What Was and What We've Made of It by witandhope
Chapter 1: What Begins At the End
Chapter 2: Memory Lane
Author's Notes: This is going to be multi-chapter. Please do keep an eye on the warnings, tags, and rating, as they're liable to change.
"It's gone! I destroyed it!" That haunted her almost as much as his final taunt: "Everything you know is a lie."
It hadn't been that long ago, really. A few thousand years since she'd brought back Gallifrey. Alright, so perhaps it was a fair while ago. She had been so happy that her home had finally been returned to its rightful place. And she remembered before that. Remembered the pain of being the only remaining member of her species. The last of the Time Lords.
She'd had to be sure. While the Fam was distracted with other things, she took the TARDIS on a quick trip. Or at least, it was supposed to be a quick trip. She had had to see it for herself. She'd had to be certain.
The tears had soaked the sleeve of her coat. She'd been trying to use it to keep them off her face, not that that had worked. She still had tear tracks down her cheeks. Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy. She had no idea how long she'd been sitting here with her back pressed to the sturdy, old, wooden doors.
They hadn't always been. Wood, that is. The doors. Once, a long time ago, they'd been all but featureless. She could still remember the TARDIS as she'd been when she first stole her. A blank slate. So, so different to what she was now. The Doctor supposed they had that in common.
He really had done it. Destroyed Gallifrey. Their home. And even if it had been horrible, seeing the Citadell reduced to smoldering ruins, devoid of any life…
They are very different things, choosing not to go home and knowing that home is gone and you can never return. That choice is everything. And home often feels like nothing more than a cage until you lose it.
It was as she sat there, trying to get her head around it, that she felt a familiar niggling in the back of her mind. Something dark and cold, and yet familiar and comforting. She took it for what it was, getting to her feet and moving to the controls. He had found her, it seemed.
All at once, like letting out a breath she'd been holding for lifetimes, she let him in. There wasn't anything terribly clear at first, just a lot of emotions. But that had always been more her speed. She was a terrible telepath, but she'd always been a decent empath. Some regenerations more so than others. It didn't take long, though, for the words to come.
"I see you finally came home."
"Where are you?" she replied, unable to keep the rage and grief out of her thoughts. "What have you done?"
"Can't you guess? Why Doctor, I'm hurt. You don't remember all those summers we spent together?"
She was back out the doors and running almost before she could think. In the back of her mind, she could hear the Master laughing at her. She paid it no mind, instead putting all of her focus into running as fast as her legs would allow, her long, almost galloping strides putting distance between her and her TARDIS much more quickly than she could have moved with a human in tow.
When she got to the fields, she almost didn't recognize them. Scorched earth. There was no other way to put it. What had once been a beautiful field of red grass and wildflowers, part of a sprawling estate that was in turn part of the larger lands belonging to House Oakdown, was now nothing more than a desolate, blackened wasteland. It almost looked as though someone had set off a bomb here. And given the figure she could see striding towards her through the haze that hung over the haunting landscape, a bomb really wasn't out of the question.
"Well, look who finally decided to come home!" the Master called across the emptiness. "Do you remember it now, Doctor? All those summers, all those nights? Just you and I, running through the fields or laying side by side the grass, looking up at the stars?"
She backed up a step, immediately on the defensive when the expression on the Master's face came into view. Keeping her eyes sharp and her voice level, she replied, "Your home, not mine."
"Oh, this may be my father's estate," he said, the smile hiding something nasty - something rotting and poisonous - beneath it. "But it was never home. Not after you left. Not after you abandoned me. Nowhere was home after that."
"I didn't mean for you to get hurt," she told him warily.
The Master let out a wheezy, disbelieving laugh. "You didn't… I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU MEANT! Look, Doctor! Look around you! Hm? Was this what you meant? Was this what any of us meant? Maybe this is what we meant!"
The Doctor flinched at the shouting, but stood her ground. "Kos-"
"DON'T!" he snapped. "Don't you dare call me that. That child that name belonged to DIED a long time ago."
He paused and took a breath. As he let it out, the smile he'd been wearing before oozed its way back across his face, more a baring of teeth than any kind of expression of joy, although there was a twisted sort of mirth to the expression. "So, Doctor, have you figured it out?"
"Have I figured what out?" she asked warily.
The Master's smile widened. "The lie at the beginning of everything, of course."
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Author's Notes: Tw for (relatively) minor incidence of what could be viewed as harassment and/or abuse. Though honestly, it's the Doctor and the Master. There's been worse.
"You know the stories, don't you, Doctor?" Their footsteps echoed eerily in the desolate halls of the Capital. The Master was still smiling in a way that made the hairs on the back of the Doctor's neck stand on end.
"You remember what they taught us? About Rassilon and Omega and the Other? I know you remember the stories about the Other. You and your brother. Come on, now. I asked you a question!"
Once again, the Doctor resisted the urge to flinch. "You know I do."
"Very good," the Master replied, his tone a mocking imitation of a teacher praising their pupil. "So come on. Out with it."
This whole thing felt off. Of course, there were a number of very good reasons for that. "They taught us at the Academy that Rassilon, with the help of Omega and the Other, founded Time Lord society by constructing the Web of Time out of the chaos of chance. By fixing in place a linear timeline. That they anchored this web with fixed points in time. And that they rewrote the biology of Gallifreyans to allow us longer lives and the ability to regenerate.
"But I know all of that's a lie. I've known that for years. We both have."
They had both spent a great deal of time during their years at the Academy down in the Lower City, amongst the Outsiders. Gallifreyans who weren't Time Lords and didn't share the same regenerative abilities. Then there was the Sisterhood of Karn. Almost just a fairytale on Gallifrey, although they were very real.
"So what's the truth?" the Master prompted, pushing the issue.
The Doctor closed her eyes for a couple of seconds and almost tripped over a piece of stone from one of the walls. When she spoke, there was a tightness to her voice. "Rassilon stole Omega's research and destroyed the Other. He slaughtered the seers who had ruled Gallifrey before the Time Lords were created, and the ones who escaped fled to Karn. The Sisterhood. They're still there. I've met them. They still practice the old ways."
"Well, it's a start," the Master commented snidely. "Keep going!"
Stormy eyes settled on him once again, a quiet pleading in the back of her mind going unacknowledged by her old friend. "He killed the Great Vampires. All of them. Or nearly all. I've met some of their descendents. He was insane. He destroyed anyone who dared oppose him."
When she nearly tripped again, she focused back on the floor, on picking her way through the rubble of the city where she had spent her childhood, if one could call it that. She felt as though she was being tugged along on a tether. "Why are you doing this Koschei?"
She had hoped that using his old name, one only those who knew him as a child would know, she could get through to him on a level she hadn't been able to so far. Instead, he just grabbed her arm painfully hard and yanked her around in front of him, snarling, "DON'T call me that! If you're going to speak to me, use my name!" He shoved her away, making her stumble once more. "Go on. Say it! Call me by my name!"
Once she regained her balance, she looked back at him, expression shuttered, and spoke so quietly that had he been anything but a Time Lord, he likely wouldn't have heard her.
"Master." The word tasted bitter on her tongue, like ash and charred bone. And the way he smiled made something inside her recoil.
The Master reached out to curl his fingers under her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze straight on. "Oh come now, Doctor. We both remember a time when you would have loved that."
"That was a long time ago," she told him, eyes hard as she pulled away from his touch.
The Master made a noncommittal noise in response. "If you say so, Doctor, but I saw the way you looked when I made you kneel.
"Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Rassilon stealing Omega's research, destroying Omega and the Other, driving the Sisterhood off of Gallifrey, tampering with the biology of one class of Gallifreyans, systematically exterminating the Great Vampires… Keep going. Surely you know of more."
"I dunno what more you want me to say," the Doctor objected. "Rassilon was an unhinged lunatic, and a genocidal one at that. I've no fondness for him. Knew him personally. Fed me a bunch of malarkey about being 'Gallifrey's chosen son' or some equally idiotic nonsense and then tried to kill me. Twice. Tried to have someone else kill me on a few other occasions besides."
"No, no, no!" the Master barked. "Not about Rassilon. About me. About Braxiatel. About you. Think bigger. Come on! I know you love a good conspiracy."
The Doctor turned away from him, moving to one of the doorways off the hall they had been walking. This section of the Capital's dense network of walkways led to the Academy. And through the ruined door, the Doctor could see the rubble where once the school had stood.
"Never was much good at school," she said quietly.
The Master moved to stand behind her. "Stay on topic."
She sighed. "I am. Never was much good at school. Sure, engineering and history, loved them. Could barely pass a course to save my lives. But the subject matter itself…
"I know Rassilon was a lunatic. I know some of what he did. Know it's probably not the whole of his crimes. But I'm not sure what you're getting at."
"Then perhaps you need a lesson in history," the Master told her, boxing her in. She could feel him close against her back.
In front of her, the walkway dropped away no more than a couple of meters out. It wouldn't be the longest fall she'd ever survived, but she'd been forced to regenerate by less. And if she were honest, she'd become rather attached to this self. But he wasn't pushing, just blocking her way back into the hall. So she settled in and kept quiet, waiting for the speech she knew would inevitably come.
"Let's start at the beginning, shall we?"
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