The guards are reluctant to leave them alone, at first. The Toclafane do as they are told--one specific human can mean very little to them one way or the other--but the human guards know how badly it will go for them if any harm comes to their Master. It's been only a week since the takeover, but already it's clear that loyalty to him is treachery to their own species.
"It's all right," Harold Saxon assures them. "The lady and I are old friends."
She's grown delicate and thin-boned, in all these years that have passed between them, but she's still undeniably Jo Grant. Usually it's uncanny to him, watching how quickly humans age. But with her, it isn't strange at all.
He's got a hell of a lot older since then himself.
"Miss Grant," he says. He's become accustomed to first names, these days, but old habits die hard. He knows she was married, knows she isn't anymore, isn't certain what the right thing is to call her, really. But that doesn't matter; he's the Master, and he'll use whatever name he damn well pleases. And anyway, she doesn't try to correct him.
"I'd wondered if it was you," she says, calmly. "Not the same face, of course, but I thought to myself, could it really be another man called the Master taking over the earth? And anyway, the Brigadier told me all about Rejuvenation."
"Regeneration," he corrects.
"Regeneration, then," she agrees. "I only just met the other Doctor, only for a day, and then sort of glimpsed another one for half a mo', but the Brig tells me he's known six of them, can you imagine? But then again yes, I suppose you can, can't you?"
"One might say I'm familiar with the phenomenon."
"Well, obviously. I can't say I think it's much of an improvement. Your new self, that is. Nor what you've done with this planet, now you've finally got it. Is this really what you were planning, all those years ago? Well done you, winning at last, of course, but I don't think I'd have liked you so much back then if I knew what you meant to do with the place."
"Oddly enough, I was just attempting to remember what I liked enough about you to stop me killing you, in those days."
"I wasn't afraid of you," she says simply, staring him in the eye. "Do you know, I think I'm still not."
He grins then, mad and manic. "You should be."
She looks for a long while, and then shakes her head. Age sits well on her; a little gravitas goes a long way. "No, I don't think so," she says. "You're just...a sort of...well, a Lost Boy. Like Peter Pan, you know, but sadder." He doesn't have a clue what to say to that, which very rarely happens. But almost nobody dares to babble around the Master anymore. "What happened to you, Master?" she asks, after a moment, with a stare that makes it stick.
"People don't talk to me this way, you know." He says it by way of not-answering, but she seems to take it as an answer in itself, and nods seriously.
"They ought to," she says. "And I'm sure the Doctor, at least, speaks his mind."
"There I'm afraid you're quite wrong, my dear Miss Grant. The Doctor refuses to say anything at all." It's barely an exaggeration. He'll only say one thing, anyway.
She frowns, thinking hard. Somehow, he doesn't have any urge to interrupt, just taps his finger on the table in front of him until her brow clears, and she speaks again, in a relieved tone. "But he'll have gotten older, too. I suppose time changes everybody, even you two." She looks hard at the Master, studying his face. "And now I look at you, you are a lot older than when I knew you, aren't you?"
He frowns. "I might say the same to you."
"Well, of course I am. I'm not the one with the time machine, am I?"
"For the sake of the universe, I very much hope not."
"You're one to talk." She cocks her head to one side, considering. "That's what you brought me here for, isn't it? Not as a hostage, or because you thought I might be dangerous, or anything like that--just to talk. It must be very frustrating for you, that the Doctor won't. The two of you couldn't stop sniping at each other, before. It must feel like he's given up on you."
"He hasn't given up on me," says the Master, sullenly. This is not how this conversation was meant to go. If he could only remember how this conversation was meant to go, he's certain he could get it back on track.
"Well of course he hasn't," she replies. "Don't be daft."
He stares at her for a moment. "Ah," he comments finally.
"That's why I didn't kill you," he remarks.
"And it's why you aren't going to kill me now, isn't it?"
He props his head in his hand, considering. "Well, not today, anyway."
She thinks about that, and shrugs. "Good enough," she decides. "And at least I know you can't hypnotize me into doing anything awful. You're not very good at it, you know."
"I may have got better since last we met," he suggests. "I could have a go at it, for old time's sake. I did hypnotize the whole world not very long ago."
"Well, I didn't vote for you," she says cheerfully.
"I'm hurt," he tells her, though secretly he thinks he's almost proud of her.
"Poor thing," she says, patting his hand. "Maybe next time."
"Next time, there will be only one name on the ballot, and voting will be compulsory."
"Well, next time definitely, then. I'm certainly not going to give you a reason to kill me over something like that."
He's beginning to wonder if this conversation was ever a good idea. He's crazy as they come, he knows that perfectly well, but he's sane enough to ask himself why he gives a damn about her, and to be uncomfortable with the answers. He asks her the question anyway, knowing already what she'll say. "And what would you be willing to die for?"
"The Doctor," she answers, without an instant's hesitation.
"Still?" he asks, with an incredulity he doesn't feel. "You haven't even seen the man in what must be nearly getting on for two-thirds of your life. He isn't your father or your husband or your brother or your son--wasn't ever even your lover, unless I'm wronger than I've ever been in all my lives.
"I believe in him. I always will. I'd do anything for him, for that. It's the same reason you'd do anything for him, if only he'd think to ask."
His eyes slit, suddenly. "Be careful, Josephine Grant," he hisses. "You've got away with more today than any other human on this planet would have survived, but my patience is very, very far from limitless."
"You need someone to tell you the truth about yourself. That's why you brought me here, Master. You've forgotten who you are, and the Doctor hasn't helped you to remember. You won't kill me--I'm your own past sitting in front of you. Besides, you said you wouldn't."
"I've never placed much of a premium on honesty."
"You're a liar, certainly," she agrees pleasantly, "but not a very good one."
"Are you trying to provoke me?"
"Yes. It's very interesting, you know. The Master I knew would have sent me off to be bored in a cell somewhere a long time ago. You need this even more than I thought you did."
"I'm not the Master you knew."
"But you weren't sure of that yourself until about thirty seconds ago, were you?"
He studies her, slowly. She doesn't flinch. "The way to prove it really would be for me to kill you, you know. That I'm not that man anymore."
"All right," she says, coolly. "Go ahead. Prove you're all grown up into a proper villain, and don't care what the Doctor thinks."
He doesn't move, and she smiles--not a mocking smile, but gentle. "I could never understand why you mucked about the way you do," she says. "Not to mention, I could never decide whether you knew him better than anyone, or didn't know him at all. Didn't you understand that not wanting to rule the universe wasn't the same thing as not wanting you?"
"That wasn't an option," he snaps, before he can stop long enough to consider denying it. "He can have me and the universe, or nothing."
Her expression changes then, the first time it's really altered in all this while. But she's not afraid or angry or even confused; of all things, she looks disappointed. "Then you don't deserve him after all," she says, and looks away from him, to stare out the Valiant's window into the afternoon sky.
He nearly hits her for that. He wants to hit her for that, and not much stops him doing the things he wants to do, these days. But the notion that anyone in the universe still thinks well enough of him to be disappointed by his behavior is...he doesn't know what it is. It's shocking, and he hates it, and it's good, somehow, too.
He stares at her for a long moment more. She isn't looking at him, and he isn't used to that, any more, and he hates her. But he doesn't hit her, and he doesn't kill her. He just opens the door, and calls in the guard.
"Retcon her," he says, looking over at the back of Jo Grant's head, "and drop her back where she came from."
"Yes, sir." He can tell that the guard is confused by those instructions, but he knows what insubordination would cost him.
"And tell the Toclafane," says the Master, "that she isn't to be killed."
Jo stands, turns, and walks to the doorway. "Goodbye, Master," she says. "I expect I'll be seeing you soon. Not that I'll remember, of course." She stares up at him, that tiny, strangely indomitable woman--sixty or more, by now, but always a girl of twenty-three to him, as foolish and as insightful as ever. "Do try to remember yourself, when you can. I won't always be here to do it for you."
"Miss Grant," he acknowledges. "A dubious pleasure, as always."
"Exactly." She actually laughs. "And if you'd perhaps consider not killing so many people, I'd be very much obliged, you know."
"Why, precisely, would I do anything to oblige you?"
"If you didn't care, what would I be doing here?" she asks. Then she turns to the guard beside her. "Well, get on with it, then. I'm a very busy woman."
As the guard leads her away down the corridor, the Master listens to her babble at the unresponsive guard. "I've known him for ever so long, you know. There were the Autons, and the Sea Devils, and the Chronovore! He was older then, of course. And I was younger. I wonder where I put those boots. Do you know, I think they might still fit me? I expect they're even back in style, by now. Just like he is, really. Same old Master, same old boots..."
Her voice fades away, and he considers the rest of his day. He'd though perhaps he'd burn Japan--but not just yet, he thinks. Not today.
He tells himself he doesn't know why, and wanders off through the Valiant. For now there are jelly babies and tellytubbies and Lucy, and perhaps a nice little session with Jack the freak. For now he can forget the past, if he tries hard enough.
And when he needs to remember, there is a woman somewhere down there on that glowing blue-green planet who remembers who the Master used to be.
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