Soul's Shadow by TardisGhost
The Master keeps his new style, although he also experiments with some more casual clothes. Those earthen jeans are disgustingly comfortable to wear. He has to give them that. The wardrobe in the TARDIS offers him enough room to play around. Some things just don't go well with who he is and others don't fit with who he wants to be.
In the end it's all nothing but distraction.
He doesn't want to think. Not about what situation he is in, not about what the future might or might not hold, not about all the things in his past he can't shake off.
Had he really gone too far?
It wasn't about the lives he ended, not about the nuking of a whole country, not about having a fake wife, not about torturing the Doctor or the freak. In short, it wasn't the details that concerned him. It was the combination, the bundled up mess of rage and chaos, surging out of him without direction.
Move, move, move! Don't stand still. Don't run. Just move.
The drums, ever growing stronger, calling out to him in fury. They wouldn't let him rest…
...until he heard a shot reverberate through the air.
His ears rang, his mind snapped awake as pain shot through his body. Only in that moment did he realize how broken Lucy truly was. Only then did he really notice the other people in the room.
Too far? Maybe. It wasn't like him. Not this. There was always a logic and a reason behind his plans, no matter how complicated and strange they might have looked to outsiders. But the Valiant? The paradox? It was an abomination of everything he stood for as a Time Lord.
But the drums. The drums drowned it all. All the reason, all the logic, left nothing but a pounding and the agony of not being himself anymore and no one to share the pain with.
The Doctor won't listen. Each time the Master even remotely suggests it, he flinches away and keeps telling that it won't do anything. He is scared. Of what exactly the Master isn't sure. Maybe of having been wrong all those centuries.
It doesn't matter. In the end they might find the cause of the drums with one of the countless machines and tests the Doctor keeps finding. If they are real then something must be able to pick them up. In that the Doctor is right. For once.
They travel in a cautious agreement of facts.
One: There is nothing the Doctor can threaten the Master with. He would never go as far as using something like torture and he dutifully keeps his promise and doesn't introduce any new restraints.
Two: The Master is less a prisoner of the Doctor than he is of a lacking opportunity to move. Without a TARDIS of his own he can't go far. He can't risk getting stranded on some uninhabited planet. The one and only thing he wouldn't push past the Doctor to do.
It's not much, but the simplicity of both keeps them in a fragile companionship and also an almost friendly, albeit mischievous competition. The Master never gets tired of building new tools to fool around with. The Doctor never ceases to find a way to snatch those tools away and get rid of them.
There are casualties. People die. Of course they do. The ridiculous situations the Doctor manages to get them in, they scream for blood. And it's not always on the Master to shed it. It never has been. Their methods were just different.
In all this time the Master keeps searching. For ways to keep his sanity intact, for ways to escape the Doctor without being stranded somewhere in the process.
He finds a vortex manipulator.
The Master is so baffled by the thing, lying around in yet another of the countless messy rooms of the TARDIS, that he can't believe it's even real at first. He pokes it, then picks it up and observes the device from all sites. The straps are a bit brittle, the energy is as low as it gets and he suspects that more than one system isn't working correctly anymore.
Doesn't matter. He has time enough to tinker around with it. Finding spare parts to replace the broken ones presents a small problem, though. But he's smart enough to get the Doctor to visit some planets where he can get those either way. The only thing he can't fix entirely is its range. It's enough to travel some distances, but not to leave a planet or haul himself across the universe. The only way to fix that is to practically train the device to stretch and bend, to learn.
Also doesn't matter. The next time they land somewhere he will try it out. Expand the range a little, mess around with something until he gets bored.
The Master groans inwardly when their next destination reveals itself to be earth again. Of all the places. He seriously wonders if there is a single spot in that planet's history that the Doctor hasn't visited already. He knows it's not possible, but the question still lingers, half amused, half annoyed.
At least he knows the place well enough to test out the manipulator's reach. It gets him to a place he cannot name, somewhere in a park. All of his senses tell him it's a small and quiet place, no danger to be found here.
For a while he just walks, enjoying the feeling of being unseen and free to move. If everything works he will be free all too soon.
"Keeping me as his pet, my ass," he grumbles to himself. "I'll show him. He'll regret it…"
There is a human. Small, probably still an adolescent. It's hard to tell the gender, but he can tell they belong to the twenty-first century, looking at the crude device in their hands they call Smartphones.
"And what are you staring at?" he snarls.
This one is weird, not even really present in the situation, as it seems. He threatens them, plays around, tries some hypnosis just to piss off the Doctor. The human - probably female - isn't susceptible to it and still… What big eyes.
He can practically see the thoughts running through this narrow human mind. Possibility. A chance? Who does she want to die? Who has been bad enough to be the target of an innocent looking thing like that?
And then she tells him her name and his entire being shudders at the sound of it. He remembers the shot, the loud ringing in his ears, the moment he realized reality again, after waking up from a long dream.
So different. His wife had been tall and blond and pretty by every human standard. The woman in front of him is small and strange, seemingly unaware of the danger she's in. Or maybe she simply doesn't care? Whatever the case, it's annoying. But her odd behaviour makes him curious.
The vortex manipulator needs time to recharge, so they travel by train. The Master is surprised how much she considers doing just to get rid of that one person. And all that in such a calculated manner, almost cold. There is no hate in her eyes when she considers murder, no fear either. And especially nothing that would resemble any qualms. Or a conscience.
The Master doesn't hold back being himself, eager to squash that primitive thing just for the fun of it. Until a question leaves her lips that sends a cold shiver down his spine.
"Will you remember me?"
It's then that he understands that there is so little fear in this human because she has nothing to be afraid of. When she sleeps, leaning against his site, he let's her, rests his fingers on her temples to feel the surface of her mind. He doesn't need to intrude, or to even slip in. A glimpse is more than enough.
The intensity of mental pain he feels almost burns him. Not literally, that's not possible. But his mind recoils at the mirror it gets shown. Of his own loneliness he tries to ignore, but that has gnawed on him ever since his essence has left the fob watch. The feeling of the void in his mind, of not finding the background humm of the other Time Lords that has always been there before.
That little human is just like that.
Then the Doctor takes her away and snatches the vortex manipulator from the Master. It pisses him off immensely. So much work has been put into the device. He keeps searching, keeps looking out for maybe another one.
Until he notices that on some days the Doctor doesn't take care in his excitement for adventure and leaves without locking the TARDIS doors.
There usually is more than enough time to cause some mischief somewhere. Small things, just to have a little fun. Stealing the Doctor's screwdriver before he leaves, for example. The Master tinkers around with it, reads out its memory. Most of it is boring, lots of scans of seemingly random things and people.
There is one scan he recognizes. That of the strange human girl he had met some time ago. Somehow it makes his fingers twitch, urges him to feed the scan data into the TARDIS console.
Human, female, thirty years of age. There is also a quick brain scan, he realizes, looks at it more closely. In his time as Harold Saxon he has studied lots about humans. Mainly to see if he could advance them somehow to make them useful for his new empire. There he had found that a certain percentage had slightly off patterns in the wiring of their brains.
What had they called it? He couldn't remember. But maybe it was the reason the human didn't behave so much as he was used to from their species.
Maybe it also was the reason she was so painfully alone.
Something clenches in his chest, makes him curse under his breath. But it's not the emotion that nudges him to search her out. It's a small mental image of big curious eyes.
He shakes his head, gets some more casual clothes so he doesn't look too intimidating and tricks the Doctor into landing in the right time and place and then distracts him so much that he leaves the door unlocked.
As is finding the human again. The part of the city she lives in is shabby, poor, full with people he wouldn't trust if his life depended on it. Not that he would trust any human…
The Master prepares himself to catch the girl should she try to run, to muffle her screams should she try to get help. He is prepared for a lot, but not for the blossoming smile on her face when she sees him. It makes him remember how annoying she had been and he seriously doubts his own sanity to come here.
In the end he does have fun, tickles a little fear out of that small body, after all the sarcasm and logic he had been confronted with before. The fear suits her well, burns like a small flame in those big eyes behind the glasses. A light he can feel when his mind brushes against hers as he sends her into a slumber. The small, lifeless body sinks to the ground and he has no idea what to do next. Kill her? What for?
Maybe… he could try to get her to be on his site, influence her enough so she would help him get over the new barrier the Doctor installed on the console. The Master has only a vague guess as to what it's doing.
But the more he learns about the girl the more his hate towards humanity grows. What they did to her reminds him too much of what happened to outcasts on Gallifrey. Left alone, denied every chance to have a life worth living.
He grabs her wrist as they sneak through corridors. An accidental mental contact and what shoots through him is the raw pain of existing.
It disturbs the Master in a way he isn't used to. How can she be like that after everything? How can she smile at him and preserve this childish curiosity? No matter what he tells or does, there is no judgement, no condemnation. Only those big eyes and a stretched out hand. A candle flame in eternal darkness.
The Doctor finds her eventually, brings her back home and far away from the Master's reach. To keep her safe. Protection.
He gets his vortex manipulator back after what feels like another year. Maybe it's more. But when he visits the girl's place again it is empty and cold. No one has been here for quite a while, that's obvious. Letters pile on the ground, bills and warnings. The apartment still has electricity so he boots up the computer that stands there, the only useful device in the tiny, almost empty space.
Everything in here looks as if the human never planned to stay, more a camping ground than what others would consider a home. Maybe it's the fear of settling down, the fear of losing everything anyway… today or tomorrow. It's how the Master himself lived for most of the time.
It's easy to find out where she went, but when he gets there he finds something he hadn't expected. Flames and stars and… blood.
A mind so broken, a soul so crushed, a heart crumbling to a pile of fading embers. And still there is a calmness about the scene that, yet again, disturbs him.
What he sees is the dying light of a once stubborn candle in a sea of all consuming darkness.
It's this image that makes him talk to her while she dies. And that stupid thing has the nerve to make jokes about it. It's ridiculous and crushes his hearts in a way it shouldn't. He doesn't do emotions. He just doesn't.
But when she asks him to stay with her, there is no way he can just let the small body in his arms go cold without some comfort. A comfort he never got while dying. Not once. So he holds her and waits and watches the stars and the fire until something tugs at his mind.
Perplexed, he looks down, realizes it's something that comes from the human's dying consciousness, something that was carefully hidden, something that feels… like himself. The Master listens to it, lets it seep into his mind and understands, maybe. It's incomplete, left there in haste, in a vague hope it might be enough to make his younger self understand… something.
It gets torn away from him before he can properly understand, a sharp knife cutting the connection, the painful gasp of feeling someone die while being in their mind.
It's too late.
Whatever his future wanted to tell him was too weak, too rushed. The single heartbeat under his fingers stopped, almost, rebelling against the inevitable. Even now she was fighting, even when she had given up willingly, something was still fighting, still shining.
The Master smiles.
"I am not a kind man, little light," he utters and picks her up into his arms.
He has to be quick and it's almost an impossibility that it will work. The heartbeat stops completely, but the body ist still warm, her mind still inside. While he teleports them back to the TARDIS and marches to the door, he already slips inside the last strands of the girl's fading psychic energy, intertwines a tiny part of himself with it to keep everything in place.
It feels wrong and cold and the Master has no idea what might happen to himself if this doesn't work. The Doctor already awaits him, opens the door to hold a speech about whatever, but his face drops when he realizes what he sees there.
"What have you done?" he squeaks.
"Spare your breath," the Master pants, feeling how more of him is slipping away. "Med bay, now. Prepare a psychic bubble and seal me inside. Us. No interruption until I tell you otherwise."
Luckily, the Doctor is smart enough not to question anything for now and just does what he is told. The Master follows quickly, lays the human girl on the med bed and almost doubles over as he loses skin contact. It hurts, he can feel the part of him he has connected being ripped from him, whether he still wants it or not. There is no turning back now.
Quickly he climbs on the bed, searches for skin and sighs when the energy flow stabilises.
He glances up at the Doctor's worried face. Has he ever seen the man so confused? Disturbed? He chuckles and curls himself around the dead girl, wondering why he's even doing something so stupid.
There are words spoken to him, but he can no longer hear them, there is the rustling of things and medical devices, but he can't tell what the Doctor does, just hopes he knows how to bring one back from a recent enough death. For once he has to fully trust the Doctor.
Not that he has a choice not to. His consciousness fades. All he is aware of is the blackness and the drums, both pressing against his skull, burning painfully until he feels the small spark of another mind emerging from so, so far away.
So tiny and yet so warm and powerful that it pushes the darkness away and allows him to sink into a space of nothing, of true… silence.
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