Soul's Shadow by TardisGhost
It was maybe an hour of sleep I managed to catch. After that I only tossed and turned around in the sheets. The bed was comfy, perfectly so. A soft scent of wood hung in the air and through the fake window dropped a ray of pale moonlight. Outside was the scenery of a tranquil pine forest. White heaps of freshly fallen snow blanketed the ground, glittering in the starlight.
Eventually I sat up, lifted myself to the knees, arms resting on the windowsill. For a while I glared outside, admiring the view, wondering how it could look so real and still be fake. It had to. There was no chance that this scenery was real. How could it, inside this ship?
The only things missing, right now, were a cup of hot chocolate and a crackling fireplace.
Well, and my ability to sleep.
Despite my exhaustion and the overwhelming amount of events, rest would not come. My mind circled through everything that had happened, over and over again, trying to make sense of it, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. Everything had burned itself into my memories, like a video on loop. That everything had simply stopped so abruptly didn't make it better.
One moment we had stood in hell, deep within the belly of a dying planet, about to get sucked into a black hole to vanish forever. The next moment there had been the TARDIS. We had stepped out of the place, as if it hadn't even been real, had left it behind to be destroyed, had simply walked away, like gods, who were only watchers of the chaos beneath their feet.
I sighed and dropped the face to my folded arms, head slightly leaning against the cold glass. If only I could sleep and let my brain sort through all the unnecessary stuff, while I wasn't conscious of the process.
Tiredly I rubbed my burning eyes and clambered out of bed, fumbling around on the nightstand to find my specs. It was almost a miracle they had survived everything; not even bent or scratched. I had cleaned them thoroughly after I had taken a long shower with almost cold water, to get the heat from me; to not longer feel as if I were stranded in hell.
I shook my head and sauntered to the door. The corridor outside was lit as usual, reminding me that there was no real night in here. My room only simulated it. Who knew where we were, right now. It could be any time of the day, we could simply be hovering in space. The last thought made me smile. It would be cool to sleep in space.
Well... If I could, that is.
Instead I stood in those corridors, not really knowing where to actually go. Maybe some hot chocolate really was a good idea. Or I could get to the library... Well, for books I could also return to my room, although I hadn't taken a closer look at the contents of the shelves, yet. Or maybe to the control room. The little rest I had been enough to calm my overloaded brain. No doubt, it wouldn't take much to get back into that state, but for now I felt kind of okay.
I sighed, cursing myself. Who was I even kidding? I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Or better, to whom.
"Hey," I muttered and waited for the TARDIS to respond in her usual (?) way. A short electric hum, a soft nudge of a vibration near me. I smiled, already feeling a certain fondness for the ship. "Thanks for the nice room, by the way." Another hum, a tingling, feeling... questioningly? "It's perfect," I reassured. "I'm just too antsy to get some proper rest. So... I was wondering if you could..."
A line of glowing golden dots appeared in front of my feet, bending around a corner. The next nudge felt almost playful. There were only two options: Either the TARDIS had sensed, where I wanted to go, or she had something else in mind that she thought might help me. Whatever it was, I was willing to be surprised and followed the line.
It ended in front of a simple grey door. Nothing special about it. Slowly I rose my hand, hesitating for a moment, before my knuckles connected with the wood. Once, twice.
"Sod off, Doctor!" came a muffled reply from inside.
"It's not him," I answered, maybe a bit too quietly.
There was no reply, but some seconds later the door opened a little, then fully. The Master let a puzzled look wander over me and I suddenly remembered that I was only wearing some short, grey sleeping pants and a thin, dark-red jumper. I hadn't even put on shoes and had been wandering around in only socks. Whereas the Master was, as always, dressed nicely, albeit comfortably, for once; in dark jeans and a black polo shirt. Also in socks, I noticed with some silly satisfaction.
"What do you want here?" he asked, his tone matching his puzzled look. "Thought you'd be sleeping for some more hours."
"You and me, both." I let out a sigh and fidgeted with my hands, now nervous and feeling stupid for coming here. "Just... can't sleep, is all."
"Can't help you with that."
"I know," I mumbled.
His brows shot up. "Did the TARDIS bring you again? Bloody ship really needs to let me have my privacy." His sigh was overly dramatic. "Go and annoy the Doctor, yeah?"
I scrunched up my nose, not feeling a particular urge to see him. Sure, he had apologized and all, but still... And besides...
"He wasn't... there," I mumbled, looking to the side.
The Master snorted, obviously getting what I was talking about. "I'm not your therapist. If you wanna whine around-"
"No!" I let out, eyes snapping upwards. Quieter I added, "No... So much happened. I'm not sure how to process all of it. I... I don't know myself. I don't want to be alone, I guess... Can't really place it, honestly."
A short smile whizzed over his face and he slightly shook his head. "You can't stand to have your thoughts be your only company and it's enough to have someone nearby who knows what you went through," he calmly concluded, neatly wrapping up my confusing cloud of thoughts into words.
I opened my mouth, but closed it again and only nodded.
"Fine, come in." The Master stepped back to let me enter. "But stay quiet and don't bug me."
The door closed behind me and I followed the Master a few steps into the room. It was surprisingly small. Where usually would have been windows, the walls were lined with book shelves, of which not few held other items of various kinds. Gadgets, crystals, figurines and other things I couldn't name. Books were there, too, in all sizes and colours. Under one heavily loaded rack sat a wide bed, with dark bluish-grey sheets. At the other wall stood a table that was littered with all sorts of technical parts, screws and tools. The third wall had a sofa leaned against it, also black in colour, decorated by even more books. In front of it stood a small round table and on that only one sat an empty mug.
"Would have awaited something more... pompous," I confessed.
"Tried that already. Had a floor made of gold, silken bed-sheets, mahogany wood and heshlera stone..." He shrugged and flopped down into a comfy chair in front of the table. "Gets boring fast. It's not useful."
There were two chairs. Both black, both padded and big enough to sit in them cross-legged. Maybe the Doctor came here sometimes to chat. Or to try at least. I sat down in it, drawing my knees up to the chin, watching the Master tinker about.
He was building something, but what was a mystery. There were so many tiny screws and thin wires, his hands moved fast and precise, putting one part after the other together. This truly was almost mesmerizing to watch.
After some minutes of silence the Master picked up some tiny parts and sat them in front of me, handing me a thin screwdriver and some other filigree tools. He then took several of the parts and put them together to a tiny construct, setting that one also in front of me.
Puzzled I glared at the remaining parts and the tools, then at the Master, who didn't pay me any attention any longer. Carefully I picked up the finished thing and observed it closely. Delicate, but not that hard, actually. The parts in front of me were enough to build roughly ten more of those, so I started to do exactly that.
When the first one was finished, the Master picked it up and observed the result from all sides. "Good fine-motor skills," he commented. "You're not so useless, after all."
I let out a snort and continued with the next one. We worked in silence for who knows how long. Each of the parts I finished found its place inside the construct the Master was putting together. When there was nothing else to do, I simply watched, fascinated and curious. Somehow it didn't feel weird that we weren't speaking at all. Even though there were so many questions left, this wasn't the time to find answers to them. They could wait. We had time.
"Go to bed."
I shot up in my seat and blinked at the Master's amused face. He held out a screwdriver and poked its tip against my forehead, grinning mischievously.
"You're such a child." I giggled and swiped the screwdriver away.
He poked out his tongue and continued with his device until I nodded away once again. This time a small screw was tossed against my head, startling me so much, I almost fell from the chair.
"Your ability to sleep obviously has returned," the Master remarked. "Great moment in time to get lost, don't you think?"
Groggily I squinted my eyes at him, lips pursed in a silent protest. "Don't wanna," I muttered. "Bet as soon as I hit the pillow I'm wide awake again."
"Not my problem."
"'m not even bothering you," I grumbled. "Just lemme watch. Keeps me from thinking."
Distracting? How the hell was I distracting? I didn't even do anything! Or was this because of his ego again?
"'cause am not scared enough of you to stay wide awake?" I mocked.
The only answer was a slightly distorted grin, somewhere between amused and disgusted. "I'm getting too many funny ideas how to wake you."
Tiredly I giggled to myself, but then got serious again and slightly shook my head. "Have your fun. I'm not sure sleep is so good right now."
"Why?" One eyebrow shot up. "Scared of the nightmares?"
"Huh? No..." I looked away. "There weren't any. None I can remember, that is. It's just so... Ugh... I don't know." Why does it always have to be so hard for me to name what I'm feeling? It's like I don't even know it myself. Or rather, it is that I can't clad it into words another person would understand. "Don't wanna be alone, right now," I mumbled noncommittally.
There was silence for a few minutes. Again I slipped away, only getting aware of it when the Master's voice tore through the fog of my mind.
"You really jumped."
I blinked my heavy eyelids open, needing a bit to understand what he was referring to. Then it clicked.
"Oh, the pit. Yeah..." I shrugged.
"You... know why," I mumbled dumbfounded. "Oxygen was run-"
"No." He shook his head, making an almost dramatic pause. His next words were punctuated to give them each more weight. "Why did you jump?"
Somehow I understood what he meant, somehow I didn't. The answer was as obvious as it was complicated and, again, there was my annoying lack in capability of putting things into actual words. How even? There were so many thoughts and images and...
"Hm..." I made, peeking up at him. "Guess... I just hate not having the last word? My... whole life there were always others deciding what would be best for me, what was right and appropriate. No one ever asked if that was what I wanted. In so many regards. It... it's just..."
"Claiming control in the very last moment."
Slowly I nodded, unable to give a more fitting explanation.
"And now it haunts you," the Master continued calmly. "Because twice you decided to die. And twice did it not bring you to an end, but far beyond what you could imagine."
I simply glared at him, slightly open mouthed. "Are you reading my thoughts or so?"
He chuckled. "No. A simple deduction."
Again there was silence, although, this time, I didn't nod away.
"Would... you have jumped?" I eventually dared to ask.
The Master glanced up from his device, eyes resting on me. He seemed so calm the whole evening, focused. And the effect seemed to increase over time. Maybe it was the work that helped him to... to what? Drown out those drums maybe?
Another question, for another time.
"No," he answered late. "I wouldn't have."
The Master sat the small device on the table and rubbed the bridge of his nose. There were so many parts left on the table, finishing this thing would probably take some more hours. He observed the current result for a bit, then lowered it and looked at me, his features not telling a thing about his thoughts.
"See? That's why you're distracting." Eventually he nodded to the side and pointed at the bed. "Stop pestering me and go to sleep."
He shrugged and picked up the next part, holding it close under his eyes. "Wasn't planning to sleep myself, anyway. And if you end up having nightmares..." A sly grin spread his lips. "I can peek into your head and twist them even more."
"Bugger," I grumbled, but smiled.
I didn't protest, however. Like this I wouldn't be on my own and the bed was positioned neatly enough so I could continue watching him, even if it all would be quite blurry without my specs. I put them on the night stand and slipped under the covers, shoving the pillows away. (I could never sleep with those, no matter how often I tried.)
It was strange to lie there like that, the sheets wearing his smell, knowing he was there, aware of my presence. He could so easily throw me out, yet didn't. And then there was his downright uncanny ability to put into words what I couldn't. As if he would know me so well.
Or rather... as if he had been through those things himself, often enough to know what effects they had on a person. What effects they had on himself. But for him there was no one he could turn to, no one to seek some wordless comfort.
Would the Doctor offer some? Or was their relationship so bad that he would deny it to the Master? I still couldn't place what they were to one another. Enemies and friends at the same time. Allies and rivals. Always one step ahead of the other one, playing an eternal game, gambling for lives.
It was confusing. It was quiet and warm and comfortable. There was no fire anymore, no devils and black holes. Only dim lights, the sounds of tinkering, the smell of bed sheets. And the soothing darkness that finally claimed my tied mind.
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