Under the Skin by Calapine



Summary: A conversation with the Master. REG!Nine
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Other Doctors
Characters: The Doctor (9th), Other Character(s), The Master (Other)
Genres: Drama, Vignette, General
Warnings: General
Challenges: None
Series: The Shalka Legacy
Published: 2004.04.19
Updated: 2004.04.19


Under the Skin by Calapine
Chapter 1: This it.
Author's Notes:

A/N: I think the rain room is a fan invention. Have seen it in several fics. Is someone else's creation. So that's not mine either.

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Under the Skin

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Alison doesn’t like to think that she’s following him. But she is.

Because she’s curious. She’s interested. She wants to know who she’s travelling with.

Something beyond the potted history that the Doctor’s reluctantly mentioned involving a stuffy old school, universal domination and an entire series of incidents that he really doesn’t want to talk about.

Well, that and not having wasted the last three hours sneaking around behind the Doctor’s back.

And she’s afraid that if she doesn’t keep up with him, she’s going to get lost in the twisting corridors of the TARDIS.

Still, when he finally reaches his destination (and she’s almost certain that it isn’t his room), she has to wait. She can’t just appear. That would be obvious. Stupid.

He probably realises she’s been following him.

It’s easier to pretend he doesn’t know. Like it’s easier to pretend he’s not an android and the Doctor isn’t able to turn him off with the flick of a switch.

There’s no watch on her wrist, and little to distract her in her backpack, and there’s nothing to do in the corridor so she tries counting roundels. It occurs to her how ridiculous this is, after all, the chances of her picking the same room as him, even after working out that this stretch of corridor was emblazoned with six hundred and seventy five circles must be pretty small.

Infinitesimal. If she believed the Doctor when he tried to explain how big the TARDIS was.

But she was too curious now to leave.

Trying to work out exactly what it is that she is so worried about anyway, she pushes open the door before she gives herself too much time to consider what she is doing.

Inside it is raining.

Such a stark contrast to the clawing warmth and gentle light of the console room, and the dimly lit claustrophobia of the corridors. The light is bright and refreshing. The air sharp and smelling of thunderstorms.

And it is raining.

She blinks, and steps forward, pressing her face against the glass that separates her from the inclement weather. Wide eyes watch the sprawling fields, the gentle rise and fall of hills and the crumbling ruins nestling in the protection of their slopes.

“My dear Miss Cheney, what can I do for you?” asks the Master, and she remembers why she’s here.

“I was just exploring,” she says knowing it’s a poor excuse and the most probable one she can give.

She glances around the little room with the glass walls and ceiling. Like a conservatory. Wooden furniture is dotted around, two tables, a few chairs, a sun lounger. The Master sits by the smaller table, and she notices that there’s a pot of tea on it and wonders where it came from.

As far as she can tell he’s just watching the weather.

“It’s an interesting room,” she offers in an attempt to break the awkward silence.

He smiles indulgently, and gestures to another chair. “Do sit, if you intend to stay.” And she knows he’d rather she left. That doesn’t stop her accepting.

“It’s beautiful,” she says.

“It isn’t real,” he tells her, and she can hear the bitterness.

“Does it help?” she asks, and he raises an eyebrow. She thinks she’s surprised him.

“Sometimes. When I can no longer hear the hum of this machine, and I forget that my eyes are made of metal and the rain is an illusion. A few moments of peace, nothing more.”

“You chose this,” she says and tries not to sound accusatory. Or sympathetic. She doesn’t think that any tone will ever be entirely safe.

“So I did,” he replies. “I chose this prison rather than face the ultimate freedom.”

“Death?” she asks stupidly, because she already knows the answer.

“I’ve died many times, Miss Cheney, and it’s never been pleasant. One can get used to being alive. Used to cheating death.” He looks at her, and his eyes are burning. She’d be afraid, only she doesn’t really believe what the Doctor’s told her, because the Master’s better company, even if he does have a superiority complex and insults her as often as charm. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing here?”

“The Doctor seemed to want to be alone.”

“And what makes you think I don’t?” There it is. The hard edge that sometimes slips into his voice.

She shrugs. “You’d prefer to watch the rain alone?” Of course he would. She’s intruding and she knows it. However amusing their bickering, she thinks that Time Lords are essentially solitary creatures. He needs this time alone as much as she needs a decent cup of coffee in the morning and someone to talk to at lunch.

She swings the backpack onto her lap, opens it and tosses the contents on the table.

The Master picks up the circuit and the little lever attached to it with a gloved hand. He examines it, frowning, and when he finally looks at her she can’t read the expression on his face.

“He’ll build another, Miss Cheney. And he will be very upset that you decided to disassemble a part of his console.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she replies. “Might make him think at least.”

She doesn’t expect a thank you as she leaves. She doesn’t even know if he’s grateful, or annoyed, or amused. Probably all three.

But she did a good thing. She knows that. Because people shouldn’t have off switches.

Even if they are androids.

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