyes, as if to be sure the Doctor took note of the next bit, “you have offered yourself up to me.”
“Well,” the Doctor said, “for a limited time only.”
“I believe I will make the most of it,” the Master assured him. He moved closer - enough time had passed that it no longer seemed as though he might be obeying the Doctor’s instruction. Then the Doctor’s chin was grasped by leather-clad fingers and gently tugged forwards into their second ever kiss. This must be how Grace had felt, the Doctor thought, as their lips met — if she had been naked, and he had had a beard and tasted of cigar smoke, of course. If the Master had released him, he would have insisted, Do that again, but the Master seemed to have no intention of releasing him yet. He felt himself guided backwards and then down onto the ridiculous bed. The bedclothes underneath him were velvet and the pile tickled awkwardly as his back rubbed against it the wrong way, but this didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things.
“Hands,” the Master said, drawing away slightly.
“Hmm?” The Doctor’s hands had been wandering — one disturbing the streaked grey of the Master’s hair, the other trying to find an entrance to the man’s trousers. He withdrew them both and held them in front of the Master. “Hands? My hands? Oh,” he realised, as the Master took the offered hands, pulled them above the Doctor’s head, and encircled each wrist with what felt like silk. “I see. I’m to be bound, then. How predictable. And, actually, unnecessary. I never expressed any desire to resist you on this. In fact, I think I suggested it. We could have just had sex like regular people.”
“Your record for silence is nine minutes and forty three seconds,” the Master said, tightening the silk, so that the Doctor grimaced. “I feel certain you could beat that if you tried.”
“Oh, now, don’t pretend you don’t enjoy the banter,” the Doctor said. “You haven’t even gagged me.”
“Yet,” the Master smirked. He smoothed his own hair back into place and sat back between the Doctor’s legs. The Doctor nudged him with a knee, but the Master seemed once more lost in contemplation.
“Master,” the Doctor chided and was instantly rewarded with dark eyed eye-contact. He had been holding the name back on purpose, as he had done in his third body, until he needed it, but perhaps this was that moment after all. He could always improvise later if he needed another way to control the Master.
“Master,” the Doctor said again, more deliberately. “Hands.”
The Master managed to raise an eyebrow at the order, but the name had done its work. Slowly, he ran a leather gloved hand up the Doctor’s stomach, against the line of the hair, and then down across his hip, careful and possessive.
The Doctor shifted towards the hand in an attempt to redirect its attention, and the Master chuckled. “Impatient, Doctor?”
“Oh, I am,” the Doctor conceded, “I have even been called-“ He broke off as the Master leant forwards, hand still on the Doctor’s hip, and bit him lightly on the inner thigh. “Shameless, on occasion,” the Doctor concluded. He felt a whiskery kiss placed over the bite mark and then another one further up his leg. The third was pressed into the place leg joined groin, and the Doctor gasped involuntarily as the Master bit him again, hard, “Master.”
His craned neck was beginning to hurt. If he had been asked, he would have said that sex with the Master would undoubtedly be long, intense and torturous, like one of his plans, but this was becoming unreasonable.
As though reading his mind, the Master at last abandoned his kisses and licked slowly up the length of the Doctor’s cock: the scrape of his beard following the smooth, wet feeling up the shaft. The Doctor let his head fall back onto the silk-covered pillows. He could now only see the ornamental ceiling, and it would be, he thought, possible to forget who was licking him with the feline exactness of a later incarnation. Then the tongue withdrew, to be replaced by the feeling of warm leather closing around him, and then slowly, achingly slowly, the hand began to move and the Master said,
“Shall I tell you, Doctor, what I'm going to do with you?”
The Master’s voice was as rich as the fabrics of the Doctor’s favoured outfit, and more to keep the sound coming, than out of a genuine desire to keep up conversation or even to know, the Doctor said, haltingly, “Tell me — what you’re going to do to me, Master.” It was possible to forget, after all, but the Doctor had decided in the momentary silence that he would rather not. The Master had a marvellous voice. The Master’s marvellous voice might well push him over the edge.
“I'm going to break you,” the Master said softly.
“Really,” the Doctor said. If it was to be more of this, he felt sure he could stand it, would even enjoy it. “I think I can stand it,” he told the Master. “Do your worst.”
“Very well,” the Master said, and withdrew his hand. The bed bounced slightly as he stood. The Doctor braced himself for some attack against his body, for something to be bitten or scratched, or for something to be pushed into somewhere it didn’t belong, but there was only the sound of the Master’s shoes on the floor.
“I may not have explained,” the Master’s voice said. “Though it grieves me, I have to leave you for the next bit to have any effect.”
“What?” the Doctor said, without much understanding. He tried to prop himself up on tense muscles.
“Please use this time to think,” the Master said.
“No, no, no, no, no,” the Doctor said. “MASTER,” he hollered as the man reached the door back into the garden. “Master, you can’t be serious.”
“I shall return later,” the Master said serenely.
“What? No - when?” the Doctor spluttered.
“Ah. Well, my dear, that,” the Master said, and his face darkened, “would be telling.” The door opened, and then closed behind him, leaving a bright polarised rectangle in the Doctor’s vision.
The Doctor gave him a minute to return and explain the hilarious nature of the joke. When the Master failed to reappear, he made a decent attempt at struggling out of the silken bindings, but they were apparently tied fast, and infuriatingly each tug into his wrists made his hips twitch. There was the distinct possibility the Master had installed a camera in this room to capture his struggles forever, so the Doctor made himself relax and lie back. After a while anger and arousal faded, but without either to occupy him he was left merely with how humiliating the situation had become. With a little effort, he could probably work his way under the velvet bedspread, but unfortunately that would be to admit to his embarrassment, which would make the situation worse.
So, the Doctor simply lay where he was. It was clear the Master wanted to embarrass him to the extent that he, himself, had embarrassed the Master all those years ago. Presumably, the most recent failed scheme was the affair with the Sea Devils. At least, the Doctor fervently hoped it had been that. It felt about the right length of time had passed. But if it had yet to happen, there was the unsettling possibility that the Master had brought him here in the middle of his scheme to summon the Daemons to Earth and that he might, even now, be headed for several months residence in a top security prison. Surely though, the Doctor thought with a twinge of desperation, the Master would have tried to escape earlier if he had been keeping a tied-up Doctor in the bowels of his TARDIS. He didn’t, the Doctor reminded himself, even have any reason to believe the Master had left the ship. No, it was far more likely the man was upstairs somewhere, reading a book and occasionally glancing at a screen and laughing. Just in case, the Doctor scowled up into each of the room’s corners in turn. But he was worried.
As it was wont to do whenever some villain had restrained him in a dungeon, boredom set in after two hours had passed without hope of rescue or conversation. The Doctor had thought bitterly about how with the Master you could never be sure all your “complications” were in the past, solved a few previously unsolvable equations, which had been bothering him, and played a mental game of chess against himself. After black had pulled a surprising check mate out of the bag, he had resorted to singing to pass the time.
“Five hundred bottles of beer on the wall, five hundred bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around… four hundred and ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall. Four hundred and ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall, four hundred and ninety nine bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around.” His voice had been better in previous regenerations, but the tune was simple and the refrain numbing. “Four hundred and ninety eight bottles of beer on the wall,” the Doctor sang. “Four hundred and ninety eight bottles of beer-”
The Master would come and get him before he ran out of bottles. It had been a rather hopeful calculation to only go as high as five hundred bottles, but the Master would want to gloat, or explain what was going on, or he would simply get tired of the song. He would come back soon.
“… Fourteen bottles of beer on the wall, fourteen bottles of beer,” the Doctor sang sullenly, six hours later. “Take one down and pass it around, thirteen-” He stopped as a door in the opposite wall to the garden-door creaked open dramatically.
“No, please,” the Master said, “continue. I am extremely anxious to learn the fate of the remaining bottles. Are they ‘passed around’ like their fellows, or does a more ignominious destiny await them?”
“They’re passed around,” the Doctor said, in no mood to share a joke with the Master, “until there are no more bottles. And then the song starts over again. The circle of life continues.”
“I’d been hoping for so much more,” the Master said, shaking his head. “An explosion, some treasure discovered in the final vessel-”
“Nothing happens. The song ends. Is this your promised return?”
“It is,” the Master said. “I trust you’ve enjoyed the thinking time I granted you.”
“Excessively,” the Doctor said flatly. “Now, be a nice maniac and let me go, won’t you, I find one can easily get too much of a good thing. I wouldn’t want to spoil the next time someone ties me up and leaves me to rot.”
The Master chuckled as he came closer. “Still unbroken, I see. I could come back tomorrow? When you’ve had more time to think.”
“Let me go,” the Doctor growled. Smiling somewhat indulgently, the Master ran a gloved finger up from the Doctor’s leg to his chin. “Please,” the Doctor added, without wrestling his chin away.
“I am going to,” the Master told him, sitting down on the bed in the curve left by the Doctor’s waist, “even though, as I need hardly tell you, you scarcely deserve it. You did not do what I asked, did you?”
“Luckily, we don’t always get what we deserve,” the Doctor said, as the Master leant over him and began unlacing the silk around his wrists.
“No,” the Master agreed. He looked down, then bent his head and kissed the Doctor’s mouth quickly, gently. Then just as quickly he withdrew, closed his eyes. “I do apologise. That was beneath me.” He finished untying the silk and stood up, his back to the Doctor, one hand at his lips as if to stop the mistake happening again.
“You leave me tied up without food or water for eight hours and that’s what you want to apologise for,” the Doctor said, rubbing his wrists and at the same time rolling his shoulders to try and work the kinks out of his muscles. When he felt he could move safely again, he grabbed his shirt from over the side of the bed and pulled it over his head. He felt better almost immediately and as a result willing to be relatively generous. “Well, I forgive the kiss, and, yes, even the tying up, though you didn’t ask about that. You and I both know you’ve done worse things.”
“Thank you, Doctor. As always, you are magnanimous in your victory.”
Ignoring the undeserved brand of success, the Doctor buttoned his waistcoat. He tied his cravat neatly, securing it with a diamond tie pin, and folded his collar down. Finally he pushed his feet into those shoes that still fit so perfectly and stood. “You can turn around now,” he said to the Master, who was still facing the wall, as though it mattered at this point. “I’m decent.”
The Master turned round, his face schooled into a perfect expression of cordiality. “So you are. Now, I would be happy to escort you back to the cloister room, unless you feel the need for a drink.”
“The cloister room is fine.”
The Master opened yet another door in the dark wall and walked through it. Presumably then, the Doctor thought, all of what he had assumed were panels were doors. A room with a bed and a multitude of escape routes: now he thought about it he couldn’t help wondering if the Master had chosen it more for its symbolic value, than as a jumping off point for clothing related insults. He collected his coat from the floor, brushed it free of dust, and followed the Master through the new door.
He had expected another long walk, during which he could make another stab at that record for silence, but it opened straight into the cloister room. Inside, the Master was already powering up the time scoop by the great stone Eye.
“You know,” the Doctor said, sitting down on the stone surround, “I actually would have had sex with you.”
“I am aware of it,” the Master said. “The begging was somewhat of a give away — and, before you protest, not all of it was playacting. I flatter myself that I can tell the difference.”
“Yes. Well, I only hope you enjoyed it,” the Doctor said, “because it’s never going to happen again. Never-”
“Ever, ever,” the Master said, his voice brittle. “Yes, thank you, Doctor. I get the general idea. For your future reference, though I expect the knowledge will hold no direct interest for you now, I did enjoy it, certainly far more than the interminable bottle song I was subsequently forced to endure.”
“A song I wouldn’t have had to sing if you hadn’t left me tied up for eight hours.”
He had expected the Master to snap back some explanation, but the Master only said, “Very true. I believe the time scoop is now ready,” in the same tone with which he had said “no,” earlier.
“Right,” the Doctor said darkly. “Same time next month, I assume.” He got to his feet, still holding his coat in his hands, so that he wouldn’t have to do anything else with them.
“If you say so, Doctor,” the Master replied. At the Doctor’s questioning look, he explained, “Your knowledge of the future far eclipses my own, after all.”
“You’re the one with the time scoop,” the Doctor repeated. The wibbly-wobbly triangle closed around him and in what felt like mere moments he was back in the console room of his own ship. He draped his coat over the console, removed the sonic screwdriver from the left-hand pocket, and as had become his habit after a forced visitation to the Master’s TARDIS, changed the access code ciphers. The page he had most recently reached in À la recherche du temps perdu, the serial number of his current sonic, and the number of times Romana had frowned last time he saw her. Let the Master break those, the Doctor thought with satisfaction, and went to wash any traces of the man off himself.
Standing under the hottest water the TARDIS could provide, he inspected his upper leg and discovered a definite bruise forming where he had been bitten the second time. Though he had been expecting it, had even, to an extent, enjoyed the actual sensation of it at the time, the Doctor found himself growing angry, looking at the misshapen purple blot. How dare the Master mark him like that. How dare he. Without any pleasure in the shower any more, he slammed the water off.
The bruise was still there when he went to bed later that night. The Doctor glared at it, furious — far more furious than he had been after being tied up and abandoned, but by the morning this reaction seemed ridiculous. After noting that the bruise was now an unpleasant shade of green, he dismissed it.
He breakfasted alone, because he was flying companion free until the current Dalek problem was over — not because it was dangerous yet. It was just so boring. While it seemed perfectly reasonable to ask someone young and smart along to see the wonders of the universe with him, to battle monsters and run for their life, the Doctor felt he would have difficulty selling “hanging around for a long time in places the Daleks might try to alter history and attending a lot of meetings with people slightly more boring, even, than that”. He did half the crossword in the copy of the Times that had appeared that morning on the breakfast table by subscription. Then, he remembered he was supposed to be on Gallifrey for another of those meetings and had to abandon the third helping of toast. He filled in the rest of the crossword during the meeting, slotting his assigned destination, “Stavromulaβ”, in the space for 15 Across, even though Braxiatel leaned over and informed him that the answer was, in fact, “genealogist”.
Stavromula Beta was very dull and, as the Doctor had once again been instructed to blend in, he failed to enjoy the experience whilst wearing a suit made of what looked and felt like tinfoil. He was almost grateful when the Daleks showed up — though this sensation faded rapidly as they began their traditional slaughter. Twenty people died, but eventually the Daleks were repelled and history remained, largely, unaltered. The Doctor returned to Gallifrey and reported that the war had begun.
Weeks passed and the next time he looked down at the place where the bruise had been it was pale and unmarked, except for the long scar he’d received in the torture chambers of Kluxia. The bruise, or rather its absence reminded the Doctor that the Master was about due to summon him and be mockingly polite about their joint dealings with the Draconians. He spent a few tense weeks expecting to be dragged out of time and space at the least opportune moment. After a while this became very tiring, so he changed the access codes to his TARDIS to something easier in the hope that this would get the thing over and done with quicker. More weeks passed.
What the Doctor did not know, and could not know, was that during their short time aboard the Master’s TARDIS, one of the Ogrons assigned to him by the Daleks had knocked the time scoop onto the floor. The Master had shouted in alarm, called it an incompetent fool, and unfortunately this sound had so confused the Ogrons that they had backed away from him — one of them onto the time scoop, which had been crushed beyond repair.
To be fair to the Doctor, he had considered this scenario, but had decided it sounded like the mad suggestion of someone unwilling to accept that the Master just didn’t want to talk to him at the moment. Which would have been fine, the Doctor reasoned, except that there was still the constant threat of it hanging over him. He knew he could adjust to a Master-free lifestyle if that was what was on the cards. Hadn’t he done exactly that during his fourth incarnation, and for most of this current incarnation? It was the uncertainty that was so frustrating.
A month after coming to this conclusion, he changed the ciphers again, just in case the Master was still having difficulty with them. The speed of light, the number of their first shared biology classroom, and the date of Susan’s birth (Rassilon Era). If the Master didn’t manage to break those then he wasn’t the sort of person the Doctor wanted dragging him out of space and time. Not that he wanted to be dragged out of space and time at all, or by the Master, who, for all his charm and his knowledge of fine wines, botany and interstellar technology, was a dangerous lunatic the universe was better off without. It was just that the Doctor’s own time was looking less and less attractive by the day. A bit of banter with his old enemy would have relieved the tension nicely.
The situation with the Daleks was now so bad that Gallifrey had finally agreed that it was about time something was actually done. Unfortunately, having decided this the High Council had insisted the frequency of discussion meetings be stepped up to one a day (Romana had apparently vetoed two daily meetings, but, as she explained crossly whenever the Doctor brought this up, her powers as president were not limitless). The Doctor had stopped attending the meetings some time ago, and was under the impression that this had been a popular move, widely regarded on Gallifrey as one of the few good things to come out of the disappearance of New Sparta. He was now fighting the War on a more personal level, which involved him turning up on a randomly selected planet and rousing the population to rebel against any Daleks circling around.
He had just returned from a relatively satisfactory encounter on 41st century Pluto and was in the process of simultaneously drinking a cup of tea and trying to repair the Chameleon Circuit again, when Romana’s voice said-
“Well, thank you, Doctor.” At the same time, Romana’s face appeared rather suddenly on the scanner and the combined effect caused the Doctor to spill his tea over the console.
“Romana,” the Doctor said, as he mopped tea up with his handkerchief, hoping nothing more than the handkerchief was permanently damaged. “What an unexpected pleasure.”
“It wouldn’t have been unexpected,” Romana snapped back, “had you bothered to read the note I sent you last week.”
“Which note would that be? As you can see, I get a lot of notes these days.” The Doctor indicated a pile of unopened dispatches propped against the time rotor.
“The one politely requesting your presence at an important meeting yesterday.”
Putting down the tea and the handkerchief, the Doctor sorted through the piles of letters, many of which were labelled ‘URGENT’, until he reached one in Romana’s handwriting. “This one?” He opened it, and read, “Dear Doctor, I’m sorry to disturb what I have no doubt is a busy and exciting lifestyle, but there’s a very important meeting happening on Wednesday and I think your presence could swing the vote for me, yadda yadda yadda-” He skimmed down, “The High Council are talking of bringing the Master back-” and stopped, looked up at Romana, then down at the letter, then up again at Romana. “Romana, this is important. They want to bring the Master back?”
“Actually,” Romana said, “since the meeting was, as I told you, yesterday morning, they’ve already done it. Last night actually.”
“I had hoped to find a different solution, preferably one that didn’t involve resurrecting a deceased genocidal maniac and giving him control of Gallifrey’s best resources, but the Council refused to listen to reason or to me.”
“Well, I don’t think they’d listen to me,” the Doctor said, rubbing his forehead. “And actually, Romana, you know, I’m not certain it’s a terrible idea. I don’t usually countenance violence, but we have to actually do something soon before there isn’t any universe left to do anything about, and the Master is an excellent strategist. Which,” the Doctor said, with realisation, as Romana rolled her eyes, “is what you wanted me to say, isn’t it? Any idea the Doctor thinks is a good one must be dangerous, bordering on insane.”
“It was a rather foolproof plan,” Romana agreed, smiling half fondly, half exasperatedly. “Or it would have been, if he’d read the letter.”
“Yes, thank you, Romana,” the Doctor said dryly. “Haven’t you got a genocidal maniac to equip with your best resources, or something?”
“If by ‘something’ you mean ‘a planet to run and an Intergalactic war to win’, then yes,” Romana said. Her expression softened. “Well done with Pluto, by the way.”
The Doctor’s mouth slid reluctantly into a smile. “Thank you, Romana.”
Romana nodded and her image vanished. The Doctor drummed his fingers against the console, and then began opening the notes that had accumulated on top of it. As he had expected they didn’t interest him and he put them back.
So, the Master was alive again. It was rather difficult to know exactly what he thought about this. On the one hand, as he had told Romana, the Master might well be a valuable asset in the Time War, on the other— Well.
Words like ‘dangerous lunatic’ sprang immediately to mind. And then there was that bite mark on the Doctor’s leg and the way the Master had failed to get in contact with him after what was (for the Doctor) their last meeting. It was outrageous that this man should be allowed more regenerations, just because he was better at killing people than any of the other Time Lords. But then he was a good strategist. An excellent strategist — though it was fairly easy to foil him if one set one’s mind to it. The Doctor had wondered before whether the Master let him win sometimes: it would make sense.
He wondered whether the Master had asked after him, and then wondered where that thought had come from. It wasn’t as if he wanted the Master to ask after him, after all, or to drag him out of space and time, or to track him across the universe, cackling maliciously and trying unsuccessfully to subdue the local population, was it?
Or was it? Seen from a certain angle- And he had changed those access codes ciphers. And it had been him who had kissed the Master.
“Oh no,” the Doctor groaned to nobody in particular, and leant rather heavily against the console. So, presumably this had been what the Master had wanted him to think about whilst he had been tied to that bed. It had been immediately obvious, of course, when the Master had returned that it hadn’t been about embarrassing him, but he had been too angry to properly reassess the situation. And he hadn’t bothered to do so since, which was odd, because he had thought about the Master. Quite often. More often than he deserved.
Suddenly decisive, the Doctor set the controls for the Citadel of the Time Lords, remembering to grab his teacup moments before the TARDIS started its customary lurch. The dispatches sprawled over the floor, but the Doctor did not stoop to pick them up. He drained his now luke-warm tea, set the cup on the floor and recalibrated the controls ever so slightly to have something to do with his hands.
He stepped out of the TARDIS a moment later and found himself parked next to the very information point he had been hoping for. Having patted the side of the police box, the Doctor checked quickly that nobody was around, pulled his sonic from his right hand pocket and hacked into the complicated security system. It was the work of a moment: there was the Master’s file, newly updated with his current status (
He had been to the Master’s quarters before either of them had been exiled. He knew it was two floors down from where he was, and possibly twenty doors along. He should have parked closer, but then he hadn’t known where the Master would be. And to arrive at run was always more dramatic. The Doctor clattered down two flights of stairs and into the Master’s habitation corridor. He grinned as he ran, identical burgundy doors flashed past, until suddenly there was the Master’s next to a blue plant in a pot.
Without pausing even to straighten his cravat, the Doctor knocked. There was a long pause, in which he did straighten his cravat, and then the door opened.
“Oh, so it’s you,” the Master said, without stepping into the corridor. He had a refined British accent again, and the makings of a drawl.
“Hello,” the Doctor said, beginning to laugh like he did when he was drunk. “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you. How are you? Not mad and trying to evict me from my own body any more?”
The Master gave him a hard look. He had dark eyes again, a dark beard and neat, dark hair that was already grey above his ears. “No,” he said, “as you can see, I have acquired one of my own. And how are you, Doctor? How is the “Last Great Time War” treating you?”
“Fine,” the Doctor said, though it wasn’t. “Listen, Master, I came here to tell you- Oh, you even have the jacket.” He withdrew his hand, which had reached out, seemingly of its own accord, to stroke the dark-grey Nehru jacket the Master was indeed wearing, stretched across his new, broader chest.
“And you,” the Master said, raising an eyebrow, “still appear to dressed as Lord Byron. I recently returned to life and find myself reinstated in quarters I last occupied nine hundred years ago. How would you like to excuse your outfit?”
The Doctor frowned. “Well,” he said, “it makes me look very handsome.” The Master raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you think?” the Doctor added, raising his own and grinning.
“Are you… flirting with me?” the Master enquired, managing to sound both suspicious and intrigued.
“Yes, I think I am,” the Doctor said. “It’s been a while, I admit, but I have a rough idea how it goes. Or have I got it wrong? No. You’re supposed to compliment the other person, aren’t you?”
“Doctor,” the Master began.
“No, no, listen,” the Doctor said. “I’ve been thinking. And I think that I know what it was you were trying to get me to realise when you left me tied to that bed.”
He tried to leave it at that, but the Master shook his head and waved an un-gloved hand for more information. “You’ll have to remind me. It was, after all, eight hundred years ago and I have had other concerns…”
“You thought,” the Doctor said, letting him get away with the obvious lie, “that I was just as obsessed with you, as you are with me. Enough to let you tie me to a bed, without… too much protest.”
“Ah, yes,” the Master said. “I seem to remember now.” He, too, had begun to smile, a gloating dagger-sharp smile the Doctor had seen before on a different face. “And are you of the opinion, then, that I was correct in that assumption?” Before the Doctor could answer, however, the Master had continued, “How would you react, for example, if I did this?” and in one single movement he caught the Doctor’s face between his hands and kissed him.
Taken aback, the Doctor flailed, though he managed to grab the front of the Master’s jacket and keep himself upright. The Master no longer tasted like cigars and his lips were fuller, but he was still the same man who had offered the Doctor the universe, refused to take ‘never’ for an answer, tied him to a bed, killed him, built him a city to recover in, saved him from the Time Lords, and who had fallen into the Eye of Harmony roaring in rage at his defeat. Oh yes, the Doctor thought as the Master kissed him. He had definitely been right. Obsessed about covered it.
He moaned when the Master drew back, the Master’s teeth raked his lower lip. “Favourably,” the Doctor suggested a bit weakly. Then he coughed and gathered himself. “Yes, I think favourably. What about you?”
In answer, the Master kissed him again, more gently this time. “I think we should move out of the corridors,” he murmured against the Doctor’s lips. “I believe I have some Liquorice Allsorts inside. Would you like to come in?”
The Doctor grinned. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I would.”
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