Soul's Shadow by TardisGhost



Summary: The Doctor doesn't want her as a companion. The Master saves her from certain death. A human with no place among her own. There are secrets that stretch across the endless void. And a connection is discovered that was never meant to be.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Original Companion, The Doctor (10th), The Master (Simm)
Genres: Action/Adventure, Character Study
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2020.05.17
Updated: 2021.10.10


Index

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
Chapter 22: Chapter 22
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
Chapter 25: Chapter 25
Chapter 26: Chapter 26
Chapter 27: Chapter 27
Chapter 28: Chapter 28
Chapter 29: Chapter 29
Chapter 30: Deleted Scene - Bad jokes
Chapter 31: Chapter 30
Chapter 32: Chapter 31
Chapter 33: Chapter 32
Chapter 34: Chapter 33
Chapter 35: Chapter 34
Chapter 36: Chapter 35
Chapter 37: Chapter 36
Chapter 38: Chapter 37
Chapter 39: Chapter 38
Chapter 40: Chapter 39
Chapter 41: Chapter 40
Chapter 42: Chapter 41
Chapter 43: Chapter 42
Chapter 44: Chapter 43
Chapter 45: Chapter 44
Chapter 46: Chapter 45
Chapter 47: Chapter 46
Chapter 48: Chapter 47
Chapter 49: Chapter 48
Chapter 50: Chapter 49
Chapter 51: Chapter 50
Chapter 52: Chapter 51
Chapter 53: Chapter 52
Chapter 54: Chapter 53
Chapter 55: Chapter 54
Chapter 56: Chapter 55
Chapter 57: Chapter 56
Chapter 58: Chapter 57
Chapter 59: Chapter 58
Chapter 60: Chapter 59
Chapter 61: Chapter 60
Chapter 62: Chapter 61
Chapter 63: Chapter 62
Chapter 64: Chapter 63
Chapter 65: Chapter 64
Chapter 66: Chapter 65
Chapter 67: Chapter 66
Chapter 68: Chapter 67
Chapter 69: Chapter 68
Chapter 70: Chapter 69
Chapter 71: Chapter 70
Chapter 72: Chapter 71
Chapter 73: Chapter 72
Chapter 74: Chapter 73
Chapter 75: Chapter 74
Chapter 76: Chapter 75
Chapter 77: Chapter 76
Chapter 78: Chapter 77
Chapter 79: Chapter 78
Chapter 80: Chapter 79
Chapter 81: Chapter 80


Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Author's Notes: (Shameless self insert ;P)

Hellooooooooooo!
Never thought I would actually do this... but here I am am, bored and still not out of ideas what to do with the Master, lol. Besides... everyone seems to write these self inserts nowadays, and it's kinda fun imagining oneself in these situations, isn't it? Especially when you're an extremely weird person, lmao.

No idea how long this will get, or how frequently I'll update it. I also won't tell you which of those infos about me are true and which not. ;P

Aaaaand, last, but not least. This is not (really) a love story. Or rather not a romance story? Love takes on many forms and I don't think this will fit anywhere in the typical romance genre... If you are confused now, so am I. xDDDD

Have fun! °v°/

Trigger warnings: I try to stay as non-explicit as I can, because it's not the story's focus. Still, there are some sexual undertones and also dark topics in here, such as morally twisted actions, suicide and minor violence.





Have you ever awoken in the middle of a murky night, your mind still caught within the last remnants of a fading dream, only to hear a sound so alien you were sure it mustn't belong to the waking world? Like the wheezing and whooshing of engines, yet unknown to mankind.

Did it haunt you?

Did it follow you around like the aftertaste of a bitter nightmare? Did it rip into your day and gnawed at the strands of sanity that hold yourself together?

Maybe you also once stood in front of an old blue police box, barely even noticing its existence, even though it's mere presence tore through your already tired mind.

Maybe you even heard the name Doctor already, outside of the profession, whispered, shouted; you read it in a story, found it, hidden in the graffiti on a subway wall.

I can assure you, here and now, that you are not crazy. And that he is very real indeed. He is and was and will be there, among us, with us, unseen, but always keeping us safe.

However, he is not the only one out there, let me tell you. Not the only lonely traveller on a journey without a course. There are other stories. Such of a man, so cruel in nature he had to be locked away, hidden from the universe so he could never do it harm again. It is told, his hearts are of ice and nothing could ever stop him from finding ways to hold the entirety of time and space within his blood soaked hands.

Those are all too real as well.

And there is one other story, about a traveller without a name, a shadow cast in the blackness of the void. A forgotten soul, the unwanted child of humankind, the...

Okay, okay, that's a little melodramatic. But come on... I am a writer after all! Let me have some fun, yeah? If I'm supposed to write this all down, I can do it properly. The Doctor said, keeping a journal might help my memories to stay where they belong.“ but a mere journal sounded really boring, so here we are.

Ready?

Oh, wait, you might want a few details about me, first. You know, all this stuff that helps a reader to picture the protagonist. Hm, where to start?

Maybe with the fact that people often think I'm still a teenager, because I seem to look quite young (it's so annoying to always have to show my ID whenever I want to buy some alcohol. Seriously). And there I was already 30 when this all started.

If you wonder how I might look... well... Probably as less my gender as I look my age. Guess some people think I'm a boy... or a lesbian. I don't know. My hair are trimmed to a short pixie cut and brown in colour, as are my eyes. My extremely bad eyes, I might add. They are always hidden behind a pair of nerdy glasses. (Hey, I like them, okay!) I also feel like a dwarf with my 1,57m height... but dwarves are cool, so that's okay. (No, I don't have a beard!)

That should suffice for now. You're probably more interested in the adventure-y stuff. Before everything properly started, I met the Doctor once, only briefly. And I literally bumped into him.

Tousled brown hair, chocolate brown eyes and a long brown coat. That was all I could make out, as he stared down at me, blinking perplex.

"What is it, Doctor?" a woman asked from behind. She had dark skin and long hair.

Behind her followed a tall guy in a military style coat. (Wish I had bumped into him instead.)

"Nothing, nothing," the man, who had been called Doctor answered, carefully grabbing my shoulders to guide me a step to the side. "Sorry for bumping into you. We're on a hurry."

"Uh... err... it's okay," I stammered. "Nothing happened. I mean... I bumped into you... but... uh. Sorry?"

"Hello there," the tall one greeted with a toothy smile that made me blush a little.

"Jack!" the Doctor called. "Not now!"

"I only said hello!"

"Hello," I sheepishly replied back, lowering my head a little, unsure what else to say. The roguish wink Jack gave me made me smile, though.

"Anyway, we have to get away as fast as possible, if you'll excuse us." The Doctor tapped his forehead and strode away, followed by his strange companions.

They all seemed in quite the rush, and I wondered if they might be late for an appointment, a party or whatever people occupied themselves in groups. I... I'm not much of a social person myself. Too awkward and weird... People usually don't like that, so they avoid me, mostly.

Later I saw them all on TV, found out they were being chased by the police and deemed extremely dangerous. (Well... wouldn't have minded to be abducted by that military coat guy.)

This was the first time we met. The second time was surrounded by a lot more ruckus, and years after the infamous election. I vaguely remember the telly showing the president getting shot by an alien creature, while newly elected Prime Minister Saxon made a face as if it was his birthday gift.

The time after that is... strange. They explained to me, later, what had happened and that everyone forgot about a whole year that actually never happened. What was even stranger, though, was that I was convinced they had put Saxon in jail for murder.

So, suddenly seeing him in person was probably the last thing I would have ever expected.

He didn't look exactly the same, though. Before, he had been clean shaven, now he had grown a thin goatee. And instead of a black suit, he now wore a blood red dress-shirt with a black waist coat and black dress pants and shoes.

But no doubt, it was him, marching down a road of my hometown, his look so dark it made me shiver.

"Keeping me as his pet, my ass," he grumbled to himself. "I'll show him. He'll regret it... And what are you staring at?"

I winced in surprise, my eyes widening as I realized he had addressed me, because I was staring at him like some idiot. My mouth opened and closed and all I could do was to mutter a barely audible 'sorry'.

"You want a real reason to feel sorry, kid?" he asked and a grin spread on his lips that could only be described as evil. "I could make you go home and murder your parents, how about that?"

I blinked perplex at him. Once, twice. "I... don't live with them anymore."

"Pah, I don't care." He rushed over to me, hands in his pockets, towering above me, although slightly bent down towards my face. His eyes had a fascinating warm hazel colour, but were so cold and angry at the same time. And old. "You'll make a good toy. I'll use you to get revenge on the Doctor."

"D... Doctor?" I remembered the short strange encounter from years ago. Somehow it seemed connected. "That guy in the long brown coat?" I asked, wondering if he meant the same man. "I ran into someone like that, long ago... right before you killed... uh... oops." I probably shouldn't have let slip that I knew who he was.

In the same moment my phone, that I had in my hands the whole time, vibrated shortly and I peeked down at it. Second mistake. Never take your eyes off a villain. Even if your favourite Pokémon is just spawning on your screen.

Saxon ripped the phone out of my hands and glared at it for a few seconds, then back at me, and I swallowed, but smiled shyly.

"Don't break it. Can't afford a new one."

"Breaking that thing will be your last problem." He chuckled darkly and let my device vanish into his pockets.

"Hey! I need it!"

"And what," he bent down to my eyelevel, his gaze boring into mine, "are you willing to do to get it back?"

Once more I swallowed, feeling my pulse race. That phone was the only thing connecting me to people in the real word, instead of only having internet friends from who knows where on the planet. Such a silly thing as a game, enabling my socially awkward self to be tolerated by other human beings.

"I... don't know. I'm not really good at anything, I'm not strong or fast or... whatever." I turned my head away, feeling unfittingly embarrassed in the face of this lunatic, muttering, "I'm probably as useless to you as to everyone else, sorry."

There was a long pause in which Saxon straightened a little, but not enough to lose his threatening aura. My eyes darted back to his face, and although I usually avoid eye contact like the pest, I couldn't help but seek his gaze once again. Something about those eyes fascinated me, as if there was something hidden within them, something that exceeded a human's capacity of understanding.

"Sorry..." he repeated my last word with disbelieve in his voice, but then grinned. "Want to do something mean so badly?"

"Wha'? N... no! No, I don't!" I protested, my voice dying down quickly, my eyes seeking the ground again.

"Look up." His voice was now low and commanding, so I automatically obeyed. "In exactly two hours you'll pick a person and you will kill them," Saxon demanded while pushing a small gun into my hands.

An indescribable tingling moved through my head, rested at my crown and almost gave me a headache. I pinched my eyes shut, trying to get rid of it, while his words still rang in my mind. This was insane! Why would I do that? Why was he so sure I would? Why did he behave as if nothing could happen to him, no matter what he did - or made people do.

The again... he had murdered the president and was, obviously, still a free man.

"Could you?" I asked quietly. "Just kill someone and get away with it?"

He laughed out loud, taking a step back, before he observed me further. "Doesn't work on you, eh? What a pity. But sure, I could."

My hands clutched the small gun to my chest, tears welled up in my eyes as I glanced back at him.

"Don't even try and shoot me," he snickered. "I'd be too fast. Before you can even-"

"No... I won't. But... but..." My hands started shaking at the mere fact that I even considered this. However, getting away with it, having no consequences to fear and two people I loved to safe, if only from their own weakness. "Any person?" I asked.

"Whomever you choose. But since my hypnotism doesn't work on you..."

"And you can assure no one will know I did it?" I interrupted, although I wondered what he was talking about.

Saxon stilled and glared at me for a small eternity. Slowly the corners of his mouth twitched upwards, until there was a wide, toothless smile plastered on his face. He was clearly enjoying this moment.

"Oh, there will be one person, whom I'll have to tell." He held a finger over my lips to silence my unspoken protest. "But he won't be interested in following you. It's just the game we play, I and the Doctor. This sanctimonious bastard."

"I... I don't want to spent the rest of my life in jail. There is just..."

"And I don't care for your boring reasons." He waved my words away, grabbed my collar and drew me in front of his face. "I will drench your hands in blood and watch the horror in his face with delight. Then I'll steal his TARDIS, and then he can stay with you apes on this dumpster of a planet and rot."

There it was again. Something flashing behind his eyes, ancient and raw and... sad. And there I was, never able to resist a mystery, not caring at all what it might do to me. And there I also had gotten this one opportunity I had thought about so many times already.

So I simply nodded and he finally let go of my clothes and strode away.

"Come."

Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2

He was already a few steps ahead before I got my body to react and follow him, the gun still in my hands. The metal had gotten warm from my own body temperature, but the weight and feeling was still so uncanny. I wondered if it was even loaded, and if so, why he would give it to me just like that. Right here and an now I would be able to simply shoot him in the back - and I was rather certain he wouldn't be able to avoid it this far away.

With a sigh I stuffed the weapon into my small shoulder bag. This was all just a weird dream anyway, right? Speaking of which... I pinched my nose shut with my fingers, trying to breathe through it anyway. When this didn't succeed I counted my fingers... twice. And finally pulled out a crumbled receipt from my pocket to read its content.

Alright... all reality checks indicated that I, indeed, was awake. No lucid dream for me, then. I frowned and sighed. Both, because it would have been cool, and because it meant I was awake and this was really happening.

"Where are we going, Mr. Saxon?" I asked eventually, when he walked down an alley I had rarely used before.

"Don't call me that. It's not my name."

"Oh, sorry," I mumbled and managed to get next to him. He wasn't that big, actually, compared to me he was, of course, but still not so much. And he looked rather cool in those clothes, sparkling the unfitting wish in me to sit down and draw him. I coughed slightly to get my head clear. "What is your name, then?"

The stranger turned around, halted in his steps and observed me for a few seconds.

"I am the Master," he announced with a proud smile.

"Of what?"

"Huh?"

"Master of what?" I wanted to know.

He raised a brow and shrugged, grinning boyishly. "Of everything."

I couldn't help it. My stupid brain just never stands still. "Well, not of Great Britain anymore,"

Instead of murdering me, the Master only let out a short laugh. It sounded honestly amused, though, making me smile a little myself. At least he seemed to have some humour.

"Oh, one day the universe itself will be mine, just you watch me," he said sweetly, like a boy telling his mom he wants to become a pilot.

Somehow the Master felt so childish and boyish, it was hard to believe he was the same man whom almost all of Britain had wanted as Prime Minister.

My thoughts briefly wandered back to that time, trying to puzzle together what exactly he had even told people. Something flashed behind my eyes, too quickly gone to really grasp. Images, impressions. Screams and smoke and round objects flying through the sky. I blinked perplex and shook my head.

"What's with you?" the Master bowed down a little, curiously observing my puzzled features.

"N... nothing. Just slept bad, 's all."

He shrugged and straightened again, wanting to continue the walk, however turning around once more. "And what do they call you?"

"Call...? Oh... I'm Lucy."

His face dropped instantly, morphing into an expression of annoyance and almost hate. "You have any other names?"

"Nooo..." I responded carefully. "What's wrong with it?"

The Master grunted and rolled his eyes. "My former wife's name. And that beasty thing tried to shoot me. Missed, of course. Never held a gun in her life before, but still..."

"Oh. Sorry."

"I'll just call you Lu, how about that?" He smiled again. "Alternatively we can settle on stupid earth ape."

"That's a bit long, innit?" I chuckled. "Lu's fine. But still, where're we going?"

"A shortcut into town."

"Oh... I see. Say..." Again I felt my heart pounding wildly in my chest. Was I really about to do this? "The person I choose... do they have to live nearby?"

The Master tilted his head. "I have no TARDIS, right now. So, wherever they are, you have to get us there."

What the hell was a TARDIS?

I nodded. "Can you... mhm... get money? I mean, lots of it. Without anyone noticing it, of course. I... don't have much."

His eyes glinted happily. "No problem."

________________________________________________
.


The landscape rushed past the window, trees and fields, villages and cities, all a blur of colour. It had gotten evening, the sky took on soft dark shades, and orange and white lamps faded into light. Sometimes the train halted, and the later it got, the less people entered or exited. Sometimes the stations were completely empty and through the window seeped the smell of foreignness.

"As a child I always imagined to go on a ride like this," I mumbled dreamily, "and simply get off the train at one of those empty, black stations. Not knowing where I am, or where to go."

The Master sat opposite to me, arms folded over his chest, eyes closed and his head resting against the window. He wasn't asleep, that I could tell. He didn't feel asleep, more relaxed, in a weird way.

"You like long train rides, too, huh?"

He smiled, his eyes creeping open. "It's so nicely quiet."

"Quiet..." I repeated absently, my gaze wandering back to the darkness-covered world outside. "Trains are so loud, though. I like how they sound. As if the wheels on the tracks are singing a song."

His gaze rested on me, I felt it intensely and looked at him, eventually. Although we had the lights dimmed in our compartment I could still see his eyes. And like before they fascinated me. Usually I can't look people in the eyes for long. It always feels so overwhelming, distracting, downright unpleasant. Because of that they often think I'm not listening... But I understand a lot more when I don't have to look. With the Master it was different, as if his gaze wasn't constantly searching for a way to call me out, to tell me how inhuman I behave and rub it into my face. He just didn't care.

"That's a hellishly long ride to get rid of a person," he remarked after we parted from another station.

My gaze kept glued to the window, but I still nodded. The sound of the train lulled me into a light slumber, brought me back to some hours ago, when the Master had entered a bank only to walk over to the banker and had told him to hand him a hundred thousand Euros. Astonished I had watched the scene, had glared at the Master with an opened mouth when he pushed the bag into my hands.

I had to transfer most of it to my bank account, not wanting to carry it all around with me, and the rest of the way my thoughts turned summersaults. I could finally pay back all of my student debts! I could afford a brand new gaming PC, a bike or... a bed.

Thinking about my almost empty apartment I concluded it would be wise to start with the basics. I hadn't been able to afford furniture, so far, my belongings only consisting of a mattress on the floor, a shaky table and chair for my laptop and three cupboards that could - with lots of good will - be called a kitchen. Heck! I didn't even own a fridge!

Now, all of a sudden, none of it was a problem anymore. I was free, I had enough to live for at least a few years, in case my bad luck with finding jobs would continue.

And all that for the price of a human life.

"Who is it?" the Master asked, as if he had read my thoughts.

The question tore me out of the thoughts, bringing me back to the present moment, and also to a past long gone, to the time of my childhood - if you can call it that - to years of fear and being caged in. None of it was his busyness.

"You didn't want to know."

"Now I do," he countered calmly.

"Because it's quiet?"

An almost pained smile appeared on his face. I had hit a point, although I had no clue what it was about. Only another puzzle piece for my pattern oriented mind, another snipped about the strange man in front of me, that once had been known by every person in the country, but was now unrecognized, as it seemed.

"What happened when you became Prime Minister?" I couldn't help but ask, ignoring his own question. "I remember the spheres killing the president, but then..." Again, images whizzed through my head, probably created by my brain to fill the gaps. A brain can do that... create false memories, because remembering something at all is better than having a hole in your head.

"I took over the earth," the Master told with a grin. "First I decimated the human race, then had some fun with you all." He snickered. "Wiped out Japan, built a police state, let my Toclafane decimate a few more of you, here and there. You know... just for fun. Humans reproduce so fast, it almost doesn't matter."

I only blinked at him, confused.

"No, you didn't."

"Well, you wouldn't remember. It all was based on a paradox, so it never happened."

Again I blinked. There was something in my mind, pieces that got put together, a pattern, evolving from the net of information and thoughts in my head. Then it clicked.

"You're alien, too, aren't you?"

It made sense. Looking back at the attacks on earth, so far, his strange behaviour, the weird terms he always used, the way he felt so different... I glanced back into his eyes, knowing it to be true, no matter if he would deny it now or not. No human could have such eyes.

"What if?"

"Hm..." I made, noncommittally, shrugged and drew my legs up on the seat to wrap my arms around them. "A paradox..." I thought out loud, leaning my head against the window. If he was alien then it was possible he had the technology to make something like that possible. "You really did all those things, then?"

A childish smile let his eyes crinkle with joy. "Scared now?" he teased and gave me a mock-pout. "It's not the worst thing I've ever done, if that consoles you."

It didn't. But that he wasn't a good person had been obvious right from the start. I probably should have been scared, should have risked jumping from the train only the get away from this man. Strangely enough my heart was calm, my mind only tired because it was so late already.

No, I wasn't scared... yet. Had he been human I would have assumed he was a psychopath, but somehow that didn't quite fit him. There was more to the Master, a calmness behind the chaos in his eyes, a softness, buried beneath the ocean of blood and cries he seemed to have left behind. An image flashed through my head, of him kneeling in the rain, crying out an unspeakable pain, without anyone every listening.

I blinked it away. It happens sometimes, my brain just creating scenes and images from what I pick up from other people. No idea if I'm really that empathic... Or if it's more like with blind people... I can't read body language and facial expressions so well, but instead I somehow can sense people's moods and feelings, without even looking at them. I think everyone can do that, but most people don't have to.

"How is it?" I mumbled. "To take a life."

The Master smiled and leaned forward, hands folded in his lap. "Exciting. You finally understand how much power you have, what you're capable of, and that no one can stand in your way any longer." He chuckled a little. "You'll see for yourself."

I swallowed and glanced away. Rain started to trickle down the window and I closed it, listening to the added sound of drops against glass. So soothing, distracting me from what was ahead.

"You're an odd one," the Master remarked quietly. "About to commit murder, but you don't even look bothered about it. And there you humans are so annoyingly moral."

"I don't understand moral," I softly admitted and shrugged. "There usually is no logic behind it. It's just things you don't do, because you... don't do it. But no one ever tells you, why."

The Master laughed quietly to himself and leaned back again, signalling the conversation to be over. I didn't mind, feeling tired anyway. Good thing those seats were long. I slipped out of my shoes, lifted my legs up, while taking my glasses off and placing them on top of the trash bin.

"Wake me, when we're there," I mumbled and curled myself up on the seat.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Of course I couldn't sleep. What did I even await? Would have been the first time in my life I'd manage to sleep in a train. My family and I used to visit my Grandfather in the summers, who lived in a different country. We always took the overnight train. And never could I sleep.

A hand over my mouth shot me out of the light pseudo-slumber I had, however, managed to slip into. Confusion and sleepiness clouded my thoughts, the events of the evening seeping only slowly back into my mind.

"Shhh," the Master made. He now sat on my side of the compartment, hand over my mouth, eyes glued to the door. "Don't make any noise."

I groggily nodded and sat up as soon as he retreated his hand. It was still dark outside and there was no indication of danger, no sounds that didn't belong, not even a foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. My hand searched for my glasses and slid them up may nose. Curiously I then leaned past him, watching the small window in the top half of the door.

For quite a while nothing at all happened, but eventually the Master lost his tense state and relaxed visibly.

"Must be really bad if it scares you," I mumbled, still leaned forward to watch the door.

He turned his head in my direction, amusement in his hazel eyes. "I'm not scared. I just don't want him to have you, yet."

"Him..." I peeked up. "This Doctor?"

"Yeah, I think, he's gone, though."

I let out a yawn and leaned back into the seat, sinking a little together and resisting the urge to snuggle up on the man next to me. I'm a horribly cuddly person and almost no one is ever save from that. But for once I refrained from my comfort-seeking, for the sake of my very life.

"Who is the Doctor?" I asked, glancing back up at the Master.

He huffed, but smiled. "An idiot who thinks he can make the universe a better place. Runs around and saves apes like you, so they fall for him and then he keeps them as pets until they break. And then he calls me the bad one and ruins all my nicely conducted plans."

"We're not apes anymore," I weakly protested with a pout.

"Right... apes are smarter."

"Careful, you handed this brainless ape a gun," I dryly countered with narrowed eyes.

"Yeah..." His eyes crinkled with joy. "And you're not using it."

"Touché." I chuckled and stared out of the window, my thoughts circling around the few snippets of information I had gathered. The whole time I could feel the Master's eyes on me, but, strangely enough, it didn't feel threatening; more like careful curiosity. Eventually I peeked back shyly. "Is he like you? The Doctor, I mean."

The Master scrunched up his nose, disgust clearly showing in his gaze.

"I mean... is he alien, too?" I added. "And how could he appear on this train? And... vanish again."

"We're the same species, yes. But we're complete opposites."

There was an unbelievable amount of contempt in his voice, as if the mere thought of the other man would make him throw up at every moment. it appeared they shared quite some history, I silently concluded.

"So, he is the good guy, then?" I pondered. "Because you're clearly the villain in this story."

One of his brows shot up, his lips pursing slightly, but then stretching to an almost charming smile. He leaned towards me a little. "So, you think I'm a bad person?"

"Obviously," I deadpanned and counted fingers up. "You killed the President, you said you basically tortured the whole planet for a year, and you said it wasn't even the worst thing you ever did. Well... and then there's the whole thing about you using me to make another person feel bad..." My hand lowered and I grinned up at him. "That basically screams 'villain' in huge flashing letters to me."

Somehow the proud smirk on his features didn't surprise me. He looked so boyish in that very moment that I couldn't help, but continue grinning even wider.

Only for a moment, though, before his hands shot forward and were around my throat, squeezing hard enough to strangle all air out of me. Perplex and surprised and more out of reflex than anything else I lunged out and tried to get him away, panic arising within myself. I barely noticed the look of anger and the hint of madness that clouded his eyes all of a sudden, as he pushed me down into the seat, almost kneeling over me.

"What's there to grin about?" he growled in a cold tone as he leaned his head down to me. "You think I'm making fun? You think I'm just telling stories?"

I tried to kick him, my hands ripping at his, my lungs burning from the lack of air. My head got lighter, black dots starting to dance in front of my eyes.

And suddenly I could breathe again.

Greedily I sucked in all air I could get, coughing and panting, unable to speak a word for what felt like minutes, my body trembling uncontrollably. Finally I stared upwards, saw the Master still kneeling over me, his hands still on my throat, but not squeezing anymore. His eyes were dark and cold, telling more than words ever could, how less he cared about me being alive or not.

"Are you afraid, now?" his low voice asked.

Another breath, and two more. I closed my eyes, feeling the fast rhythm of my heart, listening deep inside me to find an answer to his question.

"You won't let me survive this, right?" I muttered instead.

There it was again, the smile, so cruel and cold. Fuck. It really was inappropriate to find your future murderer so fascinating. It almost made me laugh again, but I managed to hold back.

Finally he let go of me and slipped back onto the seat next to me, letting me get up.

"No, I won't," he answered late with the same cruel smile.

Carefully I sat up, rubbing my sore throat. That hadn't been the first time I had been close to death... but it always was a daunting experience. I let out a shaky sigh, trying to get a hold of my emotional state. It would catch up with me sooner or later, but right now everything inside of me was simply all over the place.

At least my breath and heart rate decided to normalize again, the lack of adrenalin allowing the outside world back into my head, the noises of the train, of raindrops pattering against the window, the atmosphere of our compartment.

I glanced up, one hand curled above my heart as if it would help anything. This was real. Not some weird dream, not something I had made up in a reverie. It was happening, right here and now.

The Master stared back at me, lips twitching upwards at my shook sight.

"Scared?"

I slowly nodded. "Yes."

He hummed content, smirking satisfied. And as if I suddenly had gotten boring he then focused on the window and the rain outside. For a few more seconds I looked at him, wondering what could make a person act like this, be the way he was, and still radiate this oddly warmth.

But I would never get an answer to those questions, right? All the money in my bank account, whether the police would every find out anything... It all wouldn't matter in a short time. And there was nothing I could do about it.

"Do you... remember the people you kill?" I quietly asked.

He shrugged. "Depends."

"Will you remember me?"

No answer.

I breathed out another deep sigh, closed my eyes and leaned back in the seat, nestling myself to the Master's side. It almost seemed as if he didn't notice, but eventually I felt him shift a little, looking down at me and eventually back at the window.

"I might," he uttered into his beard, too quiet to make out his tone of voice.

There I was, rejected by my own kind, about to die from the hands of an alien. A small smile crept over my face. No one would ever notice that I'm gone, but at least I wouldn't go unremembered. The thought was weirdly soothing, as was the fact that the Master didn't move away. And like that, without me even noticing, I drifted into a deep, dreamless slumber.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Chapter 4

A nudge into my side woke me up.

"We're there in half a n hour," the Master announced.

Groggily I blinked up at him, my eyes still heavy. Had I slept this deeply? My head felt like it was filled with a thick fog and I yawned widely.

Sleeping in a train... that was a first-timer.

Well... sleeping leaned against a lunatic mass murder who was about to end my own life, was also a first.

Did I imagine it or did the Master look peeved?

"What's with you?" I slurred. "Did I do somethin'?"

"You slept," he grumbled, eyes narrowed to annoyed slits.

I blinked again a few times, trying to get my brain to decipher the meaning behind why he mentioned this. Was he mad because I used him as a pillow? Then why hadn't he just moved away? Again I yawned and stretched a little.

"Not nearly long enough," I mumbled.

The Master gave off a low growl of sorts.

"What? Haven't done a thing," I protested meekly.

His eyes narrowed even further, lips pursing slightly. "How can you sleep with me? You should be way too frightened to close an eye."

Alright, my brain decidedly was still too tired to process this. I only shook my head and rubbed my eyes. "Dunno. 'M not sleeping too well, lately. Just tired as hell, 's all." I shrugged and slipped from the seat, one hand already on the door when I got grabbed at my jacket and pulled back.

"And where do you think you're going?" the Master snarled.

"Eh... toilet," I drawled. "Bet there is one nearby. Always is. And splash some water in my face. Gosh, I need coffee..."

He let go of me and poked my head. "You're even awake?"

"Noooo, sleepwalking. Don't you see?" I yawned again. "'S not as if I could run away or somethin'. We're on a friggin train. And I sure as hell don't wanna jump from it. So... if you excuse me." My hands gestured towards the door. "Or wanna come along and guard the toilet? Won't let you watch, that's for sure."

This time he let me and I slipped out into the empty corridor that was only illuminated by dimmed night lights. On my way I stopped at a window and glared outside, a small smile creeping over my face when I recognized a church tower in the distance, raising into the air against the dark sky. I always loved old architecture, even though I don't have a clue about it.

For the second time this night a hand lay itself over my mouth, a strong arm pulling me back and pressing me tightly against a thin body.

"Don't scream," a man's voice warned softly. "I won't hurt you. But the Master mustn't hear us."

I simply nodded and the hand vanished. At least I was somewhat awake now, turning around to face the same man I had bumped into not so long ago. He still wore his brown coat, a pinstripe suit and red converse. Weird style choice, but who am I to judge.

"You're the Doctor, aren't you?" I concluded uselessly. I mean, who else would he be?

A beaming smile split his lips, he nodded enthusiastically, then thumped behind him to signal me to follow him. My mind told me it would be the wiser choice, my gut told me he was someone I could trust - to a certain extend - and who wouldn't harm me. Still, my head turned back to the door I had just left and a small part of me was almost about to simply walk back.

Bad idea. Really, really bad idea. It would be useless to go undetected by any authorities if I wouldn't survive it anyway. Somehow it would still be worth it, for the sake of my Dad and my little sister. But no... I'm not that much of a good person to sacrifice myself like that.

Silently I followed the Doctor, watching his coat swaying with his steps, listening to the music of the train. Shortly after, we reached the end of the hallway and he opened a blue, wooden door. I glanced up and noticed a sign saying: Police Box.

"Huh?" I made perplex, but didn't dare to speak a word just yet.

The Doctor rushed inside and I simply followed, not knowing what else to do, but still wondering why they would put a thing like that in a train. Was it a decoration for some sort of party? The doors definitely lead to another part of the train, so... wait, no.

That certainly wasn't the train anymore. It was way too spacious and looked completely and utterly so much not train-like at all.

Slowly I took a single step into the large round room, my eyes skimming over the coral shaped pillars, the weird round patterns on the bent walls, the downright alien looking table in the middle and the glass tube with the weird up and down sliding things inside. A warm blue-greenish light emanated from it, fell down to countless wires and levers and buttons and all sorts of things my mind couldn't even wrap around.

Alien, it shot through my head. Those two really are aliens.

"Could you close the doors?"

I looked at the Doctor, who beamed at my reaction, hands in his suit pockets, bouncing up and down on his heels. While I did what he said, he shrugged off the coat and threw it over what looked like an old jump seat. It was too far away from the console to be really useful in that place, though, probably only existing for when he needed to rest a little. Then again... my eyes found another door that probably lead deeper into the...

"It's a spaceship, isn't it?" I concluded. The Doctor beamed even wider, nodding enthusiastically, although it seemed he awaited something more. "And... you attached it to the end of the train?" I pondered. "We walked through a door and now we are here... so..."

"Wait a moment."

He shot towards the controls and started to push several buttons, then pumped a weird mechanism, flung some levers and I have no idea what else, but suddenly the whole ship shook so violently I stumbled backwards and almost landed on my bum.

Some weird mechanical noise filled my ears, one so strange it almost gave me a spontaneous headache, but was also weirdly soothing. It stopped too fast, though, to get used to it, and when I glanced back at the Doctor, his grin was even wider than before. He waved towards the doors.

"Come on, take a look."

"Are we flying now?" I wanted to know. "Felt like a pretty rough start... don't people see us?"

Somehow I wasn't so eager to open a door and stare into some unimaginable depths below me. I'm not too much afraid of heights, but I don't love them either. And who knew if that man wouldn't just push me out? All I knew about him, so far, were the things the Master had told me. And how much of his statements were believable at all was hard to guess. The Doctor could be an accomplice, he might be a worse person altogether.

Heck, he isn't even human!

I stayed put, frozen in place without knowing what actually to do. The Doctor tilted his head to the side, observing me as if I were some peculiar specimen he had never seen before.

"Normally people are so excited to rush out and see something new."

"Yeah, and then die horribly..."

"You're a cheery one," he remarked amusedly.

"Just careful." I shrugged and took a step away from the doors. "I can't even predict human behaviour... who knows what you're planning with me."

The Doctor's face dropped and I almost felt a little sorry about my cautiousness. But then again had I been an easy target, in the past, for being too sympathetic. A thing other people loved to abuse and manipulate. And there was no way of telling how an alien would react.

"Ahhh, come on," he tried again, waving towards the doors. "Nothing out there that will eat you, promise." For a second his face turned thoughtful. "Probably. Can never be sure. But anyway..."

He tried to grab my hand, but I jolted backwards.

"What's that?" he mumbled more to himself. "Not afraid of the Master, but of me."

Somehow, in this very moment, I indeed felt a lot more scared than I had with the Master. With him I at least knew what I had to await. The Doctor was completely unpredictable to me. It's almost always like that when you can't read people, but having a non-human in front of you...

Suddenly the Doctor produced something from his pocket that almost looked like some sort of wand for a moment. A metallic one with a blue light, but still... the way he held it and started to wave it over me...

"Not hypnotized, good. Maybe... No... definitely human," he mumbled. "Some weird patterns in your brain, though."

"Dammit," I mumbled. "Don't look at me like that. I'm just autistic, not some eldritch abomination."

At that his eyes lit up and he came a few steps towards me, making me tense up again. But he only started to babble on, "Are you? Einstein too, did you know? They didn't know much about autism back then, though. Met him a few times, great man, although he keeps on trying to steal stuff from my TARDIS. I always tell him it would be unwise. Altering history never ends well..." He hurled towards the doors, clapping his hands. "Anyway, out with you! I'll go first, how about that?"

With that he strode to the entrance, pushing the doors open and... stepping outside. My mouth gaped open and my heart fell for a second, before my body sprang into action and let me run the few steps to the exit.

Instead of clouds, though, I glanced at a completely ordinary field of grass. There were trees in the distance and a few houses over a hill nearby. The Doctor stood there, bouncing up and down on his heels a little, a happy smile on his face.

"Whoa... that ship of yours is fast," I admired, unable to comprehend how we had gotten to this place in only a few seconds. Cautiously I sat a foot outside, feeling the ground below to convince myself it wasn't a hallucination. Then I turned around to take a first proper glance at the Doctor's ship and... "Uh... what?"

My eyes couldn't comprehend what they were seeing, leaving me with an opened mouth, gaping at the weird image in front of me. There on the grass stood the same small blue police box I had seen in the train and had thought of as only a decorative door. But it actually was the whole box, and there was absolutely nothing around it but grass and space.

I blinked, glanced at the Doctor to let the question appear if he could split his whole head with that grin, then I took a step, and another, slowly walking around the box to see if the rest of the ship might just be invisible to my eyes.

Nope.

My hands only reached into nothingness. Behind the box I peeked around the corner. The Doctor was still standing there, bobbing up and down on his heels.

"What do you think?" he finally asked happily.

"Well..." I came back to the front and opened the door, finding the same large room inside. "Considering everything I know about quantum physics, holographic universe theories and stuff... I'd say those doors lead into another dimension... of sorts." Thoughtfully I rubbed my chin, my brain running a thousand miles per hour, putting together every single useful and not so useful fact my nerdy mind could remember. "So... the outside moves, but the inside probably stays at a fixed position?"

"Weeeell... almost." Suddenly the look on the Doctor's face wasn't quite so happy anymore, as if he had awaited a different answer. He waved towards the box. "But what do you see?"

"Err... a police box. Okay, that's not what you wanna know, right? Oof, what else is there, beside it being bigger on the inside..." I stopped as the Doctor's face lit up once again.

"I always love when people say that," he announced. "Can't wrap their heads around it."

"No wonder. It's not a thing you normally see. And as much as I would love to know how it works, I probably wouldn't understand it, right?"

"Oh, not even we Time Lords know that. Not entirely, completely, in every small little detail, that is. A TARDIS is such a fascinating machine, we'll probably never stop learning about them. Took me years to even get her to land where and when I wanted."

There it was again. That word. "Tar...dis..." I repeated.

"T.A.R.D.I.S." he spoke every letter. "Time And Relative Dimension In Space."

"Is that the name of your ship? And why in English? Don't tell me your people live here." Which wouldn't be that surprising, honestly. I watched way too many conspiracy theories about aliens.

"Oh, no, no, they don't. And it's not her actual name," he admitted and his smile faltered almost unnoticeably, but then flashed back to its full brightness. "My granddaughter came up with the acronym."

Okay, not secretly living on earth, then. But...

"Wait... Granddaughter? You look way too young to have one..." I tilted my head, my brain coming up with at least twenty possible explanations at once.

"We age a lot slower," the Doctor told, nodding his head. "Among other things."

"And among all your weird and fascinating alien things here..." I sighed, stepping from one foot to the other. "Say, you don't happen to have a loo in that ship of yours?"

Back to index


Chapter 5: Chapter 5

I let out a frustrated sigh after the tenth turn or so. The Doctor's directions weren't that helpful. Especially with my short-term memory and a sense of direction that were both quasi non-existent.

And it also didn't help that this bloody ship was ridiculously huge.

It was fascinating that all of this actually fitted into this tiny blue box. But it was also annoying when you needed a toilet... seriously.

A light hum in the air made me look up and around, but nothing was there that could be the origin. Maybe just the engines?

But then it was back, closer to my ear and it sounded... questioningly? I tilted my head in confusion, trying to find out what this could mean. My hand reached out to poke the air in front of me. Just in case there was something invisible.

Nothing.

"Hello?" I tried and the hum returned, a little louder. "Eh, okay, I'm talking to air." This time the hum sounded... amused. I startled and glanced around once again, but with the same result. "Someone there? Are you some board computer, maybe?" And quieter I added, "If so, can you lead the way? I'm a little lost in here."

Immediately a thin line of golden light appeared before my feet, leading me around a corner, where I saw a bunch of doors... changing. Where one had been an alien looking metal before, it was now an ordinary wood door. Carefully I opened it and peeked in, sighing relived when I found an ordinary bathroom inside.

"Thank you!" I said to the air and vanished inside to finally release my bladder and splash some water in my face. Back outside I listened for the weird hum. "Can... you lead me back to the Doctor? That would be nice of you."

The golden light appeared again and I couldn't help but smile widely at it. This definitely was some cool tech! Way better than Google Maps!

Back in the control room I found the Doctor tinkering with a weird looking monitor. He wore a pair of glasses and made a face as if nothing in the world would be able to distract him from whatever he was doing. But as soon as I entered the room he spun around and gave me a warm smile.

"Good, you're back!"

"Yeah, your board computer was quite helpful."

He raised both eyebrows. "I don't have one."

"Great..." I sighed, strolled over and let me fall into the jump seat. "I'm on an alien space ship and I talked to a ghost. That's not weird. Not at all... nope." I chuckled, finding the whole situation way funnier than I probably should.

"Might have been the TARDIS helping," the Doctor concluded. "She does that sometimes."

"She..." I repeated quietly. "But not a board computer, huh? So, the ship is alive?"

"Weeeell..." The Doctor clicked his tongue, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "Probably not in a way a tiny human brain could comprehend." He ignored my eye-roll. "But yes. In a way she is."

"Right... why not." Tiredly I rubbed my eyelids, wishing for a cup of coffee in my hands.

"You must have tons of questions," the Doctor tossed in, tilting his head from one side to the other, observing me as if I were some curious animal. Maybe I was... being a different species than him and all... "First, though, let me tell you I'm sorry for what happened to you. This isn't something a human should have been dragged into."

"So you're not going to conquer earth and use our population as batteries?" I couldn't help but ask with a highly sarcastic undertone. Then something dawned on me and I straightened in the seat. "Your ship is super fast, Doctor. Can we land somewhere where there's coffee, maybe?"

"I'd prefer a cuppa tea, but sure, yes. Where do you wanna take it? Heard Felogeratia developed the perfect brew in 20 alpha 1200. Maybe a bit strong to the untrained stomach... How about Sherell? The isle of Glomburian is infamous for having the most expensive coffee in the Hanserlin galaxy."

"Eh... what? Never heard of those places. Galaxy?" I blinked my tired eyes a few times, before it clicked. "Oh... yeah... makes sense. You can travel away from earth, can' you? I mean... of course you can..."

"Yup!" he popped the 'p', grinning widely at my confused expression. "Everywhere you want."

I opened my mouth to respond, but there were no words coming out and I closed it again. I just came from a nightlong train ride to get to the other end of my own country. And now this man was telling me his ship could take us literally everywhere in the universe.

"Dang, that's lots of places," I mumbled. "There isn't a Starbucks on some... just cool looking, weird place with... I don't know... floating, glowing jellyfish birds, a purple sky and yellow oceans?"

"Oh, how do you know about Cinpecka?! Lovely north pole around the summer times."

I snorted out a short laugh. "No. Just made that up. Don't tell me there really is a place like that? With a Starbucks?"

"Weeell... You wouldn't like their equivalent of it... probably. But if you want weird and colourful - and coffee," he clapped his hands together, sprang to his console and started to push buttons and flip switches, "then I know the place for you!"

"Wait. I'm not up for another long journey. Just let us..."

The whole ship shook violently and it took all my physical strength not to crumble to the floor. Maybe it was a good thing that my stomach was so empty. Only a few seconds passed, though, and we landed safely with the same weird noise I had heard before.

Smirking widely, the Doctor took a small step back and waved his hand towards the door, inclining his head slightly. "Have fun. Take it as a redemption for your troubles."

"We can't have... travelled to another planet." My eyes darted towards the door, then back to the outstretched hand. I slightly shook my head. "Not with any tech can it be possible to travel that fast! It just... isn't?"

The smile never faded, the hand never lowered. And finally I sprang up from the seat, rushing towards the doors to pull them open.

"You're heckin' kiddin' me, man," I breathed out. "Th... that's a holodeck, right? Just a simulation. It... it can't be real! We can't have..."

The sky above my head wore a pleasantly dark turquoise, uncounted stars blinked in its velvet softness, and even though I wasn't too familiar with star constellations I couldn't find a single one of the few I remembered. Around us was an actual city, winding itself over a purple ocean. There were thousands of bridges, fragile looking and with delicate ornaments. The bridges were streets and fundament at once, holding the hundreds of round shaped houses in place. It was hard o make out if they were of stone or of some weird metal I had never seen before.

In the whole city was not a single street lamp to be found. Instead a faint glow emanated from the sea below, ever changing its colour from all shades of green and blue imaginable. Other than that there was only the orange glow from all the windows, and when I moved a few steps ahead I could also make out weird animals. Like birds, but translucent, without feathers and more swimming through the air than actually flying.

They seemed to be rather tame, one of the creatures floating right past my head, so I could take a good glance at it and find out they probably weren't flying on their own, but with the help of the swirl of luminescent particles flying around them.

A melodic whistle from behind me drew the attention of a small swarm of particles towards the Doctor. He held out his hand, palm facing upwards, and the tiny creatures came together as a collective swirl of light in his palm.

"Semi sentient light particles," he explained, eyes glinting fascinated. "They aren't really alive, you know? But nonetheless they are part of the eco system." With his other hand he fished for something in his pockets and finally got a out a tiny glass bottle, not longer than maybe half a matchstick. With another melodic whistle he guided some of the lights inside and corked the bottle, before he handed it to me. "Here, a souvenir. Take it, no one will miss them, and they can't die."

Perplex I took the tiny bottle, glaring at the particles inside. I lifted my glasses to take a closer look at them - being so short sighted has the advantage of seeing near things a lot better than other people. No need for a magnifier. Fascinated I saw that the particles looked like tiny butterflies, although they seemed to have no substance, seeing they never collided with the others. How they could be kept inside a bottle, then, was a mystery.

"Th... thanks," I breathed out fascinated and carefully placed the bottle in my chest pocket.

"Take care of it. And now... over there." He pointed at a large house, from which noises could be heard. "They sure know how to make great coffee. You'll love it."

I was just about to follow him, when I startled and stopped dead in my tracks.

"What's wrong?"

"Th... there... there are aliens inside," I concluded, only now getting fully aware of the fact that I wasn't on earth anymore. How did I even breath? Was the atmosphere similar to ours? What about the gravity, the air pressure, the composition of the air? Would I even be able to survive in this place for long, or would my body react in who knows what ways?

"Oi! You met us already!" the Doctor protested.

"Y... yeah... but you look human."

"You look Time Lord! We came first."

"Time Lord..."

The Doctor grinned. "That's what my species is called."

"Your kind sure has a thing with naming stuff... and people." I took a deep sigh, deciding not to think about all the possible ways my body could simply disintegrate or whatever on a foreign planet. "Alright... whatever. I really do need some coffee." I waved towards the building. "Lead the way."

Back to index


Chapter 6: Chapter 6

Author's Notes: The Master will be back, soon. ੧| ‾́ 〜 ‾́ |੧

Also: You ever have those random, ethical discussions in your head? And then imagine some character from a show or book or even real life and think about what they might think about it all? Or is that just me?


The Doctor strode away with wide, excited steps, making it almost hard for me to follow. It reminded me of how I tried to keep pace with my Dad as a child. When he had taught me how they had been marching during his military time. Fewer and wider steps. Quickly I got next to the Doctor and we arrived at the inn - or whatever they were calling it here - together. He opened the door for me, waving me into the warmly lit interior.

It was fantastic! The inside reminded of an old medieval tavern, be it only because of the use of dark wood and decorative ornaments everywhere. The resemblance stopped there, however, as parts of machines were being built into the walls and even into the floor. Everywhere I looked I could see light-grey metal gears of all sizes winding themselves to do or produce something who knows where. And if that wouldn't be fascinating enough, there were no lamps as we would use them on earth. Instead, hundreds of small paper squares were floating in the air, all seemingly filled with the same sentient particles we had encountered outside.

Only then did I finally pay attention to the inhabitants of the place. At first glance they looked rather human, as did the Doctor. But then I noticed the soft scales covering their skin, shimmering in the light when they moved. They also had rather flat noses and their ears tapered off to a set of two or three points.

"Don't worry." The Doctor nudged my side playfully. "They are used to travellers from other planets. No one will ask."

I only nodded, too mesmerized by all the wonderful weirdness around me.

I'm on an alien planet, in an alien inn, it shot through my head, sparking a giddiness I hadn't felt in ages. I scrambled through my pockets. No one would ever believe this! I needed to take some pictu-

I stilled, remembering that the Master still had my phone. This was so unfair!

"You don't happen to have a camera of sorts with you?" I asked the Doctor hopefully.

"Oh, a picture in your mind is worth a lot more than still images, don't you think?"

He guided us to an empty table and, as soon as we sat, a male looking person came to our table, wearing something that resembled a thin, almost translucent tunic in a soft purple colour. All the staff seemed to wear this kind of clothes.

"What may I serve you tonight?" he asked, his voice having a pleasant silky tone to it.

"Mhm... let's see... haven't been here in a while." The Doctor scratched his chin and eyed me curiously, then suddenly held up a finger and ordered grinning, "For me the Pecaranti and for my companion here a Gold Guaracanto, please."

The waiter nodded politely and then rushed towards the counter.

"Whatever you just ordered," I pondered, barely able to keep my eyes from wandering around, "I hope it's digestible for humans."

"Of course it is!" the Doctor protested. "I know what humans can eat and drink. Been around you lot for long enough."

"I see..." I muttered absently, observing two inhabitants cuddling with each other. They behaved a lot like humans, in general, and at first glance; it made me wonder how many species there might be in the universe that were so similar to us, yet so different.

"You're alright?"

"Huh?" I tore my eyes away from the couple, who now shared a tender kiss, "Yeah, yeah, I am. Probably. It's just... hard to wrap my head around. You could almost think they were... human, you know?"

"What, did you think all aliens were slimy, tentacly things, or have huge heads and black eyes?"

I snorted. "You watched earthen movies?"

"Sure did!" The Doctor beamed.

"Oh geeze," I grimaced. "Hope you don't want to wipe us all out, now. Bet I would, were I alien."

The Doctor giggled at that, rubbing his hands in anticipation as the waiter returned with our order. For him it was a beverage in a bubbly shaped glass that was green at the bottom, then turned to purple and lastly to yellow. A fruit that looked like a purple orange slice decorated the rim and there also was an actual straw - and ice cubes.

For me the waiter placed down a dark blue cup that looked like a hemisphere on three tiny porcelain stumps. The content emanated some steam and was crowned by a white substance that - as far as I was concerned - looked a lot like ordinary whipped cream, decorated with tiny golden crumbles. A spoon - an actual spoon - lay beside the cup and I took it to carefully taste a mouthful of the cream.

"Yep... cream," I uttered perplex. "And the gold stuff is chocolate? They really have chocolate here?"

"Not quite, but to you it tastes similar." The Doctor took the straw and swirled the liquids around until all the colours got mixed together and became a weird kind of glowing pink. But as soon as he stopped stirring, the liquids started to divide once again, sinking down to the pattern they had before.

"And this is... don't tell me that's actually coffee!" I dipped my spoon a little deeper, fishing out a substance that, indeed, was dark brown, although it had a strange metallic glint to it.

"Also not quite." He finally stopped playing with his drink and sucked a bit of it through the straw, his face lightening up with joy. "It's prickling on my tongue!" he announced happily, sticking said tongue out to show that it was glittering bluish.

What a childish behaviour! It made me laugh and also relax a little. Carefully I took the cup in both hands, astonished that it hadn't taken on the beverage's temperature, and took a sip. My eyes widened when the substance touched my tongue and I couldn't hold in a delighted groan.

"Oh my gosh! That's the best coffee I ever had! Is that cinnamon in there? Okay, probably not. Tastes like it, though. And a bit like the coffee I once had in France." I took another sip, careful not to burn my tongue.

"It has the same effect as coffee, if you wanna know. Probably a bit stronger, but it shouldn't knock you out."

I simply shrugged. "Guess I'm almost immune to it, anyway. But say... won't you tell me what this was all about?" Finally I sat down the cup, wanting to preserve its content a little while longer. "I mean... what exactly did I stumble into? How comes the Master was Prime Minister on earth? And when I bumped into you and your friends, a while back, where you about to find him?"

"Yeah, guess I owe you an explanation, eh? Mhm... they surely have the best juices in this galaxy," he mused while sucking on his straw. "Well... where to start..."

"Was there really a paradox?" I shot out. "Each time I try to remember what happened after Saxon... I mean the Master... was elected I keep seeing... probably just my tired mind, but... There were thousands of those spheres and I remember running and... ugh, it's all so foggy..."

"There was a whole year that, in fact, never happened." He tapped against his glass. "Peculiar that you remember any of it at all. Shouldn't be, can't be, actually. You can't have been so close to the centre to remember anything. Strange... not concerning, though."

"Some kind of... anomaly?" I pondered.

"Yeah, happens. Some people are more susceptible to these things. Especially when they are highly intuitive and stuff." He shrugged. "Anyway. The Master was trapped on earth. My fault, honestly. He stole my TARDIS and all I could do was to lock her functions. Not important. Took us too much of a delay to come back, though. So he had enough time to prepare some scheme to... well..."

He paused.

"...hurt you?" I asked quietly. "Seems he really hates you and goes out of his way to have you in pain."

The Doctor flinched and looked to the side for a second. "He's not all bad. Just angry, so, so angry. And lost. And all alone. He's my responsibility. After we reverted the paradox I took him with me. Hoped I could help, hoped I could talk some sense into him, make him see that there is more to life than owning everything."

"Didn't work, huh?"

"No." The Doctor sighed and leaned back in his chair. "He used a moment of distraction and slipped away. Luckily he didn't went too far. Well... couldn't, without any means of transportation."

"So I only happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," I quietly concluded, taking a long sip from my coffee.

"Alas, yes. I'm sorry about that.... uh... what's your name, actually?"

"Lucy. The Master didn't like it, though." I smirked as I recalled what he had told me. "Did he really have a wife? Can't imagine one like him being married."

The Doctor snorted, but I couldn't tell if it was amused or derisive. "A political thing. He broke the poor girl with his hypnotism. Promised her power and the universe and whatnot. But when she saw how cruel he acted, what he did to people... She wanted to flee. But he held her back, broke her mind and made her a mere doll."

A small shiver went through me at the mere imagination. No wonder she had eventually tried to shoot him. It seemed the Master truly was a monster, worthy to be kept in a cage.

But then again...

There had been something about him, something I could only sense, but not put into actual words. And what had the Doctor just told? Angry and lost, and all alone.

Just like myself.

"What will happen now? Can you find him again and... lock him away for good?"

"Yeah, that will be easy." There was an almost sad smile tugging on the Doctor's lips, but then he beamed at me. "So, don't worry. He won't bother you ever again."

I simply nodded.

"What brings a man to act so cruel?" I uttered into my cup.

"He wasn't always like that." Thoughtfully the Doctor stirred the almost gone liquid. "I know there is still something good left in him. And with time... maybe..."

I nodded again and couldn't enjoy the coffee any longer. It would be just to lock him away. It would prevent him from doing harm to people. But I also couldn't get the image out of my head, of the Master being caged in, slowly going mad from the lack of freedom. He didn't seem like a man who could endure this.

And, after all, I knew too well how it felt to be a prisoner of another person.

"You don't seem too happy," the Doctor remarked, curiosity in his voice.

I wasn't, but letting this man roam freely would surely result in lots of people getting hurt. So, getting rid of a single person would save so many lives. So many... for the price of a single one. With a shiver I remembered the small gun in my shoulder bag.

I could still do it.

The weapon wasn't registered to me (probably to no one), I could go disguised and no one would await me to show up there, anyway. They all thought I was living way across the country, with no money to do the trip.

Slowly I glanced up and into the Doctor's eyes. It was almost the same experience as had before with the Master. It didn't feel uncomfortable, although it seemed the alien before me was just too eager to suck every little secret out of me. Not to do harm, not to judge me. Maybe that was the difference to human eyes...

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, go ahead." His joyful attitude was back in an instant, making it harder for me.

"Consider someone would be able to make the lives of two people a lot better, because they are... trapped, in a sense, because they are too weak to stand up for themselves, or even... too kind. But in order to do that... you would have to get rid of a third person. And in case you'd actually do that... would this make you a bad person?"

The Doctor fished out the straw from his glass and downed its remaining content. Eventually he looked back at me, his gaze thoughtful.

"Sometimes the results do justify the means. Sometimes it is the wiser thing to do. Sometimes it is actually the kinder thing to do. However," he held up a finger, "the act of getting rid of said person, no matter if by taking their life or locking them away, would still bare the same weight. It's never an easy choice, and it's never easy to live with whatever end you choose. Good, bad... It is both... and neither."

The weight would stay the same.

"I don't know what the Master wanted to make you do, Lucy," the Doctor spoke up again. "And you don't seem to be hypnotized. But you have to know he is extremely cunning and very capable of letting people think they are acting on their own free will, when in fact they are simply lulled in by his words and demeanour."

"Not surprising," I muttered, thinking back to the time he had been candidate for Prime Minister. And when we met, how charming and nice he seemed, how calm and almost friendly he had behaved towards me, aside from the choking part, of course. "Don't worry," I slightly shook my head and gave him a, what I hoped was, reassuring smile. "I'm not going to be his plaything."

The Doctor smiled back and stood. "Alright then. Let's get you home, shall we?"

Back to index


Chapter 7: Chapter 7

The ride home was as bumpy as the ones before, however, I felt a lot less excited and even somewhat numb. Reality seemed to have lost its colour, all sounds seemed to be muffled and I couldn't get myself to even look around the wonderfully weird interior of the TARDIS any longer. More than once during those few minutes, I contemplated begging the Doctor not to bring me back, to let me stay and experience more of all the wonders the universe had to offer.

But I wasn't brave enough.

He surely wouldn't want some insignificant random person to tag along, and there wasn't even anything I would have to offer in return.

"The coffee didn't help much, eh?" the Doctor remarked happily.

I sat in the jump seat, glaring into nothingness when he tore me out of my musings. Slowly I lifted my head, glancing into his chocolate brown eyes that twinkled with joy and adventures yet to come. I opened my mouth, ready to let out the question burning on my tongue, but once more it didn't get over my lips.

The Doctor stepped away and opened the doors. "See? Right place, right time. Nothing lost, nothing left. You're back home, safe and sound, as promised."

"Thank you." Finally I managed to lift my leaden body from the seat and sauntered to the exit. "Hard to believe I'm simply back..."

"Told you, everywhere you want." Grinning the Doctor rubbed his hands together, then stretched one out towards me. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Lucy. Have a good life, yeah?"

I shyly smiled back and shook his hand. "I'll try."

After that I stepped outside, finding myself in front of the house my apartment was in. It felt so utterly weird, I could impossibly clad the feeling into proper words. Behind me the sound of the TARDIS filled the air and when I turned around, all I managed was a last wistful glance at the fading blue box.

Only when the last bits of sound had faded did I get out my keys and entered the house, moving to my own little space in there. As always I was greeted by silence when the lock clicked open. I slipped inside, tossing my shoes next to the door and dropping my shoulder bag next to it.

Both, the lack of money and my light sensitive eyes caused me to never install any proper lamps in here, so I moved over to my desk to plug in the light-hose that served me as substitute.

Only then did I fully realize that it was still dark outside.

No one would ever believe any of this, it shot through my head as I slumped into my computer chair and booted up the laptop.

Maybe Max would. He was my best friend, despite the fact that we had never met, nor did I know how he even looked or sounded. Up to this day it had never occurred as odd to me, the thought, however, now popping into my mind out of nowhere. Well, most of my so called friends were mere internet contacts. In a chatbox no one notices how badly you can read and use facial expressions and body language, and you have all the time you need to think of replies.

It wasn't as bad anymore as it used to be, though. Most of the time people didn't notice my autistic behaviour too much, these days. At least they saw me as human enough, now, to interact with me in a friendly manner, instead of instantly pushing me away or - in the best case, honestly - simply pretend I don't exist.

Mr.X: Ey, Lucy! You're awake early.

The chatbox distracted me from my dark thoughts and I smiled a little. It was always great to talk to Max. Sometimes he was like a mentor to me, although he was roughly ten years younger. We discussed and philosophized about the weirdest stuff sometimes. No matter if it was glitches in the Matrix, machine elves, lucid dreams, meditating or weird Spongebob conspiracy theories... no topic was weird enough.

Yeah, he would believe it.

Would he?

I hesitated with the answer, unsure if I even wanted someone to believe. It would make everything more real. And therefore really gone, never to return. A deep sigh escaped my lungs as my fingers settled on the keyboard.

Luce: You have to talk... But eh, yeah, couldn't sleep... again. Will try again in a minute.

Mr.X: Do that. And try out that video I sent you. Those breathing techniques help a lot.

Luce: Yeah, yeah, will do. Ey, Max?

Mr.X: Mhm? o_”

Luce: You'll never believe what I just dreamed.

________________________________________________
.


Hours went by and the sun rose while I tossed and turned on my mattress. I really hadn't gotten enough sleep in that train, but alas, I couldn't keep my eyes closed, my mind wandering over and over to the strange occurrences from before.

Groggily I reached for my old wrist watch. 8:22 AM already. I sighed, finally accepting that I wouldn't close an eye and lifted myself from the ground. Eyeing the mattress on the floor I decided the first thing to buy would be a proper bed. And a fridge. Maybe a small wardrobe for the few clothes I possessed... Better than the old cardboard crate, for sure. It also would make the apartment look a lot less empty.

If the money was even in my account.

If any of this had happened at all.

Okay, my phone was still gone, but I could have simply lost it, right?

With every passing minute I started to doubt myself more and more. I was prone to excessive daydreaming, able to vanish inside my own head for hours if I wanted to. Confusing those reveries with reality had, however, never been an issue.

On my way to the bathroom I hit the power button on my laptop and then took a quick shower. Coffee next. For what felt like a small eternity I glared at my monitor, barely daring to bring up the online banking. When I finally did, though, I saw the money. It was still there.

Well... real then.

Would I have to pay taxes for it? Would anyone even notice? And if so, would they ask questions? There also was the issue of me living off social services, right now, and they surely wouldn't pay me another cent if they saw this. Then again, I wouldn't need their money any longer... then again, there would be questions, if they'd ever find out... It wasn't as if I couldn't easily manipulate the bank account statements. A little bit of Photoshop would do the trick.

Probably would be easiest to keep everything as it was. And bare the lowest risk.

Still... I decided to wait at least a week or two to see if my bank would contact me on the matter. I'd only pick up a small amount of the money to buy a new phone.

After the second cup of coffee I put on some outdoor clothes and decided to leave for town. Only when I picked up my shoulder bag from the ground did I remember something else. Something that made the bag heavier than I was used to.

With a dry mouth I sat it down and got out the hand gun. It really was a small model, but other than that I didn't know anything about weapons. I found the small switch to unlock the gun and even managed to get out the magazine.

Geeze, those things really were self explanatory. No wonder every idiot could use one.

It was loaded. Somehow I had doubted it the whole time. Numbly I dropped down, sitting cross legged on the floor, the weapon in front of me. I had to hide the damn thing. And then, very carefully, decide what to do.

________________________________________________
.


"Hey, what's up with you, Lucy? You seem so down all the time." Alice nudged me into the side.

I glanced up from my phone, my mind returned to the present moment. A bunch of us had met up for a special Pokémon event and everyone was chatting and laughing. Normally I loved hanging around with them all. Some of them were pretty weird themselves, others were totally ordinary people, simply enjoying the game. All ages, genders and races found together here, no one was left out. And with some of them I had even managed to struck up the closest thing to friendship I was able to manage.

Vague acquaintances probably was a better description... but still. I was proud and happy to have at least that.

But today I couldn't enjoy it. Everything just felt so weird. Ordinary. Pointless.

A week had passed since I had met the Time Lords, a week of sleeplessness and a longing for the unknown out there I just couldn't control. Over and over again I cursed myself for not having been brave enough to ask.

Now I was stuck here. Forever.

"I'm just... not feeling too well," I finally answered.

An understanding look whizzed over Alice's face. "Oh my, period troubles?"

I blinked, then decided to simply nod and leave it at that. It was a good excuse, even when it wasn't true.

The truth was a hidden away secret anyway.

I sighed and dropped my head against the wall behind me.

________________________________________________
.


My days were filled with boredom and restlessness. For hours I wandered the city, music in my ears, mind in the clouds. Some days I sat in the park and read through my library of e-books, or drew random things in my little notebook. Every sunny spot, though, was always occupied by couples and parents with kids, all laughing and playing and cuddling. Not a single person seemed to be on their own. I couldn't stand their sight.

On other days I watched all the ducks and gooses on the river, until they started to appear with chicks. Small, fluffy fuzz-balls. At first they made me smile, but looking at them, being so protected and guided by their parents made me remember my own childhood. If only someone had been there to protect and guide me, back then. Maybe I wouldn't sit around like this, now. Maybe my heart wouldn't hurt so much.

Sometimes I stayed out way after dark, watching the stars twinkle and the moon rise above the water. It was warm outside, no need to hurry back. It didn't matter. No one was waiting for me.

________________________________________________
.


No one had demanded any information about the money, so I had gotten a bit of furniture, my apartment now almost looking like a place a normal human being could, one day, call a home.

I checked my e-mails, skimming over the new job rejections and sighed heavily. I probably could manage for a few years, now. But it wasn't about the money. I needed something better to do than to sit around all day. I needed to busy myself somehow. Heck! I just wanted to be a normal part of society.

"Just give me a chance already," I mumbled frustrated and shut down my laptop.

I could have gotten myself a nice gaming PC, but playing anything didn't give me much joy anymore. It hadn't for some years, actually. To be fair, nothing at all managed to make me smile, these days. Everything was just so mundane and boring. Even Max was gone, had told me he was going on some self-discovery trip for a month or so.

Lazily I heaved myself out of the chair and looked over my food supplies. I still hadn't gotten myself a fridge. It forced me to go out and buy fresh food every day. Gave me a reason to leave the house. There was some rice left, maybe I could make something out of it, today.

With that thought in mind I put on my shoes and grabbed the shoulder bag from the ground. There was a shadow visible through the small frosted glass slit on my door. Could be Derek. An older guy who sometimes came over to chat. In my mind I already prepared some excuse, not feeling in the mood to have anyone around me, right now.

I checked if I had my keys and opened the door, my prepared fake smile dropping in an instant when I saw brown hair instead of grey, a goatee and a fast growing charming smile. His hands were pocketed in an open, stylish black jacket he wore over a dark grey shirt. One shoulder leaned against the door frame, one leg crossed behind the other, stuck in dark blue jeans and black shoes.

The Master held up a hand, wriggled his fingers and smiled even wider when he saw my dumb expression.

"Missed me?"

Back to index


Chapter 8: Chapter 8

"Master," I brought out dumbfounded and a pleased expression went over his face.

My body froze and went nuts at the same time, my muscles stiff as stone, but my pulse suddenly racing madly, my heart drumming against my ribcage. Everything from the previews weeks fell off my shoulders in an instant, all my doubts, all my depressive thoughts of never leaving this place, of staying alone in a world that didn't want me.

Slowly a smile widened on my face, probably the first one since the Doctor had left, and a soft laugh crept its way up my throat.

"You have no idea, how badly I have to keep myself from hugging you. Seriously."

This definitely was not the answer the Master had awaited, nor was my exalted behaviour. He narrowed his eyes at me, the corners of his mouth, though, twitching up a little.

"You wouldn't survive that."

I giggled. "I know." There was just no way to make that stupid grin vanish from my face. "So, you escaped him again?"

Finally I pulled the door shut behind me and gestured towards the stairwell, simply leading the way outside, when the Master didn't budge. I sure as hell didn't want him inside my apartment.

"And there I thought the Doctor would have given you quite the speech about how dangerous und untrustworthy I am," he stated rather dramatically when we stepped into the sunlight.

"Oh, he did."

"Then why are you so happy to see me?"

Was I imagining it or was he really sulking? I stopped and turned to face him, ready to give him a taste of unexpected. So often I got into trouble because of how different I thought about the world. Uncounted were the arguments about what others considered as fact, as moral, as good or bad. Only for me to poke around in their fixed world view, twisting their truth with cold logic.

People don't like that. At all. But it seemed, no matter if the logic proved otherwise, the opinion of the mass is always right. And when you can't see it the same way, they tend to hate you bitterly.

Right now, though, the fact that the Master was here at all already brought me into deep shit. So, no need to hold back.

"It's boring. This whole stupid planet and its people. And I don't even belong anywhere." I shrugged. "Always thought if I were ever to meet some aliens I'd beg them to take me away."

"Aaaaaw, did the Doctor dump you?" the Master mocked. "Too bad he is fully occupied with taking care that I don't run around and do bad things... oh, wait."

That completely took the wind out of my sails, his words sinking like a stone into my stomach, where they sat and hurt.

"No... I..." I gritted my teeth, feeling so stupid and useless again for not having asked. My voice suddenly faltered slightly. "I didn't think he'd take one like me with him."

By now we had left the building and were heading down the road into town. I didn't pay much attention to the way. If I had, it probably would have occurred to me how idiotic it was to just drag the Master around with me. Only when his hand landed on my shoulder did I stop and looked up at him.

"Where the heck are you going?" he asked with a scowl that showed clearly he wasn't going to follow me around.

"Eh... I... uh... dunno." I stopped. "Just my usual way. It's... muscle memory I guess. What? What is it? Why are you looking so annoyed!"

"You're supposed to be scared!" he whined suddenly and pointed an accusing finger at me. "I thought you would tremble in fear when I show up. I thought you were sooooo relieved that the Doctor saved you from me!" He ended with an even deeper scowl and slightly pursed lips.

Perplex I blinked at him a few times, trying to wrap my head around what the meaning behind his outburst was. There is, of course always the actual words people use, but having a way too literal mind had taught me to always be on the lookout for any kind of additional meaning between the lines.

"How about... scare someone else?" I suggested, shrugging.

He scrunched up his nose and folded both arms in front of his chest. "Don't like unfinished business. And you were fun."

"Great," I huffed.

"No, seriously! You don't often find humans that are fun to play with."

"I feel soooo honoured, Master." Even though my words had been meant sarcastic I noticed a pleased expression on his face for a moment. "You got out already, how about you steal this TARDIS ship and just fly somewhere with more interesting people?"

"Don't need to steal it," he grumbled. "The Doctor just left. No idea where too and I don't care at all. But he forgot to lock me in..."

My head tilted to the side as I suspiciously watched him over the rim of my glasses. Too many thoughts at once shot through my head, far too many to grasp a single one until all the threads slowly combined themselves to a somewhat greater picture. It probably took about ten seconds, in which the Master only grew more impatient.

"So," I started, dragging out the word, "You have a machine that can fly everywhere you want. You could simply leave the Doctor stranded here and never return." His face lit up a little at the thought. "Instead you went through the trouble of finding my address and coming all the way here... Just to scare me a little? Sounds like the dumbest thing you could have come up with, honestly."

As dumb as speaking to him the way I had just done.

His eyes filled with rage, and danger was suddenly radiating from him in a way I had never felt before. His hands were on my collar in the blink of an eye and he almost lifted me from the ground. My back and head painfully thumped against a wall. The Master leaned in close, his eyes only inches away from mine, burning with an all-consuming force.

I swallowed, which was hard in this position, as was looking away. So I didn't, kept staring into those pools of almost black madness. Slowly a smirk tugged the corners of his mouth upwards.

"You shouldn't talk to your Master like that."

Right in that moment I wasn't able to speak anyway, my mouth too dry, my heart hammering too fast against my ribcage. And Still...

His hands released my collar, my feet finally sat down to the ground again. But instead of backing away the Master put his forehead against mine, making me inhale sharply and twitch back. I only hit my head at the wall, however could barely feel the pain. I didn't like people so close. Not at all. The fear in my gaze must have been visible as his eyes glinted satisfied. Then his fingers were at my temples, almost tenderly slipping under the stems of my glasses.

The touch broke my stupor and I tried to shove him away, to duck to the side, to somehow get out of his reach. I didn't even want to know what he was trying to do there. His hands left my head and grabbed my shoulders, then my arms, slid to my thrashing hands to grip them firmly.

"Ah, there it is," he said sweetly. "See? It wasn't so stupid to find you again." With a chuckle he locked eyes with me. "Got what I wanted."

Words fled my mind. Fight or flight never did the trick for me. Instead I only froze, unable to do anything at all. His grip on me sent a nasty shiver down my spine, I could no longer look into his hungry eyes and closed mine.

"Please don't," I muttered.

A low chuckle was all I could hear. Eyes pressed shut I waited, knowing I was too weak to slip away or even think about defending myself. I heard the Master shift, his hands releasing me. A second later a shadow moved in front of my closed lids and I felt how my glasses were carefully slipped from my face.

"Open your eyes, lil' lumin."

His voice suddenly was deep, commanding, irresistible. My lids crept open for a second, before I instinctively squinted, unable to see sharp. But his face was so close, I barely had trouble seeing. Against I winced backwards.

"Tell me, you're scared," he demanded with a wicked smile.

"I... I am." A lump sat in my throat, every fibre of my being begging for more space. "Don't..."

"Don't what?"

"Don't... touch me," I breathed.

"No?" He chuckled and pushed a finger under my chin to make me look up. His grin widened a little. "Well, torturing you wasn't on my mind, anyway." His hand vanished from my chin and instead I could feel two fingers on my left temple. A weird tingling sensation spread through my head. "Sleep."

His voice cut through my mind, dimmed my consciousness like a candle flame.

And the world went black.

Back to index


Chapter 9: Chapter 9

I awoke in utter darkness, my head aching in a weird, pounding way. Slowly I sat up, groaning quietly and trying to remember what had happened and how I had gotten here.

Where even was I?

My hands fumbled around in the darkness, reaching nothing but the floor beneath me. Wood? There was a seam, another one. The material felt warm. Definitely some kind of wood. No walls. None I could reach from here, at least. Also, the fact that I was able to reach around meant my hands weren't tied together. Were my feet? No.

Carefully I lifted myself from the ground, always holding my hands over me, in case there was something I could bang my head against. It was so horribly dark... As soon as I stood, my head started to spin. There was no way to tell how wide the space around me was, no way to orient myself or to get my mind to keep its balance.

With a sigh I sat down again, tried to look at my hands. Was there really no light at all? Or...

I gulped, my heart suddenly pounding fast and painful in my chest. Had I gone blind? Had the Master done something to my eyes? The glasses on my nose were also missing.

Right, he had taken it, before sending me to sleep. Hypnotism? Was that why he had come so close and touched my head? I reached up, feeling for my temples as if it would do anything.

Well, there was nothing to gain from sitting around. Carefully I got to my knees and fumbled the ground in front of me, inching a little forward and repeated the process. If I was blind there could be an unseen drop right in front of me, and I wasn't in the mood to fall to my death.

I didn't get far, though. Probably one or two meters, at most, when my hand suddenly touched cloth. I poked whatever was in front of me.

"Stop that," someone hissed. "And be quiet."

"Master?" I asked perplex, keeping my voice low. The surprise vanished quickly, however, got replaced by annoyance and a little anger. "What did you do to me?"

"Shhhh, quiet."

I felt his hand on my arm and got dragged forward, falling against his shoulder. Inwardly I got myself ready to fight, but he didn't do anything else.

"Why can't I see?" I whispered, trying to ignore that he still held my arm. Somewhat clumsy I sat down next to him, shoulder to shoulder.

"Because it's dark, duh!" he hissed back, his eye-roll practically audible.

Alright. At least something.

From nearby there were steps, coming closer and closer. The Master tensed and his hand snapped to my mouth to prevent me from making any noise. Not that I had intended to, unknowing as I was. If there was something dangerous outside, I sure as hell didn't want it to eat me!

The steps halted right in front of whatever place they were in. Time stretched to a small eternity, the silence making my heartbeat appear unbelievably loud. It took me a second to realize I was clutching the Master's sleeve with both hands, but I couldn't bring myself to let go just yet. Only when the steps proceeded and eventually vanished did I unclench my fists and let out a breath.

A chuckle resounded through the dark. "Really, you should be more afraid of me than anything else."

"Better the devil you know..." I muttered and relaxed a little.

My response brought out another chuckle and I felt him move away, getting to his feet and doing something. A strip of blindingly bright light flooded the room, made me flinch and hold an arm over my eyes.

"Don't make fuss, human. And come quick, before the Doctor is back."

"The..." I took my arm down and blinked a few times to get used to the light. It wasn't that bright, actually. A quick look back with squinted eyes also revealed we had been in some completely empty room. Not even windows. That really made me wonder what its purpose might be. "Just now... that was the Doctor?" I tried again, barely able to wrap my head around this.

"Yes, now shut it and come." The Master roughly grabbed my wrist and dragged me out.

Now that there was light again I felt how much I missed my glasses. Being extremely short-sightened doesn't necessarily mean you automatically run into everything, it's not a blurry filter over the world, like you see in movies. You still have a full 3D vision and can make out shapes and what is nearer and what is farther away; but none of it is really sharp and it's impossible to read anything.

"Can I have my specs?" I dared to ask. It was more annoying than anything else without, my eyes constantly squinting like a reflex to see a little better.

"If you behave," the Master quipped.

Our way lead through a weird corridor. Its walls were hexagonal in shape, the material varying from dark woods to glaringly white plastic, grey metal and sometimes even things like red crystal... or was that glass? It all was weirdly familiar.

"Isn't that the TARDIS?" I concluded after a while, remembering the only short trip I had into the insides. "How big is this ship? I mean... dimension. Or whatever. Where is it even?"

"Where's what?" the Master absently asked, appearing as if he was concentrating on something. Maybe on finding the right way.

"This dimension. The blue box moves around and is a portal to here, isn't it?"

He stopped and gave me a look, then shook his head and continued the way, still holding my wrist. By now he had loosened his grip, though, not causing me pain any longer.

"It's inside the box. I don't suspect your meagre brain to comprehend it."

"Huh... cool," I mumbled.

The Master turned his head to me, this time with a curious enough look that even I could make it out.

"What?" I made puzzled. "It's not as if you're going to explain it to me, are you? And besides... humans aren't even capable of proper space travel, so how would one like me understand any of this?" My voice got sadder the more I talked and I glanced at my feet.

"What do you know, then?" he drawled, sounding exceptionally bored. "What have you learned in your little unknowing human life?"

At that I stayed silent. We reached a new area that was made of dark, polished wood, giving the corridor a somewhat foreboding look. The Master snickered.

"Go on," he mocked, "impress me with your knowledge."

"I... don't have any," I mumbled. "No one ever gave me the chance to learn anything useful."

With a cold lump in my stomach I remembered all the years I had spent trying to get an apprenticeship somewhere. Anywhere. But as soon as people met me in person it always ended the same way... Humans just don't like weird people.

The grip around my wrist got stronger, his fingers digging into my skin a little. Suddenly he hissed and let go of me so unexpected I almost bumped into him. The Master pushed a hand against my shoulder to prevent it, his face close enough I could see his eyes somewhat, now dark and angry, but... not at me?

"Wh... what is it?"

His hand left my shoulder and he took a step back before he almost hurled around to stride away so fast I had difficulties following, for a moment.

"Humans are disgusting," he mumbled to himself.

"And there you wonder why I want to get away from them," I uttered as quiet as he had.

The Master huffed. "That includes you."

"Yah... I know. An autistic brain sadly isn't enough to count as different species," I joked. "Although people certainly treat one that way."

There was some sort of low growl coming from his direction as he lead us to a set of fine wooden doors.

"So, that's what I saw?" he asked while peeking inside a few rooms, only to pull his head out immediately again and stride to the next.

"Saw? What do you mean?"

He waved a hand in my direction, nose vanished behind another door. "Skin contact. I held you. Saw some snippets. Nothing distinct. But..." He slammed the door shut, scrunched up his nose and regarded me with another look I couldn't decipher. "Felt like you don't have a single positive memory."

Perplex I glared at him, for a variety of reasons. Too many at once for my mind to put it all in order. I blinked a few times, but it was no help.

"You... saw my memories because you held my wrist?" I tried.

He was again looking into another room and I gathered a quick glance inside, squinting my eyes almost completely shut to see what was there. It was tiny, not more than a broom cabinet, but filled with a collection of spider webs. Not just any. Some were quadratic, some even three-dimensional, others glowed purple in the dark and some glittered as if one had strewn some fairy dust over them. It seemed as if someone was collecting those in here. And maybe they were something else entirely. It was hard to tell.

"Time Lords have an affinity for touch telepathy," he explained, what surprised me. The smug tone in his voice, however, gave away why he bothered to explain anything at all to me. "I am one of the best among them."

Alright, telepathy. Then again, he also could hypnotize people, as far as I had gathered. So maybe their kind simply possessed such traits. After all, they were still aliens.

"Any kind of skin contact works," he went on, searching room after room. "But the temples are usually the most direct way to another mind."

Immediately it brought back the memory of our last encounter, of how close he had gotten and...

"Oh," I made. "That's what you wanted from me..."

"Can't hypnotize you directly, so I thought..." He paused, eyeing me. "Why the heck do you look so relived now?" His lips pursed visibly. "Humans are almost not psychic at all, it should scare the crap out of you!"

"A... am I?" I hadn't noticed my expression changing. "Uh, well... I mean... err..."

"What?" He spat.

Why was it so important for him to scare me, I wondered. And then the refusal to regard any personal space.

"Just don't like people so close," I mumbled and watched my shoes, absently detecting that the floor was a weird greyish rubber material. "I already had people act on me like you did... and I thought..." I shook my head. "Well, forget it. What are you even searching here?"

The low chuckle told he was satisfied with himself. Of course he was.

"Oh, so there is something you fear more than death?" he concluded happily. "When I was about to kill you, you afterwards just snuggled up on me like an annoying cat!" he spat with a scowl, that vanished quickly as he stepped closer to tower over me with a now wicket grin. "You don't like me so close?" The Master leaned down a little. "Why? It's not because you fear I might take your life, isn't it?"

I swallowed and contemplated taking a step back. Not that it would help. He could simply follow. Instead I shyly looked him in the eyes. Such swirling depths. So ancient and cruel.

"I... thought you wanted to..." my voice faded to an almost whisper, "... rape me..."

He blinked. Once. Twice. Then he scrunched up his nose in visible contempt and stood straight. "Don't be disgusting, ape. Who'd dirty themselves with vermin such as your kind?" The Master shivered dramatically to make his point clear.

I let out a breath and relaxed. Meanwhile he opened another door. "Where the hell did that bloody ship hide the room?" he grumbled annoyed and looked up into the air. "I'm not going to apologize for the Paradox Machine!"

A weird little hum was the only answer.

"That... might not help," I mumbled, earning myself a dark growl.

The Master rubbed the bridge of his nose, looked at the air again and pointed at me. "How about you get me where I need to go and I won't harm this human?"

Another hum and a soft bristling as if from electricity now was palpable. A second later a path of golden light appeared on the ground, pulsating in an almost annoyed manner. The Master chuckled.

"Good old girl, maybe I'll be nice to you for a while."

"Where are we going?" I wanted to know.

He regarded me with a huff, as if even speaking to me was below his dignity. But then something changed. I sensed it more than anything else, some weird shift in the way he felt. I couldn't place the feeling, though. The Master took a step closer and reached out for me. When I instinctively twitched back, he stilled, slowed, but then reached further and grabbed my hand, this time, only to drag me along again.

"I need a place to hide you from him."

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Chapter 10: Chapter 10

"Hide me from the Doctor?" I repeated puzzled, glaring down at his hand that held mine.

The Doctor had tried to take my hand, too, I remembered. Was that a thing with Time Lords? Had it something to do with their touch telepathy?

Whatever it was, I didn't feel threatened and therefore didn't struggle.

The Master followed the path the TARDIS was providing, not giving an answer. Finally we reached another door and the Time Lord sighed in relief when he found inside what he had, obviously, been looking for.

I followed, not that I had another chance, but as soon as I saw the room, all possible thoughts of struggle vanished in an instant. Even without my glasses it was a sight to behold. It was a huge study with a fireplace and armchairs, walls lined with bookshelves and even a thin spiral staircase to an upper layer that was, as far as I could tell, also completely filled with books. The ceiling wore a design of colourful dots and lines, maybe star systems? I couldn't discern it. What I didn't need my eyes for was to realize that it was comfily warm in here and now I also spotted a sofa with lots of pillows on it. Or was it a bed? Could be both.

"Huh," I made surprised and fascinated, "Thought you'd tug me away in some dungeon."

"Who says I won't?" The Master chuckled to himself, moving towards one of the shelves. "This is a private room of mine. Found it a few centuries back. Don't think the Doctor knows of it, so it's quite useful."

He let go of my hand and picket out a book to flip through its pages. "Ah, here it is. Thought I'd seen that before."

Curiously I peeked over his arm and squinted at the pages, but frowned. There were circles with dots and lines scattered over the paper, together with what looked like blueprints of machines. Probably. I couldn't get close enough to make it out.

He seemed to get lost in it for a while, not even noticing me anymore, so I stepped away and looked over the shelves. My heart jumped excitedly at the sight of so many books. Most of the titles that were close enough for me to read, didn't ring a bell, a few of them sounded so weird I had the suspicion they might not be from earth at all. And why would they? But then again were they all written in proper English.

Running my fingers over a particularly dusty row I pondered about this. Did the TARDIS translate everything that found its way into it? If the ship was sentient it could probably do that. Then again... I thought back to when I had been having coffee with the Doctor. He had ordered our beverages using English, too. And those aliens sure as hell had spoken another language. Humans hadn't even made it into space yet, let alone discovered new planets, so how would they know what we speak?

Another mystery to solve, I decided as I found a true treasure trove. This whole wall was filled with books I vaguely knew. Fantasy and Sci-Fi literature from earth. Excitedly I grinned and grabbed one of my favourites. The Night Watch series from Sergej Lukianenko. It was with mages and creature living beside us and a secret society of kinds watching over each other. It reminds a little of Harry Potter, but in Russia and a lot darker and mature.

It was such a long time ago that I had read them. Back when my only company had been stacks upon stacks of books. So many stories, so many lives to be absorbed in, just so I wouldn't have to place my eyes on my own.

"You're still here," came the Master's slightly surprised voice from behind. "Thought you'd try to flee."

"And get lost in those corridors?" I thumbed behind me. "Nah, better not."

"Too bad. Would have been funny." He snickered and grinned impishly, then waved with the book from before. "Seems you won't stay here, after all. I found out how to break the seal the Doctor has put around the controls. Come, let's steal it."

I raised an eyebrow and slightly tilted my head while simultaneously folding my arms in front of my chest. "First you kidnap me, then I'm supposed to help you?"

His smile dropped, got replaced by something darker. He stepped closer to hover above me like a hawk, ready to snatch its prey. This time I didn't have the urge to back away, his disgusted words from when we were in the corridors still ringing in my ears. If he wanted to intimidate me simply by invading my personal space, then he wouldn't be lucky.

"I could make you," he stated in a softly threatening voice. "There are so many ways to break a body... a mind. Believe it or not. I don't have to get myself dirty for any of those."

He chuckled and leaned closer, reached a hand out, now causing me to flinch away, despite my previous determination. The wicked gleam in his eyes told of how much he enjoyed my reaction, his bent finger slightly stroking over my cheek. Pure stubbornness kept my eyes glued to his and after an endlessly short moment I realized, he wasn't going to hurt me. Not now, at least. There was something he wanted... needed? And there was this tinge of sadness in his gaze, barely noticeable, except by someone who knew about pain and loneliness.

Still...

"Steal the ship on your own. I'm not too eager to stay on earth, but I'm not going to get myself into something."

Wrong words.

A slow, mean and amused smirk spread on his face, wrinkled the corner of his eyes. Eyes that loved to smile, that enjoyed mischief and fun. Somehow I was sure they could even hold some gentleness in them.

Damn fascinating bastard.

The smile never faltered as he answered, almost carefully, putting some weight into every word. "So stealing is bad? You were ready to commit murder, li'll lumin. Willingly even."

I swallowed, my mouth getting dry at the mere thought, at the knowledge of the gun still lying in my desk drawer. The words were on my lips already, tasting bitter and like the lie they were, so I never spoke them out. I would have done it to protect.

He chuckled when he saw the emotions fighting in my eyes. The Master stretched out a hand again, but this time as an offer. "Come. You wanted to see the universe, didn't you?"

Oh how much I did! Still, I narrowed my eyes it him, sensing that something was off. "What would you gain from showing me? To you I'm nothing but a toy."

He simply shrugged. "I'm bored. Maybe I want to know why the Doctor is so fond of your race? Does it matter?"

Did it? I owed the Doctor nothing. Hell, I didn't even know him. And he hadn't asked me to come along and see the stars! Hesitantly I reached out my hand, but stopped in the last moment. Pieces of a puzzle got put together, forming a vague thought.

"You need me to deactivate the lock around the controls, right?" His expression twitched at my words. "Not that I'd understand it, but if it were different, you'd have left me here and be gone already."

His hand snapped down to his side, brows furrowing in irritation. "Yes, true. It's a partially telepathic lock. Needs two different signatures, and both have to act on their own free will."

I huffed and folded my arms. "I see. And as soon as the lock is gone, I'm dead."

The Master gave me an eye-roll. "If you keep being so annoying, then yes. Help with the lock and I might let you tag along for a bit. As long as you don't get in my way, that is."

"And you would do what?" I countered. "All I know about you isn't really speaking in your favour. Can't judge if the Doctor has a right to keep you a prisoner, but I also don't want to be responsible if you do something horrible to other people, or planets. Or the entire universe."

Suddenly his hands were at my collar, drawing me right under his face that was contorted in anger, nose and mouth wrinkled to a snarl. "You're as sanctimonious as him!" he spat. "As your whole worthless species. I had some hopes you might be less infuriating, but fine." His grip loosened for a second, but then he shoved me backwards, against one of the shelves that spilled some books to the floor. "You're not going to leave until I got what I want."

And with that he rushed away, slammed the door shut in his back and left me alone in my confusion and the weird cold feeling that painfully twisted my guts.

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Chapter 11: Chapter 11

Reading books with an eyesight of -10 and no glasses is a real bother, that's for sure. But what else was there to do?

When the Master left, it took me almost a minute to halfway comprehend my new situation. Of course I tried the door, unsurprisingly finding it locked. After that I walked along the walls to see if there was another exit, but found none.

"Hey," I tried, hoping the TARDIS would hear me in this room. "Can't you get me out or something?"

There was no response in any way and I sighed heavily.

"Great," I mumbled. "Do you only hear me in the corridors?"

It was worth a try, wasn't it? And really, there was... something. There is no way I could explain what it was, a tug at my consciousness? I still had no idea how this ship communicated, other than with hums and lights on the ground. Strangely enough this small tug somewhat calmed me a little. It was good to know that I wasn't completely alone.

"Any ideas how to get out?" I tried next. "Seems you can lead the way, but not open doors? Or did he lock it in a special way?" Again there was some kind of tug, but its meaning was lost to me. I sighed and rubbed my eyelids. "So, no exit..." and mumbling I added, "and probably no secret passage to a bathroom either."

I really wasn't in the mood to have to release myself in some corner of the room. The mere thought was disgusting, let alone that it was unforgiveable to do this to a place of books.

When I opened my eyes again, there was a door. I blinked, mouth dropping slightly open. That couldn't be, could it? This hadn't been there before. I stretched out my hand to touch the wood and found it to be real. A glance inside not only told me it was unlocked, but also lead me into a small... bathroom. Really tiny, only a shower, a toilet and a sink with a small mirror. There even were towels and some hygiene products.

"So, you can create rooms?" I asked. The TARDIS could obviously hear me, even when it wouldn't answer in a way I could understand. "But you can't unlock the door. Too bad. But thanks for this one, anyway." I waved towards the small bathroom.

Just some months ago the thought of an entire room simply appearing out of nowhere would have made me laugh. Sure, I'm a sucker for all things paranormal and weird, but even I know there are things that simply don't happen.

Well... Seems I had been wrong with this.

Since there was now nothing else left to do, I started to look through the book shelves once more. Which was tedious, because I had to take out each and every book to hold it close in front of my face to read the title. Eventually I just picked a few random ones, carried them to the sofa and flopped myself into the pillows.

________________________________________________
.


"You're... reading..."

The Master's disappointed voice tore me out of a story of two alien creatures, whose names I couldn't pronounce, on their journey to find the hair of another creature I couldn't keep in my mind.

I glanced up, slowly coming back to reality. "You feel annoyed," I mumbled. "Guess I can't do anything without you getting riled up about it." Shrugging I closed the book and sat it next to me. "Would be a lot easier with my glasses, though. What do I have to do to get them back?"

The smirk on his face was visible even from a distance. "Oh, you're learning. Good little ape."

"Aren't you too?" I sighed. "I mean, you look the same as humans. So you must have similar ancestors."

"We came first," the Master snarled, pointing a thumb at himself. "And no, we do not stem from such primates."

"Alright, alright." I held up my hands in mock-defence. "So... glasses?"

The smile was back. "You won't get them. Since they are so important to you," he bent down slightly to be at my eye level, "I will just keep them. Or shall I break them into pieces? Blind humans are somewhat hilarious."

I sighed and put my hands down, sinking down a little. "Seriously, what's the deal with you? Are you just a bully or is there some plan behind this?"

The Master let out a mean chuckle and flopped down next to me, spreading his arms to lean them on the rest, one behind my neck. I shuffled away a little, although I knew he only did this to unnerve me. Well, he succeeded with that. How had I ever felt so comfortable with that man during the train ride? He had felt so differently back then. Much less... chaotic.

"Well..." he drawled, glancing up at the ceiling as if he had to think about his next words. A grin split his lips and he slightly bent his head down to me. "You could help with the seal in the control room."

"Nope," I deadpanned, popping the 'p'.

"I could get you to a place where they can heal your eyes."

"As if you would." I snorted. The thought was extremely tempting, although it was highly improbable that any alien race out there knew how human eyes worked. "As soon as that seal is cracked you'll probably throw me into a black hole or something."

"Hey, great idea!" He clapped his hands together and giggled childishly. "We could even get a few more apes and throw them in one by one. I'd let you watch. I'd even let you throw them in yourself. How about that?"

I grimaced at the idea and shook my head. "Why would I want that?"

"Because you'd get away with it," he answered, his voice suddenly deep and tempting. "No one would know, no one would judge and never ever would you get punished for it."

Swiftly he removed his arms from the back rest and shifted on the sofa to sit cross-legged, facing me. I hastily slid away, but then mirrored his pose. It was easier to keep him in my field of vision that way. When he spoke up again, his voice held the same foreboding tone in it, mixed with something that could be anticipation or excitement.

"If I would give you a button to press and it would wipe out an entire planet, would you do it?"

Perplex I blinked at his blurry face, immediately wanting to protest. The penetrating gaze he gave me, let my tongue stumble over the words, though, making it impossible to speak them out.

"Wh... why would I?" I hesitantly asked instead.

"Because," he smiled, "I just saw that tiny flash in your eyes. This short moment of consideration." A low chuckle resounded from him before he continued. "Assume I could turn back time and make it undone immediately." Now he leaned forward, deliberately close enough for me to see his glinting eyes, "Would. You. Do. It?"

The heaviness in each of his words made me swallow, my mind racing a million miles per hour. No consequences. Not even the event itself would be left behind. It literally wouldn't have happened. Was he planning to create another paradox?

My mind created the scene on its own, us standing in the console room, me having a button in my hands, through the opened doors of the TARDIS there was a planet visible, maybe earth, maybe some similar place. I glanced up at the Master, saw him nod encouragingly, and I...

A chuckle let the image evaporate into blackness. All I could do was to stare at the Master, to feel raw power emanating from his very being. He would do it, wouldn't hesitate for even a second, I realized. Because he knew how it felt, this surge of adrenalin coursing through one's entire body, head to toe. The tingling in the tips of one's fingers, hovering over the button to put an end to millions of lives as if they were mere ants.

Once more I swallowed, tore my gaze away from my hands I hadn't noticed I'd been now staring at. When I looked back up I met the Master's hazel eyes, in the dim light almost green somehow. He knew it already, didn't need an answer, but wanted to hear it nonetheless, waiting like a spider for certain prey.

"Answer honest, little lumin and I'll give you back your precious glasses." A toothy grin split his lips. "Lie and I'll toss them into a sun."

He wouldn't judge.

My mind wandered back to the gun in my shoulder back, sitting at home.

He would simply smile and nod. And then watch as the world below us would burn, those ancient eyes reflecting the flames of chaos, lips twitching up to an almost melancholic smile. I could see the image as if I were there already.

And it was calm. Like snow falling from the blackened sky of night time.

His eyes bore into mine, the smile long faded, as he patiently sat there, waiting.

I licked my dry lips and took a breath, my voice barely more than a whisper.

"I would do it."

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Chapter 12: Chapter 12

There was a pause stretching between the two of us, my heart hammered in my throat, a foreboding feeling threatening to overwhelm me. What the hell had I gotten myself into? What was I doing to say something like that? And what would I do if it wouldn't stay at simple words?

My previous words scared me more than the Master could in that moment. Because they were true.

Suddenly he burst out laughing, bending back and clapping his hands together. It took him a good few seconds to calm down and grin back at me, then he produced something from his jacket pocket. "Close your eyes."

I did. It wasn't as if I could defend myself against whatever he wanted to do to me. And in that very moment it didn't feel as if he wanted to harm me. My gut feeling proved to be right, the only thing that happened was that I felt how he slid my glasses on my nose, carefully, almost gently.

"Look at me, lill' lumin," he commanded in a soft voice.

Slowly I opened my lids, my eyes needed a moment to adapt after so many hours, but the glasses sat perfectly, not needing to be adjusted. There was a pleased, subtle smile on the Master's face.

"Why'd you always call me that?" I asked. He had used that term a few times already.

He shrugged. "Because you're small."

I pursed my lips. "'m not that tiny," I grumbled. "Wasn't what I asked, anyway. What does 'lumin' mean?"

He quirked a brow. "Means the same as Lucy... Light."

"Oh. Right. You didn't like my name." I smiled at the notion that he went so far to give me a new name, but with the same meaning, when he would have been perfectly able to simply keep insulting me with calling me ape or something.

"So, how about we steal the TARDIS now?" he offered with a sweet, boyish smile.

I couldn't. It just wasn't... right? Why did it bother me anyway? There was nothing to gain from not going with him, nothing to lose.

"No?" The Master tilted his head, voice sounding surprisingly unconcerned. He hadn't awaited a positive answer.

"I can't trust you," I simply stated.

"No... No you can't. You shouldn't, in fact." He poked his tongue out between his teeth, eyes crinkling.

"Then why would I help you? I might end up gaining nothing from it."

"You might end up not losing anything."

I huffed and turned my head away. "You have to offer more than that." Shrugging I glanced back and smiled impishly. "How about something to eat for a start? I'm starving. And coffee."

The Master rolled his eyes and shot up from the sofa. "If that's all."

"No, it's where we start." I stood too, still smiling. "As it seems you can't kill me or compromise my brain functions too much."

"I could just collect some other stray ape." He bent down to me and scowled.

"You could." I simply nodded, then grinned. "But I assume getting me some food and coffee would take a lot less time, right?"

The Master rolled his eyes, but, at the same time, appeared oddly amused. "Well, then come."

With that he rushed past me and left the room with wide steps, eager to let me fall behind and get lost in the corridors. Remembering the good old military way of walking, I followed without that much problem, fewer but wider steps. Saves energy, gets you farther, actually quite good for short legs like mine.

"How about you tell me some things?" I suggested, trying to hide that my breath was quicker than I liked it to be.

"No."

"I might change my mind about helping when I know more about who the person actually is I'm supposed to help, ya know?" There was no answer, so I dared to continue, curiosity winning over, "Where'd you come from? Is it far from earth? And why earth at all? What's your actual name and how old are you?"

Suddenly the Master stopped, making me almost bump into him. Luckily I caught myself in time, taking some deep breaths to calm down my pulse. Dang, my condition was really the worst.

"Who I am?" he repeated with a cold tone and dark eyes. "I am the one who killed countless of your kind already, and believe me, my methods are very creative." A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "I am one who is dangerous enough to be locked away inside this TARDIS to rot, because the Doctor knows I would just burn his beloved earth to the ground would he let me out." With an almost crazed smile he bent down to me a little. "I am the one who doesn't bother about you getting hurt or dying. I am the nightmare you wake up from, screaming and wishing you could simply forget. But you won't. The memory will haunt you for the rest of your pitiful existence."

I hadn't noticed how my heart had sped up due to his words, or rather because I could feel their sincerity. Now, though, I felt it with full force, drumming in my chest, my throat. I had stumbled into some weird story, one about a psychopath, eager to leave as much blood and misery on his way as possible. But what was my own role in it?

"How..." I swallowed and looked away for a second, then back into his cruel hazel eyes. "How did you...kill those people?" Shit, was I really asking that?

Slowly his smile widened as he straightened up and continued the way, slower this time. "Too many ways to get started somewhere. But... you might find that one... funny." The last word was spoken with such a sarcasm that it made me almost shiver. "Once I got the Nestene Consciousness to work with me. They inhibit plastic. And your little planet is so full of that stuff! A true paradise. Remember that time when all mannequins went haywire and started attacking people?"

"Oof, yeah, that was crazy. Only heard in the news, though. That was you?"

"The Nestene. Not me, this time. I was involved some decades before that. Had them inhabit small plastic daffodils that were handed out in the streets. As a nice little gift to everyone." He chuckled.

"And each of those had one of those Nestene inside?"

"Eh, let's leave it at that. The actual explanation would fry you silly small brain."

"Hey! I'm not stupid!"

"Compared to me you are, so be quiet." He ignored my slight sulking and continued, obviously happy to tell about his misdeeds, "The plan was to hand out millions of those, all over the world. And then awaken them via radio signals so they would spring to life and suffocate their owners. Brilliant! Isn't it?" He cast a look at me, boyishly smiling all over his face.

"A bit... complicated." I raised my brows, trying to remember if I had ever heard of an incident that could be linked to this. "It didn't work, though, right?" I tilted my head slightly. No, there was nothing I could remember. "A story like that would be famous."

The Master grumbled something inaudible into his beard. Something about the Doctor being infuriating. I puzzled together that he probably had foiled the plan. "There were still enough people, who died from it," the Master concluded in the end. "There we are."

He opened a door and lead me into a cantina of sorts. It looked modern, but not futuristic, cosy grey and blue tones decorated the room, there was a kitchen counter, some machines I couldn't identify and a table with a bunch of chairs.

"But don't you think I will cook for you or something stupid like that," the Master spat and shoved me in the direction of the machines. "There. They produce whatever you want."

"Just like that?" I curiously tapped the screen in front of me, grinning as it sprang to life and showed a bunch of items. There were different categories, enabling me to let it either produce ingredients or whole meals. "Huh, like a replicator. Cool!"

There was an annoyed growl from behind me and when I looked back, the Master stood there with folded arms and furrowed brows.

"What did I do wrong, this time?" I asked and sighed. "The Star Trek reference?"

"The not being bothered about me telling you about murdering countless of your species," he grumbled.

"Oh... sorry." I shrugged and turned back to the machine, my mind way too occupied by too many choices and a growling stomach. "Is there nothing with meat in it?"

The Master let out an exasperated grunt, stepped next to me and tapped one of the icons.

"Ah, thanks! Missed that one," I exclaimed happily and decided to let the machine produce something that looked like a burger. "Gosh, I'm really starving."

"I'm noticing," came a meek reply.

"Oh, come on. I wasn't even there. Why should it bother me who you murdered?" I raised a questioning eyebrow at him. "It's like crying every time you hear about someone dying in the news."

"Cold hearted twat."

"Wha-haaat?" I let out indignantly. "You're one to talk! You tell it like it's a game!"

"Because it is!" he snapped. "Your race means nothing to me."

"But I am the cold hearted one, yeah?" I snorted and watched the machine as it started to seemingly assemble atoms. It looked like magic, how a plate slowly manifested, then the burger. And next to it a plastic cup with coffee. "Want something, too?" I asked before taking both items to carry them to the table.

"You're insufferable," he growled back.

"A simple 'no' would have done it, too, ya know?"

"How about you don't even try to be nice to me? I won't thank you."

"Nice?" I asked puzzled."Geeze... if being a little considerate already counts as nice, then I really don't want to know what your life looked like, so far." Shaking my head I sat down in one of the chairs and started to shove the burger into me. It was exceptionally delicious and hard to believe that none of it was made out of real ingredients.

The Master planted himself on a chair opposite to me, elbows on the table, chin resting on folded hands. I decided not to be bothered by his staring, too hungry to let the remnants of my beaten social anxiety take over. Somewhere in-between bites, however, I recalled a small detail he had mentioned and I put down the food to glare back at him.

"You said that was some decades ago."

The Master only lifted an eyebrow.

"You... don't look much older than maybe... in your mid thirties or so?" I elaborated.

At that his smug smirk was back. Only that, though, leaving it to me to figure this out.

"You don't age like we do? You get older than humans? Or..." I pondered for a second, coming to the conclusion that the thought wasn't so farfetched, now that I mulled over it. "That's not your actual body, and in reality you're some slimy creature that highjacked it to not attract attention."

With every word his smile grew wider until the Master finally burst out into laughter, from which he recovered quickly, though.

"I like the last one. There are enough species who can do similar things." He chuckled. "But it's the first two. We Time Lords are simply better than you lot. In. Every. Aspect. Means, we don't age as fast as you, and, additionally we live a lot longer. And, on top of that, we don't die so easily. And if we do... well... we can even cheat that, to an extent."

"Okay, I start to believe the thing about the superiority," I let out after swallowing the last bite. "How old are you, then? In earthen years."

He made a face as if he had to actually think about it, but somehow I was convinced he already knew and made it just for show.

"Give or take a few decades," he stated with a smug grin, "roughly nine hundred years."

It took me some seconds to decide whether or not I had heard right. Was that even possible? Was he fooling me? And if not... what did such an old creature really want from me?

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Chapter 13: Chapter 13

"You're bluffing," I deadpanned with squinted eyes, even though I somewhat believed it. Everything was possible with an alien. But he looked so... young, if not for his eyes. They told another story. One of countless years, unimaginable suffering and so, so much loneliness. All of it shining through for a mere moment.

He huffed and smiled bitterly. "Wish you were right, little one."

I took a sip from my coffee and studied his face for a while longer, especially since he wasn't focusing on me, but rather at something within his own mind. It almost seemed as if he were in pain, barely able to hold up the facade of nonchalance. His hands sank to the table, one forefinger taping against his other hand. Always in the same rhythm.

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

Pause.

tap, tap, tap, tap.

Pause.

Always the same, never changing in speed. How odd, I thought as I emptied the coffee, still contemplating what to ask next. What did I want know about him? What person was he? Old, okay. Cruel, definitely. Heartless?

No.

I had met many people throughout my life. Many people that could be considered bad in countless ways. Psychopaths, way too many narcissists and other dysfunctional people. They all shared the same cold charm that was designed to lull you into a false state of safety, but still gave me a sense of... wrongness when I was near them. They all wanted you to succumb to sympathy and trust, for them to be able to get into your head and break you for good.

The Master, however, was just downright blunt with his self-proclaimed evilness. He didn't seem to care at all what I thought of him, wasn't interested in building some kind of fake trust, although I was rather certain he could, if any of his plans required it. And right now, it actually did. So why did he behave as if he wanted to shove me away as far as possible, even though he needed my willing help?

I sighed and shook my head. This guy just made no sense at all. How he sat there, lost in whatever thoughts, tapping the strange rhythm. But now his eyes actually showed the pain somewhat. Whatever plagued him seemed to get worse.

"Hey," I quietly interrupted his and my own musings, "are you okay?"

He woke from a dream, a nightmare, a memory too painful to bare. His eyes were wide in an almost childlike manner, surprised, pained, desperate even. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but closed it again, pinched his eyes shut and suddenly let out a quiet groan, while his hands shot to his head, clawing into his hair.

"Master?" I tried again, uncertain what was wrong and what to do about it.

There was no answer, not the slightest hint that told me he even heard me. Instead he only sank further down, fingers stiff, but also twitching from time to time. Finally I shot from my chair and walked over, placed a hand on his underarm to get his attention.

And I got it. Way too fast for me to react, his head shot up, he grabbed my wrist and pushed me away from him. His eyes were clouded by what I could only be describe as unadulterated madness. But not the type one would find in a psych ward. This went deeper, far deeper, as if a foreign entity was scraping at his very existence.

"It hurts," he muttered, sounding desperate. "It never actually hurt before!"

"C... can I help somehow?" I wanted to know, barely able to cope with the sight. I could feel that he wasn't acting. Whatever happened was very real.

Suddenly he sprang from the chair, made it clatter to the ground behind him, his hand still around my wrist, the second suddenly grabbing my collar. He growled. Actually growled. Like a wounded wolf.

"Insufferable thing you are," he snarled with disgust. "Don't think I will let you go just because you pretend to care!"

With his last words he slammed me onto the table, both hands around my throat, thumbs pressing against my windpipe. Not enough to really strangle me, but painful and awakening some of those old survival instincts I wasn't even aware I possessed. But there wasn't much I could do, trapped between him and the table, his truly inhuman strength holding me in place with ease.

"Not... true..." I brought out somehow, feeling my vocal cords rub against his thumbs. Such an odd sensation.

There was a pained smile on his lips for a moment, then he tore me up and just threw be to the ground. My back and head hit the floor, the impact letting stars dance in front of my eyes. I barely noticed the pain, only how my consciousness flickered back to life a moment later.

Or maybe more than one. When the stars and black spots vanished there was a dull throbbing in the back of my head and I heard a voice.

Not the Master's.

"...were you even thinking?" the Doctor called out exasperated.

"Oi, you always have pets! Let me have one of my own," the Master answered snappishly.

"Humans aren't pets!"

"Oh, reeeeaaaaally?" the Master drawled with mock surprise, "What a revelation, coming from you."

What followed was a heavy sigh and a few seconds of silence, in which I finally realized that I wasn't lying on the floor anymore, but on a softer surface. Opening my eyes revealed a med bay of sorts, countless weird devices and monitors around me, some noises that were impossible to assign.

Okay, I definitely had been out for longer. Nothing hurt, though, or felt strange, so I hoped everything was alright with me. Reason enough to close my eyes once more and lull myself into a few more moments of peace and quiet, not wanting to face the question what would now happen with me. Our little game was over before it had even begun properly.

The Doctor spoke up again, his voice quiet now, "I'm really trying to help you, you know?"

The Master snorted. "As if any of those bloody tests of yours would reveal anything. I searched for centuries! I went to any place known and unknown to find someone to tell me how to get rid of the drums! Guess what? They are still in my head!"

"I... I know! I'm trying, okay?" the other Time Lord sighed again. "But maybe you should consider that they are just... weeeell... in your head?"

The Master groaned irritated.

"Some kids got a lot worse maladies from looking into the Schism," the Doctor tried to defend himself.

"Tch, yeah... but those had the luck to completely go mad. And not..." It sounded as if he had thrown his hands up and was now dropping them down to his legs. "Can't expect you to believe me, though... You never have."

"Not this again. Listen, Master... I'm not going to let you run around and wreak havoc all over the universe. But I also do not want to treat you as a prisoner!"

With that I heard angry steps quickly departing, followed by a slammed shut door.

"Hypocrite," the Master grumbled, but then stayed silent.

Did he leave, too? The door didn't resound a second time and otherwise there was only a lot of different and alien humming noises around me. Finally I decided to open my eyes again, only to blink into a curious face that slowly got graced by a mischievous smile.

"You too think it was a stupid idea to leave me with you in one room?" he asked, eyes wrinkled in joy. "He forgot that I'm all about wreaking havoc over the universe."

Slowly I sat up and rubbed my still slightly throbbing head. "Aren't you?"

Strangely enough his smile faded. The Master glared at me for another moment, then sat on the bed next to my feet, arms crossed.

"I didn't lie about my age. What do you think, lill' lumin? All those years... what would you do with them?"

"Uh... phew..." I sat up and looked around for my glasses. "No idea, seriously."

"Looking for those?" He pointed at a small table with drawers next to him that was littered with... stuff. I squinted my eyes at it, but couldn't make out anything. The Master reached over, picked something up and wordlessly handed it to me. "You can't even begin to comprehend how much time that is, right?"

"Thanks... no, not really." Numbly I glared at my specs, thinking about the past thirty years. About all the shit I had been through. "Sometimes it feels as if every second is one too much," I mumbled so quietly, I wasn't sure the Master even heard it.

"Think so?" He tilted his head a little. "There' so much to do, though."

"So many places to burn and so many lives to take?" My words were dry, bare of any emotion. The slight smile on his lips confirmed my words to be true. "Would I have your possibilities... I don't know what I would do. And if it wouldn't do worse."

The Master chuckled. "My, aren't you cold hearted."

I shrugged and finally put on the glasses. His face was such a carefully crafted mask of mischief. But behind... right now there was something else behind those hazel eyes. Something calm, the perfect opposite to the madness that had clouded them before.

"'m not sure I have a heart," I confessed. "And I wouldn't want to wander the universe being all alone. Would probably be worse than my current life."

"Yeah..."

Just this word. This tiny sound of agreement. It told so much. Revealed so many unspoken truths. There was a sense of sadness in the air, thick and almost palpable. I swallowed and looked away, right in time to see the door opening.

"Oi! Get away from her!" the Doctor called out and rushed over.

Mockingly holding his hands up the Master sprang from the bed and took a step away. "As you command, Lord Doctor."

The other man rolled his eyes. Then he gave me a warm smile and rushed over.

"We only talked," I assured. "He hasn't done anything."

The two cast a glance at one another I couldn't decipher. It was obvious that the Doctor didn't believe my words and he studied my face closely as if to make sure I wasn't... oh right... hypnotized. It seemed he was satisfied, the smile wandering back to his lips as he pulled out his strange, noisy wand - I still had no clue what it was.

"Mhm, all readings are fine. You're good, Lucy. Come, come." He clapped his hands and reached one out to me. "Get up. We'll get you back home."

"H... home?" I asked dumbfounded as I got up, without his help.

"Yeah, of course! I'm not letting him hold you prisoner! Not on my watch!" The Doctor grinned from ear to ear, gesturing the other Time Lord towards the doors. "You first."

The Master rolled his eyes, but moved. It seemed as if he was already used to the procedure and somehow I was quite sure it hadn't always worked so smoothly. In the beginning he probably had put up a fight. But somehow it now seemed less effort to just follow along. As did I.

"Do... you have to bring me home?" I asked carefully.

"Why, of course! My special service. Free of charge," he joked and giggled to himself.

"And I can't just... stay? It was so cool to..."

"No!"

Abruptly he stood and I almost bumped into him. The look in his chocolate brown eyes was deadly serious all of a sudden, darting towards his fellow Time Lord for a second, then back to me. The smile returned, as if it was routine.

"It's too dangerous. I don't want you to get harmed, Lucy. And I don't think, travelling is... It wouldn't do you good."

"You mean," the Master interrupted snidely, "you're afraid she could not fit into your category of big eyed human puppy with a way too soft heart and a too high moral ground? Ohhhh, right! That’s not the reason, is it? She needs protection! From me!"

"Quite right!" the Doctor snapped, leaving it open which part exactly he answered with it.

For the rest of the way we stayed silent. I tried to ignore the mean lump in my throat and the nasty feeling in my stomach. Not again. Not again! I didn't want to be stuck on earth, forever!

The though repeated in my head like the songtext to the wheezing and whoozing of engines, as we rushed from one place to the other in seemingly no time. It didn't yield the same fascination in me now. I didn't care how we could move so fast.

The Doctor was busy with his control table, the Master leaned with crossed arms against one of the coral pillars, seemingly unfazed by the rumbling and shaking. It eventually stopped and I managed to catch his eyes for a brief moment on my way to the doors, begging him with mine to do something.

But all I got in return was a bitter smile.

"I'll help," I whispered while passing him. If the Master had heard my words and how he reacted I couldn't know.

Outside the TARDIS was broad daylight, greeting me with warm rays and busy streets. The Doctor waved goodbye, promising to take care this would never happen again. And I knew... oh I knew so well that he was doing the right thing. That he was protecting me and maybe countless of lives and places.

But in this moment I hoped for nothing more than the Master to escape again.

Back to index


Chapter 14: Chapter 14

Author's Notes: Uhhhhh... guess I already warned you at the beginning, but this story is getting really dark somehow. (And this isn't even the really dark part, lol)


Returning home for the second time was even more uncanny than the first. I had been away for only such a short time, but it felt like a small eternity had passed. Everything around me seemed wrong and out of place.

Numbly I closed the door in my back and sunk down against it, wrapped my arms around the knees to bury my face. It wouldn't take long. Just a few minutes or hours and there would be a knock on the door and the Master standing outside with his stupid grin.

I wondered what had been wrong with him before. Something had made him just snap all of a sudden. My head was still throbbing a little, making me scowl. Maybe it would be better to stay away from that man. In the end it didn't matter if he was just unnecessarily cruel or truly mad. The outcome was pain.

With a sigh I lifted myself from the ground and strolled over to my PC. Distraction. I'd need lots of it.

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Hours turned into days, turned into weeks. Getting back to normal was even harder the second time. I tried to occupy my mind with Netflix, drawing random things and spending more time in chats than necessary.

It didn't help.

I tripled my efforts to find work, to no avail. I pushed myself to go outside as often as possible, meeting with people, even though there was no energy left in me to deal with them. Decades of wearing social masks had taught me to hide, to appear friendly and joyful at all times. But was that really me?

One evening I lazily browsed through the internet, searching for alien encounters. This had become quite the obsession. I found so many pictures and reports of the blue box, it was almost hilarious. It seemed as if the two visited earth more often. Maybe I could find them again, somehow. And there was so much to find! Theories, blogs, creepy pastas... it was so easy to get lost in this virtual world.

So much so that I, eventually, stopped going outside much, stopped meeting with people, stopped hanging around in all those chats. And I didn't even notice at first, my mind to occupied by my searching.

It could have been a month or two, after the obsession had started, that I finally opened my chat program and booted up my phone again to look what had happened since I had gone. There was one message from Alice, asking if I could lend her some money, one from a fellow writer who wanted me to read his stuff. I looked through all the channels I usually was in, searching for any mentions of my username.

Ten minutes later I put everything down. Gone for over a month, and not a single person had asked where I was or if I was alright.

I sighed and picked up my drawing tablet, clicking on some random horror movie. Usually I'm easily scared by those, but nowadays they didn't bother me much. It didn't dispel the numbness in my mind, didn't evoke the slightest rising of my heartbeat.

Eventually I caught myself just glaring at the monitor, not doing a single stroke and having no clue what had happened in the movie so far.

Still no messages.

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.


More time passed with research and long sessions of wandering around aimlessly. The forest in my area became my go-to place during the summer months, then during autumn. I loved the peace and quiet here, the shy animals, the birds singing, wind rustling through leaves, rays of sun shining through thick crowns. I watched the leaves turn colourful and fall, blanketing the ground to my feet.

How long had it been that I had spoken to another person? Curious as I was I had not messaged anyone, just to see if anyone would ever ask about my whereabouts. They all had my phone number, my mail address, my chat name. But neither family, nor my real life contacts from town, nor my so called friends from online ever dropped by.

Somehow I started to truly wonder if I even existed. Surely, no one could be that unimportant to everybody, could they?

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Over a year had passed.

It was a hot day in August and I hid from the seething heat. My apartment was a little cooler than the outside, making me rarely leave the house for the past weeks. Here and there I had gotten back to playing Pokémon with the guys in town. No one even asked where I had been, and it was clear that I didn't belong. Never had.

Still I laughed at their jokes, kept up my social mask, was kind and lent a hand whenever needed. There seldom was a thanks, and never did anyone help me in return. No surprise. That's just how humans operate. That much I had learned.

But it was still better than being completely alone, right?

Or was it?

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I glared at the ticket in my hand. A train ride to Scotland's highest north. There wasn't much I would take with me. What for?

As I took out my favourite hoodie from the wardrobe, something clattered to the ground, came to a slithering halt in front of my feet.

The small hand gun.

Numbly I picked it up and tossed it back inside. So often I had contemplated using it, but what use was revenge? It wouldn't make undone the damage she had done to my life. It wouldn't turn me into a proper human being, one that was accepted among their own kind. It would do nothing. Sure, my Dad and little sister would have a much better life. But if they were too weak to defend themselves, why was I supposed to do the dirty work?

The ride was calm, the weather hot. People were visibly unnerved by it, acting even harsher towards each other than usually. Not seldom was I roughly pushed out of the way or bumped into. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but something about me seems to make people just overlook me all the time.

I'd be a great spy!

The train station was full, busy, but no one took notice of me, no one apologized for running me over. One old lady even scolded me after she had run her rollator into my ankles. I simply ignored her and trudged towards the exit.

It was still early afternoon, my backpack light, the way long. Walking was always nice, calming, in a way. The only thing I was still able to enjoy. What else was left? Without a goal, without a task, without anyone to care about, and no one who cared about me...

All I could do was to go on, to walk, to move. On and on and on. Like one of those undead from one of my video games, cursed to always reappear, no matter how often they were defeated, unable to die, unable to stop. All they could do was to move on. Or to go insane.

And I wanted neither of those options.

It had been a dream, I realized, birds singing in the trees around me. There had never been such a thing as aliens. The sky wore a pale blue, not a single cloud tainting the colour. A reverie. One of many. My mind was so good at creating those, at vanishing deep within stories it had woven together on its own. From the earliest days of my childhood I had done this. Deeming the fantasy a much better place than the cold reality around.

So many months had passed. The gun? The money? I had no idea where they came from, but there surely was an explanation. There had to be one. I probably had gotten drunk, had even robbed someone. Which would explain the gun, honestly. And why shouldn't I? Life had never been kind to me, neither had humans. I owed them nothing.

The path was narrow, evening drew close. Good thing there was the internet. It had been astonishingly easy to find a good spot. Somewhere in the wilds, where people seldom went. Somewhere near the sea, close to the forest still.

The animals around these parts were shy and careful, ran away as soon as they spotted me. It still was nice to get a quick glance at a few. Rare sights. There wasn't a path any longer, but it wasn't far now.

Eventually the trees gave way and a scent of salt roughened the air. The soft noise of waves travelled to my ears. And finally I was there. A small patch of grey sand, moss covered rocks, the bluest blue of the ocean right in front of me.

For the first time in months I actually smiled. What a beautiful sight.

As the sun set over the water, I got out a few things I would need to start a fire and have diner. Just some canned food. I knew, after the long walk I wouldn't have energy left to actually fish. Not that I had any clue how to do that properly.

The black velvet curtain of night drew close, wrapped itself over the world. One by one the stars appeared, guiding lights in the never ending bleakness of existence. I lay on my back, not minding the sand, and glared up at the tiny dots above me. Waves caressed the shore, flames danced in the doldrums. My hand brushed a tiny object in the chest pocket of the thin jacket I had put on.

I tapped against it, wondering what it might be. The button was missing. Carefully I opened the flap and fished out the object, my eyes widening at the unexpected sight.

It was a tiny glass bottle, filled with countless floating lights, like fireflies. The creatures the Doctor had caught for me, as a souvenir, a memory, a confirmation that everything had been truly real.

I shot up to my feet and glared at the bottle in my fingers. Then I wound up and threw it wide away into the waves, crashing to my knees with a sob.

It had been real.

And I had truly been left behind.

Back to index


Chapter 15: Chapter 15

Author's Notes: So, I guess this is the really dark dark part, now (Very non-explicit I hope).

Thanks for your reviews! They really brighten my day! It's so cool to see that people enjoy this! Iiiiiiiiiep! (´ ▽`).。o
(Okay, way too happy A/N for such a dark chapter... let's calm down a bit... =v=) I'm actually a little anxious to post this... welp!


It wouldn't be my life if it wouldn't give me one final blow below the belt line. To be reminded that it all had been real, that I was, indeed all alone in the universe... But maybe it wasn't so bad, after all solidifying my decision to put an end to this.

One last gaze turned upwards to the sky and the glistening stars within its depth, taunting me with their unreachable radiance that lay within eternity.

I returned to the warming fire, sat next to it in a comfortable position and got out the small razor blade from my bag. The thin metal weighed heavy between my fingers, it's meaning and purpose supposed to fill me with dread, but instead I felt utterly calm as I lowered it to my wrist, as if I were merely a wave in the ocean, a leave on the branch of a nearby tree, the fleeting thought of child's dream, forgotten by the last retreating strands of night.

When I was done I tossed the blade into the flames, staring up at the sky once again, still calm and weirdly relaxed, just waiting for the world to stop.

Despite my previous outburst I neither felt a sense of despair, nor did I feel lost. It had been a cold, carefully calculated decision to come here. Now my ears filled with the soft mix of nature, water gently caressing the shore, the fire crackling soothingly. I actually felt warm and comfortable in this very moment, wishing I could simply freeze it in time. But that wasn't possible. Sooner than later it would end and the coldness would return with nothing to dispel it from my soul ever again.

"My, what are you stupid," came a sarcastic voice from behind.

My head snapped around, confused, shocked. Into my line of sight - clad in black pants, a dark red dress shirt and a black waistcoat over it - stepped no one else than the Master, sand crunching under his boots, the sound tearing into my calming world.

"Wha... how?" I brought out dumbfounded. This was a completely secluded area, kilometres away from civilisation.

"Ah, I have my ways." With a grin he tapped against a device on a wide strap on his wrist and squatted down in front of me. His eyes wandered over my face, down to my wrists. Almost gently he took them into his hands, studying the cuts. I still was too perplex to properly react and didn't fight it. "Sloppy work," he murmured. "Like that it will take quite some time."

I sighed wearily. "That's the point. Wanted to watch the stars for a bit longer." My eyes locked with his. It was so hard to believe that he was actually here. Or was it a dream? Was I already gone? It didn't matter anymore, the decision was made. I tried to tear my hands away from him, but he held tight. So I only scowled and muttered, "You came too late."

The Master raised a brow, then cracked a mean smile. "No, I'm already here for exactly twenty-two minutes and thirteen seconds." The smile widened, showed a weirdly fascinating cruelty. "Bet you want to know why I didn't stop you."

Did I? Right now nothing bothered me anymore. I only rolled my eyes, tired of any games. But I just couldn't help it. "Oh, I'm dying to hear your reasons."

His face dropped at the bad pun, which actually forced an involuntary smile onto my own lips. Where did that come from?

"You're bleeding out and you joke about it!" he exclaimed."Are you serious?"

I nodded with a stern face. "Dead serious." It was no help, the giggle simply escaped me at his sight. "What? Don't look so annoyed. No one ever said I have to go with a grumpy face."

Finally he snorted, the nasty grin returning to his lips. He slid his thumb over one of the cuts and licked the blood from it. Oh great, I thought, a vampire too? "Your iron levels are a bit low," he remarked, as if that were the most important thing right now. Probably just to boast about his abilities.

"Well..." again I tried to get my hands free, and this time he let go, "Guess it won't kill me."

What followed was a disbelieving glare, then the Master burst out into a laugh that was so contagious that it let one bubble up from within my own chest. For some reason I enjoyed that I could make him laugh like that, even if it was about my own end. But it was a genuine laugh, no masks, no pretending. It seemed to me as if he hadn't laughed like that for a very long time, didn't have a reason for it. There was just too much pain in his eyes.

How could he endure all of it?

Finally, though, the nasty grin returned, the flicker of cruelty, telling how much he enjoyed his next words. "I was curious if you'd really do it, if you had it in you." He tapped against my head. "However stupid it might be. Satisfied?"

I huffed and glanced away, but confessed, "No regrets here. It just... well... the cuts hurt. Lot more than I thought they would."

"Idiot, what did you expect?" He poked out his tongue, but then his face took on a weird seriousness. The Master dropped from his haunches to his knees and stretched his hands out to grab my head, thumbs pressing against my temples. "I can't make the pain vanish," he told as I instinctively tried to back way. He wouldn't let me, though, and stayed like that for a few second. "Here... you shouldn't feel it consciously anymore."

Perplex I blinked up at him as he retreated from me. Indeed, I didn't feel any pain anymore and sighed deeply. Breathing got a little harder now, my head started to feel dizzy, but still I was conscious enough to wonder. So he could use his mind controls skills for something like that too. Interesting.

The Master moved and sat right next to me, hands folded around his bent knees, his eyes fixated on the sky above, reflecting the many stars in their hazel depths.

Somewhere in my fading awareness appeared the thought that I had no clue who he actually was. The few snippet I had gathered weren't even remotely enough to tell. And why was he here, now?

I glanced down.

Drip, drip, drip.

What a fine mess I created there. Good thing no one would have to tidy up after me. It was almost hypnotic to watch, with nothing but the crackling fire and the calm waves in the background.

"Want me to save you?"

His mocking voice made me look up again, realizing my sight to be a little blurred by now. My heart beat almost frantically in my chest, trying to compensate. But nothing hurt. Neither my body, nor my mind. There were only the two of us, sharing the calm, the soothing noises around, the soft wind.

For maybe the first time in my life I actually felt completely peaceful. And so I shook my head.

"No. Don't you dare." I smiled bitterly. "That would be cruel."

The Master raised a brow, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly. "Why?" And when he got only a confused blink as an answer, he elaborated, "Why do you just give up?"

I laughed. Or at least tried to, but only brought out a noiseless chuckle. The dizziness got stronger, made me sway. I leaned sideways, dropped my head against his shoulder, uncaring about if he would let me. But there was no resistance, and so I stayed like this, trying to breath, feeling my heart pounding.

"'m not giving up," I mumbled drowsily. "'s just so useless. I don't want to go on anymore. Done it long enough, always hoped I would find a place to belong, somewhere. Be important. To someone. Anyone. If only for a single person." I took some deep breaths, trying to keep the shivers at bay that ran down my body. It was so incredibly cold, despite the temperatures and the fire. "Have no place to go, no purpose. No one cares." My eyes closed, my voice getting almost nothing but a whisper. "'m just so tired, Master."

He was silent for a moment, his next words barely reaching my ears, "Little dying light, fading ember of midnight skies."

I turned my head to meet his gaze, finding a weird look of sadness in it. He smiled at my confused sight.

"A line from an old children's rhyme from... home." The last word was almost whispered, bearing the pain from a not yet healed wound. "I should leave now. Let you sleep."

I sensed from him the same loneliness I had gotten so used to, seeping through the last threats of awareness my mind had left over. I lowered my head, sighed. Huddled a little closer.

"Can you... stay?" I brought out, realizing I was shivering from the cold. "Just until... I... don't want to die alone." Another shiver went through me, my lips quivering. "It... it's gotten so cold..."

"Your body stops functioning," he explained softly, but still with an edge of teasing in his voice. "You really should have looked up what that would do to you." The Master chuckled as if it were the most hilarious thing.

Then he moved, and I was certain he would just leave me here. Even though I hadn't awaited company I now felt a cold sting of sadness in my chest, shivered some more. Maybe he could take the cold away from me as he had done with the pain? The thought was in my mind, but never left my lips.

Instead of away, however, he slid behind me, his arms wrapping firmly around my middle to pull me against his chest. At every other moment it would have startled, maybe even frightened me. But soon the warmth of his body seeped into my bones and melted away all loneliness in my mind. Had I ever been held like that? The cold wouldn't vanish entirely, but soon ceased enough to make me sigh content, too tired to think much more.

The Master snorted. "Of all people to keep you company you pick the worst one."

I shook my head, slow and carefully, my blurring sight only getting worse from it. "Not true. You're staying with me. You don't force me to live on. That's a kind thing to do." For so long I had pondered about it. Why it had been that I had felt so comfortable with him during that long hours in the train. Even after he had threatened my life. Only as way too many weeks and months had gone bye I realized it, what it had been. What I had felt. "You have a warm heart," I whispered.

This time it was a loud laugh, its vibration running through my numbing body like a wave, momentarily shaking me awake once more. "You really are a weird one," he stated amused and carefully rested his chin on top of my head.

It made me smile tiredly. There was no energy left in me to explain. And he wouldn't have listened, anyway. So I sunk together a little more, only through a hazy fog noticing that his heartbeat in my back felt strange. But there was warmth, I was held securely. It wasn't lonely, it wasn't cold. The stars shone bright, each a dream in the waking world, dropping their light into the calm, black waves that lulled me into the last slumber. The dancing sparks of dying flames carried away a story that would never be told. Maybe he would remember. For a while. It didn't matter any longer. I smiled, sighed with a rattling breath and finally let go, allowed my mind to slip away into the welcoming darkness.

Crackling fire, murmuring sea, whistling trees under the singing stars. And a voice, deep and quiet, almost sad. The last thing I heard before the coat of darkness overtook me at last.

"I am not a kind man, little light."

Back to index


Chapter 16: Chapter 16

There was neither light nor temperature in this place, nor was there emotion or memory. Only the nothingness, the void. Floating... through an endless ocean of calm, in the river of still-stood time. I merely existed.

A light. Something stirred in me.

A spec of not-darkness.

Another one. And suddenly... thousands more, bursting through the blackness like a snowstorm, raising , shooting through the void. Golden stars, audibly glittering all around. The noises became loud, so loud. One of them came close. I raised my arms to cover my face.

Collision.

A flash.

He was all alone on the hill, watching the suns set and tinting the red grass in beautiful purple. The last night here. The last hours. Soon he would steal a TARDIS, do as the Doctor had done... without him, even though they had vowed to travel the universe together, to escape the strict rules of their home to be free. But he had gotten oh so scared. And now he was alone. But he wouldn't stay. There was so much to see, to do.

Another star, it chimed so loud, whispering, singing.

Someone hummed a melody, faint and beautiful. He sat there and listened for a while, smiled even when her gaze met his. She hadn't agreed to hand over information, instead she would sing the oldest ballad of her home for him. When the woman was done he stood, smiled, raised his laser gun and shot a hole right through her chest. For not being useful.

Light, chiming, flashing.

How many planets had he conquered already? He sat on the table and looked over star maps, marking every place with a small red X. This was getting boring.

Stars. So many stars. All hitting, all singing, too fast, too many.

Music. People dancing. Someone laughed. From somewhere else there came a scream, then fire burst through the giant window. He ran. He ran over red fields, looked behind, saw the face of a smiling boy his age, grinned back. There were creatures as old as the universe, and he had the key to control them, make them obey him. The book's pages crumbling to dust under his fingers.

Stars.

Blood. Screams. He didn't care. His goal was clear.

Collision.

He cried up at the stars, begged them to give him a new body, to end his agony. Hands shrivelled, the hood hurting his decaying skin.

Chimes and whistles.

They all betrayed him in the end. Why should he even try to be good? Each time he did, it ended bad. So bad. He dragged himself to the TARDIS, hand pressing against the wound, knowing he wouldn't make it in time.

Millions of golden stars burst into dust. It was so beautiful, calm destruction.

He could. Oh he could indeed love. But may he be dammed to ever let another living thing steal his hearts. Betrayed again, by his own kind. It hurt. It hurt so damn much he didn't even know if it would kill him or not.

Sharp edges of blinding lights.

A laugh, loud and cruel. It was fun, it felt good. To just let go, to no longer care for anything but his own goals. Might this daft boy die here for him, if it meant to get a new body. What should he care?

An echo. A sound. Rippling through the chimes.

Red skies, burning. Blood and smoke and fire. The smell of burnt flesh, hot metal stinking. The carcasses of machines piling up around him. Good warrior. Do as we say. No. He shook his head, glared down at his shred hands. No more. No more. Not with me!

The sound. Louder than before. Closer. Stars fading, slowing.

He bent over, sick to his stomach, shaking, cold sweat on his skin. Still wearing the clothes of the old fool he had pretended to be. It was so loud. So loud. He wanted to scream. He wanted to make the Doctor suffer for bringing them back, for dragging him out of the fob watch. It wasn't fair!

It's not fair, I thought without knowing what it meant, reaching my hand out to touch the last passing star. There had been almost silence, but they had been brought back.

What had been?

Why where there no stars anymore?

It was so dark all of a sudden. So dark and lonely. All that had stayed behind was the sound, the steady, approaching sound. The closer it came the better I heard, the clearer I got, the farther away something pulled me from it. But I had to stay! I had to know! I wanted the stars back! It was... it was... calm. There was no pain, had not been. Now there was something, something bad. This place no longer accepted me, pushed me away, far, far away from the approaching noise.

Darkness. A flash. A breath, taken deep, as if resurfacing from a deep dive. And there the sound was. I had found it!

Du — du — du — du

It guided me. Like a beacon through the everlasting void.

Du — du — du — du

Soothing. Repeating. Always repeating. Always the same.

Du — du — du — du

Du — du — du — du

Du — du — du — du

It changed. Was the same and was not. Became cold, threatening. The beating closed in on me, ate into my mind, spread through my very existence. Every beat vibrating through me, hurting. No, not hurting. Still...

Light. There was light. And sounds, more sounds than the drumming. Slight buzzing of electric lights, beeps and whirrs from strange machines. A breath. The rustling of cloth. All of it drowning out the ever repeating four beats.

There were only two. Fast, but steady. My own heart.

My eyes opened so slow as if bricks weighed them down, as if someone had glued them together, the effort to drag my lids upwards almost too much. Success... in the end. I blinked. Above me was a white ceiling, plain and without information.

What was I laying on? Soft. A mattress? No blanket, but it was warm in here. My head turned to the right, found a room, not large, filled with strange machines that blinked and beeped. There was a simple folding chair and on it... a man. I knew him, didn't I? The brown, tousled hair, the rectangular specs.

He looked up, raised a brow and closed the book he had been reading.

"Ah, you're awake," the Doctor stated the obvious, his voice strangely sounding almost disappointed? No, it was something else. "A little too early."

"Wha'..." My own voice was raspy, sounded strange to my own ears.

"It's okay," he assured with a small, warm smile. He stood and trod closer, bent a little down to me, hands in his suit pockets. "You're out of danger." His brows raised again and he drawled, "Might take a while to fully heal, though."

My mind barely processed his words. Everything was so foggy, hard to grasp. "I'm... alive." The simple truth, albeit without meaning in my current inane state.

The Doctor's face turned thoughtful again, his brows knitted together tightly, looked at something behind me. Carefully I turned my head to the left and found I wasn't occupying the sickbed alone. The Master was there, a hand's width away. He lay on his side, facing me and sound asleep, head draped on one bent arm. Confused I looked back at the Doctor.

"What's he doing here?" It made no sense. Nothing made, right now, but his presence seemed weirder than the rest.

"Weeell..." The Doctor straightened, ruffled the hair on his neck. "See, that's the thing. You're still alive because of him. Came stomping in here, shouting, insulting me... carrying you."

"I was gone," I muttered weekly, remembering the dark, the calm.

"Yes..." He visibly hesitated, kneading his hands. "You were dead. Proper dead, I mean. Not for long, however. The Master, he... it's hard to explain. I have no idea why he did it. Honestly."

"Did... what?"

"Safe you." There was a deep sigh as he pushed both hands inside his pant pockets. "It's hard to bring one back from death. Possible, if it was recent enough. Dangerous, though. Oh... oh so dangerous..." He trailed off, staring into the distance. His eyes returned to me, questions upon questions shining within them. "Shared a part of his own life force with you."

"Huh?" I only managed to blink perplex, unable to understand what this meant.

"Told him not to. It's risky. Could have gone wrong. Very wrong." He clicked his tongue, raising his brows again in wonderment. "Didn't listen to a word I said. Now, here he is, probably lost a few years of his own life... not that he would hesitate to steal them back from someone else... Still... It's an exhaustive process."

"Is he... okay?" I asked, looking back at the sleeping Time Lord. In opposite to me he didn't have any tubes hanging on him. Why did I? Everything was so hard to grasp. Was I asleep? Was this even real? My eyes closed, my mind drifting away. Tired, so tired. But no... I had to know. "Will he be alright?"

For the first time the Doctor chuckled lightly. "Daaaah, of course he will! The Master is like... Hell, I sometimes don't believe he even can die!" He waved his words away and rocked back and forth on his heels. "He's just exhausted. Needs rest, as do you. And part of his life force is still flowing into you."

"I don't feel anything," I mumbled, pouting a little. Something like that happened and I couldn't even notice.

"Mhm... doesn't surprise me. Humans aren't very sensible to that. Well... anyway. I'll let you sleep a little more. Until the transfer is fully done you two have to stay close. So, even if you wake up again, don't run off, okay?"

I hummed confirming, already drifting back into darkness. Alive. What did that even mean? It made as less sense as everything else. My eyes were so heavy. It was... cold. No, it wasn't. Not in the room, but inside myself. How weird. And I missed the soothing noise from before. Not the threatening one, but... right. I remembered where it had come from and turned to my side, huddling close to the Master to rest my head against his chest.

"Oh, I wouldn't do... that..." the Doctor's voice stumbled into my fading consciousness. "Ah, well... whatever."

I had no clue what he meant, the void claiming me back, the only thing inside my awareness was the soothing rhythm of four against my ear, lulling me in, dispelling the cold. Finally.

Finally it was warm.

Back to index


Chapter 17: Chapter 17

Author's Notes: Rewatching the first seasons I realised what a prick the Doctor sometimes can be to humans, lol. Guess being near the Master doesn't make it better.


"Oh what the everlasting…?" a voice tore into the blackness of my sleeping mind, my body, however, too heavy to respond. Only the voice, very close to my ear kept on talking through the dark. "What the hell do you think you're doing there, ape?"

"Morning, sunshine!" the Doctor's voice greeted from behind me, sounding highly amused. "I told her not to, but guess she was too sleepy and probably about 96.3727% unconscious, so... Well, anyway. The closer, the faster the transfer."

"Doesn't need to be that close," the Master grumbled and pushed against my shoulder, rolling me onto my back and away from him.

My mind struggled to comprehend the situation, blackness still engulfing my thoughts, my bones and muscles were too heavy to move. Slowly it dawned on me. Where I was. And with whom. And especially in what position! Still, I kept silent, stayed in the darkness behind my closed eyelids. Just a little longer. I'd have to deal with reality too soon. And the small, somewhat awake part of my brain was curious what they would talk about.

"By the way," the Doctor drawled, "it will take another ten minutes, roughly, until the transfer is complete."

The Master groaned. "Don't I know? I literally feel it, moron."

There was the sound of a chair that got dragged closer, rustling of cloth and then the Doctor again, his voice soft, this time. "What were you even thinking? That was unnecessary."

Next to me I felt the vibrations of the Master's silent laughs. Only after a pause did he give an answer. "Look at you, Doctor." The name sounded weirdly spiteful. "Scolding me for saving a life. Oh, the irony."

"You know what I m-"

"Maybe I wanted a pet."

The Doctor sighed annoyed. "Humans aren't-"

"Tell that someone who believes it. I'm tired of that phrase."

A pause stretched for almost a minute, only interrupted by the noises of alien machines.

"Maybe, for once I felt the unexplainable urge to do something... kind." The last word carried a weird undertone, making me remember the last utterance from him I could remember before... dying?

Bugger!

"You really think I'd buy into that?" the Doctor asked calmly. "Don't get me wrong, Master, I'd love to. Really."

"Told you already. Pet."

The Doctor sighed again. "Alright... let's just assume that's the reason. Why that one? There are... billions on earth alone, not to mention future and history. And those wouldn't have required... weeell... such drastic actions."

The Master shrugged, I could feel the motion. "Felt like it. Boredom. Wanted to try something new."

"Master..."

"Oh come on," the other Time Lord spat, "when have I ever agreed to be honest to you? Wouldn't that be absurd?"

"You could try. We don't have to fight all the time."

"Yeeeeah..." the Master drawled, "become friends with your dungeon-keeper. Thought of that already. Might get me free in the end, what do you think?"

"Oi! I'm not your... ugh..."

The Master snickered, clearly enjoying himself. My urge to just move got stronger. It's so hard not to twitch a muscle when you're awake, but I really didn't want to miss any of this conversation, way too curious to learn more about the two.

The Doctor sighed wearily and shifted audibly. "What now?" His voice had suddenly turned soft.

"I don't know," the Master drawled lazily, "A steak would be nice. I feel a little... drained."

"Ugh... I mean, what are we supposed to do with Lucy?"

"Humans eat steak too, don't they?"

Oh god, it was so hard not to start laughing. I needed every last bit of composure not to react. And also to not let my stomach grumble. That would have been inappropriate...

"Oh, come on, Doctor," the Master sneered, "how should I know? Humans are your speciality. Think of something. Nice little cage. Maybe put a pillow inside."

Again there was an exasperated groan. "We can't just keep her here!" the Doctor exclaimed. "That would be abduction! And I'm not trusting you one bit not to harm her further!"

"Oi! I didn't lay a hand on her!"

A pause.

For some seconds there was utter silence stretching across the room, eventually ended by a barely audible, "Oh." It finally seemed to dawn on the Time Lord what actually had happened. "I... thought that had been your doing..."

The Master snorted. "Sure. Because that would make soooo much sense."

"Weeeell..." Another pause, longer this time. Then the Doctor spoke up again, his voice thoughtful and a little sad. "Still... we can't just drag her around. Let's bring her back home, inform her family... friends. Someone will take care."

A huff came from next to me and I felt how the Master shifted slightly, leaning closer to me. "Ah, you're so wrong again, Doctor," he told, somewhat mockingly, somewhat thoughtful. "There's no one to inform. And if you're so dumb to bring her home..." He tapped a finger against my forehead. "You'd just do it again, right?"

The question was clearly addressed to me and I had no choice but to finally open my eyes, meeting a wicked grin right above me. He knew! Probably the whole time already. I blinked a few times, letting my eyes adjust to the light, scowled at his stupidly grinning face.

"Oh, you're awake!" the Doctor called out. "That's err... we were just... I mean... you probably heard some of it."

I ignored the Doctor, stubbornly keeping my frown in place and my eyes locked with the Master's, even though I couldn't see them clearly without my specs. It wasn't necessary.

"Oh, what a dark look." He pursed his lips in a mock pout. "I saved your life, that should owe me at least a big thank you, my Lord and Master. I'll collect the rest of my payment another day."

"I hate you," was all I grumbled.

"Uh, uh, uh. That's not what you tell your saviour." He snickered to himself, turned away and swung his leg from the bed. "Okay, energy transfer done. Human alive. Payment... later." The Master stood and stretched his arms out. "I so need some food now! I'm starving."

"What do you think you're doing?" the Doctor finally tossed in. "Don't just run off and-"

"And what will you do to stop me?" the other Time Lord bent down to the sitting Doctor and gave him a nasty grin. "I already am a prisoner. There's not much more you can harm me with." With a huff he straightened, mockingly waved in my direction and left the room.

Careful not to move too fast I sat up and let my feet dangle from the edge. There still was a thin tube on a needle attached to the back of my hand. I wore the same clothes as before, Jeans and a tugged in plaid shirt. Both stained with now brown spots.

The Doctor sighed exasperated, before he glanced me up and down. "You humans are really dumb sometimes," he mumbled.

"Oh, thanks. And there I thought you were the good one."

He raised a brow at me, not much of the friendly attitude he had the last times was visible on his face. The look he gave me wore a weird kind of almost rage and... disappointment? It could have been something else, but my blurred sight didn't allow for details.

Abruptly he rose to his feet, staring down at me. "Everyone should value their life," he stated almost pleadingly, but still somewhat angry at the same time. "It's a gift. There's so much to offer the world, to experience... that's nothing to just throw away!"

I frowned up at him, having a sudden urge to just punch his face. Not that I am a violent person, but in this very moment the thought was extremely tempting.

"And who are you to judge me like that?" I growled.

"I am the one who made it even possible for you to be born!" he stated. "Probably. Maybe. I mean... somewhere in your timeline, surely. Anyway, let's forget about that." It seemed as if his mind drifted off for a moment, but then returned with full exasperated force. "I've seen enough of you lot throwing away their lives. And it's always for such stupid reasons. Temporary reasons, mind you. Lost a job? A loved one? Your crush turned you down? I tell you... a permanent solution for a temporary problem. It's dumb!"

For a moment I was speechless, then I sighed deeply and shook my head. "Wow," I mumbled, "you're a dick."

"Wha-haaaat?!"

I had enough. Of everything. Literally. I shot up from the bed, ripped the needle out of my hand... and cursed nastily, because it hurt a lot more than anticipated.

"Ah crap! That doesn't look so painful in movies!" I threw it away anyway and stepped in front of the Time Lord, glaring hatefully up at him. "How dare you even?" I snarled, surprised I was able to sound so angry. "You have no idea about who I am and about my life and yet you assume to know everything!"

"Weeell..." he started, not budging, "It's always the same with your species. You live so short, you never think further than maybe a week ahead."

I let out a humourless laugh. "That's really what you think about us?"

"I've experienced it!"

"Well, duh! Then look again."

"Yeah, alright. Not all are like that." He smiled almost apologetically. "I know, I know. There are many with great minds, kind people, great thinkers."

I shook my head and sighed. Why did I even expect an alien with a who knew how long lifespan to understand? "For us even short moments matter," I still explained, my voice softening, more from exhaustion than anything else. "You're still wrong. I lost nothing. No one." With a sharp look I cut off his next words. "There was no such thing to begin with. You have no idea!" Suddenly there was new rage bubbling through my tiredness, tears prickled the corners of my eyes. I hated my voice for trembling. "You don't know how that is! How it feels to be hated by everyone just because you are a tiny little bit different! How it feels when you can't belong anywhere, when no one is ever waiting for you!" It hurt. Each and every of my own words hurt, letting the tears finally flow. They didn't fall by the fire, when I had breathed out my life. But now... now they had caught up. "You have no idea how it is to be all alone in the universe without a home or people to return to!"

It was as if electricity sparkled through the air, an almost palpable tension between the two of us. The Doctor was visibly shook, swallowed hard. His shoulders sunk down and what I could make out of his features softened. And then he did what I definitely had not expected. He stepped forward and just wrapped his long arms around me, hugged me tight.

For a second I was startled, but then the tension in my body melted away and I no longer fought the offered comfort, buried my face in his suit and just let the tears flow for a while, trembling and sobbing from all the accumulated pain in my heart.

"I'm sorry," the Doctor eventually mumbled. "Shouldn't have been so harsh." He rocked back and forth slightly, never letting go. "You're wrong too, though, Lucy. I know what that feels like." He sighed and in that moment I had the feeling he was seeking solace as much as I did. "I know it all too well."

Back to index


Chapter 18: Chapter 18

Author's Notes: Disclaimer - I have no medical knowledge! No idea if this is realistic at all... but let's just pretend... uh... alien tech! That's it. That'll do... *hides*


"Feeling better?" the Doctor eventually asked as my sobs faded.

"Mhmm..." I indistinctly made into his shirt and pulled away a bit.

Even though it was weird to be held by a complete stranger, it was still a form of comfort I hadn't experienced in... years, over a decade? I couldn't remember. He had held me. There, in the night, by the fire and the sea. Had only held me, letting me... No, in the end he hadn't accepted my wish. Had he simply changed his mind in the last moment? Or had it been a calculated action?

"Good, good." The Doctor beamed. "Well, crying is supposed to help, but still..."

"Don't... tell him," I mumbled, suddenly feeling embarrassed about my outburst.

"Whom? The Master? Ahhhh, don't worry about him. Actually, do worry about him. I have no idea what he's planning again. Better stay out of his way."

"Does that mean... you won't send me away?" Now look at that. I'm still able to feel hope. I sighed and wiped the remaining tears from my face. "Gosh, I really must seem so silly to you."

For once he was at a loss for words, probably struggling to find something to say that wasn't another well-intended insult. He gave up eventually and instead asked, "There's really no one I can bring you to?"

His words sent a nasty stinging through my heart, letting new tears well up. They reminded me of the past year (hell, my whole life actually), of how no one ever cared to ask about my whereabouts. And when I had been the one to reach out, there was only fake interest, if any answer at all. I shook my head.

"Sure... I don't think my big sister or my aunt would say no... but they'd only try to get rid of me... again. As fast as possible." Memories resurfaced of how I used to spend so much time with them, seeing their smiling faces, hearing their invitations, and still being nothing but an intruder into their lives. People let you know when you don't belong. And when they don't want you to. They had built up their own lives, and made it very evident that I wasn't invited. "Guess that would be even worse than being alone," I muttered and glanced away.

The Doctor looked down at me, rubbing his neck in thought. He then sighed and reached into his suit pocket to hand me something. "Well... I'd normally say it's too dangerous for you here, but..."

I took what he held out to me and found it to be my glasses. It was nice to see properly again, made me realize just how clueless the Doctor was looking right now. "I'd rather stay somewhere dangerous than... everything before, really."

"We'll see about that." The Doctor smiled and nodded to the door. "But first let's get you some fresh clothes."

I glanced down at me, the blood stained clothes, the bandages on my wrists. I even still wore my shoes. "A shower would be nice, too," I mumbled, sliding my thumb over one of the bandages.

"Oh, you can take those off. Should be healed enough already. But I'm afraid there will be some scars left behind."

"Healed?" I unwrapped the cloth carefully under the Doctor's watchful eyes. There still was a wound, but it looked as if it were weeks old. "How... long have I slept?" I muttered dumbfounded, my eyes glued to the sight.

"Just half an earthen day or so. I've got healing equipment from so many places, can't even remember where that salve came from I put on there... eh... anyway. Shower's a fine idea. We'll get the TARDIS to make you a nice little space for yourself afterwards. What do you think?"

I looked back up, right in time to see him beam from ear to ear. All I could muster was a week reflection of the smile, but I nodded.

While we trod through the corridors I wondered how it could be that I didn't feel excited. The first times I had been here, there would have been no better thing in the world (universe) to happen than to stay here. Now... it felt off, unreal. Was it really better to stay here than to go back home? Would I be treated as more than a mere, unwanted, intruder? Only accepted because they feared I'd harm myself again?

The way was short and soon the Doctor showed me a spacious bathroom with lots of fluffy towels.

"The wardrobe over there will have some clothes. Won't they?" he asked and stroked the door frame. A slight hum returned as an answer, making the Time Lord smile. He looked back at me and gestured inside the room. "Err... do you need help with that?"

I startled and scrunched up my nose, protesting, "Noooo, certainly not."

"Oi! You're still a little weak and might pass out. Or who knows what." He held up his hands in defence. "I know what humans look like. It's no big deal for me, really."

"Pfff... but it might be for me." I frowned at him and poked out my tongue. "Just wait outside. If anything happens I'll call you."

"Alright, then. Will do. Will stand here as a guard and not move a toe!" he promised with a bright smile.

Despite his claims I couldn't shake the feeling that he had no clue at all about humans and their customs. This would be fun. Not that I minded people seeing me naked, nothing to hide, really, but something about the Doctor just seemed a little too intrusive for me, especially right now.

He was right, though. I did feel slightly shaky and opted to take a shower instead of a bath. I'm not the bathing type anyway, and letting the Doctor wait for longer than necessary seemed mean.

Uncertain what to do with my old clothes, I simply folded and placed them on the toilet lid, only now realizing that they smelled of sand and blood, of smoke and... also wore a hint of his scent.

I scowled at the clothes and grudgingly stepped into the shower. There would be plenty of time to smack him in the face. For now I just wanted to... I didn't even know what, but the warm water felt soothing on my cold skin, made me sigh content. It felt relieving to wash of the past, to carefully glide the soft sponge over the cuts. It hurt a little, but not nearly as much as when they had been fresh.

"You're alright in there?" came the Doctor's voice after some time.

"Yeah!" I called back, realizing I must have stood there for like ten minutes or so. "I'm fine."

With a sigh I switched the water off and wrapped myself in one of the fluffy towels, taking a closer look at the wardrobe. Everything I took out to observe had my size, so I assumed the TARDIS had just produced those somehow. I picked some underwear, dark blue jeans and a red polo shirt. Maybe some colour would do me good, I decided.

"A zipper or so would have been nice," I mumbled, looking down at my bare arms. Part of me wanted to cover the cuts, and another was simply a little cold.

Right as I wanted to close the wardrobe I saw a single, lonely zipper lying on top of the other clothes. Black in colour, but the hood was inlayed with red plaid. "That wasn't here before. Did you just put it there?"

The TARDIS gave a short hum, confirming my suspicion. Somehow it made me smile, wondering what I had stumbled into. This was like actual magic to me, even though it probably could be explained by some science humans would not even begin to understand. Let alone the fact that I was inside a seemingly conscious and living space ship.

Less fascinating was my own reflection in the mirror. It looked as pale as a ghost, and incredibly tired. Dead. Yeah, I actually looked exactly as I felt.

Outside the Doctor greeted me with an impatient smile. He was fidgeting around with his weird, blue glowing wand thing, that he put away as the door opened. "Ah, see? You look a lot better already. Let's get some food into you."

I nodded and wordlessly followed. A weirdly disappointed feeling went through my guts when I found the kitchen to be empty. Somehow I had awaited to find the Master in here. Instead I enjoyed a small meal in almost silence. The Doctor didn't speak much, only commented on what food would be best to get me back on track.

"You basically need every last bit of nutrition you can get, see?"

"Why? I didn't sleep for long."

"Well, yes, but you lost so much blood we had to fill you up again somehow. Life force alone isn't really enough to keep a body alive, you know."

"You gave me a blood transfusion?" I wondered from whom it might have come.

"No. Not quite. It was a simple sodium chloride solution. Nothing fancy. I think they even use it on earth."

I blinked and looked down at my hands, the pale skin. "Wait. Does that mean I have no actual blood in my veins, right now?"

The Doctor chuckled and grinned. "Well, your body probably already produced some new, but yeah, you're mostly running on the substitute. Probably... eighty percent or so. That's why you should eat properly, give your system enough energy and nutrients to work with."

"Hm, yeah." I huffed. "Well, I always tell everyone, my heart belongs to the sea. Why not having salt water run through my veins, then, hey?"

The whole time I ate, my eyes kept darting towards the door, awaiting it to open at any time. Nothing happened, however, and so I listlessly munched on the ham-egg sandwich, not tasting much of it. Having something in my stomach still made me feel a little better and a lot less shaky than before. I would have murdered someone for coffee instead of juice in that moment, but the Doctor refused to let me have some.

"Okay, what now?" I wanted to know when I had finished. "What's it you do all day?"

The question made a bright smile appear on the Doctor's face. "Travelling!" he announced happily. "Well... not as much since the Master is on board. It's hard enough to keep him away from trouble without landing anywhere. And right now I have to do some maintenance on the console, so... Tell you what?" He stood and smiled warmly. "I'll show you the library, and in a few hours, when I'm done, we can have dinner on the thirty second moon of Keilopherax. What do you think?"

Perplex I blinked, finding his smile to be weirdly contagious. "That... sounds like a cool first day."

Back to index


Chapter 19: Chapter 19

For some reason I had awaited it to be the same library the Master had tried to keep me in, the last time I had been here, but then I remembered that the Doctor didn't even know about that room. The library he showed me now was a lot bigger anyway. Large enough to get lost in it, with lots of slim staircases, winding themselves upwards, pillows on the ground, small reading alcoves here and there and even a fireplace with armchairs and a small table. It currently wasn't lit.

And there were so many books!

"Whoa!" I let out, eyes wide. "Damn, that's a lot! Well... I probably can't read most of it anyway, but still..."

"Oh, don't worry about that," the Doctor told grinning. "The TARDIS' telepathic field translates every language on the fly, inside your head."

My eyes widened even more. "So that's why I could understand the aliens when we had coffee. Really every langue?"

"Usually, yes. For lesser known ones it might have a small delay, but that's rare. So, go ahead. I'll fetch you in a few hours. And if you need anything, the TARDIS will lead you. She seems to like you anyway."

"Huh, does she?"

The Doctor hummed confirming. "Peculiar thing she is. Some she hates, others she likes. Consider yourself lucky." He winked and turned around, hands in his pockets and whistling some weird melody.

Weirdly enough I felt no urge to grab one of the books. My mind was still spinning from... everything. I had been dead and then brought back to life. Someone else's life force was running through me. I still didn't exactly know what this meant. Sure, a living body was driven by electrochemical energy and all that stuff, but literal life force? I really was unsure what to make of it.

I didn't even have a clue what to make of... well... me. Obviously there were no plans for my future, since I hadn't planned for actually having one. The decision had been made without regrets. I had left everything behind, ready and even eager never to return. And now I wouldn't? In a different way than I had planned for, but still... Would the Time Lords keep me until they thought my state was better and then simply drop me somewhere?

Maybe I could just hide in here. The place was big enough, so many rooms, unopened doors. And if the TARDIS really liked me, maybe she would show me a little hiding spot. I didn't want to be in this library, I realized. It was cosy and huge and, at every other point in my life, the absolute perfection for my stories-hungry mind.

"Ah, crap, what happened to me?" I sighed, scolding myself for talking aloud. Even though I had always been pretty alone I had never started that habit. Maybe it was only because I knew I was heard? "I don't know what to do with myself. Is there a section of books to help?" The question was meant more sarcastically than seriously, but still. Who could say what this place might have to offer.

As I rounded another corner of shelves there was a door appearing, right in front of my eyes. Just fading into existence. This was so strange, impossible. Somehow I felt as if I had stumbled into Hogwarts and not into a spaceship. So I pointed an imaginary wand at the door and mumbled, "Alohomora."

And the door swung open.

My arm dropped. "You've got some humour, old lady," I muttered and smiled.

There were more book shelves in the other room, as a quick peek revealed. But the overall structure and tone was different. Curiosity was always one of my weakest spots, so I didn't resist the urge and simply strode through, finding myself in another library. One that seemed familiar, though.

Slowly I sauntered along the wall and glanced around the next corner. Right, this was the hidden study the Master had found for himself. So the TARDIS knew of it, but never showed it to the Doctor? Odd, but who knew what and how a sentient spaceship was thinking.

There was a table in the middle of this section of the room, large and filled with papers, books and all sorts of mechanical and electronic parts, wires, batteries, and whatnot. Amongst the stuff was a free spot and there sat the Master, on the table, cross-legged with closed eyes and wearing ear buds. It almost seemed as if he was meditating, his features calm, hands casually resting on his knees.

I was unsure what to do and whether or not to disturb him. So I stepped back and wanted to leave, when his eyes suddenly snapped open, boring into mine so intensely that I froze in place. His look was ice cold, almost angry. He pulled out the earplugs, without letting me out of sight.

"How the heck did you get in here?" he growled.

I opened my mouth to speak, trapped in his penetrating gaze, suddenly finding myself without words. I tried again, but simply couldn't. I wasn't even able to move.

What the heck?!

The scowl vanished from his face as he stood up to come over and tower above me, head slightly tilted. "What's that?" he asked with a hint of curiosity in his voice. "You react to me." Ungently he grabbed my chin, searching for something on my face, in my eyes. "Sit down," he commanded.

My body reacted. Just like that. In some vague corner of awareness I still realised that I acted without my own will. A second later I sat on the floor, puzzled blinking upwards. The Master sat on his haunches in front of me, a satisfied smile curving his lips.

"Mhm... curious. Now my hypnotism works on you." He chuckled with a sadistic glint in his eyes. "How did you get here? Speak."

"The TARDIS brought me," I told without hesitation. "A door appeared in the library."

His brows shot up. "Is that so?" Thoughtfully he stroked over his beard. I simply was confused as hell. This felt so weird, wrong. The Master grinned. "It seems your will is completely broken."

"That really surprising?" I shot back, frowning, somewhat surprised I could speak.

He only chuckled in response and rose to his feet again. "Stand," the Master commanded, his eyes lighting up in delight as my body obeyed against my own will. His lips spread to an almost charming smile, his voice sickeningly sweet when he spoke up. "Now shut up and get lost. I don't want you anywhere near me."

I obeyed. If due to his hypnotism or of my own volition was hard to say. His words were like a hot knife, slicing through my guts. They hurt, stung in my chest and made my eyes burn. What had I even expected? This was only some sick game, which's rules I didn't understand. It shouldn't surprise me. Not after what I had seen while being unconscious. Memories... His memories. A few of them at least.

Now that I recalled it, those images flooded back into my mind, accompanied me on the way back to the library. The Master had done horrible things, had revelled in blood and torture, had burned down entire planets only because he felt like it. Not to mention all the times he had spread chaos and destruction on earth alone.

Including that one year. One that never happened and did nonetheless. Spheres... floating spheres with long thorns and laughing, childlike voices. I groaned, swayed and steadied myself with a hand against some bookshelf.

"Don't you dare fainting, ape," a voice sneered behind me. "I'm not carrying you around again."

Perplex I glanced up and saw the Master had followed me, now standing a meter apart, hands tucked away inside his pant pockets. The images behind my eyes slowly vanished and with some deep, heavy breaths I leaned my back against the shelf, plugged down my glasses and rubbed the other hand over my face.

"Oh, don't worry," I spat back, slightly pissed, although I knew it was useless.

"Good." He smirked widely. "That would be no fun. And I didn't keep you to get bored."

I rolled my eyes. "Great. Thought you didn't want to see me."

"Speaking of which," he drawled, ignoring my words completely, "it's funny to make people do whatever I want. So..." He chuckled to himself, bending slightly down to my eye level. "Go and burn some of those books."

"No way!" I shot straight, glaring hatefully at him.

Some seconds spread between us, my contempt only growing with each. Hell! He could demand of me whatever he wanted, but not the books! That was just an unbelievable crime against... well... It just is!

The Master tilted his head a little more, brows knitting together, when he realized I wasn't going to move. "Only works halfway, eh?" he commented dryly.

"What does?" I frowned in return, putting my glasses back on.

"The hypnotism, idiot." He grunted exasperated, finally making me realized that I wasn't following his order. "How useless."

"Too bad," I sneered, "You could have lived forever without having to endure my useless boring self."

The Master gave me a mock pout. "Sweet. And let a chance slip to have someone be so deeply indebted to me?"

I glared at him, a heat bubbling up in my chest I hadn't felt in so very long. It's really not easy to make me angry, truly angry, I mean. I gritted my teeth, hands balled to fists. There was a serious urge to just punch his stupidly grinning face, to kick his nuts or whatever.

Instead, I took a long, deep breath, closed my eyes for a brief second and exhaled. "No, you're not worth it," I decided aloud, still giving him a mean look. "And I owe you absolutely nothing. Not for forcing something upon me I didn't want."

His fist slammed against the shelf behind me, his other hand on my collar, grabbing the cloth to draw me upwards. My whole body tensed, breath caught in my lungs. The Master smirked toothlessly, a cruel spark in his eyes.

"At least you're still afraid of me."

Was I? It was almost impossible to take my eyes from his, no matter how much I normally despised eye-contact. Something just kept me there, fixated, frozen. It didn't feel like fear. Why was he so bipolar? One moment acting almost gentle, the next snapping into this cold, distanced person. The one second I felt completely secure around him, the next I wanted nothing more but to run.

"As I see it," the Master continued, "you will have no choice but to obey me. And give me whatever it is I ask of you."

I huffed. "Only as long as your stupid hypnosis is working."

"That's not the only way I can force you, believe me." His voice dropped lower, got quieter, his look now dark. "You seem to know all too well that death is not the most threatening thing."

"Oi, leave her be, Master!" the Doctor suddenly called out from next to us. "Seriously, I can't let you out of sight for more than a second."

The Master turned his head, eyes glinting with contempt. He let go of my collar and stepped back. Why he followed the Doctor's demand was a mystery to me, however. I let out a breath and straightened my clothes.

"Maybe put that collar back on me?" the Master suggested with a sickeningly sweet smile, challenging the other Time Lord. "I miss those nice little zaps."

The Doctor grimaced and tried to hide the guilty look by turning halfway around. "You really left me no choice," he mumbled.

I cast a glance at the Master, unsure if I interpreted this right. He caught my eyes, scowling at my question look. The atmosphere got really unpleasant, so I decided to do something about it.

"Didn't you say you'd need some hours to fix your console?" I tried to distract. "You've been only away for a few minutes."

"Oh, yeah!" The Doctor's eyes lit up and he turned back to share his eagerness. "I was just tinkering about, when the TARDIS caught an interesting signal. Unusual signature. Very unusual. Got curious and landed us there. And... I thought you might wanna come along and have look?"

I glared at him, mouth dropping open. "M... me? But... I... I don't think I could be of help out there, really."

"Ahhh, don't need to be." He slightly bounced up and down. "Just look and see. Have some fun! Come on!" he encouraged, nodding his head backwards.

Just looking. Alright. I could that. I nodded, suddenly feeling a little surge of anticipation. But right as I wanted to move I already stopped and looked up at the Master. "You're coming too?"

Immediately the heavy silence from before was back, shortly after interrupted by a short cough from the Doctor. "Maybe... better not." His eyes shot towards the other Time Lord, who didn't twitch a muscle.

This hardly seemed fair, even though I had a vague clue that the Master would not make things easier, maybe would even try to flee. Still... I knew how it was to be the prisoner of another person. And my guts twisted, thinking about running around out there, while he had to stay behind.

"Oh, I'd be delighted to have a look," the Master said, smiling impishly down at me. He even lay an arm around my shoulder, making me tense up instantly. "I could show my new pet around. Wouldn't that be lovely."

"I'm not your pet!" I hissed and tried to get away from him.

The Doctor's eyes bounced between the two of us and finally he sighed. "Alright. I know this can only end in a disaster... but let's just try it out."

The pleased look on the Master's face clearly showed he was going to make me regret having spoken up for him. Still, something told me I had done the right thing.

Back to index


Chapter 20: Chapter 20

Author's Notes: Let's just pretend this episodes never happened when Rose was aboard. For the mere sake of me having fun with it. Ehehehehe
This might deviate from the original material (quite a lot in some ways). I just had to, It's probably my favourite two-parter in the whole series!


"Lead the way," the Doctor offered happily, waving towards the doors.

I remembered the last time and how sceptical I had been. Now I felt almost calm about the prospect of stumbling out onto an alien world. Which didn't mean I wouldn't be suspecting a monster or plainly an abyss to wait right outside. Some vague thought-cloud in my mind told me I should be weary, afraid even, but the rest of me simply wasn't able to. Even though the Doctor very much seemed like a man to simply throw someone into an unknown danger.

So I opened the door and peeked through the door slit, raising an eyebrow immediately at the sight, before I stepped out, followed by both Time Lords. The last trip with the Doctor had made me expect some weird and curious place, instead we were...

"That's a cargo room," I mumbled, slightly disappointed.

"I think we've landed inside a cupboard." The Doctor chuckled to himself, observing his ship that had squeezed itself between two containers. He eyed the Master and as my gaze followed I saw him rolling his eyes. The Doctor, however, clearly in high spirits, spun around and took the half step towards the only door. "Here we go."

Swiftly, as if it were the most normal thing in the universe, he opened the door with a metal wheel, then started to ramble about bases and kits and human design. I didn't really listen. The octagonal shaped corridor in front of us had all my attention, it and all the weird noises from around, including a computer voice that told us which doors were just opened and closed.

"Is there a storm going on, outside?" I wondered. "Sounds nasty."

"Yeah, might be," the Doctor blabbered on. "Be glad, we're inside. Although the TARDIS' shields would protect us from the worst. Should. Usually does, actually."

"Except for that one visit on Gjerlat, where the acid hail surprised you?" the Master sneered. "And there you were nagging around, just because I blew a hole in the mountain."

"I wouldn't have nagged, would you have looked, before shooting!" the other Time Lord protested. "You buried half a village under rubble!"

The Master just shrugged.

'Open door 17', the computer voice told.

We all stepped into a small room with tables and chairs. It looked plain, simple. Nothing special or telling where we were.

"Oh, it's a sanctuary base," the Doctor concluded happily. "Deep space exploration. We've gone way out."

"What's that noise?" I wanted to know, straining my ears with closed eyes. "Are those the machines keeping the oxygen circulating? Water pipes... ventilation?"

"No, someone's drilling." He glared at the ground, hopping up and down on his heels.

"Welcome to hell," the Master spoke forebodingly.

"Oh, come on, Master! We've had worse trips already."

"You mean, forced excursions with you?" The other Time Lord snorted. "Still, you might find this here interesting. It doesn't translate."

"What?!" the Doctor called out and hopped next to the Master to observe a wall that was smeared with black writing.

The top line actually read 'Welcome to hell', but the writing below was indecipherable. Just a bunch of strange symbols, that looked to me as if someone had plainly nicked them from some videogame. But who am I to judge when it comes to alien languages.

"Hey, Doctor," I chimed in, interrupting his inspection as I remembered something, "You said the TARDIS translates every language."

"Exactly. If that's not working, then it means this writing is old. Very old. Impossibly old. We should find out who's in charge."

"We should find out what the heck is on this planet," the Master added, curiosity glimmering in his eyes. "If the TARDIS' knowledge is exhausted, we might have stumbled upon something powerful."

I tossed a glance at him, barely containing a giggle. Funny how two men could be eager to learn about the same thing, but for such completely different reasons. And I was rather certain the Master wasn't interesting in old stuff, just because to seek knowledge. Quite in opposite to the Doctor. He was still a mystery to me, but it seemed as if he found great joy in exploring the unknown.

Extremely eager indeed, seeing how quickly he wheeled open the next door to hop right through.

"For fricks sake, move, man!" the Master growled as he almost bumped into him.

"Oh! Right. Hello. Sorry. I was just saying, err, nice base," came the Doctor's voice from the other side.

I squeezed myself through the half open door and startled at the sight of dozens of humanoid alien creatures looking straight at us. They wore weird jumpsuits and had tentacles instead of noses and mouths. Their hands held a small sphere that seemed to be connected with them in some way. Suddenly their spheres glowed and all at once started to talk.

"We must feed!"

"Not on us!" the Master growled and shoved me right back behind him, when I tried to squeeze past.

"We must feed! We must feed!"

They started to repeat those words over and over again, slowly stepping closer.

"Wait, wait," the Doctor called, raising his hands, "I'm sure we can talk about this!"

"Ohhh, listen to you!" the Master sneered and grabbed the nearest chair. "You're always all words!"

As the creatures trod closer he simply whacked the furniture over the nearest head, sending the alien limply to the ground. The others stopped, still repeating their phrase though. One of them shook its globe and blinked.

"You," it said. "If you are hungry."

"Sorry?" the Doctor replied dumbfounded.

Finally I overcame my frozen state and stepped next to him, glaring at the lifeless body on the ground and the Master, who still held the chair, ready to strike again. Weirdly enough, the aliens didn't even seem to realize what he had done and simply stood there. The one from before spoke up again.

"We apologise. Electromagnetics have interfered with speech systems. Would you like some refreshment?"

"Are those machines?" I asked curiously, baffled by their indifferent behaviour.

'Open door 18,' the computer voiced. And in stepped a bunch of people, who seemed as dumbfounded as we were.

A dark haired woman stepped towards the knocked out alien, while an older guy rushed towards us, casting a quick glance at the Master, before he halted right in front of the Doctor and pressed a button on a device on his wrist. Obviously a communicator.

"Captain, you're not going to believe this," he spoke, eyes wide in wonderment. "We've got people. Out of nowhere. I mean, real people. I mean three living people, just standing here right in front of me."

A male voice from the communicator answered, "Don't be stupid, that's impossible."

"I suggest telling them that," the older guy responded and lowered his hand.

"Jefferson," the dark haired woman interrupted. "That Ood here is dead."

The other creatures didn't even wince at the news, nor did they move or speak again. The older guy, Jefferson, didn't seem impressed by that and hurled around to the Master. "Why the heck did you do that? Put that chair away!"

The Time Lord gave the man a dark look, but sat the furniture to the ground. "You stupid pets attacked us," he growled, "It's every person's right to defend themselves."

"Yeah, but it's just an Ood!" Jefferson exclaimed.

"It could be a Florks and I still wouldn't care," the Master grumbled.

"Wait. You don't know what an Ood is?" the man exclaimed. "And how did you get here anyway? Do you even know where you are? "

"Nope, no idea," the Doctor replied and grinned. "More fun that way."

All talk was interrupted by the whole base suddenly shaking. An earthquake? Through the speakers of the room a female voice told something about point five. In an instant the old man ran to the doors, followed by his comrades. Only the Ood didn't move at all, as if they didn't even notice what was going on.

They seemed as baffled as I was, my body automatically going into freeze mode again. And then there was a hand slipping into mine and tugging at it, forcing me to stumble forwards."Move, stupid!" the Master snarled.

I did. What else was there to do? I didn't want to stay behind, not alone and also not with those aliens. Whatever they might be. We ran through another one of those narrow corridors, everything around us shaking. Through the next door we entered another room, bigger than the last one and with a large console in its middle. A bunch of people stood around it, each of them glaring at us as if we were ghosts.

Jefferson closed the door while the shaking ceased.

"People, look at that! Real people," a young woman remarked.

"Yeah, that's us, hooray!" the Doctor chimed, hands buried in his pant pockets.

Somehow I fought the urge to hide, uncomfortable with the sudden attention. Social anxiety is a wild and persistent beast. And while I had tamed it to a huge degree, it still tore at its chains from time to time. Especially in such sudden situations like these. My pulse quickened and I felt a little shaky. The other hand vanished from mine, leaving me suddenly bare and without a hold.

"The Doctor, nice to meet you," the Time Lord introduced. "This is the Master, don't ask. And the little one is Lucy."

I startled at hearing my name, my pulsing shooting up even higher as everyone stared at me for a moment. Somehow I managed to smile. The same fake smile I had studied in so well people couldn't tell it apart from a real one.

They all spoke at once, one guy stepping closer, babbling something about hallucinations. Another man with dreadlocks scolded him.

"Whoever you are," he continued, "just hold on... tight."

"Alright!" The Doctor beamed all over his face as if this were the greatest adventure of his lifetime. "What's happening there, mind me asking?"

"Impact in 3... 2... 1..." the dark skinned man instead told.

I had no time to find a good halt, wanted to grab the door wheel, but already the quake shook us wildly. Someone caught me, wrapped one arm around my torso and pulled me back.

Two times the ground shook beneath our feet, the second time a lot longer and more violent than the first. Fires started to burst out of some machines, electric sparks flew through the room, all while an ear piercing alarm shrilled through the air.

Eventually, though, it stopped and people rushed about to extinguish the fires, voices called out, telling they were okay. I took a deep breath and tried to straightened up, then realized the arm that still held me and glanced up to see it belonged to the Master.

The whole situation was way too sudden for my taste. I had no idea how to react and my mind had no time to adjust. Still, my body stopped shaking, my pulse calmed. But then I remembered how the Master had treated me, after I had woken up, how he had pushed me away as if I were something disgusting.

"Let go," I demanded, brows narrowing.

He cast a look down so dark as if it were my fault that he held me. His arm vanished and he left me standing there, moving around the console to inspect everything.

"What's this planet called, anyway?" the Doctor asked, meanwhile.

"Now, don't be stupid," one of the women scolded with raised brows. "It hasn't got a name. How could it have a name?" She paused and looked at our clueless faces. "You really don't know, do you?"

I shook my head and the Doctor went "Nope!", popping the 'p'.

The Master scowled at the holographic display. As I stepped next to him I saw a bunch of red blinking things on it.

"Hey, I'm Zach by the way, acting Captain," he introduced himself with a short smile, his attention however not really with us. "Damn... The surface caved in. Alright... I deflected it onto storage five through eight. We've lost them completely." He looked up and searched the room. "Toby, go and check the rocket link."

"That's not my department," a skinny, blond man grumbled.

"Just do as I say, yeah?"

"Five to eight... wasn't that..." the Master mumbled into his beard, his look getting darker by the second. "Hey, human," he addressed the Captain and pointed at the screen. "Wasn't that near habitation area six?"

The man raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "Yeah... that was among it. Why."

"What?!" the Doctor called out, having overheard it all. "No, no, no, no! That can't be! Storages, right? Bit of a cupboard in size?"

His face grew paler by the second and he was about to run straight outside, but got grabbed by the arm by one of the armed guys. "Hey! No running around our base until we at least know who-"

"But my ship was in there! My TARDIS! It's all we've got. Literally!"

The older of the two women trod towards him and lay a hand on his arm. "Is that how you came here? What sort of ship was that?"

"Yes... yes. Hard to explain. It just sort of... appears." It seemed as if he was close to tears by now. "It can't be gone. We have to get it back somehow. You've got robot drills heading the same way..."

"We can't divert the drilling," Zach said firmly. "We've only got the resources to drill one central shaft down to the power source, and that's it. No diversions, no distractions, no exceptions. Your machine is lost. All I can do is offer you a lift if we ever get to leave this place, and that is the end of it."

It was obvious that he wouldn't allow for any argument. The mood palpably dropped, even the room seemed to get colder as a heavy silence lay itself upon us like a heavy blanket. Could we really be trapped here? The possibility... no, fact, refused to sink in with me. And I barely got the time to think about it all too much.

A low chuckle made us all look in one direction and it took everyone a good second to realize what we saw.

"Oh, I really think you can make an exception here," the Master told, matter-of-factly and with an almost sarcastic smile as he pointed a stolen rifle at the Captain.

Back to index


Chapter 21: Chapter 21

Everyone stared at the Master and the rifle in his hands. One of the armed men turned his head in puzzlement, wondering how he had been stolen from so easily.

"Oh, good!" The Master beamed from ear to ear. "I have your attention. Finally." The smile spread to a full blown grin.

"Master, stop it!" the Doctor called out, trying to step closer. He halted immediately when the other Time Lord raised the gun a little.

"Are you telling me you want to be stranded here?" he snarled. "Without even trying to get the TARDIS back? You're so pathetic."

"Not like this," the Doctor implored. "We surely can get back with more resources and get-"

"Yes, yes!" one of the women seconded. "We're drilling for an artificial power source that's below. That..." Her eyes darted to the Master and she swallowed. "I... think that should get us enough money and resources to send another mission here and retrieve your ship."

"No," the Master simply said, his voice cold, the grin dropping. His eyes locked with the Captain's. "You're going to get it back, right now."

Zach visibly tensed, but then, to everyone's surprise, he nodded. "Yes, of course. We'll relocate the drill immediately. Ida, calculate what we'll need for it to happen."

"What?" the woman from before responded dumbfounded. "Zach, we can't!"

"Yeah! What's gotten into you?" Jefferson asked. "That's not normal!"

"Stop it, Master," the Doctor implored once more. "You can't hypnotize every single one here."

"No... guess I can't." He tilted his head a little and patted the rifle. "That's why got this neat little thing. Now, Captain... obey!"

I could have warned the Master. I saw the man sneaking up on him way beforehand. And maybe it would have been the better choice, since being stuck here for who knows how long really wasn't in my own interest. But, as much as I wanted, I just couldn't get my conscience to cooperate. So I squeezed my eyes shut when the man lunged out with another rifle and smacked it over the Master's head with a truly sickeningly sound.

"Good job, Stevenson," Jefferson praised. "Now get him cuffed. And you two," He hurled around to me and the Doctor, his eyes dark from anger and suspicion. "Do we have to secure you as well?"

"No!" the Doctor hastily said defiantly. "He's just... Well... How would you react if someone stole your only home? But we'll cooperated. Nothing to gain from doing harm."

I only nodded, not in the mood to talk me into trouble.

"Alright, but I'll keep an eye on all of you."

A groan came from the ground. "You bastard," the Master ground out, lifting himself to his knees, but not further, as his hands were bound with metal.

"Quiet!" the Captain ordered, finally coming back to his senses. "First you kill one of our Ood, then you attack me. Manipulate me!"

"Not going to apologize," the Master spat.

"Leave him to me," Jefferson said, "I'll find a spare room to lock him away for now. Danny, make sure he gets everything he needs."

"Heh, I will," the guy with the long, dark hair said with a smile. "Finally something to do for me, here."

"You really think you can lock me away?" the Master sneered. "Sweet."

"Oh, shut up," Jefferson retorted. "Or do we have to gag you?"

The only answer was a truly murderous glare, but the Master stayed silent, having understood he wasn't in any position right now to really get the upper hand.

Zach cast a glance at everyone, expecting anything to happen. The silence weighed heavy on the room for a good while.

One of the women spoke up. "Well, as sorry as I am for your situation, it's probably best to get to know each other, right? I'm Ida Scott, science officer." She waved to the Captain. "You know Zachary Cross Flane, acting Captain, sir. You've met Mister Jefferson, he's Head of Security." Another wave to the dark haired one, "Danny Bartock, Ethics committee."

"Yep, I'll make sure you're treated after all the current standards of human rights."

It seemed as if no one heard the snort coming from the Master, who had gotten to his feet again, but was held by two armed men.

Ida continued, "The man who just left was Toby Zed, Archaeology, and this", she smiled at the younger woman next to her, "is Scooti Manista, Trainee maintenance."

"Hi!" She wriggled her fingers towards us.

"And where exactly are we stranded?" the Doctor asked. "You're all making a great mystery out of this place, you know."

"You really have no clue. You're not joking," Ida answered baffled. "Well, then... You should probably know before settling in." She pulled a lever and the roof started to open. "Here it comes. This... is home."

"Brace yourselves." Zach told. "The sight of it sends some people mad."

Curiously I watched as the round metal plates receded, leaving nothing but glass between us and the outside. And there, in the darkness of space, blacker than anything I'd ever seen, hung a hole, surrounded by what seemed to be flames, or just tons of matter being dragged inside? Vaguely I got aware of my mouth dropping open. From all those movies and games I knew them, but none of those could have ever prepared me for this. As if an ancient giant had ripped a hole through reality itself, leaving nothing but the purest of darkness. It was as if even my gaze was swallowed by it, as if the mere sight would suck out my very soul and...

"Look away, idiot!"

The voice tore me away from the black hole and I turned to find the Master staring at me with dark eyes.

"Didn't you just listen?" he grumbled.

"B... but..." I stuttered, having to fight the urge to glance back. "I've never seen anything like it. It's so..."

To my surprise he smiled knowingly.

"That's completely impossible!" the Doctor let out.

Ida sounded sort of proud when she elaborated, "This lump of rock is suspended in perpetual geostationary orbit around that black hole without falling in."

Curiosity got the better of me and the bouts of social anxiety had finally faded enough to let my learning-eager mind take the upper hand.

"How don't we get sucked in?" I dared to ask, still a little uncomfortable when all eyes landed on me. "I...'m not sure how far away one has to be... but that looks pretty close."

"We should be dead!" the Doctor exclaimed.

"And yet here we are." Ida practically beamed at him. "Beyond the laws of physics. Welcome on board."

Something slightly shook the base again, particles and dark clouds moved over our heads and towards the blackness. It was so hard to look away.

"But why does this rock has an atmosphere? There are clouds." I felt a little stupid asking this, but I just had to. It looked so weird.

Ida didn't seem to mind, however. "There's no atmosphere. What you see there is stars breaking up. Gas clouds. We have whole solar systems being ripped apart above our heads, before falling into that thing."

I gulped, staring dumbfounded at her and fighting the urge to get lost in the hole again. "Wow," I just said, unable to clad my amazement into words. I wasn't even sure if there were any in the human language, or any language at all, that could even closely describe what I felt in that moment.

"So," Danny clapped his hands together, "Let's bring our rebel to a safe space and then we'll see if we can find anything to do for you two. Come along."

The Master was escorted by two men, one of them Jefferson. I simply followed the Doctor, trying to stay as close as possible to not get lost anywhere.

The base was interesting enough, leading partly underground, alongside rough stone walls. Never had I seen anything like it and had trouble keeping pace here and there. So many things to see, even though they probably weren't that exciting on closer inspection. And everywhere were those Ood, these strange creatures that all looked the same and just mindlessly did all sorts of work.

Danny showed us some laboratories, the drilling shaft, a few parts that were only for storage. On our way back to the control room he showed us a set of quarters.

"We've got more rooms than we have people, in case a part of the base gets lost," he explained. "Just pick one, each, the Ood will bring you everything you need."

We picked rooms that were next to one another, mostly because there was no reason at all not to. They all looked the same. Only big enough for a bed, a small wardrobe and a desk, and a small, round window that let one look outside, but still at an angle that didn't allow a view on the black hole.

The Master, however, was brought a few rooms further down the corridor. From outside one could only enter via handprint. Inside one could only leave by passing through a small corridor, maybe a meter in width, in front of the door that read one's biological signature, as Jefferson explained. Only when it was registered as valid did the door open. So, even if the prisoner would kidnap a valid person, the door would not open, as long as he was inside the corridor. Simple, but extremely effective.

Like this they also were able to free the Master of his cuffs and let him at least roam around a bit, although there wasn't much room for it. In opposite to our quarters, he had his own tiny bathroom, though. I could also spot the same furniture in here that we had. Only an additional book shelve was mounted to one of the walls, to keep a prisoner occupied. The Master trod towards that one and studied its contents as if it was the most normal thing to do. He also ignored the warning to behave and everything else that was spoken towards him.

For a brief moment I felt strange when looking at him. There was such a sense of calm at the way he carried himself, the posture with folded hands behind his back, head now slightly turned to the side to glance through the window. In this short second he simply felt... ancient.

Before I could put any proper words to the perception I was already gently pushed from the door.

"You'll treat him well, right," the Doctor enquired with slight concern in his voice. "I know he can be complicated, but..."

"Yes, of course!" Danny blurted almost indignantly. "We just have to figure out how we can get him to... you know... not attack us and play along. And I really hope you two will help with that, because it will greatly speed the process up."

I couldn't see how that would work. The Master didn't appear to me as someone who would simply accept being stranded here. And I could understand him so well. It took me every ounce of thought control not to let this fact run me over. I didn't want to be trapped, had no idea who these people were, character-wise, had no idea how long we would stay.

"Here's the cantina." Danny waved into another room. "How about you have a quick snack and I or Ida will see what tasks we can assign to you? I'll get a list of things we could need another set of hands. The Ood will serve you."

With that he left us and the Doctor nudged me in the side with a reassuring smile.

"Hungry?"

"Not really," I mumbled, sitting at one of the tables. "I just ate before we left the TARDIS, in case you forgot."

"No, haven't. Hm... all of this looks really weird." He studied the contents of the food on display. One of the Ood was standing behind with a scoop in one hand. "I'll take some of the blue stuff. I like blue."

"As you wish, Sir," the Ood answered obediently.

"And give me some of the orange for Lucy, will ya? It looks nourishing."

"I recommend the red and purple for the most nourishing effects, Sir. Those combined provide a human body with the exact dosage of the most vital vitamins and minerals."

"Alright. Let's go with those, then."

Smiling all over his face, he carried first mine, then his own tablet to our table. The stuff smelled weird, although not bad, so I forked a little into my mouth. Somehow it reminded me of mashed potatoes, only with some other undertones to it. The plate was barely touched, however, since I felt not hungry at all.

Thinking about it... including the tour through the base, it only had been a maximum of three hours or so since I had awoken in the med bay. Even less since the tiny spark of hope for a better life had sparked within me. I pushed the plate away, suddenly feeling sick to the stomach.

"I'm sorry. I really am," came the Doctor's mumbling. I looked up and met his sorrowful gaze. "That's probably not the kind of thing to..."

"Just forget it," I murmured. "Doesn't matter."

"Of course it does! I have a responsibility for you after all!"

"No, you don't." I rolled my eyes. "And if anyone at all is responsible for me being here, it's your damn prisoner." The Doctor looked so guilt stricken that I almost had the urge to take my words back. Almost. "What did he even think?!" I went on, letting my anger bubble up for a bit. "Why preserving my stupid life, when he hates all humans so much? I'm not a damn plaything!"

"No, no... you're not. He's away now. Can't do you harm. Don't worry about him."

I grunted out my exasperation and gave the Time Lord a dark scowl. "Is that all you are doing? If someone's not the way you like them, just lock them away and be done?"

"What?! No!" he protested. "Like hell, no! I've tried so many things, believe me." His eyes went wide and a little desperate. "Since the year..." The Doctor slightly shook his head and sunk together. "At first I tried my best, yes. He struggled so much to be even brought aboard the TARDIS. Then he was completely out of control, tried to demolish everything and to kill me at every opportunity."

Okay, I hadn't expected that. Not to this extend. But still...

"He came to terms after some time," the Doctor continued, eyeing his fidgeting fingers instead of me. "Well... had to. And I tried it. Took him to a few nice planets, some, where no life existed. Later... He seemed calm enough to try livelier places. That... only worked after a while."

"Did... he kill people?" I wanted to know, but then sighed. "Why do I even ask?"

The Doctor gave me a week smile that made me feel uncomfortable. How many had to die before the Doctor had gotten him under control? And what in the universe had he done to the Master to ensure he wouldn't do harm? He didn't seem like a person you could simply argument with. The brief mentioning of the collar came to mind and I gulped.

Why did I even feel bad for the Master? Didn't he deserve every last bit of bad treatment after what he had done to so many? But then there was this strange way in which the Doctor behaved towards him. The way he acted right now. As if it were no deal at all that the other man sat alone and in figurative chains.

Quite as if the Doctor had long since given up on the Master.

Back to index


Chapter 22: Chapter 22

"So, what are we gonna do with the two of you?" Ida thought out loud as she visited us in the canteen. "The Ood do most of the nasty tasks around, and the rest is handled by us, obviously." She sat next to me and eyed the untouched food, then gave me a smile. "You'll get used to the taste."

"'m just not hungry," I mumbled.

"No? Well, maybe you should eat anyway, you're pale as a ghost." Ida chuckled. She had no clue.

I gave her a small smile, but still didn't touch the food, only drank the cup of water that sat nearby.

"Doctor, I'll put you in the laundry. We need tall people there, the racks are quite high. And you, Lucy... mhm... not quite sure. What have you learned?"

"Uh..." I startled a little and straightened in my chair. Not this again. "N... nothing. I mean... nothing helpful."

"Well... time to change that, huh?"

Perplex I blinked at the woman in front of me, the reassuring wide smile on her face, as if my incapability was no problem at all.

"You could become a trainee, too. No problem at all. And when we get back to the colony, you have a certificate and all that. Sounds good?"

For a second I was about to ask what colony she was talking about, but then decided this could wait, and I simply nodded. Was that my chance to finally become useful to the world?

"Okay, great!" Ida smiled even wider. "What are you good at?"

Shit... maybe not my chance at all, then. "Oof, I don't know," I confessed. "I'm really not good with people... that rules out almost every..."

"I asked what you're good at." The blond chuckled amused. "Come on. Don't be shy. Everyone has some talents."

But what where mine? I cast a puzzled glance in the Doctor's direction, but he only shrugged and smiled. "I can't answer that for you."

"Guess... I'm good with my hands." I glanced at them, once more stunned at how pale my skin was right now. "I used to help my Dad repair all kinds of stuff. Small stuff likes watches and our household items. And..." A reassuring nod from Ida made me continue, although I wasn't sure this was even important, but I wanted to mention it anyway. "I'm really good at detecting patterns. In general, I mean. Probably not helpful..."

"Oh, of course it is! That can help quite a lot with finding errors in the systems." She contemplated for a few moments. "I'll bring you to Danny. He has not much to do here, and before his job as ethic committee, he was an electronic engineer. I bet he'll be happy to show you the basics. Guess we can schedule some maths and physics lessons in, every few days... hm... Well, yeah, let's start with that, okay? Sounds good?"

"It does!" A weird spark of excitement went through me all of a sudden. "When do we start?"

Ida laughed at that. "Not today. It's late already."

"Ah, you set up an artificial clock to keep your biorhythms intact," the Doctor concluded. "Well, must have. There's no real days around." He stood up and waved at us. "Alright then, see you tomorrow!"

With that he left the two of us alone. Well, almost alone. As he exited, Danny came in, tossing a quick hello at us. In an instant I felt my chest tighten slightly. Being among strangers was stressing enough, being all alone with two at once, though, spiked my anxiety quite a bit. Luckily only for a moment. It had gotten easier to calm myself down over the past years.

"Hey Danny," Ida called out and stood too. "Lucy will train with you from tomorrow on."

"Me? A trainee? Are you sure?" he asked as he got himself food.

"Absolutely. Teach her everything you know about electronics, yeah? Might come in handy to have another set of hands for that sort of stuff around." She strode to the door and gave us a last smile. "Good night, then."

"Night, Ida."

"Good night," I mumbled, uncertain what to do now. Should I leave, too? Would I even find my way back to the quarters?

"Oh, hey," Danny interrupted my thoughts. "Before you go, could you... mhmm..." He seemed a little uncomfortable. "Well, this Master guy. He gives me the creeps. And I'm supposed to bring him the evening ration, so..."

"Uh, I could bring it," I offered, almost certain it was what the other man would have requested anyway.

His features relaxed, then he called out to the Ood in the kitchen, "Hey, ready some food for our prisoner. There should be a box somewhere around."

"As you wish, Sir," the creature answered and strode away.

"What are those anyway?" I wanted to know. "Those Ood, I mean. Are they androids? They seem so cold."

"Wow, you lot must really come from who knows where. No, they are a slave race."

"Slaves?" I raised an eyebrow. "So they are alive, huh..."

"It sounds worse than it is. They live for this, it's their way of finding joy in life. Serving others... We don't force them to anything, treat them well." He shrugged and forked some food into his mouth. "Quite handy. Almost everyone back home has one."

The Ood brought a small plastic box with food and sat it on the table, before returning to his place.

"There," Danny pointed his fork at a button. "It's self heating. But should stay warm for the short way. And..." He got out a small device that looked like a tablet and typed something in, then let it hover over me for a second. "Now the security gate lets you in."

I nodded and picked up the box, then left for the door, but turned back again. "Uhm... do you get me, tomorrow, or shall I come somewhere? I... don't think I have an alarm clock, or..."

"Oh, don't worry. The station wakes us automatically. And sure, I'll get you. Half an hour after waking time." He gave me a thumbs up and grinned. "Right! Almost forgot. If you ever get lost, the cables in the base are colour-coded. And they have small arrows on them. Blue goes to the quarters, yellow to the canteen and red to the control room. Those are the three important ones, anyway."

My eyes lit up at that information. Finally something that was designed for people without a sense for orientation!

"Then see you tomorrow." I smiled and carried the box away.

Outside I looked out for the cables and found them quickly, following the blue ones. This wasn't so bad, in the end. Being stranded here might have given me some chances the world at home had never granted me.

Home... earth... My steps slowed slightly as I pondered about it. Since when were we able to fly out so far? How had we developed the technique to built bases and live on them? When had we discovered the Ood? And what about the aforementioned colonies? Was all of this some kind of secret government stuff, where they sent people to train and live, far from earth, leaving the rest of us believing we hadn't even left our own solar system, yet?

I stopped in front of the Master's cell and looked for any kind of door handle. There was none, but I found a small scanner-like apparatus on the side and held my hand over it. That seemed to do the trick. The door opened to let me in.

"It's me," I greeted and passed the gate. "And I've brought some rather disgusting looking food."

There was no response and for a moment I thought he might be in the bathroom , but then, to my surprise, I found the Master sitting on the floor, between the bed and the table. His knees were bent and drawn up to his chest, both arms draped over his head as if it was hurting.

"You're alright?" I carefully asked and placed the food box on the table. "Shall I ask them for painkillers?"

His fingers twitched lightly, but there was no verbal answer. Did he even recognize that I was there? Maybe he was asleep. The position sure looked uncomfortable, but who knew how his species preferred their downtime, after all.

Some instinct, however, told me, that he was awake and so I dropped to my haunches and touched his shoulder. "Master?"

"Piss off," he grumbled, without budging. His voice sounded weirdly strained. Something clearly wasn't right with him.

"Hey, listen," I tried, "just because you messed up a little doesn't mean you have to be in pain."

Finally his head raised and my eyes met his. The sight made me startle, made me hold my breath for a moment. He held me captive with his stare, within those hazel depths I fell, torn out of my own existence and into a swathing mass of... madness.

"It's too quiet in here," he whispered, pupils wide and dark. "The hole. It doesn't swallow them. Why can't it just eat them like everything else?"

"I... don't know." What was he talking about?

"Can't you hear them?" he asked, leaning his head back against the wall, eyes staring into nothingness, as is there was something... something he searched for.

I closed my eyes and listened. "There is humming," I quietly told. "From the machines. And I hear the drill."

"No! No, no, no, no!" the Master called out and drove his fingers into his hair, clutching at his head as if he suffered immense pain. "It's the drumming! This never ending, constant... it's always there, in the silence. Never... it's never quiet!"

I remembered. The day in the TARDIS kitchen, when he had suddenly and seemingly lost his mind, when he had tapped this rhythm over and over again.

Tap – tap – tap – tap.

"Like... a heartbeat?" I asked and his head snapped up, his gaze almost fearful, longing, desperate even. "I... I'm not sure it's what you mean, but... when I was unconscious... I heard a beat, like drums, I guess. Four beats, always the same. Like..."

The Master scowled, let out a frustrated growl, bent over... sobbed? No, it was more a muffled cry. It hurt to see him like that, no matter what an arsehole he was. I reached out to touch his arm, to somehow comfort him, even though I had no idea how. He slapped my hand away, shot forward and grabbed me by the collar, suddenly was on his knees, dragged me against him.

"Listen," he demanded and pointed at his chest. "Is that what you heard?"

"Wha'?"

I wasn't sure what he meant? Was I supposed to listen to his heartbeat? The look in his dark eyes made me gulp and so I obeyed, plugged down my glasses and placed an ear against his chest. A weird thing to do, and somehow also not. He didn't move, waited.

And there it was.

Du – du – du – du!

Du – du – du – du!

Du – du – du – du!

Four beats, repeating in an endless rhythm, soothing, in a weird and incomprehensible way.

"Do... you have two hearts?" I wondered, although the sound made it quite obvious. He nodded and I blinked perplex. "Huh, okay, then that must be what I heard."

"Thought so," he mumbled in a disappointed tone and sunk together in front of me like a deflated balloon, hands reaching up again to claw their way back to his head.

Helplessly I looked at his sunken form, wanting nothing more but to help. At the same time I had the suspicion that he wouldn't let me, too stubborn and maybe even to afraid to let anyone near him. It reminded me so horribly of myself, of how no one was able to understand how I experience the world, because it is too different from what they know as real. So I had given up, had stopped reaching out and just buried all of it within the depths of my own self.

I'm not like them, I thought to myself. Maybe I would never be able to function like a normal human being, but maybe that also enabled me to see and understand what others couldn't. And the Master was no human.

A little hesitantly I reached out and carefully placed my hands above his, let my head sink.

"I'm willing to listen."

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Chapter 23: Chapter 23

Author's Notes: Trigger warning: Fluff! 🤣
Also, it seems like I'm in some writing frenzy, right now... so here you have a new chapter, earlier than usual. Have fun! °v°


Slowly the Master raised his head, glared at me with a mix of disbelieve and almost hatred. He swiped my hands away from him, grabbed my wrists and shot to his feet, dragging me right along. The back of my head hit stone as I thudded against the wall, black dots sparking in front of my lids. The Master pushed himself against me. I was trapped, unable to move, dizzy and confused.

"I will break your silly mind, lil' lumin." The Master snickered, wrapped his fingers around my head, thumbs sliding under the stems of my glasses to rest on the temples. The pressure was light enough not to hurt, but so firm that it was uncomfortable.

My unspoken protest drowned in a sudden and ever growing pressure within my head, as if something was there with me that didn't belong. I gasped at the sensation, instinctively tried to struggle, but the Master held me in place. The sensation filled out my head, it hurt, spread within every fibre of my consciousness. Somehow I let out a whimper, gritted my teeth and fisted both hands into his shirt. Ragged breaths escaped my burning lungs. My heart hammered in its cage like a panicking animal.

Then it stopped.

No, it wasn't gone, I realized; only dampened to a manageable level, an unpleasant tingling on the crown of my head. It felt as if something crept through my mind, like... an energy of sorts. As if... as if...

"Hm..." made the Master. "That probably hurt, didn't it?" He chuckled lightly. "Needs getting used to, to navigate a human mind."

"Wha'... re y... doin'?" I brought out, barely able to speak.

"Don't you feel it? I'm right here."

The sensation in my head got stronger again, but this time not hurtful. I managed to concentrate on it, to feel... him? I grasped the edge of a thought, the tingling of an emotion that wasn't mine. He was inside my mind... literally.

"How... d'you do tha'?"

Shaky breaths escaped my lips, no, my whole body was trembling. There was no pain anymore, but it was so foreign, so weird. It exhausted me on a level I couldn't even comprehend and still...

"There. Listen!" the Master demanded, pressing his thumbs harder against my head.

Alright. If that was what he wanted... I tried. I listened deep inside of me, focused on the sensation of his presence within my own. Something was there, tugging at me, begging to be let in. I groaned in exhaustion, unable to grasp what was happening to me.

"I... c... can't," I mumbled, surprised I was still able to speak. "I hear nothing."

Utter silence filled the room for mere seconds. The Master let out a breath, more a noiseless sigh that told of and exhaustion far deeper than I experienced. One he must be carrying around for who knows how many years or decades... centuries even. His presence stayed with me, his forehead dropped against mine. Raw emotions flooded me, frustration, anger, and a deep, oh so deep sadness.

"I'm sorry," I muttered, meaning it and hoping he might sense that. "I tried. I really did."

He pinched his eyes shut, clenched his teeth as if in pain. It felt as if he was close to tears. His hands slid from my temples and to my cheeks, thumbs stroking lightly over them. Our eyes met and I saw a raw, almost animalistic desperation. Or did I imagine it?

The same moment I realised he had left my mind, my head started to feel too light, heart-rate speeding up, my skin suddenly clammy and sweaty. It was impossible to stand upright, the world around spinning too fast, making me sick.

The Master caught me before I could collapse, carried my shaking self to the bed and carefully dropped me there.

"You're still week," he said tonelessly. "No wonder. You were dead just some hours ago."

Shaking and freezing as I was I curled myself to a ball on my side, trembling. The Master had long slipped out of my mind, but something had still changed, was still lingering. As if he had awakened something deep within me, something that always had been there, but dormant.

I observed the Master while my body calmed down. He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. The black dots in front of my eyes started to fade a little, the lying position making it easier for my circulation not to collapse completely. He looked as tired as I felt.

"What was that?" I wanted to know and his eyes met mine again, cold, but not wearing the same cruelness in them as before.

"Time Lords have psychic abilities," he explained calmly and sat next to me on the bed. If it was to get comfortable or because he wouldn't have to look at me in that position I couldn't tell. "We can see in each others' minds, we can even communicate like that. Even from afar... if the connection between two individuals is either strong enough by nature or strengthened artificially."

"Felt more like you were physically rummaging around in there," I grudgingly grumbled.

The Master chuckled and turned his head to look down at me, a sarcastic smirk playing on his lips. "Well, humans have not yet discovered that ability. You have some capacity for it. Not as strongly as we do, but..." He shrugged and chuckled. "Your own fault if it hurt."

"Pffff, bugger." Exhaling and curling myself together some more I managed to stay conscious. The weak moment had passed. "Damn, that's tiresome."

"I didn't tone it down." A mean snickering came from his direction. "Was curious if your head would burst."

"Liar," I mumbled. "You wanted it to be strong, so I can hear your drums."

At that he was silent, and although I had my eyes closed, I knew he was glaring hatefully at me. It couldn't have bothered me less. It was still cold and my body acted up, no matter how much I pretended to be a ball.

Some rustling came from nearby and suddenly there was something on me, over me. A blanket, I realised after a confused moment, and opened my eyes to blink perplex at the Master.

"Stay," he offered with a surprisingly warm smile. "You're in no shape to move around."

No, I really wasn't. "But, what's with you?"

The Master raised a brow, one corner of his lips twitching upwards. "Time Lords don't need much sleep."

"Might be," I mumbled into the blanket. "But you look like you could fall asleep on the spot."

He really did, no matter how much he tried to hide it.

"You think giving up a part of your life force isn't draining?"

"Dunno." I huffed. "Never done that. Still, proves my point." Somehow I managed to pick myself from the mattress and shoved the cuddly blanket away. "My room isn't far from here, I can..."

"It's much quieter."

"Whus?"

Those words were confusing, seemingly so out of context. It got cold again, now that the blanket was gone, but I couldn't just stay, could I? Right now, no one expected me to be here, no one would be there to help if things truly escalated. (Well, they already had, considering how he had messed up my head.)

Speaking of which, it promptly got dizzy again, just by sitting up. A small groan escaped me as I swayed and involuntarily dropped against the Master. He promptly shoved me away, however not forcefully. Instead he only pushed against my shoulder, forced me to lay back down and even stole my glasses with a chuckle when I tried to prevent him from doing so.

He practically pinned me down, both of his hands around my wrists and a determined, albeit wicket grin on his face. "You're not in charge here," he claimed sweetly.

"What do you want?!" I almost shouted and scowled at him. "Besides, you are aware how this looks, right?"

"Right... It scares you when people get too close." He deliberately bent over me, smiling even wider. "You're still afraid I could lay hands on you."

I tensed at the words, squirmed uncomfortably in his grip, but the Master only chuckled and even let go of me.

"I'm not human," he spoke, his voice forebodingly low. "And if I ever experience any desire to harm you, I'll satisfy it without dirtying myself."

Suddenly he sighed and seemingly swayed. Maybe he was a lot more exhausted than he was willing to admit. The Master turned away, but only to lay down himself next to me. In the same motion he draped the blanket back over my shoulders, leaving himself bare, however.

"There, see?" he sarcastically stated, "Enough space for yourself."

"Why not just letting me go?" I mumbled, pursing my lips.

He lay there, one arm under his head, facing me, his look thoughtful. "It's quieter around you," he finally admitted. "Barely noticed it, at first, but now..."

"You mean the drumming?"

"Mhm."

"What is it? Is it always there?"

"I'll tell you another day," he muttered, no longer hiding his tired state, "and yeah, always. Sometimes louder. Much louder since the fob watch released me. Has gotten worse ever since."

"Why... can't I hear it?" I quietly wanted to know.

There suddenly was such a sadness on his face, it made my chest clench for a moment. How long was he carrying this all around, already? "I don't know. No one could, so far. Maybe the Doctor is right, after all. Maybe I'm simply insane." He huffed and closed his eyes, still smiling a little. "You're not going to stab my back if I take a little nap, right?"

What a dumb que- ... Well, actually it wasn't. Thinking about it, there would be no better opportunity to rid the universe of such a cruel and ruthless person. The memory snippets had only revealed a tiny portion of how much trouble and suffering his mere existence had caused already. And then the Master had handed me a gun and I had...

"No, of course not!" I indignantly protested, shoving the memories away.

The smile faded as his breath got more even, tiredness finally claiming him as much as myself.

"You're a weird one," he mumbled. "'m glad I kept you."

Somehow I was too. Slowly, but insistently the strange realisation settled within me, that I actually regretted nothing. Every step had brought me here, and if given the choice, I would always repeat them.

Sure, the Master was a monster to many, and maybe the Doctor had given up on him, already. But, in a sense, I was weirdly sure to have found a friend in him. He would never admit it, nor would I. Still, there was more to him than the openly displayed cruelty. And I had met enough truly bad people to sense, that he was not entirely evil.

Not that I had any clue what to make of this. It might be a fruitless thought. But in the dark fog of my fading mind I developed the weird urge to give something back, to keep an eye on him, however much of an selfish act it might be.

Carefully I huddled a little closer and wrapped the blanket over his shoulders. The Master stirred, tensed, his eyes shot open, searching for any threat, but finding none as they settled on my face. It seemed to dawn on him that there was no danger and his features relaxed again.

The space under the blanket got cold fast, however uncomfortable, so I scurried closer a bit, head resting against his chest, where the faint an alien rhythm of his hearts lulled me in.

"Idiot," he mumbled, but didn't bother to shove me away.

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Chapter 24: Chapter 24

It must have been due to exhaustion that I slept so well – definitely no other reason! Now that I had properly rested, my head was clearer than the day before, my mind no longer in a somewhat delirious state. The sound of the drill probably woke me up, tearing into the world of black unconsciousness.

I was still lying in pretty much the same position as the evening before, the Master next to me, breathing regularly and slow, probably still asleep. Did Time Lords really require less rest than humans and this was only due to the life force transfer, or had he lied? It was impossible to tell and I actually didn't care much at that moment.

It was snugly warm under the blanket and I wanted to enjoy it for as long as I could, although it still felt weird to be so close to someone and yet so comfortable. It had never been easy to feel entirely safe around people, mostly because I had such a hard time comprehending all their strange social rules, but also because I knew they wouldn't bother accepting any of my boundaries anyways. But, weird, as it was, the Master had done exactly that, of all people.

Sure, he had kept me here, with him, but with enough space for my own, had I chosen to keep it. And even though I knew his behaviour was mostly to manipulate me, there also was something brutally honest about it. He simply didn't bother to hide who he was and what he wanted.

The sound of the door opening was what finally woke the Master. Or maybe he hadn't been really asleep, after all. He didn't pay attention to whomever was entering and instead only stared at me, brows furrowed and belying the calm state his face had displayed before. It seemed as if he was silently scolding me for still being here.

"Hey, wake up time!" Danny's voice tore through the silence. "I brought breakfast and the Captain said, if you behave all week, we might consider letting you out. Test-wise. So..." He paused and made some noise, like he was placing down some food on the table. A surprised sound indicated he had noticed the untouched meal from the evening before. "Well... don't mess up, yeah? We'll spend quite the time here, it wouldn't do any of us, including you, any good, if you were locked away here for the whole time."

The Master rolled his eyes and himself to the other side, where he sat up and probably gave the other man a dooming look. I sat up as well, suddenly a little embarrassed about how this might look to Danny. Lacking my glasses I couldn't see his expression at the moment, but it sure must have been baffled.

"Oh, here you are," he let out dumbfounded. "I was looking for you." There was a noticeable pause in which he glanced at the Master and then back at me. "Eh... right. You can meet me in half an hour. Follow the purple cables outside and you'll get to me, alright?"

I simply nodded and returned a small smile. When he left, the Master pushed my glasses into my hands and stood, letting his neck crack unpleasantly. "You heard him. Get lost. If not, I'll throw you out myself."

A little perplex I glared at the frame in my hands, slowly unfolded it and placed the glasses on my nose, before I answered.

"And that after practically keeping me prisoner, before." I sighed dramatically and poked out my tongue. "Maybe, for once, decide, whether or not you hate me."

"There really is no decision to make." He huffed annoyed and crossed his arms, waiting for me to move.

So I did and left for my own room. The Ood had brought beddings and other necessities like towels and hygiene products. I snatched some of the latter and went for the common bathroom to get myself somewhat fresh, before following the purple cables to Danny's workplace.

It was weird and scary at first, and I was hellishly glad to have been occupied by other thoughts the evening before, or else I would have worried myself to bits. But Danny actually was really friendly and patient and showed me lots of things that made my head spin.

Eventually he laughed. "Okay, I think that might be enough for one day. But hey, you did well."

My head almost shot up at his words. My hands were busy fiddling some small computer pieces apart. "Th... thanks," I muttered with a shy smile.

"Let's call it a day and get some food, yeah?" He stretched his arms and yawned. "Heh, it's actually fun tutoring someone."

"It's fun learning something useful."

"Didn't you before?" he wanted to know as we walked to the canteen."At your age..."

I glanced away, not saying a word. Danny nudged me against the shoulder and smiled broadly at me.

"Hey, I won't judge," he assured. "I'm just curious."

"I... tried. I really did. They just don't want people like me around. So no one ever gave me an apprenticeship somewhere. Guess I gave up trying, eventually."

"Why's that? What's wrong about you?"

Surprised I peeked at Danny, a little at a loss for words. He should have better asked what wasn't wrong. In the end I only shrugged.

"Guess I behave too autistic for most employers. Social skills count tenfold more than any other abilities. So, if you lack those..." Again I twitched my shoulders and glanced at my shoes.

"Weird," Danny muttered. "Why didn't they put you in the specialist programs like the others?"

"Huh? What're those?" Dumbfounded I blinked at him.

"Uhm... the... geeze. You don't know Oods, you have never heard of the Speccies..." He let out a laugh. "From what colony did you lot come? Well, anyway... back home they have the Speccies. They basically collect neuro-diverse people, like autists, to utilize all your special abilities."

"Certainly not where I come from," I muttered, again wondering what colonies he could mean. But I had no clue if it was safe asking, so I kept quiet about it.

"Eh, doesn't matter now, does it? I mean, you're here, now, and you seem to be really good with all the small parts and the logic stuff... After we finetuned you a little, you won't have trouble finding jobs for the rest of your life."

I couldn't help the smile plastering itself on my face. This was just too good. Being stuck here still scared every last bit out of me, but it was only for a few years, maximum. After that I could go and finally have a proper life of my own. The Time Lords probably hadn't planned on keeping me with them forever, anyway.

Absently my thumb stroked over my wrist. The healing scars were barely palpable, as if they were only a faint shadow of some dream. Maybe I really did owe the Master. At least in this very moment it felt like it.

The Doctor was in the canteen with the rest of the team. He was babbling about, obviously entertaining everyone.

"Oi, Danny!" Jefferson called out. "Did'ya know this guy's really something in his head?"

"Yeah, he really is," Ida seconded. "Did calculate the strength of the power source below in a few seconds."

"Did he now?" Danny raised a brow. "Well, I'm intrigued. Tell, Doctor, what is it?"

"It has an inverted self extrapolating reflex of six to the power of six every six seconds," the Time Lord shot out immediately and with the widest, proudest grin. "No wonder you want to find it."

"Alright, I'm impressed," Danny admitted.

I chuckled. "Six, six, six. We should be scared."

Surprised Danny raised an eyebrow, but didn't say a word. Maybe he was just not into horror movies.

We got our ratio from the Ood and sat at the table with the others. Today I actually was hungry. Quite a lot at that. Only after I had finished half the meal did I pay attention to the others again, admiring how the Doctor had been able to obviously befriend everyone in here within a day. He was just so bubbly and smiling all the time. The all laughed about his jokes and seemed to like him quite a lot.

If only I were able to do that. But me they all pretty much ignored, as if I weren't even there. Even when I tossed something in, or tried to make a joke. No one paid me much attention, and so I resumed my silence, continued what I had done all my life, observing and studying the people around me. It often happens that I know a lot more about the people around me than they realize, and more than most others know. By watching, you can learn a lot. And watching had always been the only thing I was allowed to do.

There had been times where I had seriously contemplated whether I might be somewhat invisible to humans. They so often treated me as if I didn't even exist, ignored what I said, bumped into me, totally surprised about my presence.

Even Danny, who had normally talked to me while we were alone, now completely ignored me. The whole situation was way too familiar and hurt more than it should. It reminded me of times with so-called friends, who acted nice and normal towards me, as long as we were alone, but as soon as other people joined I was forgotten, became nothing but a bystander, stopped existing in their world.

I glared at the rest of my food, suddenly not hungry anymore.

Nothing at all had changed, I realized. Apprenticeship or not, I still was no one. I still would live alone and forgotten, as soon as we'd return to earth.

No, I already did, would for as long as we stayed here.

What had I even expected? The world didn't simply change, just because we were on some planet near a black hole. It didn't change because I was alive, although I didn't want to be. It certainly didn't budge at all because the Master behaved like a total dock in one moment, then as if he cared, then as if he was disgusted by the mere thought of having me in close proximity.

My thumb slid over my wrist again, an unheard sigh escaped my mouth. I watched as they all left the room, one after the other, tossing good nights and sleep wells at the remaining people.

What a fool I was. So happy in the morning, only to be tossed back into reality with full force. I wanted to cry, but my eyes refused to produce a single tear, I wanted to punch something, but I felt too limp to move. So, in the end I only dropped my head on my arms on the table and let out a long, frustrated sigh.

Back to index


Chapter 25: Chapter 25

"What's wrong with you?" the Doctor's voice asked softly.

Only then did I realize he was still in the canteen with me. Everyone else had already left. Silence laying itself upon the room like a heavy blanket, his question staying unanswered. I remembered how he had left, the previous evening, just like that, as if I was none of his business. Then, I hadn’t thought much about it, but now that I had seen how he treated everyone else...

“You don’t like me,” I concluded quietly, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

“What?! Why would you think that?” the Doctor defended himself. He was seated at the same table, but a few chairs away, letting it bob up and down. Now he dropped all legs to the ground.

“I’m the only one you’re barely talking to, you keep avoiding me, just run off... It’s... I don’t know. Let’s just say, I can sense that it’s true.”

Which wasn’t wrong. During my life I had developed quite the sense for when people didn't want to have me near them.

The Doctor gnawed on his bottom lip for a moment, then rubbed a hand over his face. “Nooo, it’s not that, really not,” he babbled. “Besides, I'm not running off, right now, am I?" He tried one of his cheeky smiles, but failed at it. "I... just barely know you.”

“You know none of the crew, here, and treat every single one a lot friendlier.”

“Oi! That’s not tr-”

“Oh, stop it!” I let out, a rare anger bubbling up inside of me. “I can’t stand it when people try to be polite. Just tell me and it’s okay.”

I sent him a dark scowl, wishing I could let him feel how annoyed I was. Why do people always believe, it’s better to pretend to be kind, when they actually don’t want to have to do anything with another person?

“Lucy... it’s complicated,” he tried again. I scoffed and rolled my eyes, what elicited a tired sigh from him. “See, I sometimes take humans with me. To travel and see the stars...”

“What’s wrong with me, then?” I grumbled. “Each time we met, you tried to get rid of me as fast as possible.”

“That’s only because I have all hands full with the Master!” His hands shot up defensively. “I really don’t want him to harm anyone. And that’s the full truth.”

“Still... That’s only one part of the reason, isn’t it?”

The Doctor let his hands fall into his lap and his face took on a guilty expression. “Well, it doesn’t matter much, now. Even if we weren’t stuck, I wouldn’t leave you on your own, as long as you have no place to go. That’d hardly be fair.” He tried a smile again, but that one also wasn't a success, bringing forth something that was more akin to a grimace.

I dropped my head, shaking it lightly as I sighed out more frustration. This wasn’t going anywhere. He kept avoiding a real answer. There were so many things I wanted – needed – to know, but now I wasn’t much eager to ask them.

“Alright...” I raised my head again and looked him in the eyes. It felt uncomfortable, but for different reasons than usually. Still, I kept my gaze locked with his, knowing that people could find such a behaviour highly unnerving. The Doctor, albeit alien, seemed to have the same reaction. “I too barely know anything about you. I’ll keep out of your way from now on.”

“Wha’... hey, that wasn’t... Lucy, wait!”

I didn’t. I didn’t want to hear any more excuses and explanations that explained nothing at all. I didn’t want to stay in his presence any longer, knowing I wasn’t welcomed anyway.

The good mood from before was now entirely gone as I realized how damn lonely I still was. Among people, but still entirely on my own. None of them cared, no one truly wanted to have me here. It was the same as always.

On the way to my room I passed the cell the Master had been put in. His behaviour from the morning came to mind and I stormed past it with a growl, but then halted and turned. None of his behaviour made much sense to me and still I had the feeling it was easier to understand him than anyone else here. The blunt, straight forward way of his was quite refreshing. And maybe he simply had been in a bad mood in the morning.

The scanner still recognized me and let me in. When the door opened I almost bumped into the Master, who was standing near the short corridor, fiddling with some device. It looked like the blue wand-thing the Doctor had used a few times.

"Trying to escape?" I concluded.

The Master only hummed confirming, paying me no further attention. The device in his hands emitted a thin laser beam, cutting open the hull of a panel on the wall.

"The Doctor has a similar device. Are those some special Time Lord tools?"

The Master stopped in his actions and gave me a sarcastic smirk. "Bollocks. It's a laser screwdriver."

"Uhm.... ooookay."

"The Doctor's is sonic. But that's stupid. Laser is much better."

I blinked and eventually shook my head. "Why didn't you try to get out, yesterday?" I wondered instead. "Or was it because of those drums?"

A dark scowl deepened on his face and I swallowed. Had I said something wrong? He seemed angry.

"None of your business, ape brain," the Master sneered and continue to open the panel.

It quickly opened and he started to fiddle with a bunch of wires. I pursed my lips at the insult, feeling all the pain from before rising to a new peek. I swallowed it all down, took a quiet deep breath and tried it once more.

"I just thought... because you said they are quieter around me." Somewhat nervously I fiddled with my fingers, glancing this way and that.

It seemed as if he was now completely ignoring me, but after some seconds he gave up on the wires and turned to face me. There still was such a darkness in his eyes, dangerously sparkling at me. His nose wrinkled in disgust as he looked me up and down.

"Might have been an illusion. Was too subtle to really tell." He shrugged. "So, how about you get lost and let me finish this. I don't assume you'll let me out yourself."

"I don't have the security permissions to do so," I grumbled.

"So, you would if you had?" There was a nasty smile on his face, one that told what exactly he held of that possibility.

"Not if you keep being a prick."

The Master let out a humourless laugh. "I'm simply me. But how could you know? You're nothing but a picked up stray." He poked a finger at my chest, leaned down to be at my eyelevel. "You're a pet. A toy. Nothing more. Don't you forget that, human."

It hurt. It really did. Why the hell could I have been so stupid to believe that he would care? Even if it had been for his own sake, even if he would have only used me to sooth the noise in his mind. No, I had thought there was something more, a small connection, a weird spark of companionship, maybe.

You're such an idiot, I scolded myself. Just because he wasn't human, didn't mean he would act better than them in any way. It also could mean that he was a lot worse. According to the memory snippets I had seen, he seldom cared for anyone. So why for me, a random human that had been fun to play with for a bit.

"Why did you keep me alive?" I muttered. "If you hate me such much, why go through the trouble?"

Swiftly he tossed the laser screwdriver in the air, let it perform a flip before he caught it again, a mocking grin on his lips. "Told you. It's useful to have people owe you something. And it's funny messing with you. You're so sensible. So... breakable." He chuckled, slightly bent over to hold a hand in front of his belly, a tinge of madness in his voice as he broke out into a full laugh. "Oh, look at your face. It's priceless!"

"Arsehole," I brought out through gritted teeth, trying to keep the tears at bay. "I hope you'll rot in here."

With that I hurled around and left the room, his laughter following me into the corridor. My hands were clenched to fists, my chest aching from all the frustration. I stormed away, not caring where I was heading. My body needed to get rid of all the negative energy, I needed to move, no matter the direction.

After what felt like half an hour I came across the control room, finding it empty. Only the roof was open, revealing the sight of the black hole above our heads. A little hesitantly I stepped in, trod in the middle and dropped to the floor. My back leaned against one of the tables, knees bent and drawn against my chest, whilst I glared up into space, my eyes fixated on the all consuming maw.

Like the first time, the sight was breathtaking and a feeling tugged at me, as if the hole wanted to swallow my very soul. Would I sit here long enough, would that happen? Would I just vanish? Black holes were said to be portals, or gateways to the fifth dimension. Maybe, if a person fell into one, would their entire existence vanish? As if they had never been real in the first place.

“I can make that happen, little one.”

My gaze tore away from the hole, rushed through the room, but found nothing. It had sounded deep and rough and so close to me. But no one was here.

“I am here with you.”

I winced at the voice and sprang up, turning around myself on the spot.. Still nothing. Had I gone mad from staring at the black hole for too long?

“Wh... who’s there?” I muttered.

“I am the darkness in your mind, little one,” the voice spoke clearly. “I am right here with you. Don’t look out. You can’t see me. Let me in, little one. Let me in and I can give you whatever you desire. I am power, I am the black sun. Let me in and never be lonely again.”

“Master?” I asked hesitantly. “Is that you messing with me?”

Hadn’t he told something about this telepathic stuff working remotely as well?

“I am more than any master,” the voice continued. “I am more and I am old and I am power. I will lend that power to you, child of man.”

A cold shiver went through me as I turned to find the speaker. By the sound of it, he must be standing right next to me, but there was only cold air. And what it spoke... As if it had heard the dark thoughts that had ran through my head, seconds before.

“What are you?” I finally whispered. “A ghost? A hallucination?”

“I am.”

It was all it said and what followed was silence alone. I swallowed, contemplating the weird offer. Years of horror movies should have actually trained me to outright refuse. There were few possibilities regarding the nature of this entity. And none of them were particularly good. None of them would hold a happy end for me, that I was rather certain of.

On the other hand... was there really something to lose for me? The worst case would probably kill me and that... well... A nasty, bitter smirk spread on my face, one thumb idly stroking over an already healed cut.

“’kay... Do whatever. I don’t care.”

Back to index


Chapter 26: Chapter 26

Author's Notes: My city is going into another lockdown and even my work and school might be affected... Writing really helps me staying sane in such times, and also always helps when depression hits too hard again.

So this it just a quick thanks for all the reviews so far! They mean a lot and I'm happy to see y'all enjoying this so much! x3


Whatever I had awaited to happen… didn't. For over a minute I stood there, again watching the black dark maw, not feeling a thing but the pull its sight created within me. Disappointment settled quickly, leaving me even more empty than before.

It had only been in my mind.

I turned away from the black hole and left the room, heading towards my own quarters. That really had been weird and left me feel a little spooked. All the different horror movies and creepy pastas I knew came to mind once more, but those weren't real, right? How could they? And I had been warned that the hole could drive one mad, so there was that.

Perplex I blinked at my feet, realizing I had stopped moving and were just standing there, staring into nothingness. When I looked up, the surroundings had completely changed.

Where the hell am I?

Just seconds ago I had been near the control room, but now I was in some corridor, surrounded by stone walls. Had I walked? I couldn't remember. There were no coloured cables around to tell me where to go, either.

And there were...

"What the hell?" I mumbled as I, again, found myself in a new place out of nowhere, glaring at the wall of the room I suddenly stood in.

It was definitely some storage room and not at all connected to the corridor I came from. Outside I found myself in one of the octagonal shaped tubes than ran across the surface. How had I gotten there? Why couldn't I remember?

I shook my head and leaned a hand against the wall, breathing slow to not fall into a panic. My gaze fell onto my hand and I startled once more.

There were black symbols all over my skin.

They looked like letters, vaguely reminding me of the ones I had seen below the writing in the room we had first entered.

Welcome to hell.

Six to the power of six every six seconds.


My head spun. Was this some joke? A weird dream? Was I actually still lying on that beach, bleeding out and hallucinating about stuff while the last seconds of my life trickled by? The black letters spread across my wrists as well, covering the healed up scars. Could it be? Was I still out there?

There was a window nearby, no, a door, leading outside. The black sun was visible from here, radiating darkness, calling out to my soul, begging me to come closer. There was nothing to lose anyway, I could simply...

'Emergency hull breach!' the computer voice called out. 'Emergency hull breach!'

"Move!" someone called and grabbed me by the elbow, dragging me along. Somehow I had changed locations again, from the previous door, yet into another section of the base, without knowing how. The ground was shaking, making it hard to keep my balance.

Was it the ground? Was it the whole base?

'Emergency hull breach!,' the voice called out once more.

"That way."

I stumbled through a door and found myself with the Doctor and the others. They all made faces as if something terrible had just happened and paid me and my unknown companion barely any attention.

"Wha'?" I brought out. "Shit, that's confusing. What happened?"

Ida gnawed on her bottom lip, but answered. "Scooti. She's dead. Must've been sucked out during the hull breach."

My mouth dropped open, feeling dry. "S... sorry," I muttered, not knowing what else to say.

Danny was pacing up and down the room, tossing glances at his shoes and at me. "First the telepathic signal from the Ood went haywire, now that... that's not good. Not good at all. And whoever let that one out needs to be fired right away."

He pointed at me with an angry look and I shrunk together, eyes wide in sudden fear. What was going on? Had I done something?

"Don't worry," someone said behind me, "I let myself out."

Immediately Jefferson and some of the armed guys drew their weapons, pointing them in my direction. Or rather in the direction of the one, who had brought me here. Confused I turned around and found the Master standing there, a smug smile on his face.

"One wrong move I let them shoot you," Jefferson warned. "Did you cause the breach? Answer."

The Master snickered. "Oh, don't be daft, human. It's not my style to bring myself in danger. Just thought I'd teach you that there aren't any doors that can hold me. If I want out, I'll get out."

"Then maybe we should just shoot you right on the spot, before you can do more harm?"

Weapons were unlocked and readied. And not a single voice spoke up against it, the Doctor only glancing away and at the floor. Only the Captain spoke up, addressing the pin-stripe-suited Time Lord and tearing his gaze upwards.

"You know the man best, Doctor," he spoke. "You think, he's the one who caused Scooti's death?"

The Doctor's eyes darted this way and that, his hands fidgeting. He didn't look at the Master, not once, but finally he nodded, speaking as if his mouth was dry. "I... I'm not sure he did. But he... would. Given the chance."

"Right, that settles it. We're too few to take risks." The Captain held up his hand and signalled Jefferson his okay.

"Wait!" I called out. They weren't really doing this, were they? "You can't be serious!"

Behind me the Master chuckled darkly. "Oh, they are. Always knew I'd end up dead because of your kind. Should have extinguished all of you a long time ago."

Jefferson shook his head. "Can't risk a psychopath running around freely. The whole base and crew might be in danger. And if we can't lock you away..." He waved a finger at the Master's direction and his men raised the rifles to their eyes.

Without even thinking about it I took a hasty step backwards to stand in front of the Time Lord and held my arms out. "Have you all gone mad? You can't shoot him!"

Silence lay itself upon the room, all eyes resting on me. The whole situation was just absurd, crazy. This wasn't happening! I saw Danny glancing at me, brows furrowed and certainly not happy about my behaviour. Ida looked uncertain, gnawing on her lip. Zach scowled, Jefferson seemed confused. And the Doctor... his eyes were locked with the Master's, apologizing? Pleading? Maybe a bit of both.

A hand was on my shoulder, squeezing it lightly. "Go out of the way, lil' lumin," the Master said softly and with a teasing undertone.

"What? No!" I stared up at him, wide eyed. "They can't just kill you! I won't allow it!"

The look on his face was honestly surprised, confused even, as if he was unable to understand why anyone would be concerned about him. His hand slipped from my shoulder, landed back at his site, limp and unmoving. For a second each and every one of his masks seemed to fall away, revealing an expression I couldn't place. He only seemed... lost.

Zach coughed, broke the silence. He addressed the Master directly, "Do you have anything to do with the breach or Scooti's death?"

The Master tore his gaze away from me and faced the other man.

"No. There's nothing to gain for me in doing so." He crossed his arms, glanced once again down at me, then back to the Captain, mumbling, "And I have a certain feeling you would regret having that one as your enemy."

With that he poked my back, making me jump slightly.

"Well then," Zach spoke up, at me, this time. Uncertainty swung in his voice. "He's your responsibility from now on. If anything happens, you both will have to carry the consequences." He faced away and to the others. "Let's see how big the damage is and get back to work. We'll hold a small ceremony for Scooti in the morning."

With that he rushed out of the room through one of the other doors. Ida cast a quick glance at me and left as well. Danny seemed reluctant, but finally spoke up, before leaving as well.

"Guess I'm not going to trust you anymore," he mumbled towards me. "No further lessons."

He left with slumped shoulders, followed by Toby, who kept quiet the whole time. In the end it was only the Doctor, who remained with us, unable to speak, but also to simply leave. The Master walked past me and stood in front of the other Time Lord.

"Look at you," he spat. "You're such a coward."

"I'm not a-"

"Oh, you are!" the Master shouted in his face. "No nuts to kill me yourself, but if others do it, you have no problem just standing there. Pathetic!"

The Doctor seemed to shrink with every word, his face showing pain and hurt. Eventually his glance darted towards me, but whatever he saw on my face made it only worse. Not that I knew much about him, but in that moment he appeared more vulnerable and beaten than I could have imagined him ever looking.

The base shook again, violently enough to send the Doctor to his bum. The Master grabbed my arm to prevent me from falling and held on to a handle on the wall. This time it took over a minute for the tremor to stop, but at least there was no computer voice telling of another breach.

There only was... the sun. The black sun above our heads. Not visible, but still present. It was calling out to me, waving it's tendrils at my mind, clawing into my thoughts.

"I have to see it," I muttered and tried to get out of the Master's grip.

But he only held onto me even tighter, until I gave up and shook my head, suddenly aware that the base stood still again. The Doctor still sat on the ground, looking confused and uncertain. And also exhausted. For a brief second I could sense how distressed he was, how much he must have struggled already and how it had all worn him down.

It didn't matter. He wasn't important. My eyes followed his every movement as he got himself up from the ground, a small chuckle escaped my mouth. In this very moment I suddenly knew what had happened to me, I felt it. There was power, raw and sharp, running through my whole being.

"What the hell, Lucy?" the Doctor let out, staring at me in horror. "Your skin! Your eyes!"

The Master was in my line of view, pushing the Doctor aside to take a glance at me. His face dropped in puzzlement as he saw me. Something inside my mind, the thing that gave me power, bubbled through the surface. It wanted to speak, I could sense it, so I let them use my voice, although it now sounded contorted and way deeper than it should.

"Time Lords," I spoke. "Ahhh, your foolish kind was always amusing. But now I am awoken, now I have the vessel I searched for."

"What are you?" the Doctor demanded. "What have you done to Lucy."

"Done?" I roared out a deep laugh. "I gave that child the power to bath the universe in fire and despair. Because I am the beast. My heart is it that beats in the darkness. I will rise!"

I laughed once again, not sure if it was the entity or myself. This was hilarious and fantastic, all at once!

"Let go of her!" the Doctor called out, while the Master only watched the scene with raised eyebrows, clearly leaving it to his counterpart to get himself in trouble. "Whatever you are, if you want to leave this place, we can help."

The Master snorted, but didn't say a word. The thing in my head laughed without a noise, as if it was winking at me from inside. "You have nothing to offer, Time Lord. Destroyer of your own kind. I am the beast. I am Satan. I am older than all of you and all of your people."

"The beast?" The Doctor let out, dumbfounded. "No... no, no, no, that's only a myth. Which one anyway? Cos the universe has been busy since you've been gone. There's more religions than there are planets in the sky. The Archiphets, Orkology, Christianity, Pash Pash, New Judaism, San Klah, Church of the Tin Vagabond. Which devil are you?"

"All of them and so much more than you can fathom." Again there was this silent chuckle in my head. The entity clearly had their fun messing with the Time Lord.

Now, though, the Master decided to step in, probably bored already. "I have enough of you. Leave the human alone and pick one of the others."

"No," the entity simply spoke and giggled with a devilish smile. The next words were mine, or were they not? "What do you care? You push this human away. You are too scared, your hearts too cold already. No hope is left for one like you."

"Oh, watch me," the Master growled, "and you will see who should be afraid!"

He wanted to step forward, but before he could, the Doctor held a hand out, signalling him to wait another moment.

"How did you even end up on this rock?" The Doctor wanted to know and the Master watched every reaction of mine carefully.

The thing squirmed, roared in my head, anger and hatred flooding my thoughts. "The Disciples of the Light rose up against me and chained me in the pit for all eternity."

"I never heard of that. When was this?"

"Before time," came the foreboding answer.

"What does that mean?"

"Before time," the beast repeated, offering no further explanation.

Hatred and heat dissipated, got replaced by some more amusement, although I sensed it was getting tired of this conversation. I certainly was. I wanted to try out whatever possibilities I had gained, wanted to use this extraordinary energy that coursed through my very being.

Patience, little one, the thing whispered in my head, then chuckled lightly.

"There is no such thing as before time," the Master grumbled. "Nothing existed, then."

"Yeah," the Doctor seconded. "No life, no light, no nothing. See? You're talking nonsense! Give Lucy back. Now!"

He raised his sonic screwdriver, pointing it directly at me. I had no clue if it also had a laser, like the Master's, and I had no intention to find out. Raw power swam through my veins, a silent command told me to lift my hand, palm facing towards the Doctor. His eyes widened, as did the grin on my face. Suddenly there was an eruption of energy, invisible to the eye, but strong enough to toss the Time Lord through the room, to smash him against the wall, where he sunk down, unconscious.

Next my eyes landed on the Master, head slightly tilted. I was giddy with excitement.

"What use is a silly gun, what could I gain from taking one life?" I asked him, grinning. "If death and fire amuses you so much... watch out."

Back to index


Chapter 27: Chapter 27

Author's Notes: Seems like my workplace will stay open, Covid or not. Which is good news for me, lol. Everyone wants to stay home, but I'm really glad I won't have to spend another few months in total isolation.

Anyway, on with the story.
Have a nice weekend, y'all! °v°/)


A wide grin formed on the Master's face as he trod in front of me, eyes sparkling with anticipation.

"That is indeed a splendid power, you got there," he remarked, then pointed at the Doctor, directing my gaze away from himself. "Was it intended that he's not dead?"

I glanced at the unconscious Time Lord, trying to make out if the Master was right. He used the distraction. Hands lay themselves around my head from behind, two fingers of each hand pressing against my temples. I startled, stumbled backwards and bumped against the Master. He slipped into my mind effortlessly, filling it with his presence. I felt the entity fight back, roaring and laughing, but the Master seemed to be able to prevent the thing from lashing out physically, to use its power against him, like it had allowed me to do with the Doctor.

All I had left was my own body, my size, my dexterity. No one was going to take this from me! I let myself fall, the movement too sudden and unexpected for the Master to catch me. I rolled to the side, sprang to my feet and ducked away, vaguely aware that I wouldn't be able to do any of this without the thing that possessed me.

"No, I'm not going to give this back!" I spat. "Once and just once it's my turn."

The Master let out a small laugh and towered above me, without attacking again."And what will you do with such a power, little one?"

Hatefully I glared up at him. "Take revenge," I growled. "I'm not allowed to die. I'm not allowed to be part of anything. I've done nothing to deserve that! Nothing!" I yelled, letting out everything that gnawed on me. "If my whole existence is so damn wrong, then I'll show them how bloody right they are!"

"Ohhhh, so you want to crush them with your own hands?" A mad gleam sparked in his eyes.

"Heh, yes." I gave him a grim smirk. "I've had my fill of humanity, of life. I'm done being left behind and ignored."

As I spoke the entity chuckled in my mind, let a surge of energy rush through my veins. It felt amazing. I knew I could do whatever I wanted, now. Nothing and no one was going to stop me.

Except for the pitying look the Master tossed at me. His lips twitched in a sarcastic smile.

"And you'd be okay with someone else doing this for you?"

I subtly winced at his words. They had hit a spot within me, one I couldn't so simply ignore. The beast didn't like that at all, roaring and clawing at my mind with fury, pushing me to action. My eyes pinched shut in the sudden pain, a groan escaped my mouth.

All this strength... but it wasn't really mine. It wouldn't let me do as I pleased, would only use me as a tool...

Again there were fingers at my temples, almost gently I felt the Master's presence slip into my head and squirm his way through the flow of thoughts and emotions. I didn't struggle, yet; the seed of doubt he had planted making me momentarily unable to decide what would be best.

Both streams of energy fought in my mind and for the first time I felt how truly ancient this entity must be, how its essence was nothing but pure malevolence, destruction, chaos, a flame that would consume all of reality if given the chance. It roared and flailed without mercy, without giving a single thought to my wellbeing. My head throbbed in hot searing pain as it fought the Master.

Time Lord, it growled mentally, You can't win this! I am! And you are so much less!

So? You still have no right to be here. This human belongs to me.

Puzzled I blinked at the Master. Hadn't he pushed me away just some hours ago? Hadn't he done his best to make me stay away from him? How could he still claim ownership?

He only smirked cheekily and poked out his tongue, a look in his eyes as if he had heard my thoughts.

Then give in to me! The entity spoke again. You could own and rule all of time and space with the power I'd give to you!

"Mhm... tempting," the Master responded aloud, yet his voice oozed with sarcasm. "But I'd rather do that without giving up control over my own mind."

And with that he pushed more of himself against the beast. I gasped as I felt... him. Determination, anger, pain, amusement and so much more. All those foreign sensations that weren't my own, and still so shallow, as if he was only brushing the very surface of my mind.

It was enough, however, to make out the distinct difference between him and the entity. Whilst the beast seemed pure and utter evilness, the Master was... more. There was an unbelievable capability for violence and cruelty inside of him, but I also felt his deep longing to be free again, free of the Doctor and the TARDIS, free of the drums that drove him to more chaos than he actually wanted.

Only a second could have passed like that, feeling like an eternity. The Master chuckled all of a sudden, ceasing his attempts to fight the thing. Instead he caught my eyes with his, smiling impishly.

"Do you feel it?" he muttered. "What this thing truly is? Is that what you want?"

I didn't have to ask what he meant. It was clear. Would I give in to the thing it would rob me of my ability to act and think for myself. It would simply use and throw me away at the first opportunity. Anger welled up inside of me and this time I was sure it was my own. I didn't want to be used like that.

"Why?" I only asked, my eyes filling tears of frustration. "Why can I never have anything?"

You refuse! A roar rumbled through my head, painfully letting the walls of my sanity vibrate. Useless human! I don't need one like you.

Its presence clawed through my mind, ripped at parts of me I couldn't even name, instead of simply leaving. If it couldn't have me, it wanted to destroy me. My sight blurred, black dots started to dance in front of my eyes. I tasted blood and gasped. But only a second later the Master was back.

"Oh no, you don't," he growled.

My head felt as if it would split open. Hot burning pain pulsated through every fibre of my body, a whimper escaping me. The Master growled in frustration, retreated just enough not to cause me pain himself any longer, while the beast filled all of my mind with its deep and cruel laughter.

"Too shallow," the Master grumbled, brows knitted together. "Remember? This works with skin contact."

I swallowed and nodded, sensing what he meant, even before his hands fell from my temples and slipped under my hoodie and shirt. A shiver went down my spine as his cool fingers sprawled across my back, almost gently pushing me closer to him. Instantly the intensity of his presence in my head increasing. I glanced up at him, seeing his eyes closed in concentrated eagerness.

And still I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to rid myself of this power. The beast fought back again, not with pain, but with reaching out for all the things hidden in the dark. It showed me how I could make everyone suffer for what they had done to me, showed me how my life could be if only people would be forced to see me. It would not matter anymore how different my brain worked, how incapable I was of acting and reacting like other humans.

I could drench the earth in blood and fire.

A sob shook me, my teeth clenched. What did it matter if I would get lost in this process? Who would care? Everything was so cold, it made me shiver. No, I didn't care that much about revenge. I only wanted it to stop. All of it.

And then there was something else, a sensation as if something warm wrapped gently around my chest, as if a soft blanket got thrown over my mind. A weird, unexplainable feeling of... warmth, of being accepted, of not having to prove or bring anything. There was no need to. I simply belonged, had found a place to stay, where I was welcomed and warmly smiled at.

I simply swam in this feeling until it burst in a bubble of rage and hatred, of frozen fire, splintering into shards that shred my soul into pieces.

"Shit. How bloody strong is this thing?" the Master growled, tearing me back into the present.

Had those warm feelings just now come from him? Had he countered the beast's strategy with them? An alternative to rage and chaos, revenge and hatred. I knew he didn't care, but still...

Or did he?

The beast screamed in my head, showed me images of power, of strength and dominance. But suddenly they seemed so... useless. That wasn't what I wanted. Not like this.

"Get rid of it, please," I mumbled. "It hurts. It's cold. This is worse than dying."

Much worse. Back then it had been warm. Just falling asleep while being held, listening to fire and ocean waves under the starlit sky. Now it felt as if every cell in my body was frozen and burned at the same time, all while the thing in my head laughed at all the fun it had with my suffering.

"I can't," the Master suddenly muttered. "You're not a Time Lord. Your mind is not... I can't get deep enough." He growled out his frustration and suddenly bore his eyes into mine. "I need stronger contact."

"O... okay," I responded confused, surprised I was still able to speak or think within the onslaught of pain and anguish that raved through my head as the entity understood it wouldn't get me.

The Master dropped his forehead against mine and I felt the connection strengthen just a little. Not enough. It wasn't enough. I knew it without him telling me and saw it in his look. His hands vanished from my back, landed on my temples again, instead, thumbs stroking over my cheeks. "You're so going to hate me for this," the Master muttered with a small, strained smile.

And then he leaned forwards, his fingers pressing against my head, his lips suddenly moving against mine. I winced in surprise, but instantly felt the connection flaring alive to a strength I hadn't anticipated. The Master's energy in my head suddenly got crystal clear, intertwined with my own essence, wrapped itself around my thoughts, slipped inside every gap.

The beast screamed out in rage, fought back with all its strength. I felt its hatred, I felt warm lips on mine, slow and careful, tasting of time. My thoughts got unravelled, ceased. I was... no longer me. He drove deeper and, at the same time, I somehow did the same to him, was inside his mind as much as the other way around. There were no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and still I was flooded with images and sounds, memories, emotions, intermingling with my own, creating a feedback loop.

It only seemed natural to respond the kiss, deepening it even, my hands fisting into his shirt. My pulse raced, or was it mine? Beating once, twice, three times. Everything blurred, melted together.

There was... nothing, and all at once. Within my mind I was stripped, standing bare and yet not naked. The Master was the same, without any masks, without pretending. Only the raw essence of who we were, swimming in the darkness, intertwined and one. No, it wasn't even truly dark. Golden light swam within and around, endlessly tiny sparks of... time? Where did he end? Where did I begin? Did any of it even matter? In this space no judgement could exists, no coldness, no hate, nor any pain.

It was an embrace, warm and soothing and so completely filling the both of us that nothing else could exist in the same space. In some vague corner of my consciousness I heard the devil scream in rage one last time.

And then there was silence.

The beast was simply gone, the kiss tapered off, it's slowing also untangling our minds. The Master was careful in what he did, made sure I found the way back from us to myself. Only when it was done did he slowly retreat from me physically. As his lips left mine, the presence of his mind vanished at last, leaving me suddenly bare and empty, shivering from a coldness that existed in my mind alone.

How had I never realised how lonely it could be one's own head? It was confusing, dizzying almost. I swayed, only staying upright because I still clutched his shirt. Everything spun and I allowed myself to gently drop forwards, against his chest, to breath slow and deep until the world stood still again.

Back to index


Chapter 28: Chapter 28

I felt a hand gently ruffling through my short hair, deliberately making a mess of them. Tiredly blinking I lifted my head, glanced at the Master and very suddenly realised what exactly had just happened. A furious blush crept up my neck and all over my face. Hastily I pushed myself away from him.

The Master let me, watched for a mere second, then burst out laughing.

"You should see your face!" he cackled.

I tried to smack his arm, but he simply evaded, still giggling to himself. Not that I was actually mad at him, it was just funny trying to land a blow somewhere for his dumb behaviour. But neither trying to stomp on his foot, nor poking him at least, was of success, so I gave up, folded my arms and resorted to scowling at him with pursed lips.

"Was that really necessary?" I grumbled, barely able to keep a smile from my lips.

The Master calmed down and poked out his tongue through his teeth. "Stupid question. You should have literally felt the effect."

He was right. I knew perfectly well why he had kissed me, even though I wasn't so sure about the technical background. This whole telepathic stuff was still confusing to me. What it had done, in the end, was undeniable, however. The beast was gone, I was alive and well. Still I kept the frown on my face and growled a little to myself.

The Master poked my head with one finger, grinning from ear to ear. "Oh, stop sulking. And don't pretend you didn't like it."

"Pfffffffff..." I let out, not deigning him an answer.

"What's going on?" The Doctor's voice tore us out of the silly banter. He seemed to have regained his consciousness and had lifted himself from the ground. In that moment I was quite happy he had slept away the previous... situation. He still seemed a little groggy. The blow must have hit him hard, the thought now making me slightly uncomfortable. "Lucy, are you... is that thing still in your head?" He groaned and rubbed his own, glancing from me to the Master.

"I got rid of it," the other Time Lord simply told. "No idea where it went, but it's not here anymore."

The Doctor sighed and gave me a long look, as if to make sure it was the truth. It was hard to tell what he thought. I knew this was actually the moment meant to apologize for my action before. However, seeing he wasn't even hurt and considering his behaviour towards me... I couldn't be bothered less.

The two Time Lords glared at each other for a good minute. The tension in the room was almost worse than it had been with the entity around. None of them moved, no one spoke a word. The small interruption I had caused couldn't make their fight undone.

And then, as I tossed glances back and forth, a smile spread on the Master's lips, amused and weirdly honest. "For all my attempts to murder you, it's only fair enough that you try the same. In your own way."

"You know it's not like that," the Doctor answered with a certain sadness in his voice. "I don't want you to die."

At that the other Time Lord laughed. Cackling to himself he crossed his arms over his chest. "I know! Dumbass. You only try it when you're certain I'll get out of it... relatively unscathed."

Perplex I glanced at the two. The whole situation made not much sense to me. There was a small, almost involuntary smile, twitching the corners of the Doctor's mouth upwards. He shrugged his shoulders, hands buried in his pants pockets.

"You always get away."

"'Cause I do," the Master agreed, nodding in my direction. "So make sure to treat my pet a little nicer from now on."

With that he turned around and marched to the door, leaving us behind. The Doctor and I exchanged puzzled glances. How could the Master know how the other man treated me? Had he seen it in my mind? Or did they simply know each other so well that it was obvious to him?

Meanwhile the Master had left the room, vanishing down the corridor with swift steps. I looked away from the Doctor and followed suit, the other Time Lord right behind me.

"Where are you going?" the Doctor asked as he caught up. "You know I can't let you harm any of them for-"

"Ugh, can't you just shut it, Doctor?" the Master groaned. "Eh, silly question. 'Cause you can't."

"Oi! You might not care, but you know it's wrong! Just listen inside you, Master."

"No. There's only the sodding drums," the other Time Lord spat and rounded a corner. "Not that you'd believe it." He cut off the Doctor as he wanted to answer. "Besides, I'm not interested in your humans, right now. I'm heading to the elevator shaft. They should all be there."

"Why would they? What do you want there?"

"Satisfying my curiosity."

"But why the elev- ohhhhhhh!" Suddenly it dawned on the Doctor. He sped up his steps.

"What?" I wanted to know. "What is there?"

"Something beyond powerful, lil' lumin. Listen."

I did, although I had no clue for what. "I don't hear anything."

The Master chuckled and winked at me. "Exactly. Don't you miss it? The constant noise?"

"What noi-" My mouth fell shut as I understood. "The drill stopped."

"Yup. And whatever possessed you must have come from the core. Must be something that lay dormant until they reached deep enough to wake it up. Otherwise it would have shown itself earlier."

We reached a room that was mostly built into the ground. Natural walls of stone surrounded us, decorated with wires and tubes and ventilation shafts. Machines also stood tall, monsters of metal and plastic, with too many levers and buttons and displays.

The crew really was gathered here. Ida, Danny, Toby and Zach, at least. They stood near a wide hole in the ground. A huge, thick metal construct stuck out from it, containing the now silent drill and an elevator.

"...should not risk anything!" Danny demanded with a stern face. "We already lost someone, today."

"And if we don't go down, it will have been for nothing," Ida countered and gestured towards the shaft. "This is what we came here for! We made it through, that's all that matters."

"Ida's right," Zach seconded with folded arms. "But Toby's right, too. The symbols the cameras have picked up... We shouldn't risk too much."

"What symbols?" the Master demanded to know as we all stepped closer.

Everyone tensed and moved a little away, all faces wearing hints of fear on them. Danny spoke first, his look dark. "What the heck are you lot doing here?"

"Not breaking your neck," the Time Lord growled forebodingly.

"We want to help," the Doctor tried to sooth the previous words. "It's in all our interest to fins this mysterious powery power source, isn't it?"

"Not interested in helping. But the sooner this all is done, the sooner we can come back for the TARDIS, am I right?" The Master glowered at the humans around.

"Yes, you are," Zach confirmed grudgingly. "But we're not going to risk losing more crewmates because you want to speed up things." He pointed at the hole in the ground. "The power source probably is of alien origin. Our cameras picked up structures that are unlikely to be natural. And also more of the strange symbols Toby's busy translating."

"Have you been successful with them?" the Doctor wanted to know, excitement swinging in his voice. "My ship couldn't translate it. Means it's old. Extremely, impossibly old."

Toby shook his head. "No. Not yet. Translating a completely unknown language takes a while. Especially one that is alien."

Ida hummed understanding. "It's risky for now. First we should send some drones scouting, then-"

"I'll go down."

All eyes shot to the Master. He stood there, arms folded and a look on his face that left no room for discussion.

The Doctor squirmed, opened his mouth to speak and quickly closed it again. He tried once more, this time succeeding. "Then I'll go too! Can't wait to find out what's down there and since you all don't wanna risk anything..."

"We barely know you, Doctor," Zach tossed in, a sceptical look on his face. "We can't trust either of you."

"No," I mumbled into the silence that spread. Surprisingly, everyone looked at me and I shrunk together somewhat. But didn't have I enough of being overlooked? Scowling I straightened myself and stepped forward, pulse racing, hands sweaty, but I managed. "We're disposable. And it's not as if any of us could flee with whatever is down there. Besides..." I smiled and thumbed behind me at the Master. "He's my responsibility. Didn't you say that? So it clearly should be me who comes down with'im."

"You're not babysitting me, ape!" the Master spat. "But you're right. Fleeing isn't an option and doing any harm down there would be suicide."

The crew members exchanged glances. Eventually Zach nodded and Ida also didn't seem to hate the idea, even though she made sure to be in the next group to go down there.

"I'm not going to miss out taking a look myself," she sternly commented. "But Lucy's right. As mean as it may sound, we have nothing to lose by letting them down first. Although it's a shame."

"Humans," the Doctor remarked with a wide, admiring smile. "Always so full of curiosity. Flying all the way across space, right below a black hole, drilling into the heart of a planet. You are amazing!"

The Master grunted annoyed, but Ida seemed flattered and smiled. "Doctor, I think you should stay with us."

"What!?" he exclaimed. "No! I want to go down! I volunteer!"

"Yes, but out of your bunch you're the only one I'm somewhat trusting. We need a reliable person to recall the events, when we're back home. And, just in case, a brain like yours might be helpful in a dire situation."

"Believe me," the Master sneered, "He's not the brain of this group. Certainly not!"

"Oi! Master, stop it!" the other Time Lord whined. "So far I foiled every single one of your plans, don't you forget that!"

"Yeah..." He snorted out a short laugh. "With sheer luck and dumb coincidences. Nothing to do with intelligence."

"Okay, okay, stop!" Zach trod between them and tossed dark glances this way and that. "The two of you are definitely not going down together. But I agree with Ida, you two will go." He pointed at me and the Master. "See it as a way to redeem you. Or to prove that we can count on you, whatever."

________________________________________________
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An hour later we were briefed and ready to descent. Both, the Master and I were clad in orange space suits, since there would be no oxygen inside the planet. The thing was surprisingly comfortable and not at all bulky, as I had imagined space suits to be. Even the oxygen tanks weren't that heavy, but that was mostly due to the fact that we wouldn't stay long.

Ida had explained how everything worked, how we would be driven down inside the small elevator next to the dormant drill. She handed us some tools, too. A gravity ball, some communicators and a scanning device to gather data about the power source, should we come across it.

"What do you think to accomplish?" the Doctor asked calmly. "I don't think whatever is down there lets you run off with the power source."

The Master chuckled and shook his head. "Wasn't the plan."

"Don't tell me you'll try and blow the whole thing up!"

"Geeze, of course not, idiot!" the Master shot back. "That would blow me up as well."

"Maybe... but I know for a fact that you didn't just change into the helping type." The Doctor frowned. "Something makes you go down. And I'm rather sure I won't like the reason. As always."

"And as always you're so, so wrong, Doctor."

"We're ready!" Zach called out.

I put on the round helmet, letting Ida check if everything was alright. She did the same with the Master and then signalled us to step into the elevator.

"Do you think the beast is down there?" I quietly asked him.

"Well, I certainly hope so."

The Doctor's eyes widened. He had clearly overheard us. "No," he hushed. "You can't cooperate with that thing, Master. Whatever it is, it's not-"

"Wrong, Doctor." The other Time Lord chuckled.

"But... what do you want, then?"

I glanced up, curious about the answer. There had to be a reason for the Master to take this risk, and to make sure he would be the first to go down and face whatever was lurking in the dark. A mechanical rumble went through the cave, then the elevator slowly started to move, gliding down surprisingly smooth.

"I tell you, what I'm going to do," the Master told grinning, while we vanished into the ground. "I'm going to kill that thing."

Back to index


Chapter 29: Chapter 29

Smoothly the elevator rattled down into the pitch black depths of the planet's core. There was no noise beside the rumbling of the machines and the sound of my own breathing inside the helmet. Aside from a tiny lamp above our heads there also was no light to illuminated the shaft, nothing to indicate how far below our destiny lay. Only the timer inside my helmet told that we were in here for almost ten minutes.

"-kzzzt- You're okay, there?" the Doctor's voice asked through the communicator.

I picked mine up and pressed the button at its side. "Yup. All quiet and boring."

"Good! –zzzzt- We might not respond in a while. Or, well, we will. But things got a little busy. The Ood started to act up and..."

"-kzzzz- Move, Doctor!" Zach's voice rang from afar through the com. "We need to get to section 22. It's sealed and they won't come in so easily."

"You heard the man! Ida's still in the elevator room. And Jefferson is guarding the door and hallway."

The Master chuckled and shook his head, picking his own communicator up. "Can't leave you alone for one second, Doctor," he mocked. "Was actually hoping it would be me to get rid of you..."

"Ha! Don't fret. I'll find a way to protect everyone. You know me."

"Yeah, I do," the Master mumbled and smiled to himself. With that the communicator went dead and silence spread again, only interrupted by the noises of the elevator.

I did not ask. The relationship between the two Time Lords seemed a lot more complicated than I could fathom in that moment. Enemies, but still friends, fighting each other to the blood, not bothering to endanger their lives and still hoping the other would survive anyway.

My thoughts got interrupted as the elevator landed on the ground with a rough thump. The door rattled open, leading us outside into absolute darkness.

"The gravity globe," the Master said, holding me by the shoulder, before I could step outside. "You don't want to accidentally fall into a hole, do you?"

"Eh, no."

I reached down and picked the sphere from the elevator ground. It had roughly the size of a soccer ball and was smooth to the touch. As Ida had instructed I tossed it into the air, where it flew upwards for a bit, before suddenly illuminating our surroundings. The sphere kept hovering in the air and even followed us around.

The light was bright enough to reveal an enormous cave, with lots and lots of layers into the depth. Bridges of stone connected them, decorated by ancient stalagmites and stalactites, thick as trees. And not only that. Where we exited the elevator, there were giants of statues carved into the rough stone walls. Devilish faces, horned heads and more of the strange symbols.

I glared open mouthed at the scenery, slowly turning around myself o take everything in properly. Even the statues were more fascinating than scary, despite their eerie depictions.

"That's... wow," I simply let out, finding myself at a complete loss for words.

The Master stepped next to me, his eyes wandering over the scene. "Yeah, indeed." An odd smile was on his face, or was it simply the light? "The universe is still able to surprise me."

We reported back to Ida. I told her as best as I could about what was down here and heard in her response how much she envied us right now.

We didn't walk far. Maybe a hundred meters. I picked up the com again, while the Master kneeled down next to a huge round gate on the ground.

"Hey, Ida. We found some kind of hatch. It's really big and round. The Master looks for a way to open it."

"Are there more of the symbols?"

"Uh, yeah, there are. The whole hatch is full of them. How's it going with the Ood?"

Ida was silent for few seconds, before the com crackled again. "Not good at all. We have reports of several deaths. It's as if they are... possessed. Their eyes are glowing red. I've never seen that before."

A tremor went through the ground, making me sway and almost lose my halt. Luckily it was over fast and I recovered. The connection to Ida was cut, however, and I couldn't get through again. I glanced over at the Master, who was busy studying the symbols, as the ground shook once again, but subtler and...

"It's opening!" I let out.

A line appeared, splitting the hatch in half. Each side slowly started to retreat backwards, revealing a bottomless, black chasm underneath. Only when the ground had completely opened did the tremors stop.

Carefully I trod next to the Master to the edge, leaned over and glared into the abyss. All light from the gravity globe simply got swallowed after a while, leaving us with nothing but a gaping maw of blackness. A strange sensation tugged at me, as if there was something calling, urging me to move, to... fall. The Master grabbed my arm, even though I hadn't moved.

"The call of the void," he mumbled darkly into his beard. Perplex I blinked up at him, but his eyes kept glued to the hole. "Feeling the impulse to jump... May it only be to satisfy your own curiosity..."

"Oh, that. Yeah... it's a weird phenomena." I tugged at my arm to get free and he let go. "So, how do we get down there?"

The com crackled. I tried to get a signal, but no words came through. Then the ground shook again, making us stumble backwards to not fall into the chasm. This time the tremor was even worse. We heard stones fall all around us, large junks of rocks, crashing to the ground; one of the statues nearby developed a fine crack across its face, giving it a horrifying grimace. Then there was a loud bang, a snap and the whistling noise of something falling. The tremors stopped, but seconds later something crashed to the ground nearby, swirling up dust and dirt. It came from the direction of the elevator and we hurried back, finding it to be completely destroyed by the fallen heavy metal cable.

"Must have snapped," the Master concluded and picked up the frayed end. His gaze wandered upwards. "No communication, no elevator. Great." To my surprise he chuckled, but there was no humour in the sound. "There. In the end you get what you wanted."

"M... me? Why?"

He tossed the cable at me and I caught it, blinking puzzled down at it. It was really heavy, thick. For it to simply snap there must have been quite the force at work. Or maybe the Ood? Were the others safe?

"What do you think? There's no way back. And those oxygen tanks won't last forever."

I swallowed, glancing up into his face. "That's nothing I wanted." The realisation that we were stuck down here didn't quite reach me, yet. It was too sudden, too unreal.

We would die down here.

Simply suffocate... The rational part of my mind knew it, but everything else... Slowly I started to walk back to the hole, dragging the cable along. The Master followed and I continued to speak, shaking my head. "And I certainly don't want anyone else being dragged into anything."

"How nice of you," the Master mocked. "Care to explain what you want with that cable?"

"Just checking. We can toss it down the hole and see how far it reaches."

"We'd have to get it back up."

"So?"

The Master chuckled. "Oxygen. Remember? We're running out of time. Well, you have to be a lot more worried about it than I. To my knowledge, your kind doesn't possess a respiratory bypass."

"Eh... no. Never heard of anything the like. What's it supposed to do?"

"The short version?" He watched as I still dragged the cable along. "I will survive much longer without air than you could."

"Hm..." I made and pulled out some strands from the cable. Inside were several thick metal wires, strong enough to hold my weight. I bent and twisted them in a way that I could somehow wind them around me and secure the whole thing with some straps around my shoulders. I practically wore the cable like a backpack.

The Master simply watched, obviously aware of my plan. Only when I was done did he raise his voice.

"Sure about that?"

I shrugged and stepped to the edge of the chasm. "I'll suffocate anyway. Up again's no option."

"You think there is something down there to help?" he mocked."How big are the chances?"

"Almost zero," I confessed quietly. "Still better than doing nothing. Besides..." My eyes were glued to the darkness in the pit. I swallowed. "Curiosity. Can't help it... the thought of dying without knowing what's down there... it's...well... killing me."

The Master let out a groan, ignoring my chuckle. "Don't start with the puns again," he begged.

"Aaaaw, why not?" I asked, poking out my tongue, then glanced down the pit again to hide my grin. "You know... Having that elevator cable makes me remember... Do you know why a ghost would ride an elevator?"

"No! And I seriously don't want-"

"Because it lifts their spirit."

I barely had time to giggle at his exasperated groan. Something hit my back, the world suddenly rushed past me as I fell into the darkness of the chasm until the cable stopped my fall with a rough tug, pushing all air out of my lungs for a moment. Dizzy and confused I hung there, legs and arms moving without finding a halt, my brain struggling to comprehend how I could hang in the air without my feet or hands touching anything.

It took only a few seconds. Then I stared up at the small spec of light from the gravity globe. The figure of the Master stood bent over the chasm's edge, holding the cable. He chuckled to himself.

"I told you to stop," he said nonchalantly.

"You didn't have to kick me down!"

"We won't last so long. Was the last chance to do that."

I grunted and rolled my eyes. "Well... at least I can make puns with no end, now. Can't kick me twice."

"One more and I let go," he warned.

"Spoil-sport," I grumbled, somewhat pissed, but actually more amused. "Okay, let me down. Slow!"

He did. The cable scratched against the stone, bringing me ever so further into the darkness. The light above me shrunk, the Master's silhouette faded, and for several minutes there was silence between us. After all, what was left to say?

Deep within us, we both knew that this was the end. Not that I could speak for the Master, but he must have known it, too. No word came from Ida, no contact from the Doctor. The display of the oxygen tanks sinking without mercy. And yet if felt completely different to the night at the sea, by the fire. Surreal and far away, as if someone else was hanging there, in the darkness.

I lifted my head, barely able to see the entrance of the chasm anymore. There was only a tiny dot, a blinking star in an empty night sky. I remembered the communicator and picked it up, pressing the button. Static greeted me, waiting for my voice to break the silence.

"Master?" I uttered.

There was no answer, but my descent halted for a moment. I heard something crackle through the static, then the cable continued to slide down. Maybe he had activated the com, maybe he had thrown it away.

"Seems like saving my life was in vain, in the end," I spoke quietly. There was a weird urge to talk, no matter if he listened or not. "All I got from it... " For some seconds I fell silent, then tried again. "Nothing changed, you know. I'm still the same person. I still belong nowhere. And I still have no clue whether or not you hate me. And if you do... No, you wouldn't have kept me alive then."

The cable slowed and eventually stopped moving altogether. My communicator crackled.

"That's it," the Master told, ignoring everything I had said before. "You reached the end of the cable."

"Haven't touched any ground yet," I informed him, feeling a sting in my chest. "No idea how far it still goes. Might be miles, or just a few meters."

"Yeah," came the only answer, the word breathed out like a sigh. "I'll pull you back up."

"No."

Silence.

Another crackle of static.

"You sure?"

I nodded, then remembered he couldn't see that. My eyes fell on the display in my helmet.

"There isn't even enough time. Only a few minutes of oxygen."

No answer.

"When you brought me back... I really hated you for it," I told quietly. "And when that thing possessed me... I didn't even know I was carrying so much hate and contempt inside me. Not all of it was from myself... but... lots of it." Somehow I knew the Master wouldn't deign me a comment on my words, so I simply babbled on, knowing it would be the last thing I'd ever speak. "But I also got the chance to see some truly amazing things. A real black hole... who would have thought. And this whole cave system, down here. It's amazing. It really is. I'm thankful I was able to see that."

The number steadily decreased. Time was running up.

"Master?"

Static. "Hm?" His voice sounded unwilling, as if he didn't want to speak to me at all.

"Thank you."

"What for?" he grumbled.

"For those few moments. Just a few... They were nice. I didn't have much of those in my life. And now I had several in such a short time." With lots of bad strewn in-between, but in those last moment I refused to let them ruin the good. "That's all, I guess. Going to cut the straps."

Silence. A crackle, followed by nothing. I got out a knife from and started to cut through the straps I wore like a backpack.

"Lucy?"

I halted, my heart thudding in my chest. He had never used my name until now.

"Yeah?" I choked out, feeling tears prickle my eyes.

"This is a command," he uttered darkly, his voice sounding strangely hoarse. "Hypnotism and all that, remember?"

I did. I remembered that it worked only partially with me. And also that he needed eye contact for it to work at all. He knew too, of course. But in that moment we both decided to ignore it.

A last time I heard the crackle through the static, while I worked the straps. The Master's voice reverberated through the darkness, low and almost pleading, but too quiet to make it out for sure. His words, however, were clear.

"Don't die."

The straps finally severed. My grip around them loosened.

Darkness above.

Darkness below.

I fell.

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A/N: I actually had a way funnier draft for this... It's a fine line to walk with those self-inserts... The funnier version would have been way more... me, but would have totally ruined the mood from a story perspective. (maybe I'll add it as a little bonus for you. xD )

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Chapter 30: Deleted Scene - Bad jokes

Author's Notes: So, this is what would have actually happened if it were truly me hanging on that cable, about to fall into an uncertain death...
Please don't take this too serious xDDDDDD


As the cable slid down the pitch black maw I did not feel the urge to talk, all words had left me, were stuck in my head, swirling, repeating, dancing, almost making me sick.

The com crackled to life. "You alright, down there?" the Master asked. "Tell me when you dropped dead. I hate doing work for nothing."

It took me a few seconds to get it. I pushed the button on my com. "Yeah, I'll make sure to float back up and haunt you."

There was a silly chuckle on the Master's end, untying the knot in my chest. Then my descent stopped. The com sprang to life once again.

"End of the line," the Master announced. "Literally."

I groaned and rolled my eyes. "And why again am I not allowed to make puns?"

"Yours are bad," came the mocking answer.

"Oi!"

I chuckled, but then fell silent. Neither of us spoke a word for almost a minute. What was there to talk anyway? A glance at the oxygen display told me there was no time to get back up and I had no way of telling how far down the pit would still reach. Damit...

Once again I held the communicator to my helmet. "I could jump."

"Wanna try out all methods until one works?" the Master bantered back. "You're even worse at dying than I am. And believe me, I survived things..."

I snorted. Somehow this whole situation was too far away from really to comprehend. Sure, I literally hung in the middle of it, but my mind simply wouldn't catch up. This was so different from the night at the beach.

The number on the display kept decreasing.

"I've got... roughly five minutes of oxygen left," I told, even though he must know. We had the same tanks after all.

I picked up a knife that was clipped to the space suit and started to cut my makeshift hold, when the Master spoke again. "Are you?"

"What?"

"Jumping."

I continued cutting. "Yep. Better than suffocating... I guess."

"Well, thanks for leaving that to me." He chuckled, but I could hear that his voice was a little strained. "So... any last words?"

"Uh... pheeew.... I don't know. I probably should say something meaningful, shouldn't I?"

"Guess so."

"What about you?"

Silence. The com crackled a few times, as if he wanted to say something, but nothing ever came. The hold was severed. All I had to do now was to click open the clip. Three minutes left... Last words no one would ever hear... no one who would survive to tell the tale. Somewhat hesitantly I pressed the button.

"I'm ready," I mumbled. "Stupid last words, I know..." I took a deep breath and a smile tugged my lips upwards. "Well then... Live long and prosper."

I heard a groan through the com. "That's from Star Trek!"

I couldn't help the laugh. "It's epic, okay! And hey! You know Star Trek?"

"Ugh! Shut up and jump already, you're going on my nerves. And don't you dare dying, you hear me?"

I snorted. "Not gonna happen. You just ruined my epic last words. I'll have to kick your butt for that."

A soft chuckle crackled through the com as I unfastened the clip, barely holding onto it.

"Alright... See you," I mumbled. And then couldn't help, but add, "Praise the sun!"

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The last one is from the videogame Dark Souls. Those would be the most epic last words of all time... :,D

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Chapter 31: Chapter 30

Falling when there is no air around you is a strange feeling. You sense the drop and gravity takes a hold of you. There is, however nothing rushing past you, nothing tugging at your clothes. It is almost like floating downwards, the speed of your movements not palpable, until...

Impact.

There was no pain. Only a far away realization that I wasn't falling anymore and then... nothing.

Suddenly I stood on my feet again, my head having trouble orientating myself properly after awaiting some sort of crash that, however, never came. Puzzled I glanced around, only noticing the diffuse orange light after some seconds. There was stone around me, raw, with no traces of symbols or engravings. A weird bubbling sound crept into my ears, as if there was water boiling nearby. My look wandered upwards, finding the hole through which I had fallen. The cable was nowhere to be seen. It must have been too high above.

How, then, had I survived the fall? Why was I standing upright on my feet and had not crushed to death? Something must have stopped my fall.

I winced as a loud beeping noise rang through my suit. And suddenly I also understood why it was so hard to breathe. Remembered.

The oxygen was running out.

Ten seconds.

Beep! – Beep!

I laughed. It was hard in the thin air, but I couldn't help it. Surviving the fall, only to die anyway. This wasn't fair. It just wasn't. I dropped to my knees in defeat, slowly screwing the helmet open. It was instinct. Just this small wish to not die inside a glass dome around my head. It didn't matter, I'd suffocate anyway. And I wanted to have a clear sight. Just for the last moments of my own mental wellbeing.

Another thought that made me laugh a little. The helmet dropped to the ground.

This was it.

I took one last breath and...

Wait... Did I just breathe? Completely baffled I tried it again and sucked in some air, oxygen. Maybe a little thin and too hot to be comfortable, but still... How was that even possible? The sensor the Master had with him had clearly shown no signs of it. And yet...

The Master!

I shot to my feet and scrambled for the communicator.

"Jump!" I shouted into it an hastily rambled on. "You can breathe down here! There's got to be... I don't know what. I survived the fall. There's got to be some gravity bubble or whatever. Don't even have a scratch and it was damn deep."

My heart thudded excitedly in my chest from the good news, then, after some seconds passed, because of fear. I paced up and down, away from the hole. A minute passed.

Two.

Again I raised the com, barely daring to speak.

"Are you..." I gulped, afraid to finish the question. It drove me mad that there was no answer. Hadn't he said... Had it been a lie? No, no, no, no! I stopped dead in my tracks, glaring at the communicator. Sweat dropped down from my forehead, from the heat and from my fear. Time seemed to stand almost completely still while I raised the device to my mouth again. "You said you'd survive longer than I." My choking voice was barely a whisper.

Silence.

It hadn't even been so long! There was no way... "Dammit, answer!" I pleaded. "I swear, if you lied to me... I... I..."

My hand lowered. Tears burned in my eyes, unable to fall. Suddenly everything crushed over me like a wave. The past days, the beast in my head, the elevator, the fall, the heat... and now the missing answer. Shit! This was too much. I couldn't breathe anymore. It was so hot, my stomach cramped and I slid down the stone wall, sobbing out all the tension. Fuck! It couldn't be true! It wasn't possible! It was a cruel joke, nothing more. I was dreaming, trapped in a nightmare.

Trapped in hell.

I wrapped my arms over my head, buried it between my knees and trembled. This was it. This was hell. Heat and fire all around, the squelching bubbling sounds from afar, nightmare after nightmare, chained to a mockery of reality. Chains... I actually heard them, rattling nearby, scraping against glowing stones, scorched black by fire and...

"This is no place to sleep, seriously."

My head shot up, the sudden movement making me dizzy. My mouth dropped open in disbelieve at what I saw... whom. There he stood, just about to take his helmet off. I hadn't heard a thing over the bubbling noise. Or was it just another part of my nightmare? Some weird trick of the devil...

The Master tossed the helmet aside and turned around himself to get a look at our surroundings. Clumsily I got to my feet and trod closer. He looked at me in puzzlement, observing my wide eyes, not moving a muscle when I tapped against his chest with a finger.

"You're... real?"

"'Cause I am. What're you rambling about again?" he mocked, rolling his eyes in annoyance.

I couldn't help it. It was simply impossible. Before he could even react, I already had my arms flung around his torso, hugging him tight.

"Oi, stop that!" he cried indignantly. "What's gotten into you, you stupid, insufferable..."

A sob shook me and I clung to him even tighter, no matter his words, not caring what he might do to me. My body was shivering, despite the heat and it still felt as if I couldn't breathe, as if the world would collapse at any moment.

"Are you having some sort of panic attack?" the Master finally asked annoyed. "Ugh, it's always the same with you humans. You get into just one moment of a little danger and you break."

Somehow I found my voice again, the words simply tumbling over my lips, "'S not the danger. You didn't answer..."

"Yeah, was busy climbing the cable. Didn't want to jump all the way... just in case. Now stop clinging to me!" He shoved me away, scowling deeply.

"You could have said that!" I accused. "I really thought... Shit. You scared me!"

His brow raised. "Why's that?"

"I... I thought you were... dead."

Another shiver and a sob went through me. The Master poked my head.

"Ah, and now you're sad because I'm not. Seriously, if you want me gone..."

"No!" I choked out, barely able to get a sound out. It was only a whisper. "Don't you dare leaving. I was really worried."

"For... me?" His voice had lost the sarcasm and had taken on a puzzled tone.

I nodded, dropping my head against his chest to hide my face, just standing there for a while with trembling shoulders. The Master pushed his fingers under my chin to make me look up. The surprise in his eyes was honest, as was his confusion. His thumb stroked over my cheek, wiping a tear away I hadn't noticed falling.

"I've done not one good thing to you," he mumbled softly. "You shouldn't cry."

I clenched my teeth to keep the tears at bay, trying to breathe slow and steadily. Somehow I even succeeded and wiped my eyes with a sleeve. Of course it was stupid. Of course he was right. But that didn't change a thing.

The Master glanced down at me, almost uncomfortable looking. Eventually he huffed, ruffled my hair and strode away, leaving it up to me to stay behind or to follow. Not a hard decision. Even though everything inside of me screamed to just sit down, to simply stop, I couldn't. I had come so far, there was no halting now, no time to collapse.

And leaving the Master out of sight frightened me more than anything that might lie ahead.

Just a little longer, only a few more steps, I told myself, calming my breath.

I wasn't alone in this. He hadn't died. Wordlessly I glared at his back, how he strode through those corridors of stone with a confidence as if nothing here could harm him. Not once did he turn around, not once did he ask if I was still there.

The rattling of chains got louder, as did the bubbling sound of... lava? What else could it be? The orange light and the heat down here made it obvious. And weren't we right in the heart of this planet?

Soon we rounded a corner and with a gaping mouth I found out what had caused the noise; what had been creeping through the darkness of the sanctuary base and had possessed my mind.

There, inside a lake of lava stood a monstrosity as huge as the cave itself, with a horned head, his face contorted in a horrifying grimace. The thick neck chained to the wall, making the beast unable to move far away from its spot. All it could do was scream into the air, to let out a noise that ran like acid through my veins. Compared to this thing we were like ants.

"Bloody hell," the Master let out, then chuckled. "You're an ugly thing."

Carefully I stepped next and a little behind him, halfway hiding, halfway curious, as much terrified as fascinated. The cave shook slightly and a deep laugh reverberated through the stone.

"Ahhh, you found me." The snout of the devilish thing contorted to a snarl, or maybe a laugh. "Welcome to my humble realm."

"Oh, it's indeed cosy," the Master mocked. "Bet you never get cold."

The thing laughed in its deep voice, then pointed a finger at me, chains rattling. "Did your mind change, Time Lord? You brought me the human child again."

I stiffened and peeked up at the Master. The beast truly had a skill to implant fear and doubt into one's mind. Could it be? Had he not struggled against my wish to come along because he knew he might need some sort of... sacrifice?

The Master turned his head to look down at my scared face. Suddenly a hand slipped onto my shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly, before he let go again.

"No. You can't have her."

"Fool!" the devil roared. Fire splashed upwards. "You could have so much power. With me there would be no limits. You think you can rule over time! I can go beyond."

The words sunk in, my heart dropped again. I had refused this power willingly. Because I did not want to lose who I was. And even though he stayed silent for a long time, I knew the Master wasn't considering the offer.

I glanced around the massive cavern, searching for anything to give answers. But all I found were a few urns on sockets, and crudely drawn pictures on the walls.

"Why do you need someone else?" I heard the Master ask, eventually. "Those chains don't look so tough."

"Do you really think," the giant snarled deeply, leaning closer as much as he was able to, "I would still linger in this pit, if I were able to break free on my own?"

"Och, maybe you're just a little daft." The Master shrugged, not at all impressed by the size or the threatening aura. "Let's try again. It might change my opinion. Maybe I'll even let you go." He let those words hung in the hot air, deliberately drawing out the pause. "Why possess another person? Why not just try and break free physically?"

The demon stayed silent, his burning eyes only staring in hate and ancient wrath. A good question indeed. The mind of another one must limit his powers a great deal. The Master turned away and towards me, now also observing the few hints.

"It was easy," the beast spoke hastily, almost as if it wanted to prevent us from looking. "There is an oh so tiny tear in the veils between minds." He pointed a long finger at me. "There is a gap in your barriers I could easily slip into. A gap that should not be."

Confused I blinked at the creature, then at the Master, whose eyes steadily widened in realisation.

"Whoops," he made and grinned impishly at me.

"What? What does that thing mean?"

"Weeeeell... remember when I wanted you to hear the drums?" He waited until I nodded. "I might have used a tiny little bit too much force to get into your head."

I narrowed my brows at him, slightly pursing my lips. Next I scowled at the devil.

"That the reason you possessed me of all people? There are plenty of others upstairs. Could have taken anyone."

He laughed his deep rumble of a laugh, ugly, sharp teeth showing. "I can," he growled amused. "It takes effort. It is difficult with the chains. But, given enough time, I will claim one of them. I already spread a part of me inside their little pets."

I exchanged a glance with the Master. "The Ood?" I asked.

"Might be. Not my problem." He shrugged and turned back to the devil. "Alright. Enough chit-chat. I'm getting bored with you. How do we get back to the surface?"

"Bored?" The beast roared out a thundering laugh. "Oh, poor little child. Are the lessons too easy? Are the purple butterflies in the silver trees so much more fun to watch?"

The Master winced subtly, as if those words rang a bell in him.

"Is it so much more tempting to envision the universe in all its mighty beauty? How it would be to own it all?"

"Pshaw! What do you know? You're chained and useless," the Master spat. "I can get all I want."

"Oh... you never did. So, so young still. In red robes, running through academy corridors. I can see it all."

"Then stop with it. That's all long ago. Nothing to play with for you."

His words sounded... uneasy. I peeked at the Master with curiosity and worry. Did the devil speak of the Time Lord's past? He definitely seemed to have fun, laughing darkly to himself. "I can play with you however much I like. There is no way back. No up, no away. You reached the end. You will stay and die here with me. And I can talk to you, Time Lord. I can speak of all the things you wanted to forget."

The Master glared hatefully at the giant. One quick look darted towards me, vanishing fast. He didn't want me to know, I realised. About who he used to be, about who he was today. And again I remembered that I actually knew nothing at all about this man. Only vague glimpses that barely made sense.

"Don't listen," he murmured towards me.

And the devil laughed.

"She has no choice! You're here, at my mercy. Both of you." He let out a devilish laugh. "Yes, my body might be chained and useless. But my words... oh my words always were what frightened all of you so much. Little, well-picked truths at the right time."

The Master snorted, gritting his teeth. His eyes shot back upwards, challenging the beast. "Might be. What do I care? I won't listen."

"The little one might, though. With all that urge inside her, to find knowledge, to seek what is true and real. But there is no such thing. Reality is the biggest illusion and she knows it, am I right?"

I tried to ignore the words and just shrugged, crossing my arms over my chest.

"You know there is no place for you. Nowhere in all of time and space. Too similar, yet too different to your own kind. No one will ever understand. They don't want to. Why bother with you when there are so many other people that aren't foreign to what they already know?"

I smiled grimly, leaning against a stalagmite. There was nothing he could say that I didn't know already. Nothing I hadn't mulled over a million times in my own head. Go on, I thought. Tell me something I have never thought of. Surprise me.

The devil seemed to sense my thoughts, or maybe just knew them, since he could read our memories so well. His face contorted in satisfaction.

"And now you cling to whomever pays you any attention. Like a chick to a hen. You think he could be a friend. An ally. Two outcasts, bound together." Okay, maybe there were some things I hadn't thought about thoroughly, yet. I quickly tossed an uncomfortable glance at the Master, but he didn't even look my way, busy with the images on the walls. "What do you hope to gain, little one? He counts much more years than you will ever reach. You are nothing alike."

The words stung. I knew they shouldn't, knew they were meant to do exactly that. They still hurt.

"My, what are you a bully," the Master mocked, peeking at the devil from behind one of the urn sockets. "You really wanna go on talking until we die? Spare your breath, or you'll get bored fast." He chuckled and tossed a grin at me, even winking, as if he thought he had made a great joke.

I couldn't help the small smile tugging on my lips. He obviously had listened, but didn't seem to care at all.

"Bored? I don't think so. You're so weak and pathetic, you will break long before your bodies die. You will sit there, squirming in agony." It was a dark promise. "Go on. Resist me. I have all the time. And I'm not ever feeling alone. Not like your wretched kinds. Running around, always searching for other souls not to be lonely. All the stolen glances. All the times you took his hand and he did not notice? The stolen kisses that were only fun, only for exploring. Because you knew he would always be running, always be one step ahead, in his mind... with his hearts."

"Just shut up!" the Master shouted suddenly, hands clenched to fists. "You have no rights to scramble through my memories! You have no idea what you're talking about!"

"Don't I?" The devil leaned down, his face almost at our eyelevel, face scrunched up to a dangerous snarly grin. "Oh, so alone. I see your hearts, little Koschei. Aching, bleeding, hating... and loving so deeply."

What I saw surprised me. The Master didn't move, didn't speak. Only his fists trembled slightly. In the face of this thing he found himself powerless, unable to prevent it from dissecting his memories, unable to even punch the hideous creature.

"Bully someone your own size!" I called out, almost freezing as those huge, evil eyes focussed on me. Slowly I grinned, drawing out my moment. "Or... should I accidentally drop one of those urns, maybe?"

"NO!" It roared with all his might, tearing at the chain. Fire raised almost up to his waist.

The Master looked at me, puzzled, his gaze wandered over the pictures on the walls, then over the urns. His eyes widened as he understood.

"Not so useless now, am I?" I asked mockingly, returning his spreading grin.

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A/N: I always wondered if the Doctor survived the fall because of his Time Lord body, or because it wasn't that deep in the end... or, since there was oxygen down there, there might also have been some whatever to stop the fall.

Also, yes, I totally went there... If you squint hard enough at what the devil tells the Master. *snickers*

And then there's the fact that it never made much sense to me, why the devil possessed only Toby. (Probably only because the actor looked so creepy with red eyes and all the tattoos, lol.) So I came up with something else...

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Chapter 32: Chapter 31

The Master grinned at me, almost proudly, and my heart did some weird little jump.

The nasty words from the beast meant nothing. Maybe I was clinging to whomever paid me attention, but was that really wrong?

"Well..." The Master thumbed behind him at the devil, as if it was only some random bystander. "If the old thing there bothers us too much, we can at least get rid of it."

The beast roared in his chains. No, it was more like a desperate howl. "You can't! The planet would lose its orbit and fall into the hole!"

"Yeah... that's indeed a pity," the Master drawled uninterested. "Everyone out there would soooo miss this ugly rock." He gave me a cheeky wink. "Let's wait for a bit. As I know our annoying Doctor he'll come up with something to get us back to the surface. And it will be so stupid it actually works."

Surprisingly the devil stayed silent after that. All truths or lies didn't help him now. No matter what he did, we always had the option to simply leave. One way or the other.

The Master continued to study the images and the untranslatable letters on the stone walls. There wasn't much to see, actually, but the images were clear enough, even without understanding the text. Deciphering the message hadn't been hard... if it weren't for the constant distraction the beast had used.

What a clever tactic. For most people it would have worked.

At some point I undressed the space suit, feeling way too hot inside the thing. And since we could breath here anyway, it wasn't worth the risk of having my circulation collapse on me. Heat had never been my favourite temperature.

I wondered how long we would have to wait. And for what exactly. The Master's trust in the Doctor was weird, but then again it seemed as if they had fought each other often enough to know the other Time Lord somehow always emerged with something to gain the upper hand. Like it was an ancient game. One building traps, the other one developing unforeseeable ways to get around them.

The beast paced up and down inside the lava, slowly drawing circles within his tiny realm. Trapped here for centuries he surely must already have gone mad from boredom. For a while I watched, wondering what exactly he might be.

"Are you?" I muttered eventually, sitting down on a rock near the lava.

The beast stopped and his dark eyes wandered over me.

"The devil, I mean," I elaborated. "The true one."

"I am," he simply stated. "Whatever your planet holds true as evil, I am."

Puzzled I blinked, tilting my head. "I don't think I get it," was all I admitted. "How can you be, when they have trapped you here 'before time'?"

The beast only chuckled in his low voice, continuing to pace. He truly seemed afraid we could destroy the seal. So, fear was something he was able to feel. Or maybe just an abstract version of it. It made me wonder if he also had spoken the truth when he had claimed not to ever feel lonely.

He stopped just as the thought had crossed my mind, eyes resting upon me. I swallowed and glared back, feeling less and less uncomfortable doing so. The longer I looked at the horrifying face, the more it lost its horror.

"You can't leave," I concluded. "Destroying the urns would release your body, but would destroy the force field. The moment your body gets freed, you'll be sucked into the black hole." A dark stare was my only answer. "So... you try and escape your mind instead. Implant it into another person, who will then take it away from here. That's the only way to escape, right?"

"Now, that took you long," the Master mocked and stepped next to me. He shook his head with an amused look. "Seriously, why do you pity that thing? You've got nothing to do or what?" He laughed. "Okay, okay, you don't... but still. A monster like that doesn't deserve any compassion."

"A monster like yourself?" the devil growled. "Do you fear being cared for so much?"

The Master snorted, but whatever he had planned to say got interrupted as the whole planet shook. It almost started to feel normal that it did that from time to time. I only wondered what galaxies might be vanishing right now. But the tremors got stronger, much stronger than I had experienced them so far.

Thick, heavy rocks rained from the ceiling, making me jump up and away, searching for a spot to hide, while also trying to keep my balance. Clumsy as I was, this wasn't easy. Somehow I managed to find a corner where I felt safe enough to drop to the ground, making myself as small as possible. Hopefully the Master had found a hiding spot as well, and...

A loud crashing sound tore through the rumbling and collapsing. I heard an outcry and then nothing more.

Eventually the quakes stopped. I dared to lift my head again, finding the cave littered with stones and new rocks. The urns were still intact, as if the seal shielded them from being broken by accident. The Master was nowhere to be found, had probably ran deeper into the tunnels to get safe. I mulled over those urns and why they didn't break. Whoever had caught the beast, I was sure, could have simply killed it. So this was... punishment. Trapping it here, making it endure eternity in loneliness, with no way to ever escape.

Even when everything around was torn to pieces.

I found a breach that hadn't been there before, a hole torn into the walls by the tremors. Only darkness lay behind it and I didn't dare to move inside, afraid the quakes might start again at any moment. Instead my eyes searched for the Master, but could find him nowhere.

"He is alive," the beast said.

I turned towards him, raising an eyebrow. "Why do you reassure me? That's not very evil."

He chuckled slightly and bent down to me. "We might still come to an arrangement. You and I. He doesn't have to know. I won't make myself known until we reached earth or any other populated place."

I swallowed, looking at my shoes. This wasn't a good idea. Although it seemed he couldn't do much besides manipulating people with simple fears and truths. This alone could still topple empires, destroy worlds and burn the entire universe... probably. So simple, yet so effective.

"Let me go, child," the monster spoke almost softly. "I've suffered here for long enough. None of my kind are left, none of those who sealed me away."

The words tugged at my heart. It was indeed cruel what they had forced upon him, but I had no clue what exactly he had done to deserve it. Maybe he truly was the devil. But didn't the stories tell that the devil been an angel, once? And might this also be true for the abomination in front of me?

"Och, don't tell me you're even listening?" the Master mocked. I hurled around, finding him climbing over rocks from the newly created cave. "Your compassion will kill you one day, lil' lumin."

"Shut it," I grumbled. "We don't know every angle to this story. And not everyone who seems evil, is it." I gave him a pointed glare, which only yielded a pitying grin.

"You still think there is something good in me." It was a statement, not a question. The Master shook his head and waved me over. "Let me prove that I'm not. Come, we leave."

"Wh... where to?"

"Wherever we want?" He shrugged and smiled even wider. "Seems like I just found the TARDIS."

My heart did an excited jump and I rushed to his side. "Really? How can that be?"

"Dunno. Might have tried on her own to get back and gotten stuck here. It's right in the cave the quake opened."

I tossed a last glance at the beast, still unsure what to do with it. Could we simply leave it behind? Would it be wiser – or even kinder – to destroy it? Simply leaving felt so utterly... wrong.

And in that moment it no longer was my own choice. Suddenly a pressure grew within my head, spreading painfully through my consciousness. I let out a groan and stumbled.

"You are not leaving me here!" the beast screamed, his voice still coming from the body. "Take me away! I won't leave the human!"

The Master blinked at me, then at the creature, his expression dumbfounded for a second before it morphed into a truly devilish grin. All he did was to push one hand to the side.

And one of the urns smashed to the ground, splintering into countless shards.

"No!" the beast roared, it's scream drowning in the tremors that instantly shook the planet.

Casually the Master trod to the next and smashed that one as well. The same with the rest. Why the devil didn't prevent it, I did not know. Maybe, after all this time, it was simply to surreal to actually comprehend. And I wasn't so sure what use that action would be. Had the Master even thought about this? Now the monster was practically forced to either come along or die.

But, as it turned out, he knew extremely well what he had done.

"Well... good bye then." The Master wriggled his fingers and simply strode away without looking back even once.

It was then that it dawned on me - the simple, painful truth, the solution to every presented problem, to the question what would happen to the beast and how it could be prevented from escaping.

The Master was leaving me behind.

It was as simple as that. I would stay and die with the devil, vanish into the black maw above our heads; a vessel to keep the creature from being set free. A simple sacrifice.

My body was completely frozen. My thoughts went numb. Not even the beast seemed to have something to say to that. Evil... indeed, the Master was. Not bothering about anyone but himself, tossing me away like an old broken toy.

Again. It was happening again. Me being so unimportant that he didn't even consider helping me for a mere second. Tears prickled in the corners of my eyes as his back vanished into the darkness of the cave.

At some point I realised I could move again and simply sat on one of the stones, listening to the rumbles and creaking of the dying planet.

It shouldn't hurt. We barely knew one another. There was nothing connecting us, not even companionship. How could it? How could one, counting almost a millennia in age, feel any kinship to a feeble, ephemeral thing like myself?

"You know what?" I mumbled towards the beast. "At least I'm doing something good. Thanks to me you won't be let loose on the universe."

The devil stayed silent.

I huffed. "Nothing to say anymore, he? Yeah, I don't know why I'm talking, either. Got a bad habit these past days." The enormous creature glared at me, this time not even with hate or contempt. His look was as empty as I felt. "Dammit," I mumbled, ruffling my hair. "I don't care about dying. Still not. But it's freakin' frustrating to be treated like that!"

Once, only once in my useless existence did I want to feel important. To anyone. For anything. Why was fate so cruel? Why were people even born, who belonged nowhere and to no one? It made me desperate, angry even. All the frustration bubbled to the surface of my being, made its way inside my mind and spread there like a virus.

I would not accept this fate!

I shot to my feet, treading to the edge of the lava lake. "You know what? Screw you! I don't care what and who you are. I'm not going to be swallowed because of you! I'm not going to vanish! And I don't fucking want you inside my head!" The last words were as much a scream as an outcry.

The planet shook. Surprised I stumbled, one foot hanging over the bubbling hot fire below. With swinging arms I tried to get back my balance, but already sensed the lost battle. Time stood still for a moment, my eyes closed. In the end my wished did not matter... again. The heat of the lava licked at my shoes, not yet reaching them. Not yet...

Something thudded against my chest, forcefully throwing me backwards and onto the ground. Confused and a little dizzy from the blow I heaved myself to the elbows, then to my feet, stumbling away from the pit. My mind felt so light. Something was missing, had... left.

I lifted my head to the devil, still finding no expression on his monstrous face. But his presence was gone. I couldn't feel him in my mind any longer, not even lingering.

Hesitantly I turned around, cast one last glance back and then ran to the TARDIS as fast as my feet would carry me.

Back to index


Chapter 33: Chapter 32

There she stood, blue and covered in dust and dirt, but definitely there and real. The TARDIS.

I ran towards it and tore the door open, surprised to find it unlocked. Hastily I stumbled inside, my side hurting from the run. I pressed a hand against it, panting to get in enough oxygen. Finally some air that wasn't so hot that it nearly burned my lungs.

"Don't... leave," I got out between breaths. "It's gone. Not in my head anymore. Just left."

I wiped some sweat from my forehead, slowly cooling down, thanks to the immensely nicer temperatures inside here. It was so quiet. Only the engines hummed as usual. The Master didn't say a word, only stood there, leaned against the control table with folded arms. His space suit lay neatly folded next to him. He even had brought his hair back in order.

Had he waited there like that the whole time? Why hadn't he gotten away already? His look was almost dissecting me before he approached to lay his hands on my head. The familiar tingling of his mind slipping into mine only lasted for some seconds, then an almost soft smile turned his lips upwards.

"Good. You did it."

I blinked at him, almost too confused to answer.

"I... haven't," I mumbled, remembering what had happened just minutes ago. "It just left me." I shook my head, tossing a glance at the closed doors, to where the beast still lingered. Could it be? "I think," I mumbled, "he let me go."

"Bollocks. Now stop looking at me like a retard and help me with the lock. Remember? I can't get rid of it, alone."

"The... lock?" I mumbled, having trouble to process the situation. "You... didn't leave me? You wanted to get me angry... so I would..."

"Sometimes you're really a little slow." He shook his head, but smiled. "Had I tossed it out of your head, it could have simply slipped back in without any effort," the Master went on. "Had to be yourself to deny him."

Dumbfounded my mouth dropped open. Why couldn't he have said so? Why did he just walk away, risking that I might give up? There hadn't been much left and I would have.

"C'mon. Lock. Or you wanna get swallowed, at last?"

Then I remembered. There was a lock in place, so the Master couldn't simply steal the TARDIS. For anyone but the Doctor it needed two consensual people to unlock the controls. It still seemed like a bad idea to give him that access, but otherwise we both would die here.

"O... okay, right. What do I have to do?"

The Master held out his hand and after a moment of hesitation I took it. He lead me to the controls and started to press some buttons, never letting go of me. He instructed me to push and pull a few things on my own, until the ship sprang to life and he finally released his hold on me.

"That's... it?" I asked dumbfounded.

"Yup. It's not a complicated lock, only effective." He fiddled with a loose screw and tossed a side-glance at me. "So, where do you want to go?"

"Huh? What do you mean? Shouldn't we..."

"Exactly what I said, idiot." He laughed. "C'mon. Pick something."

It dawned on me. Of course, why wouldn't he? "You're going to leave the Doctor here, aren't you?"

A short hint of anger crossed his face and he tossed the screw away. He fully turned to me, his face showing a weirdly unfamiliar honesty. Even his words lacked any venom. "Would you rescue someone if that meant to be a prisoner for the rest of your life?"

No! No I would not!

My mouth opened to let out those words, but quickly closed again. There had to be another way.

"Don't you think... the Doctor will let you go for saving him?"

"Sure... if he hadn't a few thousand more reasons not to." He grimaced.

"So... what you're saying is that he's right to keep you away from the universe?" All I got was a mockingly raised eyebrow and I sighed. "'Kay... you know that and still keep going."

"I'm not going to change who I am." The Master shrugged. "And the Doctor knows it. Doesn't matter what I'd tell, he'd know it's a lie." He shifted from one foot to the other, crossing his arms. "So, what happens to him is up to you."

It took me a few seconds until the words sunk in.

"Wha... hey! You can't force that upon me!"

"Oh? I think I very well can. Say a word and I'll get him. Everything'll stay as it was. Say nothing and we'll leave, free to roam, no one to hold us back." He grinned charmingly. "Easy decision, isn't it? And by the way." He thumped at the doors. "The planet is still collapsing. The TARDIS shields us from the quakes, but it's still all going to hell, out there."

Time pressure. Great. Uneasily I worried my bottom lip, fidgeting with my fingers. This was bad, really bad. My head was so overloaded already, all my thoughts clouded and too slow. Saving one life, condemning a person to imprisonment... forever? Letting the Doctor die, leaving a man behind I didn't even know, who hadn't treated me too well... but for the price of what? What would the Master do with his freedom?

I couldn't know, there was no time to think. I pinched my eyes shut and rubbed the bridge of my nose. Why would he let me make that decision? The answer, to him, seemed to be obvious. So why did he risk...

Tiredly I let out a snort and shook my head. "You're playing with me, again. You wouldn't leave him behind, would you? Not that I'd understand the reasons..."

The Master's eyes twinkled in amusement. All he did was press one small button right next to him and the ship sprang to life, rattling and rumbling, wheezing and groaning.

"I already sent a signal through the base. I know where they're located. Go on. Open the door."

I straightened and rushed over, doing as he had said. Right then the Doctor rounded a corner, his hastened gaze turning into surprise and joy at the sight of the blue box. He sprinted towards us, Danny and Zach in tow.

"Oh, you two wonderful... How'd you find her?" he exclaimed. "Brilliant!"

He ran ahead, stumbling through the doors, and the same moment he had past the threshold, the TARDIS groaned again, the door slammed shut and everything shook, sending me and the Doctor lurching to the ground. Only after some time did the ship calm down and let us stand up again.

The Doctor was on his feet in an instant, fury and disbelieve on his face. "What have you done?!" he shouted. "Get her right back, this second! We have to get the others!"

"Nope," the Master answered nonchalantly, popping the 'p' with a smile.

The Doctor pushed the other Time Lord out of the way, frantically pulling levers and pushing buttons.

"This devil," the Master drawled, sounding almost bored. "It eats itself into the minds of people. Lucy tossed him out, so he probably already went to search for a new host. And he is... very... good at hiding."

"So what?!" the Doctor almost screamed. "We get them on board. At some distance the thing will snap back into his own body."

"It... won't," I quietly told.

The Doctor halted in his movements, turning to face me. There was an anger in his eyes I hadn't thought possible. A cold shiver slithered down my spine. This man could be dangerous, despite the usually so bubbly facade.

"See? That's why it's not good that you're here," he scolded. "You're too much like him!" At that he pointed at the Master. "How can you just stand there and be okay with letting all those people die?!"

Like him? He couldn't really mean that, could he? I was too exhausted to really react much any longer. In other situations I would have gotten scared at being scolded like this, but now I was too numb to really respond emotionally. So I reverted to simple facts.

"That devil, or whatever it is, has the potential to threaten the entire universe," I mumbled. "If it gets away, that is. His body was sealed in the belly of the planet. We just destroyed the seal, so it lost its orbit. Everything will be sucked into the black hole."

"More reason to get them-"

"No!" the Master interrupted, grabbing the other one's wrist. "You still don't get it, Doctor," he spat. "This is not about me and you, not about saving some apes."

"Let... go!" he shouted, trying to struggle his hand free. "It was such a... bad... idea to free you of the cuffs!"

"Maybe," the Master held tighter, now grabbing the other wrist as well, stepping on the other Time Lord's feet to make him stand still. "But just this once you will listen to me!"

"Oh no, I won't! This madness ends here!" The Doctor shot his head forward, connecting it with the Master's with a painful sounding thud. The other one stumbled backwards, releasing his hold. The Doctor caught himself, hurled around. "Whatever sadistic satisfaction you think to get from this-"

"Doctor, listen," I tried to interfere. "The body will die in the black hole! If we get the crew on board, there is no way to tell if one of them is possessed."

"We'll test it!"

"And then what?" the Master growled, rubbing his head. "I fought that thing. It's so bloody strong you wouldn't believe it for a second! That monster could easily slip past any control."

"As if!" the Doctor whined, slowly deflating as he seemed to get aware of his dwindling options. "I can't," he almost pleaded. "I can't just let them all die."

"Oh, is that so?" Anger contorted the Master's face. He was back in front of the Doctor, grabbed his suit and tore him in front of his face. "You claim the right to hold me here. Because what? Because you think I would only run around, murder everything I come across?"

The Doctor gritted his teeth, but didn't struggle. "Each time we meet you prove that thought to be right."

For the fraction of a second the Master's features softened, got almost sad, but quickly returned to a contempt scowl. "You know so little of me," he snarled. "But oh, look! You're the Doctor! So wise and so powerful! You lock one monster away, because it could harm a bunch of no-names." Angrily he tightened his grip on the other one's collar. "Yet you would free another monster, one that might devour the entire universe as we know it, only because some humans would die otherwise!"

"We can't know that," the Doctor whimpered pleadingly. "I..."

"You're a shame for all Time Lords!" the Master pushed the other man away, forcefully enough to let him crash against the console. "We ought to stand above them! They don't matter!"

The Doctor caught himself, turned around and let out a heavy breath, his hand wiping over his face. "As if you'd care about the universe."

"Sure do. Can't own what isn't there anymore."

The Doctor snorted derisively, then slowly lifted his head to glance at me. "See now?" he mumbled. "Look at what you've gotten yourself into. Listen closely and then tell me again you want to stay."

I gaped at him, not getting a word out. My eyes darted back and forth between the two Time Lords. Slowly I felt panic arise in me. This was all wrong! It was all too much. I couldn't think clear anymore. I didn't even understand the problem all too well.

"I get that you want to save them... but..." I took some breaths, trying to calm myself. Why were the lights so bright? Why did this ship had to hum so loud? "A few lives lost to save so many more..." I blinked and rubbed my eyes with two fingers. "Isn't that the lesser evil?"

Get rid of one person, to make the lives of two more better. Wasn't it the same? Had that wish been so bad? I felt sick, every beam of light seemingly burning directly into my brain. The jump seat was right behind me, so I dropped into it, squinting my eyes shut.

The Master snickered. "You can't argue against logic, Doctor."

"I bloody well can!"

Even their voices were amplified a hundred times. There was a huge urge to cover my ears and just hide in some dark corner. I groaned silently, holding my head. I heard them fight, but didn't quite understand their words, everything rushing over me, every light, sound, smell. I was so tired, my head hurt.

There was a hand gently placed on my shoulder, but the mere touch let me jolt up, almost falling from the seat as my vision blurred and my head spun.

"That was all a bit much, wasn't it?" the Doctor asked, his face a little worried.

I slapped his hand away. "What do you care?" I growled.

He seemed to be taken aback by this, his eyes widening in almost horror. His hands clenched to fists, opened and clenched again. The Master had left. There were only the two of us, the noises, the lights...

"I'm... sorry," he muttered. "It's all been so much, those past years. With him, you know?"

I snorted. "Doesn't excuse being such a dick to me."

He shook his head an dropped to his haunches in front of me. "No. No, it's not. I'm not quite myself anymore. That's why I wanted you to stay away." There was a pause, he licked his lips. "Among other things."

"Because I don't get emotional over people I don't even know?" I moaned quietly, rubbing my eyes. "I'm too tired for this morality crap. There is no logic at all behind it."

"There's more to life than only logic, Lucy," he answered softly. "But yeah, you don't seem to be in a shape for this. Looks like some heavy sensory overstimulation."

I glanced up, actually surprised, and nodded. "It's like my brain can't handle any input anymore. Any at all."

"Yeah." The Doctor's eyes were lost in thoughts. "A human brain is like big bucket, not easy to fill up with sensory input. But yours..."

I grumbled. "Thanks. I know I'm broken. No need to remind me."

"Oh no, not broken." He tossed me a grin. "But where others have a bucket, you autistic folks have only a cup. Gets full way too fast. Can't take in any sensory stimuli anymore. Just... blows your head like a bubble!" His hands gestured something popping, his smile clearly indicating how fascinating he found all of this.

I didn't. Not at all. "Will be over in a bit," I mumbled. "Just... need somewhere dark and quiet. Maybe sleep."

"Right!" The Doctor shot to his feet and offered a hand. "Let's ask the TARDIS for a room for you. Somewhere you can sleep and retreat when things get too much. Does that sound good?"

Slowly I nodded and picked myself from the jump seat, ignoring the offered hand. A glance around confirmed that we were, indeed, alone. "Where did the Master go?"

The Doctor dropped his hand – and the smile. "No idea. He can't go anywhere in here where he could do harm, though."

The emphasis on this made me think that there had been quite some incidences where he had caused havoc inside the ship. For some reason it made me smile. I could almost imagine him throwing some childish fit, smashing stuff and all that. But there also were other images. Of the Master raging around in an terrifying fury, no longer in control of himself. Both versions seemed plausible, but I didn't have the energy to think about it any further.

Instead I simply trod after the Doctor, followed him to the corridors, where the TARDIS let a new door appear. An old wooden one, smelling of autumn. When I opened it, I was greeted with the cosy atmosphere of a simple room. There was a bed, only big enough for myself, with coffee brown sheets. A wardrobe, a table with a chair, some filled bookshelves. Everything made out of dark wood, giving the whole room the atmosphere of some cabin. The lights were dim and slightly orange, soothing to my strained eyes.

"This is... perfect." I smiled, warmth spreading in my chest at the sight. "Is that really... can I really stay here?"

The Doctor sighed, but returned the smile. "I'm still against it." A toothy grin followed. "But I promised to let you come along, so that's what I'm doing. And I have the feeling the Master would abduct you again, anyway, would I not."

I chuckled weekly and poked out the tongue at him. "I certainly hope so."

Back to index


Chapter 34: Chapter 33

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."

"You're distracting."

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.

"Why?"

"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."

"H... here?"

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.

Back to index


Chapter 35: Chapter 34

Author's Notes: The world is going crazy again. We'll probably get a total lockdown in two or three days, lasting into almost mid January. I'm not yet sure if my workplace will be affected by that, but I'd have some holidays in a week anyway, so whatevs xD

Keep your heads up over the long, dark winter months. The light will return soon and days will get longer again. Keep that in mind. :3


I did have nightmares.

But as soon as I snapped out of my sleep, the content of the last dream was forgotten. All I could vaguely remember was that it had disturbed me a great deal. My breath was still heavy, heartbeat thudding fast against my ribs. I tried to get the images back, wanted to know what had scared me so much, but all effort was in vain.

Only then did I feel the fingers that lightly rested on my temple. Through hooded lids I made out the blurry shape of the Master. He was at my eyelevel, squatting in front of the bed, one arm resting on the mattress, the other hand on my head.

"How did I know?" he mumbled.

I wasn't sure he even noticed that I was awake. It sounded as if he was talking to himself.

"Know what?" I asked quietly, fully opening my eyes.

He looked at me and removed his fingers. "That you would soothe the drums. There is no way I will know, if you're dead."

I lifted a brow, suppressing a yawn. My brain was decidedly not awake enough to understand what he was saying. Should I get up? Should I just close my eyes again and continue sleeping? I was drifting away already, so...

"Wait." My eyes snapped open again. "Last time you said, it's too subtle to tell. With the drums I mean."

The Master shrugged. "It is. And it's not." He propped both elbows on the mattress and ruffled through his hair. "It makes no sense. Why would I go back and safe you when I couldn't have known?"

"Dunno. You make no sense," I mumbled.

He growled and looked at me. He was close enough for me to see his annoyed expression. Close enough that I should have felt uncomfortable, yet, for some reason didn't.

"There must be something else," he mumbled.

Even though I was still so tired, something about his words made me curious. "Care to explain?" I asked and turned a little to be in a more comfortable position to speak.

The Master eyed me suspiciously, almost as if he awaited me to abuse whatever he was about to tell. But his features softened already and he slightly shook his head. "For some reason I went back and marked you. So I wouldn't let you die. But that means you did already, and that means there is no way I would have known."

I snorted. "Seriously, you make less and less sense. What do you mean, you marked me? Where did you go back?"

He didn't even look at me, head still in his hands, mumbling towards the mattress.

"Seems like something will happen that makes it necessary for you to be alive. Which only happens because I will know something I have no clue about... yet. And after that happens I will go back in time and place something in your mind. Something that calls out as soon as you're too close to death. The very thing that made me bring you back to life."

Utterly confused I blinked at him, trying to make sense of this all. "That... what? You can't change the past."

He lifted the head from his hands and stared at me. "You forget where we are."

"Huh? Where are we?"

His brow shot up in amusement. "TARDIS?"

"Yeah... I get that. Sentient spaceship and all... But how would I know where we are? We could be anywhere."

"You... have no idea?" His words were honestly surprised. He snorted. "Normally he can't stop bragging about it."

"'bout what?" I started to become impatient.

The Master smirked, showing his teeth. "Right now, we are everywhere, lil' lumin. We're in the Time Vortex. A place that connects literally everywhere... and everywhen. Or to explain it in words your tiny mind can understand: This ship travels through space and time."

I shot up to my elbows, glaring down at the... well... Time Lord. It made sense. With this tiny information so much of what had happened recently lost a great deal of its strangeness.

"W... wait... Just now. I mean on the planet. We were in the future?" The Master nodded, still having an amused twinkle in his eyes. "And I was already wondering how they can hide all of this advanced stuff from humankind... And... the colonies... Humans spread into space?"

The Master let out an exasperated sigh. "So they did. Pesky race of yours."

My mouth dropped open for a moment, closed again and widened to a smile. "Wow. I really thought we would destroy ourselves long before that."

"It's not that I didn't try," he commented sarcastically.

There was such a childish smile on his face, his whole expression that of mischief. I had to laugh, even though it shouldn't be funny, and my reaction made him smile even wider. The inappropriateness of the whole thing made it only more ridiculous.

But then another thought interrupted the light mood. A string of information, a net of facts. The smile faded and I dropped back onto the mattress, on my back. I turned to the side, propping my head on one hand.

"Then why didn't you get me earlier?" I wanted to know. "Why let over a year pass for me? Why did you wait..." Until I was so broken that I couldn't bear to be alive any longer.

The Master stayed silent for almost a minute. The thought occurred that he might not answer at all, but eventually he did. "Didn't care," was the short answer. "You were fun to play with, that's all." He slightly shrugged and I felt a nasty sting in my chest. His brutal honesty could be really disturbing, sometimes. "And when I came to your place and found it empty, I traced you down, found out where you went and jumped there. Honestly with no real intent. Wanted to mock you a little. Then I was curious if you'd really do it." A chuckle made his eyes crinkle in mean joy.

I pursed my lips and frowned. "But why keep me alive, then?"

"Wasn't planning to. But I got aware of something in your mind. Something I placed there for my past self to find. Only made itself noticeable when you were almost dead, though. You know the rest."

So he hadn't saved me out of sheer mockery. And... A deep breath slowly escaped me. "So, there is... or was... a version of time where I died?"

The Master hummed confirming, once again lost in his own thoughts.

In the end he had accepted my wish, I realized. Or rather hadn't bothered at all; wouldn't have without this mental post-it in my head. And still... in that night he had spared some time to stay with me, to share some last minutes of comfort, even though he could have simply walked away.

Would a truly bad person really do that?

"What're you staring?" He rolled his eyes and poked against my forehead with a finger.

A light exploded.

I saw a flash, something rushed through me, like an electric shock and I saw...

... how he had rained hell upon humankind, saw his Toclafane decimate the human race, how he had tortured and humiliated the Doctor's friends with glee, had burned planets to ashes, overthrown rulers, simply to run their countries into chaos afterwards.

I saw him standing there, laughing. There were different faces, but it was always him. I knew it somehow, groaned and clenched my eyes shut from all the images that flooded my mind. There were hands around my head, fingers slightly pressing against my temples.

"Stop that," I ground out, trying to push him away.

But the Master was far stronger than I, didn't even flinch.

"That's not me," he stated curiously and chuckled. "Oh, that's fascinating."

I groaned at the overwhelming amount of images and impressions. I no longer could make out the separate scenes, everything was just melted together to a blurry mass of colour.

Then it stopped. I panted, slowly opening my eyes to find the Master leaning above me with the most curious expression. Quite as if he was eager to dissect my brain right on the spot.

"Why do you have those? Did you ever see more of my memories?"

I swallowed and heaved myself to my elbows. He was kneeling on the bed, right by my side, hands still stretched out a little in my direction. Only after some seconds did he let them fall to his lap.

"Y... yeah. When I was... dead? When I came back? Somewhere, then. Not much." I shook my head. "It... wasn't coherent enough to really tell anything."

Slowly his features morphed into an evil smirk. "You know more about me than most, as it seems." His lips split to a menacing grin. "Why aren't running, little one? Run and run and run, until I can't get to you any longer?" He bent over me, his hands grabbing my collar to draw me to my knees, right in front of his face. "None of those memories are for you to see. Not a single one!"

There was a sudden madness in his eyes, or maybe it had been there before and I simply hadn't seen it without my glasses. Those ancient, bottomless depths were boring right into me, making it impossible to speak. My body started to tremble slightly and I was so hellishly confused, until I finally understood what it was I felt.

Fear.

The grip on my collar got stronger, almost choking me. I grabbed his hands, tried to pry them open without success. I might not die from his actions, but he could do so much worse, I realized. There was a potential, one for destruction, one for completely taking me apart and leaving nothing behind but an empty shell of what I once was.

And there was pain. I had no idea how, but I could feel it, intense and all consuming, without origin or direction. Not even physical, but just... there, eating away at... him. This didn't come from me.

I forced myself to breathe, my hands rose, rested on his chest, right above the hearts. Through the cloth off his shirt I could feel them beating frantically, too fast, too painful. How else could he endure it, if not through inflicting all this pain onto others? How else could he survive, if not through fire and chaos?

Our gazes were locked, the fog of madness slowly fading from his hazel eyes. The tight grip of his fists became softer, his heartbeats slowed. In the end he simply blinked. Once, twice, returned from a place so far away...

"You alright again?" I breathed.

My words seemed to confuse him even further, eyes dropping to my hands on his chest, his own leaving my collar to fall down beside him. He swayed, closed his eyes halfway and dropped his forehead against mine.

"Not enough," he mumbled. "It's still too loud. Still hurts. Make them quiet, lil' lumin." The Master took a shaky breath and placed a hand over one of mine, pressing it against his chest. "Why don't you run?"

"Where to?" I quietly asked. "I belong nowhere. Even if I would run..."

His eyes crept open, his voice was soft, had lost the mad touch. "Do I scare you?"

I smiled weakly, nodded. "Sometimes, yeah."

There was a crooked grin on his lips, slowly morphing into an expression of anguish. A slight tremble went through him, his hand released mine. Before I could comprehend what happened, he dropped to the side, collapsed onto the mattress. His skin was incredibly pale, almost white and a slight shimmer of sweat coated his forehead.

"Hey!" I called out. "What's with you?"

The only response was a weak chuckle, almost bordering on madness again. Whatever happened to him frightened me a lot more than all of his threats had done. I swung my legs from the bed, tossing a concerned glance at the Master.

"I'll get the Doctor."

That seemed to snap him out of whatever tormented him. Swiftly he grabbed my wrist, held me in place.

"Don't," he breathed. "That idiot doesn't believe a word I say."

"Can you blame him?" The things I had seen, the memories, the impressions... How often had the Master lied and betrayed, destroyed and broken? How many lives had he thrown away for mere amusement, out of morbid curiosity or simply to piss off the Doctor?

His face dropped. He even let go of my wrist.

"No. I can't," he muttered and chuckled again as if it were funny. But his expression was more that of intense pain. Of the mental sort. "I don't know why you saw all that. You shouldn't have. Shouldn't know."

"Why not?" I almost whispered.

"Cause now..." He shook as if a cold shiver had caught him and he rolled to his side, burring the head under his arms. "Now your eyes are different."

Startled I ceased any attempt to leave. Those words stirred something within me, stung like cold ice, although I couldn't name what I was feeling. And still I understood. That the Doctor knew so much about the Master and therefore treated him the way he did, whereas I...

I couldn't bare being alone after one nightmarish adventure, while the Master had probably lived through hundreds if not more of those, constantly tormented, constantly alone... may it be through his own behaviour, but still...

Something clicked.

Something I had no words for and still understood deep within me.

"I believe you." My words were barely audible. His head appeared from under his arms, the skin still too pale. "Tell me what's wrong. Maybe I can help."

"You can't." The Master clenched his teeth as if from pain. "I'm still ripped open. Didn't know how long it would take to heal."

"Are you injured? Did that happen in the..."

"No." He chuckled. "It happened because I gave my life-force to you. See? It's always bad to do something good."

I snorted. "Depends on what you consider as such." I sighed and observed him, concerned. "Still... can I help? Is this dangerous?"

"Almost sealed up again," the Master mumbled. "You can't do anything. It just takes a while." He took some deep breaths and looked back at me. "There's something I should do for you, though."

Questioningly I raised my brows, not moving a muscle.

"I ripped a hole through your mental barriers. That's not so good. Other people can take advantage of it."

"Yeah, I noticed," I grumbled. "How do I heal that?"

"You?" A mean little smirk spread on his face, even through his obvious pain. "Your psychic abilities are barely developed. You'd probably make it worse."

"Then stop mocking me and fix this mess." I poked out my tongue.

The Master snickered to himself, the seemingly severe state of his obviously not as bad as it looked. Had he be human I would have been a lot more concerned. Was it the sudden outburst of the drums that had worsened his state? Because before there had not been a noticeable sign of it. Or maybe he simply was extremely good at hiding how lousy he really felt. So good that his body first had to collapse until he would acknowledge it.

Hesitantly I lay back down and turned to face him. There was still some distance between us, although we were close enough for him to reach out and touch my temples. The most direct way, even though I still wasn't sure I understood what this meant.

The Master's thumbs rested lightly around my head, his eyes were closed in concentration. A shiver went through my body as I felt the stream of foreign energy enter my head. It was like a thin trickle of warm water, gently searching its way through the windings of my thoughts. Somewhere it stopped, spread and grew like a wall, or a net, filled me with warmth and another shiver.

Something clicked. Not audible, not physically. As if an idea had been born, as if a deep realisation had been accomplished, like the intense rush of a past danger, of a managed struggle, of a first kiss.

I exhaled sharply, pushed my hands against his chest. The rhythm under his skin was steady, almost pulsating. A set of four beats. Soothing, yet so foreign.

Like the images before, those sensations overwhelmed me slightly, made it impossible to tell apart one thing from the other, impossible to determine if it felt good or bad. I sensed him searching, digging. No longer busy repairing my barriers, because that had been done, but now eager to find something unknown.

If the Master was only in my head or if part of my consciousness also flew into his mind was equally hard to tell. I sensed his curiosity, his growing frustration and a slight, bitter taste of resignation. But none of it felt as intense as it had hours before, when he had chased the devil out of my mind. There, for a moment, I had lost myself completely, had ceased to exist as a sole being.

The memory, combined with how I felt right now, made a cold, dark and icy patch of loneliness blossom within me. Was it even mine? Or was it rather something we both felt, bounced back and forth, amplified, cutting through my very essence like a cold shard.

It took a while before I noticed that I had curled up more and more, somehow trying to cope with those alien sensations. My hands were clutching his shirt, my head resting against his chest.

"Can't find it," the Master eventually murmured, fingers slipping from my temples. "Whatever soothes them..." I felt him exhale slow and deep. The next question came whispered, almost a plea. "You still don't hear the drums, do you?"

I lifted my head to find pain in his hazel eyes. One I knew and understood too well. One that came from having to deal with something other people could not perceive, nor comprehend.

"No, I can't. Sorry," I uttered back.

"Thought so." The Master swallowed, took a breath. "The barrier is fixed. You can leave."

Leave... right. Or maybe stay a tiny bit longer like this, partially curled up against his chest, my head lowering again, eyes closing. Just a bit. Only for one more minute. One more tiny fraction of existence that I wouldn't spend feeling lonely.

A warm hand came to rest on my side. "You saw my memories. You know who I am."

I did. In a sense. What I had seen was more than enough to have a clear picture of what kind of person the Master was. He was a firestorm, scorching the earth below his feet. He was a wild cyclone, tearing out ancient trees with their roots. He was a raving ocean, crashing and swallowing everything that came too close, carrying monsters in the darkest depths of his very being.

And I really shouldn't be so damn fascinated by that!

The hand slowly, almost hesitantly wandered a little lower, slipped under my shirt to rest on the same spot as before, but touching bare skin. Again I felt a tingle in my mind, lightly slipping through my thoughts without ever really touching them. Just lingering, sensing. I didn't move.

The whole touch telepathy thing still was so strange to me, defied everything I knew about how humans (well... aliens) interacted with one another. It was a physical thing, in some sense, and it also wasn't at all. I wished I would know more about it, but meanwhile simply enjoyed not being alone in my own head.

The Master huffed. "Not even a little scared. That's kind of an insult, you know?" There was a smile in his voice, belying the words.

Next thing I knew was that his hand slid to my back, pushing me closer against him. Surprised I stiffened, hands still resting against his chest. His thumb absently stroked over my back, our minds intermingled ever so slightly, barely noticeable. There was no way of naming it, no way of telling what I even felt.

And I didn't want to be alone. Didn't want to let go of what he had to offer, even if it was only because he abused my presence. Because something about me, or about my mind, made his drums a little quieter. That much I got.

It didn't matter. He was helping me too after all. Even when it was only with letting me have some peaceful sleep.

________________________________________________
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A/N: Uh-Oh... Some weird things are happening.
Also, I suspected to run out of ideas for this story pretty fast... but that obviously didn't happen, lol. Another adventure is already waiting at the doorstep, so to speak. Let's see how that goes. *giggles* I (not so) sneakily put together some of my favourite subjects, also fitting for the winter theme.

Back to index


Chapter 36: Chapter 35

There was no morning in the TARDIS, but my body knew when it had enough rest. I snuggled myself a little more into the warm blankets, enjoying how comfy the bed was. Only then did I notice that I was alone and it dampened my mood for a truly inappropriate amount.

He's just using you for his drums, I reminded myself.

We weren't friends. We didn't even like each other that much. Which was a plain fact. There were things that connected us on some level, that much was true. And maybe there was nothing wrong about using each other for comfort.

I still shouldn't get used to it. The Master would toss me away without even thinking about it, as soon as he'd get bored, or found another solution to his drumming problem.

Then again did it appear as if my existence had some value, after all. It was good to know that I was of more use alive, than dead. Even though none of us had a clue why that was the case.

I groaned into the pillow, already too overwhelmed by too many thoughts for one morning (even when it wasn't morning at all). There was a slight rustling at the movement and I felt something on my forehead. Turning on my back I reached up, finding... wait, was that...?

I tugged the post-it away from my head, frowning at the paper. Thanks to my bad vision I had to hold it so close, my nose almost touched the writing. The letters were sharp, almost elegant.

Touch anything in here and you're dead! >:(

For some seconds I stared at the post-it. Had the guy really nothing better to do than sticking this thing to me while I slept?! It irritated and amused me equally. In the end I crumpled the note up and tossed it on the floor. Should he deal with the garbage himself.

I even contemplated moving some things around. Not much, just a tiny little bit. Maybe not even enough to be really noticeable. Or maybe it would be. My fingers itched, the mischievous part of me urging to have this little, silly satisfaction.

But I didn't.

Whatever it was the both of us shared, was too fragile to break with such a dumb action.

Instead I carefully closed the door behind me and – to my surprise – found my own door on the opposite wall. The TARDIS must have put it there so I would easily find it. That made me smile fondly. It was so weird to have a ship liking me, and at the same time it was kind of cute.

In my room I opened the wardrobe for the first time, finding it filled with things I liked. There were black jeans and I almost squealed when I found a hooded zipper, entirely made out of red plaid. (Plaid is awesome, seriously!)

A quick shower and some brushed teeth later I was, again, in the corridors. This time the Master's door was gone and in its place was a white one with a sign on it, saying "kitchen". I couldn't recall if that sign had been there the last time, or maybe it was another door, or another kitchen.

It didn't matter that much, honestly. The inside looked like I remembered and all I cared about was to get some coffee into me. So it happened that I was still a little groggy from sleep, clutching a steaming mug that was yet too hot to drink from, when I entered the console room.

No one was here.

For a moment it surprised me. Somehow I had awaited someone to be here, but then I realized what a stupid idea that was. This ship was enormous and those two certainly weren't travelling day-in and day-out.

Curiously I wandered around the control table, observing all the different buttons, wires, levers and whatnot. All the small and big things that might or might not have some elaborate function. Sip by sip the cup got emptied and at the same pace my head got confused. How could one operate such a machine? And had the Master told the truth about it? Was she able to travel through time?

All those possibilities... One could travel wherever and just go about experimenting with timelines. Make things undone, and others happen, observe the consequences and change everything again, until it was to their liking. Or was it more complicated?

Slowly I reached out a hand, stroked a finger over a blinking button in the shape of a rose petal. The urge to play around with everything was almost unbearable.

A hand lay itself over mine, almost gently guiding it away from the button. I jumped in surprise, my back bumping against someone.

"I really wouldn't do that if I were you," the Master mocked. "That button's for stabilizing us in the Vortex. Among other things."

I glanced up, finding a teasing smile on his face. He released my hand and stepped away to slump down into the jump seat, a big, old book in hands. It seemed as if he came here often to read, making me wonder if he didn't despise the possibility of the Doctor being around, too.

"So... Time travel," I uttered, leaning with my back against the console, the mug still in hands.

The Master glanced up from his pages. There was an anticipating shine in his eyes, as if he already knew what I was thinking about. A grin split his lips. "I'd show it to you myself, but, unfortunately, the Doctor brought the lock back in order."

He didn't ask. If I would lend him a hand, once more. Maybe it wasn't even possible anymore, the Doctor surely smart enough to come up with a slightly different thing, now that he knew I had helped deactivating the lock once. I almost was about to ask, but then decided against it. Not yet. Not today. Maybe if he proved to me that he wouldn't burn everything, would he be let lose.

The universe was a way too beautiful place, full of too many wonders, for me to risk it being destroyed.

I strolled over to him to take a peek at the book he was holding. There were strange symbols and pictures of creatures in it. They looked as if they were made of black smoke, constantly shifting, with beaks like that of birds and black glowing eyes. I blinked, trying to figure out if those images were moving or if it was just my imagination.

"It's a void creature," the Master told. "Or so they say. Nothing can exist there."

"The void?"

He turned a page and pointed at a set of circular symbols. "It's the space between worlds. Beyond the Time Vortex. There is just... nothing. Or things that get banned to rot there. Well... can't rot. There's no time or space there."

I sat next to him, glancing inside the book. "So, there is stuff? You just said..."

"Nothing native." The Master shrugged. "At least there is nothing known about entities coming from there. Except legends. Ancient stories, as old as the universe itself."

"Then why are you looking them up?" I asked curiously.

"No particular reason." He shrugged and turned another page. The next showed another creature of black smoke, forming a pattern that reminded of huge wings and claws. "Found it in the library. No idea why it lay there. Wasn't there, yesterday."

All the pages showed either round symbols or more of those smoky creatures. They were creepy in an unexplainable sense, reminding me of spectres and wraiths. The pictures were drawn so lively I often had the feeling of being stared at or catching some movement out of the corner of my eyes. The effect let me shiver, crept me out somewhat.

The Master was almost the opposite of those beings, eyes clinging to the pages, eagerly skimming over them, absorbing their knowledge with a fascinated gleam. He emanated some, almost childish, curiosity that made me smile. Whatever he liked to tell, there was more in him than only bad. Maybe he would never find it, maybe it would always stay hidden, but somehow I just knew it was there.

"Hey," I tore him out. "Are you better today?"

He looked up, arching a puzzled brow at me. "Uh... yeah." He shrugged, appearing as if he had no idea what to do with my question. "Almost healed up."

"What's healed up? Are you hurt?" the Doctor's voice chimed in, making us both raise our heads.

The Master slammed the book shut, a scowl etching itself into his features. "None of your business, Doctor," he growled.

"Oi, not so hostile, there." He raised both hands in defence and stepped closer. "Ohhhh, void creatures. Those legends always spooked me. Worse than the Toclafane. You sure you're alright? You know we have the med-"

"I said, it's none of your bloody business!" the Master snarled. "Don't you have some apes to safe? Or flowers to sniff or whatever ridiculous things you always do."

The Doctor moved to the console, his face dropping somewhat. He looked tired, in a way no sleep could heal. His eyes glanced towards the Master, then to me, showing concern, but also... hope? I had no idea, as always, guessed it more than really knowing.

I recalled the images I had seen, last night, and the snippets I had gathered. The Doctor had reversed the paradox, had prevented the Master's reign from ever happening. And then? The answer was quite obvious. He must have taken the other Time Lord with him, as a prisoner, although he didn't always seem like one. They had spent years together, after that. How many I could not know, but things had changed, since then. Both of them had. In good and bad ways.

The Doctor coughed slightly and forced a smile to his face. "After that adventure I thought we might visit somewhere nice. What do you think, Lucy?"

Somewhere nice sounded great!

"Yeah! I'd like that. Somewhere without monsters please, and no fire. And also no adventures."

The Master snorted. "Now I get why she doesn't fit your preferences. 'No adventures'." He giggled to himself. "Poor, poor Doctor. Nothing to show off with."

"Oi, cut it! I can very well do nice and calm!"

"No, you don't."

"Ha! I'll prove it!" The Doctor turned to face me, determination on his face. "Any wish?"

Time and space to choose from. Yeah sure... pick some.

"I always wanted to see an aurora," I shot out the answer. Why not start with the things I had never been able to see?

"How boring," the Master drawled.

"Yeah?" I put on a mocking smirk. "Then how about an aurora... on earth." Satisfied grinning I watched his disgusted face and hopped from the seat to join the Doctor at the console. "You can pick when. I don't particularly care about that."

It also was a sneaky way to test if the time travel thing was real or not. The Doctor didn't seem surprised, though, maybe wasn't even aware that he had never told about it. His mind seemed so scattered, all the time...

"Mhm..." His eyes lit up a second later and he started to press and pull and push and flip. "I might have an idea."

Back to index


Chapter 37: Chapter 36

Author's Notes: One hour bus drive to work each day... So I decided to try and write on my phone... It's working surprisingly well. So, here, have another chapter already. xD
And if you're reading this on the 21. also have a nice Yule night! 💙


I rushed to the exit as soon as the landing noises stopped, tearing the doors open. My smile dropped – and then returned full force.

"Snow!" I called out, running outside.

It was broad daylight, no aurora anywhere.

But snow!

I even forgot to put on something warm, my mind only set on being outside, enjoying the view of glowing white hills and green conifers nearby. The sun let tiny sparkles of glitter dance across the frozen surfaces, warmed me up only a little, but enough to enjoy being outside for some more minutes. I walked circles in the snow, swept small heaps away with the tips of my shoes and took far too many deep breaths of the icy air.

Soon I started to shiver and moved back to the TARDIS, where the Time Lords still stood, observing my silly behaviour. Right now I really didn't care what they thought about it, too giddy with excitement. I only noticed a small, almost warm smile on the Master's face and it startled me.

The Doctor also smiled, but more in a proud way. "Come on, get something warm before you freeze." He nodded inside. "Human bodies are so frail. And so not made for cold environments."

I snorted. "Yeah, you're right. Le'me guess. You lot don't freeze?"

"Not as fast," the Master told mockingly. The odd smile had vanished.

"So not fair," I mumbled and shook my head. Then I looked at the Doctor, raising a brow. "I haven't seen winter clothes in my wardrobe..."

"No problem. There's a huge one in the TARDIS. Has everything you'll ever need." He beamed and rushed inside, leading the way through some corridors.

I gaped at the sight of countless things to choose from. There were clothes in all styles and for all occasions. Whatever one was looking for, they would surely find it here.

"Come along," the Doctor said, nodding in a particular direction. He led me up a small winded staircase to a section of clothes that looked somewhat medieval. "You might take some of those. Should be more fitting for the time."

"When are we? Middle ages?" I picked up a fur hood, admiring how soft and warm it was.

"Mhm... roughly in the ninth century, actually. Somewhere in the Icelandic regions."

The tunic I had picked up fell out of my hand as I gaped at the Time Lord. "We're going to see some Vikings! Please say it is so!"

A proud smile widened on his face, even completely reached his eyes. He giggled childishly and nodded. "Yep," he said, popping the 'p'. "It's a special day and it will be an even more special night."

A special night? What could it-

"Oh, how about that one?"

"That's... a dress." I shot up an eyebrow.

"Well, yeah. Why not? It's a good one. Not too rich, not too shabby. Just like a normal dress from back then. Probably."

I folded my arms, waiting for his ramblings to finish. "I'm not wearing a dress."

"Oh." The Doctor dropped the clothing. "Hm... well... I'm not sure what else women wore these days. There are only some tunics and... mhm..."

Meanwhile I picked up some light brown linen pants and a reddish tunic with embroidered embellishments around the collar and the wrists.

"That'll do," I decided, also picking up a belt. "And maybe..." I chuckled and left the Doctor standing, searching the wardrobe for something else.

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"You know..." the Master drawled, letting his eyes wander over me. "You look like a boy."

I grinned impishly at him. "Was that supposed to be an insult?"

"Pffff, everyone'll know, anyway, as soon as they see your..." He raised both brows, roaming his eyes over my chest. "Seriously? You even bound your chest?"

"And there the TARDIS has so many nice clothes," the Doctor mumbled from behind.

"'m not going to wear a dress. Period," I stated. "Besides, you've got no idea how often people mistake me for a guy." I pointed at my short hair. "And it's not the first time I bind my chest. I like how it looks." I shrugged and grinned. "So, can we go now?"

The Master still observed my attire, chin in hand, eyes squinted. "I'll get some of those, too," he mumbled to himself and rushed away to the wardrobe.

I shook my head with a smile, while slightly rubbing over my eyelids. The TARDIS had also provided me with contact lenses, but I had so seldom wore some that I needed a little to adjust to them.

The Doctor made no move to change out of his usual brown suit. Instead he crossed his arms and ankles, casually leaning against the console.

"Don't you like being a woman?" he suddenly asked.

"Huh? Err... hm." I shrugged.

"You know there are places where they can get you surgery and all that," he continued calmly. "Way better than on earth."

"Oh. Heh, no. It's not that." I stretched a little to get used to the new binder. "Used to have some... problems when I was a child. Always thought I'd rather have been born a boy."

"Why's that?" He actually smiled reassuringly, signalling that this was nothing weird at all. There was only curiosity in his voice. No judgement.

If only all people were like that, I thought o myself. Over the years I had met so many who were shunned and treated badly because of stuff like that.

"Cause my family had quite the old-school view on genders, I guess. And I was the only one to despise dresses, dolls and pink and all that stuff." I gave the floor a snide smile. "Later I never fitted with the other girls... never had the same interests, were more into videogames and books and science, instead of crushes, gossip and makeup."

"Aha!" he shot out. "So it's the way your time and age thinks women have to behave, right?"

"Yeah," I admitted. "Have no problem with being female, physically. Just don't like the societal aspect of it." I chuckled and pointed at my chest. "And I don't wanna get rid of those. Just like the way it looks when it's flat. Not always. Just from time to time. That's all."

The Doctor nodded thoughtfully and smiled again. Sometimes he had a way of just making you feel understood, accepted. It was weird, foreign to me. Humans never were like that. They always judged, always assumed something bad, always had their prejudices, whenever someone deviated from the norm.

"Weeeell..." He beamed at me. "You sound sure about this."

"Heh, yeah. Took me long enough to figure out I can be female without always having to behave like one. So yup, I am sure."

"Alright. That's good to hear."

"But thanks," I mumbled, slightly smiling back. "For the offer, I mean."

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The Master returned, clad in all black, wearing a leathern gambeson with some buckles over the chest and a broad belt around his waist, leathern bracers, linen pants and high boots. He also had a dark pelt-cloak over his shoulders, although it seemed far too short for his size. I gaped at him, astonished how cool he looked in that attire.

"You definitely need a longer beard," I commented.

The Master laughed, stroked his goatee and gave me a wink. "Like what you see?"

"Yeah man, you look badass!"

He grinned way too smug at that comment, but it wasn't a lie. He surely had a talent for fashion, even when it was functional. Before we could move, however, he took the cloak off his shoulders, only to step in my direction and tossing it over my head.

"Hey, what...?"

"Hold still."

He tugged at the pelt until it sat correctly and secured it with a metal pin. Perplex I glared at his hands, watching them, before my eyes raised to meet his. There was a mocking smirk already sitting on his face.

"I hate doing things in vain, you know? If you wanna freeze to death, do it after I'm done with you."

I chuckled and nodded, adding a sarcastic, "Yes, Master."

Judging by the smug smile, he definitely liked the response. His gaze then wandered over to his fellow Time Lord, shaking his head.

"Not going to blend in, are you?" the Master asked sarcastically.

"Nothing wrong with my clothes!" the Doctor whined and rushed away before we could protest.

"Actually," the Master casually tossed in as we stepped outside into the white winter world. "I'm more surprised you're not locking me away to go alone."

"Well... you had already changed so... Oh look, there is a squirrel!" The Doctor excitedly pointed at the small animal that was running through the snow. The distraction was so obvious I had to shake my head. "It's not far. Right behind this hill."

None of us brushed the subject again and we plodded through the snow until we reached the peak. And there, right below us, lay a small village, right at the shore to the sea. The houses were wooden, with low hanging roofs, and there was a large building at the edge, decorated with carved wooden statues and ornaments. Probably the mead hall, where the earl resided with his family.

We were greeted with curious gazes and suspicious whispers, but most people didn't pay much attention to us. There was a weirdly tense atmosphere, as if they were waiting for something. And not for something good.

Eventually one of the men approached us. He wore raven black, tousled hair and an almost elegant beard that was braided to two short plaits. His eyes, however were of a dark blue. It seemed like he was a farmer or a hunter, wearing simple clothes and dirty hands. A bow hung over his shoulder, a quiver below his waist.

"Greetings, travellers," he started, his voice sounding firm, but not too rough. He actually was only slightly larger than the Master. "You've come by a bad time, even though Yule is nearing."

Yule! My eyes widened in excitement. That was the special day the Doctor had mentioned.

He immediately rushed past me and built himself up in front of the man.

"Bad time? Is there trouble? And what kind of trouble? Big, small, ugly, smelly?"

The black haired scratched his beard, eyeing the Time Lord suspiciously. "You wear strange clothes, traveller. Where are you from?"

"Oooch, you know, from here and there."

"We found the clothes during a raid, last winter," I tossed in. "We got lost in the snow and found a small settlement. No idea where it was, exactly."

My heart raced as I babbled out the words. It probably was better if they thought we were of a similar kind. And the Doctor, right now, truly did his best to be suspicious as hell.

"A raid, I see. Well, the three of you alone won't manage to take us all down." He winked with a smile that was both, charming and dangerous. "We are preparing the fest of Yule. And everything that lies beyond. If you desire so and have some tales to tell, feel free to stay. Maybe the gods will keep Fafnir away until the sun returns."

"Fafnir?" I couldn't help but ask curiously. "The dwarf who turned into a dragon?"

"Ha! The little one knows. You taught him well, friends. Yes, the dragon, indeed. But let's not speak of him. Come, I'll take you to the blacksmith, he might have something to do for you to pass the time."

"To do for us?" The Master squinted at the man. "That sounds horribly as if you expect us to work."

He got nudged into his side by the Doctor, but the damage was already done. I held my breath, inwardly cursing. I really badly wanted to see a true Yule fest for myself and those idiots were about to get us tossed out before we even had arrived properly.

The black haired, though, only laughed out, grinning at us. "It gets cold fast when you don't keep your body moving. And lots of damage has been done to the village, recently. We will treat you well and share mead and fire with you, let you celebrate the sun and the gods with us."

"Sounds fair. Lead the way." The Doctor nodded enthusiastically and tossed a dark look at the Master.

So he did, stepping along the wooden houses, decorated with snow. I took in the atmosphere, marvelled wide eyed at all the things I only knew from books and TV shows. Sure, they didn't have all the comforts of modern life, but they were so much closer to nature. Not to speak of the stunningly beautiful environment.

White dust hung in the cold air, the smoke of fires rose into the sky from every house and from some places outside. People were busily doing their work, crafting, tending, chatting away, some staring at us. A few children waved, then ran away giggling.

"Oh right," our guide suddenly said. "We haven't even introduced one another. I am Ivar Bjornsson, hunter, mostly. Although I have been onto some Raids with the others."

"Very nice to make your acquaintance," the Doctor replied.

I quickly took the word, however, not wanting him to tell their weird names… and mine.

"He's called Laeknir of the tides." I pointed at the Doctor, then thumbed at the Master, whose eyebrow shot up warningly. I swallowed, but continued anyway. "He's Erik, son of Logir. And I…" For a brief second I paused, my mind rushing through the few Nordic names I knew. Preferably one that was sort of androgynous.

"My name... is Roka."

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A/N: Nope, this has nothing to do with my other stories. Just couldn't resist the name. ;P
Also, I'm really a little obsessed with all those nordic stories. They are cool. But I still might mix things up (on purpose or not, lol).
And if you ever played Skyrim... well... nuff said ;P

Back to index


Chapter 38: Chapter 37

Author's Notes: Happy Holidays!

I hope you're all somewhat well and safe during those weird times. Wherever you are, if you're with family or all on your own, remember that this isn't permanent. You will not be alone forever. Try to use this time of silence to look deep inside of you. This is a chance you will not get a second time. Find out who you truly are and who you want to be, without anyone else speaking for you.

I know it's hard, I know depression might spit in your face and laugh like the devil. But you made it this far. You are strong and you can walk another step.

Please stay safe!


"Ey, ye're a bunch of weird folks. All looking like yer could be snapped in half like a twig. And you, Ivar? Bringin' me only the strangers or have ya gotten some iron too?"

The blacksmith stood up from his big whetstone ring and swung the short sword in his hand, testing the balance. He was a big guy, with lots of muscles in his arms, bald and tattooed all over the head. His beard was blond, braided into two separate strands.

"Only the strangers, today," Ivar answered. "They want to stay for the Yule night and I thought you might give them something to do until then."

"Is that so?" The big guy stepped towards us, eyeing each with curiosity. "Can't send weak folks like yer out to slay a beast. How'd ya survive, ey? Yer clothes are hardly made for the harsh weather and I see not a single weapon on neither of you."

I swallowed nervously. There was no excuse at all for both.

"Oh it's not that cold, actually," the Doctor answered with a grin. "Have been to far frostier places already. With far less fitting clothes. There was this one-"

The Master nudged him, murmuring, "Not helpful, Doctor."

"We got into a ravine," I quickly told. "Lost all our stuff."

"Ah…" the smith made. "Even your axes? And knifes?"

"Uhm…" I couldn't come up with a good explanation. In those times there were always dangers around, from people, from the wildlife. Everyone held tight to their defences, kept them close to the body so they couldn't get lost.

"Oh, I assure you we are armed." The Master gave the man a nasty grin and tapped against his own chest, where he probably had his laser screwdriver. "Bet it's more dangerous and deadly than poking things with swords."

Now it was the Doctor to nudge his counterpart, whispering, "Master, stop it."

They exchanged some truly venomous glances and I had the huge urge to smack them both. Again I got surprised, as the blacksmith only laughed roughly.

"The gods must hold a hand over ya." He winked. "Ye're not here to do harm, that's clear."

"Wouldn't be so sure about that," the Master grunted.

Again the huge guy laughed. "Ya can try, but the three of yer won't stand a chance 'gainst us all. And none of yer looks as if ye'could even carry an axe, let alone wield one." At that he especially looked me up and down. "Show me yer hands, boy."

I stiffened and cast a help seeking look at my companions. The Doctor shrugged, the Master was still fixated on the human in front of us, a scowl etched deeply into his features. Ivar only nodded reassuringly, but with a mix of curiosity and mirth in his look.

I took a step forward and stretched my hands out, which the man took immediately into his own, turning and observing them from all angles.

"I… I'm training to be a Skald," I quickly told, already guessing that he would notice that my hands did not show the signs of hard labour.

"Even those know how't swing a sword. And no Skald I know has hands without any calluses. Where'd they raise ya?"

"Let them be, Gerion," Ivar finally tossed in, laughing. "They are no threat and if they want to celebrate with us, it's no manner to deny the favour."

Gerion gave me a stare that made my knees weak. There it was again, that unpleasant feeling I always got with eye-contact. I had to avert my gaze, even though I knew it would let me seem guilty or ashamed.

"Well, can't resist some int'restin' fellas. And Odin taught us to be welcoming."

I smiled at that, murmuring, "Yah, no one wants to tumble into their own sword."

Again the smith laughed out loud and slapped his hand down on my shoulder. "Ya know the story of Grimnir, then?"

"Uh... partially." All I knew was one song from the old Edda. "Odin once disguised as an old wizard, Grimnir, to test if his foster-son, the king Geirröth would be hospitable. But he tortured his guest and only his son showed kindness to Grimnir. When the disguise was revealed, Odin caused the king to fall into his own sword."

Ivar rubbed his chin, eyeing me with the same curiosity as I got from the Time Lords. A small swell of pride sat in my chest. For once, my love for old stories proved to be useful, as it seemed.

"Let's see how they fare," Gerion agreed. "Oi there! Ya tall, flimsy one with yer weird clothes."

"Me?" the Doctor asked and stopped fidgeting with his hands. Instead he pushed them into his coat pockets.

"Yar, ye. Go help the women with decorations. They need a tall one with too much energy."

"Ohhhh, decorating is nice, I love decorating, been called the best decorator in the entire cou- aauuu!" He suddenly jumped on one foot, holding the other, where the Master had stepped on. Obviously not very gently. "Why did you do that?" he whined.

"Because I always love hearing you scream in pain," came the reply, accompanied by a sweet smile.

"I'll bring Laeknir to the hall," told Ivar, with a hardly contained chuckle.

The Doctor protested, however, "It's probably not so good to leave him alone." He thumbed at the Master.

"Oh, I can assure ya, I can handle the fella." Gerion barked out a laugh and eyed the Master while the first two vanished.

"I'm not working for you," the Time Lord growled dangerously.

"No?" The Smith stroked over his beard, twisting one strand in his fingers. "That's a shame. Could have really used someone as strong and fierce looking as ya. Strong arms, a wake mind. Those are good trades."

I shot a quick glance at the Master, surprised to see him gnawing his bottom lip. The flattery got to him. He probably knew the Smith had done it on purpose, but declining now would make him look weak. And by now I had learned, he hated that.

"Well… I could lend a hand, of course," he slowly started. "It's probably hard to find capable people here." The smug look on his face was almost hilarious.

"I bet ya will be a greater help than anyone else in this place. And you, little one." He turned to me, the taxing look making me swallow and shrink a little. "Been a while since I trained someone. And it's a shame to have ya runnin' around like that. Even a Skald needs to know how to wield an axe, at least."

________________________________________________
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"Stand a little wider. I could just blow ya to yer butt with that bad stance! Yeah, that's better. Look here. Watch me feet. They tell ya what I'm plannin'."

The axe was short and quite small, but incredibly sharp. Even with that size it was heavy in my hand, making me painfully aware of how weak my muscles were.

I watched Gerion, tried to make out what he might be doing next. Body language really was no strength of mine and we had been training for only an hour or so.

The Smith took two wide steps, swept his own axe right towards my head. I froze, my breath stopped.

The weapon swished past me.

"Pshaw. How'd ya not get killed already? Even a squirrel could defeat ya."

"I.. I… Sorry."

"Feel sorry for yerself, boy. I know ya have not even stubble yet, but fighting you should. Won't make it long without."

He was right. Even though he couldn't know the kinds of dangers I was actually facing. Not even I knew much about them, but the universe surely was full of threats. So I was thankful for the lessons.

"Can… I just practice the moves for a bit? To get a reflex, I mean. Maybe I won't freeze then."

"Yah, do that," he accepted, smiling. "I'll take a look at Erik for a while."

The Master seemed to have fun. I smiled when I saw how enthusiastically he hammered around on the red glowing metal in front of him. Allowing him to literally play with fire and forge weapons… Good thing the Doctor wasn't around to see that.

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When the sun set, every bone in my body seemed to hurt. I wasn't used to hard work, let alone to fighting. And the practice, on top of the sparing with Gerion had completely worn me out.

Panting and sweating I leaned against the wall of the forge, watching how the Master plunged a sword into icy water. The rising vapour made his eyes gleam in joy.

I giggled.

"Wouldn't have thought you'd actually have fun working."

"That's hardly working," he countered with a mocking tone. "Certainly not the hardest work I've ever done."

I arched a brow, but instead of elaborating, he ignored me and observed the new sword closely. Gerion held out a hand and took it from him. His eyes skimmed over the weapon with a satisfied nod.

"I knew you were useful. Those will help a great deal when the… well, it's always good to have some."

I wondered if the Master had also noticed the cut-off sentence. Or maybe he was too busy bathing in the praise he got.

Whatever the case, Gerion brought us to one of the bigger houses. On the way the Doctor joined us, also looking quite pleased. On the door to the house we were lead in, hung a wreath of thin wood. Some pinetwigs were woven into it, and also some red berries.

"This's the guest house," Gerion told. "Has a bunch of rooms for ya. A fireplace in here." He stepped in and pointed at the pit in the middle of the main room. There were wooden logs around and pelts on the floor and on the walls. Among other decorations. "Water's in the well, or if ya prefer, take it from the sea. Me wife will bring yer some food later. Tomorrow ye'll have to hunt for yerselves."

"Thanks a lot for the hospitality!" the Doctor beamed. "This is brilliant! Oh, and tell me, when will the festive part start?"

Gerion tossed him a funny glance. "What'ya thinkin'? On Yule of course. In five nights. Make yerselves at home." He raised his hand and let us alone.

Silence spread in the almost dark room.

"Again, Doctor," the Master finally said, barely hiding his mischief. "Wrong time again."

"Oi, it's only five days! Not too far off. Have been worse."

"That you have."

"Eh, we can just jump ahead. I'm sure we'll come up with an explanation."

"Can we stay?" I dared to ask, heart thudding in my throat. I hated to ask for something. It always made me anxious and I could never tell if what I wanted was appropriate or not. But this here was just… "Please? It's only five days!"

"Weeell..." The Doctor rubbed his neck and threw a glance at the Master.

He only grinned nastily.

"I really love their culture and all the old stories," I admitted. "It would be so cool to... to..."

"Just see for yourself?" the Master offered.

"Yeah."

The Doctor sighed, casting another warning glance at his fellow Time Lord.

"Alright. Why not. There seems to be going on something, anyway. People are tense and I saw lots of damaged houses in the village. Maybe we... or just I can find out what's happening. Perhaps help."

The Master snorted. "Whatever. Being a prisoner in the TARDIS or here, doesn't matter." He stepped to the fireplace and threw some cut logs in the pit. There was a whole bunch of them lying next to it, getting less and less visible with the sinking sun. "Quite the change in scenery. From the fires of Satan's hell to the icy lands of ancient gods."

He chuckled and held something towards the logs, which I could not see in the dark. A second later there was a short beam of light, then a flame. Fire licked its way through the wood, illuminated the room and ourselves.

"Where have you gotten that screwdriver again?" the Doctor called out. "I locked it away!"

"Yup." The Master smirked at him and gave me a wink. "The two of us built a new one."

"Wha'? I certainly didn't..."

"No? Think again."

My mouth dropped open when I remembered that he had built something before I had slept. To be fair, had I known what it would become, I still would have helped. So I simply shrugged and gave the Doctor a half-heartedly apologetic smile, which made him sigh again.

"Master, don't do anything really stupid, okay?" he almost pleadingly warned. "I swear, I'll snatch you out of this time line, otherwise, and lock you up, while we're here."

"Uh-oh, now I'm scared."

I nudged the Master's side and nodded towards the Doctor. "Come on. I don't want to have to endure him all alone."

"Fair objection."

"Oi!" the Doctor made indignantly.

"By the way," the Master drawled, ignoring the response. He eyed me from the side. "The names you told them..."

"Ohhh, err..." I grinned shyly and kneaded my fingers. "I thought they would find our names quite strange, so... Leaknir literally means 'doctor'. And Erik... if I'm correct it means something along the lines of 'king of all'."

"I think, I like that." The Master chuckled. "And what does Roka mean? Is that a boy's name?"

"More androgynous." I shrugged. "Means 'crow'. I uh... wrote a story in this setting once and had to look up lots of names... that's why I recalled a few." I smiled and glanced away, then straightened. "Anyway, I'll get some water from outside. There's got to be a wooden tub or so in here."

Back to index


Chapter 39: Chapter 38

Author's Notes: Well, yeah... don't get drunk on mead, kids. Headaches are horrible. lol
It wasn't even that much... aaaaaanyway.... enjoy!

Also, I alway forget people outside of Germany celebrate on the 25th, not the 24th... so... Merry Christmas!

(Also, I'm really bored, rn. So have another chapter and another tomorrow, lol.)


The food Gerion's wife brought was simple. Freshly caught fish, mushrooms, root vegetables and some bread. Enough to sate us, and strangely tasty despite the plainness. Or maybe even because of it. Since I didn't have breakfast, this was my first meal anyway. Only the Master complained, stole some of the Doctor's share and didn't show even the slightest sign of remorse at the other one's devastated face.

After the meal we sat around the fire, whilst wind was howling outside. I was hellishly tired after this day, only halfway listening to the Doctor's ramblings about how he had showed the people here some new techniques to hang up... I didn't remember what. Something about the decorations. It wasn't important. And eventually the two started bickering anyway.

"I'm going to crawl under some of those pelts," I mumbled, heaving myself from the log I had been sitting on. "What're you guys doing? You don't sleep as much, do you?"

"Nah, not necessary." The Doctor waved it away with a grin. "I might stroll around outside for a bit. Watch the stars. Something like that. Might go back to the TARDIS and get a few books."

"You mean, sneaking around and see if you can find out what's bothering people here?" the Master mocked, smiling satisfied as the other Time Lord winced a little at his words. "Eh, whatever. I'll come along, before I die of boredom."

"Y... you sure?"

The Master shot him a dark look. "Yes. And you better keep your babbly mouth shut. If I have to stay among those primitives, at least I need something to do."

I giggled quietly and left the main room to enter one of the smaller ones. It actually were only niches, covered by some cloth, instead of having a door. In each of the few sat a straw bed with linen beddings and pelts for blankets.

________________________________________________
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I dreamed of the sea. Of a roaring thunder storm, raging above grey waves. A sail flapped above my head, about to snap or tear. It was cold and wet and there were screams. And the sound of huge wings above our heads-

With a gasp I awoke, shivering from the intensity of the past images. There was no storm, only the wind, howling over the roof, reaching inside every crack of the wood. It was pitch black and cold, even under the pelts. The shine from the fire was gone, so the Time Lords were probably still out.

I honestly had no clue how to make a fire without the modern comfort of a lighter, so I stayed in bed, ignoring the cold and the dark and the wind that sounded like wings. How much time passed like that I could not know, but at one point I heard the door creak open, steps entering. Shortly after there was an orange glow shining through the cloth, illuminating the tiny room a little.

Immediately I felt safer, the images of my dreams and of the fantasies the darkness had invoked left me.

"Still asleep."

I heard the words, almost whispered. My eyes crept open, finding the Master poking his head into the room. When he saw I reacted, he slipped in, looking almost uncomfortable for a second, before he straightened. He had changed clothes, still all in black, but now it was only a short-sleeved tunic with a belt around his waist, instead of a gambeson.

"'s still night," I mumbled sleepily. "What'd you want? 'n where's the Doctor? Y'haven't murdered him, have ya?"

The Master chuckled. "No, sadly not. I fled his endless ramblings. Wandered around the area for a bit, but it's honestly rather boring. No idea what you like about it so much." He leaned with folded arms against the door frame. "Found some interesting tracks, though. The wind has already destroyed them, so they might fool me, but..."

"But your gut tells you there's more to it?" Yawning I sat up, wrapping one of the pelts around my shoulders.

I had mostly undressed, was only wearing some undershirt and shorts. And it was weird to see clear, since I hadn't taken out the contact lenses. According to the Doctor, I could wear them for roughly a month, before I'd have to change them.

"Something like that," the Master admitted. He seemed strangely thoughtful.

"Hey, can I ask you something?" Since he was here anyway, and obviously in the mood to keep me awake, I could at least try to squeeze some information out of him. His eyebrow shot up, as a question, maybe as a sign for me to continue. I had no clue and spoke anyway. "It's uh... because of this whole telepathy thing." Now I had his attention, but suddenly felt insecure and anxious to actually ask about it.

"Go on." He nodded.

"I... I don't understand any of it. But it seems to help you, doesn't it?"

I remembered how he had held me the last night. I had been asleep too fast to know how long he had stayed, but still...

The Master squinted his eyes at me, scowling.

"Maybe it does. What's it to you?"

"Mostly? Curiosity," I admitted. "For me it's a completely foreign thing and... Dunno how to put it. It seems so..."

He chuckled and tossed an mused glance at me. "Intimate?"

Well, that wasn't the word I had wanted to use, but only because I didn't want to think of it as such. Was it, though? Was it for him? The Master laughed quietly and strode closer, dropping to the bed to sit there cross-legged (at least he had no shoes on), facing me.

"I'm still not sure it really does something," he told. "Not... in a direct sense. The drums are still there, but..." His gaze drifted away, seeking for words. "It's like I get distracted. And then I don't notice them so much. For a while."

"That's... better than nothing, isn't it?"

He frowned, pursing his lips slightly. "Not enough." He tapped against his head. "That bloody noise is in my head all the time, never stops, never quiet. It drives me mad. Some days more than others."

"And right now?" I had a sense he was keeping me awake because he needed some distraction. Having something like that permanently in one's head surely must be bothersome.

The Master shrugged. "Not worse, not better."

"Then buzz off and le'me sleep."

He snickered. "Didn't you want to learn about something, just now?"

Okay, he was searching for distraction. I groaned and shook my head. "Yeah, no... not now. When I'm properly awake."

The wind howled, tore at the house. I shivered, wishing for the warmth of the fire to spread faster. The Master seemed to notice too, his eyes wandering to the ceiling for a moment, before they returned to me.

"I'm sure you'll understand while only half awake," he mocked and leaned a little forward. "And I'm bored anyway."

"I get it. I've got nothing to say in this." I let out a pointedly annoyed sigh. "'kay, shoot, 'n don't you dare taking me for stupid."

"So, skip the basics?" He poked out his tongue, eyes crinkled with mirth.

"I hate you."

"Doubtable. Alright, the basics then." He chuckled.

"'n what if I just lay down again 'n ignore you?" I mumbled, willing to do exactly that.

"Really wanna find out?" His smile was charming, dangerous.

I snorted out a chuckle, rubbed over my tired eyes and slightly shook my head. If I weren't so knackered I'd actually be thrilled to get that lesson, so I straightened a little and gave him my attention.

"'kay, 'kay. 'm listening."

Gods, what would I give for a coffee, right now.

"Good little human," the Master mocked and clapped his hands together.

He made himself comfortable on my bed, sitting in an almost meditative position, right in front of me, obviously far too happy about his silly victory. I, too, sat a little straighter; the only way to feel a little more awake. That and the fact that I was, indeed, curious about what he would tell.

"You already know that it's about touch," he started and reached out his palms towards me. "It's actually as simple as that."

Confused I blinked until I understood that he wanted my hands. So I stretched them out and he slowly stroked a finger over my bare arm, making me shiver as the touch sent a light tingling straight into my mind.

"For a mental contact we need skin, or... rather nerve endings. The more of those touch, the deeper the connection. You can literally feel it. Close your eyes, lil' lumin and listen to it."

So I did, breathing slow and paying close attention to what was going on in my head. His finger drew a line over the back of my arm, then slowly to its more sensitive underside, and I could indeed feel how the connection strengthened. The Master took my other hand, as well, turned both in a way that my palms faced him directly. His hands slid over them, hovered over my fingertips with his own for a moment, then pressed them together.

I gasped, temporarily overwhelmed by his presence in my head. And... mine in his. Like an opened flood gate, a stream of energy. We poured into each other like smoke, spread, hovered, tasted, explored. It wasn't like the last time, however. I didn't lose the sense for myself, still felt my own body, my heart, thudding frantically against its cage, pulse throbbing in my fingertips. But I also felt parts of his mind, shapes and movements, vague hints of emotions maybe.

Then it was gone.

My hands fell down onto the pelts, my eyes opened, my ears heard the wind rattling at the wood, heard the fire, faintly crackling in the other room.

The Master looked... confused.

"Did that hurt you?" he asked puzzled, but not concerned.

"N... no." I shook my head, uncertain why he had asked that.

"You reacted so strongly, I thought..."

"Did I?" I stared at my hands, then back at his face. "It didn't hurt. Not at all. It's just so... alien." I cringed at my own word, but I had no other to describe the feeling.

The Master lifted the brows, tilting his head a little. "You felt it before. And far more intense at that."

"Yeah... but then it was so much it was just... too much, you know?" I tried to explain, uselessly gesturing around with my hands. "Like when it's so loud you can't actually make out anything anymore."

"Mhm... I see."

He seemed in thoughts for a good minute, making me wonder how all of this might feel to him.

"So... nerve endings," I went on, tearing him out of the thoughts. "Explains why you thought, snogging me would be a good idea," I grumbled.

He giggled to himself, childishly.

"You'll never forgive me for that, he?" He chuckled some more and leaned forward, stretched his hand out toward my head, hesitated.

I wasn't sure what he wanted to do. His hand hovered near my temple, his eyes rested on mine, boring into me as if he contemplated hypnotism. His head moved a little closer and I froze, but he stopped there, near enough to unnerve me. His hand lowered, thumb stroking over my lower lip. The mental connection flared alive again, almost as strong as before.

"Now imagine how intense it would have been," he whispered, "had I used my tongue."

I swallowed, unsure if I should move away or if I was too hellishly curious. In the end I did nothing and the Master moved away from me again to sit straight. A breath escaped me, accompanied by an involuntary shiver. Losing the mental contact felt almost as intense as gaining it. I swallowed again, peeked up at the Master and found his eyes alight with amusement and a little mockery.

"W… wa... wait. If it gets that intense… And if this is about nerve endings…"

An impish grin faded onto his lips.

"I mean… No idea what you guys have down there," I babbled on, gesturing towards his crotch, "but doesn't that get… really intense?"

"It does." The Master chuckled.

If it was that overwhelming just from a kiss... I couldn't even remotely imagine how... The Master laughed out, tearing me out of the thought. Confused I looked at him.

"You're hilarious, you know that?" he taunted. "Did you just seriously contemplate sleeping with me, just to find out?"

"Wha'? No! Hell no!" I called out, blushing slightly. Okay, maybe I had. For a second. A very short one.

"Liar." He giggled and poked my head. "That curiosity of yours will be your death, one day. You know that?"

"Shut up." I shoved him away with both hands, unable to keep the grin from my face.

The Master hopped from the bed and wanted to leave.

"Oi, don't just run off," I scolded. "You woke me and didn't let me sleep. I barely learned anything. At least tell me some more."

"Maybe tomorrow night." He turned to me, grinning nastily. "You're not the most important thing on my list."

I groaned annoyed and dropped back while he left, giggling to himself. Bugger. Well, he had offered me enough knowledge to lay awake for another while. There were so many things I still didn't understand. And I sensed that he wasn't entirely honest about what effect I had on his drums; why I had an effect at all.

At least there was a fire again, crackling in the cold of night. The wind was still howling, rattling at the wood, sometimes... just sometimes... sounding like huge wings, flapping above my head.

Back to index


Chapter 40: Chapter 39

Author's Notes: I swear, I have no idea how that happened! (No, I don't believe it either.)

Well... quite the long chapter, this time. Compared to the others...

Holiday chapters are done now. Next one will take a while. xD


People sleep when it's dark and rise, when the sun does. Or so they used to do, in these times. I, on the other hand, was awake before the sun showed her face, unable to fall back asleep. The fire had gone out again, leaving the house in icy coldness.

Only a thick candle illuminated the main room, just bright enough to vaguely make things out. There were firestones and tinder and wood and all that. I glared at the stuff with pursed lips. Making a fire without burning down the house should be possible, shouldn't it? Otherwise I would also have to wash with cold water.

Then again... I really didn't dare starting a fire on my own.

"I really am a weakling," I grumbled to myself, grabbing the candle.

Beside the sleeping niches there was only one other room, in which the tub stood. And a bucket of water, that was still half filled. Well, fuck it, I thought and got myself somewhat clean. The cold water made me shiver at first, but then forced my body to heat up on its own. In the end I splashed the rest over my head, gasping for air, but feeling not too bad, in the end.

There was no food left from the evening. And, obviously, also no coffee.

Who again had begged to stay here?

I sighed, rubbed my eyes and donned my boots and cloak. Should I leave a... well, I had nothing to leave a note. How did people communicate back then? Scratching my head I stared at the door, wondering if the Time Lords would look for me at Gerion's or if they'd be worried.

The Master certainly not.

The Doctor probably was too distracted for worries.

In the end I only shrugged, put out the candle and left the house, pulling the heavy wooden door close behind me. No lock. Of course not. Why would anyone lock their door here? I huffed and walked through the sleeping village. Only a few people were out already, using the diffuse light to prepare things.

I saw what the Doctor had helped doing, yesterday. There were evergreen and pine twigs, mistletoes and red berries on the houses. All signs for life and growth. Speckles of colour in the seemingly everlasting winter months. I ended up in front of the mead hall, admiring the needle trees in front of it. They also were decorated, with wooden figures of the gods and apples, mostly. It made me smile to think about how Christians had stolen all those old traditions to transform them into what people in my time knew as Christmas. Almost all of it can be traced back to Yule.

What I also had seen was the damaged houses, the burnt down ruins of what once were homes. One part of the village was almost completely destroyed. We hadn't past that one, yesterday and I wondered what had happened. Another tribe maybe. In these days they often fought for land and power. But usually they would choose open fields for that. Destroying what one strived to own wasn't a very wise tactic.

"Roka?"

I startled, spinning around. In the silence of the destruction I hadn't heard anyone approach. Now I saw it was Ivar, without his bow, but with a small basked propped against his hip.

"What happened here?" I asked, gesturing towards the destruction. "Raiders?"

"No. Don't come here anymore, yeah?" It wasn't a threat, only a warning, softly spoken.

"Alright, but..."

Ivar shook his head and smiled. "Don't think about it. We have to deal with it ourselves. Come, I bet you don't have any food. But there are plenty of fish in the sea." He shook his small basket and nodded towards the shore.

When I had first seen him, yesterday, Ivar had seemed quite young. The impression didn't change now. He probably wasn't much older than I, his features neither edged nor soft. Somewhere in-between. The beard definitely made him look a little rougher.

I followed him silently, although my curiosity regarding the burned houses was almost overwhelming. As I got aware of it, I inwardly scolded myself, remembering the Master's words from last night. He probably was right. One day it would kill me.

"You went fishing so early in the morning?" I eventually asked, just to distract myself.

"Sure. No better time for it. No one is out stirring the water." He chuckled and stopped, setting the basket into the sand, only a few meters away from the water. "Here, start the fire already, I'll disembowel the fish meanwhile." With that he tossed some firestones in my direction and nodded towards a prepared fireplace.

I frowned at it and at the stones in my hands, cursing inwardly for not having practiced it in the house. Then again, I wasn't willing to let show that I was clueless and squatted down to hit the stones against each other. There was tinder on the bottom of the fireplace, igniting that should be enough, right?

"Having trouble?" came a happy, familiar voice. I glanced up, finding the Doctor standing in the sand, hands in his coat pockets, a grin on his face. "Come on, how hard can it be to got some sparks in the right place?"

"Don't scold the boy," Ivar said calmly. "If you don't teach him anything, he can't know."

"Riiiight," the Doctor said slowly. "Weeell, I wasn't scolding." He squatted down next to me and took the firestones. "It's really not that hard, see?"

I watched closely and took the stones myself to successfully light a small flame. The sight warmed my heart with a little pride, that grew only in size when the Doctor gave me an appreciating smile. It hadn't been often in my life that people had given me the chance to be of use, had never taught me much and always left me on my own with everything, only to then blame me if I couldn't do things properly.

"What about the fish?" Ivar pointed at the ones in the basket. "Want to help with those?"

"Not me, nope," the Doctor declined. "I'm really not made for the bloody work."

"I'll help," I agreed, kneeling down next to the black haired.

He smiled and gave me a small knife, showing me how I had to cut. "And then you can just pull out everything at once, see?"

I nodded and wasn't too bad at following his example. We tossed the innards into the sea and roasted the prepared fish above the flames, watching the sun rise over the water.

"Such a simple life, isn't it?" the Doctor commented. "Sooooo boring. But here and there it's good to remind oneself of... just how it could be."

"You speak as if your life is quite different from ours," Ivar answered, picking up one of the fish to test them. He reached another one towards me.

"Weeeell... in a way, yes. In lots of ways, actually. Far too many ways to even start." He, too, took a fish and started eating, luckily being quiet in the process. Not for long, though."Say, Ivar," he continued, "what caused the fires in your village? They are not from any raiders, right? And I found some strange..."

"It would be safer for you and your companions to keep your head out of this. We can deal with it." Ivar never raised his voice, and still there was a dangerous edge to it, all of a sudden.

"But we could help."

"No." Again it was softly spoken, but determined. "I do not know where you come from, but of the three of you, Erik seems to be the only one who is forged for battle. And he does not seem like one to use his skills to help."

"There are ways to deal with dangers, without fighting them with axes," the Doctor countered.

"True. But not this one."

Ivar got up and shoved sand over the fire with his boot. "I cannot stop you from poking your nose into things, traveller. It is only a well meant warning."

________________________________________________
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When we arrived at the forge, Gerion stood behind his anvil, while the Master – again in his gambeson – waited on a stool, a sword laying over his knees and another, smaller one, sticking out next to him from a heap of snow. When he saw us approach, a nasty smirk foretold nothing good.

"As it seems," he drawled, staring at the sword in the snow, "it is my task to nudge some dents into you, today."

He didn't move. Only his eyes wandered to me, glinting with a dangerous promise. I swallowed, getting nervous. The blacksmith was strong and fast, but nonetheless human. The Master, on the other hand... His lips widened to a toothy, wolfish grin. He rose from the stool, grabbed the small sword and held it with the hilt towards me.

He barely left me enough time to grip tight, pushed against my shoulder to let me stumble backwards and almost fall. I had never held a sword and simply did what I had practised yesterday with the axe, tearing it upwards to shield my head from the incoming blow. The Master let his sword clash against mine, the impact shuddered through my hands painfully, almost making me drop the weapon.

"Well, the reflexes aren't so bad."

"They'd be better if my muscles wouldn't ache so much from yesterday," I grumbled, lowering the sword.

"Say that to an enemy." The nasty grin was back.

I took a breath, gripped the handle and took on the stance Gerion had taught me. Still, the next attack sent me right to my butt and suddenly I lay there, facing a blade that pointed at my throat.

"Dead." The Master's voice was rough, cold.

"Stop that." I tried to push his sword away, but couldn't. There was something in his eyes, a deadly glint, as if he could hardly keep himself from slicing my throat. "Master," I breathed warningly, feeling the sword press against my skin.

Then it was gone and he chuckled while I heaved myself from the ground. There was no blood, no wound, but I could still feel the cold steel.

"You're not going to land a blow by just standing there." He waved, having his sword leaned against his shoulder.

I steadied myself, gripping the weapon tighter. That one day hadn't taught me enough to really attack. I could barely defend myself and even that with more luck than skill. And I also was a little scared I might accidentally hurt him. Alien or not, being unskilled could be more dangerous than anything else. Slowly I took a few steps to the right, then one forward, but stopped.

The Master used my hesitation to shoot at me like a lightning bolt, weapon clinging against mine. Catching the blow pressed all air out of my lungs and I stumbled back, quickly raising the sword again when I saw the Master came after me. The strikes weren't that hard, but enough to exhaust me quickly. He left me enough room for counter attacks, smirking snidely when I didn't use them.

Suddenly my back hit a wall and with a loud thud the Master's sword drove into wood, only a centimetre away from my head. I would only have to move in a wrong way to cut myself. And would I move forward... a smaller blade was on my throat. Only a knife, slightly pressing against my pulse. Our eyes met, his filled with a mad gleam, a barely contained urge to hurt, accompanied by a not less threatening grin.

My pulse thudded against the blade, breath coming rapidly. The Master chuckled.

"Never let such chances slip, lil' lumin. You could have done the whole universe a great service, just now."

"I... what? Even if... you would have just evaded."

"You could still have been lucky." The blade scratched my skin. Only a little. "Lucky, stupid little human." He leaned down to my eyelevel, grin wide. "I can barely keep myself from slicing you up."

"Master," I almost whispered, but the knife only cut deeper.

Something warm slid down my throat, telling me he wasn't going to stop. The irises of his eyes almost completely swallowed the hazel, left nothing but blackness. It hurt. But the way he acted scared me a lot more than the pain. The Master seemed to be completely out of control, his own self slipping from him, swallowed by a darkness he couldn't fight.

I dropped the sword and reached up, closed my hand around his fist that held the knife. There was no mental contact, not even a tingle. He was completely closed off.

"Master, you're scaring me," I whispered.

And that seemed to help. The grin faded, the pressure against my throat lessened, but the darkness in his gaze stayed. The Master pushed himself away from the wall, left the sword sticking in the wood. His eyes wandered over me, nose wrinkled in disgust.

"Pathetic thing you are," he only remarked, turned around and just left.

I watched him, unable to understand what had just happened.

________________________________________________
.

"There you are. Gerion said you and Erik had a fight. And it escalated a little." It was Ivar, his steps crunching on the stones. "You're alright? He said you were bleeding."

I only grumbled something inaudible, not in the mood to speak. After the fight I had wandered off, had strolled through the nearby woods until I had found a nice spot in the warm sun, near a creek.

Ivar sat next to me and nudged me with his shoulder. "You'll get sick if you keep sitting here."

"I don't care," I mumbled. "I'm completely useless anyway."

The black haired laughed. "What makes you think that?"

I turned my head towards him, scowling. "You don't even know me. But even you saw that I can't do shit. And people hate me for it. It's always the same," I spat. "My whole fucking life has been like this."

"Don't be so hard on yourself." He smiled and ruffled through my hair. "Gerion told me he was surprised how fast you learned, yesterday. And he liked that you thought for yourself instead of bluntly following his orders."

"He didn't. You just made that up."

Ivar laughed, stood and reached a hand out to me. "No, it's true. Come."

"Where to?"

"Hunting." He grinned. "Some meat for diner is always nice."

I blinked at his offered hand, searched for anything mocking in his features, but found nothing. He wasn't teasing me, was just... friendly. For a moment I hesitated, but then took his hand.

________________________________________________
.

We were quiet, most of the time, to not scare away the wildlife. It had something soothing to it, wandering through the snow covered forest, having the crystal clear silence of winter around us. Ivar taught me how to avoid making much noise, showed me the different footprints of animals and where to best search for them.

He also let me practice with his bow, patiently let me try a few shots. Pulling the bowstring wasn't easy for me, neither was aiming. Two rabbits kept their life this day, three more lost it, although not by my hand.

Darkness had already settled when we returned, the village only illuminated by the bleeding out light from fires in wooden homes. My breath evaporated in front of me, raised up to the stars in the clear evening sky. I followed Ivar home, helped him skinning and gutting the rabbits. A part of it was for my companions, the rest...

"Come back, yeah?" Ivar told. "I'm sure they can handle the meat themselves."

"Huh, come back? Here?"

"My mother taught me to prepare the best rabbit stew you'll ever eat, promise." He winked at me with a happy smile.

More lessons. Why not. He was a good teacher and the Time Lords probably had nothing interesting to do for me anyway. Let alone the fact that I wasn't so keen on seeing the Master.

It didn't take me long to return. No one had been in the guest house, so I had simply left the meat there. It wouldn't spoil, given how cold it was in the hut.

The stew was already cooking over Ivar's fire pit, smelling delicious. Since morning I hadn't eaten and now my body let me know how straining the day had been. There was no rest yet, however, as we went out to chop some wood, while the food was cooking.

"See?" Ivar eventually said, smiling. "You are capable."

My axe splintered the log in half and I watched sceptically as the wood clumsily fell down. Today I had tried a lot of new things, but hadn't really succeeded at any of them. Still, I gave him a thankful smile and followed inside, where we finally ate. And it was indeed delicious.

"Thanks for today," I mumbled, placing the emptied bowl next to the fire. "That was fun."

Ivar smiled, heaved the pot down and put it aside. The fire spread warmth and cosiness through his house, where I sat on pelts on the floor. He dropped down next to me, staring into the flames for a bit.

"Are women treated so badly where you come from?"

Perplex I looked up at him. "What do you mean?"

Ivar smiled. "Why else would you pretend to be a boy?"

Shit. Well... it had only been a question of time before anyone would notice. He laughed at my shocked face and nudged me. "I won't tell anyone. But it wasn't hard to see. So... are they mean to you?"

I shrugged, deciding to stick to the truth.

"No. They aren't. Just..." Weird, I saw only curiosity on his face, where I had awaited judgement and maybe even rejection. "I... didn't want to be treated differently. Not as if... I'm weak."

Ivar huffed out a laugh. "Your people seem to be strange. Our shield maidens are as fierce as our warriors. And even those who do not fight... no one would dare to call them weak."

"Then your people are better than mine," I grumbled, remembering how often people had refused to teach or let me do things, only because of my gender. "It's so weird. The lives you live... it's so much... simpler."

"Simpler?" Ivar chuckled. "How can it be simple to struggle for survival each day? Is it so different in your settlement?"

Settlement... If only he knew about the cities, seemingly reaching from horizon to horizon, about villages that were as large as whole kingdoms in his days. "We don't have to worry about shelter and food so much," I told. "Life is easier, but still a lot more... complicated." I glared at the flames, sighing. "Here, life is harder in itself, but... simpler. Just that."

"I think I understand. In a way." Ivar sounded thoughtful, eyed me from the side. Suddenly there was a smile on his face, the blue of his eyes reflecting the warmth of the fire. "You could stay here."

My heart leapt to my throat. Could I? In my own time no one was missing me. The Doctor was accepting my presence, but only half willingly. The Master... I still couldn't place his intentions. It seemed he still hated me, on some level, could hardly keep himself from killing me, even. The only reason he didn't do so, was because he thought I might be useful in the future. And maybe a little because of his drums.

Useful. My gaze dropped to the floor.

"I'd only be a burden to everyone here," I mumbled bitterly.

He nudged me with his shoulder and laughed. "Look what you've learned in a single day. How old are you anyway? There's enough time to learn."

"Older than I look." I sighed, glancing at Ivar, who still leant against my shoulder with a warm smile. It was so easy to talk to him, somehow. "I'm... thirty-one, actually."

"Two years younger than I. See? That's no age." He poked my arm. "And you're not weak either."

At that I huffed, but leaned a little against his shoulder. It almost happened without thought, just some comfort seeking.

"Look," Ivar continued, "I have no idea how people live in your place. But it seems you never had to wield a weapon, or to hunt."

"Yeah, yeah, rub it in."

He chuckled and poked me again until I looked at him. There was amusement in his gaze, but also a friendly warmth. "And despite that, when Gerion asked you to pick up an axe and fight, you did without hesitating. When I gave you my bow and told you to shoot, you also did." Ivar leaned a little closer and fixated my eyes, his voice was soft, pleasant even. "I see no fear in you. A lot of sadness, yes, but not weakness."

I swallowed and smiled a little at his words.

"You really don't need to hide, Roka. You possess a strength that others don't." My breath hitched when he reached up a hand to cup the side of my face. "Where others would hesitate, you don't even ask."

"I... can't see that in myself," I confessed quietly, leaning just a tiny little bit closer. What was I doing there? I shouldn't... shouldn't fall for how easy this felt.

"That's a shame," he muttered, a little closer now, lingering, hovering. "There is such a fascinating fire burning in your eyes."

Ivar leaned forward, carefully moved his lips against mine, testing. For a second I froze, just savouring the sensation, then responded, eyes fluttering shut. My hand played with his beard and he smiled when I couldn't resist tugging a little at it. The kiss broke off, but we stayed, hovering. I returned the smile, shyly, but then caught his bottom lip between mine, urging to resume what we had started. What was there to lose?

Ivar's hands were on my side, sliding up feather-light under the tunic until they reached the binder. I was sure there was nothing the like in his time, but the buckles got opened nonetheless. He smirked a little proudly and gently pulled the tunic over my head.

"See? Nothing to hide."

No, there wasn't. There was no reason to be uncomfortable, every doubt melting away from his reassuring look. I hooked a finger into his collar and helped getting rid of his shirt. The cloth landed on the ground, quickly forgotten, replaced by my fingers that wandered over his skin, my eyes admiring the tattoos he had on his chest and arms, tracing along some scars.

"I need a few tattoos on my own," I mumbled, smiling.

"That won't be a problem." Carefully he pushed me down by my shoulders, lay me back onto the warm, soft pelts. His finger traced along my collar bone, making me shiver. "Here would a great spot for a crow."

He chuckled and lay next to me on the pelts. I turned to face him, admiring the warm blue of his eyes until he drew me against him to resume the kiss from before. How could this be so easy, I wondered. I felt warm and secure and smiled a little at how gentle he was, how we both took our times, savouring the presence of the other one. There was no hurry, after all.

Back to index


Chapter 41: Chapter 40

Author's Notes: 40 chapters in already... wow. That's either a good thing or I have serious problems...

Taking my Master obsession into consideration it probably is the latter...

Anyway. I wish you all a great start into 2021. May this year bring some well deserved peace and quiet back to the world.


Waves crashed over my head, dark and cold and loud, almost drowning out the roaring thunder, rolling over the black sea. Water was in my eyes, in my clothes, everywhere, freezing my hands that tried desperately to hold on to the ship somehow. A dragon's head, made from ancient wood, ploughed through the seemingly impenetrable darkness.

There was a scream, but no one was on the ship with me. Another screech... unnatural, inhuman. It was that of a raven. Huge, black wings spread in the mist of spraying water, rose above my head with the crushing waves, tall as a mountain. And there was a man, old and with only one eye, suddenly sitting on the ship with me, so calm as if the chaos around had no meaning to him.

Smoke. The wings were of black smoke, twisting and swirling in their form, mesmerizing, frightening. It was...

...the void calling to you, the old man quietly finished my thought, without moving his lips.

His voice was that of an old tree, quiet and rough, but still clearly audible through the thunder. His eye fixated me, trapped my gaze so I couldn't watch the wings any longer. But I felt them, their cold touch, icier than the water, swallowing me into the darkness and...

I gasped, eyes snapping open. Frantically I sat up, looking around the quiet room, trying to find the smoky wings to... to...

"You're alright?"

I sagged together, finally waking up enough to know it had just been a dream. This wasn't the ocean, it was Ivar's hut, calm and warm from the fire. With a sigh I lay back on the bed and snuggled myself under the blanket again, facing the black haired men beside me. He looked worried.

"'twas just a nightmare," I mumbled, immediately feeling the cold images fade as Ivar snaked his arm around my middle to pull me closer.

"It's the long darkness," he murmured against my ear. "It plays tricks on your mind."

"Maybe... good thing it's Yule soon."

"Alas..."

I shifted a little to look at him. "But then the light comes back. That's a good thing."

He smiled sadly. "Mhm... The light returns and so do you. To wherever you came from."

I lowered my eyes, pondered for a while, without really having a clear thought. "You don't even know me," I only mumbled. "Why would you want me to stay?"

Ivar chuckled, stroked finger over my cheek, warm, gentle. "You truly are from another place. Do you not know? When you live, knowing you could die any day, you cling to whatever life gives you in the moment. What does tomorrow matter when I can have today?"

My eyes closed, my body relaxed, felt warm, so snuggled up. Yeah, what did it matter? If only I could think like that, if only my mind wouldn't spin all those threads and possibilities.

"You might end up not liking me anymore," I mumbled sadly. It always happened. Sooner or later people come to notice how different I was from them. And then they push me away, leave me alone without as much as a goodbye. Always. There had never been a single exception. "And then I'd be stranded in a place that isn't my own, with people that don't want me and nowhere to go."

Ivar held me, nuzzled my hair, just breathing. He smelled like leaves and snow, reminding me of the calm woods. Those people lived and thought so differently to what I was used to. Maybe they wouldn't mind, maybe...

"What did you dream?" he softly murmured, his thumb stroking over my site.

I told him, in as much detail as I could remember.

"That is a strange dream, little one. You know who often disguises as an old man?"

"Yeah... it is said Odin likes to do that. To wander amongst humans to watch and to seek new knowledge." I smiled. Gods weren't real. Not like that. "I always liked him, somehow. A god who is on a constant search for wisdom. It's like... he is just one of us, in a way. So much more powerful, but still... a person."

Ivar laughed. "What else would he be?"

"I know of another god. And people make him... so elusive. Like he is everything and has no faults, possesses all knowledge there is and all power over everything."

"I see... you came from the land of the Christians. That is why you're so weird." He shifted a little to look at me, leaned down and kissed me softly. "But you know so much of our stories." He smiled against my lips. "Why is that?"

"'m not a Christian." Absently I played with the strands of his beard. "Their god is so... so far away. It's so hard to believe in him. But yours... your gods... they are just people." Playfully I tugged at him, coaxing another kiss from his lips. "So powerful. But they have friends and enemies, sons and daughters, lovers and husbands. They have a story, they live and die, mourn and celebrate, like everyone else."

"Yeah. One day even your people will understand this."

If only. My smile faded and I curled myself up against Ivar's chest. I wouldn't tell him. That his gods would become nothing more but stories on Youtube and in Comics. That the Christians would one day steal all their traditions to make them into their own, that only a few people remained to believe in what he now thought as real. And that they were mostly smiled upon and called crazy.

________________________________________________
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"Where were you?" The Master's voice sounded incredibly indignant, as if I had offended him.

Right now I was with Gerion, sparring with an axe again. It got a little easier. The movements turning into something that, one day, might even become reflex. Not that I would have the time for that... The blacksmith returned to his forge at the other side of the field and I leaned the axe against a tree that was standing nearby.

"Not there," I offered with a shrug.

"I noticed."

My eyes were watching the nearby sea and the crows fluttering over farms. The tone of his words made me look at the Master.

"Didn't think you'd be concerned. Wasn't even sure the two of you would return for the night."

He lifted a brow and let a smirk show. "And I thought you were so eager to learn more about telepathy."

Right... I was. "And that has to be in the middle of the night, when I actually want to sleep?" I mocked. "Don't tell me you had such important things to do the whole day."

"Sassy."

I stepped in front of him, giving him an annoyed glare. "And you're an arsehole."

"Tell me something new." His mouth widened to a grin, arms folded in front of his chest.

Alright. He seemed to be in a provoking mood. And it was riling me up a lot more than it should.

"Want me to train with you again?" he offered with a twinkle in his eyes.

I huffed. "Yeah... no. Seriously, if you want to bully me, just piss off. I don't need a rerun of yesterday. I know you're stronger and faster than humans. Don't need a reminder, thanks."

Strangely enough his eyes dropped at my words. For a second he looked almost a little sorry. Almost. I wondered if he had really just been a sod, the day before, or if he had lost control over himself. Not that it mattered too much. The result was the same and by now I came not to expect an apology from him.

There was something else, however, I needed to know. So I sighed and looked at him. "Regarding telepathy... did you... I'm not sure it's related or not, I just keep having really strange dreams. Maybe..."

His relaxed pose stiffened, eyes suddenly on me, fixating. The Master took a step towards me, his face as serious as I had seldom seen it before. "What kind of dreams?"

"It's... hard to describe. The images alone aren't telling much. It's more how they... feel. Can't you just look at them yourself?" I shrugged.

"Mhm," he made, raising his hands. But before he could touch me he blinked confused and hesitated. His eyes narrowed to tight slits, distracting me for a moment. Long enough to make me wince in surprise when his fingers connected with my temples.

Images flashed before my eyes. And they were not from the dreams, but from the evening before.

"Jeez, you were busy," he commented dryly.

I tore myself away from him, a scowl on my face. "That's none of your business," I grumbled.

Strangely enough... the Master seemed pissed. Everything about him radiated it, starting from the angry look on his face.

"What do you think, you're doing there?" he snarled, towering himself above me.

My mouth dropped open, closed again. I shook my head in disbelief. "First of all – you have no rights whatsoever to just dig out random memories," I scolded angrily. "And just for the record – I'm an adult and I can do whatever the hell I want. And with whom."

"You really think so?"

"Well... duh!" I rolled my eyes.

"And then what?" the Master spat.

Confused I blinked at him. As he got no answer the rage in his eyes only increased, almost physically radiated from him. Without a warning he reached out, grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to the toes. Shocked I pushed my hands against his chest, trying to get free of his grip.

"What's your problem?" I whined annoyed.

"That you don't think, ape," came the dark reply.

"'bout what, dammit? I'm on the pill, nothing can happen."

Okay, that probably wasn't the issue, but still. My hands pushed against his chest, barely managing to keep him at a distance. Under my palms I felt his double heartbeat, weirdly fast, next to fluttering.

It almost seemed as if he wouldn't say a word. He only glared at me, but then let go and hurled around.

"He'll die. Now," the Master muttered darkly, striding away with large steps.

He couldn't mean that, could he? "Don't you dare laying a hand on Ivar!" I called out, grabbing his elbow. The Master effortlessly tore himself out of my grip and marched away, me closely following. "Harm him and I'll never speak a word with you."

"Like I'd care," he grumbled.

"Well, you obviously do!" I ran ahead, blocking his way. The Master simply trod to the side, but I followed, almost making him bump into me, but he avoided so fast I couldn't keep up. He simply left me behind, standing there in utter confusion.

Somehow I managed to overcome my stupor and stormed after him. A thought popped up and I almost had to laugh. It was ridiculous, but right now hardly anything he did made sense.

"Don't tell me you're jealous," I deadpanned.

He growled angrily, stopped and hurled around, pushing against my shoulder to make me stumble away. "You don't even know him," he said, voice dark.

"You don't even know me," I countered immediately, arms crossing defensively over my chest.

There was something sinister in his eyes, something that told me this was about much more than I suspected. But his behaviour made me angry, in a way that it shouldn't. He had no right to ruin the one good thing in years, to just run ahead and murder the only person, who had been kind and nice to me.

"This is not..." The Master shook his head, clenched his hands to fists and released them again, surprisingly at a loss for words. "It's not... why the heck would I be jealous?"

"Then what the hell..." I paused, straightened. Listened.

There it was again. A faint noise, like a scream, but not a human sound, not that of an animal either. None that I knew, at least; deep and roaring. It seemed the Master heard it too. He looked around. The noise came again, a little louder this time.

A horn sounded through the whole village, it's moaning long and repeated two times. Doors flew open or slammed shut, people were running, shouting. Within a moment chaos was all around us. I had no clue where to go, what do. What was even happening?

The Master took a step back, reached a hand out to grab my arm or whatever, but didn't.

Fire.

It exploded in front of my eyes, bright and hot, raining down next to me in splinters of wood from what once had been a house. Everything happened so fast my mind couldn't catch up. The forge was burning! High blazed the flames, black smoke rising into the cold winter air. And there were...

Wings.

Grotesque swirling wings grew out of the black, as big as the house had been, twisting in size and shape, impossible to catch with sight alone.

A hand was in mine, tugged, tore, forced me to move, although my gaze kept glued to the dark mass in front of me. It had eyes, piercing purple, pulsating specs within the flames around. It saw. Saw me. Held me captive, froze my body.

A wall was in my back, something obscured my view. No. Someone. A hand waved in front of my face, made me blink in confusion. I glanced up, finding an equally puzzled look on the Master's face.

"Hey!" he called out. "Wake up!"

My mouth opened. There were words, but I couldn't speak them. I tried to look past him, turn around the corner of the house to look. Just look. The Master wouldn't let me, grabbed both of my shoulders and pressed them against the stone, chuckled.

"Yep. It's a dragon." The excitement in his voice was hard to miss.

"Th... the wings," I finally muttered. My body was shaking, pulse racing like mad. "Saw them... dreams. How... how..."

His face dropped. "Hey, snap out of it!" He shook me, then grabbed my arm and tore me to the side. "It's not a nightmare." Finally I had a view again, saw the flames devouring, growing. And a black mass slowly emerging from it. "Look at the thing."

He was right. From the fire came no nightmarish abomination, no twisting mass of black smoky wings. Not the wings of ravens, either. They were huge, black, but leathery, and attached to a not less enormous body. The beast dropped forwards, stepped out of the fire and onto the field where I had trained, moments before. Its wings folded so it could use them as front legs, riddled with sharp claws. The body parts were muscular, neck and tail long and elegantly thin, giving it an almost cat-like appearance. It's head narrowed towards the snout to a longish triangular shape, with scaly fins instead of ears, and in deep sockets sat two purple eyes, glowing, mesmerizing.

I watched for what felt like hours, but could have only been seconds. The terror that had paralyzed me before slowly dissipated, got replaced by simple fear, but one I was able to control. Each time the dragon moved, the flames reflected in its black scales, let them shimmer in a beautiful manner. Its mouth opened, revealed not only sharp, long teeth, but also the source of the scream we had heard before. Raw and old and mighty.

"Oh, you bloody idiot," the Master grumbled next to me.

"I've done nothing," I ground out.

"Not you. The Doctor. There, look. Right in front of the head."

"There is no o..." I glared at the spot that clearly had been empty before, but now that I paid attention to it, I saw someone standing there, with a raised hand, pointing something towards the creature. It was weirdly hard to keep him in focus, as if he kept slipping out of my perception. "What's he doing?"

"Trying to play the hero again?" The Master shrugged.

The dragon seemed not to be aware of the man in front of it. Maybe it had as much trouble as I had, but in opposite to a human it clearly had some finer senses. The snout was searching the air, intelligent eyes roaming the field, the small fires. The Doctor ducked out of the way as the creature spun around, almost hitting the Time Lord with its tail. He kept scanning, however.

Until the dragon turned once more and lowered its head to the Doctor, mouth opening, nose sniffing. Something hit against the scales, ricocheted from the hard surface and dropped to the ground. A second thing hit, distracting the dragon from its prey.

The Master was throwing stones!

Surprised I saw him picking more up and aiming them, but the dragon seemed to have lost its interest.

Only that it hadn't. With a swift, elegant twirl it hurled around to the Doctor once more, opened the mouth to let out a dark roaring scream, then hit the Time Lord away with its wing. He flew backwards, against another house and lay still, whilst the creature swung itself back into the air with mighty, heavy flaps.

It searched around and found some sheep outside, shot towards them and grabbed one with its hind claws. The head snapped back, seemed to search the area where the Doctor had been. And, just to make sure, the dragon bent its head backwards and seemed to spit, only that a small ball of flames was emerging out its throat, racing towards the house the Doctor had sagged against. The ball erupted into an explosion of flames. Debris rained down on the field, smoke billowed out and obscured out vision.

Only then did the dragon fly away.

Only then did the Master start to run.

Back to index


Chapter 42: Chapter 41

Author's Notes: So... 2021... same old, same old. Somehow it's only getting worse instead of better... but that seems to be the process with every shitty thing. It has to get really bad before it can start getting better again... right?

Eh... that actually fits this chapter quite well...


He carried the Doctor all the way back to the TARDIS, through burning debris, heaps of ashes, splinters of glowing wood and a snowstorm of glimmering embers. I followed behind silently, not daring to speak a word to disturb the strange image in front of me.

Only in the console room did the Master drop the other Time Lord into the jump seat.

"Not the med bay?" I asked, eyeing all the scratches on the Time Lord.

The Master glared at me, his look so angry as if he wanted me to dare speak up ever again, then bent down to lightly touch the other one's temple. A second passed in silence. The Doctor groaned, lifted his head. Soot and blood covered his face and clothes. Groggily he blinked at the Master, his hand twitched upwards, enclosed the one on his temple, but only to guide it away from him.

"Oh good," the Doctor murmured. " TARDIS. Don't want humans to- ahh!"

The Master smacked him right across the face.

Only his surprised outcry disturbed the otherwise silence that followed. It hung in the air so heavily, I was almost certain to never hear a sound again. The Doctor seemed equally shocked, held his cheek.

"Auuu…" he eventually murmured defiantly and shrunk together when the Master bent over him, both hands on the jump seat next to his head, a murderous glare in his eyes.

"What were you thinking, you bloody idiot?" the Master growled angrily. "A perception filter! As if that would work on a freaking dragon!"

"Well, it did… for a while." The Doctor's voice pitched to a defiant squeak under the other one's glare.

"And it almost killed you!"

The Doctor opened his mouth, but shut it again, quickly. Somehow he managed to sink even deeper into the seat.

"N… nice of you to be so concerned, Master, but.."

The Master snorted and rolled his eyes. "My only concern, Doctor…" He spat the name as if it were something disgusting. The closer he bent down, the further the other man sunk together. "...is that you let yourself be killed by something else than me!" Almost sweetly he added, "And we'd both be disappointed by that."

The Doctor let out a weak groan, but if of annoyance or because he was in pain was hard to tell. Parts of his coat were scorched, there were scratches and dirt all over him. Otherwise he seemed surprisingly well.

"Are you alright?" I dared to ask, almost feeling the Master's anger, but ignoring it.

"Yup," the Doctor somehow brought out, despite his crumbled together pose. "Kind of. Just... my head's a little messy." Finally the Master straightened himself and let the Doctor sit up, what he promptly did. His hands quickly were busy dusting himself off. "I think it's an egorlblak," he told, not looking at either of us. "Ancient species that is said to have inhabited many planets. No one knows how they get there, just..." He spread his fingers and finally looked up, only at me, though. "Appear. One day they are seen. And one day they are gone again."

"So... it's not a dragon?" It was hard to hide my disappointed tone.

"Weeell..." An adventurous smile spread on the Doctor's face. "Of course it is! Egorlblaks are said to be the source of every dragon legend there is." He sprang up from the seat and produced the Sonic Screwdriver from his pocket. "His DNA matches that of other recorded sightings. Never seen one with my own eyes, though. Brilliant, isn't it? We can finally learn something about them!"

"Looked more as if it learned something about smacking you into a wall," the Master grumbled with folded arms. "Let me guess... you want to find the thing and cuddle with it?"

The thought made me snort, earning myself a pout from the Doctor.

"I actually think I can trace him to his hideout," he confessed with a shrug. "There was something... I guess slightly telepathic about him." One of his hands wandered to his head, his eyes closed for a moment. "An intelligent creature. And old. Oh so old, Master, you wouldn't believe it." The hand sank down. "Eh, not that you'd care. I'll see if I can make out anything useful from what it left in my head. Don't think that was intentional. Just a little annoying... bit like having a mental tinnitus."

A dark look clouded the Master's face. Once more he stepped in front of the other man, fixating him. "Like you know what I care about," he growled. "And then you run off with everything, not even asking!"

"Asking?" The Doctor huffed. "For what? You want to help saving people? Hardly."

"One thing – the only thing – you're right about. I don't care shit about those humans. But this dragon... You were not the only one laying awake at night, listening to stories about them." The Master lowered his voice. "You're not the only one who knows the spark of excitement at seeing what most haven't." He stepped a little closer, raising his hands to the Doctor's head, but not yet touching him. "And I know so very well how it is to have something in my head."

The other Time Lord swallowed, not averting his gaze. "That's different," he muttered.

"It's not," the Master snarled. "You just like it easy."

The Doctor's gaze hardened, he completely ignored the hands hovering near him. "There is nothing easy about this. I'm running tests on you since years and have found nothing!"

"But you might!" the Master now almost whispered, his tone strangely pleading. "If you would just listen. Only once... Doctor."

His fingers slowly closed around the other one's head. The Doctor's eyes widened slightly and they remained, locked in an eternal second. My own breath caught in my throat, heart thudding rapidly in a weird and vague hope that... The Doctor slapped the hands away and stumbled backwards. His look was defiant and angry.

"Stop that!" he called out. "I'm not listening to anything! Because there is nothing! Nothing!"

Those heavy words hung in the air, hands fell down in defeat. The Doctor spun around and sped away into the depths of the TARDIS.

In the dim light of the control room the humming of engines was the only sound in the otherwise silence. Like in slow motion, the Master turned his back to the control table and slid down to the ground, hands clawing into his hair.

This was all beyond my understanding. Why did the Doctor turn his back at the Master like that? His distress was almost palpable. But then again… only because Time Lord's were telepathic didn't necessarily mean they could feel things like that. Most humans couldn't either, after all.

Hesitantly I stepped forward and dropped to my knees in front of the Master. His eyes were shut tightly, his breath slow and forcefully controlled.

"Hey," I said softly. "You okay?"

The Master's head snapped up, his gaze fixated on me, darkened even further than any madness would have allowed for.

"Do I look okay?" he snarled, eyes pinching shut again. "Bloody drums. Way too loud since days." His hands lowered. "And what are you still doing here? Shouldn't you run and see if your friend is still alive?"

At first I was simply confused at what he meant, but then it sunk in and I gaped at him, not sure what to even feel in this moment. In the end, all I managed to do was to sigh and shake my head slightly.

"Like you said… I barely know him. You two were a little more important."

A small, humourless chuckle came from the Master, his gaze hate-filled. "You also barely know us."

His response hit me straight on. It was almost the same as I had said outside. Great… Using my own words against me. Before I could think of an appropriate response, the Master straightened himself, rose to his knees and grabbed my collar.

"Stop doing that," I protested.

"Oh, I will." There was no smile, no teasing, only a deep darkness that swallowed him whole.

Forcefully he threw me backwards, let me fall to the ground. Only with sheer luck did my head not collide with the floor. He jumped to his feet and glared down at me.

"Get lost," he growled deeply.

"Hey, I only wanted to help."

I tried to sit up, but the Master shoved my hand away with his foot, letting me fall right back.

"You know…" His head tilted a little. "Maybe I should just take back my life force from you." He made a step away, but his eyes never left me.

Is that it?, I wondered, strangely detached from the thought. And still it scared me to know I might die now. Now, where some part inside of me had chosen to…

"Yeah," the Master continued, as if he had heard my thoughts, as if he had come to the same sudden conclusion that went through me like a shiver. "You finally chose to live. What a pity… Because, you see…" Again he shoved my arm away, letting me land back on the ground. "You're pretty useless to me if you stay with those primates."

The Master dropped to his haunches, grabbed my collar once again and tore me into a standing position with him, only to slam my back against the nearest coral pillar. The hard material dug into my skin, the impact made me gasp.

While the stars faded from my vision... I quietly started to laugh, head thudding backwards, lids closed.

"That's hilarious," I mumbled. "No… no… You know what? That's insane."

And insane was the grin that answered. Thumbs pressed against my throat, slowly decimating my air. I didn't struggle, didn't speak another word. He was right… and he was not. But it didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore, did it?

Had it ever? As the air got lesser my body started to react on instinct, pumped my blood more rapidly, begged me to finally take another breath, to fight!

But nothing else happened. The Master kept me in that state of almost dying, made me weirdly aware of the pulse that ran through his veins. The four beats of his hearts, rapid, painful, unbearable. He wanted me to react, to fight, to prove that I wanted to stay with the living. But even though some part in me had chosen so, I simply couldn't bring the rest of me to go along with it. Not when there was silence waiting for me, peace. And an end to all the loneliness that hurt so much more than anything he could ever do to me.

"Master! Let her go! Have you gone mad for good?"

There was air in my lungs again. Suddenly, unexpected. I gasped and stumbled away from the pillar, because there were no hands to hold me in place any longer. The Master only regarded me with his darkest look, while the Doctor dragged him away from me.

"Get lost," the Master growled towards me. "Don't you get it? No one here needs you! No one wants you here!"

"What the hell are you saying there?!" the Doctor squeaked, tearing at his arm. "Stop the nonsense. Of course she is…"

"Oh yeah?" the Master tore himself away and shoved the Doctor roughly against the control table. "You were the one who tried to get rid of her from the very first day. And I no longer have a use for a pet." 

I rubbed my throat and found myself smiling grimly. His words hurt like nothing else ever could, a hot knife slicing through my chest. But at the same time... it came without much surprise. After all, it had only been a matter of time. Same as always. Without even looking at the still fighting Time Lords I simply left. There was a weird little electric nudge, when my hand touched the door, as if at least the TARDIS wanted me to stay, but I ignored it and wasn't hindered any further from leaving the box.

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I returned to the village. The part where the forge had stood was destroyed. Some flames still licked the smoking wood beams, all surrounding snow was melted away. I couldn't find Gerion anywhere, but soon was instead found myself by a woman.

She took me to a long building, where the wounded people were kept. There weren't so many. The forge was situated at the edge of the village and only a few had been around. Here I found Gerion, a bandage around his head and unconscious.

"He will live," the woman told with a sad smile. "There is nothing you can do now. But if you want to help, there are others." 

I nodded and lent a hand as good as I could. After that I went outside with some of the men to put out whatever fires were still lingering. No one asked about me, a stranger among them. The help was appreciated, though, and it kept me from thinking until I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around. 

"Now you know," was all Ivar mumbled. "We're facing something not even axes and swords can fight. We tried, believe me." 

"I do." I nodded and was glad to see him alive and well. He probably had been out hunting all day. "I… I saw in which direction the dragon vanished…" 

Ivar arched a brow and finally smiled. "It would only eat you." 

I shrugged numbly, sensing all the repressed feelings from before coming back.

"Doesn't matter... if I'm alive or not… same difference. But maybe I can at least be of help. For once. Maybe…" A weak smile appeared on my face. "If humans and... others have no place for me, maybe the gods want me in their halls if I prove to be worthy of it."

Ivar fixated me with his warm blue eyes, thoughtfully. He lay an arm around my shoulders and guided me away, not speaking a word until we reached his place. Inside he started a fire to dispel the dark and the cold.

"Tomorrow," he finally said. "The earl said we will fight when the dragon dares to attack again. And now it has."

"Then I will join the hunt. Don't even try to talk me out of it."

"I would never." Ivar chuckled and enveloped me in his strong arms.

I wrapped my own around him, feeling all the tension melt away from my heart. Despite the still cold air it was so warm, comforting, to just stand there, feeling another living being so close. My hands clawed into his jacket, my head buried at his chest. This wasn't real – I knew it all too well. But in that moment it was all I had, and maybe also everything I would ever get.

Back to index


Chapter 43: Chapter 42

This night I sat by the fire with Ivar for a long time. There was no way to properly tell him what had happened, so I probed him for stories of his own, instead. There were many stories I knew and of which I told the end to the beginning, or a part in-between. Ivar had fun testing my knowledge and was astounded to find it quite rich. A fact that only existed because I used to be a little obsessed with paganism and Norse mythology.

There were, however, also a lot of details he knew differently, and even a few tales I had never heard of. But, whenever it was his turn to ask for stories from the place I came from, I declined, which probably let me seem more mysterious than I was.

Then again was time travel really not a subject to reveal here.

We talked until my eyes fell shut and until I found myself unable to stay awake for even a second longer.

"I don't want to sleep," I grumbled sleepily when Ivar guided me to the bed.

"I'm noticing," was his softly amused reply. He still managed to gently push me down and wrap a blanket around me, before he snuggled himself under it. "You're afraid of something, aren't you?"

I sighed and nestled against him. "I don't want to dream again. Each time I do, it seems my life deteriorates a little more. And they scare me… The things I feel then."

"I see." His voice was soft and he pressed a warm kiss to my forehead. "Don't be afraid. Whatever happens, just remember that you're not alone, will you?"

I hummed, but neither agreed nor declined. What was there to say anyway? Because the thing was… No matter the temporary comfort… In the end he was wrong.

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Morning came way too early, making me regret the long night. It also made me aware that there had been no dreams, this time. None I could remember at least.

Besides, this period in history wore a depressing lack of coffee.

Shortly after sunrise everyone met in the mead hall. Here I saw the settlement's earl for the first time. A thin but muscular man, tall and with a thick red beard. He sat on his wooden throne at the upper end of the hall, fingers steepled, eyes observing.

There was lots of chit chat, the mood was tense and excited at the same time. I wasn't sure whether to be surprised or not to also find the Doctor among them. He had wanted to look further into the dragon, after all.

And he was alone.

The realisation sent a little sting through my chest and I inwardly scolded myself for it. The Master had made it very clear that he didn't want me any longer. And the Doctor hadn't want me from the very beginning.

I made sure to avoid him, although our eyes met a few times. There was no chance to talk, however, because the earl now spoke up. His voice was rough, but pleasant.

"Fafnir came again," he started. "And I am not a man to sit around, awaiting death. I assume you share this trait."

Loud murmuring went through the hall, heads were nodded, axes and bows raised in agreement.

"Good… good." The earl rose and stepped down to the rest of us. "We know vaguely in which direction the dragon vanishes. I will send someone to search for tracks and find out all about his hideout. It is an important task. We need as many information as possible, before we attack." The tall man stepped amongst the people and lay a hand on top of a boy's head, smiling down at him. "We need to keep our families safe. But we must not storm to battle unprepared, we must not risk our sons losing their fathers unnecessarily."

"I will go." Ivar stepped forward. "I know these forests and hills like no other here."

The earl turned to him and nodded his head. "Ivar, the fruitless." Some men laughed, but the earl raised his hand to silence them. "Running around in all this snow must be what froze your seed." Again some laughed.

I looked up at the hunter. Was that why he was on his own still? In these times children were as valuable as gold. Not being able to have some was like... well... what they thought of him was clear from their behaviour. However, the earl interrupted their taunting quickly.

"You are right, Ivar. There is no better man for this than you and your bow. Take whomever wants to follow and be back by dawn. We will prepare and head out by midnight."

Ivar turned back and lay a hand on my shoulder. "Come along?"

I nodded eagerly and followed outside, catching some glimpses of questioning looks and snippets of what the earl told about preparations. It didn't take long and the Doctor also joined us, appearing seemingly out of nowhere.

"Now, espial is more my cuppa," he happily started to talk. "All they speak about in there is fighting and Valhalla and stuff... Err... it's okay with you two, isn't it?"

"Okay?" Ivar arched a brow. "Is that even a word? But if it means what I suppose, then yes, come along, Laeknir. More eyes see better."

We left the village behind us quickly and followed a worn path into the nearby woods. Ivar tossed a glance at me and gnawed on his lip.

"What's bothering you?" I finally asked.

He sighed and his shoulders slumped a little. "I... Well, I should apologize."

"What for?"

"Because... You know why."

I huffed and laughed a little, shaking my head. "Honestly, I have not the slightest idea, Ivar. Come on, tell me."

"Really not? Huh, alright... Uhm..." Ivar hopped over a stone and pointed at the next path we would follow. "About what the earl said."

My eyes were mostly glued to the ground so I wouldn't stumble, but now I looked up. "Won't we be back by dawn?"

"No. The other thing. I... had a wife some years ago. But she was never with child and so she left, and with her new husband... well... she hadn't been the problem."

I shrugged. "So? What do I care?"

"What do you..." Ivar stopped in his tracks and observed me. "I asked you to stay. And didn't even tell you."

Surprised I glared at him, then my mouth dropped open as I understood. Well, of course, would I chose to stay it would also mean... well, crap. My face got warm and I totally was at a loss for words, making Ivar even more uncomfortable. The Doctor also was no help, running around with his screwdriver and scanning every tree and bush and dung pile he could find.

Ivar coughed. "That's why. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked and..."

"Wait, stop." I held a hand out to signal him to be quiet. "I'm certainly not mad because of that." A smile spread on my lips. "Seriously, I never wanted children. And I'd be the absolute worst as a mother. I mean it. Maybe not as bad as my own, but still."

"Oi, don't be so hard on yourself," the Doctor's voice suddenly appeared next to me, making me jump a little. "Being a parent is hard, sure, but..."

"Oh, be quiet, Doctor," I hissed. "As if you'd know."

He closed his opened mouth and pursed his lips, looking as if he had to say a lot more about this.

"Listen," I snapped at him, "I know you try to get rid of me, but if I stay here or not is my decision. And mine alone."

"I didn't want to... It wasn't meant that way," he whined. "I'm just trying to help. But fine, if you don't need and want advice..." He shook his head and marched away, examining some deep scratch marks on a tree.

"Those are from a bear, not the dragon," Ivar mumbled amused and turned back to me. "Well, I don't understand your reasons, but it does make me happy that this won't interfere with your decision."

By all gods in all nine worlds! How could he smile so adorably! That was inhuman. And unfair. So, so horribly unfair. With a small grin I followed him, scolding myself for behaving like this. It really wasn't appropriate to have an obvious crush on a person who lived centuries before me! Well, it didn't matter that much, honestly, but still.

My grin dropped. I was just doing this all over again, this stupid thing to cling to whomever offered me some comfort. It wouldn't last anyway. And the moment he would lose interest in me, I'd be stuck in this time and place forever.

Facing a dragon was the absolutely better option here.

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The hike was long, not because of the distance, but because we had to climb some pretty steep rocks. Snow and ice made it all the more difficult and I was glad not to be alone on the path. My clumsiness wasn't much help here, but somehow I managed without too much trouble.

The sun shimmered in the clear sky and still hung low near the horizon, as if she were shy and wouldn't want to come out, fully. There wouldn't be much more light, this day. Yule was near, nights were long.

"There," Ivar spoke up, breaking the silence. He pointed at an elevation roughly a hundred meters away, a formation of stone that loomed slightly over the landscape. I couldn't see much, but it seemed as if there was a cave behind it. "Truth be told, I have been nearby already. I saw the dragon land in here, but didn't investigate further."

"So, what will we do now?" The Doctor bent left and right, trying to get a good view at the cave. "Can't just run in and literally poke the dragon, I presume." He chuckled at his own joke and turned to face us.

"No." Ivar shook his head. "You two will stay exactly here, where you have a good view. And I go and search for the best path to enter the hideout. We must find it in the dark and more than one at a time should be able to enter... either that or we have to lure it out and"- He quickly looked over the surroundings.- "There should be an open space nearby. I'm back soon. Whistle sharp when you see the dragon. He usually returns by night, but I still want to make sure."

With that he strode away, swift and skilled, hopping and climbing over roots and stones. The silence didn't last long, the Doctor didn't run off to scan anything. Instead he leaned with folded arms against the rocks, his look serious.

"I meant it," he assured softly. "I'm not trying to get rid of you. I didn't want you aboard, that's true. But-" he interrupted my protest with a hand-wave, "- that was because I was scared the Master would harm you. Which, as it turned out, wasn't without reason."

My eyes dropped to the ground for a moment, only to snap back up to keep the cave in sight. The Master had indeed hurt me, although in a different way than only physically.

"He... didn't mean it," the Doctor mumbled. "I don't know what's wrong with him. I tried so many things... There is just so much rage and hatred in him. It never stops, never has. Not in all those centuries, not in the years since he is with me."

I huffed and shook my head. "Maybe you should start with the basics, then. Do what he asks of you." Only for a short moment did I take my eyes off the cave, to throw him a dark glare. "What would you lose by listening? You're a Time Lord, too. Maybe you could hear his drums."

The Doctor sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. I resumed watching the cave.

"Do you know where they come from?" the Doctor asked.

"No. He hasn't told it."

"That's... ugh... no, that's not on me to tell, then. Let me just say... the way he got it is an indicator in itself that the drums aren't real. Can't be. It happens. People go mad, have it much worse even. He just doesn't want to accept it. And even if I would listen... there wouldn't be anything. And yes... since I am a Time Lord, he would not believe a word would I tell him that I can't hear the slightest thing."

He probably had a point there, but to me it seemed unnecessarily cruel anyway. Not that this was my problem any longer.

"If he is as mad as you claim," I numbly said, "then why do you assume he isn't the arse as which he behaves?"

The Doctor rubbed his neck and sighed. "Because he was mad at me, not you. You were just… In the way. Wrong moment, wrong place."

"Don't think that's all." His anger had started before that, but the Doctor couldn't know. "Doesn't matter. Hadn't planned on coming back."

"Oh…"

"I found a good spot!" Ivar appeared from a rock directly above us, wearing a satisfied smile. "The cave is enormous and we can enter from three sides. We can lay an ambush and then fight him in the belly of the cave, where he can't fly away."

"but if it spits fire…" I objected.

"That might be an issue, yes. But I think his survival instincts will prevent that. I know many beast and none of them risk their lives on purpose."

"That isn't just some beast," the Doctor mumbled. "There is an intelligence… with telepathic skills of some kind. Couldn't decipher anything, though."

"No idea what you are talking about." Ivar sat on the stone and let his feet dangle. "If you have any better idea, go ahead and tell."

"I will search the cave. Maybe there are hints… traces."

"Done that already. But if you want. I won't stop you."

The Doctor nodded and strode away to a spot where he could climb up to the cave. It didn't take long and he had vanished inside. A few minutes passed in silence, before the Time Lord reappeared, but he took more time to squander around the entrance.

Ivar let his eyes wander down to me, smiled and hopped down, landing by my side in a silky movement.

"Are you sure you want to fight?" he asked softly. "I won't stop you. But it is important to be aware that none of us might survive against a foe like that."

"I am aware," I mumbled, lowering my head. "And I accept it."

Ivar nodded, his face serious. The Doctor approached us with a face that told clearly he hadn't found a useful thing.

"I don't like this," he grumbled. "I don't like this at all. Bloodshed is never a good option."

"It is the only option we have." Ivar fixated him with a stern look. "We gave the dragon enough chances to survive. But now it is either him or our whole village. And you will understand that we chose to survive. I'm sure of that."

The Doctor sighed and tossed a glance back at the cave.

"Yeah… but I still don't like it."

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Chapter 44: Chapter 43

Author's Notes: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
*breathes out*
Fighting scenes are so damn hard to write! Q_Q

So... I hope you enjoy this chapter. It almost broke me! AHhhhhhhhhh! xDDD


There was time to prepare, time to rest, to eat. The Doctor vanished as soon as we returned, wanting to have nothing to do with the slaughter of such a probably ancient creature. But Ivar was right. Either the dragon or the whole settlement had to perish. The choice was easy. For them.

For me…

"I'm still curious, Roka." Ivar sat next to me, watching the stars. Soon we would venture out. "Why do you risk your life for us?"

I sighed, not taking my eyes off the sky. "'m not," I mumbled and my thumb slid over my wrist. "Once I made a decision. It feels like months have passed already, but it's actually only a few days."

Ivar took my hand and looked at the scar. His eyebrow shot up questioningly, but I had a hunch he knew where it came from.

"That healed fast. Why…" He interrupted himself and shook his head. "Sorry. That's none of my business."

"I'm fighting for a selfish reason. I can't stand it. Being lonely all the time."

"Wouldn't that be a good reason to stay?" He nudged me with his shoulder and smiled warmly.

"Yeah…" I smiled back, leaning against him a little. "But Ivar… It seems that I am cursed. It has to be. One way or the other."

"Why do you think that?"

Cold evidence. Even when looking at it from an objective view, even when I sat aside all emotions, the facts still stayed the same.

"Without a single exception, people always leave me. No matter how often they tell me how much they love me, how much they value our friendship, or whatever else they say. Sooner or later they leave me behind. Even when I do my best to be a good friend or a good partner, even when I give more than I get back. One day or the other people just... vanish, stop speaking to me, turn their back or even get hostile, even if nothing has changed."

Ivar hummed thoughtfully." And you think I will leave you too." It was a statement, not a question.

"It appears to be inevitable." I glared at the stars, eyes filled with tears. They stung, but wouldn't flow, so I blinked them away. "I can't fight. I probably won't survive the dragon. But it's an honourable death. That's ought to be worth something, shouldn't it? And should I survive nonetheless… Maybe that's a good sign, who knows…" I peeked at Ivar. "You're not trying to stop me. Why is that?"

There it was again, this warm smile. It made my heart ache. Ivar leaned to me, took my chin between his fingers and breathed a small kiss to my lips. "No man, nor spirit, nor god has the right to deny you your choices," he spoke softly.

I huffed, feeling a blush creep up my neck. Maybe it would be worth the risk. Just one more try. Once more offering my trust, my splintered heart. Even if it would end all the same, there would be time to think about the after when it actually occurred. Maybe this dragon was a trial, the ultimate way to determine my path.

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We split in three groups. One coming from near the entrance, the other two from different paths within the cave. We walked through almost darkness, had only a few candles to illuminate the narrow way. Too narrow for torches.

I stayed close to Ivar, my hand gripping the knob of my short sword. The earl himself had given it to me after hearing that I, a stranger, was willing to fight alongside his people. After all, who would let the chance slip to face such an opponent?

Aside the two of us there were three others. None spoke a word, not wanting to alarm the dragon before the time. Eventually the woman in front of us gestured to something and I could make out a spot that was darker than the rest. Another entrance.

We had arrived.

Tension spread between everyone, my own heart beat a lot faster in anticipation, not even willing to calm when Ivar gave me reassuring smile. Instead my grip only got a little tighter, as if this sword was the only thing still clinging me to reality. This was insane, wasn’t it? I had no idea how to fight, was physically weak and mentally unprepared. I had ran into my certain death – again. But this time there was nothing calm about it.

The woman gave a short hand signal and everyone poured into the cave. I followed, then stopped abruptly as a hand was suddenly on my shoulder, gripping me so hard that I couldn't move any longer.

Perplex I turned, but couldn't make out anything in the darkness the missing candles had left behind. From ahead I heard a scream and a roar. Metal against scales.

"Let go!" I demanded.

"So you can run in there and let yourself be killed?" The voice was familiar, slightly distorted in the cave, but recognizable enough. "You still have my life force."

How had he even gotten here? Even in the dim candle light everyone had been visible clearly. I would have seen him the whole way here. But that hardly mattered now. The sounds of fighting rang to my ears, heavy steps let the ground shake, roars filled the air. The dragon was awake.

"Screw you!" I called out. "You can't throw me away and then demand anything. Let go!" I tore myself away. Why I managed was a mystery in itself, but I took the opportunity to simply run.

There was fire in the cave, licking at torches on the ground to illuminate the enormous cavern we stood in. It was huge enough to almost fit a small church. Stalactites hung from the ceiling and grew on the ground where the dragon hadn’t swiped them away. Vaguely I could make out more entrances that might lead outside or deeper inside the cave. The rest of the warriors must have come through those.

Warriors with the spirit to fight to their deaths to defend home and kin, fearlessly facing a monster they only knew from tales. They were almost tiny in comparison to the black nightmare that was the dragon himself. Even on all fours he was enormous, cautiously treading up and down and in a weird circle. He observed his attackers, tried to find a way to fight in this space that was huge, but still too small to fly or to spit fire in.

Immediately I saw that the attack had been a bad idea. The dragon couldn’t keep all humans in his line of sight at once and those that felt secure enough lunged one attack after the other.

None of them left as much as a dent in the dragon’s shimmering scales. Not sword, not axe, not fist or boot could leave a mark. Whatever those scales were made of, it was sturdy and impenetrable. In the weird, flickering light they gave off a beautiful shine.

The monster turned on the spot, swished a handful of men away and against a cavern wall, where they lay still and unmoving. Some arrows thudded against the thick leather of the wings, uselessly falling to the ground. A torch flew, landed on the beast's head, right as it let out another roar. Sharp fangs smashed the wood into tiny splinters, devoured the flames.

The dragon rose to his hind legs, spread the enormous wings to almost fill out the entire cavern. Everyone ducked away, tried to get out of the creature's reach. The head tilted back as if it were about to spit a fireball, but the movement never quite finished. Instead the creature was startled and roared, pain-stricken, stumbled – and finally crashed to the ground.

Right in front of me.

Without even thinking about it I had already drawn my sword and had moved to keep the dragon's head in my sight. A bad idea, considering where it had brought me. The ground shook as the enormous body landed ungracefully, slithering over gravel. Angrily the head shook and the eyes – those purple pits of glowing ember – they stared at me, truly saw me.

I gripped the sword with two hands, holding it in front of me. How I felt in that moment is impossible to describe. It wasn't fear, it wasn't panic. Something deeply rooted within my subconsciousness stirred, let my heart-rate skyrocket and my breath tremble. The maw opened, long teeth blinking in the orange light, slowly closed again and moved closer, sniffing. It was so close, its head as big as myself.

There was a strange pressure in my head as it came closer, almost similar to what I felt when the Master didn't tone his psychic abilities down and... Could it be? Through all the trembling and the paralysis of my body I somehow still managed to take one hand off the sword, hesitantly reaching it out to brush my finger tips over tiny, delicate scales. Such beautiful scales.

The purple eyes closed as did mine and deep rumbling noise went through the dragon.

Time stood still.

My hand resting on the hot, black snout, an impression of something far older than I could even imagine, an image of what might be a nest. And suddenly... I felt pain. A hot searing pain that burnt through my flesh and muscles, led blood gush out of a hole between my scales, let the insides of my body melt in an agonizing...

I gasped, stumbled backwards, realized it hadn’t been my own body that was injured. I saw the dragon flailing, trying to make out from where the beams of laser came that burnt its flesh, the only weapon that could actually hurt it. I shook my head, glanced around, but couldn't see the Master. Was he using the same trick the Doctor had used the day before?

I heard screams, but none of pain or defeat, but of joy. Some of the warriors were chasing at the dragon again, hitting their weapons at the wounded spots. An arrow hit right into a bleeding hole, making the beast roar in agony and swipe its tail around. Something hit a wall nearby, my eyes followed the sound and then, only then, could I see the Master, sagging down against the stone, a small broken device next to him.

He didn't seem wounded, only shook. I ran over to him, but got completely ignored. His eyes were glued to the dragon – and the tiny object below its feet. My gaze followed and I saw what lay there. The laser screwdriver. Without it we were almost helpless.

A chuckle made me look next to me. The Master grinned from ear to ear. "Oh, I always wanted to fight a dragon!" he cheered. "Such an exciting foe. Too bad I couldn't hit his heart." He tilted his head, watched the others fight. "Perception filter broken, laser out of reach... Let's get out of here and-"

"I'll get it," I decided.

And before the Master could hold me back, I rushed away, sword still in one hand, trying to evade the flailing limbs and wings of the dragon. Was it the adrenalin, or witnessing the small advantage we had gained and the thereout resulting enthusiasm of the others? Was my urge to die in battle so strong? I didn’t know, didn’t have time to think about it. Something in me drove me to action, let me run faster than I probably had in years.

But not secure enough. The ground was uneven, stones lay strewn around amongst broken stalagmites. Somewhere I stumbled, fell with a yelp that got interrupted as I crashed to the ground, feeling all air getting pushed out of my lungs for a moment. My hands scraped over stone, got scraped up. The weapon slithered away, drew the creatures attention to me.

It turned, towered above me as I scrambled up to my knees. A step of the huge hind legs let the ground tremble and I fell to my bum, crawling away backwards as the creature approached. As if everyone else and even the pain was suddenly unimportant, the dragon directed his whole attention to me, his movements quick and agile. Black wings closed around me as he towered there, mouth hovering right in front of my face, the purple eyes boring into mine.

Again I felt it. A tug at my mind, an attempt to communicate? It didn’t feel intentional, however. My whole body trembled from whatever the creature emanated. And yes, in that moment I was scared. Not even for my life, but for something I couldn’t even name. The dragon carefully nudged my forehead and... Black smoke engulfed my vision, the sound of wings filled my ears. Grey waves crashed against wood and cloth. The roars of thunder rolled over the ocean, accompanied by the screeches of two ravens.

I gasped. None of it was real, the vision not even a vision, but drawn out memories of the dream from recently. How had he done that?

I heard people shout, heard the sound of metal against scales and saw the dragon wince in pain several times. Finally the attempts to get his attention worked and I exhaled deeply as the creature turned away. Shaking I tried to stand up and my hand brushed something.

The laser screwdriver.

"Toss it!"

The Master's voice came from nearby, close. I stumbled to my feet and threw the device, saw the Master catch it quickly and point it at the dragon in the same movement. It screamed as more beams hit it one after the other. Blood gushed out of several wounds, dripped from its maw to leave red puddles on the ground. Or was it a dark purple?

I found my sword again, not sure if it was even needed. But already the dragon latched out once again, took every last strength to chase at the Master. He ran away, shot more bleeding holes into the scales. One even right into the chest.

The dragon screamed in a high pitched noise, made everyone who was still standing cover their ears. The creature was barely able to spread the enormous wings anymore, with too many arrows piercing the muscles by now. Limping and with its mouth hanging open slightly, the dragon came close to the Master, growled deeply. The Time Lord stopped moving, only stretched out his hand, pointed his laser. A scene for a painting, I thought fascinated and sad at the same time. This fight wouldn’t last much longer.

With the last of his strength the dragon suddenly chased after the Master once again, teeth blinking, purple glowing rage. I was out of the way and still close, standing almost between them. So damn close. I can stop it, came an insane thought. If I could manage to hit that wound the laser had left at the chest. If I could… I already did. Somehow I moved, didn't know why or how, but I ran. The Master shouted something I couldn't hear and didn't care about. The dragon would shred him to pieces, superior biology or not. So why didn't the bloody idiot move away? The dragon approached with two thundering steps, the massive body right in front of me, my sword rose, gripped tightly with two hands. With all the strength I could muster I rammed it forward, somehow hit the right spot and felt the blade sink into flesh. Hot muscles above, black leathery wings to both sides. Something hit me, let me crash to the ground. The dragon collapsed, let out a mournful whale and…

Blackness. Eternal, timeless. Nothing existed and would ever do. Only them. Wings and smoke and travellers, unaware, waiting, sleeping. Waves crashed against the shores, smoke rose into the sky. Black ink soaked velvet scales. A voice, hundreds of voices without words. Purple blood dripped upwards through an hour glass, sand ran down the carcass of a broken skeleton. Something burned, flames danced through a desert of obsidian. There was a heartbeat, slowly dying. There was a second one, faint and small, not yet ready to hatch. There was something heavy, hot and dripping, laying on my chest, taking all air from my lungs.

My eyes snapped open only to reveal a mass of black scales. I couldn't move, almost all of my body being pinned down. There were people calling something. Then silence. Or maybe everything was just muffled.

Slowly I realized that I lay buried underneath the dead monstrosity, that the vision I had seen must have been the last dying thoughts of the dragon. A plea without words. I wasn’t sure what it meant, was confused why the dragon had never attacked me directly. I tried to move, reached my hands up in the tiny gap between me and the body, pushed against it. There was still heat in the creature, almost burning my skin at the touch.

Then it moved. And for the shortest of moments I was sure it would heave itself up now and end what it had started with me. But the movement wasn't its own. Again I heard muffled voices, realized just how silent it was under the dead creature. Only when a small gap was created did all the impressions storm back to me in a rush. Light, colour, sound, cold air.

Hands gripped me under the arms, pulled me out, slowly, careful not to hurt me. I was dragged in a half sitting position, leaning against someone. My sight was blurred on one eye and it was hard to make out things around me like that. One of the contact lenses must have fallen out.

"Can you move?" someone asked.

"Y…Yeah. I think so."

The hands vanished and I somehow stumbled to my feet. Everything spun and hurt. I let out a small groan and held my head, looked up and startled.

Everyone was watching me.

I blinked and gaped at the small crowd. Some were clearly hurt, stood supported by others, but no one seemed dead or seriously wounded. Ivar was among them, the widest grin on his face when he rose his bow. The others followed his example, weapons were raised and everyone together let out a triumphant cry of victory.

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Chapter 45: Chapter 44

Wide eyed I stared at the small crowd of men and women who celebrated our victory. I saw several wounds and shred armour and clothes, but all of them smiled and yelled and it was just contagious. A laugh bubbled up in my chest, I raised my fist and let out a cry myself, grinning from ear to ear.

Ivar ran over, hugged me tight and even lifted me from the ground. "By all gods, Roka! I thought you had been crushed!" He laughed and sat me back to the ground, looked behind me. "If it hadn't been for Erik's help we couldn't have moved the corpse enough."

I turned and needed a moment to adjust my eyes, due to the one missing contact lens. But then I saw who had helped me up. The Master stood there, glaring at Ivar with barely contained hatred. His look landed on me, got even worse for a second, before he simply stormed past us and vanished behind the dragon's corpse.

My heart dropped painfully. Even after we had fought together he still left me behind like that, without even a word or explanation. It hurt more than all the scrapes and scratches on my body.

"Let's get out and inform the others," one man spoke up, referring to the backup group that had stayed outside. For both cases, to inform the settlement if we lost, or to help get the dragon's corpse out of the cave if we won. "And get our injured people patched up."

For the most part I stayed silent on our way back, barely noticing the pain from my wounds. None of them stung as much as my heart did. I knew it shouldn't, knew it was stupid and inappropriate to be so down. But it was no help.

"You alright?" Ivar asked eventually.

I hummed. "Just exhausted," I half lied.

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The Doctor was in the settlement, awaiting our return eagerly. It seemed he had annoyed at least half a dozen people with his fidgeting by now, but a group of children was surrounding him, begging him for more stories when I came in hearing distance.

"Maybe later," he promised with a smile and searched our little crowd with his eyes. They landed on me for a brief moment, but quickly darted further and his face became worried.

"He's still alive," I mumbled towards him. "Probably stealing some dragon teeth or whatever."

The Doctor let out a relieved sigh and rubbed a hand over his face. "I have no idea how he managed to leave the TARDIS. I wanted to fly off, but then he wasn't there anymore and..."

I blinked at him, once, twice. I shouldn't feel so disappointed, I just shouldn't. After all, I myself had told him I didn't want to return. So why did it hurt so much to hear he had been leaving so soon? And without even saying goodbye. All he seemed to care about was to get his prisoner back into his chains and then... Whatever it was he was actually doing.

I swallowed down all my feelings and gave him a weak smile. "Just so you know. He saved us all. Without his laser screwdriver none of us could have defeated the dragon."

The Doctor's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open to form a silent 'o'. Not that it would change anything, but maybe... Why did I even care? For a second I truly hated myself for still trying. The Master wouldn't thank me, wouldn't ever learn that I had told this. And even if...

By the light of the next day they'd long be far away.

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It was impossible to find rest this night, and maybe it was for the better. Surely there were more weird dreams lurking in the depths of my mind. If not about waves and ravens, then about things I didn't want to think about.

How I would live from now on, how I would fit in - or not. Where I even was supposed to stay. Would I need to build my own home? There was enough space in the burnt ruins. For the night I had settled in the guest house again, had managed to make a fire after some attempts, had watched until the flames had died down to embers, then ignited another few logs so I wouldn't freeze in bed.

A nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach made me hope someone would knock, would just ask where and how I was. Maybe Ivar would come. To celebrate our victory, to see if I was injured, to simply be there, where everyone else had left.

But no one came.

It wasn't surprising, really.

With the first rays of sunlight I climbed out from under the pelts, got myself clean and slipped into the only clothes I now possessed, although they were quite dirty and had stains of my and the dragon's blood on them. Well, better than nothing. I could hide the worst under the pelt cloak the Master had given to... I scowled and almost threw it away, but then decided against it. Outside the temperatures were still freezing cold.

I also made sure to clean all wounds I could find. Most of them were only scratches and scraped off skin. Nothing to be concerned about. Only the two long, deep scratches that stretched over my right side looked nasty. In the ruckus of the fight I hadn't even noticed that the dragon had caught me once. Only after I had calmed down had I noticed a pain at this spot. It was hard to bandage them properly, but that didn't matter much.

A bigger vexation was the missing contact lens. Only seeing sharp on one eye made my head dizzy and I saw worse than had I gone blind on that site. A few strings and a patch of leather would do. For now. What would happen to me when the second lens got lost? This was something I hadn't thought about.

Without some sort of optical aid, I'd soon be a cripple in this world.

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Over night they had brought the dragon's corpse into the settlement, had spread it out on the field where Gerion's forge had once stood. The icy temperatures preserved the body well, although there would not be much left of it for long. Men and women were busy cutting flesh out of the belly, the once strong legs and the tail. Some sat around a small fire, chewing on portions of it. When I came closer someone offered me a piece and, curious as I was, I tried it. The taste was strong and reminded of venison. A bit of salt and herbs and this would be truly amazing to feast on. Something the people here were clearly planning to do. Others were busy dissecting the scales and claws, teeth and other parts. The scales were still unbreakable for their weapons, but now they could take them apart and collect each separately. It made me wonder if traces of them would remain into my own time. Had we changed history? Would those be found in all the places they visited from now on to trade with them? Here I also found Ivar, busy observing every piece of the carcass he could lay his hands on. I didn't ask if he had been sleeping or not. It was none of my business. His question regarding my eye-patch stayed mostly unanswered. I only assured that it wasn't a wound and he was too occupied to ask further questions. I decided not to bother him further and went to stroll along the shore, got lost in thoughts I couldn't recall afterwards.
________________________________________________
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At the peak of dawn I returned to the settlement, mind mostly empty, numb. But as soon as people saw me I got torn out of the stupor. Someone waved me over, grabbed my arm with a wide grin and led me to a large space in the middle of the village. Here everyone had gathered around an enormous fire. The dragon's head decorated the space and everyone who had fought against him stood around the head.

They pushed me towards it to be there with the others. Many cheered when they saw me and my heart fluttered surprised at so much attention. There was music, singing, laughter.

And I remembered that it was the night of Yule.

Winter Solstice.

Something within me vibrated with the drums and the strings that filled the air, resonated with the laughter and light-heartedness of people. A smile tugged on my lips.

This was a night of magic. One to drown all sorrow and forget about the future, the past. Nothing mattered but the very moment.

The earl stepped forward, followed by a boy and a girl, maybe ten years old. Both wore folded pelts in their arms with metal objects on them. I couldn't make out what it exactly was. We all had to stand around the dragon's head now, facing away from it and into the crowd of villagers.

After lots and lots of cheers they eventually quieted down, respecting the earl's raised hand. A proud smile graced his weather hardened features.

"The great dragon has tyrannized us for long enough. The bravest among you ventured out to make an end to this. And not only did you succeed, you also came back alive. All of you!" The crowd cheered and I saw more than one giddy grin on my companions' faces. "Each and every one of you will be known as a warrior, as an honoured presence among us. Your children and children's children will sing songs and tell stories of this day." He waved his hand towards the boy and the girl so they would come closer. "Our craftsmen have used the day to make these for you. Wear them with pride. You've earned them well."

The earl took one object after the other and attached it to the clothes of each of us. When he came to me I saw it was a brooch to hold together cloaks. The metal was delicately carved with runes and each brooch was decorated with one of the thin, sharp teeth of the dragon.

"You are a stranger and still fought alongside my warriors," the earl spoke. "And you even landed the final blow, as I got told. I thank you in the name of my village. Be an honoured guest for as long as you wish."

I nodded respectfully and my chest swelled with pride as I glanced down at the brooch. Never in my life had I gotten something as valuable as this. It was a sign of victory, one of bravery and... I glared up at the sky, admiring the stars. No, I hadn't been brave. Only tired of living. But that wasn't something anyone would want to hear.

A night of magic.

Yule.

Nothing else was important now and I tried my best to get lost in the night. Someone pushed a mead filled horn into my hands and I drank, enjoying the sweet taste. There was plenty of alcohol and food. Enough to sate even the last hungry soul.

I saw a figure spring up all of a sudden, raising a huge piece of the dragon's tail into the air. People tried to keep him from it, but he just ran away, triumphantly laughing.

I saw people dancing to strange, hypnotic drumbeats and other instruments. A girl, surely not older than twenty grabbed my hand and made me dance with her. Luckily there was no set rhythm to it, we only moved how the music guided us and laughed and fooled around for a bit. Never before had I been one for dancing, had always stayed away from parties and other too loud places, but here it felt natural, unforced.

There was more mead and I would probably suffer a terrible headache from it in the morning. But that didn't matter now.

Later I found Ivar, surrounded by a handful of women, who all wanted to hear of his role in the fight, eyes wide and interested. Not in the story, though.

Ivar saw me approach and nodded in my direction.

"Hey, there's another hero!" he called out grinning.

A young, blond woman raised her voice. "What? You let that boy really fight against such a monster?"

Right, of course they thought me a boy. My looks and clothes were nothing even close to what they wore. Not that I wanted to change attire, but somehow it now bugged me that they didn't see me as a woman. Maybe I simply should tell, and already I opened my mouth, but got interrupted by Ivar, who lay an arm around my shoulders, grin wide.

"Sure. He wouldn't listen. You know how the young ones are." He winked at me and chuckled.

I wanted to protest, wanted to tell him I didn't care if anyone would know. But then he gave me a barely noticeable headshake and his eyes nodded towards the crowd of admires.

Why, of course. He wanted to use the newly gained attention when, before, he hadn't been a target for it. A small, nasty sting sat in my chest at the realisation.

"I'm older than I look," I therefore told with a scowl "And I'm not a-"

"Hey! Fifteen isn't old." Ivar laughed and nudged me playfully. He clearly intended to keep the silly disguise intact.

I gritted my teeth and tried not to let show what I thought of this. Should I hide who I was for the rest of my life? That couldn't be the plan. But whatever it was, I would not learn of it. Another woman grabbed his arm and tugged him into the crowd, asking for a dance to the wild music.

Ivar only shrugged, smiling impishly and let himself be dragged away.

I didn't feel anything at that moment. It was just… how it was. How it always was. The nights before he had sought comfort in me as much as I had in him. Because no one else had paid attention or shown interest. Now he got both. And I wasn't important anymore. Just like always.

A night of magic.

I huffed and got more mead. Should my head hurt all it wanted. For those next hours I didn't want to know of anything anymore. Maybe I'd be lucky and freeze in some ditch while being unconscious.

It was hard to keep my mind quiet, however. Alcohol had never helped much with that, neither did it now.

The evening grew colder, the hours passed by. It probably was around midnight when most of the people either went home or gathered in the large mead hall to continue their festivity. I left after not much time, unable to stand so much noise and heat and all the different impressions that washed over me in a compressed mass in there.

I didn't mind the cold, wanted to see the stars. There were several exits to the hall and I sat down on the stairs by the most secluded one. My hands clutched the sawn off horn in them. The mead in it was hot and also had an addition of berries to it. From time to time I took a small sip, enjoying the strange taste.

So... here I was. Among people I didn't know, in a time that wasn't my own, all alone and without a proper place to stay or the means for the day to day life here. I tapped against my eye patch and sighed. My time here was very limited, I realized. One way or the other. Being almost blind would render me completely useless here. A cripple.

People tend to picture these times as romantic, but in truth it was harsh and unforgiving. Could you not fight for yourself you were lost, discarded even. Because no one had the resources to have you be a burden. And I was a stranger to them.

It didn't matter.

What had been done once could be repeated. And this time there was no alien popping up to prevent me from it.

The thought was as cold and dry as the last time. Maybe even more so. I had seen the unfathomable, I had had the opportunity to go to places no one else in my time would ever visit. And for that I was grateful, content even.

Somehow, in that moment, I came to realize how many old people must feel, when they sensed their end coming closer. Looking back over their lives, remembering only the good, no matter how much bad there had been. A story... it was all that would remain of me. And that actually was a good thing.

As I gazed up at the sky, hands around the warm horn, a light appeared in the sky, slowly spreading over the velvet cloak of blackness, stretching across the stars like a road. Or maybe... like the rainbow bridge Bifröst, that led to the world of the gods.

The aurora hung there in its most mesmerizing shades of green and blue, purple and yellow, moving, shifting, ever so slightly. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Would ever see. Wistfully my heart ached, mouth slightly opened in utter awe. Almost I could hear the curtain of light sing, although I knew it was only an illusion. I didn't care.

"Ah right, that's what you came here for, in the first place."

It took me a long moment for the voice to even enter my awareness. I was too lost in the ethereal light. And when I turned around to see who had spoken, my heart leapt to my throat in surprise and relief and so many other emotions at once that I impossibly could name them all.

There, leaned against one of the wooden beams, still in his black gambeson, stood the Master, arms folded and eyes resting on the northern lights, before they slowly lowered to me, accompanied by a mischievous smile.

Back to index


Chapter 46: Chapter 45

Author's Notes: Well... Time Lords are not humans... that alone makes for some funny ideas. *giggles*


"Oof, I'm not that drunk, am I?" I mumbled, my voice slurring a little.

The Master chuckled and pushed himself away to come closer and sit down onto the steps right next to me. His shoulder lightly touched mine as if to prove that he was real. Not that it was needed, the little warmth his body gave off proved it well enough, made me aware of the cold.

"What's with that eyepatch," he asked mockingly and tugged at it. "I thought you wanted to be a viking and not a pirate." The Master chuckled at his own dumb joke.

I slapped his hand away, scowling. "I don't want to be either. Contact lens fell out."

"Not a problem. You'll get some new ones. Or your specs if you prefer those."

It took a moment for his words to sink in, or rather their meaning. The Master laughed at my confused face and nudged me. His features turned serious, however, at his next words.

"You're not staying here."

Despite my situation I huffed derisively. "And that's your decision now?"

"Actually… yes." Casually he propped his arm on my shoulder. "A part of me is keeping you alive, lil' lumin. My energy is it that keeps your body functioning." His eyes bore into mine intensely. "That does give me the right to make this decision."

Okay. No arguing with that. He had a point there. But that was as good as it would get. I growled in frustration, because nothing made sense with him. And his bloody arm was annoying, too, so I wound out of the way and pushed against him, even though I knew I didn't have the strength to really shove the Master. Instead I sprung up and trod in front of him, bending down a little.

"You're so messed up, you know that?" I snapped at him, angry at the tears in my eyes.

The Master only cringed. "Tell me about it." He chuckled at my eye-roll. "Well, you can make a fuss as much as you want. You'll come back with me. I don't care what you or the Doctor thinks about it." A dark look clouded his eyes for a moment, suddenly replaced by something that could be anger. "So go and say goodbye to your boyfriend. We're leaving."

My mouth dropped open and for a moment I was simply speechless. Something had gone majorly wrong here, I realized. Somehow I managed to calm down, the alcohol probably helped, and drew in a deep breath, my hand wiping over my face.

"He's not my boyfriend," I let out exasperated.

The Master arched a brow and tilted his head, looking weirdly confused all of a sudden.

"But you wanted to stay here with him."

My hand dropped to my side. "Yes!" I snapped, anger bubbling up from deep down. "Because you pushed me away! And I don't even get why! What the bloody hell made you so angry?"

"You... slept with him," came the answer, sounding almost more like a question.

I grunted and rolled my eyes again. "So?"

The Master looked so puzzled all of a sudden that I almost laughed. His expression was so confused as if I had given him an unsolvable puzzle.

And then, slowly, it dawned on me.

"Wait... right... You're not human," I concluded. "Do... Time Lords regard such things as more important than humans?"

He opened his mouth and closed it again, contemplating his next words, before he attempted another try. "Time Lords don't really need any of that. But.. uhm... well... It mostly seems as if humans use sex as some sort of... bonding?" Again his brows arched questioningly and if it were for any other situation I would have simply laughed at having him of all people be so damn clueless for once in his life.

Instead I dropped back down to the stairs by his side and let out a deep breath. Then I couldn't help it and started to laugh, despite the murderous glare.

"Yeah, okay," I admitted after a while. "Guess many handle it like that."

"Then what's so funny?" the Master growled at me, brows furrowed.

I snorted. "You really should never watch some late night television. And stay away from the internet."

Now it was at him to roll his eyes. "That's not the same," he protested. There was a pause in which he gave me a strange look. "Please tell me it isn't."

"Probably depends on the person you ask." I giggled, couldn't hold it in. The mere fact that we had this conversation was weird and ridiculous enough. "Oh, don't look so angry." I nudged him. "I'm not making fun of you, promise. But to answer your question" - I poked out my tongue -"For humans it's... sometimes it's just... fun. Or comfort seeking. Dunno how Time Lords handle it."

"Similar... if at all." The Master scowled at the aurora, then tossed me a dark side glance. "But then it makes no sense that you're so scared every time I come too close to you."

I snorted. "Come on! You always behave as if you're about to just have your way with me! And that's not fun at all! I really don't need any of that again." I paused, pursing my lips. "I know you wouldn't. But sometimes you still act like it. And then it's just... instinct...reflex? Something like that. If that really bothers you, stop acting like an arse."

"Again..." he muttered, suddenly emanating something dark that made me startle and shy away from him. "Someone did that to you, once?"

Crap. Maybe I should take better care of my wording. But if he wanted to use this against me somehow, he wouldn't be lucky.

"I left it behind me. Doesn't matter anymore." My answer didn't satisfy him the least, that much was obvious by the barely contained rage he emanated. It wasn't because of me, though, I realized, sensed it somehow. So, for a reason I didn't understand myself, I opened up a little. "My... ex-boyfriend. It's complicated. He didn't... not with physical force, at least." I sighed and sunk together. "I probably don't have to tell you that people can be forced to things with other methods."

"And now you want to kill him for it."

I looked up and blinked perplex at the Master. He still looked angry, but also as if he had understood something. Well, the wrong thing, obviously. I shook my head.

The Master gave me a crooked smile. "No? Now I thought he was the one you wanted to shoot so badly."

"What would I gain from his death?" was my dry response. "Aside from being assured he can't do it to someone else. But why would I care about people I will never meet?"

A snicker made me look up and when I met the Master's eyes the tension from before vanished slowly. I couldn't sit still any longer and shot to my feet to stretch my limbs. So many thoughts were racing through my mind, it was hard, if not impossible, to pick one.

"So... that's it?" I finally asked, glancing at the Master, who also heaved himself to his feet, eyes however, glued to the stars above. "You thought I fell in love with Ivar and that I would want to stay here? And that's what made you so angry?"

They way he glared into the sky was filled with a deep longing and an almost palpable sadness. How long was he a prisoner already, I wondered. How many years or decades had he not been able to move freely, had been stuck inside the TARDIS with barely a chance to leave. I had seen what he was capable of and that his own behaviour kept the Doctor from giving him more freedom. But then again... Nine hundred years of living couldn't be spend by sowing destruction alone. There had to be more. A lot more.

I stepped in front of him, glanced up. He lowered his eyes towards mine, his expression barely changing.

"No," he finally muttered.

"Then why did you throw me out?"

"That?" The Master shook his head. "No, that wasn't about you. I was angry at the Doctor. You were just in the way."

So the other Time Lord had been right. Somehow this really surprised me. In the end the Doctor might indeed know the Master better than I had thought. Maybe well enough to also judge if those drums were real or not? Was he right about them? Was he right to keep another man locked away like that? Was I the one judging it all wrong?

"You felt so... safe with him," the Master continued, a deep scowl etched into his features. "Don't worry, I haven't seen much in your memory. But that... How could you feel like that with someone you don't know? And why don't you feel safe with..." He cut off his own sentence by biting down on his lower lip. As if he had wanted to say something he didn't want me to hear.

It wasn't hard to finish the sentence, however. Even half drunk. I gave him a sarcastic smirk.

"Threatening people's lives and wanting them to be scared all the time doesn't really invoke any sense of safety."

He glanced away, stubbornly trying to avoid looking at me directly. Sometimes he really reminded me of twelve year old and I sighed. Could it really be that he had been mad because I didn't feel safe around him? And if that was the case, why then had he acted even more scary than usual?

I probably wouldn't get any helpful answers from him, that's for certain. The most important thing I had learned, however, the only thing that actually mattered to me, was that he hadn't just left me behind, that he had never intended to drop me here and vanish. I didn't care about the reasons and my head was too clouded to connect this fact to our conversation before.

It was Yule.

And that still was a night of magic. A night that wore the beautiful curtain of an aurora. A night in which nothing mattered, but the moment. And when my eyes wandered from the colourful sky to the Master, I knew how I wanted to spend this time.

"I don't get you, seriously." I poked a finger at his chest and thumped at the mead hall. "It's cold and I don't see a reason to leave right away. We could have some fun in there. Let's mix them up a little."

That finally made the Master look back, then at the hall, then at me again. Ideas and thoughts visibly rattled in his mind, a grin slowly formed on his lips.

"You know... It actually was the two of us who killed that dragon. I think they should pay us some more respect. What do you say?" Mischief radiated all over his features, the boyish grin crinkling the corners of his eyes.

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The Master strode into the hall, past the celebrating people and straight towards the slightly raised top part, where the earl sat on his throne, laughing and chatting with some people.

"Oi, you!" the Time Lord called out, gaze fixated on the other man's eyes. "I demand this throne for myself." And with a sweet smile he added, "Only for tonight."

Everyone who had overheard it went silent, including the earl himself. I was sure the Master had attempted hypnotism, but its reliability was always somewhat questionable.

It did seem to work, however. The earl rose from his seat and suddenly smiled.

"For this night and this night alone. You came from a place far away and yet helped our people survive. The honour might be yours, therefore." The man let out a hearty laugh and stepped down to vanish with the people he had spoken to before. "Take good care of the hall."

"Oh, I will." The Master chuckled, rubbed his hands and flopped down on the throne as if it were a sofa. His legs dangled over the armrest as he waved over a servant to bring him some mead.

I kept in the background, uncertain how to act. But already the Master waved me over and pushed a drinking horn he had just been given into my hands.

"Another one," he demanded grinning. When he got it he raised the horn and pulled me next to him. "Give a toast to the little dragon slayer! She landed the final blow!"

I had not expected to suddenly be the centre of attention and blushed, grinning like an idiot. Many raised whatever they were just holding and shouted a mass of cheers. And there, amidst them, also was the Doctor, trying to path a quick way through the celebrating men and women. He clearly wasn't amused at the Master's display. He had a hard time, however, to get close, and the attention clearly wasn't on him, but on us.

"A name!" a man nearby called out. "What name shall we tell our children?"

I glanced sideways at the Master, but he only shrugged with glinting eyes. What name should I tell them? My own? The fake name? A completely new one? Or…

I smiled and glanced back at the man who had called out. "Tell your children that their name was Dovahkiin." I raised my horn. "Skol friend!"

More shouts filled the hall and the people returned to celebrating the night. The Doctor had barely made progress, but would soon be with us. Something the Master blatantly chose to ignore.

"What does that name mean?" he asked with an amused undertone.

I coughed and couldn't hold in a laugh. "It's a name from a video-game. I just couldn't… It was too good." I giggled. "That won't cause a paradox, will it?"

"Doubt it." The Master snorted and shook his head. "You're such a nerd."

"Hey, it's totally fitting. I've been waiting to make some Skyrim puns since that damn dragon landed the first time."

"Yeah?" came the mocking reply. "Looked more to me as if you were about to wet your pants." He poked out his tongue.

"Pfff… You wish."

"Master! What the heck are you doing?!" The Doctor had reached us, almost tripping over his own feet. "Where have you been all the time? And could you just stop hypnotizing people?"

Nonchalantly the Master continued to dangle his feet from the armrest and swayed the mead inside his horn. He lay his head back and tossed a side glance at the other Time Lord.

"Naaaah," he drawled. "Too much fun. Don't ruin the mood, Doctor. We're heroes."

The Doctor scoffed. "You mean murderers."

"Oh come on," the Master spat and rolled his eyes. "Your hands are far from stain-free. Stop being so sanctimonious. And look at them." He waved a hand towards the people. "Isn't that something good? I made some apes happy."

"There would have been another way. I'm sure of it!"

As much as I was sad about a mighty creature dying, I also wasn't willing to let this victory slip. I plonked down on the arm rest, next to the Master's feet.

"Last time you scolded him for leaving people back to die," I dryly commented. "And now you're angry because he didn't?"

The Doctor's mouth dropped open and the Master started to roar with laughter.

"Oh, look at you, Doctor," he cackled and demonstratively wiped a non-existing tear from his eye. "How does it feel to have your own twisted morals served to you like that?"

"That's not... I don't twist anything! And I don't run around and slaughter some ancient creatures! It might have been the last of its kind! No one has seen an egorlblak for millennia! And you have nothing better to do than to murder it and then play king of the hall!"

Rage was bubbling from the Doctor, his dangerous side shining through vividly as he climbed up the small enhancement to the throne. The Master didn't budge at all, only his eyes gave away his ire.

And I... I had enough of it.

"If you don't intend to travel back in time to prevent it," I tossed in, "there is nothing you can change about the dragon."

"Oh right!" He threw his hands up and let them fall down again. "Of course you'd say that. Having all the praise for yourself for once. Feels great, doesn't it?" he mocked angrily.

I was too drunk and too happy with the current situation to let anyone ruin it, so I only shrugged. "Yeah, feels bloody nice. What now? Scold me? Or you want to keep me prisoner, too?"

Again the Master chuckled and his only comment was a happy, "Oh oh."

I sighed and shook my head. "Come on, Doctor. The dragon's dead, the village is safe, and who knows how much else. And the Master playing earl for one night won't let the world end. I'm rather certain of that."

"But that's not the point!"

Now the other Time Lord spoke up, decided to break his silence in a way that sounded as if he was speaking to a child. "And no one cares about it. If you hate everything so damn much, go and hide in the TARDIS. We'll be back by morning." He waved towards the doors.

"Besides," I added with a smile, "it's Yule. No one should be so angry. Not tonight. Not while the air is filled with magic and laughter. Not while the stories of old are alive in music, dance and mead." I raised my horn with a wide grin. "Just tonight, Doctor, okay?"

It clearly was the alcohol that spoke out of me, but what did it matter? It was fun and, in a way, I was right, wasn't I? Even the Doctor seemed to accept it, his features softening in a deep sigh.

"Yule... right. Almost forgot. Did you see the aurora, Lucy?" Slowly a reluctant smile stole itself on his face. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" I nodded happily and finally the Doctor grinned himself. He let out another breath and chuckled, the tension falling from him like an old, worn cloak. "One night. Right. Celebrating. I can do that! Just you watch!" With that he hurled around, his coat snapping against his ankle, but once more he faced back. "No more deaths here, yeah?"

I exchanged a look with the Master and as soon as the Doctor was gone we both laughed heartedly about the situation.

"Hey." Playfully I slapped his boot. "Are we good again? You and I?"

The Master gave me a mockingly arched eyebrow. "We've never been. You're still human and far below me." He chuckled at my exasperated grunt and raised his mead filled horn. "But for one night I can maybe turn a blind eye to it. Skol, lil' lumin. Enjoy the feast in my hall."

Grinning I shook my head and toasted back. "Skol, earl Erik, oh great slayer of beasts from beyond."

We both stayed silent for a few seconds, the sound and music washing over us. Then a smile formed on his lips and on mine as we exchanged mischievous glances.

This would be a fun night.

Back to index


Chapter 47: Chapter 46

Author's Notes: I found an ancient doodle on my hard drive. It's not the first time I had the idea for this setting. It actually had been planned for "The Master's Game" already, but back then I just wasn't able to put together something I was satisfied with...

How times change... :3

Also, this got horribly fluffy. *giggle*



After some minutes of watching everyone I hopped down into the crowd and left the Master to play earl on his own. It couldn't take too long for him to get bored of it.

Being in the hall was a bad idea altogether. So many noises, smells and colours. Everything blurred together to a mass of impressions. But right now I didn't care. Alcohol usually dulled down my oversensitive senses enough to make me able to enjoy occasions like these. Like it did now.

I drank and sang and danced, listened to stories and told a few of my own. From every corner came music, wild and raw and ancient, close to nature and the earth below.

It was Yule.

A kind of magic filled the night that cannot be explained by words. It can only be carried by tunes and drums and laughing voices, by the smell of roasted flesh and sweat honey mead. Once or twice I left to take in the aurora and its wonderful light. But I always returned, let myself be swept away.

Somewhere I met Ivar again, right as the tunes of a dance ended. He turned and we came face to face, his eyes lighting up at my sight.

"Hey! There you are. I saw how your friend conquered the throne." He chuckled. "The earl truly is in a good mood to let Erik have his fun like that. Didn't even know your companions were still here."

"Yeah. I didn't know either." Somehow I felt stupid at how jealous I had been some hours ago. No one would let such a chance slip. I certainly wouldn't.

"Will you still stay with us?" Ivar wanted to know, his look somewhere in-between hopeful and apologetic.

I smiled.

"No," came my immediate reply. And there was not the slightest hint of regret within me when I said it.

Someone bumped against my back and suddenly there were arms around my torso, holding me quite possessively. Surprised I glanced up and found it to be the Master. Who else would it be?

"Don't keep your hopes up, hunter," he growled. "You're aiming for the wrong prey here."

Ivar blinked dumbfounded, but then he smiled sadly and nodded. "I understand." His gaze wandered up and down between me and the Time Lord. "May the gods watch you on your travels. I won't forget you."

With that he turned and vanished into the crowd to be never seen again. I hoped he would find happiness in years to come. For a short moment I even contemplated running after him to ask if he wanted to come along, but remembering the Master made me quickly forget about that. This would only end in a disaster. And maybe bloodshed.

Speaking of the Master…

I squirmed in his grip to throw him an annoyed look.

"Why so hostile? He hasn't done anything to you."

The Master just grumbled something that got lost in the music and dropped his chin on my head.

"And you can let go of me," I sighed, tugging at his sleeve. "Not that I don't enjoy a good cuddle…"

That made him release me and I giggled at the childish behaviour, turning to face him. The Master bent down slightly, brows knitted together. "You're not staying."

"Uhm, yeah. You already said that." I stemmed my fists into my hips and regarded him with a tilted head. "Are you drunk?" I mocked. "Wasn't sure you lot even react to alcohol."

"Only if I let it happen," he grumbled.

"You clearly do then. I'd challenge you to drink with me… but that's a lost game. And I'm not fond of losing." Especially when I didn't have the strongest stomach and didn't drink too often anyway.

The Master cringed. "I actually was looking for someone to have a good fight with. Heard they were challenging each other somewhere."

"Guess there were a few fist fights over there." I thumped behind me where I had seen some men doing a little friendly contest. "Just don't ruin the mood by killing someone, yeah?"

"Oh, I would never."

"You know what, I'll watch."

The Master laughed out. "Want to make sure, eh?"

"Nope. Just wanna see Time Lord vs. Viking." Giggling I gave the air a few playful  punches.

"And you're calling me drunk." He poked against my head, swirled around and marched to the fighting group.

They cheered when they saw who had appeared and an opponent was quickly found. A bald guy with a short beard and tattoos all over his head and arms. The Master only grimaced at the guy and undressed his gambeson and shirt, before he stepped in front of the other man.

The Master actually didn't look that strong, I realized, seeing him like that for the first time. Certainly not weak, but compared to the Viking guy…

After a sharp call they made short process with one another. It was fast and all I managed to make out were a few hits on either side, before the opponent was dropped to the ground and found a boot on his chest. After that more men lined up to fight against the Master, but not a single one could win - even though a few managed to land a blow or two.

It was fun to watch him, to see how much faster and stronger he was than humans. The way the Master moved seemed almost too fluid and there was a weird aesthetic to it. I really should ask him to teach me a few of those moves. Most of the time he didn't even use any kind of force against the men and simply defeated them by using their own strength against them in various ways.

After a while he probably got bored and left, not without dramatically bowing at the cheering mass. He wasn't even sweating, I realized and pursed my lips when he approached.

"It's really not fair," I protested. "Why are you so much better than us?"

The Master chuckled. "It's just the way it is. Deal with it."

"You still got a few bruises." Grinning I poked a blue spot on his side and giggled when he hissed.

"Only because I didn't want to raise too many suspicions. Stop poking that!" He grabbed my hand.

"Okay okay." I giggled and looked him up and down. "You should get some tattoos." When he released my hand I traced a line into the air, right along his side. "Maybe a dragon here."

The Master snorted and slipped back into his black tunic. "Waste of time and energy. Next regeneration and it's gone anyway."

"Regeneration?"

He cringed. "You wouldn't understand."

My answer was to poke the bruise again. "Not the first time you underestimate humans."

"Shut up, ape!" he hissed.

Swiftly I stole the gambeson before he could put it back on and lay it around my shoulders. They had been used as light armour, but also looked really cool and were padded quite nicely.

"That's too big for a dwarf like you," the Master mocked.

"But it's waaaarm." I cuddled myself into the cloth and eyed the Time Lord. "And you look good as you are. No need for the badass mode."

He laughed out. "Well, whatever. I'm not cold anyway." A questioning look wandered towards me. "Do I look good?"

I gave him a thumbs up. "Decent enough."

"Wha-haaat?"

I leaned against an empty spot on one of the tables and poked out my tongue. Which was the wrong answer. The Master came to stand like a tower over me, eyes glinting.

"I don't accept decent."

"Well, 'm not going to lie to boost your ego." I giggled and poked him. "Get lost. You look good enough to fetch a date for tonight."

He scrunched up his nose and tossed a glance into the crowd. Then he spun back, bent down with a smirk and placed both hands on the table to either side of me. We weren't touching, and still only inches apart. His hazel eyes bore into mine, so close I could make out the pattern in his iris.

Someone had to teach him about personal space at some point.

"You're my date."

"Ab-so-lute-ly not." I laughed out and glinted amusedly at him. "And you say I'm the drunk one."

"Because you are."

"True." I shrugged. "Still don't wanna date you."

The Master chuckled. "Your loss." His look turned serious all of a sudden. "Not what I want anyway. There is something in your mind. Something the dragon left behind there."

Puzzled, I blinked at him. "Uhm, yeah... it tried to communicate, I think. But it didn't feel intentional..."

"Doesn't matter." His hands snapped up, enclosed my head firmly. "I'm still curious what it wanted."

Quickly there was the familiar tingling sensation swimming through my head, only that it was weirdly distorted, hazy, as if someone tried to shine a light through thick fog. The Master tried for a while, then grunted annoyed.

"Oh my, your head's a mess. Totally scrambled and out of place."

"What the...?"

He chuckled. "Because you're drunk. Don't worry. Will go away on its own. Makes it just hard to find anything."

"I could try and focus on it?" I offered, head tilted in his grip. "Or do we need more contact?"

"Try."

I closed my eyes and concentrated on what I had felt during the last vision the dragon had shown me. But the images kept slipping over and over again. The Master scowled at me and my answer was an apologetic grin. There was no helping it. I already tried my best. But the longer it took the more I wondered why he was only in my head and I not in his. Usually it was sort of both and for some reason I missed that feeling, this weirdly soothing closeness which it brought.

My hands reached up on their own, cradling his cheeks. And just like that our minds connected completely, like a puzzle piece snapping into place. Surprised, I gasped and heard a chuckle, simultaneously felt it vibrating through my mind. Being alcoholised had a weird effect, made everything blurry and hard to grasp. It felt like sinking down into muddy water, deeper and deeper, slow and steadily, as if I would simply get lost, only able to numbly watch the fading light of the moon, shining through the water's surface far above.

The Master mumbled something, voice soft and a bit amused. "Hey, what're you doing there?" Or did he think it?

"Dunno." Was I actually using my voice? Everything was so muffled. "Does it work?"

"Not quite. You're too untrained and weak." For once it only sounded like a fact and not like an insult. The words dripped into my awareness, sank down with me into the darkness.

My eyes crept open - had I closed them? One of them - both. One was still hidden behind the eyepatch. The Master was so close I wouldn't need aid to see him clearly. It was a strange sensation to be like this, holding each other's head, sinking deeper and deeper while still being somewhat aware of my surroundings. I got lost in the hazel depths of his eyes, drowned in my own mind.

Slowly I inched closer, my nose brushed against his.

One hand slipped from my temple, a finger suddenly on my lips, a smile on his own - still so close. His eyes wore a glint that was both warm and impish and confused me more than anything else so far.

"Don't," he all but uttered and eased out of my mind, straightened.

Everything washed back over me in a sudden wave. The hall, the fest, the music, the voices, the smells, the warm cloth around my shoulders, the racing heartbeat in my chest. I groaned and pinched my eyes shut. Too much. Way too much at once. And then also the slow realisation of what I had almost done. It seemed like a logic thing in that swamp of foggy thoughts, a way to strengthen the connection, to get clear, to...

I shook my head and looked up again. "Eh, sorry, shouldn't have..."

He was gone.

Perplex, I glanced around, not able to find the Master anywhere. Maybe he had gotten enough out of my head, after all. Whatever that vision might mean to him.

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The night went on, with or without him. How much time actually had passed was hard to tell. I lost all sense of it. Maybe I even lost some memories here and there, snippets, short, unimportant moments. I made sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, but that didn't help in the long run. It only filled my bladder and releasing that wasn't the nicest thing on a cold winter night.

The only good thing about the outside was the aurora that kept glowing in the sky. Such a wondrous thing, a phenomena humans would only come to understand in many years from here. And it was one of those cases where science wouldn't ruin the magic, even add to it.

I smiled up at the bluish curtain, burning it into my mind to stay there forever, no matter how much the alcohol clouded my awareness.

Back inside I found a group of younger people gambling with stones and dice. It seemed complicated, but I quickly understood the rules and played with them for a while, even won some money. I decided to keep the coins as a souvenir.

More time blurred together, colours and music and dances and too much of everything. And somewhere in all that I bumped against someone, my hands between us and a 'sorry' already on my lips when I recognized the black tunic, and when I felt how icy cold it was.

"Have ya been outside?" I asked. "You're cold as an icicle."

The Master smiled mysteriously. Only then did I see that he now wore a jacket over his tunic. One that clearly belonged into my own time and not in this. But people were too far gone to notice. It also reminded me that I had no idea where his gambeson had ended.

"I've got what I wanted," he eventually spoke up. "And, as much as I like the taste, I think I had enough of their mead. Let's leave."

"Leave? Nooooo way!" I called out. "I want to stay."

His face dropped, a short hint of actual hurt crossed it, and I was sure not to have imagined that. I tapped against his chest, what made him scowl.

"Hey, whu's up? I thought we were good?"

The Master stroked a hand over his face and shook his head. It seemed as if he, too, wasn't so sober anymore. And when he suddenly grabbed my collar, it was not as rough as usual, in stark contrast to his penetrating gaze.

"You're not leaving me," he ground out.

"Huh?" Confused, I blinked up at him. "'course not, idiot. Just wanna stay until dawn. 's tradition, you know?"

The Master visibly relaxed, features softening. He released my collar and straightened. There was such a strong sense of relief radiating from him, in that moment, that I simply couldn't hold back a laugh. Especially when I considered his wording just before.

"What's so funny?" he growled.

I grinned. "That you're as drunk as me."

"Most certainly not, human."

"Why else do you keep forgett'n what I tell you?" I poked my tongue out, giggling at his eye roll.

"I'm not forgetting." The Master reached out as if to grab my shoulders, but let his hands sink. "But people always lie." His voice dropped to a level I could barely understand. His face was hard, but what I nonetheless felt from him was clear enough, even without his next uttered words.

"And they always leave."

Wide eyed I glanced up at him, at the man, who had burned galaxies, who had enslaved the human race to wage war against the universe, who had sown destruction in his wake, who left corpses and oceans of blood and misery wherever he could.

And all my mind kept repeating was what the Doctor had said about the Master so, so long ago.

Angry and lost... and all alone.

And I was too drunk to care about anything. So I took a small step forward and just dropped my head against his chest, ignoring how the Master winced as if a lightning bolt had hit him.

"What the...?! Will you get lost, you bloody..."

"'m not leaving you alone," I promised.

He tried to shove me away, but I had no intention to budge, kept my forehead propped against his chest and clawed my hands into his tunic. His attempts were only half hearted and eventually he gave up and sagged together a little. A sigh deflated his lungs, almost a sob.

"Don't..." he choked out and it sounded like a weak plea. "I can't... That's not me."

Surprised I glanced up, saw a weirdly desperate look on his face. Never had I witnessed him like that, all the usually hidden pain lying bare so visibly, for once. I had no idea what or who had hurt him so much and so often. And so deeply.

When our gazes met, he looked away, tilted his head backwards as if to hide his face. He took some deep breaths, eyes glued to the stars, even though they were hidden by the roof above our heads. I knew he still saw them, felt them, wore them all within his hearts.

"Why not?" I asked. "It's Yule. You can be whoever you want."

Seconds later his head lowered, revealing a sadness in his eyes that shot painfully right into my own heart. We looked at each other, maybe truly saw the other person in front of us for the first time.

"'t was a bad idea to get myself drunk," he muttered.

And that was a good enough excuse to gently drop his chin on my head and wrap his arms around my shoulders, carefully, as if he feared to break me. As if it was something he wasn't quite sure how to even do properly.

It felt warm, his hearts thudded soothingly against my ear. I could simply get lost in this sound that drowned out everything else around us. Being lulled in like that, it made me aware of how tired I actually had gotten, of how far the night must have progressed already.

"You're way too soft and cuddly," I mumbled against him and felt a laugh vibrate through his chest. "I wanna sleep on you."

"Oi! Don't you dare, you intoxicated dwarf." But he didn't budge, only ruffled a hand through my hair, making a mess of them. "There, suits you better." He chuckled to himself.

"Dwarves're cool. You have to try harder to insult me." I finally let go of him and, reluctantly, he did the same. I smiled and brought my hair back in order. "Alright. Let's leave."

"Before you do something stupid?" he mocked.

"Yup," came my giggled reply. "I'm in a very I-will-regret-nothing state. Could end really badly."

"Tzz, I noticed."

"'m still alive."

He glared at my smirk, eyes narrowed to slits, even though he couldn't quite hide how his lips twitched upwards. "Don't provoke it, lil' lumin."

I poked out my tongue and eyed the hall. Not much remained of the celebrating crowd. Many had gone home, others slept on prepared pelts, or simply on benches. No one really cared. There were enough still dancing and drinking and playing music that sounded progressively less melodic.

"Where's the Doctor?" I wondered. "Haven't seen him all evening."

"Probably sulking in the TARDIS."

"Oh. Hm... well... at least we don't have to look for him, then."

The Master grunted and followed me outside. "He can rot here, if I'm concerned. But then we'd be stuck."

When we exited the hall we were greeted by the last fading gleams of the aurora. Soon it would be gone, not more than a memory in our heads, superseded by the emerging light of dawn on the horizon.

Soon the days would get longer again, winter would cede to make way for the warmth of the sun, life would return and with it... some hope.

On the hill, where the TARDIS stood, I stopped to cast a last glance back, over the village and the still burning Yule-fire in the middle. Stories would spread, tales would be spun, legends no one would believe in my time.

I smiled.

"You coming?" the Master asked and held the door open.

After some seconds I tore myself away from the sight, my finger stroked over the brooch on my chest. I nodded, stepped past the Master into the dim interior of the time machine. Its humming had become almost familiar, greeting me with a welcoming warmth.

After everything I had been through and every decision I had and had not made, I knew, felt and accepted that this was my home now.

Back to index


Chapter 48: Chapter 47

Author's Notes: Sorry, not sorry *giggles* There are certain things I simply cannot resist doing. This chapter is full of those. Hope you enjoy. xP


"Eh… How about no?"

I crossed my arms in front of my chest, giving the Master the yet darkest glare.

"Oh, don't make a fuss." His grin was nasty. "You're by far not the first human I'd see naked."

"That doesn't make it better."

The Master bent down to where I sat, took my chin between his fingers to make me look at him. The grin was still there.

"Off with that clothes, lil' lumin. I promise to be careful with you."

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I had just entered the TARDIS, the Master still outside, when a familiar voice called out.

"Hey, why didn't you tell you were leaving? I was just done scanning the molecular structure of the dragon's bones."

I turned and stepped out again, just in time for the Doctor to catch up. There were ends of bones sticking out from his pockets.

"Do you hide half the creature in there?" I asked and giggled at the thought of him carrying all sorts of disgusting stuff around.

"Naaah. Just a bit of everything I could gather. Want to do some research."

"With that stuff?" the Master mocked.

"Since it's all that's left."

They exchanged a venomous glare that didn't last long as the Master started to chuckle.

"I had a similar idea. About doing research."

The Doctor gave him a raised eyebrow. "Since when?"

The other Time Lord let out a laugh. "Believe it or not. I'm a curious man."

"Mhmmm… I know the usual reasons for that."

"The undying thirst for knowledge?"

"Yeah, to use it against whoever stands in your way. Which, usually, is me."

The Master sighed and shook his head. "Oh Doctor, how much you have forgotten. It had always been me coming up with the most interesting research projects, remember? And, to help your messy memory a little, here, they had only once or twice ended in something going up in flames."

"And you forgot how often your projects got us into trouble nonetheless."

"Which always thrilled you."

Again they glared at one another until the Master suddenly smiled and stretched his hands out. "Told you, I wanted a pet, didn't I? And that one-" he thumped at me-"only makes trouble."

"Hey!" I protested, even though I wasn't so sure if about being called a pet or being called difficult.

The Master completely ignored it and patted his chest pocket. The Doctor's eyes suddenly widened with curiosity.

"What did you find?"

"I might have dug around a little. In that head over there." He nodded towards me. I playfully slapped his site, which he only commented by sticking out his tongue towards me. "The telepathic traces the dragon left."

The Doctor's eyes wandered over to me. "What does Lucy have to do with it? Humans aren't…"

"Aaaand wrong again!" the Master announced happily. "Anyway, I looked at what the dragon left and it did what all dying beasts do. Make sure someone will find their inheritance."

"And by that you mean…?" The Doctor fixated the Master's chest pocket and also kept tossing glances at me, although I was as clueless as him. If not more. "What did he leave?"

"She."

"She?" The Doctor's eyes widened even more.

Surprised, I glared at the Master, already guessing what it was he would pull out of his pocket. And I was right. There, in his open palm, sat an egg. It wasn't bigger than an orange, black in colour and decorated with slightly glowing purple veins.

"Good thing they didn't check. It was the only one. Would have been a shame for anyone else to find it."

"You… you…" the Doctor stammered, then slowly grinned from ear to ear. "You're brilliant!" he finally called out, beaming all over his face. A second later he suddenly rushed forward, grabbed the Master by his head and pressed a quick but firm kiss to his mouth, then snatched the egg and rushed inside the TARDIS with it.

Utterly dumbfounded the Master stared at the spot where the other Time Lord had just been. His still opened hand dropped down.

"That… was unexpected," I commented, not less perplexed.

From inside came one last call from the Doctor, sounding suspiciously like mistletoe. We both glanced up and found exactly that hanging right above the Master's head, interwoven with some other Yule decorations.

I couldn't help the mischievous snort. "Did you just blush?"

I was sure not to imagine the slight reddish tint to his face. It made me giggle even more.

"Shut it, ape!" he growled.

"Och, but why?"

Damn! I wouldn't survive this, would I?

To my surprise he gave me a wolfish grin, slapped his hand against the wood next to my head and bent down slightly. "Because you're standing below that thing, too."

My eye darted upwards and I realized that he was right. I swallowed, grinned shyly and then quickly slipped away.

"Now look at you, little coward."

"Eh, once really was enough, thank you very much." I darted into the TARDIS, grinning when I heard his chuckle.

It was, however, interrupted by a sudden, extremely unhappy groan.

"Wait, that bastard just took it! Doctor! Return my damn egg! Immediately!" the Master shouted and stormed away.

________________________________________________
.

This time I had no trouble sleeping. All I managed to do when I entered my room was to undress and flop down on my bed. This actually would also be the first time I'd properly sleep in here, my tired head remembered.

There were dreams, but none of them threatening, none wearing such foreboding things than what I had seen before. Maybe the dragon had something to do with the previous nightmares? It had connected with me, in some weird way, reminding me once again of how little I knew about telepathy.

In the morning - or whatever counted as morning to me - I felt equally refreshed and like a dead person. My head was eager to split into pieces, my muscles ached and I felt sick on top of it.

Weak stomach.

It took me a while to finish in the bathroom. Also because I had no clue how to properly bandage wounds. And the claw marks on my site were still red and burning. Usually, my pain tolerance is quite high, but that thing hurt like hell and was breaking open at one or two spots.

Somehow I managed. The pile of dirty clothes landed on the toilet lid.

"Can you dispose of that?" I asked the TARDIS.

The answer was a happy electric humming, followed by one that sounded concerned. For some reason I knew it was about the wound.

"Nah, it's fine. Will just take a bit to heal."

I watched fascinated as the pile of clothes just faded out of existence in front of my eyes. Another glance wandered into the mirror. Once again my face was framed by my specs and I decided I liked the look much better. This was me, small, a tomboy and nerdy.

I smiled at my reflection and stuck my tongue out. Yep, that's perfect.

Now onto the next quest: Finding food and painkillers.

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.

Maybe food wasn't the beat of ideas I decided, still feeling sick. A lot of water and a few cups of coffee would have to do.

The last one I took with me and wandered the corridors for a bit, watching how they changed colours and materials. Some looked ancient, others brand new. Only the shape stayed the same. There were a bunch of doors, but I didn't dare to open any of them, unsure if I was even allowed to sneak around like that.

My coffee was empty now, so I headed back to the kitchen - with help of the TARDIS - to get a refill. And then decided to bug the Master.

"Again?" he groaned when I entered. "This TARDIS has no manners whatsoever."

We were in a room that was a mixture of library and laboratory. A very steampunk-ish style was present, the shelves and most of the furniture made of either dark wood or glass. Books upon books filled the space, but also a big messy table with many metal instruments, microscopes, different tools, screws, wires, pencils and whatnot. There also were glass displays on wooden cupboards. Some empty, some filled with strange plants. One looked like it could be an ancient alien miniature tree. The whole room resembled what one would imagine a rich English nobleman during the colonisation might have owned. Bare the pelt- and bone trophies.

Wide eyed I glanced around, curious about... well, everything, actually. The Master let me, surprisingly enough, and I caught small glances of him observing me. Eventually I ended back at his table and found a strange contraption there, resembling a weird microscope. (To be honest, it could have been anything else.) And in a small metal clasp sat the dragon egg.

"Oh, you got it back?"

"Yeah. Had to literally knock him out. And he doesn't know this room, so don't you dare losing a word about it."

"I won't, promise!" I straightened and dramatically put a hand above my heart. "So... is it still alive?"

"Hopefully." The Master picked up a few papers from the desk and thumbed through them. "I did some research the whole time, but it's hard to find anything. Even the TARDIS barely has data on this species."

I bent down to the egg, observing the delicate purple veins. Somehow it made me feel sad and at the same time...

"The veins are moving slightly," I mumbled. "Does that mean anything?"

"They don't." The Master still looked through his papers.

"Oh. Then it's some kind of optical illusion, I guess."

Finally he put everything down and arched an eyebrow at me, then leaned past me to take a look at the egg himself. Carefully the Master picked it out of the socket, surprise visible on his face.

"That's new. It did nothing before you came... in..." Almost in slow motion his head turned towards me, eyes squinting, brows knitted together. He held the egg out. "Take it."

With a bit of reluctance I put both of my hands together to form a small bowl and held them out. The Master lay the egg into my palms and then we both watched, not knowing what to even expect.

Nothing at all happened. Maybe it had been a coincidence. The veins still seemed to slightly pulsate, gaining and losing ever so subtle fractions of brightness. The longer I watched the more I realized it changed with my own breathing. Even when I changed it, took deeper or shallower breaths.

"Interesting," the Master muttered.

"It... didn't do that when you held it?"

"Most definitely not." He chuckled, glaring at the egg. "Alright, seems like I will postpone throwing you out for a while."

"Thanks?" I held the egg closer to my eyes to observe the glowing veins better. "Shall I keep it?"

"Yeah, for now." However, the Master already picked it from me, his fingers wrapping tenderly around the fragile shell. It only took a few moments for the pulsating to stop and he placed the egg back into my waiting hands, his eyebrow lifting when it started glowing again. "Maybe because you're human?" he uttered to himself and flopped down into the chair in front of the table.

Using my foot I dragged another chair over to sit next to the Master, the egg cradled within my palms. Did it get warmer? Or was it just my own body temperature spreading? It was so subtle, I closed my eyes in the hopes to make it out.

And when I did there were images. Hazy, barely to make out, but definitely there, somehow - smoke, black, swirling smoke in the darkness, endlessly collapsing in itself, spreading, folding, rising up like huge wings, a bird's scream, crawing...

I fell into the darkness.

Fell.

And landed against something solid, but nonetheless soft. In my hands I still felt the egg, now hot to the touch, without burning my skin. I glanced up, finding the Master's head above me, his face wearing a look of annoyance and confusion. I must have fallen against him, or had he caught me? He pushed me back into the chair - when had I stood up?

"You're connected to it," he stated. "No idea how or why. But be careful and don't drop it."

"I... sorry. It just... happened. There were images." I told him of what I had seen, my voice getting quieter with every word. "Why is it so hot in here? I can barely breathe."

"It's not." The Master eyed me, chin in his hand. He then took the egg from me and placed it back into the contraption. "But you look a little feverish."

I blinked. "Be...cause of the egg?"

"No idea. Another thing I have to figure out. But until then it's safer for you not to hold it." He wriggled his forefinger to symbolize me to get closer. "Show me what you saw. Like in the mead hall. Concentrate on the vision, conjure up the images. Since you're sober, now, it won't be as hard."

I nodded and closed my eyes again, waiting for his fingers on my temples before I did what he had told. His skin was soothingly cold against mine.

"Damn, you're burning!" he called out. "What the... No, that's not from the egg."

"Wh... what's it then? Did I catch a cold or so?"

"No... that's..." His hands vanished and he shot to his feet, grabbing my wrist to tear me up with him. "Why didn't you say something, you bloody idiot?"

"Huh?"

"You're injured!"

It clicked. "Oh. Uh... yeah. Just a scratch. The dragon got me once." I carefully stroked my fingers over my side.

Without another word the Master dragged me to another desk, pushed me down into a chair and rummaged through some cupboards. "Shirt off," he growled, without looking at me. "And whatever you have below."

"Eh… How about no?"

I crossed my arms in front of my chest, giving the Master the yet darkest glare, when he turned around. There now were bandages and some vials in his hands.

"Oh, don't make a fuss." His grin was nasty. "You're by far not the first human I'd see naked."

"That doesn't make it better."

Not that I had a problem with people seeing me topless, but the Master somehow always managed to make these things more awkward than they had to be. He bent down to where I sat, took my chin between his fingers to make me look at him. The grin was still there.

"Off with that clothes, lil' lumin. I promise to be careful with you."

I huffed and pulled the hoodie over my head. The movement made me wince and hiss in pain. I cursed under my breath and also clasped open my bra before I dropped it onto the pile. The Master had his head buried in the cupboards again and when he turned around, there wasn't even a nasty smile.

He only shook his head. "No one ever taught you how to bandage things? That's hellishly amateurish."

"I never got in so many situations where I would have needed it," I defended myself and tried to wrap out of the bandage.

The pain had gotten even worse than in the morning, however, and I could barely move enough. So the Master took measures into his own hands. He was careful, very, and I had the weird feeling as if he tried not to do something inappropriate, even on accident.

"Damn, that doesn't look pretty."

"Not really the thing to tell a half naked woman," a joked and poked my tongue out.

There it was again, the nasty grin, although it was more amused than mean. He dropped to his haunches to take a better look at the scratches, dripped some liquid from one of his bottles on a cloth and started to clean the wounds with it. Whatever he had there stung horribly, but I clenched my teeth and didn't make a single sound. He would not see any weakness coming from me. And I was rather certain he was eagerly waiting to make some snarky remark about me being human, again.

"I'll take a look at your blood," he mumbled. "The claws might have been poisonous."

"Poisonous claws?"

The Master chuckled and opened a salve, which he generously applied to the wound. The stuff was cool and a little numbing at the same time.

"We're talking about a creature that's actually too heavy to fly with its wing span and that can spit exploding fireballs. And you wonder about a possible poison? Use your brain for once."

"Yeah, fine." I smiled. "Still. Does it look so bad?"

"Hm... hard to tell." He tossed me a mad grin. "I'm more skilled with inflicting those than healing."

"Figured."

From the table he produced a roll of bandages and put everything else aside, before rolling off a strip of the cloth, gesturing me to stand up. I did and let him apply a big plaster to the wound, then wrap the bandage around my torso. He still was careful not to get anywhere he wasn't supposed to, but in the end it probably was simply beyond his capability not to at least leave a snide comment.

"Want me to wrap those too? Seemed you like it flat," he said with a grin, pointing at my breasts.

I snorted. "Nah. I'm fine."

He chuckled and finished the bandage. After that I carefully slipped back into bra and hoodie.

"Why's that such an issue for humans?" the Master asked, watching me.

"What'y mean?" came my muffled reply, before my head popped out of the hoodie. The pain was a lot better, but I still felt as if I was burning up.

"First you say, humans aren't that strict with intimacy and all that stuff. But then they all make a huge fuss when anyone sees a part of them naked. And your time isn't the worst with it. Go back a few years and it would have been a scandal to even show your legs."

I laughed and nodded. "Yeah, right? I don't get it either. We all look more or less the same anyway." Carefully I stretched and bent a little to see how well I could move in the bandages. "Maybe clothes just appear... safer. They aren't armour, but in them you at least feel less vulnerable? I guess." I tilted my head, glaring at the Master, who was, as always, neatly dressed in black. "Time Lords also don't run around naked. Or is that only adaption?"

"It's called style," was his smug answer.

"In your case, maybe. The Doctor though..."

We both cringed at the same time.

"Anyway... Blood sample." The Master pulled open another drawer and got out an ordinary needle.

Obediently I hitched up one sleeve and held my arm out. People always tell me to look away, but somehow it had always felt safer to just watch. Like this I at least knew what was happening to me. And seeing some of my own blood slowly filling up a vessel was a weird thing anyway.

"It's strange," I mumbled, more to myself. "Just a few days ago there was only salt water in there."

"Well, stop trying to die and we won't have to patch you up anymore." His voice had sounded sarcastic, but there had still been an edge of seriousness in it.

"Pfff, it's not that I chose to get into those situations. We just stumble into some crazy stuff each time we leave the doors."

However, I also hadn't done anything to prevent getting dragged deeper into them. The truth was... I simply didn't care. Those adventures had distracted me a great deal from that fact, but in the end it always caught up again. In the end I was chasing one after the other tiny fragment of time where I didn't feel hollow.

"No idea how to treat a human fever, honestly," the Master grumbled when he was done. "Go, bug the Doctor about it. If I find anything weird in your blood, I'll let you know."

"Uhm... thanks."

The Master shot me a glare as if he was contemplating just putting an end to me being distracting. For good. But the worst he did, was showing me the cold shoulder and he simply threw the syringe on his desk to plainly ignore it, while his attention went back to the egg.

Back to index


Chapter 49: Chapter 48

Despite the cold reaction I kind of had the feeling the Master would look at the blood as soon as I left the room. So I did exactly that and asked the TARDIS to bring me to the Doctor instead. It probably was for the best not to think about the Master's behaviour too much. He was switching between being funny, considerate, downright dangerous or simply a prick within fractions of seconds. Maybe it simply was his character, maybe there were a thousand thoughts running through his mind at once and his mood changed according to whatever just came to the forefront. That was a thing I was familiar with. Or maybe he still was torn between hating and... well... whatever for him meant not hating someone was.

The Doctor was in the console room, tinkering about on a part of the console. It appeared he had ripped it out completely to strew all gears, screws and cables over the ground.

"How do you remember where what belongs?" I wondered out loud.

His head snapped up and a goofy grin spread on his face. "Ah, there you are, Lucy! Was wondering how long it would take you to recover from that hangover. What do you think about rainforests?"

"Uh, what? Why rainforests?" Confused, I blinked at him.

"Because there is a whole rainforest...y planet near the Hlochpla nebulae. Thought we might visit. Try out the local berry cocktails. They are infamous!"

"Eh... no."

The Doctor's face dropped visibly, like that of a child who had just been denied a cookie.

"No adventures then? The last no-adventure didn't go so well after all."

I exhaled into a laugh. It was almost adorable to be stared at with such puppy eyes. It seemed he really loved showing people around.

"Not now. The dragon got me a little during the fight. And I'm now having a fever."

Immediately the Doctor shot up, stumbled over some parts and still managed to keep on his feet while simultaneously rushing towards me.

"It got you?! What do you mean, it got you? Are you hurt? Bleeding? All internal organs intact? Where is the wound?" While babbling he hurried around me as if that would reveal anything.

I had to grab his arm to get his attention and he stumbled to a halt, almost bumping into me in the process.

"The Master bandaged it already. It's just a few scratches. But there's still the..."

"He did... what?"

"Uhm... bandaged the wound? And put some weird salve on it. Now it barely hurts."

"The Master?"

I blinked, once, twice and finally let go of the Doctor. "Yeah?"

A good bunch of seconds passed in which the Time Lord only stared dumbfounded at me. Eventually I raised my hand chest-high and waved a little. "You alright?" I wanted to know, half mocking, half concerned that I had done something stupid on accident.

That got the Doctor out of his stupor. He straightened, furrowed his brows, raised them, pursed his lips and finally thrust his hands into his pant pockets. "That's a first."

"What? The patching me up?"

"Yeah, it's not... Are you sure he hasn't put something dangerous on it, or-"

"I am!" I snapped and rolled my eyes. "Seriously. You act as if he's a ticking bomb."

The Doctor opened his mouth, popped one hand out of his pockets to hold a finger up and snapped his mouth shut again. The finger sunk. "Well, you can't know. But actually, yes. He usually is."

I shrugged. "Then go, give him a head pat."

That made him grin for a second, but his face turned serious fast. "I'll watch him. Since we're together he did change, after all. Somewhat. Only a little. I'm never sure it's only a facade or real, but... well... you have a fever. Fevers aren't good. Come, I have something for it."

While striding past me, he somehow managed to grab my hand to drag me along. On instinct I winced and tried to get free, but quickly calmed. He didn't mean me harm, after all. And he didn't seem to think anything, doing this.

Is he also able to sense my thoughts?, I wondered, glaring at our hands and being totally unaware of the corridors we walked through. It felt so strange to hold someone's hand. In both, a good and a bad way. Different. But to what?

When he had abducted me, the Master had also dragged me through corridors. It seemed so long ago, the details were already blurred. It had been strange, too, to walk like that, but in a purely confusing way.

And before that? My ex-boyfriend had always avoided it, had never wanted to show any connection to me in public. One of the first red flags I had willingly ignored back then.

And before that? I remembered small fingers, much smaller than my own. Those of my nephews. I had visited so often I almost raised them, to a certain extent. Had seen them growing up, going from helpless bundles I fed with bottles to teenagers taller than myself.

And now? What did I feel? The same confusion? A vague sense of security? If things were different, would we be friends?

I almost didn't notice that we had stopped. A door opened and I found myself in the same med bay I had seen before. By now I was freezing. Stupid fever.

"You really don't look so well, Lucy. Better sit down." The Doctor gestured to one of the sick beds and stepped to the grey shelves.

Was he concerned? Would he treat simply anyone like this? Sure, a doctor wouldn't deny help, would he? But, then again seemed his name not to be his occupation. At least not in a human sense. Maybe he wasn't a doctor of medicine, but of something else. Maybe it had a completely different meaning.

"What's your real name?" I wondered aloud, recognizing my voice to be a little shaky. "Doctor isn't really a name."

He turned to face me and brought a glass of water and some pills. I downed both in one go.

"It's the name I chose. Because it's what I wanted to be," explained the Doctor. "Someone who helps and heals."

"I see... You allow me to stay out of some sense of duty."

The Doctor's face dropped and went sad. A tired sigh escaped his lungs as he swiped a hand over his face.

"Sort of, yeah. We talked about that already and you know I..."

"It's okay." I smiled up at him and chuckled at his confused expression. "I prefer honesty over politeness. And... back in the console room..." I hesitated, unsure if my observation was correct.

"Yeah?"

"Well, you immediately asked if I wanted to go somewhere. That's... would you hate me, that probably wouldn't be a thing on your mind."

I felt genuine happiness when he suddenly smiled widely. The memories of my nephews returned for a moment and I had to think that he was a lot like them, when they had been little. Which was weird, because of his age. And he did seem to be very capable of being all serious and even dangerous. In stark contrast to this childish expression of joy. Well... alien. Somehow I kept forgetting the fact.

"You know what? That medicine of yours seems to be working quite well."

"Why, of course it does!"

"And, as it seems, I have two options."

The Doctor slightly tilted his head and nodded to show me to continue.

"Either I try and stay away from you. You wouldn't have to content with me, wouldn't have to bother..."

"Lucy, I don't..."

I stopped him by holding up a hand with a smile. "Or, what I would prefer myself, we simply get to know one another. I don't know if we can become friends. I... would hope we could. But it would be at least nice to be on friendly terms."

The Doctor chuckled into his fist. "Always ever so logic. And you have something in mind, I see that. Tell."

"Uhm, nothing special, actually. Just thought... I'm obviously not up for something big, right now. But let's just have a small adventure? Like... really small and-we're-back-for-dinner-adventure?"

"Oh, I like how that sounds! Are you okay enough for that? Don't try to cover up how you feel."

I cringed at that, because he had hit a point there. "I... don't know. But I always get bored when I have to stay in sick bed. And I hate being bored. I... hate being alone with my own thoughts."

"Mhm... I get that." He hooked his thumbs into his pockets and bobbed up and down on his heels. "How about... we simply go somewhere nice and have a coffee? You like coffee."

I giggled and nodded. "I definitely do. And I bet you know a fancy place to have some. You now," I drawled with a hopeful smile, "something with exotic alien creatures and stuff?"

"You like that, huh?" The Doctor showed me a big, approving grin, then his eyes widened. "Ohhhh! I know exactly the place!"

"That's what you said the last time. And then we stumbled into Skyrim." I sighed, but grinned. "Alright. Lead the way."

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"Doctor... is that..."

"It is! Brilliant! Isn't it?"

He beamed from ear to ear, leading the way to the entrance of what seemed to be an enormous park. And not just any.

"It's a zoo," I finally stated the obvious, blinking surprised while I watched what seemed to be humans running around and taking photos. This, obviously wasn't on earth though. And the animals... "An alien zoo."

The Doctor flashed his wallet at the entrance.

"Oh, you're from the security inspection!" The woman behind the glass gasped and handed us two tickets. "I won't tell anyone. And..." She leaned a little forward. "Could you take a look at the jarogya cage? They escape so often, it's unbelievable!"

"Oh, we definitely will!" The Doctor beamed a toothy grin at the lady and we slipped into the park.

"Security? How did you get her to believe that?" Suspiciously I eyed him from the side.

"Psychic paper." He tossed his wallet at me and I glanced inside, finding a white piece of paper in it. "Shows you what you want to see, expect to see."

"I see nothing."

"Think of something. Something..." He drawled, looking into the air while walking. "Something you... maybe something you would like to happen?"

Something I would like to happen. I had no idea what to pick and blankly stared at the paper, my eyes widening when some letters appeared on it - in a strangely sharp, but elegant handwriting.

I know you think I hate you. But you are important, don't forget that.

My heart leaped to my throat as I recognized the handwriting. I swallowed and blinked away some tears that had come out of nowhere. Was that really something I wanted?

With a deep sigh I closed the wallet and handed it back to the Doctor. "That's cool. You have to tell me how that works, someday. But let's enjoy the zoo, for now." Once more I took a breath, then smiled.

"Right! Then on we go!" The Doctor clapped his hands, swiftly grabbed mine again and we meandered through the crowd. "The people you see here are humans, if you were wondering. We're in the eighty-sixth century on the colonized planet Florsch. Named after an incident with a space travelling seashell... long story. The colonists decided to make this place a home for endangered species. Collect them all over the reachable universe."

I glared at our joined hands and pursed my lips, contemplating to tell him that this wasn't exactly human tradition or anything. But while I listened I decided to just go with it. It wasn't as if this would hurt me or anything. And maybe Time Lords needed this contact to form connections with others? A thing I decided to ask another day.

We visited countless of cages, compounds, aquariums, aerial spaces and whatnot. Some places needed to be entered through a special tube because the air pressure inside was different. In one such places lived a species of huge creatures that seemed to consist of only three legs and no perceivable body. The fourth actually was a snout with which they dug out food from the ground.

Others required us to wear oxygen masks, because the species inside were breathing different air. Like that we visited translucent butterflies and a species of big blue ant-things that lived in symbiosis with a certain kind of tree.

One small guided tour occurred in a submarine and showed tiny fish like creatures, but with hands. They had built whole, tiny cities below the water and waved at us, when our vessel floated by.

There were birds and mammals and apes and all the things you would imagine finding in a zoo. And so many more that I could impossibly list or describe them all. The Doctor, of course, knew most of them and had many stories to tell, not all of them his own, but many.

In between we also had our coffee and chatted with some of the locals. Well, the Doctor did most of the talking. And waffles! They had real waffles! Way too sweet and hot and just so deliciously reminding me of childhood visits to zoos. I probably sat there, grinning like an idiot while eating it.

We also found the jarogya species. As it turned out, they were a small combination of cats and monkeys. And so absolutely adorable that I wished they would escape, just so I could smuggle one out and keep it. But, for today, they were right where they belonged.

When the sun set we leaned on a chest high brick wall, watching some bio luminescent whales lazily breaking through the surface of an enormous basin that looked like a lake. By now I was tired, but still content and feeling weirdly nostalgic. Today I had truly felt like a child again, experiencing all those weird and foreign creatures. It reminded me of the few times my dad had visited zoos with us when we had been little. Just him, my big sister and I. If my mother had ever come along I couldn't recall. Somehow my brain had erased that detail, which maybe was for the better.

"Why are you doing that?" the Doctor asked, and when I turned to give him a questioning look, I saw his tilted head and raised eyebrows. "That smile just now," he explained. "You smile, but look sad doing so. That's not right."

I laughed at that, unable to explain it. How could I?

"That's not funny. If you smile, then why are you sad? And if you're sad, why do you smile? That's two contradicting emotions at once. It's like you're malfunctioning."

"Beep beep boop?" I answered, tilting my head to one side and laughed again at his utterly confused face. Playfully I slapped his arm. "Don't think about it, Doctor. It's... not important."

He gave me a sad look, one that made my smile drop instantly, one that told me he knew of pain much worse than mine.

During the day we definitely had laid aside some of the differences between us. Getting to know each other... that had been the goal, after all. And not having to worry about any dangers had made the whole experience quite enjoyable. I had no idea what he had learned about me, that day, but what I had learned about the Doctor, was that he was funny and bubbly and always tried to be there for people. Many of his stories had showed me that he was always eager to help, to fix things, to be kind. And while it could be annoying at time, I still came to appreciate this site of him.

So, seeing such a look in his eyes, now, made my stomach churn and I felt the urge to somehow cheer him up a little. And that made me sad again, because... I had no idea how. One of the many things I had never found out how to do in a proper way. No matter what I tried, it usually ended in everyone getting mad at me and telling me I'm an ice block.

"Oh no!" he exclaimed. "I shouldn't have said that, should I? Now you're properly sad. Which is good. I mean bad. But not confusing anymore, you know?"

I bumped my shoulder against his and smiled. "It's alright. Let's talk about something funny. It was such a nice day. Maybe I just got tired."

His eyebrows shot up once again, but it seemed he accepted my excuse - for now. A smile reappeared on his features. "Right, it's late already. Let's head back and I'll give you more meds for the night. Does that sound good?"

"It does."

Together we strolled back, this time not visiting anything except what we passed anyway. Somewhere we found a small shop with souvenirs and the Doctor ran inside, delightedly. With a childish glint in his eyes he showed me some of the weird looking plushies and figurines they had to sell. I made fun of some t-shirts and flags and could convince him to use his psychic paper so we could take along a few of the items.

My first souvenir from another planet. A small figurine of a jarogya.

"Hey, let's take a few waffles back," I suggested. "For the Master."

The Doctor opened his mouth as if to protest, but quickly closed it again. "Well... he'll probably throw them away, though."

I shrugged. "Worth the risk."

The walk back to the TARDIS was spent in a comfortable silence. The evening was cool and smelled of fresh air. Inside, the Doctor gave me a few more pills. One for today and one for when I would wake up.

"Thanks," I said, giving him a smile. "That was a great day."

"It was!" He smiled back. "And your idea also was great. Way better than hiding from each other."

I chuckled and walked to the doors. "Yeah, definitely. Good night, Doctor."

"Ah, I'm not sleeping. Not now, don't need to... oh... I mean... yeah. Good night, Lucy." He wriggled his fingers in a small wave and strode away, leaving me to my own.

Back to index


Chapter 50: Chapter 49

The TARDIS led me to the library, where I found the Master. He sat in a comfy armchair, wearing earbuds and having a thick old tome in hands.

It made me wonder what type of music he might listen to. Probably something to overtone the constant drumming noise in his head.

The Master heard, or sensed, me coming. His hand halted in turning a page, his head lifted slightly, eyes wandering to the small tinfoil package in my hands. Since he didn't remove the earplugs I wordlessly handed him the waffles and strode away again, to get a good night's rest.

"You visited Florsch?"

I turned around, seeing him opening the package to take out a waffle and bite into it. "Haven't been there in ages." There was a small smile on his face.

"Yeah. It was really cool there. Didn't think you would know the place."

The Master gave me a funny look. "Of course I do. Why wouldn't I?"

I huffed. "For one, it's still standing."

The rest of the waffle vanished and he chuckled, licking his fingers. "I'm not so dumb to destroy every place I visit. Only the boring ones. Or those which annoy me."

"So, a human made zoo is neither?" I eyed him suspiciously.

"Great study materials. Don't have to run all over the galaxy to get samples."

The second waffle vanished in record time, giving me the suspicion that samples - however he might get those - weren't his only reason. I decided to leave him with them, not actually awaiting a thanks.

"I checked your blood."

Once more I turned back, slightly annoyed that he waited with talking until I wanted to go. A slightly mischievous glint in his eyes told me this was definitely not a coincidence.

"And you found…?"

The Master shrugged and bit into the last waffle. "Nothing. You're good."

I blinked. "That's all?"

"Thought you might want to know."

"And…?"

There was a pause. The Master never left me with his eyes until the last bite was gone. Afterwards he licked his fingers clean, crumbled the tinfoil to a ball and threw it at me.

With a harmless 'plopp' it bounced against my arm and rolled away a few centimetres. The Master answered my annoyed look with a smug, childish grin, leaned back in his arm chair, where he propped both elbows on the armrests and folded his hands.

"I made some tests," he finally announced. "Wanted to see if the egg would react to it."

"And it doesn't."

One of his eyebrows shot up. "How would you know?"

I shrugged. "A wild guess."

"Then guess how it reacts to your DNA."

"Not at all? Why's that important? You wouldn't make such a scene-" I waved over his posture- "because of nothing."

He grinned. "Smart." And he ignored my eye roll. "I'm not sure what it means. Aside from the fact that it's not something biological it reacts to… It's you."

Although the implication had been there the whole time, having it spoken out, now, made it only stranger. What did (could) I have to do with a dragon's egg? Their mother had shown me some vision, true, but she could have picked everyone else. Or was that the connection?

"Is it because the dragon connected to my mind, somehow?"

The Master slowly nodded. "Might be. Although it raises the question, why it did that. I'm not sure you noticed, but the dragon never directly attacked you. And it had plenty of opportunity to rip you into tiny, bloody pieces." There was a nasty, teasing smile on his lips.

Silence spread between us, neither having a real clue where to go from here. In the end I just sighed and turned halfway to leave.

"I need some sleep. Let's figure this out tomorrow."

There came no answer, so I strode away and simply took his silence as a confirmation.

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The night was uneventful. Some hope blossomed within me that the nightmares had found an end, even though I kept getting glimpses, afterimages of how they had felt… Like a bad taste you can't get rid of.

I took care of the wound, was careful to wrap the bandages how the Master had done it and took the last pill afterwards. The fever seemed to be gone and the scratch was healing astonishingly well. Probably due to the salve.

Afterwards I went to the kitchen, greeting the TARDIS on my way. She hummed happily and I complimented her on the good coffee. This time I also had a small breakfast before I went to see the Master.

He was in the same room as yesterday, again wearing earplugs when I entered. His hand drummed on the table.

Tap - tap - tap - tap.

I wasn't sure whether he knew I was there and approached slowly. The egg sat in its contraption, not glowing or doing anything else. There were papers with handwriting strewn over the table and some with complex looking circular symbols on them. I remembered having seen those before.

The Master still didn't move. Only tapped his rhythm with closed eyes. But then his lids crept open, revealing almost black pupils swallowing the hazel. There was a void in his gaze, an absence of awareness, of sanity.

He didn't see me.

Tap - tap - tap - tap

I swallowed a lump in my throat, unsure what to do. It felt as if he was in pain, as if the drumming would tear through him like a glowing knife.

Tap - tap - tap - tap

Carefully I leaned closer and placed my hand over his. The tapping stopped and for a good minute nothing else happened.

"Lumin?" he mumbled eventually, eyes creeping open.

I retreated my hand and stepped back, waiting. The Master groaned and removed the ear plugs, running a hand over his face. It took him some moments to look at me and there was a tiredness on his face that made me swallow.

"Long night?" I asked, knowing it wasn't the case, knowing he didn't need as much sleep, knowing that what tormented him was not something so simple.

He huffed. "Yeah. Centuries long."

I halfway sat on the table next to him, lightly folding my arms. "What are they?"

The Master bent his head back, taking some deep breaths. When he glanced back at me, he seemed a little clearer.

"There is a gap in the fabric of reality. If you look inside you can see all of time and space. All at once, no filters, nothing to prevent everything from rushing into your soul." His voice was unfamiliarly soft. I stayed silent, only listened. "When we're eight years old, we are brought to this untempered Schism. They force us to look inside." He swallowed, looked at me, through me. "It hurts, little one. Oh it hurts."

"Wh… why do they do that to you?" I almost whispered.

He shrugged. "A rite of passage. A method to select. For some it reveals great secrets and are then able to advance the entire race, some others are simply overtaken by fear and some…"

The Master closed his eyes, his mouth twitched as if from a sudden pain. The memory itself was only unpleasant, but its result was burned into him like a mark.

"The drums," I muttered into the growing silence.

"Some go completely insane," he told in a low voice. "Kids we grew up with never returned. The stories we heard, whispered in dark bedrooms in the academy… some screaming until their lungs burst, others trying to claw out their own eyes. And worse… Oh, so much worse."

For a while he seemed lost in that memory.

There was no way for me to comprehend why anyone would do this. It seemed unnecessarily cruel. Just to get a few that might look beyond. Was that really worth it?

Then again…

"But why do I have an effect on them?"

The Master glared at me. Was it contempt? Hatred? Was it even directed at me, personally? The look softened and he sighed.

"I do have a theory, but…" He paused, absently glaring past me.

"The life force?"

He blinked at me and a second later suddenly laughed out. "I keep forgetting how smart you are." He chuckled some more and rose from his seat.

Smart? A blush crept up my neck and I could barely keep myself from grinning. "Just seemed logical. There's nothing else that connects us."

"No?" Why was there such an amused twinkle in his eyes as he approached? "That's probably good then, isn't it?" his lips twitched mischievously, but at the same time there was a shadow fading over his features. "It means I can break and bend you all I want." He leaned down, stroked a finger over my cheek. "I can make you my puppet, a mere toy on strings. I can command you to follow each and every order of mine, without ever saying a word."

I flinched away from his touch… and from the newly blossoming madness in his gaze. Even though he'd seemed so calm, just now, the drums were still raging in his head, clouding his sanity.

"Don't. Move," he whispered, glaring into my eyes.

And my body froze, obeying his order. Fear rose within me. What would he do to me? Why did he hypnotize me like that?

The Master circled around me with slow steps, hands clasped behind his back. Eventually he took the egg from its contraption.

"Open your hands."

I did, held them together, palms facing upwards. The scaly egg landed within them and we both watched how the purple veins faintly started to glow again.

"Now-" the Master glared at me- "Hold it. Don't let go. Don't move away. Don't eat or drink or sleep." With every word his look got darker, almost angry. He opened a door to another, smaller room and pushed me inside, then roughly grabbed my arm to twirl me around, so I had to face him. "When something happens, call out. Otherwise don't dare to bother me. Understood, ape?"

I had no choice but to nod and, even after the door fell shut in front of my nose, it took a perceived effort to even turn my head. All thoughts were clouded and foggy, as if I had lost my capacity to think. I should be furious, mad and angry… But I found nothing the like within me.

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.

If the hypnotism wore off over time or if my mind simply found ways to work around it is beyond my knowledge. But after some minutes I could move again, was able to walk away from the door and inspect the room.

It was a storage of some kind and also a place to rest and be left alone. Shelves upon shelves lined the walls, filled with books and loose papers, objects of all sorts, instruments to measure whatever. There also was a dark green sofa that was also filled with books, but otherwise looked clean.

I flopped down on it, moved some books away with one hand and grabbed a random one to peek inside. My other hand kept holding the egg. I wasn't able to set it down, even when I tried. I also couldn't bring myself to leave the room.

Bugger!

The books were at least interesting, although it was hard to concentrate on anything. My awareness kept sliding back to the egg to observe it. The purple veins glowed quietly, in time with my breath. I held it closer to my face, removed my specs and examined the delicate pattern on the shell. It seemed sturdy, covered in tiny versions of the dragon's black scales.

After a few useless attempts to read I finally gave up, curled myself together on the sofa and just glared at the egg in my hands.

________________________________________________
.

At some point I must have fallen asleep. I can't tell what woke me up, maybe it were the images of black smoke, wings and the screams of crows, maybe it was the hypnotism that forced me to keep an eye on the egg. Maybe it was the sound of the door opening. Maybe it was the faint heartbeat I felt in my fingers, intermingled with the sensation of warmth.

I knew the Master had come in, but my eyes still kept glued to the egg. I didn't imagine it. There really was a heartbeat, and the shell was much warmer than it could have gotten from my body heat alone.

The Master stepped in front of the sofa, his shadow falling over me. I turned away and around to face the backrest, cradling the egg between my hands. I knew the drums drove him to do mean and stupid things, but I was still mad at him. I didn't want to talk, didn't want to see him. I wanted to be alone with my egg, wanted to feel the faint heartbeat of the tiny creature inside.

"Turn around, lil' lumin. I can take away the hypnotism."

The words were softly, spoken, maybe even meant as an apology.

I didn't budge.

"You're mad at me."

It was a fact, not a question, maybe a little amused. I felt a weight settling down behind me, closed my fingers around the warm shell. After some moments the Master leaned  closer, tried to catch a glance at the egg, but I hid it with my hands and curled together some more.

He sighed, sat back and did nothing else for a bit. Eventually, though, he shifted, changed position. His arm went on the backrest. I felt him against my back, sensed hesitation I couldn't explain.

"It's only been two or three hours," he mumbled. "Must have felt much longer to you." His fingers lightly drummed his rhythm against the backrest. "I know I commanded you not to speak… But if you wanna yell at me I need to lift the hypnotism."

I smiled at that and quietly chuckled to myself. But I had no desire to yell and also none to turn. All I wanted was to drift away again and hold the tiny spark of life. My eyes closed on their own, already.

And for some moments it seemed I really had fallen asleep once more. Vaguely I got aware of movement, of touch. There was a hand on my head, gently stroking through my short hair. But no, I didn't dream.

"Stubborn little light." The Master chuckled.

The fingers remained, played with my hair, twirled some strands, combed through others. There was such a softness in his movements, it made me sigh and lean into the touch a little.

"You guard that egg well. That's good." It sounded as if he smiled fondly. "It's a precious thing. Maybe even unique."

I uncurled a little to glance at the small object. The Master leaned over me again and did the same, watched the pulsating glow. He sighed and stopped playing with me.

"Look, I know you're mad…"

"'m not," I mumbled.

A surprised silence filled the small room, then a short laugh. "You already broke through the hypnotism yourself? That's quite remarkable."

Finally I turned a little and peeked up at the Master. "Is it?"

"Mh-mhh." He smiled and the tips of his finger glided over my head a little. "Speaks of a strong mind. Oh, so much stronger than you're willing to admit." he grimaced and retreated his hand. "What a petty. I wish you weren't so important." He leaned closer down to me, something ancient and indeed evil shining through his eyes. "Then I could just crush you."

I flinched at his words and scrambled into a sitting position, trying to get farther away in the process. One hand kept clutching the egg, pressed it protectively against my chest. His eyes hungrily fixated on it.

"Give it to me," the Master commanded and held a hand out.

I shook my head, even though I could feel his hypnotism scratch my mind.

"You can't do anything with it," I muttered and licked my dry lips. "It doesn't want you."

The warm pulsating in my hand, the faint heartbeat. He wouldn't feel it, would only drown the developing creature in his own darkness.

The Master let his hand sink, his brows knitted together angrily. I took a step back, bumped against a shelf and grabbed a small black sphere, roughly the same size as the egg, I knew sat there.

He put on a smile. "Come on, don't be mad anymore. Nothing happened to you."

I huffed. "Yet. And that you want to crush me doesn't make anything better."

"Can't help it." He laughed out. "Humans are just a bother."

"Yeah… We are. We, too, love to break things."

With that I threw the small sphere into a corner of the room, watched the Master following with his eyes, then jumping up to follow.

And I ran, bolted out of the door and out of the other room, rushed into the TARDIS' corridors. A golden light appeared on the floor, leading me away and around two or three curves, before halting in front of the console room.

"Perfect, thank you." I grinned and let the egg vanish into a pocket of my hoodie.

The Master wouldn't risk the Doctor finding out about it.

 

Back to index


Chapter 51: Chapter 50

For the next few days I did my best to hide from the Master. It wasn't that I was afraid of him maybe hurting me. It was that I didn't want him to lay his hands on the egg.

Sometimes I wondered if it was still his hypnotism that kept me protecting the small thing. Ever since I had spent so much time with it in that room, I had a hard time leaving it out of sight and especially out of reach. Only when I took a shower did I set it down. In all other times I wore it inside a tiny shoulder bag I had crafted from some stuff the TARDIS had offered.

At night - or what would constitute as such inside here - I lay awake for long hours, holding the egg within my hands, watching the delicate pattern pulsate and feeling its warmth and the tiny heartbeat within the shell. During the days I tried to stay close to the Doctor, knowing the Master wouldn't confront me in front of him.

"Up for some sightseeing?" the Doctor asked, grinning, when I entered with my usual mug of coffee in hands. "Nothing big. We'll just hover in space for a while, watching the birth of a double quadroon nebulae cluster. Always fascinating. Happens-" he tilted his head and thought for a second- "only every billion years or so. I think there are only roughly a hundred of those in the entirety of time and space."

"Wait... like... actually going to space?" I gaped at him.

"Well, we're on different planets all the time..."

"Yeah!" I interrupted, excitedly. "But that's on the surface. And not in space itself. Do we have a spaceship? I mean... the TARDIS, yeah, but can it fly through space?"

For the last few days the Doctor had taken me to some harmless places. Cities, forests, a space-station with a black market. Okay, the last one had ended in us being chased by what could be called the local mafia, but it had still been a relatively quiet day. The Doctor did his best to stay out of trouble, even though I sometimes caught him twitching in the direction of certain conversations that hinted at bigger things going on. Once, I only patted his arm, told him to run off and marched straight back to the TARDIS. (He had to follow to open the door, but after that he was gone. And I never learned what had or hadn't happened.)

"Of course it can!" he now told, beaming from ear to ear. "The TARDIS has special protection shields. Not even an army of elephants can get in. Not even a Dalek can shoot through it."

Whatever a Dalek was.

He grinned at my wide eyes and jumped to a set of buttons to get us going. I held tight onto one of the seats, somehow even managing not to spill my coffee. After we stopped I pre-emptively emptied the mug and sat it down.

Meanwhile the Doctor had already hastened to the doors to open them wide. With a grin back at me he waved and when I trod next to him I saw a wonderful sight that is hard to put into words. I'll try it anyway, because it were sights like these that burned themselves into my mind, that kept me moving, even in moments when everything inside of me screamed to just stop.

Before us spread a field of vines - at first it looked like some, at least -  their size was unbelievable and the TARDIS was only a speck of dust in comparison to a single colourful strand. Dark blues and purples dominated the palette, weaved themselves through the fuzzy vines, blinked and glowed where they concentrated.

And all of those strands ran together in the middle, a point I was only able to make out after several minutes of trying to comprehend the massiveness of this. The centre, now, was an enormous sphere of colour and dancing lightning, so far away that it would take a century to reach. A storm cloud of matter, a blazing nest of energy, sizzling and compressing itself to something new, something rare and spectacular.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

The voice startled me. Firstly, because of how consumed by the sight I had been, Secondly because it belonged to the Master.

My heart leaped to my throat and I dared to peek behind me. Not that it would have been necessary. He put a hand to the door frame right next to my head and left barely any space between my back and himself.

Being trapped like this, I couldn't move away. The egg weighed heavily in my small bag, hung so close to the Master's hand. But he made no attempt to steal it. For now.

"It is!" the Doctor happily seconded, unaware of the slight tension between us. "They say if you witness this phenomena, you should make a wish. Any. The sheer energy of this place will carry it along and weave it into the fabric of reality."

The Master huffed. "Legends, Doctor. Nothing more."

Somehow his words wore a tinge of sadness. The other Time Lord replied something, a bubbling of words. But I heard none of them. There was a hand near my throat all of a sudden, but it quickly slid lower, rested somewhere near my collar bone and slightly slipped under my shirt. Skin met skin and immediately I felt a nudge and a tug in my head, so unexpected that I could barely bite back a gasp.

And I saw… I saw through the Master's eyes, saw him glaring at a similar sight like this, wishing for the drums to be taken. He shouted it out into space, screamed it into the weaves of colours. And when there was no answer and the drums still hammered in his head, he sunk to his knees and laughed, and then cried and screamed, begged.

The images vanished. I had no idea if he let me see them voluntarily or if it was just a slip. Might be for the better not to mention it.

"Do I make you nervous?" the Master muttered, his mouth close to my ear. "Your heart is beating so fast."

Crap. I couldn't move away while he held me like that. And now I also saw that the Doctor had left. Then there also was the foreign stream of energy in my head, making my perception hazy. The Master must have felt my slight, sudden panic and pushed me back against him a little.

"Hey," he quietly laughed. "I'm not hurting you, am I?"

"N… no. I'm just not used to this."

"Relax, I only want the drums to shut up for a bit."

I nodded, took a deep breath and allowed myself to calm down, to sink against him a little and just enjoy the view. It was indeed breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe I was the first and only human to ever witness it, taking into account how rare it was.

As rare as just being held like this. Admittedly, I had kind of missed the Master a little, during the last days. As annoying and dangerous as he could be, there was just something about him…

His other hand started to frisk my hoodie until he reached the strap of the shoulder bag and started fumbling with that. I froze and started to slightly panic at once, but there was a soothing nudge from his mind, running through me.

"You've taken good care of it," the Master mumbled and his hand left.

"'course I have," I grumbled back and tried to grab the small bag to get it out of his immediate reach.

"Uh oh." His soft laugh reverberated through my back. "Did I wake your motherly instincts?"

"My what?" I snorted. "Pretty sure I don't have those."

"No? You're not hypnotized anymore and still guard the thing like a hen. But that's not important. It reacts to you and keeping it close… well… I hope you realize it might still take a long time to hatch it. Centuries even. Maybe longer."

Could that be the case? But if that were true, why would it react to someone like me, who had such a limited lifespan?

"You… won't take it away?" I asked hopefully.

The Master chuckled. "No. I can't do anything with it. You might as well make yourself useful."

I smiled and skimmed a finger over the bag. Useful. That was a first. The egg kept warm simply by being close to me. Body contact wasn't required, although I still loved to feel its texture and the faint heartbeat.

"Oh, you're still here."

The Doctor's voice dragged me out of my thoughts and I got aware of how quickly the Master removed his hand from my skin. And therefore also my mind. I slightly winced, shuddered a little. Losing the contact so fast made me feel uncomfortable in a way I couldn't even describe.

"Yah," the Master replied late. "Was just contemplating getting some samples from the dust clouds."

"Oh, that's a brilliant idea!" The Doctor appeared next to me, peeking his head through the door. "We might even learn something completely new. I think I remember they told us about this at the academy. Something about that there were barely any studies."

"What can we learn from-" I waved outside - "this. It's pretty, but isn't it just stardust and stuff?"

"Might." The Doctor shrugged. "But I've seen sentient suns and talking moons. I know of life forms that are made of sound and elements that defy every single rule of physics. So…" He giggled happily. "Better to check than to miss out, eh?"

"And how do we get samples?" I wondered, tilting my head in thought.

"That's easy," the Master replied, and there was something in his voice that exceeded mischief and made me nervous.

I turned around and looked questioningly at the Time Lords. The Doctor fumbled around in his suit pockets that seemed to contain far more items than were possible to even fit in. The Master had stepped away from me a little, but was still in arm's reach. His eyes rested on me, then he reached over to the Doctor to rip the small vials out of his fingers.

"Oi!" he protested. "Don't steal them."

"Shut it, Doctor. I'm saving us some work here."

With that he slipped the vials into the pocket of my hoodie and answered my puzzled look with a childish grin. I opened my mouth to ask, but in that moment he already grabbed my collar, wriggled the fingers of his free hand at me and then... simply shoved me backwards and out into space.

Back to index


Chapter 52: Chapter 51

Author's Notes: Whoops! *giggle*

I might have had a little fun with this... in so many ways.

Also, I hope you're all well in these times. Spring is slowly returning and my country is trying out a few strategies to loosen the lockdown-grip on society. I really hope it'll work out. I'm getting sick and tired of it all. *sigh*


My heart jumped into my throat as I lost balance and fell backwards. There was nothing. Just the open door. Only space. The darkness. I tried to grab the door frame, the Master's sleeve, but I was too slow. My feet left the ground, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

Everything… stopped.

I heard a mean laugh and the Doctor's scolding, although that also sounded amused. All those horrible things I had read about happening to a human body in space...

They all simply did not happen.

My look wandered down and I felt dizzy in an instant. My feet didn't touch anything, there was only endlessness. I was… floating.

"Whoops!" the Master laughed. "Did I scare you there, little one?"

"Come on, Master. That was mean." The Doctor, too, was barely holding back a laugh and he happily waved at me. "Didn't I mention the TARDIS' protective shields? It also creates an oxygen bubble around herself. Which is why we could look outside the doors like that, by the way."

Right. I hadn't even thought about that. Normally we would have gotten sucked out. Being around weird things seemed to have made me overlook other strange things.

"There also is some basic gravity, barely noticeable, so you can kind of swim around somewhat," the Doctor continued with a grin.

"And since you were so excited about being in space I thought I might let you do the dirty work." The Master folded his arms, leaned against the doorframe and giggled to himself.

"You could have still warned her." The other Time Lord slapped his arm playfully and the Master only stuck out his tongue. Thoughtfully the Doctor rubbed his chin. "What do you think? I haven't been to space for a while. Let's join her."

"Oh, I don't think so. Go and play alone." The Master rolled his eyes.

But the Doctor wouldn't give up so easily and tugged at the other one's arm to shove him outside. A small fight broke loose that made me think of brothers squabbling. One moment the Master had the Doctor in a headlock, the next he was pushed backwards and fought with his balance, but he could catch himself in time, grabbed the Doctor's tie and managed to get himself back inside.

In the end they both landed outside with me somehow, both giggling like children and still shoving each other around.

I stayed out of the way, carefully tried to manoeuvre around. It really was like swimming, just without having water around me. The protective shields also seemed to hold the temperatures stable, since I didn't feel cold out here. Which was odd. My brain had a really hard time processing all those properly illogical things.

Watching the two Time Lords having some childish fun together was refreshing and amusing. It almost seemed as if they hadn't behaved like this in forever, and maybe they hadn't - not with each other. I watched the Master grabbing a good handful of glowing stardust to rub it in the Doctor's face. As revenge he got pushed into the whole cloud, where he stirred up a mess and left dust traces behind him when he escaped, some nasty curses on his lips.

For a while they chased each other and I was content just watching from the TARDIS' roof. Somehow I had the feeling it would be best not to interrupt. Even though I didn't know all of their history, it felt as if they truly needed this moment, a break in all the animosity, a break from the tension and the hate that might linger between them for centuries.

The Master drifted through the darkness on his back, having a somewhat serene smile on his face, one I was quite certain to have never witnessed myself. The Doctor lazily swam over, hovered nearby and waited for the Master to drift over. He was at chest height to the Master's head and gently took it in his hands, stroking over the other ones' temples.

"I haven't seen you so carefree in centuries, Master," the Doctor said, smiling and glancing down at the other one's face.

The Master opened his eyes and looked back. Another smile tugged on his lips. "Remember when we hid the principal's time rotor in the arconeum? It almost was like this."

The Doctor giggled. "Yes, that was one of our better pranks."

They both laughed at the memory. The Master reached a hand up, stroked a finger over the Doctor's cheek. "Some days I wish everything could be like it was then," he murmured, barely loud enough for me to understand.

A sad huff came from the other Time Lord as he leaned closer down. "We were only children."

"Mhm… and everything was so much easier." The Master bent slightly upwards to get closer, but the Doctor almost immediately backed away, let go of the other one's head and even drifted backwards a bit.

The disappointment was clearly written all over the Master's face whilst the Doctor swam back to the doors,  almost as if he was fleeing. I hid on the roof, out of sight. This wasn't my business and I didn't want them to think I'd be spying on them. I wasn't. It was simply tempting to learn more about how they related to one another. A puzzle which seemed to yield more questions each time they interacted.

And none of your business, I reminded myself with furrowed brows.

Instead of wondering about it more I went to fulfil the task I had been given. The dust clouds wore so many colours and some of the dust seemed to have different consistencies. It also was fun to just swim around in space, even though it made me nauseous to look into the distance. No matter where my eyes landed, they could not find a point to fixate on, and my brain didn't like this at all.

I took samples from many different dust patches. The vials were small and many, so there was enough opportunity to collect. Maybe I would even keep some of it. In one vial I collected more than a single sample, some of different shades of blue and purple, that looked really pretty when stacked on top of each other.

Here and there I also checked the egg, once even held it into the dust to see if there would be a reaction. Nothing happened, though, so I stored it away again.

It also was hard to tell what time it was, or how much of it had passed since I was floating out here. Eventually I returned to the front of the TARDIS, where I saw the Master sitting in the door frame, feet dangling into space while a dark look clouded his features.

"Having fun?" he asked with a crooked smile, when I approached.

"After you almost scared me to death?" I mocked. "Yep, lots of it." The Master smirked and watched as I did a roll in the air, only to stop, hovering upside down. I floated closer and poked out my tongue. "How you're not falling down?" I asked, trying to sound as serious as I could. "You sit the wrong way around."

He blinked as if he needed a moment to get the stupid joke, then a small, almost noiseless laugh found its way out of his throat. It didn't manage to completely cover his mood, but I still counted it as a success.

"So, you were afraid?" he asked.

"Well, yeah. A little. That really was mean."

Another, slightly wider smile spread on his face and it was weirdly soft. "About time," he said and heaved himself to his feet. "And don't you ever again forget how that feels."

Every smart response I might have had caught in my throat and I rotated in space to match his orientation. Was he right? Could I really fear death again, instead of chasing it? The Master's face dropped when he looked at me.

"That was meant to be funny, idiot," he grumbled.

"Oh," was all I managed to let out and I forced a smirk on my face. So many years of faking happiness, it had its advantages. "Okay. You managed. I was afraid."

I didn't tell him that my fear had probably only been instinct, called forth by the suddenness of the situation. Or was it? And this godforsaken smile on his face then, as if he would actually care.

One that he used to hide his own sadness, his own misery, the pain. I manoeuvred back to the door, hovered in the frame, awaiting the Master to step back to let me back in. Instead, however, he grabbed me around the waist, slipped under my hoodie and spread his fingers on my skin. They were warm and careful and he couldn't keep himself from letting out a relieved sigh, all while I felt his presence hovering in my head.

This man was just totally unaware of the concept of personal space! And he obviously had no idea that humans regarded skin contact mostly as quite intimate. That or he simply didn't care. I wasn't even sure myself if what I felt was a slight anger, or even amusement. Probably a mix of both. Besides, I knew I was only a tool, the only way he had to quiet his mind a little.

"The drums again?" I asked.

"Again?" he uttered. "They never shut up. Never. Not for a single second."

Well, that would probably drive anyone crazy. I didn't mind him using me for some temporary relief of them, but couldn't he just ask?

"Hey, let go." I slightly pushed against his chest. "I wanna come inside."

The look in his eyes darkened, but he still removed his hands and allowed me to carefully enter the door. It was a weird sensation to go back from zero gravity to feeling my own weight again. For a few seconds I gripped the door frame tight, not daring my own body to cope with the change immediately.

"Are they worse today?" I asked, partially to distract myself.

The Master hummed confirming. "It almost hurts again." He shook his head, eyes pressed shut.

"I still don't get why I help with it," I mumbled and released the door frame, carefully balancing my weight.

"I could find out," the Master mumbled, glaring at me. "But you wouldn't like it." My questioning look got answered with a mean grin. "I'd have to probe your head, dig and scratch more than just the surface." He took a step towards me, a glint of madness in his eyes.

I swallowed, unsure if that even meant something bad for me. So far, connecting was actually a quite pleasant experience and since it helped him with the drums, I was more than glad to oblige. Then again did I remember how it had hurt the first time, as he hadn't toned down his abilities to my human mind.

"Is that... dangerous?"

"Might." The corner of his mouth twitched amused.

"Does it hurt?" I raised a brow. Pain was something I could handle quite well, but at least I wanted to be prepared.

It seemed as if the Master took my hesitation the wrong way, though. He laughed out, a cruel mockery swinging within his voice. His hand slammed against the door frame next to my head as he bent down to my eye level.

"Do I care? Do you think I'll leave you a choice?"

I opened my mouth to respond, to tell him, I was okay with it, but something about him stopped me from speaking. A mild hypnotism maybe? Was he even aware of it? Dammit! Why couldn't he just ask and let me answer normally? I shook my head, glaring at him.

"All I want is for those bloody drums to be quiet," he now growled, stroked a hand over my cheek. "But if I break you, I'll lose this chance." His hands glided down my sites, making me squirm and wonder if he even knew what he was doing with me. And again he took my reaction the wrong way, his look getting darker. "No, I won't ask. I am the Master, don't you ever forget that. I just take whatever I want. You can shield your silly little mind as much as you like, I can just break through it."

What an idiot! I wanted to shout it out at him, but couldn't and settled for just giving him a scowl. Barriers my as! If he wanted in my head, I wouldn't stop him. If the drums would vanish from his mind, maybe it would allow him to finally calm down, to be free of his involuntary madness.

His fingers slipped under my hoodie and shirt once more, still warm, still strangely gentle as they wrapped around my sites. I closed my eyes, determined not to resist, although I had no clue how mental barriers even worked. Intend must be enough and so I breathed out, imagining how the walls around me just dissolved into scraps that floated away. The same moment I felt the Master, his presence, his determination. But it was like wanting to breach a door, only for it to open at the last moment. Instead of crashing against the resistance he had awaited, there was just nothing.

And he fell.

The stream of energy from his mind tumbled into mine, spread like warm smoke, pooled right into my chest. I gasped, had trouble breathing for a second. The Master tried to stop, surprise, panic, confusion, rage, it was all there, reverberated through me as his fingers dug deeper into my sites. Something in my mind seemed to pick it up, reflecting, no, intermingling with it. Threads that wrapped around each other, a splash of blood vanishing in a vast ocean.

His forehead dropped against mine and he drew me closer, still trying to get free in the same process. I was frozen, overwhelmed by all those weird sensations. It was warm, swirling in my head, my chest, pulsating in the tips of my fingers. Did I even want to stop this? My pulse was racing madly, everything around us disappeared, got swallowed by what I felt. And I wanted more of it.

There was a small groan, from me, from him? It was hard to tell what belonged to whom. I sensed how much he was. All the years and centuries of his life, all the good and the bad, all the losses, the love, the hate, the cold loneliness. It was his and it wasn't. It was mine and it wasn't either. There was resistance, struggling, all in vain, only leading to our minds entangling even more, like fish trapped in a net.

And it just wasn't enough. I (we) sensed the potential, felt a tingling of how much more this could be, how much deeper we could both reach inside another. When had my hands clawed into his shirt? When did my eyes close? Was that amusement? Was it fear? Uncertainty, still struggling, still fighting. Still craving for so much more. I felt his breath against my lips, saw his eyes, that couldn't see mine any longer and could nonetheless.

More. We could be so much more. And there was so much curiosity. Mine? His? Ours? Fingers on my skin, eyes boring into each other, lips ghosting over mine. A question, a demand. A possibility. No struggle was left, no vain attempt to entangle. Careful, oh so careful did he move, did I. Lips touching lips, igniting something new, sparking a flame that ran through my whole body that was pressed against his, held tight, mouths moving, eyes closed. And he was so ancient, and I learned that time had a taste. Our minds tumbled deeper, pooled into an endless ocean that was both and neither of us together, that was beyond ourselves. I got lost, so did he, I knew it, because he knew, I felt it, because he did. My hands dragged him closer, his held me tighter. And finally we stopped tumbling, stopped the rush and managed to stay somewhere.

Somewhere so deep there was no name for it. A place in our intermingled minds that was more true than reality could ever be.

And there I heard it... Cold and foreign and old and... wrong.

Du... du... du... du

Du... du... du... du

Du... du... du... du

The sound, once noticed, spread, reached into my mind, but couldn't settle, retreated. It felt unnerving, threatening, like what I had heard on the brink of death. Not a heartbeat, but an artificial tone, a fixed set of four beats, ever repeating, always the same. Fading, slipping before I could grasp its origin.

And slowly we stopped being one and became two separate things once again. Carefully the Master untangled our essences. Not as fast as would have been possible, both clinging to the longing for a connection, or maybe just enjoying the chase of tongues and the soft movements that lost their urgency and tapered off as we resurfaced.

For what felt like minutes, we kept standing there, eyes closed, waiting for our breaths to calm, for the beatings of hearts to go back to somewhat normal. I felt fingers letting go of my sites and opened my lids to blink at the Master above me, who seemed as confused and overwhelmed as I felt. Neither of us had awaited such a snowball effect.

But he caught himself much faster than I could, a crooked grin spreading on his face, while he quietly laughed to himself, before his twinkling eyes came to rest on me again.

"Whoops."

Back to index


Chapter 53: Chapter 52

Author's Notes: Confusion time! xP I mean... who wouldn't be after that.
Also, it's spring from today on! *jumps around*
I need to decorate my flat a little. Get out all the whites and greys and get in some green and other colours! UwU
Let's hope the new season brings some relief to all of us.


"Whoops," the Master let out, childishly smirking. "That got a bit out of hand there."

I blinked stupidly at him, how he still had one hand next to my head, propped against the door frame, his head only as far away as necessary. I found myself completely at a loss for words. Because of so many reasons there was no way to pick one, no way to shove one of them in his face.

"A bit..." I repeated toneless, trying to get my head to comply again. I felt numb, tired and at the same time totally binged up, when I brought myself to actually look him in the eyes. "What the heck was that?"

There was a mockingly raised brow, a smug smirk. "I think people call that a kiss."

I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Stop messing with me," I whined. "That was just part of this whole snowball effect, wasn't it?"

Was it?

"Partially." The Master shrugged and mumbled, "It does need a certain attr- anyway." He straightened. "You just said it yourself. Snowball effect." Grinning, he tapped against my head. "Hard to stop, once it gets rolling."

I slapped his hand away, although I wasn't pissed or anything. Just tired and confused and maybe a little overdosed with some of those bloody hormones a human body tends to produce in such a situation. And he absolutely was not allowed to wear such a charming smile, I decided at that moment.

He snickered at my probably dumb expression and poked out his tongue as he leaned closer down to my eye level. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, little one. But if you wanna know-"

"Just shut up, will you?" I grunted and this time it was me who grabbed his collar, if only to bump my forehead against his. "Give my brain a moment to catch up." And my body some more moments to cool down. Gosh dammit!

I was met with wide, surprised eyes, then a small grin. "For a second I thought you wanted to snog me again."

"That's so not going to happen." I huffed. "and you were the one starting it."

The Master's eyes twinkled mischievously. "Was I?"

Well, okay, I had no clue who started that part. Everything had just... happened. But had it been because of the sudden connection, or because there was something... else? Attraction? Maybe. He certainly was handsome, but that wasn't enough. And no matter how honest I tried to be with myself I could not find anything beyond this. Maybe there wasn't even a proper name for whatever bound us together. And maybe I was still way too confused and overwhelmed to want to think about it.

Right now it simply felt good to be so close and just breathe. The Master didn't try to get in my mind and also didn't move away. It felt as if I (we?) needed this little bit of contact to process everything, to get all of it back in order and to remember that there had been something important. Oh so very important.

"Are you hurting?" the Master asked softly, for once without mischief or mockery in his voice.

I let out a long breath and slightly shook my head. "No... yes. I don't know. Not physically. Ugh... that's all your bloody fault. You just need to storm in everywhere, don't you?"

He chuckled quietly and took my head in both hands. "Wasn't expecting to be let in like that. Usually people can't stand having me in their mind."

"Can't imagine why," I replied, oozing sarcasm, but then got half serious. "Just ask next time. And don't dare to start with your pride again."

The Master gave me a scowl, his eyes darkly boring into mine. "As if you would let me. I felt how much it scares you."

Another drawn out breath (sigh?) pressed itself out of my lungs. I realized that I was still clutching the lapels of his shirt and let my hands sink. Only a little, not really knowing where to place them and not wanting to let them uselessly dangle by my sites. So, somehow they just landed on his chest, where I subtly felt his weird heartbeat.

Scared? Maybe I was. Humans are always scared of what they don't understand.

I huffed and smiled with closed eyes. "Guess I'm overall more curious than afraid."

Maybe not clinging to life so madly had its advantages, after all. A thought I kept to myself, one he might not ever truly understand, despite his age. Those hearts beat so strong, nothing in the universe could ever stop them. The Master simply would not allow it.

Only seconds had passed, although they felt like a small eternity. He hadn't moved, forehead still propped against mine, my hands still resting on his chest, the double pulse beneath. That noise that was so calm and soothing and yet could be so…

My eyes snapped open. "The drums."

His brows knitted together. "Still annoying." The hands around my head gripped tighter, but only a little, just enough to remind me that they were there. "Don't move. I'm not going to-"

"I heard them," I interrupted and felt him wince, eyes widening.

The Master swallowed, closed his eyes and breathed out. "My heartbeat," he muttered. "Nothing more. "

But I shook my head. "No. That wasn't you. This-" My hands curled over his hearts- "feels warm and alive. But what I heard there… It was cold and frightened me. Like a machine, or a code."

The Master let go of me and stumbled backwards, his face a mixture of horror, disbelief, fear and hope, all at the same time. His mouth opened, quivered a little, his eyes darted left and right as if to search for something that might make sense." No… no no no, that's not possible. It's not. It just isn't." He shook his head, clawed his hands into his hair and dropped against the door frame behind him. "Can't be. Can't be. Not after all this time. Not after…" He looked back up, lowered his hands and glared at me, desperately seeking an answer. "I tried so much. I've been to so many places. None… nothing. Not even the Doctor found them."

"He… never listened for himself, right? Maybe it's not something you can find with machines."

The Master's eyes landed on me and he waved me over. I obeyed, unsure what he wanted, but when I was in reach he only took my head in his hands again, thumbs stroking over my temples.

"I have to look," he whispered. "I just have to. I'm sorry."

His words and tone confused me. Why did he seem so uncertain? And even more important… Why did he apologize? Of all people he was the last one I would have ever awaited to hear those… I winced.

Something moved in my head. It was the Master, but it was different, wrong. I groaned as a sharp pain went through my mind, when it felt as if a glowing stick of metal got stabbed through my head. I clawed at his arms, but the grip was relentless. A sob shook me, another groan. I clenched my teeth to endure it and…

Then it was over.

The Master slipped out of my mind, eyes wide. He was shaking. The pain vanished, although not completely, left me with a subtle headache.

"What did you do?" I asked, still more surprised than angry.

It seemed as if he barely was aware of my words and it took him several tries before he brought out a word. Even then, they were barely audible.

"After effect. Our little snowball went too far, left you wounded. Any more contact after that is bound to be hurting." His head snapped up, a desperate madness gleaming in his eyes. "I had to know," he breathed.

So much for asking. But he seemed in no shape for a lecture, more as if his sanity was about to completely snap. And it must have hurt him, too.

The shocked look vanished and instead he quietly laughed to himself, muttered something I couldn't make out. The Master stumbled back, hit the door frame and sunk down there, hands clawing in his hair, his head lowered deep.

For several moments I just stood there, unable to react, not knowing what to do, or if there even was anything I could do. Was that still a laugh? It sounded more like crying.

"Hey," I carefully said and squatted down in front of him. "Everything alright?" And a little quieter I asked, "did… I hear them?"

At first there was no reaction, but then, slowly, the Master lifted his head. His eyes shimmered wet, but no tears were falling. And still, in a way, he seemed broken, lost. As if his whole reality had just crumbled to a pile of dust.

"So many, many years, little light," he muttered. "And you're the first." He swallowed, blinked. "Maybe I'm not so insane, after all. Can that really be?"

There was some dumb joke already on my lips, but I decided to save that for later. Instead I smiled reassuringly (at least I hoped I did.)

"Oh, you two look as if you're plotting something," came the Doctor's voice all of a sudden. "Nothing bad I hope. How are the samples going?"

"Samples?" I asked dumbly, having completely forgotten about them.

"From the stardust, moron," the Master grumbled and shoved me back outside the doors without a warning.

Surprised I wriggled my arms until I remembered that I was just floating out there. Always those mood swings! As I floated back to the doors I watched the Time Lords.

"Why so grumpy, Master?" the Doctor asked with his usual bubbliness. "Having a headache?"

"You know exactly what plagues my head, Doctor." The last word was spat out hatefully. He got to his feet and approached the other one.

"Uhm, right." The Doctor faltered for a visible moment, then caught himself. "I've found some new devices on a few planets, recently, and the black market of-"

"SHUT UP!"

The Doctor did, dumbfounded and wide eyed. He yelped a little when the Master suddenly grabbed his lapels to draw him down to his eyelevel.

"Centuries," he growled. "I could have spent centuries knowing! But you would not listen!"

"Master-" the other Time Lord tried to free himself from the grip. -"there is nothing to lis-"

"Coward."

"Wha-haaat?"

"You heard me right." The Master's voice suddenly was calm, too calm.

There was so much hate brooding underneath, so much pain. I could feel it even from meters away. And I understood. Had the Doctor believed him, had he listened just once

The Master let go of his counterpart and stepped next to him, almost whispering, "You've always been nothing but a coward… Theta."

With that he bumped the other one with his shoulder and rushed inside the TARDIS, leaving the two of us back, dumbfounded and - in my case - a little clueless. What had the Master just called him? Was that his actual name?

Even If, it wasn't any of my business. The Doctor had chosen who he wanted to be and I wasn't planning to disrespect that. In the end I knew all too well how it felt to hate the name your parents forced upon you. Many years ago I had discarded it and taken on a new one. A new me, since everything from before was gone anyway.

The Doctor coughed and rubbed his neck, a small apologetic smile on his freckled face.

"He'll come down again. You've got some samples? It was fun outside, wasn't it?" His voice sounded more thoughtful, however. "Just… hovering there. Just being. No gravity, no up or down. No right or wrong."

"Yeah, it was fun." I nudged him and scrambled out the small vials from my pockets. "There. I just took something from everything I came across."

"And this one?" The Doctor held up a vial that was filled with all different colours.

"Oh. Just a souvenir. The dust is so pretty and since you said it's not… it isn't dangerous, is it?" I raised a quizzical eyebrow. Somehow I could never be quite certain.

"Uhm… weeeell… shouldn't." Keep it. As long as it's in the vial, it's safe either way. "

So I snatched my souvenir back and stuffed it into my shoulder bag, right next to the small dragon egg. I almost was tempted to wish the Doctor a good night, but then I remembered that not even half a day had passed yet. Why then did I feel so utterly exhausted? Was it the playing around outside? Or was it another after effect of what had just happened with the Master?

I hadn't felt extraordinarily rested since a few days already. But the new environment and all the small non-adventures, as the Doctor loved to call it, sure took a small toll on me. I wasn't used to so much action, even though I would never want to stop it.

"Any plans for the rest of the day?" the Doctor asked. "I'm going to have a good look at the dust, so…"

"Not really. Maybe the library. I like it there."

Before I had reached the door, the Doctor called me back once more. "Lucy, it might be tempting to explore the TARDIS, but be careful and listen to her and your instinct."

I flushed a little and kneaded my hands. "I… didn't want to snoop around."

But the Doctor only laughed. "It's okay. There are so many hidden places in here. Even I don't know them all. And usually there should be no danger. But you're human… and there are more dangers than only the physical kind."

"Okay. Got it. I'll be careful."

"Great!" He beamed at me as I turned and then started to type things into his console I wouldn't even remotely understand.

It was indeed tempting to stroll through the corridors, even though I barely dared to peek into the rooms. The sheer amount of possibility overwhelmed me somehow, made me almost anxious. A feeling that also didn't vanish with the Doctor's allowance.

And besides, I was completely knackered and not in the mood for any kind of adventure.

The thought made me huff. Over the past days the Doctor had briefly mentioned companions he had had before and all of them seemed always so thrilled to run into danger, to save the world and the universe. An urge that was completely lacking in me. Earth and its inhabitants had left me broken and abandoned. There was no way I would risk my own well-being for them.

Not all of them at least. Somewhere in the back of my mind I still wanted to make the lives of my dad and my little sister better.

I halted in my tracks and glared numbly at the wall before me. The thought of my dad sent a sting through me. In all of my life he had been the only person to accept and love me for who I was. Sure, he had also been passive and had never stepped in when she…

I shook my head and sighed. So often had I thought about possibilities, about ways to help. But if people are too weak to help themselves… then what was left?

One thing, however, was clear. The Doctor wouldn't help me with that. So maybe, in the end, I would have to get the Master to do so. But freeing him would mean betraying the Doctor… And during the last days I had grown fond of him, had seen that he was a good person, or at least tried to be. He tried so hard that he ignored how much it overwhelmed him, how it made him bitter and mean sometimes. But still… I couldn't simply betray him.

With an exasperated sigh I dropped my forehead against the wall. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Why were the lives and well-beings of people so intertwined?

And where was my place in all of this?

Back to index


Chapter 54: Chapter 53

The rest of the day passed in a daze. I felt tired and restless at the same time, exhausted, but still driven. And my bloody head wouldn't stop bugging me with this barely hurting headache, that was subtle, but annoying. It actually made me wonder if there might be a tear in my mental barriers again. There had been one when the Master had tried to force his drums on me, back in the space base under the black hole. However, I had the feeling that this was a different situation. There had been no force involved, only a tumbling and falling and...

I lowered the book I was reading in the library and groaned towards the ceiling. There was no way my stupid brain would allow me to concentrate on the contents of the pages. I knew the kiss had been part of the snowball effect, remembered what I had learned about nerve endings and all that. Deepening the connection to a level that would otherwise be impossible.

But...

Wasn't that what a kiss was about anyway?

Maybe on another level, maybe the meaning was a different one. I did my best to convince myself that it was, because there was one thing I was certain about. I had definitely not stupidly fallen in love all of a sudden.

Because I knew how that felt. I knew it far too well, remembered those sweet moments, when the world seemed perfect, when my heart was fluttering away and nothing was able to hit a dent in my mood. It was a warm feeling and not… Not this. On top of that I felt silly for even considering it.

We weren't even friends. Not really. He kept hurting me in various ways, he was an insane, dangerous mass murderer and also an alien. Well... and the only reason I was still alive, was because he would need me for something unknown, somewhere in his future. And I was damn tired, exhausted and literally not in my right mind, anyway.

________________________________________________
.

Sleep only helped so far with the tiredness and I decided to take a break from everything, told the Doctor I would not go out with him for a while and just do my best to keep myself away from every source of sensory stimulation.

Ever since I had set foot inside the TARDIS I hadn't had a truly quiet day. And I desperately, physically and psychologically needed such times. With a bitter huff I remembered that this was one of the reasons no relationship, so far, had lasted. People just don't understand it and assume I didn't like them anymore or even cheated on them, when I told them I didn't want to see anyone for a few days.

Therefore I was thankful and glad that the Doctor knew about the struggles of my autism, he had no problem with that, even recommended a few meditation techniques that might help to calm my overloaded brain. Not that I ever had an easy time meditating. It's so difficult to sit around and do nothing, not to focus on one of the millions of thoughts that run through my head at every time.

Thoughts, that mostly were too hazy to grasp anyway. Snippets of words, of ideas, images, sounds, that just twirled around aimlessly. And while I could live and ignore it, most of the time - sometimes it was even helpful to be able to think three things at once - now it was only adding to my overloaded state.

At first I stayed a little in the console room and watched the Doctor tinkering about. It was fun to watch and he was always happy to ramble about technical details I didn't understand, but found fascinating anyway.

"You're doing an awful lot of maintenance," I commented thoughtfully. "Aren't there some.. I don't know... TARDIS repair stations? I bet your people have lots of those."

"There used to be!" the Doctor answered with a beaming face. "Really handy and useful." Then his features darkened, got overshadowed by something sad. "They are all... Of course they are still there... they were. I could travel back and use them. But... they would know. Time and occurrences are like inscribed in a TARDIS' matrix. It would cause a major... well..." His eyes dropped to the floor. "Doesn't matter anymore."

"Did something happen?" I dared to ask. There seemed to be a sadness lingering around him whenever anyone mentioned his people.

The Doctor looked up from the opened control panel, a bitter smile playing around his lips. "Things always happen. Yesterday, now, tomorrow." Suddenly he grinned. "How about we make a nice dinner happening, later? There is this amazing take away restaurant on Erathin. No, no, you don't have to come along. I'll get us some."

Distraction. Well, why not. I agreed and didn't brush the subject again.

For almost a day I hid in the library, skimming through all the shelves and their contents until I almost fell into… a swimming pool. Well, okay, I hadn't awaited that to be here, of all places. It was weird and funny and one day I surely would hop in there.

The next day the TARDIS led me to a room that made me almost squeal. It had all the gaming consoles I had ever heard of in it and also lots of which I had never seen. It probably was almost a week before the time ship decided to hide the room. She only gave me a hum that felt like a giggle and a scolding at once, when I begged her to return the damn door.

She alleviated my sulking by guiding me to something that could be a café. It had a counter and small round tables and chairs and displays and everything you would await in a café. Everything but staff. Only a cat was in here, making me wonder if it was real or only a projection. A living animal inside the TARDIS? How did it survive?

A question I would not get an answer to, but the cat jumped on my lap as soon as I had poured myself a cup of coffee and had sat down at one of the tables. It cuddled itself against me and purred happily when I started to stroke the soft, orange fur. I sat there, even long after my cup was emptied, not wanting to disturb the animal. And that although I could really need some more coffee. These days, no amount of it seemed to be able to get me properly awake.

Thoughtfully my hand stroked through the fluffy fur while I pondered about my state. It had started before the mind incident, and it hadn't become significantly worse after it. Gradually, yes, but not in a way that pointed at the mind sharing having anything to do with it. The reason probably was... just everything.

Within some weeks I had died, had met the devil, had fought a dragon. All of this was bound to wear me down. But why then didn't I recover now, where I took a break and did nothing special all day? Quite the opposite seemed to be the case.

Not only that. In moments of true silence, when I drifted away or closed my eyes for long enough, I could still make them out.

The drums.

I had noticed it only some days after and I wasn't even really hearing them, but more… sensing? Feeling? A memory of a memory.

I went on with exploring for some more days, because it was fun, because it kept my mind busy and my body moving. Each morning and evening I took out the dragon egg and wrote down it's state, took a picture of the glowing pattern with a small camera I had found. But nothing changed.

And gradually I ran out of options to keep my mind from wandering to places it shouldn't wander. Mostly because I wouldn't get any answers. The only one who could provide them was the Master and he...

He was gone.

Not literally. Had he left the TARDIS the Doctor would probably have started panicking immediately. But he didn't show himself for even a second and each time I asked the TARDIS to bring me to him she plainly refused.

Honestly, I had no idea what to even say to him or do, but his absence drove me crazy. Which it shouldn't, considering that he was a jerk and always did his best to be mean to me in any way possible, let alone that he did nothing to hide how less he could stand having me around. This might only be because of my race and there had been enough moments where it seemed as if he did not regret keeping me close. But still... To him I was more of a nuisance, a toy to play with and toss away afterwards.

That - after carefully recalling everything we had been through, so far - was the logical conclusion when analyzing his behaviour. If only it weren't for this nagging feeling in my chest that told me that there was more. Something he did not speak of, something he made a great effort of never showing, things that were hidden and that he desperately wanted to stay that way. Things like pain and exhaustion and maybe even plain loneliness.

And now he had learned that someone beside him could hear his drums.

I remembered his reaction, the look of shock in his wet shimmering eyes. After centuries of suffering he still refused to let a single tear fall, swallowed down every bit of weakness he could hold back, even while visibly breaking under that burden.

My heart ached when I remembered it. No one should ever feel such a pain and then be left on their own. There was no way to cope with that.

Or maybe he avoided me because he feared I would interpret too much into that kiss. This stupid, stupid kiss that should not have happened, but had. It wasn't even important who had started it, because the other person, clearly, had responded. And yes, I knew about the effects of psychic connections, but this only made it worse. Because I had tasted something that was unreachable for a mere human, deeper and richer and so much more powerful than anything my species would ever experience.

I groaned, annoyed about my own thoughts and glared at the egg in my hands, like I did so often. Laying on my bed, on my stomach, hands stretched out, enveloping the smooth, dark scales, my eyes mesmerized by the faint glow. It also wouldn't give me an answer, wouldn't budge or change or do anything at all. Slowly my lids crept close, too heavy, a curtain to relief me of my waking thoughts.

And in the fog of my dreams - no, in the gap between them, the thin slips of realities bending and twisting around one another - I could again make out the soft repeated drumming of four beats. It was in my head, but not inside myself.

When I awoke some hours later, my body felt stiff and heavy, as did my head, clouded by an even greater tiredness than before. There weren't even thoughts and vaguely I recognized this as something good, before I drifted away once again and for who knows how long. Here and there I awoke and slipped back into the darkness, sometimes with the sense of having heard the drumming again. The process repeated until my head felt as if it would simply burst.

Was I ill? Aside from the tiredness and the headache I felt nothing bad. Sitting up actually helped with the pain. It probably was only there to knock me out of the sheets and force me to move a little. Eat something, get hydrated. A shower maybe. Every movement took so much strength, it was as if I could simply fall asleep again on the spot. How I managed to get dressed, cleaned and remembered to pack the egg was a mystery.

But at the end I found myself back in the TARDIS corridors, sauntering through the now familiar hexagonal shapes until I had reached the kitchen. Two coffees helped a little, just enough to feel less knackered. The thought of food, however, made my stomach churn and so I kept away from it.

"I bet that's because of the psychic stuff," I grumbled into the air, when I was in the corridors again. "Can't you bring me to him? I need to kick his butt."

There was hum in the air, but instead of slightly amused it now sounded concerned, alarmed even. I stopped in my tracks, confused. The concern hadn't been directed towards me. And it was urgent, almost panicky.

I still had no idea how exactly this ship communicated, only that I was able to make out a lot more than only tonality from its hums and electric tugs. Right now it more felt as if an invisible entity was trying to grab my hand to urge me in a certain direction. I let the sensation lead me, allowed it to guide me for what felt like an hour. Tiredness fought with curiosity, kept me energized enough to keep a good pace.

It tugged me again, then suddenly panged in my head as if it was screaming stop! Stop, stop, not here, don't go further. Turn around! Run away! Confused I almost stumbled. I hadn't heard actual words, only felt them, sensed them within my very self, but couldn't understand why the TARDIS would bring me here if it actually wanted me to run.

Shaking my head I rounded another corner.

And found the Master.

Back to index


Chapter 55: Chapter 54

Author's Notes: Happy Easter time, folks! :3


The Master stood in the corridor with his back leaned against a wall and closed eyes. Almost as if he were waiting or sleeping even. There was nothing particularly strange about him, he looked clean and was dressed neatly in dark blue jeans and a black dress shirt. His hair was tidy, his goatee shaven.

And still I froze in place at his sight and contemplated running as fast as my tired feet might take me.

The TARDIS was silent, did no longer tug or urge me, but her panicky reaction still sat heavy in my chest. Had she not realized where she had been leading me? Had she wanted to show me something else and had stumbled over the Master as much as I? And if that was the case, then how had he managed to hide himself that well?

Whatever the answer might be, something was off and I pressed a hand over my wildly beating heart. One way or another… I had to confront him about… well, everything. But first I simply wanted to know how he was, so I took some slow steps towards him.

My suspicion got confirmed the moment his eyes snapped open to fixate on me, following my every movement like a predator. Not a single muscle twitched in his face.

"Hh...ey." With the attempt of a smile I shortly raised my hand in a greeting. "How are you?"

The Master blinked, his pupils were dilated slightly, swallowing most of the warm hazel. His predatory look melted into a wide grin. "Look at that," he spoke up, his voice sounding strangely distorted, a little too high and somewhat strained. "A light in the dark."

Perplex I glared at him and my confusion grew even more when he stepped forward, grabbed my shoulders and dropped his forehead against mine, the smile still on his face. I froze, sensing something I had no words for, but knew it wasn't good.

"You did well, lil' lumin. So, so well." He chuckled and retreated slightly, still holding my shoulders. "Because, you see, now it all makes sense! It's there and that means I will find it!"

"Huh? What the…?" I let out confused. His words made no sense to my exhausted mind.

The Master let go of me and laughed in a deranged tone, grabbed his head and shook it. His eyes snapped to me again, the irises… vibrating slightly.

"What have you done?" I asked confused. "Are you high or something?"

His laugh stopped, hands falling to his sides, and instead he seemed to sulk for a moment, his tongue darting out to lick his lips. "I'm searching for them," he finally told. "The drums. Just have to dig deep enough. Scrape the right places."

"How?" Suspiciously I squinted at him, having the feeling he was doing something really stupid. Something like… trying to alter his state of mind to look for them in places he usually couldn't access.

My answer was a giggle and a sway. The Master dropped against the wall again, glaring wide eyed at the ceiling as if it were particularly interesting. Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead. Then, suddenly, he shot forward, swiped me off my feet. I had no idea what exactly happened, but a moment later it was me with the back against the wall and his hands around my throat, a manic grin in front of my face.

"Oh, you really did so well, Lucy," he sneered. "But you forgot. Little stupid human did forget." His grip got tighter, prevented me from speaking, made my limbs numb and useless. My lungs burned, covering the throbbing where my head had hit the wall. "I got what I wanted. This is why I saved you. It makes sense, doesn't it? I know now that you will hear them. That's all I need."

He laughed, loosened his fingers and allowed me to breathe again. Somewhere in my daze I came to the conclusion that the TARDIS must have sensed his deranged state. Therefore the warning. And before I could fully recover, he was back again, one hand on the wall next to my head, the other stroking along my cheek,but the almost tender touch wasn't there to soothe me, let a shiver run down my spine.

There was an almost apologetic look on his face. Almost. "Now I can take back my life force. You don't need it anymore, after all, don't you agree?"

I blinked, too shocked and dazed to really answer. He was playing with me again, wasn't he? But right as I thought it, his hands wrapped around my head and I felt a tug from deep within my chest, like the cold shot of adrenalin, like taking a deep breath in the cold of winter. It wasn't pain, but something far, far deeper. A force that gnawed on my essence, that started to pull something from me, tried to rip it out of a socket. I gasped and tried to struggle, without finding the strength to actually do so.

Again. Again I looked into the darkness, as I had so often now. And again, with a weird clarity I shouldn't even have in that moment, I felt no fear; there was only sadness and resignation, the strange sensation of floating in deep water. Somehow I managed to raise a hand and place it on the chest in front of me. He would be on his own again, stuck and raging and hurting so, so much.

I heard a sob.

And realized the tugging on my essence had stopped.

Confused, I glanced from my hand upwards and found pinched eyes and clenched teeth. His breath was ragged, strained by the roaring in his head.

"It hurts," he ground out. "They hurt so much, little one."

In the end it had been this very sound that had saved my life. There still was a weirdly cold feeling inside my chest, but it faded slowly.

The Master was shaking, sweat pearled from his forehead and when his eyes opened, they were slightly twitching, as if he had no control over their movements anymore.

"What drugs did you take?" I asked quietly and took some deep breaths. Maybe I wouldn't have a clue what any of the stuff meant, but getting him to talk might be better than having him do stupid things again. "Tell me… Please."

Even through his pain he managed to take on a sarcastic grin. He dropped forwards, leaned with both hands against the wall and trapped me in place.

"Oh, what didn't I take?" He chuckled lightly. "Everything I could find. Everything that works with my stupid biology."

Okay, that sounded entirely not good. No wonder he was completely mental. I pushed both hands against him. This was going nowhere.

"Med bay, now," I ordered, trying to sound as if it were obvious he would listen.

The Master looked down at me, making the impression that he didn't even have the strength to go anywhere. The shaking got worse and when he pushed himself away from me, he only collapsed to his knees, suddenly giggling to himself as if it were the funniest thing.

I needed to get the Doctor. But I also couldn't leave the Master on his own here, even when he deserved it a thousand times and more.

"TARDIS?" I spoke into the air, hoping the ship would hear me. "I know he scares you, but I need the Med bay door here. And the Doctor."

The Master let out another giggle. "She won't help. Hates me."

"Tough!" I snapped and ran a hand down my face. "Is any of the stuff in your system dangerous?"

He looked up and blinked, pupils now swallowing all color. "Might." He licked his lips. "But I need them to stop."

"Why, isn't that great," I grumbled, bending down slightly. "Can you stand?"

"Tzz, f'cause I can."

Well, at least he tried. Somehow the Master actually got back to his feet, but then almost dropped again. I grabbed him, more on instinct than anything else and tried to steady him, what wasn't easy with my current state and a general lack of physical strength. And now that I touched him, I realized how badly he was shaking, how cold he felt.

To my relief a path of golden light appeared on the ground. The TARDIS might hate him or not, but she must sense that I had no intention to give up so easily.

We walked for some minutes and again I wondered why the TARDIS could move some of the doors seemingly everywhere, but had to lead me through corridors to get me to others. And the longer we walked the slower the Master got, now constantly mumbling things I could barely make out. Some of it didn't sound not too good, apparently describing various effects of his drugs and how different types reacted when taken together.

"Rare side effect," he mumbled. "Tolperzen together with Alasepra. Makes your heart stop. Can. Might. Have two, doesn't matter."

And then he murmured some words that sounded just strange and made no sense. They sounded old and elegant and for a second I wondered why the TARDIS wouldn't translate it. Was it his own language?

Finally the trail of light stopped in front of a familiar door and I managed to push it open with one hand, then somehow steered the now silent Time Lord inside and to the bed. With some of my help I managed to at least have him sit on it.

His eyes were completely unfocused, sometimes twitching and never staying in one place for long. I felt for his pulse and found it at an alarming speed. Not that I knew much about Time Lord biology, but I had heard his heartbeat often enough to know that they pounded way too fast, right now. Aside from that it sounded as if he had trouble getting air, his breaths coming in rattled sucks.

And finally he collapsed. Just dropped backwards on the bed, where he kept shaking and sweating.

I let out a curse. "Master! Don't you dare not bring alright!" I warned, then hurled around to get the Doctor.

The same moment, however, the door sprang open and the very man stormed in, his look worried and also confused, the puzzlement only growing when he saw me and the Master in his current state.

"The cloister bells rung," he said through his teeth. "And the med bay was glowing red on the monitor, so I came as fast as… what's wrong with him?"

The Doctor produced his Sonic Screwdriver from a pocket and let it whirr over the Master, then he held it to his ear for a few moments.

"Oh, no no no no, Master, what have you done?"

"He drugged himself," I tried to explain, feeling incredibly helpless.

"Yes, I see that," the Doctor snapped. "Why haven't you stopped him?"

"Wh… hey! I already found him like that! And believe me, it wasn't easy to get him here."

His mouth snapped open, but then shut again. With a deep breath he ran a hand over his face, then got out his specs and slid them up his nose.

"Sorry," the Doctor mumbled while he collected a bunch of small devices. "'m just worried. This is not good, Lucy. Not at all. If my readings are correct, and they are, then…"

He took some more scans, a blood sample, tested the pulse and held one of the Master's eyelids open to shine a small light into it. With every action his expression got more worried.

"Is he in danger?" I finally dared to ask.

"Might… yeah." The Doctor let some drops of blood fall into a green liquid and watched as it took on a neon blue color. That made him curse.

"H… how bad?" I barely brought out the words, sensed the answer already.

The Doctor swallowed, ran his tongue over his lips and gave me desperate glare. "He shouldn't have mixed those. And I can't even tell what else there is in his system. Need to take more samples. And quick."

A lump formed in my throat as I realized he was avoiding a direct answer.

"Doctor," I inquired with a shaky voice.

"Yeah? Uhm… what?" He didn't even look at me.

"How bad."

Slowly he lowered the small flask he had been shaking, his dark brown eyes meeting mine to reveal a fear in them I had never seen before.

"Bad side effects. Could… might… most likely will prevent regeneration. If necessary. That's bad. That's absolutely…" He paused, swallowed down his rambling and looked back at the flask. "Can't give him anything. Too risky. But if I wait for too long…"

"Doctor, please," I now begged, grabbed his arm and then almost whispered, "Tell me he won't… die."

Silence fell over the room. Gently he moved his arm away and squeeze my hand. The Doctor looked up and could barely hide the tears in the corners of his eyes.

"Fuck!" I let out. "No! That's… Like, what? That can't be! It's not possible!"

Again he squeezed my hand, his eyes lit up and he almost jumped.

"Phashgerot Alpha!" he called out. "The spores of hyralia shrooms. Heavy detox. Doesn't matter what he swallowed. But we have to be fast. Don’t know how fast, but it's all we've got, understand?"

"Not at all," I confessed and tugged at his hand. "But don't just stand there. Let's go!"

 

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Chapter 56: Chapter 55

Had my heart ever been racing that fast? Had a fear like this ever gripped my whole consciousness? When the Doctor moved the TARDIS, he seemed to do it in slow motion, the landing sounds dragged on for far longer than they should.

He had put the med bay in a temporary temporal stasis. That was what he had called it. All I understood was that it bought us time. How much, however, was a question that vanished in an uncomfortable silence.

"Alright, listen," the Doctor spoke up as I was already about to storm out the doors. "The mushroom looks like a collection of blue and purple cubes that are stacked into each other. Pretty to look at, don't want to breath in the spores, though. Plug them, return. No detours."

I simply nodded and grabbed one of the cloth bags he held out to me, too numb and still too exhausted to give much of an answer. My own state wasn't important right now. One way or another I had to stay focused and awake for a while longer.

Outside, we were greeted by a forest in mid fall. Leaves were sailing down to a colourful covered ground, bare branches stuck out from the ones that still wore their dying dress. Some animals hopped away that clearly were no rabbits, but had a similar size. And a lake spread across a clearing, in the bluest water I had ever laid eyes on, shimmering almost ethereal in the light of the sinking sun and reflecting thousands of tiny glowing light specs that hovered and flew above the water's surface.

At any other time I would have spent hours wandering this place, taking in the atmosphere, gaping at the lake and the dancing fireflies, wondering if they might be elves. But now…  now I paid almost no attention to them, my eyes glued to the ground to make out what the Doctor had described, while he himself did the same bit farther away.

Lost in dark thoughts and eyes searching, I stumbled and fell. My small shoulder bag got caught on a branch, ripped open and with a cold shock I saw the dragon egg drop to the ground and rolled away some meters. The leaves caught the tumble, luckily, but the thought of how badly this could have ended made me curse nastily. Were I not so tired this wouldn't have happened.

I pinched my eyes and rubbed two fingers over the lids, realizing that the fog in my head actually faded somewhat. Within seconds I felt a lot clearer than I had in days.

Confused I let my hand sink and, for the first time, took in my surroundings properly, the saturated autumn colours, the rich smell of damp leaves and nuts and mushrooms, the orchestra of wind and birds and rustling and the slow noises of the lake.

Peace.

The whole place emitted a calmness that was all engulfing, that made me just stop and take in some deep breaths of cool, but not cold air. Slowly I moved to the egg, saw with wide eyes it had landed right next to a bunch of cubic mushrooms that looked exactly as the Doctor had described them. Those I took first, then I bent down to lastly pick up the egg again.

And instantly the tiredness washed back over me, swallowed my thoughts and slowed my movements. I almost sunk together here and then, the urge to just sleep, overwhelming.

But I didn't give in, dragged myself back the way I had come until I saw the TARDIS again and almost bumped into the Doctor, who looked worried.

"I couldn't find any. Have you…?"

"Mhmm, one," I brought out and almost collapsed into his arms.

The Doctor caught me and gave me a concerned look. "You're like that since days. When we're done with the Master I'll take care of you."

I nodded and followed back inside, slightly dazed, unable to feel… anything at all, honestly. The Doctor entered a room I had never seen before, a kind of laboratory in mostly white and with lots of devices that were completely foreign to me. I handed him the mushroom and watched as he crushed it to mush in one device, then added a few substances and finally put everything through a device that clearly was a kind of distillery.

The process gave me time to think, or at least try to bring my thoughts into something vaguely resembling order. Outside, I had felt clear for a moment. After the egg had rolled away. And as soon as I had picked it back up… My hands clutched the cloth bag in which the small, growing creature still sat. Was it draining me somehow? And if so, why hadn’t I felt it right from the start?

"Alriiiight… That should be it! Come."

Together we rushed back to the med bay, where the Doctor did something with his sonic - probably removing the time freeze - before we entered. And indeed, it seemed as if no time had passed. The Master was still in the same state as before, shaking, sweating, now mumbling some incoherent things I could not understand.

The Doctorbent over the med bed and laid a hand on the Master's forehead, checked his pulse and then sat halfway on the bed, bending over. Carefully he took the other one's head between his palms, thumbs resting on the cheeks. He leaned down, let their foreheads touch and mumbled some words that were too quiet for me to make out. Whatever he had said or done, the Master calmed a little, even opened his eyes.

"It's alright, Master," the Doctor said with a sad smile. "We'll help you."

"We?" He blinked, turned his head and spotted me in the back. His eyes widened slightly, but no other words were spoken.

"I have prepared a detox," told the Doctor and held up a needle. "It's modified so you won't feel much of it. Will knock you out for a bit. And then..." He swallowed. "Let's just hope it gives me enough time to fix you."

There was no answer and no reaction when the needle sank into skin and muscles, but half a minute later, the Master stopped shaking and his breath became more even. I knew he was by far not out of danger, but I still felt a small wave of relief.

"It's honestly a bruteforce method," the Doctor quietly confessed. "Destroys most toxins in one's blood on a molecular level… but, like with antibiotics, it also destroys a lot of the good things."

"It will help him, though, won't it?" Helplessly I glared at the unconscious Time Lord, my chest tight and almost aching. I couldn't leave, even though I knew the Master would sleep for some time. So I dragged over a nearby chair and sat in front of the bed.

"Probably. If the damage that's already done isn't too big. And, luckily, you've been quick to bring him here. We still don't know how long he was under the influence before you even found him, though."

I dropped forward, my elbows on the mattress, my head resting in my hands, fingers digging into my hair. Is this my fault?

The Doctor's steps retreated, but then stopped, paused.

"Lucy?" His voice was quiet, sounded uncertain.

I looked up.

"What did he promise you?" The question was asked softly, no threat, no judgement.

I had no clue what he meant. "Promised?" I asked dumbly.

The Doctor sighed. "You're barely functioning yourself and yet you invest so much concern into a man who… well… I don't see why you would try so hard to keep him alive."

Perplexed and confused my mouth dropped open. Was I too tired to understand or had I understood exactly right? Why did he even ask such a question? Why… I looked back at the Master and swallowed. He had caused a great deal of harm to my own life already. His death would most certainly prevent a lot of chaos and bloodshed from happening in the future. And the Doctor would no longer have to keep an eye on a prisoner like him.

And still…

I huffed. "You're doing the same."

The Doctor's eyes dropped to the floor. "That's different."

"How's that different?" I grumbled.

He sighed and reached for the door knob. "We are bound by a… friendship, let's call it that, that's older than most of your civilisations, Lucy."

"Friendship… Still you gave up on him."

He swallowed. "I tried not to. I really did. He doesn't allow me to help. But he's still my responsibility. I can't let him die."

I looked down and took a deep breath, murmuring, "Then he's my responsibility, too. He hasn't promised me anything, Doctor."

"What… what do you mean?" He released the door and stepped back to me.

I couldn't look at him, only folded my hands in my lap and fiddled with my thumbs. Tears were prickling in the corners of my eyes.

"It's my fault," I choked out. "I made him do this."

"Whoa! Slow down," the other Time Lord exclaimed. "I really don't think you've-"

"Because I heard them."

"Huh?"

"I heard his drums, Doctor." Now I had to look, needed to see the shocked expression on his face.

It was there and it was a lot more frightened than shocked. His mouth hung open and time seemed to freeze, only to resume with his face melting back into a somewhat orderly state.

"That's not possible," he almost whispered. "How could…" His eyes widened and he stepped over to grab my shoulder. "How?"

"He uh… kind of overdid it with the mind sharing, I guess?" A little uncertain, I rubbed my neck and glanced at the Doctor.

His face wore an expression of almost terror, his voice a little shrieky when he asked, "He did what?"

"Uh… telepathy?"

That wasn't the answer he had wanted to hear. Of course it wasn't.

"It… it was sort of an accident. Not like the last time…"

"What?!" the Doctor let out, terrified.

"Last time… it was because of the devil. He got it out of my head. And then a few times…" His disturbed reaction confused me. "Is there something wrong with it?"

With a deep breath he let go of my shoulder and ran a hand over his face. "There is so much wrong with it I don't even know where to start." The Doctor glared upwards, fists stemmed into his sites.

"Why?" I finally wanted to know. "It never hurt or anything."

"But that's not the point!" His eyes darted towards the Master, then back to me. "I highly doubt he asked for any kind of… consent."

Well… not at all, actually. And judging by the Doctor's look, he already guessed that. Sure, just entering someone's very mind without asking was rude, but it still didn't hurt, mostly. If he didn't do something stupid, that is. And to be fair, I liked it. A lot. So…

"You make it sound as if he did something bad to me." It was more of a question than a statement.

The Doctor sighed and stroked through his hair. "It's… complicated. I'm not sure I'm the one who should…" Somehow the whole topic seemed to make him extremely uncomfortable. "Besides… you can project a lot of things. Just because you heard something, doesn't mean it was… well… real."

My mouth dropped open to Form a toneless 'o'. That thought had never occurred to me.

"But he tried it before and I couldn't hear a thing," I meekly protested.

"Adaption, Lucy." Again the Doctor sighed. "A human mind works differently. Just because it didn't work the first-"

"But…"

"No. It's merely an echo of his perception. Don't be fooled."

"But Doctor…"

"And not a real thing. Can't be. I told you already. You can't differentiate. Not even as a Time Lord."

At that I stayed silent, only my thoughts kept running.

But he didn't even try to show me the drums. But why would he go crazy like that when he had simply projected the sound? But… but what if the Doctor is right and the Master did it subconsciously? What if I didn't hear them and now the Master is in danger… because I didn't think, because I only thought about the mess in my own head.

Tears pricked in the corners of my eyes. "Then this all is even more my fault."

I lowered my head to hide the tears. A warm hand landed gently on my shoulder, but I couldn't move.

"You're not responsible for other people's actions, Lucy," spoke the Doctor softly. "I'll save him. Don't you worry."

I nodded and swallowed the tears while the sound of a door closing echoed through the room. This was a mess, all of it and none of the Doctor's words could reassure me much.

My eyes landed on the Master again. It looked as if he was sleeping peacefully, but I knew his body was fighting, knew he might lose the battle, in the end. The thought hurt, even though it shouldn't.

"I wish I could help somehow," I muttered, feeling the familiar tiredness washing over me again.

My eyes closed, my head lowered. It was so hard to stay awake. But it felt as if I had a duty to do so, to take care, to be present. In case he would wake up, in case his state worsened. If only the fog in my head wouldn't be so thick, if only… there it was again. So faint, so far away.

The beating of four. An echo of an echo from somewhere in my head. Not real and still true. I reached a hand out and laid it on the Master's chest, feeling the beat under my fingers. But my fingers couldn't hear and so I plugged my glasses down and put an ear to his chest. Any other time I would have never dared to do that, but in this moment it was like instinct. I needed to listen, wanted to. It was proof. Proof that he was still alive. It was a distraction. Distraction from my own mind.

Du - du - du - du

Du - du - du - du

Steady and regular and soothing, cutting through the tiredness.

Du - du - du - du

Four beats, ever repeating. So different from my own. And yet… no... no, it wasn't a set of four. I strained my ears to listen more closely.

One - two - three - four.

Pause.

One - two - three - four.

But no. It was wrong. It wasn't… I knew that sound. Somewhere deep within me I knew it so well, had heard it so often, had it pounding in my head so many times.

Slowly, beat by beat I heard it. Not a set of four. There were two. Then another two. Then another two, sounding like four, over and over and over.

Du - du … du - du

Du - du … du - du

Four, but actually two. Yes. Like that it was correct. Like that it made sense.

Du - du … du - du

And the steady patter of drops against cold glass.

A heartbeat? Why would it be a heartbeat?

Rat-tat … rat-tat

Rat-tat … rat-tat

And raindrops on my window.

No wonder I was so tired.

Rat-tat … rat-tat

The drive had been long. And it was late into the evening already.

Did the rain get stronger? It probably was what woke me just now.

My eyes blinked open and I let out a yawn as I glanced out of the water smeared window.

Rat-tat … rat-tat

Rat-tat … rat-tat

Metal train wheels on steel tracks, winding through the landscape, bringing me closer and closer to my destiny. Back home… after I had spent a nice weekend with friends. I smiled at the memory, tugging my face mask back into place. Nasty things.

Had I dreamed? It felt like it.

Yawning I got out my phone and checked the clock. I'd be stuck in the train for roughly another hour. Maybe I could nap a little more, slip back to whatever adventure my mind had created.

The images were already fading. Something about a dragon egg, that I could remember. And there had been someone else. A man? I had travelled, like I did now, but… no, I couldn't remember. Weird. And there it felt as if I had forgotten something, something oh so very important.

But that's the thing with dreams, isn't it? I thought to myself as I put my head back against the cool window. They just come and go. Whole stores, entire lives. And when you wake up, only an hour has passed.

I sighed, shifting into a more comfortable position, listening to the clattering rhythm of the wheels and the soft pitter patter of rain, that both fought for dominance in my perception. Somehow I wished I had something to write on with me.

This certainly was a great atmosphere for writing a story.

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A/N: Uhm... what? O_O

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Chapter 57: Chapter 56

The metal wheels gave off a shrieking cry as the train came to a halt.

Weird, I thought. It's such an unpleasant sound, but I still love it.

Especially in the deepest night, when unknown stations halt in front of the compartment window, when you glare at the dim lights and the empty benches. The world has forgotten about those places, but not the trains. They still stand still. Wait. For the one lonely traveller in a rainy night.

I grabbed my luggage and rolled it out of the compartment, checking if my face mask was still sitting. A glance at my phone told me it was already past eleven in the evening.

The doors opened with a hiss, letting me out into the cold. It was already spring, but the weather behaved more as if it wanted to hold onto winter as tight as possible. I let out another yawn as I rolled my luggage to the escalators. Go home, shower, sleep. That was the plan. I had to work the next day anyway.

Luckily the way from the station wasn't long. Just a bit through town.

My head drifted away while I walked, returning to the dream I only vaguely remembered. Here and there bits and pieces came back, but none of them made much sense. Even so, it had left a strange aftertaste. As if I had slept for far longer than possible, as if I had been away for half an eternity.

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Work was slow this Monday. As a mere apprentice I wasn't allowed to do everything and most stuff was already repaired, which meant I would have to kill the last two hours at the front desk, dealing with old folks bringing in their broken devices, instead of fiddling with electronic components.

Working kept my mind occupied, kept me from thinking too much. I didn't feel so well that day. After having been with friends for a long weekend and coming back to a lonely apartment, I felt the weight of the emptiness weighing me down.

How had I gotten this apprenticeship again? Absently I stared at the ceiling, trying to remember. I had written to so many firms… And one had eventually accepted me. But the interview and even my first days here seemed to have smeared in my memory.

Weird.

Maybe not, though. That had been a stressful time. Being without work or school for almost six years had taken a toll on me and I had needed a few months to get used to having so much noise and light around me. And people. Hard to believe that I used to have social anxiety, where I now had to be on the phone constantly, let alone the countless people I talked to each day.

And that dream.

Perplex I blinked, wondering why I was thinking about that one again. By now I was rather sure I had been in some sort of spaceship. But the aliens inside had looked like some human dudes. And they had given me an egg to take care off. And then…

Five o'clock. Time to leave. I waved inside the workshop, calling out  a goodbye, before I rushed to get my jacket and be in time to catch the bus home.

On the way I bought some takeaway and was happy to finally be back inside my own walls. No more stupid face-mask. I had to wear those all day long and it always was a relief to be able to take them off. But the number of infected people was rising again, so there was no end to this in sight.

I kicked off my shoes, flopped down into my chair and booted up the PC. Some games to fade out the few hours of free time would be nice now.

In the end, however, I found myself unable to concentrate on anything. My attention was slipping away constantly and so I only listened to music and chatted with some folks online. About nothing important, nothing interesting. Max wasn't online, so I couldn't tell anyone about the dream. Maybe he would know how to interpret it, or why it might have left such a weird aftertaste. Sometimes dreams did that and mostly I couldn't explain it.

Now, everything felt so weirdly blank and empty. Or maybe it was just the lockdown depression. If it weren't for my work I would have spent an eternity without seeing a single human being. That weekend had been the first time since… almost four months. Suffice to say… this apprenticeship had literally saved my life.

And still it was hard to keep going, day after day after day, not knowing when all of this would end or get better at least. Most of the time I just felt cold and empty, wishing for the light of summer to return and brighten my life again.

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Two weeks later I had all but forgotten about any dreams and weird sensations. Work was busy, life was stressful. Ironically, being without work had given me a more stable financial situation than I had now, so before or after work I had to fill in tons of papers and make various phone calls to ensure I would get something extra - the apprenticeship money didn't even pay my rent.

On top of that did I find myself unable to cope well with the whole virus situation. My life was nothing but a chain of work - eat - sleep. With nothing in between. There were no people to meet, no places to go and the weather was still too cold to be outside much. So the only free time I had was spent alone. And too much time within my own head had never done me any good.

This might have been the - or one of them - reason why I did what I did the next day.

Rain was pouring from the skies and work went by in a daze. The last few hours I was sitting at the front desk again, but the weather prevented people from actually coming in. I was bored, my mind drifted away into a train of way too dark thoughts, when finally the door opened and a man strode in. He was soaking wet from the rain, his dark hair sticking to his forehead.

I straightened myself greeting the man and asking if I could be of help.

"Mhm, not sure," he said, bobbing up and down on his heels, while curiously glancing around. "I was… sort of… sent here. Was told I could get help."

"Yeah sure, that's what we're here for." I tried to sound friendly and cheerful, even though he seemed a complicated customer. One of those whom you had to drag out every piece of information one by one.

He produced a pen. No, not a pen. It was thicker and made of metal and had a blue light attached to it. The man - he wore a pinstripe suit and a brown coat over it - waved his device over the counter, then over me, then held it to his ear and raised a brow.

"'m not sure we're repairing toys," I cautiously told. "Doesn't look like something we're selling anyway."

"Oh. That's not a toy. Doesn't need repairing either. Works just fine." The man grinned from ear to ear and I remembered that I actually was supposed to throw him out for not wearing a face-mask in here. But no one but me was around, so why bother. And the man didn't seem like the kind who would stop babbling anyway. "I just don't know what kind of help she meant," he went on.

"We… uh… repair stuff. Household and entertainment devices. Stuff like that. Do you… have anything that needs fixing?"

Now his face lit up- "Yes! Yes I do!" - only to drop again. "But you can't. You don't have the skill."

I sighed. Due to looking so young, people always assumed I could do shit. It was annoying. "Just show it to me. I'll see what I can do."

"Mhmm…" the stranger made, eyeing me intensely. He had dark, chocolate brown eyes that bore into mine, but, strangely enough, not in an uncomfortable way. "Why are you a déjà vu?"

I blinked confused.

"Did we meet before?"

Puzzling over his question, I tilted my head a little and took in the appearance of the man. He did look familiar indeed. He….

"I think… I once bumped into you." The situation had been memorable enough, after all. "But that's ages ago. Over ten years… You don't look that old."

"Neither do you," he quipped with glinting eyes. "I remember. Jack was there and Martha. Was before the Ma…" He stopped himself, humming thoughtfully. "Must be what she meant. Doesn't make sense otherwise. Guess you might wanna take a look, after all."

"Okay. Just bring it in."

"Uh. That's not possible." He rubbed his neck and smiled apologetically. "You need to come with me. It's right in front of the door."

Ugh. Always those people who left their stuff in the car... Well, why not. I nodded and followed the billowing coat out into the rain, my eyes already searching for the vehicle. But the parking lot was empty. Instead we stopped in front of… a blue, wooden phone box that said 'police' at its top.

I stopped dead in my tracks, a heavy lump thudding into my stomach.

Déjà vu.

My mind screamed that word over and over, almost like some sort of warning. Why did the sight feel so familiar? Why was my chest tightening so horribly? Not even the cool rain on my skin could wash away the sensations.

The man waved me closer and put a key into the hole, before he tentatively pushed one of the doors open, waving a hand inside.

I swallowed, unable to move for some seconds. The box was too small to house something truly terrible, right? On the other hand, there were enough small things that would definitely fit. Or he might lure me inside, just to lock me away.

But… no. That wasn't a thing the Doctor would do.

I took one step closer, then halted dead in my tracks. What had I just thought? Why would he be a doctor?

"It's in here," he said with an encouraging smile. One that was sort of anticipating.

And then he simply stepped inside. Maybe to get the something out. Slowly I took the last few steps, my hand brushed the painted wood, wet from the rain. The texture felt smooth and warm and a slight tingle rushed over my skin, as if electricity was running through the material. The Doct… the stranger didn't come out again, so I finally dared to peek inside.

And froze.

Now that was impossible. How could there be such a big room inside? My head spun, my stomach turned and I had to grip the door frame tightly.

Déjà vu.

I knew I had definitely never seen anything like this and still it felt as if the mere image wanted to tear apart my brain, to shred every knowledge and perception of reality I had ever possessed. It was impossible.

"How can this be bigger than the box itself?" I asked and carefully stepped inside.

"Transdimensional engineering." The stranger beamed from ear to ear. "I'm the Doctor, by the way." He waved a hand around. "And this is my TARDIS. Can travel everywhere and everywhen. Well… used to. She's kind of stuck."

"Doctor," I muttered dumbfounded. Hadn't one of the people he had been with called him that? How else could I have known? "And time travel." I shook my head and huffed.

He nodded to himself and tossed a glance at the hexagonal console behind him.

"Yeah… can you fix her?"

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Chapter 58: Chapter 57

"Oh, and you can take that off." The Doctor pointed at my face. "I'm immune."

Only after some seconds did I realize that I was still wearing my face mask. Having to have it on me the whole work day and in public transport had gotten me used to it. It actually felt strange not to wear it, but I still stuffed it inside my pocket, while I took a closer look at the coral shaped pillars and the weird round lights on the walls.

"Fix… Why do you think I could fix something like that? Gaping at the foreign technology around me I shook my head, then glanced back at the Doctor. "Is it really a time machine? Is all this from the future?"

He rubbed his neck with a somewhat impish smile. "That's hard to answer. Considering the distance and temporal distortions within the proximity to the galaxy's centre and then the gap between the time your and my civilisation evolved."

I blinked stupidly at him, mulling over the words, all while trying to keep standing upright. My head was spinning. Something in here seemed to make me nauseous, either in here or… the still overwhelming sensation of déjà vu.

"L… isten," I stuttered. "I can barely fix stuff from my own world and time. I'm only an apprentice." Then again was I not eager at all to leave this extraordinary place too soon. My mind wasn't able to cope, however, crawling around at an alarmingly slow speed. "And I definitely can't fix alien tech," I closed, dooming myself.

He was alien. No doubt about that. I just… sensed it, because of the way he felt so utterly different to the people I usually had to deal with, because of how my head still spun and made me sick and my knees weak.

"Ho, careful." The Doctor grabbed my arm and steadied me. "Must be a bit of shock, all this, eh?" He smiled warmly and guided me to one of the jump seats near the console.

"Have I been here before?" I wanted to know as I flopped down into the seat. "It feels so…" There was a distinct lack of words in my vocabulary to even begin describing what I felt and so I only glared wide eyed at the Doctor.

"I know what you mean. But no, I would remember." He thoughtfully bit down on his tongue, mulling over his next words. "The TARDIS. She seems to know you. My ship, I mean. She's sentient"

I glared at the ceiling, trying to understand. A sentient time machine that somehow knew me, that had brought this alien man right to this place to get the most useless person in existence. There was absolutely nothing I could do. Not even my boss and co-workers let me do much because they thought I wouldn't be able to get anything done.

Not that they would have ever given me the chance. They only assumed, based on looks and gender. And it wasn't the first time I thought about looking for something else… but the chances of me finding something were so slim - with my poor social skills and all that - that I stayed anyway. But now…

My head felt a little better and I hopped from the seat to carefully stroke a hand over the console, deliberately staying away from anything I could accidentally push. A light tingling crept from my fingers into my mind, like a soft nudge.

Potential.

I smiled and let out a huff. "Okay. I'll do whatever I can. And you get me away from here. I don't care where."

The Doctor grinned and rushed to my side to flip a few switches. "Alright. Can do that. She needs to get to work again, though." Some buttons and his hand landed on a big lever. "Hold on to something."

I grabbed the rim of the console right in time not to get thrown to the ground as the engines sprang to life with a groan and some wheezing and a few noises that clearly weren't healthy. The whole thing shook violently and I was glad when it was finally over.

And then a screeching resounded through the room that made my ears hurt and my heart clench. It was as painful as it was… sad? Like the outcry of a hurt child. Confused, I glanced at the Doctor and his face showed concern.

"It's not actually hurting her to travel. But each time she loses a great deal of energy."

"And you need something to replenish her fuel or something?"

"Nope, not fuel, not like you'd know it, anyway. It's more… mhm… Yeah, well, let's call it fuel. Too complicated for human brains."

I raised a brow and followed him to the doors, taking a careful look outside when he pushed them open. It only partially surprised me to see that we were in a completely different place. Somewhere in the middle of a big town… London maybe? I hadn't been there too often.

"Can't travel too far," the Doctor explained. "Ever since the Master fiddled with the torinomatic subsystems, that is. And now he's gone and the TARDIS is sick."

There was a strange tingling in my head as he said this. As if something was… calling me, calling or rather… crying out. I pinched my eyes shut and shook my head, stepping out of the doors.

This is too easy, I thought. Shouldn't I be scared? Everything outside the doors could be an illusion and we could be who knows where instead. And I'm just following like an idiot, without even thinking about it.

Or maybe my time at work had made me braver, had taught me to be less scared of new situations. A lot less, actually, compared to just some months ago.

"Who did this to your ship?" I asked, unsure if I had heard the name correctly.

The Doctor winced slightly, his fingers idly stroking over the blue frame. "The Master. He is… like me. No, not at all. Only the same species. I have a responsibility. Have to make sure he stays out of trouble, but… well, that obviously failed."

"You mean he ran off and sabotaged the TARDIS?"

A sigh. "Yeah. Seems like it. I traced him to this time period. Bad time, really bad time. No idea what he wants here."

Neither did I, nor did I have a clue what in the world I could do to help make the ship feel better. My eyes wandered over the passersby, all with masks and weary looks. This truly was a bad time to be alive and an even worse time to be stuck.

"If he's responsible for this stupid virus I'm going to kick his nuts personally," I grumbled.

The Doctor gave me a grin that was clearly involuntary, but he shook his head. "Nah, I don't think so. Viruses evolve completely naturally from time to time. Actually in an interval that can be traced and calculated. Should have done that, you lot. Could have saved you quite the trouble." He clapped his hands and beamed at me. "Anyway! He's my problem, not yours."

"And what do you think is here that will help fix the box?" I wanted to know. "There must be a reason for us being here of all places."

"Here? Nothing. Just hiding the TARDIS. And thought you might wanna grab a snack."

I glared at the Doctor and he gave me a smile and a shrug as if to say, this was obvious.

"You have no idea what to do," I concluded, a little peeved.

"Eh, well, somewhat. Maybe. Hey! You wanted to get away from there anyway." He pursed his lips in a childish manner, making me chuckle. "I do have an idea. Come with me. Or… if you still want a snack..."

"I never said I wanted one."

"Oh. Thought you might be hungry after working all day."

Okay, there was no argument against that. My eyes darted over an ordinary hot dog booth nearby and my stomach gave off a demanding rumble.

I sighed. "Well, alright. Might not be the worst idea. Don't you have food in your ship? Or is that not edible for humans?"

"Oh, there is! But it's not the same." The Doctor strode ahead. "Nothing tops the taste of real and honest street food."

"Yeah, but you'll get us into trouble. Stay here. I'll get some."

With that I took out my mask and put it on, giving the Doctor a pointed look that made his mouth drop open as he understood. And I certainly wasn't in the mood to explain anything to anyone. Not that they would believe a word.

Some minutes later I had our food and we enjoyed it while the Doctor brought me back inside the ship, explaining it was now hidden from sight. Something about it being out of sync, whatever that might mean. He then proceeded to open a small latch and pull out some wire, while the other hand held the hot dog. Mine vanished quickly as I watched, curious what he might be planning.

"'m not sure this'll work," he mumbled between bites and had the decency to swallow before continuing. "The TARDIS is telepathic, so I do have some hopes she might… uh… communicate?" He waved a hand at the cables. "I will connect you to her."

"Wha'?" My last bite was forgotten. "Me? Why? How? I… I don't think I can communicate with an alien ship!"

The Doctor's face dropped for a second, but returned quickly to a smile. "She brought me to you. That must mean she can. Probably. Hopefully. We can at least try."

I swallowed and glared at the few crumbs of bread in my hand that I then lay aside. This was crazy. Where had I stumbled into? And why the heck didn't it scare the crap out of me? It was as if the exact opposite was happening. I felt excited and… relieved? A sensation as if I was taking a step forward, after being stuck in one place for too long, as if coming a tiny little bit closer to the solution of a complex puzzle.

"Okay. Do it," I agreed. "I'm curious."

"Ha! That's the spirit!" The alien man grinned from ear to ear, jumped around me and searched for the best possibility to place those wires on me. In the end he simply held them out and made me take them into my hands. "Dunno how that works, myself, honestly. If I could simply talk to the TARDIS I would have long done it. But… eh. Let's just see, yeah?"

I nodded and closed my hands to fists, holding the wires firmly. They felt surprisingly soft between my fingers, silken even and not at all like metal.

"Uh...do I have to do or say something?"

The Doctor shrugged. "I'm not sure. It's the telepathic connector. Usually dangerous to use without modifications, but…" He shut his mouth as he realized what he had just told me.

There was no way to tell if this would harm or even kill me. And I was nothing but a disposable. A random stranger he had picked up. So why bother with safety?

I clenched my fists tighter and closed my eyes. It didn't matter. My thoughts drifted away, my awareness wrapped itself around my perception. Did I feel something new? Was there a foreign sensation?

Open your eyes, little one.

The voice was softly spoken, more a sensation than a sound, like the warm caress of a sunbeam. My lids crept open and instead of the console room I found myself in a completely empty space. But only for some seconds before tiny golden specs started to appear from all around me. Stars. Fireflies. The dust of time.

I held my open palms out, waiting for some of the particles to touch my skin. Each of them tingled the tiniest bit and soon my whole body was vibrating in a way that made me giddy and wrapped me in a warmth only a loving embrace could offer.

You can see, spoke the voice.

"Yeah. It's beautiful. Is that you?"

There was a soft, appreciating hum. Not everyone can see. My thief can't. He was never here.

"Is that why you told him to get me?"

Another hum. We are not here. But I am. I am with you children. Within this world I can speak. I am now the same. I am a thought.

Whenever I took a breath my body relaxed further, the warm light circling me slowly.

"How can I help you?" I wanted to know. "Seeing this can't be enough."

You are connected. You see. You feel. You feel the hearts around you. You sense their joy, their fear and their pain.

My eyes dropped to my feet, a weary sigh escaping my lungs. "I used to think that everyone can do that. And always wondered why they would inflict so much pain to others when it must hurt themselves, too."

But reality was different. Normal people could not sense these things. And they assumed I also could not, because I did not know how to respond to the things I felt, had no knowledge of the accepted social script they were expecting.

You are not broken, my child, the TARDIS hummed softly and the light got denser, filling me with a warmth that almost made me cry. Only the embrace of my father had ever given me such comfort. Only he ever loved me for who I was. No. Not broken at all. You are a light, a little light in all the dark. So lonely. So hurt.

The gold formed into threads, spun around my limbs and my fingers, seeped into the fabric of my clothes and just held me, held me so tight that my chest hurt from all the unspilled tears of decades.

Stay strong, little one. He needs you. They both do. And I need you. I need my thief to be happy. But he can't be happy. He needs his rogue, but he is hurt and lost. And I can't help

I took a shaky breath, trying to stay calm and composed. Never before had anyone needed me, no one had ever given me a reason to keep walking. And now it scared me, because I wasn't sure I could actually do it.

Find my hurting rogue. Guide him out of the darkness. Bring him back to my thief. Open your heart, but don't let his pain consume you.

The lump in my throat seemed to grow with every word and I swallowed it down, straightened and glared into the golden light. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My hands carefully waved through the shimmering threads, caressed them tenderly.

"I don't think I can do that," was what I admitted, breathed out as a whisper.

You can try, child of the void. It's all I'm asking of you.

Yeah… I could do that. I could try. Try and move, step by step, one tiny move at the time, further and further until I would reach the warmth of the golden light again.

The TARDIS hummed soothingly, a melody, a song, a lullaby of ancient times. It made my head tired, my limbs heavy. I was held in warm arms, cuddled up against the light.

And when I blinked and found myself back in the console room, when I realized I was sitting on the cold floor, staring up into the Doctor's worried face…

I could still feel the song of the TARDIS in my heart.

Back to index


Chapter 59: Chapter 58

Author's Notes: I promise, this will make sense... eventually. Until then, bare with me and enjoy the ride. Hehehehe


"What happened? What did you see?"

The Doctor fidgeted around in front of me, his face alternating between various states of concern and curiosity. He barely gave me the chance to properly find back to my senses and I found myself sitting underneath the hexagonal control table, my back leaned against the cool metal. Some wires hung next to my head, maybe the ones I had held.

When I turned my head back, there was a face in front of me and I winced in surprise. The Doctor had squatted down, looking worried.

"I… I think the ship spoke with me," I finally brought out. "I was… somewhere else."

"Certainly looked like it. You scared me there. Here, come up."

He reached a hand out and dragged me with a strong grip to my feet. The strange sense of having been here before grew stronger for a second, then vanished completely when my eyes wandered over all the knobs and buttons and other foreign controls on the table. So many were adapted from earthen material, others bore no resemblance at all. It was a truly alien sight.

"How about we have some tea and you tell me everything?"

The Doctor's words brought my awareness back to him and I nodded.

________________________________________________
.

"I don't know where he is." The Doctor's sombre voice drowned in the clatter of a spoon stirring tea. "I don't even know how he managed to sabotage the TARDIS. But he did and then he vanished."

I glared at the ceiling, hands clutching the warm porcelain of my cup. After the experience with the ship's consciousness I felt uncomfortably cold, missing the comfort it had shown me. The phrase motherly warmth came to my mind, but I had no idea how that felt. My Dad had been warm, yeah, but this… it had been different.

"You think he is here, though," I numbly concluded. "You say you can't travel far, but you could go somewhere else."

The Doctor hummed. "He can't control the TARDIS. Can't get her to go anywhere. So this is the only place and time to find him." He sighed and sipped his tea - peppermint with raspberry. "But here still is an enormous place. Doesn't make it any easier. Well, a bit. All of time and space would be a little trickier."

"Any clues?"

After he had heard what I could recall of the conversation he had come to the conclusion that the TARDIS must mean the Master when she had spoken of the rogue. And the Doctor was convinced the Master might be the only one to reverse the damage. After that he had offered to bring me back home and get me for a trip or two after having solved the current problem.

I had plainly refused.

There was nothing I was eager to return to. No family, no real friends, my workplace was far from great and my financial situation… well, nothing to look forward to. And - due to being an outcast of humanity itself - there would be no chance for me to ever have a good life, anyway. Only one that was filled with loneliness and a sense of having wasted my entire existence.

What for, when I could, instead, travel all of time and space. Even if it meant to stay in the back while the Doctor would deal with his… friend? Enemy? Prisoner? I had no clue.

________________________________________________
.

It turned out the Doctor did, indeed, have some suspicions as to where the Master could be. At least he had been able to track a string of data and news to a specific place. It was a tall building directly in the heart of London. And there, as he had found out, was a vault. One that was said to host alien technology.

An Organisation called UNUT had something to do with it, at least in the beginning. After an accident of unknown matter and also unknown cause, however, they had retreated, leaving the building and everything in it back as it had been. Until they had lost every contact with the security cameras and all access codes to the doors, that is.

From one moment to the next they weren't able to access anything and everyone they sent there in person… Well, at return, they only behaved as if everything was in perfect order.

"This screams 'hypnotism', if you ask me," the Doctor concluded and then proceeded to tell me his exact plan. "The Master doesn't know you. That's a huge advantage. Now we only have to get you in. Maybe as an employee. A technician maybe! You still have the clothes and all from your company."

"Yeah," I answered hesitantly, "but isn't that super risky? Won't they know immediately that they haven't hired anyone?"

"Doesn't matter. I have this." He handed me his wallet that held a white piece of paper. Written on its surface were the words: Hello! I'm the Doctor. "Psychic paper. Makes people see-"

"-whatever they expect," I mumbled.

The Doctor blinked at me, as perplexed as I felt. Why did I know this? Was it maybe just obvious if pointed out?

In the end we did exactly as the Doctor had planned. I still wore my working pants and the blue pullover with the logo of my company on it. He gave me a case with tools in it and the psychic paper and… off we went.

The TARDIS stayed in place, to save her energy and to keep her hidden. I was a nervous wreck by the time we arrived at the building. I had become a lot braver and more bold in the past months, but something like this was simply too unpredictable and therefore truly scary.

Empty corridors stretched in front of me for what seemed to be several hundred of meters. No windows, no stairways, only closed metal doors. The toolbox weighed heavily in my hand, sometimes clinking a little with my steps, disturbing the otherwise absolute silence.

Finally I reached the end of the corridor and was greeted by an ordinary looking door with no visible locks or anything. Only a plate was there. Office.

I knocked a few times, because there was no bell. The knot in my stomach seemed to grow with every passing second until finally the door was opened. Only a small slit, just enough to let a face peek out at me. It belonged to a man of average height, with blond, slightly tousled hair and a neatly trimmed goatee of the same colour. His eyes had a greenish hazel tone and a curious look to them.

"Uhm, h… hi," I stammered. "Sorry, if I'm bothering. My boss sent me because someone here has a broken device?" To underline my words I held up the tool box.

An eyebrow shot up on the man's face, then he opened the door fully, revealing he was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans and a black polo shirt. He couldn't be much older than me.

"I haven't ordered anyone," he said, thoughtfully. "Must have been one of the others. What device was reported anyway?"

I swallowed and put on an apologetic smile. "That wasn't mentioned, sadly. We only got told it's urgent and… uh…"

He grunted annoyed and ran a hand through his face. "That's so typical. The boss just goes about, doing whatever and the rest of us has to deal with it." A slight head shake later he looked back down at me and gave me an apologetic smile. "Sorry, but I have to ask for credentials. I'll get killed if I let the wrong people in."

"I hope you don't mean that literally," I gave back, trying to sound amused, while I fished the psychic paper out of my jacket. "I'm only the apprentice, though, they didn't have anyone else free to come over and told me to just get an overview."

"Eh, yeah, makes sense if no one told you what the problem even is." He took a quick look at the paper and, to my relief, nodded satisfied. "Alright. I'll have a look with you. There aren't that many things we could need an external technician for."

The man took a step back and waved me inside. To my surprise there was only an ordinary office waiting behind the door. No weird alien facility, no secret test laboratory. Just desks and computers. Almost no employees, however. I spotted maybe five people, typing away. One was wearing headphones and made the impression of spacing out to some music instead of working.

"Most people work from home," my guide explained, as if he sensed my curiosity. "Because of the virus, you know. The ones that are here are vaccinated already."

"Oh. I see," I mumbled. "Your boss is quite considerate, isn't he?"

I needed to find out more. Chances were high, if the Doctor's lead was correct, that this boss was actually the Master. So it was best to have as many clues as possible. The Doctor had given me a description, but, so far, no one matched it. Probably. The description hadn't been super clear.

'Short, dark hair, loves suits and has a wicked grin.' That had been it.

"It saves trouble," my guide replied. And we stopped at the desk of a woman in her forties. "Have you called a technician, Hanna?"

The woman's head shot up and her eyes darted back and forth between him and me. Her movements were hasty, nervous. "N… no. I didn't, Mr. Istrem. I was only doing my job here."

"Mhmm, I see. Continue then."

The woman nodded and quickly ducked her head down to resume her typing. The procedure repeated with the other few workers in the office. I noticed that two more were acting somewhat anxious, the fourth, however, seemed to be completely… lifeless. His answers were short, his eyes empty. I wondered if he might be depressed, or on drugs even.

When we came to the headphones guy, my guide snapped his fingers against the other one's head and gave him an amused grin.

"Oh, hey boss." He returned the grin and also nodded at me. "New one? No, doesn't seem like the regulars. What's up?"

"Did you order a technician?" This time the question sounded a little more annoyed. "And stop calling me boss."

"Eh, come on, Mr. Istrem." Headphones-guy scratched his neck. "You're so far above my pay grade, you probably wipe your arse with silk. No? Eh, whatever. Didn't order anyone. Could easily fix everything myself, Sir." He winked and boldly put back on the headphones.

"If he weren't so smart, I'd fire him on the spot," my guide grumbled. "Well… was none of them." He walked to the back of the office, before turning to me again. "What did you say you were here for?"

My heart did a jump and then started to beat a lot faster than normally. Why was I suddenly so nervous?

"To… get a look at whatever needs fixing."

"But no one called." His voice was calm and friendly, still, but something had changed. "Well, we'll figure it out."

A disquieting sensation ran through me I could not, for the life of me, put into any coherent words or even thoughts. Nervously I followed him inside another room and the sight made my fear evaporate into curiosity.

It was a spacious office. Everything in here was made from dark wood and there were shelves upon shelves with books and busts and lots of items that definitely did not belong to or stem from earth. In the middle of the room stood a long, dark table with only a single mug on one end.

I took in my surroundings, amazed and fascinated, eager to take a closer look at every single of the foreign objects. If only I were here for that. Hesitantly I Tore my gaze away and found my guide again. He stood leaned against the door through which we had entered, hands in his jeans pockets, eyes lowered to the floor.

"Uhm… maybe your boss called us?" I tried. "Or is there anything…"

"There is no boss." The voice came through a smug smile, without him moving otherwise.

A lump formed in my throat. Something was wrong. Incredibly so.

"I asked all of them to see if anyone works behind my back," he continued, raising his head to the ceiling as if something there was of great interest.

"Wh...why would they?" Nervously I licked my lips, my eyes searching for another door. "Maybe it was a mistake. My boss probably gave me the wrong address." This time I tried an apologetic smile, even though it was hard with that racing pulse.

"Yeah, he might." His eyes were still glued to the ceiling, while one of his fingers gently tapped against his thigh. "Can happen."

Bolder than I knew I could be, I took a step closer and waved at the door. "Well, I'll report back and won't bother you any longer. Sorry for the trouble, Sir."

"It is, " - he continued, his gaze now unnervingly resting on me - "very... likely to accidentally stumble into a building that is only known by the government."

Well, shit.

"It is also-," he pushed himself away from the door, taking a single step over to me - "not unusual at all to be in possession of psychic paper."

There was a deliberate pause, placed to watch the blooming fear in my face, to let a grin slowly fade onto his lips. I tried to move towards the door, maybe… maybe… it wouldn't work. Of course it wouldn't work.

He slammed a hand against the wood, made me jump and press my back against the door. He wasn't that big, but the danger he suddenly emanated was almost choking me.

"I… d... didn't get your name," I mumbled, actually having forgotten what the people had called him. "I'd gladly forward your concerns." Oh my stupid tongue.

The grin grew wider, wicket, amused. He was way too close for my taste. There was a chance, wasn't it? This could still be a false lead. My mind screamed, my body froze. The sense of wrongness pressed itself into my awareness like a pungent smell. The all too familiar sense of… déjà vu. The devilish smile, the expression in those ancient eyes, savouring my fear, drinking it in like a good wine.

He didn't need to say it. I already knew and all of my hair seemed to stand on end as he moved. He bent down to me, his head almost brushing mine, his breath ghosting  my ear as he muttered, "My name, little intruder… is the Master."

Back to index


Chapter 60: Chapter 59

Author's Notes: Do you ever wonder what would have happened would you have met certain people under different circumstances? This part might get a little dark. But it has to... because uh... I say so!


My mind simply blanked. For seconds all I was able to do was to stare at the man in front of me, not knowing what even scared me so much about him. The Doctor had barely told anything, neither had the TARDIS. And still, my heart did its best to escape its confinements, the adrenalin in my blood made my head light, but froze my body.

And in that moment I realized that the Master, as he was, with all the emanating danger, felt as oddly real as no one else before had. As if he were the only true person within the entirety of existence, as if I had never met anyone before who had been truly… alive.

"The Doctor sent you here, didn't he?" the Master asked in a mocking tone. "'Cause he has. Doesn't have the guts to come himself."

I opened my mouth to speak, to say something, but no sound escaped my lungs. The Master fisted a hand into my collar, pressed me right into the wall and leaned down to my face, the green tint in his eyes glinting with madness. And he… blinked, relaxed, looked at me almost dumbfounded.

"Do I know you?" His eyes narrowed to slits as he observed my face.

I lightly shook my head, although I was suddenly unsure it was even true. But that wasn't possible. I had never met him… I… hadn't?

"No, I remember his pets. You're a new stray, aren't you?" The mock was back in his voice, contrasting the blooming anger in his gaze and the hand that tightened its grip on my clothes. "I'm gone for some days and he picks up a new one. Bet he couldn't wait to be rid of me," the Master spat.

"I… don't think… It wasn't like that," I stammered.

"No?" His lips spread to a snide smile. "Then tell me where he is hidden. I don't need him interfering with any of this."

I gulped and tried to calm myself. Somehow. I hadn't ran away only to end up being killed by someone I had no business with!

"He… hid the TARDIS in a nearby park, " I told. "Just a few blocks away. But… it wasn't him."

"What wasn't him? Don't try my patience, human." The Master's gaze locked with mine, distracting my racing mind. Remaining eye contact and simultaneously having a conversation was always hard for me and this was a completely new level of challenge.

"The TARDIS, she said that. You need to get back and fix her."

"Don't play dumb on me," his low voice warned. "The ship can't say anything. What is he planning?"

With that he pressed me even more against the door, his fist boring into my throat, restraining the amount of oxygen I could get. My head started to feel light, even spun a little. On instinct I tried to loosen his grip, but had no chance. And all I could get out was a choked sound that barely resembled a word.

The Master let go of my collar, but right as I sucked in some air, he had already grabbed both of my wrists, pinning them above my head. He was so close, I could feel the warmth of his body, could feel the almost suffocating aura of danger around him. It was instinct to struggle, but he had effectively trapped me, made it impossible for me to do anything, so I forced myself to keep still and frozen.

"You will tell me everything I want to know," he growled and fixated my eyes. There was something incredibly dark in them, something old, something mad, something that spoke to a part deep within me. "No lies, no stories."

Something that told me to obey.

"Yes, Master, " I muttered, having suddenly lost all will to fight. A small voice in the back of my head tried to stop me as I told everything that had happened recently, but the rest of me didn't… couldn't listen. My mind was split in half, one side screaming in terror at what I did, the other obedient and willing to do whatever he would tell me to do.

"Well, that is quite a story." The Master had listened closely to my monotone voice. "Means he has a clue I'm here." With a scowl he finally let go of my wrists and stepped away, not before commanding, "Don't move."

And so I didn't.

Somehow I now felt strangely calm, or rather… empty. Not in a bad way. I simply stopped being someone. But that was the extent of thoughts that made their way to my consciousness. Don't move. I didn't know or think any more than that, while the Master paced up and down. Hadn't there been a part of me rebelling, just a moment before? Or had I imagined it? Why would I even?

"You…" Suddenly he stopped and faced me with dark eyes. "Go to the Doctor and tell him, you didn't find a thing."

I nodded, but raised a brow.

"What?"

"He said, everyone before me told the same. I'm not sure he will believe it."

What had he told? - 'This screams hypnotism!'

Yeah, right. Hypnotism. A strange word. It wanted to scratch something on the edge of my awareness, but couldn't.

"Right. Clever." He smirked at me. "So, what you're saying is, that he won't believe anything I'd command you to tell him, is that correct?"

I nodded.

"Which also means that there is no reason for me to let you run. Is that also correct?"

Was it? I opened my mouth, snapped it close again and contemplated the question. "There is no logical reason for you to keep me here," I finally concluded. "The Doctor won't believe me, no matter what. But if I stay he will also try and get in here."

"Logic?" The Master laughed out and jabbed my head. "I didn't ask for that."

"You didn't specify the question." And since something in my mind had decided to simply shut down and answer whatever he asked, I did what seemed most natural to me.

Again I noticed how strangely calm I had gotten. A hand automatically wandered over my chest, lightly pressed down on it to feel the faint pulsating of my heartbeat. What was this? I was scared, but I couldn't feel it, my body didn't act as if I were. In all my wonderment it took me almost a second to realize that another hand slowly pushed mine away to press against the same spot. Confused, I glanced up and met the Master's amused smirk.

"You're not in control of yourself anymore," he said proudly. "Your will belongs to me and me alone, now."

"It does?" My question was calm, detached.

"Mhm." The Master chuckled. "It's called hypnotism." That word again. Right, I knew what it meant. Of course I did. "Although it is remarkable that you can still wonder about it. Would be easier if you couldn't. But like this..." He laughed quietly, removed his hand and pushed my chin upwards. "...it's much more fun to play with you. Actually… I think I will keep you around for a while. You are terrified about this."

The last sentence had been a statement, not a question. And instantly my heart rate spiked, my palms got sweaty and my whole body tensed up. The Master stared at me for a second, then he stepped back, clapped his hands together and let out another laugh.

Watching him I sank down to the floor, too shaky to stand any longer. All the fear and panic I had repressed before now washed over me like an icy ocean wave. My whole body trembled and it was hard to hold back tears. How I managed was impossible to tell. I wanted it to stop, wanted to dissolve into nothingness. I wrapped my arms around my torso, dragged my knees up to my chest that hurt unbearably from the tremors that went through it. Not the first time I felt like this. Not the first. There had been a moment before. One. One of knowing I would certainly die if anyone would find out where I was, knowing I would be beaten to death or so much I would wish to die. I remembered the night, spent in fear, the moment when the bell had rung and my father had stood there, in the doorway, asking my aunt if anyone had seen me. Me, hiding behind their sofa, in a tiny corner, curled together to a shaky ball, wishing I could run out and hide in my father's arms instead. I wanted to be held, wanted him to protect me, just once. Just once in my life. Protect me from her. But I didn't budge, didn't move, briefly I wondered if he would just watch how she beat me to an unrecognizable remnant of whatever I had once been.

There was a hand on my shoulder, tearing through the flashback, ripping through the triggered emotions of long gone times. It was warm and real and the only thing anchoring me in the presence. A sob shook me as I felt a figure kneel in front of me, speaking something that couldn't make its way through to me. He tugged my arms from my knees, pulled me up a bit, rough, sending a spark of pain through my wrist. A spark that bore itself into the images of the flashback, that was like a glowing grain of sand falling into an iceberg. No longer was I in control of anything, only shot forward and wrapped my arms around the figure in front of me, sobbed tearlessly and trembled, felt the person stiffen to unmovable stone... Only to then rip me away from him and throw me backwards. My head thudded painfully against the wall, making me groan.

"Don't you ever do that again!" a voice spat hatefully. A hand grabbed my chin, made me look into greenish hazel eyes that were filled with hatred and contempt. "Fine. You're not terrified. But you are scared. Scared enough to stay wherever I put you. Do not ask questions, do not struggle. And don't touch me!"

Trembling I sat up, rubbed a hand over my face while my breath allowed itself to calm from almost hyperventilating to a fearful hitch. The Master was squatting in front of me, lips curled to what could only be described as a snarl. I winced as my eyes met his, the rage and… confusion? He shot to his feet before I could properly make it out, then he reached down, grabbed my elbow and tore me up.

"Let's find a nice spot to lock you away," he growled. "And then I'll decide what happens to you."

Back to index


Chapter 61: Chapter 60

Numbly I followed the Master to another office room. This one, too, was filled with all sorts of alien tech, but I felt no more desire to touch any of it. A vague fear was occupying most of my thought, a fear that, as I realized, wasn't even real.

Hypnotism.

The longer this word lingered in my awareness, the more it gnawed its way to the forefront. It wasn't as if I didn't know what it meant, my mind only refused to grasp its meaning, so I would stay under its influence. However, even knowing what it did to me didn't help, didn't break the control or dispel the tightness in my guts. Barely did I realize how the Master pointed at two other rooms. One was a small bathroom, the other a kitchen.

"You can keep yourself clean and fed. Don't dare and bother me with any of your pesky human requirements."

I simply nodded, already dreading the hours to come. There would be boredom, there would be thoughts, there would be a constant fear of what might happen to me.

The Master bent down a little, tapped on my head four times and grinned at me. "I'll see if I can find the Doctor and if I can…" He chuckled to himself, hinting at nothing good.

"Why have you sabotaged the TARDIS when you don't want him near you?" I dared to ask, my hands, however, starting to shake from the fear of having gone too far. A reaction that reminded me by far too much of the time I had been literally crippled by social anxiety.

"I haven't."

Perplexed, I blinked up at him, unsure if it was a lie. Would I say the wrong thing, he might get mad and hurt me. And it was always so incredibly easy to fall into that trap. One word, one look, a single involuntary movement of my body, all of it had the potential to be interpreted in the wrong way. Because what made sense to me often seemed to be downright insulting to others. Even when it only was not to look them in the eyes long enough.

The pleased expression on the Master's face told me it was the right thing to keep quiet. Or was it what my mind read into it, doused in fear as it was. I watched as he turned and left the room, drawing the door close almost carefully.

Again. Again it felt as if I had experienced something like this before. The familiarity was uncanny, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not recall what might trigger the feeling. Instead I sat in one of the office chairs - a big, comfy one with armrests - drew my knees up under my chin and wrapped both arms around them.

Would he find the Doctor? Would he hurt him? Had I doomed the other man to his certain death? Would his blood, figuratively, soak my hands? What would happen to myself? Would the Master just keep me as some sick version of a toy? Would he hurt me? And if so, how?

Deliberately I took some deep breaths, inflated my lungs and held the air for some seconds, before slowly exhaling again. I repeated the process, over and over again, usually a great method to ground myself and get calm.

Now, it would not work.

________________________________________________
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"Remarkable."

The sarcastic voice drilled through the wall of mad dreams. Violently I snapped awake, jolted upwards in the office chair and blinked at the Master.

"Didn't expect you to fall asleep with all that fear that must plague you." His lips spread to a wolfish grin.

"Guess I'm just used to it," I mumbled and got rewarded by a new flood of snippets of memories from long - and some not so long ago - times. I somewhat shook them off and straightened, finding a curious look on the face above me. I nodded to the kitchen door. "Please tell me you have coffee in there."

"There is."

He bent forward, observing my eyes. And as I tried to look away he even grabbed my chin to force me to look at him. It was hard enough on its own to keep eye contact, but to be forced into it was always extra unnerving.

It never felt like this.

The thought shot through my head and puzzled me. Why would it be any different with the Master than with everyone else? Only because he wasn't human? That barely made any sense and also, clearly, wasn't even true. Quite the opposite. Glaring into the ancient depths of his green eyes unnerved me in a way I couldn't even begin to describe. As if I were looking into something that wasn't even… real, as if I would be staring into something impossible, like an infinite mirror. bending and twisting in on itself over and over and over again.

"I left you here for barely half an hour," he finally mocked, followed by a mean laugh and he let go of me. "Doubt you got used to being scared, just yet."

"Yeah, you're right," I mumbled and made my way to the kitchen. How would he know I had gotten used to it many, many years before.

The Master followed closely, hands in his pockets and observing my every movement as if I were an interesting animal.

"You're lucky," he drawled. "I couldn't find your boyfriend."

"Eh?" I made confused. "'m single, what're you talking about?"

I was confused as to what he might mean and also scared of the possibility of him maybe having found out about a crush I had for quite some time now. But how would he…

"I mean the Doctor, dumbas. All his pets seem to fall for him. Just assumed you did the same."

Finally I had found a pack of coffee and the matching machine to it. My hands were slightly shaking when I added the powder into the filter, reminding me of my still racing heartbeat. Maybe coffee wasn't the best idea in that state.

"I didn't even have time for that," I defended myself sourly. "And why would I?"

The Master shrugged and gave me a pitiful glance. "Humans seem to just love the hero type."

"'n you're mad they don't fall for the villain?" I gave back sarcastically.

"Pshaw! Your kind is disgusting! I don't want them flirting with me." He scrunched up his nose in clear disgust. "And he's not that much of a hero anyway. Just makes you all believe so."

I shrugged. "Can't judge that. He still seemed a lot nicer than you are."

A snicker came from the Master. "Oh, you have no idea, ape."

"I have a name, you know."

"Yeah, and I don't want to know about it." The amused twinkle vanished from his eyes, got replaced by one that was a lot crazier.

Ice cold adrenaline shot through my guts, making me wonder if I had been too cheeky. My body froze for several moments, waiting, anticipating. But he didn't budge. Only as I was about to pour me a cup of the freshly brewed beverage, did he stop me, snatched my wrist and hurled me around so I was forced to face him.

"Oh, no no no, you will not just casually sip some stuff while I'm here." With a rough hitch he dragged me right in front of him, in an angle that forced me to bend my head backwards to face him. My heartbeat sped up even more, making me newly aware of the constant fear he had induced. A pleased expression settled in his features at my sight. "The hypnotism is still working. Great, isn't it?"

"No?" I gasped.

The Master pursed his lips, still smiling. "You're right. It's not really good… enough." As much as the horror of what might come grew within me, so did the grin on his face. "I think I want to hear about what made you so resilient to fear. I want to dig out a few of these really nasty memories. Does that sound like more fun?"

"No! Not at all."

He smiled like a little boy as he released my wrist and instead grabbed my head with both hands. Skin connected with skin and I closed my eyes to brace me for what was to come. I knew it shouldn't hurt to have him in my mind, remembered that I even liked it quite a lot.

Wait! I do what?

My eyes shot open and searched the Master's. Filled with glee and madness, anticipation. But it was still wrong. They always had been hazel, but never so green. And he hadn't been blond. And…

Light.

Golden light filled my vision all of a sudden, spread within my heart and my mind and felt warm and assuring.

Little one.

I knew the voice. But how could she reach me here?

Within this place he has more power over you. You cannot flee, not resist.

I could not answer, had no way to react or to make her know I could hear. It almost felt as if I were back inside the TARDIS, back in that moment when we had connected. However, I could still feel the fingers on my temples, could still feel the edge of agony searing through my mind.

Let me lend you my light, child of the void. It is all I can do.

The sound of stars rang in my ears, like soft chimes, singing in the wind. The light faded from my vision, the warmth turned into bitter cold, digging into my chest.

I gasped as a pain seared through my head like a burning knife, whimpered as it grew in intensity. A leviathan moved through the windings of my mind, walzed its way through thought and emotions, memories and dreams. But it was like magnets with the same pole, pushing away from one another, unable to ever stay close.

A nasty curse distracted me from the sensation, from the pain. The Master tried to dig deeper into me, his essence moving with precision and force, cutting and ripping through my very soul. I completely froze, overwhelmed and hurting and just wanting it to stop already, begging for him to remember, to find whatever was hidden and lost and exploded!

The Master shot away from me, stumbled backwards as billions and billions of sparks and stars combusted in front of my eyes. The pressure eased, as did the pain. I groaned from the relief, dropped to my knees and tried to blink the sparks away, but couldn't.

In the spreading silence I finally was able to catch my breath and steady my throbbing pulse.

"You…" the Master muttered.

I looked up, blinked and rubbed my eyes to no avail. The room had darkened, drowned in white and blue glowing sparks. No wonder I was unable to get them out of my head. They were no longer there, but all around us! Amazed I stretched a hand out, tapped a spark and watched wide eyed how it exploded into million tiny copies of itself.

The Master took a step closer, moving through the sparks with so much caution as if he feared they would hurt him. But all they did was to move out of the way, seemingly unable to touch him. Our eyes met and I found confusion and wonderment in them.

For long seconds he glared at me, towering. He only spoke three words, but all of them chilled me right to the bones.

"Who are you?"

Back to index


Chapter 62: Chapter 61

Author's Notes: Time to go down the dark road again. As always, nothing explicit is mentioned. You're free to let you imagination roam free. ;D


Again I let out a groan, held my head with both hands and pressed my eyes shut. Images swapped over me, snippets of conversations, smells and sounds and the feelings of different times. Too many and too fast to distinguish any of them, enough, however, to make my head hurt again, make it spin and foggy.

Who am I?

The question wasn't so unjustified, but its answer still slipped through my fingers as if each component of it were a tiny grain of sand. The TARDIS must have had something to do with this, although I could not understand how she reached me here.

When I looked back up the images didn't vanish. Instead they continued to rattle through the room like they were running through a broken slide-projector. The Master stood there, fascinated and also confused, trying to make sense of it. He turned and squatted down in front of me. The look in his eyes was cold and unnerving.

"How are you doing that?" he demanded to know. "How can your mind spill out like this? Not even Time Lords can do that."

"I… have no idea," I breathed, as much puzzled by all of this than he seemed to be.

But he should know!

I pinched my eyes shut, unsure where those thoughts came from, even though they were my own.

He should remember me!

But how? And why? We had never met before.

A hand on my collar tore me out of the musing, Tore me upwards to my feet.

"What are you?!" The Master demanded.

A searingly hot… thing shot through my mind, a bundle of emotions and questions and memories. The Master winced, but still held onto me. My whole mind seemed to bleed out of myself, affecting him maybe as much as it did me.

Who am I? What am I?

The gnawing pit in my stomach, amplified by the countless times I had asked myself those exact questions. Images appeared around me, fragmented, blurred, like viewed inside the shards of a broken mirror. I remembered and with the memories came the images.

Of me at various ages, glaring up at the sky, sitting in secluded spots, hiding from people, always staying in the back. Asking and asking and asking myself what in the world I might be that people hated my very existence so much, wondered who I actually was after years and years of copying behaviours and desperately trying to appear normal. At least normal enough not to be pushed around, not to be discarded at every opportunity.

All of what I had tried had changed me to an unrecognizable… thing. And it didn't help, made no part of my life even slightly easier, but I couldn't help it, was doing this all on instinct and so automatically that I couldn't just… stop.

Layers and layers of masks, of disguises, of being nothing but an empty shell with rehearsed patterns of speech and movements. Because everything I was was not allowed. Because everything that was not them made me a target.

I heard a low chuckle and glanced up, finding the Master in the same place as before, although he had released my clothes. Instead he held my head, almost gently, not even trying to get inside. What for when all of me was just dripping from my mind into the world around us?

"Tell you what," he whispered - or were my thoughts so loud that I barely understood him? "I know how that feels. Being the odd one out. Never… never knowing why."

Around us the images steadied, slowed. There I was again. As a child, running away from classmates, who wanted to steal my school bag. Me, sighing at the sky as I came out from another fruitless job interview. Me, wincing in terror as the doorbell rang, too terrified to answer, because I didn't know who was on the other end.

"You can't control it," came the Master's amused voice and he dragged me right against him, forcing me to bend my head in his hands backwards and meet his wolfish grin. "Show me. What scares you, if I cannot?"

The command tingled in my head, spread there like poison and gnawed its way into my memories. Not hypnotism, but a simple trigger.  Immediately the images changed, rushed backwards to halt at a scene that only lay a few years behind.

There was a simple flat, me lying on the sofa, trying to sleep, while my boyfriend snored in the bedroom. The image cut, changed. The same scenery, but some hours before. I was still on my phone, preparing for a late evening online session with friends. My boyfriend stood there, leaned against the sofa rest and regarded me with a dark, accusing look.

"Come on, don't make such a fuss and sleep in the bedroom again."

I sighed tiredly. We had had this conversation so many times, I knew each and every word of it, but still repeated my part as if it belonged to a play. "I can't sleep when you snore so loud. You know that." And he refused to even try to take any action against it. Simply awaited me to put up with it. And for years I had. I had denied myself so many hours of proper sleep only for him not to get mad at me for leaving the room.

A derisive look crossed his eyes, then they wandered over my body. "At least come over for a bit. A few minutes."

Inwardly I flinched, knowing what this actually was about. Same as always, same as every single time we had this or a similar conversation.

"My clan is waiting," I shot out. It wasn't even a proper lie. The people I played MMOs with were actually doing an event at this moment and had asked if I wanted to join.

The look on my boyfriend's face darkened even further and he huffed. "See? You never have time for me."

And with that he stormed away, leaving me behind, relieved and still shaky.

"That didn't look so scary," the Master snickered behind me. I hadn't even noticed that he had let go of me.

I swallowed down a lump in my throat. "No, it doesn't. Everyone who didn't know him well would have thought of him like a really nice person. But the subtle things… those you only pick up when you really know a person..."

Before I could say anything more, the images in the room changed. We were in the same flat, he on his computer, I just came back from a rare trip with friends. It had been a nice day with them, we had seen each other for the first time in over a year. My mood was great and I blabbered on after he had greeted me, told about what he had done and was about to show him some photos we had taken. A quick glance at my watch told me it was almost two in the morning already.

"Oof, dang. I'm really tired now." I let out a yawn. "Can barely keep my eyes open. Guess I'll go to bed now."

My boyfriend said nothing, not even a good-night. I already guessed he hadn't listened to half of what I had told, because his attention had been with his monitor for the entire time, only interrupted by some vague words and noises. So I was about to stroll to the sofa when he suddenly grabbed my arm and tore me into his lap.

"You've been gone all day," he said, a slight accusation swinging within his voice. "And I had such a bad day at work, really."

"Uh… sorry 'bout that," I mumbled and picked up my phone, trying a smile. "Here, you'll like that one. We took it in the park."

He grunted and didn't even look at the picture of a squirrel I wanted to show. "I tell you about a bad day and all you think about is yourself," he blamed.

"Hey, not true!" I protested. "Just thought it's cute and might cheer you up."

"No, you don't want to listen to me. You never want to listen. I'm feeling bad and you don't care."

Completely taken aback by this I stayed silent, unsure what to even say. It wasn't true, not at all. I simply had no clue how to make him smile again, despite the bad day. And before I could think about it any further, his hand was on my bum and I froze.

"I know how you can make me smile again," he said with a grin, letting his other hand wander to a much more obvious place.

I squirmed and wanted to get up. "Hey, it's really late already," I said. "'m really damn tired. And don't you have to work, tomorrow? Why're you even still awake?"

His face got angry, even though he let me get up. But only to grab me once more and let his hands wander to places they had no business to be. "I was worried," he told.

"I wrote you a message just an hour ago."

"Yeah, but not after."

I sighed and pushed his hands away. "Stop that."

"Oh, come on," he whined. "If you don't let me have you, at least let me touch you."

A wave of disgust washed over me and squirmed out of his grip and stepped away. The scene faded, got replaced by a bunch of others of similar nature. They rushed backwards, to the beginning, when everything had still been great and fine, then wandered further to where my boyfriend had started to demand more and more and getting angry when I didn't want or couldn't deliver. It went on for a few years, getting worse and worse until I started to feel nothing but disgust when he came near me.

But I stayed anyway, convinced this was the best life had to offer for a broken thing like me. I stayed, although he kept telling me what a heartless monster I was. I stayed, even though it was impossible to even give him a hug without him trying to get into my pants. I stayed, even though his fake-concern and his controlling behaviour made me develop a gnawing social anxiety.

The room went black.

For a while I stood there in silence, feeling miserable and bare. Dirty. Every moment I awaited to hear a nasty comment from the Master, a laugh or some other sign that he revelled in what I had experienced.

Eventually he stepped next to me, eyes fixated on the reappearing sparkles, rather than on me.

"Do you want to kill him?" he asked calmly, quite as if he wanted to know if I wanted milk in my coffee.

Hesitantly I glanced up at him. "What use would that be?"

A grin spread on the Master's face, although he still didn't look in my direction. "You managed to flee already, why not bring it to an end?"

I swallowed, shook my head. "I didn't flee," was what I mumbled.

I had stayed, because I didn't dare to leave the house anymore.

I had stayed because he had separated me from my family and from the few friends I used to have.

I had stayed… because I had lost the will to care any longer.

"I was… too weak… too scared to do so. He… threw me out, in the end. With nothing but a bag of clothes. No money, no place to stay."

"Uh-oh. Nasty." Another chuckle, telling me he had too much fun with my misery. "You're still here, though. Stubborn thing, eh?"

I huffed. "Yeah. Might be the only quality I possess."

The Master stretched out his hand and tapped against a cluster of sparks that looked as if an image was trapped inside them. The gesture made me wince as if he had touched the spot right inside my mind.

And again the sparks flared to life. Showed me sitting in the streets. My phone was almost drained as I typed a message into a chat window, asking an internet friend I had never in my life met in person to pick me up. Then the phone died and I waited, hoped not to be abandoned for just once in my life.

Hours later I saw a figure approach and recognized the face of said friend. I only knew a few photos of him. He picked me up, took me home and let me stay with him and his wife for a while, so I wouldn't have to live on the streets.

But it still was a hard process. My anxiety still sat deep and I had so many troubles finding an apartment for myself that I nearly landed back on the streets again. My friends didn't want me to stay for longer than necessary, urged me to get out, because their landlord didn't like them having another person with them.

The first successful offer was a randown, cheap space within the poorest part of my town, but I still took it, because it was better than getting kicked out again. Even though it was only an empty room with nothing inside. Not even a bed.

The images went black again, leaving me with a tight knot in my stomach. I didn't want the Master to see all of this, didn't want to relive all the fear and pain I had felt. Was this really how the TARDIS wanted to help me? Was this just some cruel joke? A tiny spark of hope for something better, only to be left on my own, tossed away in the darkness with nothing but my worst memories.

I felt the Master's eyes on me, felt how curious he was to learn more about what he could use to torture me.

But, to my luck, the sparks around us finally faded, the colours returned to the room and left me with an eerie feeling of being stranded in a half-reality, trapped between memories and the present. All I could do was to take some shaky breaths and clench my hands to fists.

The Master snapped his fingers against my forehead, chuckled when I jumped.

"Well, that's a start," he commented amused and tilted his head a little. "You're still standing upright, though." A mad grin crossed his face as he bent down to my eye level. "Thought you'd crumble to a sobbing mess."

"Stubborn, remember?" I grumbled. "You have to do better than that."

"If that isn't a challenge!" He giggled madly to himself. "Don't worry, though. I'll find out how to break you. One way or the other."

Back to index


Chapter 63: Chapter 62

"Why are you doing this?" I breathed, glaring up at the Master with wide, desperate eyes.

Seeing those memories hurt in a way I hadn't awaited. Not even two whole years had passed since them, but so much had happened… I had changed in so many ways… Somehow I had convinced myself to have left the past behind for good, had thought I had just moved on. But the reality was different.

"Because it's fun," he stated with a mad gleam. "Because you walked in here like an idiot and thought you could interfere with my plans like it's nothing. No, worse…" He paused, giving me a condescending look. "As if they were any of your business."

I swallowed, my shoulders sacking together. He was right. I had just ran in here, without knowing anything, only because…

"I just wanted to leave everything behind me," I muttered, realizing the whole ordeal was simply my poor attempt at running away.

"Sweet." The Master pursed his lips. "Another one who got fooled by cute promises of stars and time. You'll have none of it, ape." He chuckled and stabbed a finger at my chest. "I'll keep you as leverage, in case our friend tries to sabotage my plans. And you…" A pitying look wandered over me. "You go and make me some tea."

Suddenly all tension just dropped from my soul and left me weirdly light and empty, void of the gnawing feelings that had clouded my perception and had twisted my guts.

Perplex I blinked at the Master.

"Tea?" Somehow I had awaited he would try to torture me some more.

"Yes. And don't dare to spoil it."

"Then make it yourself," I grumbled, folding my arms.

He glared at me, contempt slowly merging into surprise. "You-" with a foreboding tone he bent down a little, locking eyes with me - "go now and make. Me. Tea."

Prick

I narrowed my eyes at him, staying in place with crossed arms. "Make me."

A single eyebrow shot up as the Master straightened. "Actually… that was exactly what I was trying to do. Peculiar."

Only then did it dawn on me. He had tried to use more of his hypnotism on me. And - as susceptible as I had been to it before - now it simply did not work. I closed my eyes for a mere second, listening within me to find the fear he had instilled there, but it, too, was gone.

The TARDIS' gift.

But if this was what she had done, then I still had no clue what triggered the memory effect just now. It also didn't help that I was still a prisoner with no way of informing the Doctor or to make the Master repair the TARDIS.

"Well, since I can't directly command you, I'll just force you with other methods." The sweet, almost charming tone was back. Quite as if I were supposed to be happy about that news. "Chopp Chopp. Go and make tea." He clapped his hands and waved me towards the kitchen. "Otherwise I'll get creative."

I sighed, more annoyed than actually scared. "Whatever. You get your damn tea. 'M more of a coffee drinker though, don't expect it to be any good."

The nasty grin told me there would not be any pleasant consequences if I made my threat reality. But I really wasn't in the mood for games and just rushed to the door and into the small kitchen. It even had an oven and a fridge.

Have those been there before?

Perplexed, I stayed in one spot for almost a minute, glaring at the devices. There hadn't been so much space just a few minutes ago. Those wouldn't have even fitted in here. Had I been too occupied by the induced fear to overlook them? But how… No. No, I was just imagining things. Rooms didn't just change out of nowhere.

How much time had passed anyway? There wasn't even a window in here.

Odd.

I shook my head and tried to rid myself of the sensation that something was majorly wrong. And also the fact that I seemed to grasp edges of something else, that kept just slipping away from me. Hadn't I thought some strange things before? Something about eye colours and… and…

No, stop it.

I was tired. And this day had been downright absurd and crazy in every aspect imaginable. Of course I felt as if reality was off. And shouldn't I?

Okay, back to tea. Being distracted from my own thoughts would surely not help making some. And it was still better than being forced to watch a mental movie of bad times, with a prick in my back.

He was really pissing me off. And that was a hard thing to do. My patience could reach unimaginable depths, but he had snapped it like a thin twig. And where before I had felt a constantly gnawing pang of fear, I now was just… well… pissed.

Tea… yeah right. I smirked and opened the fridge, quite in the mood to show my own way of being rebellious.

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"There, suit yourself."

Carefully I placed a big mug on a plate on the table, right next to an open laptop that sat there. It was filled with graphs and some strange looking circular symbols. The Master was staring at them with puckered brows, two fingers resting on the keyboard, whilst those of his other hand tapped an ever repeating rhythm on the desk.

I took a careful sip from my own mug and kept watching as he opened another window that showed some C++ code. That made me smirk, thinking that even an alien was using this.

"Mhm," I made and took another sip.

The Master didn't react.

"If you leave the top part like this you'll get an infinite loop," I mumbled.

His drumming fingers stilled and his head turned slightly, but not fully. "Get lost, I'm working here," he grumbled and reached for the mug on his desk.

With an impish amusement I watched as he took a sip, then paused. Finally his eyes strayed from the monitor and wandered to the mug.

More seconds passed. My smirk grew.

"That is not tea," the Master finally stated and I wasn't sure if it was utter annoyance or surprise that was audible in his voice.

"Nope," I simply stated, popping the p.

He turned his chair, facing me with a dark scowl and emanating a sudden threatening aura that told me he could snap at every moment, if I wasn't careful.

"Are you trying to provoke me, human?" he asked in a low, foreboding tone. "That's a bad idea."

I shrugged, plainly sat down on the edge of the table and drank more from my mug.

"Told you I'm bad with tea."

"That's hot chocolate. That's so far away from tea as my species is from yours," he growled.

"And you told me not to spoil your precious tea." I smiled. "So I didn't."

He huffed and actually drank more from it. "Smart."

I raised a brow. "Don't tell me that was a compliment."

"Considering the fact that your brain isn't capable of a damn thing… maybe." There was a wide grin. One that clearly told how less he thought of my kind. "It doesn't change the fact that you did not complete the task I gave you."

"And I'm supposed to care?" I nodded towards his monitor. "Your brain's quite useless, too, though. That program you write there will immediately crash."

"Cheeky."

The Master turned back to the laptop, still not setting the mug down, and let his eyes wander over the code.

"I used to do some programming," I drawled, letting my feet dangle. "Nothing fancy and I'm certainly not good at it. But that's screaming right in your face, ya know?"

A chuckle came from him as he corrected a few lines. Here and there he drank more of the chocolate, obviously not disliking it, despite his mourning.

"You just helped finish my plan."

Surprised I stiffened and turned my head. A pleased smirk was plastered on his face.

"What're you doing here anyway?" I wondered.

"Me?" He tilted his head a little, giving me a boyish smile that would have been downright adorable if it weren't for everything he had done before. "Better ask the Doctor why he landed in this time of all times."

"Uh… how would I know?" I pursed my lips, feeling slightly mocked. "It's a shitty time in general. No idea why a time traveller would land here. You tell me."

"I don't have access to the TARDIS' controls. All I did was to slip out, when he didn't pay attention for a second." There it was again. That smile. "No idea why he thinks I manipulated anything. I couldn't even."

What?!

But the TARDIS had told me… no, actually she hadn't. All I had learned from her was that the Master might be able to fix her. That he might be responsible for the damage was only the Doctor's assumption.

A growing smirk told me I didn't have to repeat my thoughts aloud. How did all of this make sense? And what did the Master mean? Why did the Doctor land here?

I squinted my eyes at the Master. "I had the suspicion before, but it was you who spread the virus, wasn't it?" What before had only been a dumb joke, now suddenly became an all too possible reality. "And now you want to make it worse."

"Wrong." An amused chuckle came from him, as if all of this were a game. "I've got nothing to do with this. Well, not with spreading it, at least."

"But it is what you're working on, isn't it?"

"It is," the Master revealed.

"So, if you're not here to make it worse, then what are you planning?"

The grin grew, revealing teeth. A downright predatory expression that I didn't know if it was meant as a threat or stemmed purely from amusement.

"I'm planning to heal it."

Back to index


Chapter 64: Chapter 63

"You… what?" Dumbfounded, I blinked a few times.

"I'm vaccinating earth's population against this silly little virus." The mug ended on the table, right next to where I was sitting on it - now empty. "I helped develop the formula. Or rather… I did develop it and then leaked parts of it to several people, so they would speed up the process."

His answer completely caught me off guard, rendered me literally speechless for quite a while. I even forgot to be smug about the stupid chocolate.

"That's… a lie?" I finally stated, although it was clearly a question.

The Master got up from his chair, straightened his back as if he had sat for a little too long and walked up in front of me. He stopped so closely we were almost touching and he also bent down the tiniest bit, observing my stunned face.

"It's the truth," he told calmly. "Don't you believe it?"

Perplex I blinked, opened my mouth without saying a word and simply shook my head. Without a warning the Master shot forward, placed both hands on either side of me on the table so I had to bend backwards. His stare was intense, the smile on his lips, however, subtle.

"You don't know a thing about me," he stated, a slight accusation suddenly swinging in his voice. "Why don't you believe it? Because the Doctor told you I'm evil? Probably said I'm insane as well, didn't he?"

Had he? I didn't remember it well. Everything had been so fast and had left me with no time to think about everything. The derisive smile grew wider on the Master's face, all while I was still trapped in such close proximity to him. So close that I could feel the warmth of his body and could almost sense his heartbeat.

Something real.

It took every ounce of my composure not to reach out a hand and to place it on his chest. After all the unexplainable occurrences, after my whole existence seemed to be nothing but a déjà vu, he was the only thing, so far, that felt truly… real. Even after hours had passed. And having him so close only amplified the sensation, making my head almost spin.

"So" - unaware of my inner turmoil he went on - "only because a man you barely know said so, you assume I'd be up to no good. Is that right?"

"I…"

"He hasn't even told you anything. Not about me, not about our history. I bet he hasn't even told you that he held me captive for years. For no other reason than because he believes to be superior."

The hate in his eyes was now burning hot. I could literally feel it seeping into my consciousness, unpleasantly tingling within my very soul. And finally I pushed my hands against his chest, trying to get a little more distance between us. My fingers brushed soft cloth, spread against firm muscles and felt… felt the beatings of… two hearts.

Like a drumbeat

The same moment I thought it, the sound also appeared in my head, scratched at the edges of my consciousness.

"Okay, I had no clue who you were when I came here," I admitted. "That's true." The pleased expression on his face made me feel almost sick. I swallowed, trying to ignore the beating rhythm under my fingers.

"You still think I'm bad." A statement, not a question.

"You hurt me."

What else did it need for me not to trust him? There was no reason to do so. And the beating… the ever repeating heartbeat in his chest, steady, strong. So alive. A crescendo of sound, of an increasing drumming within my own head.

"Yeah. You're an intruder, after all. Why should I… Hey, what's with you?"

There was no concern, only a slight curiosity, maybe annoyance. The sound of four beats increased in volume even more, threatening to split my head. An involuntary groan escaped my mouth and I twisted, almost doubled over, only to drop against the Master's chest in front of me. My hand grabbed his shirt, desperate for something to hold on to.

"That's not me, this time," the Master drawled.

"It's… ugh… what is this?" I ground out.

"No idea. Do you have a seizure?" The question was followed by a chuckle.

I shook my head against him, hoping he wouldn't move away, or else I might collapse. Without a halt, without even the Illusion of warmth.

"It's a rhythm," I muttered somehow. "It beats four times. Like clockwork.

I heard a snort, then a hand pushed against my shoulder. "Two hearts. That's what you hear. Keep your bloody distance and it won't bother you."

You have to tell!

No, no, that wasn't the problem. "It's not… Not you," I muttered, only not collapsing because of his hand. "'S in my head. Gosh, why's this so loud?"

"Are you nuts or something?" He waved his fingers in front of my face, a mocking grin on his lips. "Or is it sleep deprivation?"

Confused, I blinked a few times, unable to form a proper answer. The weird drumming noises slowly started to fade again, but left me numb and dizzy. "Didn't you hear that?" I wanted to know. It had been so loud, so clear as if the sound had been within this very room.

The Master cocked an eyebrow and shook his head. "There's nothing. Can you stand?"

Finally he retreated from me and I inhaled, glad about the newly won space, but a little scared I might collapse without any support.

"I… yeah. I can."

"Good." The Master clapped his hands together. "Then get lost. I don't need you going crazy here. Sleep. Don't bother me." He leaned closer down, grabbing my elbow. "And next time I tell you to make tea… make some."

Grumbling, I tore my arm away and strode to the other room. What the hell had that been? It had sounded like a double heartbeat, yes, but also… not. And it definitely had been in my head. I knew it, was certain. Because… when I closed my eyes and concentrated… I could still faintly make it out.

I sighed and dropped onto the sofa, only to shoot up from it again.

There was no sofa in here before!

This time I knew the room had changed. The kitchen I could have imagined, but not this.

Was the Master right? Was I going crazy? Nothing around me seemed to make any sense anymore. As if reality itself was losing it.

The Matrix is collapsing, I thought with a chuckle.

Maybe it was only the hypnotism. It had messed with my head quite a bit. It had to be. Rooms didn't just change. I dropped back on the sofa, feeling utterly exhausted. What had I even been thinking, agreeing to all of this? I should have been sceptical or even scared shitless when the Doctor had told me about this plan. It wasn't like me at all to blindly stumble into stuff like this. But somehow…

Somehow this all still felt like a strange déjà vu.

________________________________________________
.

The sound of a beating heart woke me up. No, not one. Two of them. Four beats, ever repeating in my head… not my head. Under my ear. As if I had pressed it to someone's chest to listen. But there was nothing but the fabric of the sofa beneath me.

For a while I lay there, listening, my mind not yet fully awake. Could it stem from the TARDIS? She had somehow communicated with me from afar, after all.

The room was dark. It had been like that before. No windows. Not for the first time did I wonder about this. But, then again, it wasn't the only strange thing.

Sighing I sat up and rubbed a hand over my face. Sleep was nowhere to be found. There had been maybe an hour of it; maybe two or three, but certainly not more. Near the sofa was also a small table with a lamp on it. That and a pile of books. All about science.

Since I had not much hope of finding more rest I got up and made some coffee before entering the other room again. The Master wasn't there, neither was his laptop. For a good while I sat there at the table and waited.

And waited.

The mug was already empty and I surely had dozed off a dozen times already. There was no clock. No way of telling how much time passed. On top of that, all the doors around me were closed. I couldn't even hear the people from the office outside. Were they even working?

The worst thing about being a prisoner, I realized, was the boredom. So I went and took a shower, then skimmed through the bookshelves. Somewhen I stuffed some bread with cheese on it into me to calm my nagging stomach. Then I slept. And repeated the process, completely unable to tell how much time I spent on my own.

And being alone with my own head was never a good thing. Too many thoughts started to plague me. About possibilities, dangers, theories and memories. And on top of all those was the ever present, subtle rhythm of four beats in the back of my head.

After who knows how many days I sometimes only sat there, glaring at the ceiling with a blank mind. It was strange, because surely a week or two had passed already, but it felt like it had only been some minutes. As if my brain had condensed all this time.

When the door finally opened I was barely aware of it, at first. But then the Master trod into my line of sight and I shot straight, glaring at him with disbelieving eyes.

"What?" he asked with a smirk. "Missed me?"

I shot up from the chair I had been sitting in, dropped the book to the table and approached quickly.

"You have no idea," I whined. "I've been dying here!"

He raised an eyebrow. "I'm actually surprised you're still alive." There was mock swinging in his voice. "Thought you'd just starve or do some other stupid human thing."

"You what?" I let out a laugh. "No, it was just horribly boring. I'd rather been tortured again instead of enduring this. Seriously."

Maybe that hadn't been the wisest thing to say, considering the mean grin. The Master stepped right in front of me, not allowing for any personal space to exist. "I've been researching a little. About you."

"Huh?"

"Or rather, about what you are."

I scrunched up my nose. "A bored autistic rogue dwarf?" I joked, contemplating adding some other funny RPG references. But he probably wouldn't get those. Or kill me for them. "Ugh, please give me something," I begged. "I don't care if it's bad or mean. I just need..." I let out a groan and shook my head. "Just need some input. Anything. My head's bursting from running in circles. And I can't even tell how time passes. No clocks, no light, no windows. Why don't you have some god damn windows here?"

The words just bubbled out, once started it was hard to stop. The Master only blinked at me with barely contained amusement. When I was done, a grin formed on his lips and he pointed behind me.

"You really are going nuts, little human. No windows? What're those then?"

I spun around, convinced he was messing with me. But no, there, right in my back, sat a row of tall windows all along the wall of the office room. Orange light flooded inside, tinting everything around us in the burning colours of sunset.

Utterly perplexed, I walked up to the glass and tapped against it, then looked outside. The familiar sight of a city. Nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. I could even make out the sounds of cars and chatting people. I felt the Master treading closer. He stood behind and somewhat next to me, one arm raised to lean on the glass. Like that he trapped me between him and the window, but I didn't care.

"See?" he said and chuckled.

I turned my back to the glass and looked up at his smirking face. There wasn't much space between us. I could feel the warmth of his body, could hear him breathing. It didn't bother me, however. Since he was back, everything seemed to finally make some sense again. As if his presence alone held together all of reality.

"Wha… what's happening to me?" I mumbled.

"Good question." The smirk vanished, got replaced by a more serious expression. "You should tell me what you are. This will make everything so much easier. I couldn't find out anything about your skills. And… your energy signature..."

"My what?"

He narrowed his eyes, as if he was searching my face for a lie. "It's more dense than that of other people. More… solid."

"Right now I feel not solid at all," I grumbled. "What does that even mean?"

The Master grinned at me. "I have… no idea."

"Does that… is that why I hear this weird drumming noise? But it started only when I met you… must come from you then."

For a moment he regarded me with a curious look, then he stepped away and laughed. "It's cute that you dream of me, but all you heard was my heartbeat."

"Uh, no. No, it's not," I protested. "It's still there. Like some… background noise. Like… drums."

Nervously I fiddled with my hands. Could it all be because of the TARDIS? Had she hacked my mind and was now messing with it? Maybe the Master wasn't even the bad guy here. Thinking about it… if he really was about to heal this stupid virus… and the Doctor planned to stop him from doing so… then there was a possibility that his ship had messed with my head in some way so I wouldn't swap sites. That I wasn't susceptible to hypnotism anymore was only one tiny profit. The rest…

"There are no drums," the Master stated, matter-of-factly. "You're imagining things, lil' lumin."

"Seems like I'm imagining a lot latel-" I paused, trying to ignore the strange tingling sensation on the crown of my head. "What did you call me?" An icy cold shiver ran down my spine. A pang of fear, a slither of panic with no origin.

"I didn't call you anything?" The Master laughed. "Come on. You've been alone for only a day. Not even a human should be bothered by that."

A day? That was impossible. It just was. My perception of time was a mess, true, but… but… I started to get dizzy from everything, let out an almost silent sigh and clutched my head, then snapped my eyes up to meet the Master's, still twinkling green and with curiosity and impish amusement.

"I need to get out of here," I groaned.

"And then do what?" His hand slammed against the window in my back, making me jump. "Do you really think I'm so stupid? You'd just try to run back to the Doctor."

A laugh escaped me and I shook my head. "Definitely not! It's his fault I'm in this mess. He and his bloody time machine!" With a weary sigh I dropped my head against the Master. I didn't have to move much for it, close as he was, feeling so soothingly… real. "Please, I need to… Just for a while. Cuff me if you must."

We stayed like that for maybe minutes, I couldn't tell anymore. Neither of us moved. The drumming sound in my head slowly vanished, got replaced by the double heartbeat in his chest. If only the world would start to make sense again. If only…

"Alright. Let's go out for a bit."

Back to index


Chapter 65: Chapter 64

"Feels like I haven't seen the sun in months," I mumbled, eyes fixated on the orange sphere on the horizon. "Like… like… I don't know." Maybe like being in lockdown all over again, although my memory of that time was strangely blurred. "Can't really describe it."

We were strolling through London, both with a paper cup of coffee in our hands. The Master hadn't paid for it, simply commanded the poor guy behind the counter to give it out for free. I didn't mind. The store wouldn't go bankrupt from that little.

We also didn't wear face masks, which made me a little uncomfortable. Time Lords might be immune, but I wasn't. And it simply had gotten such a habit that I felt a little naked without one. Not a single person seemed to mind or to even notice, though. Maybe more hypnotism.

"Not afraid anymore I could run off?" I eventually wondered aloud, when we stopped at a bench in a tiny park. I wasn't wearing cuffs or anything else. The Master didn't even keep that much of an eye on me.

Now though he turned and gave me a grin that told he knew exactly what he was doing. "I can tell if people are lying. And I can also tell if they say something right from within their heart."

"Uh… okay. Don't remember a particularly hearty speech of mine."

The Master snickered and poked my head, sitting next to me on the bench. "You blame the Doctor. He's the one who brought you into my handsome clutches." My eye roll was only answered by a poked out tongue. "So you won't have a problem working against him."

"Eh…" Raising both eyebrows I stopped sipping my coffee. "Dunno. How about I just run off when you don't look?"

The Master barked out a laugh. "You wouldn't."

"Says you."

"I know it." He winked at me. "You don't want to return to your pitiful meaningless life."

I shot him a dark look and growled into my coffee.

"And if I keep you, I might find out what makes you so strange."

"Could tell you that," I grumbled with sarcasm. "Well, never heard autism causes one to have a different energy signature, but who knows…" I couldn't help but giggle at my own dumb joke.

"Let's see how long you can laugh." A truly wicked grin accompanied his warning.

"Still want me to crumble from fear?"

"Ah, you've got it. Good little human."

I sighed. "I have a name."

"Still don't want to hear-"

"Lucy."

The Master scowled at me, darkly. Then, as if nothing had happened, he simply continued, "Were not out here for mere amusement. Things will happen and you will not interfere."

"'Kay." I shrugged, not really willing to put up a fight.

My reaction clearly amused the Master. It seemed he was used to different responses. No matter his plans, he definitely was not a good guy. Not even remotely.

"Just so I know when to look bored and not move a muscle, what's supposed to happen?" I asked, glaring at my empty coffee as if that would fill the mug again.

"I sent a signal," the Master told, nonchalantly. "The Doctor thinks I broke his TARDIS. So I offered to repair the damage. In return he's not allowed to interfere with my plans anymore."

"You have lost your bite, Master," came a sarcastic, but happy voice from behind us.

We turned to find the Doctor sauntering towards us, hands in his suit pockets under the coat. An apologetic smile wandered towards me, but I only answered it with a dark frown.

"You knew he'd catch me," I grumbled, thumping at the Master.

The smile dropped. "No. I… I hoped not." The Doctor's eyes shot to the other Time Lord. "You haven't harmed Lucy, right? It was my idea, not hers and-"

"Not much," the Master said with a wicked smile.

"Liar," I mumbled. "You both are."

"Oi, I didn't lie!" the Doctor protested. "Maybe… I wasn't completely honest about the amount of danger…"

The Master laughed and jumped from the bench to step to the other man. "You can never be honest about that. Especially not when it comes to me." Casually he shoved his own coffee paper mug into the Doctor's hands. It was still full. "Come, sit, drink. We'll both be better off if we settle things here and now."

"Uhm… well… yeah. Probably, you're right." The Doctor gave the other man a wide, somewhat proud smile and sat next to me on the bench, emptying half the coffee. "Alright. First things first, then…"

"I never sabotaged your stupid TARDIS," the Master interrupted, hands folded behind his back, the look dark. "How even?"

The Doctor opened his mouth and shut it again. For some moments he thought and emptied the rest of his mug, before placing it on the bench.

"I thought about it before and it didn't make sense," he admitted. "I just put two and two together, you know."

The Master snorted. "Always blaming me for everything."

"To be fair, you are quite the troublemaker. And the TARDIS only started malfunctioning after you vanished."

The answer was a mock pout.

"I mean… she even said you could fix her."

"Wrong, Doctor," the Master drawled. "The human told you that."

At those words his eyes wandered over me and suddenly I found myself being the centre of attention. Something I definitely disliked.

"It wasn't a lie," I grumbled sourly and glared at the Master. "I didn't know you existed when she spoke to me."

"Thought so. I'm just saying… you have no idea. And whatever she told you might not be what you think it is."

"But you will try to fix her?" the Doctor asked with hopeful eyes.

Suddenly there was a wicked grin on the Master's face, one that certainly meant no good. He spread his arms a little. "Of course I will! Or do you think I want to stay on this vermin filled rock?" He chuckled and tossed a quick glance at me, winking. "I will repair the damage, remove your stupid lock from the controls…"

"What!? No, you won't!" the Doctor called out and tried to shoot up from the bench, only to drop back a second later, looking surprised, then shocked. He tried to get up once again, but couldn't.

The Master's happy laugh rang through the small park. My first instinct was to see what was wrong with the Doctor, but then it dawned on me that this was exactly the thing I was not supposed to interfere with. An uncertain glance at the Master confirmed it.

All colour drained from the Doctor's face as he began to shake and to sweat, his eyes wide in fright and shock and… betrayal. There wasn't even anything I could have done, but watch how his body went stiff, then limp, as he slumped together on the bench, almost slithering down from it.

"Now, that was terrifyingly easy," the Master mocked. His gaze darted to me, expectancy shining through the green. "Nothing to say, little human?"

For what felt like a minute I stared at the lifeless Time Lord before I returned my gaze to the Master. There was… nothing in me, not even surprise. It just felt surreal, like a movie or a video game. Nothing that really… happened.

"My, aren't you an interesting one." He stepped forward, grabbed one of the Doctor's arms and draped it over his own shoulder. With his free hand he tapped against my chest and grinned nastily. "Are you that cross with him or is your heart just an ice block?"

I winced at those words. Not the first time I heard them. Not the first time people accused me of having no heart, only because I didn't react like they anticipated. But why did I even feel guilty? The situation was completely out of my control.

The Master walked away, the unconscious Doctor limply over his shoulder. He didn't turn around. Not even when he was almost on the main street again.

Was I free to leave? He had gotten what he wanted, after all. There was no need to keep an eye on me any longer.

He vanished around a corner.

Wind rustled through the leaves, a few sailed down in front of me, red and brown. As I looked up, all the trees in the park were clad in autumn colours. How strange. I could have sworn it had been summer, just before.

And there, on the edges of silence, there I could hear the sound again.

Du - du - du - du

Like drums in my head. And for a while I simply listened to it, closed my eyes, shivered a little from the cool breeze, frowned when the sound faded away again, only to stop completely.

"You coming?"

My eyes snapped open to find the Master standing just some metres away.

"I'd drag you upside down by your foot through the dirt." He shifted the Doctor's weight a little. "But I have my hands full."

Dumbfounded, I blinked at him.

"Did you break or something?" the Master mocked. "Chop chop. You're still a hostage. And if you keep being a good one, I might consider taking you for a ride or two."

"Why?" I breathed, still completely baffled by his return.

"Told you already. Not going to repeat myself. And now move, little ape."

"O… okay."

Hastily I hopped from the bench and followed him. Yeah, right, he wanted to find out why I was connected to the TARDIS. No. Why I had projected my mind around myself. Or was it only because I hadn't stopped him from poisoning the Doctor? For certain, he knew that I wanted to flee from my own life. That was a better leverage than anything… for me at least. Even if it meant to be treated cruelly again, maybe even hurt.

But something in me twisted and turned at the thought of leaving. It had something to do with that rhythm, I presumed. It appeared when he was away and vanished when he was close. And maybe… when I looked at the trees around…

Maybe it was also because now…

Now it was summer again.

Back to index


Chapter 66: Chapter 65

"He's… not dead… right?" I finally asked, my voice barely above a whisper. Only after we had walked for some minutes had I managed to muster up the courage to ask.

"Oh, now you remember your conscience?" The Master laughed to himself, adjusting the other Time Lord's weight on his shoulder.

Somehow no one paid us any attention, even though we must have been quite noticeable. But people simply walked by, not looking, not reacting. And eventually we reached a small alleyway in which a familiar blue box was parked.

The Master let the Doctor sink to the ground, then squatted down to rummage through the coat pockets until he found a key.

"How did you know where the TARDIS is?" I wondered aloud. "He hasn't said anything."

"No?" The key vanished in the lock and a subtle clicking noise came from the door, shortly before the Master pushed it open.

"Uhhh… no… 'm pretty sure he didn't say a word."

"Well, must be luck then." The Master winked at me, obviously not willing to fill me in on the secret. He picked the Doctor from the ground and carried him inside to drop him on one of the jump seats.

I followed close behind, again amazed by the alien interior. While the Master was busy tying up the Doctor, I stood there, leaned against the console, and listened with closed eyes. There was the familiar humming of the machines, soothing, although it probably would give me a headache quickly. There were the noises of the Master moving around. But this wasn't what I listened for.

"Think she will talk again?" a mocking voice Tore through my concentration. "I'm still pretty sure you only imagined it."

Scowling, I opened my eyes. "She made me immune against your dumb hypnotism."

The Master raised a brow, the corner of his mouth twitching. "That's not something a TARDIS can do. Especially not from so far away. Am I right, Doctor?"

He didn't move or turn, but from behind him I could hear a soft groan, then the rustling of cloth and another, more annoyed groan.

"You still can't use the controls," the Doctor ground out, his voice a little raspy. "Ugh, damit Master. That has some nasty side effects."

Now he turned, a wide grin spread on his face. "Nothing your body couldn't dispose of within an hour. Would have ended far worse had I tried that on the human."

The Doctor shot straight, serious eyes glaring at the other Time Lord. "Don't you dare! She has nothing to do with us. Leave her be."

"You know," the Master drawled, grin dropping. "I'm getting bored of your speeches. It's always the same. Can't you spice them up a little? I don't know… maybe add some jokes? No?"

His only answer was a dark glare, which made him chuckle.

"And now?" I wanted to know. "Bit useless if you can't do anything here, isn't it?

The Master turned swiftly and grabbed me with one hand by the neck. I let out an indignant squeak, shrinking together under the grip.

"On whose side are you?" he scolded. "How about you thank me for still being alive?"

"Master, stop it!" the Doctor called out, fighting against the rope around him. "What do you want?"

"Want? For not harming that one?" He pushed me away, but at least let go of my neck. "I want the TARDIS."

The Doctor groaned, quite as if he had heard this already and for too many times.

"And with that power," the Master continued, ignoring the response, "I can have your cute little apes be my willing slaves."

"What?!" With gritted teeth the Doctor fought against his restrictions, but failed. "What have you done?"

My eyes also darted to the Time Lord. "You're not planning to heal my people, are you?"

"Heal them?" the Doctor laughed bitterly. "No, whatever he plans to do can't be good. Not for you and not for any human being on this planet."

The Master pursed his lips, eyes crinkled with joy. "Listen to him," he purred. "Sooo concerned." He turned around, towering over me with an intense glare and still smiling. "You can thank your own kind for this, by the way."

"Why's that?"

He laughed. "Have you read all their conspiracy theories? Especially those that are so afraid that someone could… you know… inject everyone with a control chip." The grin widened.

So did my eyes, in realisation, in surprise. I couldn't help it, my mouth had its own mind, simply stretched to an amused smile. That certainly was a whole new level of irony.

"Look at that!" The Master stepped back and clapped his hands, laughing. "Doctor, I think this human likes my idea!"

"I don't! Stop it before it escalates. Please!"

"Hey, I never said I like it," I tossed in. "It's just ridiculous. And yeah… funny too. Somehow."

"Is it now?" The smirk really couldn't have been any wider. "This will affect everyone. All those friends and beloved people of yours."

"There are some people I care about," I let him know. "But… they don't actually return the favour. Yes, I'd be sad about them becoming your puppets." My voice dropped quite a bit at my next words. "But if I'm nothing but a ghost while being with them, or if I stay with you, who hates me… It doesn't make much of a difference."

"Oh it does. None of those primates could show you the stars. Time and space." The grin was still wide, triumphant even.

"Don't listen to him, Lucy!" the Doctor screamed. "He's using you! If you help him he will kill you without even blinking!"

"How dramatic." The Master rolled his eyes and winked at me.

"Will you?"

"What?"

I sighed. "Murder me the second we're done."

His eyes rested on me for a while before he started to chuckle. "Who knows? Maybe you're entertaining enough to keep you for a while longer. Maybe, though, you prove to be a pain in the arse and I definitely will have to get rid of you."

Well, at least he was honest. And I still stood there, with nowhere to go and no one to bother.  It was the wrong choice. The wrongest of all wrong choices. The Doctor glared at me, his look pleading. But he was the one who had sent me into this situation. He was the one who had hidden almost every detail about himself, about the Master, about what this was all about.

"I'm not helping you," I finally decided, facing the Master. "I'm also not stopping you, though. Not that I even could, but still."

"Deal." He beamed at me.

"No! Don't do that!" The Doctor begged. "Master, stop before it's too late. Think about what you're doing there!"

The Master hurled around, grabbed the Doctor by his collar and dragged him as far up as the ropes allowed. "I have thought about it all," he spat. "Remember? Revenge. No… no no no. It's not even that. It's just you, Doctor. You and your sanctimonious attitude."

"You don't have to do this," the other one ground out. "Don't start a new war."

I couldn't see their expressions from where I stood, but his voice sounded so pleadingly, so desperate. A new war? Was that what he needed the controlled humans for? Mindless soldiers?

"I will start whatever it needs. And this time I will win, Doctor. I already have. You can't do anything to stop it. Not this time, not ever again."

With those words he tossed the man back into the jump seat and waved me over. "I don't need him to unlock the controls. It only needs a second person."

I hesitated to come closer. This was it. A final decision. Helping to create a whole planet of soldiers, but being able to travel the stars, or staying trapped and lonely, living as a ghost among a race that didn't even treat me as one of their own.

The Master held out his hand, a small smile playing on his lips as if he knew exactly what was going on inside my head. He waited, patiently. The Doctor did so, too, although his features only showed a plea. It was so clear, I didn't need much skill in reading faces to decipher the expression.

Who was I even fooling? I had already made this decision... a long time ago. I remembered it. A vague glimpse of something that had not actually happened. Or had it? In some different version of the cosmos, where his eyes and hair had been brown, where the TARDIS could not do what she could here, where the seasons didn't just change in seconds. A version of reality where…

"It won't stop!"

The Doctor's voice tore through my thoughts as I stepped forward.

"Master, listen! It won't be quiet just because you drown the noise in screams."

… where there was a constant rhythm of drums echoing through time.

"What noice?" The Master laughed. "Your annoying chatter? Yeah, I might as well drown that."

He didn't know.

I took his hand.

"The drums in your head, Master," I almost whispered. "Those that were planted there by the untempered schism. Those that accompanied you since you were just a child."

However I knew this...

His eyes widened with every word I spoke, fear shining within them. Denial.

"No." He shook his head and tore his hand away. "No, you're making this up! There is no such thing. It's quiet! It is! There are no drums! There is nothing to stop me. I won! I won it all!" The last words were shouted, thrown out into the silence like an anchor.

Another place. Another reality. Something tugged at my mind, my memories. It was all there, always had been. All I needed to do was to make him see. So I stepped to him again and took his hand, pointing the other one at the console. "Unlock it. You have my consent."

The Master glared at me, hate and confusion radiating from him. But he pushed the required buttons anyway, making the ship spring to life with a gasp. The pillar in its middle started to rise and fall, pumping new energy into the veins and systems, his hand still in mine.

"See," he said. "It's mine now. Finally. No restrictions, no one to stop me! See that, Doct-"

He fell silent as we both looked at the jumpseat in which he had tied up the Time Lord. The Master glared at me again and balled his hands to fist.

The jump seat was empty.

"Where is the Doctor?!" he demanded and hurled around to grab my collar and drag me up. "Have you done something?!"

"No! How even?"

"Then why is he gone?"

There was so much anger and frustration and even despair radiating off the Master, it choked me more than his tight grip. Around us the light started to flicker, blinked off and on again as if they were reacting to his overflowing emotions.

"He's never been here," I ground out. "It wasn't real."

"Bollocks! This is real!" He shook me, pushed me away and followed close, towering over me as I stumbled to keep my balance. "It is my reality! My victory! You can't take that away!"

"'m not…" I straightened, begging him with my eyes to just listen. "I don't know what's going on, but this is not rea-"

"It's as real as I want it to be," the Master growled, even though it sounded more wounded than aggressive. He stabbed a finger at the jump seat and when I looked, the Doctor was back, all tied up and unconscious.

That was when I realized that he knew, that maybe he had long understood what I still struggled to comprehend. But I couldn't stop there, couldn't wait for my mind to catch up, when my instinct told me that we were running out of time.

"Yes, it's your reality," I admitted and took a step towards him, closing the small distance between us. "But I think it is also mine." With that I placed my hand on his chest and closed my eyes, let my awareness collide with his.

And everything around us exploded in a kaleidoscope of shards. Like in his office, but this time reality itself splintered into a myriad of scraps, torn apart images of what never had been, each of them glittering in a golden hue.

I still wasn't sure what exactly happened. There were only glimpses of what reality really was, of what had happened long before we had even ended up here. Right now it didn't matter. All that did was to get out. And I did my best to project it as a plea, a command, an urge… as whatever I was able to, let it radiate through our both minds. I heard a gasp, felt the rhythm under my fingertips spread up, heard it in my head. No… in his.

"You can't run away from the drums," I muttered. "Not like this."

A hand curled itself over mine and when I looked up I saw tears in his eyes - and pain. Such a raw display of emotion that my heart ached.

"Why are you doing this? You don't know how it is to live with them."

"No." I shook my head slightly. "But it feels… as if you will die if you don't get out of here. You… and I."

"I could simply expell you." He dropped his forehead against mine, clutching my hand tighter. "I will be nothing but a prisoner again, tortured for eternity."

I huffed and poked my tongue out. "Can't say you don't deserve that. But I can't let you stay. I won't. When I wanted to die you didn't allow me to. It's time to return the favour."

"That's cruel," he said, but still smiled somewhat.

"Yeah… guess I'm just not a kind person."

Almost the same words he had once spoken to me.

The Master huffed, stroked his thumb over my curled hand. "Insufferable little light. Lead the way."

The shards around us slowly faded into golden dust, swirled around us and got so bright that I had to close my eyes. All that was left was the beating of four against my ear and the humming of medical machines around us. But even those started to faint as my consciousness slipped away from my exhausted body. Only a whisper remained, like the sound of gentle chimes in the wind.

Thank you, little one.

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A/N: Aaaand there you have it... they're out. Of what exactly will be explained later. ;D

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Chapter 67: Chapter 66

Everything came back to me in an instant. The nebula, the day I had floated through space to collect samples, the Master trying to forcefully invade my mind…. The kiss. And then the drums that I finally could hear as clearly as he could.

I remembered the dragon's egg, still resting in my pocket. I remembered how tired and exhausted I had become without having an explanation. I remembered finding the Master, with so many drugs in his body that he barely had made it to the med bay. And then…

I opened my eyes and glanced around the room. Nothing had changed and still it felt as if an eternity had passed in which I had… dreamed? Everything from the alternate life was still burned into my memory and I wondered what exactly I had experienced there.

The door opened and in strode the Doctor, concern on his face. I raised my hand in a short greeting, but he didn't react, only came closer and observed the bed behind me.

"How is he?" I asked.

No answer.

The Doctor just sighed and dragged a chair next to me. I turned to scold him for ignoring me, but then froze at what I saw. Or rather… whom.

Okay, this was definitely weird. And wrong.

Somehow I, or rather my body, was still sitting next to the bed, also on a chair, sleeping, my head resting on the Master's chest. He stirred a little, seemed to slowly wake up. In stark contrast to myself.

Was I dead?

I tried to poke my sleeping body, then the Doctor. But I couldn't touch anything. Great.

"You really worried me there," the Doctor spoke and I saw the Master opening his eyes. "It wasn't easy to keep you alive. Even after the detox."

The Master let out a groan and rubbed his forehead, then his look wandered down where he found me and his look darkened.

"I'm not a damn pillow," he grumbled and shoved me to the side, where my body lay still, unmoving.

"I found her like that," the Doctor said. "But… I couldn't wake her."

The Master glanced down and poked my head without getting any reaction. At least I seemed to be still alive, so I simply watched the two.

"Still no reason to sleep on me," the other one grumbled.

"Lucy was really worried about you, you know."

The Master snorted. "Yeah, right. As if."

"What did you even try there, Master?" the Doctor asked, his voice getting a higher pitch. "You should know better than to…" He waved his hand in a small circle, as if words were failing him.

"Was maybe a bit too enthusiastic." The Master snickered. "Thought it might help, but the side effects collided too heavily. Didn't expect that."

"You could have died!"

"Sorry to disappoint."

The Doctor grunted annoyed and leaned forward in his chair, head resting in his palms. It took him some seconds to look up again, the brown eyes filled with sorrow.

"Why did you tell Lucy she could hear the drums?" he eventually asked, voice laced with something I couldn't quite make out. Was it anger, contempt? "She blamed herself, you know that? Thought it was her fault you almost killed yourself there."

"Her…" The Master's eyes widened and he glanced down at my sleeping body. "It's not your fault, stupid," he muttered towards me, hand stretching out as if he wanted to touch me, but then retreated, limply fell down. He sat up a little, back still leaned against the pillow. "I told her because it's true."

"You invaded her mind! You forced yourself upon her! How would she even know what is from her and what you only project!" In the middle of the tirade the Doctor had sprung up from the chair, hands balled into fists.

Slowly increasing in volume, a chuckle made me look at the Master again. One hand was pressed against his stomach, the other fist was in front of his mouth. It seemed hard for him not to burst out into a full blown laughing fit. Probably only because it would hurt him right now.

"It's not funny!" the Doctor called out. "How can you laugh at that?! We're not supposed to do those things! How many decades have they hammered that into us at the academy? How many?"

"Oh please, as if I ever followed their rules." He calmed down a little, but still bit into his fist, eyes wrinkled with mirth.

"Yes…" The Doctor sighed, deflating like a balloon. "Actually you did. You valued the Time Lord rules. More than I even did."

"So? It doesn't matter anymore. And only because I prefer to have a little order doesn't mean I don't see which of those rules are plain stupid."

With a groan the Doctor dropped back to his chair, massaging his temples. "You did ask at least, didn't you?"

"Uh…" His still twinkling eyes wandered to me. "Not exactly. But-" he quickly tossed in as the other already opened his mouth for the next protest - "she offered to listen. To try. You know… because no one else does."

His answer was another groan. For a while the Doctor only sat there, digging his palms into his eye sockets. I wondered why this was such a big deal for them. Maybe because people could get lost if the connection was too deep? Or was it simply something that was important to their society and had nothing to do with what humans would consider important.

The Master, meanwhile, leaned over my sleeping body and stroked some hair from my forehead, whispering something I couldn't understand. Even when I came closer. Through all the noise they had made I still hadn't woken up and also still had no clue why the rest of me could move around like this and observe everything. It was uncanny, to say the least.

I reached out and tapped against the Master's arm, my finger not meeting skin, not meeting matter. Perplexed, I looked at my hand. Am I a ghost? But I'm not dead.

"Why doesn't she wake up?" the Master eventually asked. There was no way to tell if he was concerned or just curious.

Slowly the Doctor lifted his head, looked next to him to where I was, sitting half on the chair, lying half on the bed.

"I don't know. You two have been out for hours, but each time I tried to wake her…" He shook his head. "The scans show nothing. She's fine… physically."

At least something.

"And mentally?"

The Doctor's head snapped up, eyes dark. "You tell me."

"Haven't done a thing." The Master raised his hands in mock-defense.

"Stop playing around! If you invaded her mind, and more than once, it seems, then she could be harmed in… in so many ways."

"Mhm… maybe a little sore." The Master snickered at the horrified expression of the other man. "I'm almost sure it wasn't me, though."

The expression grew even more horrified as a thought appeared to form in his head. "How… how deep?"

"Doctor!" the Master called out, barely swallowing a laugh. "Seriously, that's not something to ask."

"Don't tell me… I've seen people react in similar ways. Exhaustion, the loss of oneself… You… you have not…" He almost choked on his own words, barely whispered his next. "You have not initiated a bond with her… have you?"

"Now, don't be ridiculous." Finally the playful demeanour vanished. "Why would I do that to myself?" Again he leaned over me, a smile returning, but one that could almost be called gentle. "Don't worry. I won't do harm to her."

"Then I'll take her to the bigger med bay and see if I can find anything out."

"No."

"Master!" The Doctor threw his hands up. "I can't leave her like that. You know that. And if-"

"No," he repeated, this time more determined.

A heavy sigh followed. "Have you not done enough damage already?" He rubbed a hand over his eyes. "We barely even know what to do with her. A human life might not seem long, but it's still many years."

"Hasn't bothered you with other humans, so far. Or do you have different standards for puppy eyes that fall head over heels for you?"

No answer.

"Or are you scared because her life has hardened her heart so much that it doesn't allow for any warmth anymore? And now you're scared she might not be such a blind do-gooder as the rest of your pets."

"Master… She needs help! And I need to talk to her abo-"

"No, Doctor," the other Time Lord growled. "For once you'll shut up." He bent forwards, locking eyes with him. "I don't care if you don't believe me. I don't care if you'll never even try to listen. I don't care if you keep thinking I'm insane. But I am not hurting Lucy. And you are not going to try and alter who she is with your insufferable persuasion attempts."

Silence fell over the room. Perplexed, I blinked at the Master, suddenly almost certain this was still all part of a dream. Were I in my body and had a heart it probably would speed up now, but instead I only felt… numb. Never before had anyone cared about who I was, everyone was always only trying to make me who they thought I should be.

The Doctor didn't find words immediately, only sat there, maybe shocked. Meanwhile, the Master grabbed my body under the arms and dragged it up onto the bed, placing me next to him. His thumbs landed on my temples and for a short moment I felt his energy sizzling through my mind.

I tried to reach out, to say something or tell him otherwise about my state, but nothing rang through. Or did it? An almost unnoticeable smile appeared on his face.

"I'll take care of her," he mumbled. "I might have an idea or two what the cause might be."

"Just… promise to call me if it doesn't work." The Doctor stood and walked towards the door. His hand was already on the handle as he looked back. "And if you don't feel well, also call me."

There was only a small huff from the Master when the door closed. It didn't seem as if he was going to accept any more help than he had already gotten. At least he appeared to be relatively fine again. Maybe a little pale and his hand was a bit shaky when he stretched it out towards my temple again.

"It's time to wake up lil' lumin."

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A/N: Okay, okay... explanations in the next chapter. I promise. ;P

Back to index


Chapter 68: Chapter 67

Author's Notes: Heeey! I finally managed to draw a pic for this story. I mean, hey, it's only over a year now, but pffffff..... it's in the first chapter. Take a look °v°


The Master sat cross legged on the bed, bending over my sleeping body, his hands both resting on my temples. I could clearly feel his presence, almost as if he was standing right next to me. Another ghost.

"Can you… maybe hear me?" I asked, hoping he might perceive it somehow through the mental connection.

He didn't react, however, so I stepped - floated? - closer and placed my hands above his. I still couldn't actually touch anything, my fingers simply gliding through him.

"Stop that," he suddenly grumbled, annoyed. "That's distracting."

I winced and retreated. "You feel that?"

"Yes, now shut it."

"Hey! Don't just ignore me, you prick!" I protested, realizing he had heard me the first time. "What're you even doing?"

The Master opened his eyes and left my temples, but the sensation of his presence stayed. "What do you think?" he said, annoyed. "I'm trying to wake you. So move your damn mind back into that thing here, will you?" With a crooked grin he pointed at my body.

"Dunno how," I grumbled. "How can you even hear me?"

The Master shrugged and looked vaguely in my direction. It seemed he couldn't see me. Not with his eyes at least.

"We're sort of connected, right now. The dream still ripples through our minds. And in your case… I guess you couldn't quite handle it. Humans work differently after all."

I sighed. "Can we do without insults until this is solved?"

"Sure." The Master laughed. "But then you also have to do without the truth."

I grunted again. This certainly was not going to be fun, but at least I wasn't alone.

"What happened there?" I wanted to know. "Were we dreaming?"

"Mhm… sort of." He tilted his head, contemplating his next words. "Your body is strained and your mind is wide open. That probably caused you to slip into my dream. Or maybe…" For a few moments he pondered. "Maybe the TARDIS also had her fingers in it."

A hum sailed through the air, vibrating deep within me. She didn't talk to me directly, but the message was clear. "Yeah, I think she helped. But how could I slip into your dream? I'm not telepathic. And I didn't even touch your skin."

"Can't you be quiet? I'm trying to think."

"'m just curious." I pouted. "You never explain much about the stuff."

The Master grunted and rolled his eyes. "First of all, humans can be psychic. Not much and everything about you is as untrained as it can get. That's the truth, not an insult." The smirk told a different story, but I decided not to comment on it. "As for skin contact - You can even have that through cloth." With that he lay a hand over my heart and immediately I felt a light, however sort of muffled, tingling. "And since you practically slept on me…"

"Didn't plan to," I grumbled. "Just happened."

"All circumstances combined, it's not a surprise."

At least it explained things and he didn't evade an answer.

"Alright… So, how do we get me back inside my body?"

Again he shrugged, closed his eyes and seemed to think.

"Yeah… that's helpful. Thanks."

He only grinned.

"It's interesting," I said, not able to keep my mind from working. "I can do things like blinking. I think I'm even breathing?"

"Just reflexes. You're not actually doing these."

That was a possibility. I stepped to my body and simply tried to focus on it to get back inside, but that didn't work. I went on to jump on the bed, only to find out I could actually float. Almost as if being out in space again.

"Hey, I can fly!" I giggled and floated to the Master to poke his head. Well, try at least. I still had no substance. But it was an unexpected source of short term fun.

"Stop messing around," he growled. "You can't stay like that forever. Your body might decide to die."

That actually made me stop. "Okay. But I'm out of ideas."

"Did you have any to begin with?"

"Uh… nope. You got me there." I lay on my back and floated next to him, thinking. But my head kept distracting me. It loves to do that. And with silly and useless things, at that. "Kidnap some prince," I offered, barely able not to break out into a laugh. "You know. To kiss me awake. Works in Fairy Tales. Or maybe… actually… I do have an idea.. I'm not sure it's worth anything, though…"

The Master sighed. "Spit it out."

"I think that dragon egg is draining my energy. I dropped it once, on accident and I felt better immediately. But I'm not sure…"

"Where is it?"

"My jeans pocket."

The Master bent over to search for the egg. The sight of him with his hands so close to me, vanishing inside the pocket, the other on my belly, it made me somewhat… it wasn't uncomfortable, just weird and I…

"Uh wait!" I called out when he took the glowing egg. "Won't it die if it's away from me?"

"You might if it stays," the Master countered quietly, his fingertips hovering over the purple veins. They still glowed. "And I'm rather sure we have established that your choice in that regard is very limited." He chuckled and sat the egg inside a small metal container that used to hold some medical equipment. Probably to hide it from the Doctor.

He had a point there, but I still disliked the idea of the creature maybe dying. What was the point of binding itself to me if it… Well, alright, there are more than enough creatures that drain and kill their host. We could figure out something later.

"Doesn't work," I grumbled after a while, seeing that I was still sleeping.

"Wait a little." He leaned back against his pillow, sunk together a bit and closed his eyes.

"Okay… then, meanwhile, care to tell me what just happened?" I gestured towards him and me, only then remembering that he couldn't see that. "That dream or whatever it was. It felt like a different life."

"Dreams can do that." He shrugged.

"Not like that." I pursed my lips in protest.

"I think it was a fine mix of things," he said, contemplating. "Your mental barriers are fragile because of the egg. And if the TARDIS had something to do with this I can imagine she created a frame to put us in. Or rather… me."

"What do you mean?"

The Master opened his eyes and fixated the ceiling. "The Doctor could heal my body, but… Some of those drugs have strong hallucinogenic effects. If you tear someone out too fast they might lose all sense of reality."

"Hmmm," I made, noncommittally. "It was still an oddly specific setting."

"TARDIS. It's connected to all of time and space. Probably picked a point in time that made sense. A snippet of the real world, a truth to conceal the lie."

I grimaced at him, hoping he could at least sense it. If what I saw there was really happening on earth then I was glad I had vanished from there before it all started. Or hadn't there actually been news about something like that? I couldn't quite remember anymore.

Still asleep.

"Maybe try some of your mind tricks?"

"Oi, those aren't tricks," the Master whined. "It's a skill. And I'm bloody great with it. One of the best on Gallifrey."

Gallifrey… had I ever heard that name before? Was that his home planet? I wondered how it might look there as he leaned over my sleeping body again to press his fingers to my temples.

At first there was nothing, but after some seconds I began to feel my whole… body… soul… whatever I was right then start to tingle. Alas, nothing else happened.

"It does something," I informed. "But 's not really helping."

"Probably because you are a little too conscious, right now." His eyes stayed close, his fingers never left my temples, but the tingling weakened.

"Would a stronger connection help?" I pondered, turning upside down in the process. Just because it was fun. Okay, maybe the whole thing was a bit too much fun for me.

The Master started to chuckle and leaned closer down. "Want me to kiss you again?"

"Wha'? Hell no! Why would you…" It dawned on me. Right… this would strengthen the telepathy a great deal.

"It might actually help," he went on, grin still on his face.

"I really don't think so," I protested, turned the right way around and got closer to the two of us.

"Yeah… I'm afraid you're not much of a princess. This won't do."

"Bloody right you are," I grumbled and crossed my arms.

"But since you hate it so much it could still be a good trigger."

"No! No, no, it could not. Hey, don't you dare!" I called out when he leaned even closer.

I couldn't see what he did there, but felt… the warm sensation of lips on mine, the electric spark of our mental connection deepening. My hands shot upwards, not quite sure if they wanted to push him away or… no… definitely push… maybe not quite as hard as I should…. maybe…

It really wasn't much more than a quick peck, I realized, blinking dumbly into his grinning face above me. Oh, he had such a hard time not laughing out loud, I didn't need any sort of telepathy to see that.

"What about no did you not understand?" I grumbled, not sure if I was really pissed or if I just wanted to be.

"The fact that it worked?" Now he laughed and sat back on his haunches.

"It...whus?" Dumbfounded, I looked down at me and saw he was right. I definitely was back in my body. I looked at my hands as if they were something foreign, then let them sink. "Why the heck did that work?"

"Telepathic shock." He poked his tongue out.

"You so made that up." I groaned and tried to sit up, to move my aching muscles a bit. It felt as if I had spent hours in one position and… well, okay, I literally had. The draining effect of the dragon egg increasingly subsided, however, allowing my thoughts to be at least somewhat clear.

After the second attempt I finally managed to push myself up to the elbows and keep myself in a half lying, half sitting position. Not a good decision, definitely not. My head started to spin and even hurt a little, forcing a groan out of my mouth. I swayed and almost dropped back, but a hand on my shoulder kept me upright. For not more than a moment, however, before the Master carefully pushed me back down.

"Rest," he commanded. "It will take time for you to recover. I think the egg hasn't caused any lasting damage. But it and the dream sharing combined drained you pretty badly."

Under closed eyes I almost immediately felt sleep tugging at me, but I couldn't give in to it just yet. There was still so much I didn't understand, so many things I wanted to know.

"How are you?" I decided to ask. "I mean with everything. Are the… drugs out of your system?"

"Yeah… the Doctor made sure of it. I hate owing him, but… ugh… whatever." It wasn't the complete truth, that much was clear. Simply by the way he was staring at the ceiling as if he could tear it into pieces with his will alone. To finally, finally see the stars again.

I blinked, confused.

"Are we still connected?" I wondered. Or had I just learned enough about him to sense his desire.

There was only a barely visible shake of his head, as if he was hearing but not processing my words, lost within his own thoughts, memories.

"You wanted to run away," I muttered. "So far away. Somewhere where it is quiet and where you could have control."

"It was a nice dream," the Master answered, voice barely above a whisper. He lowered his head, let out a deep sigh and lay down to his side, facing me, his head propped on one hand. "I wouldn't have left on my own."

Victory over the Doctor, the TARDIS in his possession, humankind as his slaves. I giggled at the thought and poked my tongue out. "Yeah, why leave such a perfect outcome?"

I thought it had been a funny remark, thought it made perfect sense from his standpoint. But something was missing. Or maybe there was just so much more that I couldn't know… His features saddened, took on an almost painful look for a split second. The Master's eyes wandered over my face, searching. For what, I did not know.

In that moment I realized this might be the calmest, sanest conversation I had ever had with him. And it was nice. It felt… safe. Despite what he had done to me in the dream, in a place where we had met under different circumstances, where our story might have taken on a completely different way. Or maybe not so much…

"You wanted to run with me," he stated, tone so neutral it screamed of repressed emotion. A crack, a tiny gap in his facade. A question. A plea. The unspoken fact that he thought it impossible that someone could do this. He opened his mouth again, words creeping out almost unheard," Had I given you the button to destroy your planet, right there and then, would you have done it?"

His voice ran like ice down my spine, the barely hidden excitement, the heat in his words, the flaming desire to have it all burn under his… no… my fingers.

He had asked a question like that before. Different circumstances. A promise to make it undone right after. Now this promise was missing. Earth burning to ashes because I slid one finger over a small button, because our eyes locked in agreement that there was no better way to run from your past than to just burn it away.

I would have done it. I would have watched in horror and awe. I would have thought about the people I claimed to love, about the people who claimed to love me. I would have seen their faces and would have heard their voices, knowing their claims to be nothing but lies and I would still have…

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and laughed quietly. "The question is irrelevant. You don't have a button."

"Too bad." The Master turned on his back, staring upwards.

We lay there, next to one another, either one lost in their own thoughts. I was exhausted, aware that I wouldn't manage to stay awake a lot longer. At the same time I enjoyed this calm companionship far too much to already end it. Who could say what we were tomorrow, when today we could be this.

Whatever this was.

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Chapter 69: Chapter 68

I placed my glasses on a drawer next to the med bed and tried to simply slip into some well deserved sleep. My body and mind were screaming for it. If the Master would rest too was not of my concern. Should he leave or stay, I didn't care much. But after some minutes had passed, I grudgingly realized that sleep wouldn't come so easily. Too many things still raced through my unresting thoughts.

Especially the things that had happened within the artificial dream. There was too much I just couldn't ignore.

I sighed wearily, sadness coating my voice when I asked "You still hate me, don't you?"

Only after the question did I open my eyes, finding the Master lying next to me on his site, head propped up on his hand. He gave off a laugh and peeked at me. "Seems awfully important what I think about you. Why's that?"

"Do you remember everything from the dream?" I asked instead of an answer. As if he would understand. Not even I myself completely grasped why I wanted him not to hate me.

"Yes. And before you ask, no, when we were there I had no memory of you. You only felt so oddly… real. More than all the other people. I couldn't stand it."

So it had felt the same for him. We had been the only real things within that world of memories and wishes. The only two beings that were able to shape it in any form.

"That why you thought torture was a good idea," I concluded dryly.

"Nooo!" The Master laughed and poked my head. "I would have done that anyway. For your pesky insolence."

I sighed and rubbed with two fingers over my eyes. Why had I even asked? He hated everyone and humans in particular. It shouldn't even be important… at all.

Just let me sleep and rest my weary mind, I thought to myself, closing my eyes again. The med bed wasn't the most comfy thing, but in case anything happened it was the best place to stay for a while. The Doctor probably could be trusted with taking care of us.

I remembered how I had felt towards him by the end of the dream and almost felt a bit sorry. It also made me wonder if he would have acted like this in the real world or if our combined perception of him had created the scenario.

Suddenly feeling fingers on my temples made me wince. A burst of energy coursed through my mind. It was short and sharp, verging on the edges of not yet pain. It toned down immediately, almost shocked, faded to a sensation that was strangely warm and gentle.

Puzzled, I opened my eyes and looked at the Master.

"You're such a lonely creature," he muttered with a smile that could be mocking if it wasn't for the hint of sadness in it. The warm sensation increased slightly. "I don't hate you more than any other human, don't worry."

"Yeah, I won't… not even in case you ever find a weapon to burn us all. Totally not worrying there, nope." I tried to slap his hand away, but failed. "And what do you want in my head again? Stop that."

"Just see if we're awake." He simply ignored the rest of my statements. "In the dream I couldn't look inside, because the dream itself was our minds."

Well, that made sense. I still felt inappropriately pissed. I didn't want him to hate me. I had saved his life. Or at least helped along. And I had been through a small mental hell to get there. Not the first one, at that. His fault. And then he had also just kissed me… again.. Maybe for the right reasons, but still without permission. As if I had ever given that.

A light snicker made me look next to me, my annoyedly squinted eyes meeting his crinkled smile. Only then did his fingers leave my temple.

"My, you're awfully concerned about the smallest things."

Crap! He had heard my thoughts. And if not heard then at least sensed what they were about. My frown got even deeper.

"You were fighting it so hard, that's always a good thing to use as a little shock. Did work, didn't it?"

"That's not the point," I groaned.

"No?"

"Noooo! You don't just go and kiss people!" I called out. "No one ever told you some manners?" Why did I even ask?

"They tried."

A groan escaped me, sounding a lot more annoyed than I should feel. It hadn't meant anything. Not in the space base, not in the dust field, not just now. I knew it and still was confused. I didn't even want it to mean anything. The thought was simply scary.

"What's bothering you?" the Master asked, curiosity in his eyes, belied by the hint of mockery in his voice. "What's so horrible about a kiss?"

"I really have to teach you everything," I grumbled, not caring that my attitude might enrage him.

"Careful," he muttered, "I know so much more than you will ever be able to learn."

"Yah… so much and you still don't know that this sort of stuff is considered… well, uh… you know. It's sort of intimate."

One of his eyebrows shot up questioningly. "Is it now?"

"Is it not for your people?"

A smile slowly faded onto his lips. The Master skidded closer, too close. His head almost rested against mine.

"It is," he told, connecting our foreheads. His hands reached out to cradle my head. "But for my race it's probably not as… important. We don't share much of this stuff. Ever."

"Sounds sad," I mumbled, staring into his eyes that were close enough to see them clear without glasses. Brown. Not green. And here it wasn't uncomfortable to look into them, even though their look was intense.

"There are other ways to connect," the Master continued, moving just a little closer. "You are aware that a kiss is only a catalyst."

I was aware that his gaze was almost burning, hypnotising without him trying. It was impossible to move or to speak. My heart thudded rapidly in my chest, my breath ghosting over his lips. I should push him away. But I didn't.

"Let me show you a small difference, lil' lumin," he whispered.

And closed the gap.

Our lips melted together, warm, barely moving. It was different. No connection. His mouth moved so carefully against mine as if he wasn't sure not to break me otherwise, coaxed me to respond, only a little… only for a second. And when I did there was a surprised tingle in my head, a bristling urge to dive deeper, a spark within two minds. Then an explosion of shining embers as he pressed his lips firmly against mine and let his mind pour into me. My muscles tensed, breath hitching from the sudden intensity. But that didn't last. I forgot the world around me, forgot I even had a body. I felt him in his entirety, felt me, us. There was no difference for the smallest span time could have and yet it lasted for eternity.

The sensation faded, as sudden as it had started, got replaced by the feeling of retreating lips and left me panting and even a bit shaking, heart fluttering.

I opened my eyes to meet a smug smile, realized my hands were clawed into his shirt. To hold him close? To push him away? None of it and both at once.

"If you worry about intimacy," the Master muttered softly, "you should maybe start in a different place."

Numbly I blinked at him while my body reluctantly calmed down, still yearning for what it had felt and had now lost. The meaning of his words sank in, squeezed itself through the gaps of my defenses. There was no way of hiding from this simple truth. That we shared something and that this thing wasn't anything but simple.

 So… " I swallowed, my mouth dry. "That's something we do now?"

The Master smirked and turned on his back, arms behind his head. "Yo calm the drums. Not significantly, but it's better."

"Simple skin contact is enough for that, though," I countered. But then it clicked. "Except if you… you want to use me to find out more about them."

"I can't use you like that." His derisive snort told me how much he hated that fact. "And you're completely untrained, which makes it impossible, even if I could do that."

If he could force me… Had I been less tired I would have burst out into a laugh. Instead I watched him for a bit, trying to comprehend the situation in its entirety. So many variables. So many things I didn't and couldn't know. But there was potential, a possibility. The Doctor would never believe the drums were real, would always deny that I had really heard them. But I knew. My instinct told me it had been real. The Master wouldn't lie about that. Not when it was so important to him.

He still hadn't answered my initial question. Only evaded it, although I started to understand that these things didn't mean the same to him that they did to me. And if I could treat certain kinds of intimacy in a light and casual manner then he was allowed to do the same. At least that was what I could settle on, for the time being. Or maybe I was just lying to myself and it scared the shit out of me to suddenly be so close to a person I barely knew. To a person I still had no idea if he might not kill me on a whim.

I glanced sideways and found the Master with closed eyes and breathing slow and regularly, still in the same position as before. Was he sleeping? Due to the drugs and then the dream he must have been as exhausted as I was, probably even a lot more. I contemplated leaving, since I wasn't sick or anything. The only thing I did there was steal some of his space.

But right as I decided to leave, he shifted a little and then turned to his site, coming frighteningly close to me again. Not that there was much space here, anyway. Especially not for two people.

"Not that I could hear your thoughts," the Master mumbled, "but you feel rather uneasy."

"I… what?" I turned too, minimizing the distance between us even further. It was just too tempting not to feel so alone, to just lie there and feel another person's presence.

"People always emanate what's in their minds." He snickered a little as if that were funny. "Makes it easy to manipulate them, use their own state against them. It's like what you might call an aura, only that you can't see it."

"But it feels," I mumbled. "Some feel like blank sheets of paper, others like gentle drops of rain, some people feel like a burning sun and others like a calm mountain creek."

The Master blinked, then smiled. "Look at that. Not so unskilled, after all."

I snorted. "No, it's only the autism. Guess, since I can't read people like everyone else, I have to rely on different… senses?"

The smile grew to a grin, one that was full of smug sarcasm. "And what do you think those senses are?"

"Uh…" Okay, maybe he had a point. "You mean I'm psychic?"

"A little. Told you, many humans have some dormant abilities. You might be right in that you're able to use yours to compensate for other things, though."

"Mhm… yeah, maybe." I yawned and fought the urge to snuggle up on him. "But I'm too exhausted to think about it."

The Master poked my shoulder, once, twice, a few times more when I didn't react. Eventually he stopped and ruffled my hair.

"Turn away," he muttered.

Tiredly I blinked my eyes open, sadness seeping into my heart. "Yah, sorry. Didn't want to steal your space."

So I turned, facing the dimly lit room. In the process I even skidded away a little, more towards the edge of the mattress, hoping that would suffice. Behind me I heard a chuckle.

"Idiot."

And then there was an arm snaking around my middle, swiftly drawing me backwards until I was pressed flush against the Master. In surprise I completely froze, only daring to look behind me when he didn't move for some seconds. Wide eyed I tossed a questioning glance at him, whilst his hand slipped under my shirt to rest on skin. I felt his breath ghosting over my ear, sending goosebumps down my spine.

"You dragged me out of the dream, it's your fault I'm hearing the drums again," he murmured. "So be a good pet and make them a little quieter for me, will you?"

I didn't respond, only turned away again and nestled against him. He was warm and solid and lying like this felt so wrongly secure. A sense of safety I actually hadn't felt in years. Or had I ever? The double rhythm of two hearts steadily thudded against my back, soothing and calm. He didn't hold me too firmly, gave me enough freedom to simply slip away if I wanted to. And when I didn't for a while, there was also the sensation of his mind almost hesitantly intermingling with my own. Only a little, present, however not intrusive.

But it was enough, calmed my raging thoughts and allowed me to relax with a deep, silent sigh. All tension left me, all the bundled up fear and confusion fell from my mind and evaporated into nothing as I finally drifted into a deep slumber.

Back to index


Chapter 70: Chapter 69

Author's Notes: Since we're already dealing with odd perspectives... let's dive a little bit deeper into it, shall we? *giggle*


As exhausted as I was from everything, it didn't take long for me to wake up again. We still lay in the same position, the Master in my back, holding me securely, but in no way so firm that I couldn't just slip away.

Was it a conscious move to manipulate me, or did the Master really care that I felt safe with him? Well, otherwise he might lose his chance to soothe the drums. I didn't dare to hope for anything more than that. We would never be friends, despite the strange… relationship we had developed. It was giving and taking. On both ends.

Lying like this should have made me feel uncomfortable, it should have awoken painful memories and disgust. Especially since those memories had been dug out so forcefully. But somehow it had almost the opposite effect. A resolve of the past, an acceptance that it wouldn't be repeated.

Lying here like this, it made me feel warm, made me sigh content and snuggle back against him some more before I closed my eyes again to slip into the weirdest… dream?

There were images in my mind, faint, then stronger, then almost as clear as if I were there myself. The Master's hand on my belly winced a little, telling me he saw the same. Not a dream, but a memory, conjured up by his weakened body and mind.

Maybe… I should slip away and not do the same with him that he had done with me. It wasn't for me to see, was it? For now the images didn't make sense. I could still get away, could still resist my falling lids. Too knackered, too comfortable. And a part of me was curious to see what he would probably never tell me about himself otherwise.

So I stayed and gave in to the heaviness of sleep, gave in to the desire to…

…see.

He glares at the small, silver band around his wrist. It looks like silk, is soft to the touch, but impossible to rip apart. He had tried, over and over again, with his hands and his teeth and every tool he could find within the endless rooms of the TARDIS. But she refused to open any door that might contain something useful to him. No weapons. Nothing he can use to leave the ship. He couldn't anyway because of the band.

A handcuff. One's enough. It's not to restrain his hands, but himself. From leaving the TARDIS without the Doctor, from hurting the other man or the ship. If he even tries there will be a telepathic nudge. One that does not much more than startle him for a moment. It's enough to keep him from doing what the Doctor calls inappropriate. It's better as the collar that gave him electric shocks. Is what the Doctor says.

It's worse. For the Master, that is. The telepathic zap feels like a roar of thunder inside his mind. A thunder consisting of four beats, louder than usual, so much louder. He has tested how far he could bend and stretch what the cuff is supposed to prevent him from doing. The result was devastating.

One zap, bearable. He could simply try again and again, each time getting startled. It's small. It's incredibly effective and practically immobilising.

After five minutes of trying to hack a console he is nothing but a mess. Lies on the floor, colt sweat on his skin, shaking. He heaves himself to his feet, stumbles, every organ inside his body revolting.

Not from the zaps, but from the intensity of the drums.

He can't take it, empties what little is in his stomach into a trash bin near the console.

How can the Doctor not believe they are real when they could do that with him?

And worse.

He almost misses the electric shocks. They hadn't hurt, but had given him a big enough twinge of pain he could focus on for some seconds. Not more, but it still helped. Maybe that's why the Doctor had given up on the collar. It hadn't helped with his goals. Almost the opposite.

The Master is back in those few first weeks. After the Doctor had fled the earth, with him on board. His friends were mad at him, because he chose one of his own over them. He chose the man who had tried to build their planet into a war machine.

As if those silly rockets could have hit a dent into any advanced civilization's war ships. The resources on earth were too limited for that. But seeing the desperation in the Doctor's eyes had been motivation enough. He could have toyed around with some of the lesser developed planets nearby, scavenged them for better materials, working his way up from there.

It wouldn't have lasted anyway. They both knew it right from the start. A TARDIS was a powerful machine, incredible, but its power was not endless. The paradox would have started to crumble within the next three… maybe four hundred years. The effect wouldn't have been the same as after one meagre year, though. After centuries it would leave holes and tears all throughout the universe. Small pieces of mismatched realities, of timeliness without any logic.

Sometimes he wondered if that alone could be enough to destroy the entirety of time and space.

Sweet, sweet chaos.

He shudders pleasantly at the thought of him being there, in this very moment when reality falls apart, splinters into an unending implosion of ruptured possibility.

It might be the reason the Doctor doesn't take him to any place with even remotely conscious life forms. Even with the insufferable handcuff, he still fears the Master that much. A thought that made him smile. A tiny victory in his defeat.

If only it were quiet.

Months… in what measurement? But they had passed. The Master hated all those bland places the other man dragged him to, to get his head clear, to take a stroll and stretch his limbs, to see something different than the TARDIS and her corridors.

It was a nice change, he had to admit. But what were those forests and mountains to him? What did he care about yellow oceans and giant fish in the sky? What was so special about a cave that reached right into the core of a planet? It had been infested by far too big twenty legged crabs anyway. And not the friendly kind. He still had no idea why throwing some of them into the core had upset the Doctor so much.

It was all just distraction. From his horrible gatekeeper who thought he could fix the Master. There was nothing to fix, only some things to twist and bend until he would no longer be himself. And from the drums, those never ending tormenting beats.

He had smacked the Doctor right into his stupidly grinning face one day when he had dared to babble for an hour about something useless, while the drums had a particularly nasty volume. Worse than that, the Doctor had found him a few times, crumbled to a shaking mess, when they had been unbearable.

He had not believed a word, had been too scared to listen for himself, had been so insolent to tell him they weren't real because he had never heard them whenever they had been connected during their academy years. But oh, stupid Doctor, back then they had been so much quieter.

All the Doctor did was to offer to conduct tests. To find the rhythm. They both knew it wouldn't yield anything, but for the Doctor it was an escape and for the Master it was a tiny slither of hope that maybe one of the devices would pick up on them.

A compromise. A handcuff.

Time drags on and he loses track of it, wants to at least. Being a Time Lord doesn't really allow for it. Somehow they settle in. Somehow they get along, although they don't. It's a routine now, tests, barren planets, shallow conversations that end in rage and an ever growing hatred towards the Doctor, which is almost an impossibility.

And then he finds it, stumbles over the blueprint out of… the blue. The Master grimaces and studies the paper. The cuff isn't that elaborate. It's the simplicity that made it so hard to break. Now he only scoffs, gets out a completely unimportant tool and lightly taps against the band around his wrist, sees it sailing down, too light for a proper fall.

The Master glares at the small thing with as much contempt as fits into his hearts, hating the mere thought of putting it back on. But now that he knows the functionality, he can deactivate the nasty stuff, maybe add something useful.

The Doctor doesn't recognize a thing. He takes him to a few inhabited places for the first time, hopes. The Master pretends to be mildly interested, has a nice and friendly chat with a local inhabitant. The Doctor beams whenever he thinks the Master can't see it. But he does.

He behaves. For the most part. The Doctor is too infuriating to keep the mask on all the time. He pretends to have calmed down, to have accepted his fate as a prisoner. As a reward he is left out of sight more often.

It's a relief, honestly, but the Master would never admit to that. The price to pay was too high. And he wasn't sure for how long he would be able to keep the act up. Too much heat and pain were surging through his mind.

But for a while… for a while he could manage.

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Chapter 71: Chapter 70

They are in a market on Hjorongaja. A nice place, admittedly. So many exotic things to look at or to taste. They both have different opinions on what corners might be interesting, so they split up. The Doctor is certain the cuff will do its job.

The Master, for once, isn't even out for trouble. It's just nice to have the drums drowned out by all the noise around. And without his dungeon keeper he can freely hypnotise merchants when they belong to a susceptible species. He wants to try the street foot, mostly. This time around he seems to have quite the sensitive taste buds.

As he munches on something without a name he gets aware of staring eyes and turns around. There is a small, bipedal species, an eralomea, judging by the fluff of feathers that grow out of the collar and up to the pointy ears. The small hands have only three wrinkled fingers that end in yet soft claws. It's small, maybe seven or eight years old, not much more than a child, even though their kind matures quickly.

Hungrily it looks at the piece of meat on a stick the Master holds.

"What?" he spits. "Get your own food."

The creature keeps staring. And it's annoying the Master in a way it shouldn't. He turns away and walks down a road with fewer booths, gnawing the meat from his sticks. When he reaches the last he sees movement out of the corner of an eye and frowns.

"Get lost," he grumbles.

But the kid doesn't. It comes closer, hesitantly, stands in front of the Master and just glares up. He sighs and tosses the last meat stick to the ground, watching as the child reaches for it quickly to swallow it down without even removing the dirt. It does look rather malnourished.

"No mom, eh?" he concludes, remembering that their species are raised by the mothers alone.

The child stares, wipes its mouth and smiles. It hadn't heard anything, too occupied by maybe the first food in who knows how long.

The Master shrugs and walks away. The market is huge and he intends to find at least something useful here. Maybe a weapon, although they are banned from selling in this sector.

He nicks some small trinkets. A small figurine of a flying fox-like creature he finds pretty, a crystal in the shape of a flower, a few microchips that are hard to get anywhere else. A few times he uses hypnotism to get parts that are too big to steal.

Good thing he has modified his coat pockets.

In the end he finds more street food and can't resist trying some more things, even though one or two of them look rather disgusting. He decides to try them out in a corner without people, some back of a building. He likes the noises, but after a while even they start to irritate him.

Some distance away he gets aware of a ruckus, people are shouting and containers get thrown over. He sees a small figure running away, followed by two heavily armed men in brown, tattered coats. Humans by the looks of it, maybe tzorelians. They aren't better.

The small thing seems to be the child from before. With a nasty smirk the Master assumes it has annoyed those men and begged for food. None of his business.

Except when it is. The feathered child runs straight towards him. In his direction, at least. And the men are shooting at it now.

For some reason this pisses him off.

The Master starts to walk towards the group, let's the kid run past him and smashes his fist right into the first man's nose. He stumbles backwards, in shock and pain and only manages to let out an indignant grunt before he crashes to the ground. The Master swiftly drops to his haunches, rips the gun out of the other one's hand and shoots a bullet right into the second man's shoulder. That one hadn't even noticed a thing before the pain - or the shock? - hit him.

"Come on," the Master drawls, watching both men writhing in pain as if nothing happened, "That kid can't be so dangerous that you have to chase it with guns."

"Wou, mloody ibiot!" the one with the broken nose grinds out, holding his hand over the blood flow. "Ids our bossession!"

"You what now?" The Master leans down a little, holding a hand to his ear.

He hears the second man crawl up behind him, knows that one still has a gun. For a Time Lord it's not hard to hear the subtle sound of metal. Without even looking he reaches behind him and shoots another bullet. A wet sound gets followed by a thud. The one in front of him screams, scrambles away and tries to get up, but the Master follows and steps on his hand.

"What did you plan to do with the little creature?" he asks sweetly, "Is it of value? Dangerous? Anything?"

"Ib's… a slawe!" the man cries out while he tries to free his hand from under the boot. "Amd ib's ours! Why hawe you killd Threron? You imsane bastard!"

"Insane?" A nasty grin appears on the Master's face. "Yeah, I've been called that before. Might have been right, those. Might… mhm?" And with that he let's a last bang ring through the air before he throws the empty gun into a pile of waste nearby.

Slavers. How boring. He had hoped for something more exciting than that. His eyes follow the trail in the dirt, left behind by naked feet. At its end sits the child, cowering near the ground. The Master treads closer and sighs.

"You'd just eat anything someone drops, eh?"

He had lost a few of his snacks, which were now lying on the ground, smeared with dust and waste. He wrinkles his nose and pokes the kid with his boot. It jolts upwards and takes a step back, but then halts and fixates him with big, almost black eyes that allow for only a small ring of purple on the edges.

"A slave, hm?" The Master cocks his head to the side. "Skinny thing like you. You're not even fully grown. Did they really think they'd get something for you?"

The child only stares.

"Hey, can you even talk? You should at your age."

It blinks. Then slowly steps forward until it stands directly in front of the Master, eyes big and curious. The child mimics the Master's tilted head, only to the other side, then points at his face.

"Sad."

It's all it says.

"Sad?" the Master repeats, puzzled.

A nod.

"Me?"

Another nod.

The Master grimaces and turns away. "No. I'm not. Now get lost. They won't bother you anymore."

With that he strides away, back towards the market to get a refill on exotic food. He notices a shadow following him, but doesn't look behind. The little one will get lost eventually.

It's easy to get more snacks, he even pays for some of them. From stolen money, but who would care? Maybe he could try them in peace this time, strides towards a small broken wall. A remnant from a long destroyed house. Hasn't this place been a war ground some centuries ago?

His mind mulls over the details as he gets aware of movement nearby. The Master grunts annoyed then calls, "Come here. I see you."

And out of the debris climbs the youngling again. It has gotten new clothes already, stands there with their shrivelled hands pressed into the hips, an expression on the face that's proud and challenging at once.

The Master can't help but laugh." Smart one, aren't you? How long have they kept you?"

His follower tilts their head, then looks around and grabs an old rusty metal stick. With it they draw a pattern into the dirt. A crude word.

Always

The child looks up to see if the Master understood and when he nods they continue. It's a mixture of letters and badly written words and even some drawings in between. It takes the Master some time to decipher the meaning. He even let's the little one steal some of his snacks while he does so.

And then it makes sense, the pattern clears, forms in his mind to meaning. The Master blinks at what he sees, then watches the child munching away on something with tentacles.

I came from the dark, never to be seen by eyes.

The sound of my voice never reached an ear, so I stayed what they call mute. But I speak in the whisper of air and the mumble of the river. And I speak in what I gathered from their writing.

They took me when my being was liquid in a hard shell and waited for me to escape into light. They made me do what they hated and gave me milk and bees as my only reward.

I knew no different. But I listened and heard and learned.

I yearn for the darkness I came from. I yearn for the light in that sky. I feel the air and it calls me. So I can't be their toy now.

And below all that is a single word the Master cannot translate.

"Miljak," he mutters. "Is that your name?"

The child nods.

He lets out a huff and shakes his head. "What a mind you have, little one," he mutters. "What you've written there… many species would almost call it poetry."

The small mouth tries to form the word, but the accompanying sound doesn't quite match. They had spoken, however. Only one word, but the Master had heard it. Sad. It's no wonder this is the only word on their tongue.

"You know you have to pay me for all my snacks you just devoured?" he asks, with a mockingly raised brow.

Miljak drops the last tentacle thing and glares with wide eyes. Panic starts to settle in them, but the Master only laughs and sits on the broken wall again.

"I didn't pay for them, either," he tells and winks.

The child relaxes visibly and smiles back, making a gesture as if they were closing a zipper over their mouth. They then point at another paper bag with a half questioning half pleading look. The Master gets it. Their owners probably kept the child fed on the bare minimum. This nasty street food must be the best thing the child has ever tasted.

With a grin he tosses the paper bag to the ground and watches as Miljak snatches the food from the dirt. Maybe he should kill that little thing. The world had nothing but bad to offer from here on.

"Any plans?" he asks.

It's none of his business. He doesn't even care, does he? Why even? It was only a stray. It would die out here, unable to speak, unable to survive.

But it had already stolen clothes, was able to beg for food. He should kill the kid. He really should. Simply because it had made him share his tuff. And he never shares.

Miljak grabs the rusty stick again and starts their ritual of drawing and writing. The Master doesn't kill, he waits. And then he reads.

I dreamed of the sky and the wind and the stars.

I heard them whisper in quiet nights and I hear them sing to me when I can't sleep.

There are so many lights, they burn in my eyes with their beauty and make me cry from longing.

Have you ever felt like this?

Have you ever wished to roam free and without chains?

Have you ever wished you could touch one of those stars and hold this pretty light inside your open palms?

The Master stops and glares at the bird-like child, sensing that it had not a clue what their words created, what images they could produce in a mind as ancient as his. Their species hadn't developed space travel yet, that much he remembered. They also weren't known as great poets.

Those words. He has to close his eyes to dampen the pain in his chest and dispel the images in his mind.

Free.

He hadn't been free since the war, could never be free from the drums and the urge to drown them out with whatever works in the very moment. With all that pain and madness they washed over him… how much had he done already, simply to make it just a little quieter? How often had he barely remembered those episodes?

He gets aware of Miljak standing before him. For a moment they simply look at each other, then the child stretches both hands out, palms facing upwards. The Master has no idea what they want and squats down to their eye level. He really should… Miljak gently touches his face and makes big eyes.

"Sad."

It's been a long time since he allowed someone to simply touch him. Such an endlessly long time since he had felt hands so small. Something bubbles up from too deep inside of him, memories that don't belong into this time.

He raises a hand and pokes a finger against the child's nose, smiles when they do.

"I'm not sad. Just pissed. Really pissed. I'm a prisoner too, you know. And I hate it. I hate him. I hate this stinky place and every other place I'll end up while he is there too."

Miljak purses their lips, an expression that could mean anything. But above all else it tells the Master that this little life form in front of him will make it. Survive. Grow.

He's curious.

"Don't startle," he says, "I wanna see if they left you intact."

A nod is all he needs and his hand wanders to the small back, traces along the shoulders until his fingers hit two bumps. Round and smooth.

"They didn't cut them off."

The kid's stare is a huge question mark. Do they even know? Chances are high no one ever told them what they even are.

"Listen," he says firmly, locking eyes with the creature, "Hide. Go unnoticed for… mhmm…" The Master tilts his head and senses the flow of time, the planet's rotation speed. "Two years. Maybe a bit longer. Don't let yourself be caught. If you manage, you will find that the bumps on your back will grow into beautiful big wings. And those will carry you. To the sky and to the ocean and to wherever you want to go. Be patient."

And in opposite to me you will be free.

He doesn't speak out that last part. It gnaws too much on his insides.

Why doesn't he just kill it? That's what he does, after all. He's the one who sows destruction and fire and death. He's the monster everyone should fear, the-"

"Sad?"

The Master's awareness snaps back to the present. His eyes rest on the small being that somehow manages to get to him, merely by existing.

"Yeah."

Miljak nods and points at what is still written in the dust. They then wave, grin widely and run away so fast the Master can't even call after them. Not that he would.

The writing in the dust. He hasn't finished reading the poetic lines of a child too young to understand what beauty is. Now that he sees the pattern in the words and drawings it is easy to make out the rest.

You went there, beyond the black veil behind the shining stars. You saw forever and it burned your hearts. Now they only sing of pain.

Thank you for freeing me from the hands of my captors. I hope you find your stars again. And someone to hold your hand when their sight hurts too much.

He glares at the last lines for a long while. There is only one reason this child has written something like that. It doesn't know who the Master is. And what. Doesn't know about his past and the blood dripping from those hands.

He should have killed it.

The writing stays there, in the dust. No one will be able to read it properly, no one will see.

The Master returns to the market and meets back with the Doctor, enduring his ramblings and babbling. With half an ear he hears him telling that the locals have found some dead men, but he doesn't even suggest the Master might have his hands in this, too trusting of the cuff around his wrist.

He doesn't hear the rest, doesn't speak for as long as they walk, can't help but occasionally look around to maybe spot a small figure, can't help his thoughts wandering way back into his past and to days he'd rather not remember.

"What's wrong?"

The Doctor's voice finally tears him out, makes him realize he hasn't moved and just stands there, trying to calm his mind. But as soon as the thoughts ebb there is the sound of drums again, gnawing on his sanity, trying to shatter the last strands of his consciousness. He wants them to swallow him, wants them to wash away… everything.

"How many?" he asks, voice barely more than a whisper.

They reach the TARDIS and the Doctor fumbles for his key, throwing a questioning glance at the Master.

"How many children lived on earth during my rule?" the Master clarifies.

The Doctor almost drops the key, his hands starting to tremble ever so subtly. Is that rage in his eyes or is it sadness?

"Why do you ask?" he presses out between clenched teeth.

"How many?"

"I don't know. A billion. More."

The Master nods. He isn't even sure why he asks. He has never wasted a single thought on such things. Never…? Not since so, so long ago.

"Your Toclafane had killed half the world's population by the end. There must have been… hundred thousands. Not to mention those who lost their homes and families or got crippled and starved or… or… " The Doctor's body is trembling now, but it's still impossible to say what exact emotion causes it.

The Master replies nothing. Doesn't even know what. The Doctor knows the numbers anyway and after a moment of silence this number is the only thing that leaves his lips.

Only then does the Master react again, the drums cutting into him like small knifes. He looks up into the Doctor's devastated face and puts on a grin, one he hopes can hide the madness that's creeping through his mind like a snake.

He squeezes past the Doctor and pushes open the blue door. Before he enters he leans closer, the grin still in place. "Good," he says, savouring the shocked look for a second and then vanishes into dark corridors.

He can't stand it. Can't cope with the drums and with the feeling that is twisting his guts in impossible ways. He can feel his mind slipping, knows he will lose himself to the drums at every moment if he doesn't fight it. A part of him wishes for them to be quicker, to keep him from thinking and remembering.

They shall swallow those images, shall finally take them away from him. Of a small hand in his and a bright smile and big eyes, full of admiration as a request tumbles out. For him and only him to hear.

Tell me a story, papa.


Back to index


Chapter 72: Chapter 71

The Master spends days modifying the handcuff. With a bit of transdimensional engineering it's surprisingly easy to hide some useful elements in it. Mostly he only puts a bunch of tiny chips with different codes on them in it. To hack into the most common species' systems. That's always helpful. And can cause a fun little chaos when done right. Or wrong.

He decides to keep it slow and inconspicuous for a while. There is no need for the Doctor to find out just yet. He will, eventually, but not now.

There is the odd malfunctioning of whatever is in reach when they visit civilized planets. There are cases of people acting out of character once in a while - as if hypnotised, one might say. Things vanish and others appear in places they shouldn't be.

The Doctor doesn't suspect anything at first. Then he does and checks the handcuff - thoroughly. He can't find a thing. So his trust grows, as does his belief that the Master had changed. Only a little maybe, but it's a first step - right?

The Master only smirks whenever he gets away with mischief. These days he feels more like a trickster than a monster. And to his surprise it's not half as boring as he had feared.

Then they are on a colony ship, somewhere far out in the Ploreny galaxy. It's impossible for the Doctor to leave his TARDIS without finding trouble. Sometimes the Master suspects the ship to even find it for him. A perfect symbiosis. Nonetheless, they are in trouble, surrounded by men with weapons, all pointing at the two Time Lords. He only smirks, activates a mental link on his cuff and sends a psychic shock wave through the room.

Most men and women drop dead on the spot. Some are more resistant and only cry out in pain, paralysed and tormented, maybe never to be fixed or to have a proper thought again.

Of course the Doctor is shocked, of course he makes the Master hand over the cuff. Or so he tries. He has nothing to threaten him with, after all.

"We can't continue like that," he pleads. "I need to be able to trust you, Master."

A smile grows on his face at hearing his name. Almost he wants to command to say it again, just to hear it tumble from the Doctor's lips. He wants to feel the sound of it on his skin, wants it to echo through their shared minds. But that's not a thing they do anymore. Not since a long time ago.

"You can't trust me as long as you keep me imprisoned," is his dry answer. "Give me a Vortex Manipulator, I know you have a few. Let me go and mind your own business."

"And then what?" The Doctor throws his arms up. "You run back to earth and finish what you started? You go and enslave some other planet? Or do you plan to summon some ancient powers because you think you could control and command them?"

"I could do all of that in a sector of the universe that's far, far away from you." He just has to smile at the thought of doing all of those things. Those and many more the Doctor would never think of listing. "I'll spare the earth. That's my offer."

The Doctor only sighs and wearily shakes his head. "I can't," he mumbles. "I have a responsibility."

Of course he has. This self imposed bulshit. After that the Master hides in the TARDIS for quite some time. He's not in the mood to deal with the other man, not in the mood to get another leash attached. Instead he builds himself a new laser screwdriver and decides to resort to simple methods.

A simple threat of killing the Doctor until he runs out of regenerations. Maybe it won't stay a threat. The urge to kill his enemy grows stronger each day, maybe has grown ever since the Doctor ran away without saying a word.

Maybe then the drums will be quiet.

Maybe this is what they want him to do. All the times he could have ended the other one's life, all the times he hasn't…

Sighing deeply the Master slides down against a tree, not knowing if it's a real one or not. He found this room that contains a forest some days ago and hasn't left ever since. Now he glares up to the roof of branches and leaves, cursing himself. Who else would be able to stand up against him if not the Doctor? Who else was as smart and dangerous as himself, albeit in a different way?

They've always done this. A rivalry as old as themselves. As old as the times when they had been young and had shared so much… They had run through the corridors of the academy, had hidden in secret rooms and had sneaked away to the lake to…

He bites his lip. Hard. Those are not times to think about. They won't come back. Ever. They are too far apart now and neither of them would change to adapt to the other one. And so it will stay as it is, the pain in his hearts forever consuming him in equal measures as the sound of his drums.

All he wants is to be free again. Free to drown all of this in chaos and fire before it can destroy his soul.

The Master stays in the forest for days or maybe longer, until he is tired of his growling stomach and his own smell. And as he gets up to take a long needed shower, he suddenly knows that there is a plan inside his head, has been there for a while already without him even noticing.

The length of his tousled beard makes him grimace and laugh at the same time. It looks funny and stupid, but also reminds him of old days, when he had loved to sport a neat goatee. And why not? This new face is certainly suited for one.

By the time he enters the console room, he is shaven, kempt and neatly dressed in a dark red dress shirt and a black waistcoat. He likes his new look, likes that it's a good contrast to the Harold Saxon persona.

"What do you think of Vurialka?" the Doctor casually asks, busy with some knobs and not even looking. It seems as if he hasn't even noticed that the Master was gone for so long.

"Dull place, but has some nice views at night. At least around their thirtieth century."

"It does, doesn't it?" The Doctor laughs and finally turns, his eyes widening, surprised at what he finds, wandering over the Master as if they wanted to remember each and every detail. It even takes him some seconds to respond and is that a light blush on his face, or had that been there before? "Ahem… uh… Vurialka. Wanna visit? Have a cuppa somewhere?"

"I'm not letting you put another leash on me," the Master announces, arms folded in front of his chest.

The Doctor's gaze drops to his shoes for a moment, but then he nods. "Right. No more restraints." In a casual manner he leans against the console. "I… I'm sorry for that."

"You aren't." The Master snorts. "You had years to be sorry, I don't buy it now."

"Not for the cuff." The Doctor's head snapped up, his chocolate brown eyes filled with sorrow. "I'm sorry I didn't try something else. I'm sorry I treated you like a rabid animal instead of like a person."

That is not a response the Master has predicted. Not in any way. He's at a loss for words. It takes him a full moment to respond anything. The Doctor is quicker.

"I can't just let you run and you know why. But I don't want you to feel as if you were my prisoner. I…" He lets out a heavy breath. "... I want to help. I really do. We're the only ones left. If we don't help each other then who will?"

"Do you really think I care?" the Master snarls. "I don't want your help. And all I'm willing to continue is finding a way to get rid of you."

Again the Doctor sighs and runs a hand over his face. The look on his face, however, makes it clear that he doesn't see himself in a dangerous situation. Quite the opposite. His posture remains calm.

"That's not your plan, though, isn't it?" The question is more of a statement, accompanied by a smile that's annoyingly friendly.

"How would you know?" Suddenly he finds himself in the defensive, senses that the other man knows something, something important. And it gnaws on him, making him antsy. "I kept you for a year, but for how long am I imprisoned with you now? Ten? More? If we take your precious earth measurements."

As if it would matter. Ironically time isn't of much concern to a Time Lord. They have enough of it, can waste it and throw it away without wasting a thought.

"Weeell…" The Doctor rubs his neck, peeking with a mischievous grin at his counterpart. "If you count it from a geljomerukian perspective it's only been half a day." He gets serious after that, holds out both hands in a defensive gesture to keep the lingering insult from getting spit out of the Master's mouth. "Can you listen?"

"Can I?" He lifts an eyebrow, not quite sure where to put his arms and hands. Inside his pockets, across his chest? Nothing feels right, nothing feels like he is in control. And that after he planned to be exactly that before coming here.

"Please."

The Doctor knows a simple plea would do nothing. He knows. That he's using it anyway shows that what he has to say is something the Master has to hear. Something he doesn't want to hear.

He says nothing.

The Doctor lowers his hands and takes a breath.

"Cuppa somewhere?"

It's such a casual question, the way it's asked breaking through centuries of animosity. What he offers is equality.

So the Master nods and soon finds himself in a remote place. It's a small city on some unimportant moon. The tea is in the top tens he has ever tasted and for a while it's all they talk about.

As evening draws near they are almost alone in the place. It's big enough to give them a decent privacy. No one will hear what they talk about.

"You won't let me go, will you?" The Master finally addresses why they are even here.

"You could have long left on your own."

"Without a TARDIS?" He scoffs.

The Doctor nods. "Will you listen? Like in old times." A melancholic smile whizzes over his face. "I have some theories and want you to hear them. You don't have to answer my questions, you don't have to make a decision."

The Master grunts. "Yeah, fine. Shoot."

They used to do this when they were at the academy. One presenting a set of thoughts, the other closely observing to find a hole or to add something.

"I've soniced the wristband before you retreated and the scan showed me you modified it over two years and some months ago. That's a hell of a lot of time to do whatever you want. And it's more time than you usually take to trick someone." He pauses, waiting for a reaction, but not getting one. That seems to reassure him. "In fact, you only revealed it to escape danger. Which makes me think you did enjoy being this version of you."

"I did play quite some tricks and pranks on you, though," the Master can't help but add. Not a real Objection.

The Doctor nods, searching his memory for situations and making connections. He is quiet for a bit, sips from a new cup of tea.

"Yeah, I should have seen it before." He smiles almost fondly. "It still proves my point. You could have done much worse."

Well, the Master gives him that.

"What I think…" The Doctor pauses, eyes dropping to the desk, peeking back up at his counterpart. He sighs wearily. "I think you're still running away from the war. It put us all through unimaginable terrors. The time distortions, the loops, the…" His voice breaks for a moment.

The Master knows how he feels, remembers enough of the battles, fought with time technology that ripped and shredded through reality itself, killed probably as many of them as the Daleks had.

"I… don't think what you want is my company," the Doctor reluctantly continues. "You want the mind of any other Time Lord close by to… fill the silence. Even I haven't gotten used to it yet. I can't imagine how it is for you."

For him it's never quiet. The drums are his constant companion. Today they behave somewhat. Tomorrow they might drown his mind for hours. But he feels it too, or rather doesn't. The absence of the background noise of the other Time Lord consciousnesses. When he had regained his memory from the watch, this emptiness had overwhelmed him, had driven him crazy for weeks. It was wrong. It was a sensation none of his kind was ever supposed to feel.

And he hated the Doctor for pointing it out. He kept silent, however, waiting for what else might come.

The Doctor swallows and looks the Master straight in the eyes.

"I think you didn't cause too much damage because you're tired of fighting. You could have blasted everything into a flaming inferno. You could have hacked into the TARDIS' systems to override the console lock. I'm sure you'd find out how, eventually."

The Master waits, eyes narrowed to slits. He doesn't like being observed like that, dissected. If only the Doctor knew with what idea he had appeared right before they came here. The plan was to stop being that dormant.

"There is no way I could let you run. And if you harm me the TARDIS will lock up completely. Thought you might want to know. Without me you are stranded."

Clever.

He stayed silent, waiting fow what would come next. The Doctor didn't throw out observations like that only to have them hanging in the air.

"No more cuffs," the Doctor says gently. "And I will continue the tests to find… you know."

Coward. Still not willing to just listen.

"We can go wherever, you know?" he continues. "See the stars and their wonders. I don't ask you to save anyone or to do good. Just travelling."

The smile that blossoms on the freckled face is wide and childish and reminds the Master so much of the boy from the academy. Let's visit every single star out there. The memory makes his hearts ache and he hates the Doctor for making him feel that way. He hates him for making such an offer, when he knows perfectly well that the Master could never be content with just seeing.

He isn't sure whether he should punch his face or rather take it into his hands and…

"What do you say, Master? Travel with me. It's an offer."

"No more cuffs or collars."

The Doctor nods.

"Well, isn't that lovely." The Master pushes all his emotions and memories back to where they belong and puts on a frown, nose wrinkled. "I'm basically your pet then."

"What? No! No, that wasn't what I…"

"Oh stop lying, Doctor. It's disgusting." He gets up and stares the other one down. "Nothing changes. You're just dragging me around in the hopes I might adapt to your views. And I have to behave or otherwise what?"

"It's only an offer." The Doctor stands up too, throws some black shards on the table they use as currency here. "For the time being. This can't be forever. I know that as much as you do."

They leave the location and stroll back through some alleyways, colourful advertisements blinking above their heads. It's quite the dumpster of a planet. Noisy, criminal. But the tea is exceptional.

The Master mulls over the conversation, contemplating what he would do to convince the TARDIS to let him fly after he killed the Doctor. A question he knows the answer to already. The ship can't stand him after the paradox machine, hasn't forgiven him yet. Maybe she never will. The ship sees him as a threat. As does the Doctor.

Good. At least something.

He can't leave, that much is clear. But if the Doctor doesn't plan to cuff him anymore then what exactly would keep him from doing whatever he wants? He can wreak havoc wherever they go and reward the Doctor's stupidity with a sly grin.

He could have done that the whole time already. And hasn't.

Screw him.

The Master stops, waits until the Doctor notices and comes back, his mouth half opened to ask. The Master doesn't let him. He moves quickly, grabs in front of him and clutches cloth, tears the surprised Time Lord close to get a better grip, then rams him backwards against the dirty wall of a rotten house. A trashcan falls over. Somewhere a cat screams.

"I can't kill you," the Master whispers, leaning close enough for the other one to hear. "It doesn't mean I can't hurt you, or break your bones, your mind. Every little bit of you."

The Doctor's eyes are wide in shock. He doesn't struggle. This time it's him who keeps quiet.

"I'm still your prisoner and just a better pet. You really think I'd like that? Do you even know me? Have you ever?"

"What's the alternative? Both of us running alone? And then I chase you around to clean up the mess you leave?"

"Was always fun before." The Master smirks.

"Not this time," the Doctor mutters. "You went too far with the Valiant and the paradox machine. And all the killing. Everything. You've never been so…"

"Charming?" He chuckles, then suddenly gets serious. "Insane?" The grip tightens. He wants to hurt the Doctor, so badly. And at the same time he wants to do something else entirely, barely can keep himself from leaning closer.... He stops pushing him against the wall, but doesn't let go of his clothes. "Do you remember? Everything used to be easier. So strict and confined in rules. But we had all the freedom we wanted. We just took it."

"Oh yeah, I remember." A small laugh escapes the Doctor's mouth. He has a way too childish face, this time around. "We got into so much trouble."

Does he keep clutching the brown coat for threats or does he need something to hold on to? The past is not a thing the Master can just push away and forget. He tried. He tried so hard. But it didn't help.

"Everything fell apart. It's all gone."

"Yeah."

For a moment he thinks the Doctor might try to hug him and the Master isn't sure whether or not he would kill him for the attempt. Neither of them moves, an eternity of history between them no matter how close they stand.

The past doesn't vanish. The Master knows and it's majorly fucked up that he can't stop feeling like this. He hates the Doctor for it with every fibre of his very being. His head drops, thuds against the Doctor's.

"I want to hurt you," he whispers, although it's not at all what he wants. It takes every ounce of composure not to move.

He is relieved when the Doctor tentatively takes the Master's hands from his collar, holds them in his own for long enough to let their minds brush against one another. Nothing more. An acknowledgement.

"No more cuffs?" the Master asks, voice pathetically small.

"No more cuffs. Promise."

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Chapter 73: Chapter 72

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.

Idiot.

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.

Ridiculously easy.

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.

"Master?"

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.

Back to index


Chapter 74: Chapter 73

Author's Notes: Here ends our journey into the Master's past. ;P
But maybe there will be more in the future.
You know...I've been to the baltic sea for a week and thought about writing the next part somewhere by the sea... BUT! My brain decided to suddenly come up with a completely different topic out of absolutely nowhere...

Also, I'm finally fully vaccinated! °v° I really hope this next winter won't be as draining as the previous one. UwU


It took a long while for me to wake up again. Time felt as if it had bent and twisted to stretch itself into an eternity. A dream within a dream within a dream. The memories I had seen, condensed and incomplete, had left me with the impression of years and decades instead of the few hours I had actually slept.

As tired as I still was, the experience left me with thousands of burning questions. How much of this had really happened? How much was only half a memory and half a dream?

In my back I felt the calm double beating of sleeping hearts, his hand still resting on my skin below the shirt. With every other person this would have felt too close, too intimate, too demanding. Not because of the proximity, but because of how safe it made me feel.

Yet I moved away, lifted his arm to turn on my back and stare at the dark ceiling. Had the TARDIS dimmed the lights in here or had it been the Doctor? It was still bright enough to make out shapes and many machines gave off small sounds and hums.

One of those sounds was close to my ear, repeated once. Then I felt a strange electric tingling on my arm and heard it again.

"Did you save him?" I asked the TARDIS in a whisper.

Another hum answered, sounding warm and reassuring.

"Why?" I breathed. "He hurt you so much."

Another soft hum and a tingling in the air around me that almost felt like a soft stroking over my arm. Almost a melody, a caress. Outside of the dream she couldn't directly speak to me, I realized. It was a true gift that I had been able to actually hear her words a single time. Now I could not understand what she wanted to tell me and maybe it wasn't for humans to understand at all.

She did hold a grudge against the Master, but she also cared for him, had sent me into all of this just to drag his mind outside and save his life.

Was that enough of a reason to do the same? I had suffered because of him, had gotten hurt in many ways. And the glimpse inside his mind just now also told me that there was not much good in him.

Not much.

But still something.

Most of what I had seen already faded, as dreams tend to do, but I could hold onto some snippets. The alien child he had spared, the short memory of a small voice calling him… I turned my head to face the Master, although I could barely make him out in the spare light. I couldn't really picture him being a father. Not at all.

But after nine hundred years of living… it certainly was possible. And most certainly something I should never ever mention.

And then his memories of myself. Something about me had left an impression, although I couldn't point at it. Witnessing some thoughts and experiencing the world from another one's perspective had been confusing at best. It's almost impossible to put into words. The faint impressions had taught me something however.

Even a Time Lord could feel lonely.

They were so much more than we humans and still they were able to experience the same emotions, and maybe even more intense, despite their age. Remarkable and sad at the same time.

In my few years of living I had already grown so cold and hard inside that I barely felt my own emotions anymore. What would I become in decades? What would happen if my life continued to do its best to punch and gut me whenever the possibility arose?

Many called me cold-hearted already and I knew, if needed, I could be what others would call a bad person. With ease.

Would I become like him, in the end? Would I chase after extremes only to be able to feel something? Or to run away and bury everything in a pile of corpses and drown it all in screams of pain…

And how could the Doctor be so different? He still tried his best to be kind and to help most people. Or was this only his own way of coping?

I stared at the shape of the Master and let my thoughts run in circles until I could no longer hear them. It was in vain anyway. Something inside me had long decided to stay with him, to take what he had to offer, even though it might destroy me. I was broken anyway. Had been from the very start of this.

Careful not to make much noise I skidded closer and huddled against his chest. What did it matter what we were to one another? All I wanted was this feeling of safety and warmth and the knowledge that I could be a tiny light in all that darkness within him.

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"Your energy levels are stabilising," the Doctor told, monitoring numbers and images on a screen that made no sense to me. "And you really have no idea what could have exhausted you so much?"

"Uhhh… nope." I shrugged, trying to keep my face still.

There was no way I could tell him about the dragon egg. Even with what it had caused I still felt an urge to keep it safe and within my reach. Well, as soon as I'd find out where the Master had hidden it.

It was clear that the Doctor didn't believe me, but whether or not he had a hunch as to what was actually going on, I had no clue.

"How's the Master?" I wanted to know, instead of giving an answer. When I woke up he had been gone. Together with the egg.

The Doctor shrugged, looking worried still. "I should say he knows his limits, but after this…" He sighed. "Lucy."

"Mhm?" I looked up from the device he was currently running along my lower arm. It produced some fascinating and colourful patterns.

"This wasn't your fault. No matter what he says and no matter-"

"I know. It's not my responsibility how people react to things. Sometimes 's just hard to accept."

He blinked at me. "I told him to leave you alone with his drums. There is no reason to pull you into that. I don't want him to hurt you because of it. Not because of anything of course, but…" He trailed off, got lost in a thought or an idea.

I vaguely remembered the dream snippets from the night before and if any of it was a real memory then I understood the Master's frustration.

"It wasn't a projection," I muttered. "I really heard the drums."

"You can't know that." The Doctor's voice got defiant again. "If you had seen what the Schism did to other people, if you had seen how many went insane or… worse…" He clenched his hands to fists, almost breaking his scanner.

"Yeah, I haven't. I don't care, honestly. If you want me to stop believing they're real, then I want proof."

The Doctor's eyes locked with mine, surprised and also a little scared. I could almost hear his thoughts. That I should be careful, that I should never trust the Master, no matter what he did or didn't do. That he would use his opportunity to break me into pieces, otherwise.

Playfully I stabbed a finger at his wrinkled forehead.

"C'mon, Doctor. Don't look so sombre. That doesn't suit you."

His frown melted into a smile, one that seemed still a little sad, but it was better. "No? Shall I smile instead?" He grinned his toothy grin and I laughed at his demonstration.

"You're so silly." I giggled. "How do you do that? After so many years."

"Och, it's a talent. I'm a natural." He made some silly faces that made me laugh even more. In the end he smiled. "I always remember that there is beauty all around me. That there is always something I don't know and that I can explore. All this time and all my travels, Lucy, and I can't say I've seen it all."

I returned the smile. "Yeah, that sounds wonderful."

"And-" He sprang up and clapped his hands together and then stretched one out to me- "I know there will always be wonderful people whom I look forward to meeting. And have adventures with."

I huffed and ignored the hand. "Big words for someone who didn't want me around at first. But guess I can't blame you," I quickly added when seeing his smile drop. "People always need some time to get used to me."

"Well… I'm glad I did, then." The hand lowered and he turned towards the door. "Fancy a cuppa somewhere?"

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"I can't!" the Doctor called out, throwing his hands up in exasperation.

The Master glared at him, arms folded, back leaned against the console. He didn't appear to be surprised. From what I had gathered, they had had this conversation a thousand times already.

I ducked away from the Doctor and leaned against the coral nearest to the console.

"It's so honourable of you to protect the universe from me," the Master said mockingly. "Domination of everything isn't part of my agenda, though." Not now, at least, was what the wink he tossed in my direction told.

"That'd be a first."

The Doctor slumped into a jumpseat and sighed.

I had entered the room while they were in the middle of the fight already, but figuring out the topic really wasn't hard. And once more they seemed to have hit a wall. One, neither of them was able to break down.

For a while the quiet thudding of fingers against metal was the only noise beside the machine humming.

Tap tap tap tap

Always and ever and never stopping for even a second, except that it did, in opposite to the noise he carried in his mind.

"You don't have a clue what I usually fill my time with," the Master eventually spoke up, voice barely raised above a murmur.

The Doctor huffed. "I see it every time we meet. On purpose or by accident."

"Accident… I'm not sure there is such a thing when it comes to the both of us."

The Doctor looked up, regarding the other man with a long and thoughtful look. Finally I decided to speak my own mind and coughed. Both looked at me and the desired attention suddenly made me nervous.

"Uhm… not to be on anyone's side or so," I started, fiddling with my fingers. "And I'm rather sure he'll murder me for that comment" - I nodded at the Master - "but he can hardly be the most dangerous thing out there."

"Oi!" he called out. "Take that back. I definitely am."

I poked my tongue out at him and continued towards the Doctor, "There surely are more important and more dangerous threats you could prevent from endangering time and space. So why him?"

It was an honest question, not necessarily meant to defend the Master, but because I was curious what all the trouble of keeping him was supposed to accomplish.

But instead of defenses and explanations there only grew a deep and thick silence in the room. From both sites, to my surprise. The Doctor tried to say something after a while, but seemed to choke on his own unspoken words and fell silent again.

The Master, on the other hand, had balled both hands to tight fists, eyes darkly glaring at the ceiling. He knew. They both knew. It might have even been the reason they played this game.

I wouldn't get an answer so soon. Right as I was about to apologise for the obviously inappropriate question we all jumped in surprise as an alarm started to blare through the room. Then a jolt tore us from our feet, followed by the rumbling crash of something heavy.

Dizzy and confused I sat up and glanced around, finding the other two doing the same, luckily unharmed. Purple light doused the console room, fading from dim to bright. Somewhere a loose cable spilled amber sparks over the ground, but otherwise everything seemed unbroken.

"Ough, that was rough," the Doctor complained, rubbing his head as he sprang up to take a look at the monitor.

"What the sodding time vortex has your ship done now?" the Master growled. He tossed a quick glance in my direction and got to his feet. "Can't you just… what the…?"

"Where are we?" the Doctor muttered bewildered. "It looks like metal, but…"

"Are we inside a ship?" I wondered. The image on the screen looked like the ground was covered in black metal plates with dark blue pixelated patterns on them. No light was around except for the dim glow of the TARDIS' lantern.

"A dead one maybe. There aren't any readings."

"Let's have a look," the Master suggested, surprisingly enthusiastic. When I tossed a glance at him there was definitely something sparkling in his eyes.

"I can't even tell how big this is," the Doctor said, scanning the readings on his screen with a half opened mouth. "It seems to be huuuge! And not a single energy signature."

"There's a light, though," I pointed out, stabbing my finger at a single tiny pixel in the corner of the screen. "Or maybe just dust."

With both hands the Doctor grabbed the monitor and almost touched it with his nose. "Yes!" he squeaked. "It's a light! Good job, Lucy."

"So, are we going to explore or do you want some private time with that screen?" sneered the Master. "After that ruckus I want to punch someone in the face."

I snorted, but definitely agreed. "I'd love to have a look, too."

"Yeeeeeah…" The Doctor slowly retreated from the readings and pushed some buttons to get the lighting in the console room back to normal. "Something disturbed the TARDIS enough to draw us here. We'll go out anyw…" He stopped and turned to face the Master. "That's new. You're never so eager to go out with me."

The other Time Lord rolled his eyes. "Nothing's changed there. I'm just curious."

To find whatever was powerful enough to disturb the TARDIS and use it to escape the Doctor? I doubted this thought got completely conveyed by my sceptically raised eyebrow, but the Master's wide grin almost made me believe otherwise.

I could have told the Doctor what I thought, but either he knew already or… well I wasn't eager to snitch on someone. That's just not my style. And no matter what the Master did, my opinion hadn't changed. There surely were more urgent problems in the universe.

"Alright. Let's go then, but be careful. We don't know what's out there."

There only was another eye-roll from the Master and he used his hand to make a mocking chatting gesture when the Doctor turned away. I could barely hold back a giggle and nudged him with an elbow to stop.

The Doctor opened the door only wide enough to poke his head out, then produced his Sonic to scan the metal ground. That didn't seem to yield results, so he finally stepped outside and waved us along.

It was eerie to wander around in complete darkness. The light from the TARDIS wasn't bright enough to illuminate more than a few meters around the ship and the light from the Screwdriver did little to actually show what was in front of us.

I tried to stay close to the others and close to the tiny spec of light that lost itself in the blackness of vast emptiness. My feet hit metal wherever they touched the ground, black and straight and only interrupted by riveted seams. The pixelated pattern stretched on and on in all directions, never hitting a wall, never bending or sloping.

I kept my eyes glued to the ground, watching our feet moving instead of trying to comprehend the size of the monstrosity we were in. The hull might stretch around us for miles and miles on end, containing nothing but empty darkness… or many more things I didn't dare to think about.

The Monsters that lurk in the unknown are always the most frightening ones.

"You're shaking," the Master said, his voice barely more than a whisper, but still echoing through the emptiness, tearing me out of my dark thoughts. "Scared?"

Was I? "No… I'm … I'm not shaking." I wasn't. Not physically at least.

The Master huffed and grabbed my hand, not saying another word while we kept walking for what felt like hours. Until the tiny spec in the distance finally started to grow in size and let some hope blossom within me that the eerie walk might finally come to an end.

And it did.

We found a wall. The first one since we left the TARDIS. It was impossible to tell how tall it was, but it didn't matter anyway. What caught our attention was the stripe of bright white not-light that sat in this wall. The whole thing glowed and still could not illuminate any of the surrounding area. It looked like a doorway, but there was nothing behind it but pure white.

The Doctor scanned the light with his Sonic, not getting any useful results, judging by the disappointed growl he let out. Carefully he stretched out a hand, poked the light with one finger and then put a hand inside when he found no resistance.

"I think it's a Portal of some kind," he concluded, rubbing the nape of his neck. "Can't get a good reading, no idea where it leads."

"Then find it out," the Master sneered. "Chop chop, go on. Through the portal with you. If you come back in one piece we can follow." The last bit was accompanied by a grin.

"Tzzz, you could go first, once. Some might think you're a coward for letting me do it all the time." The Doctor, despite his words, started to reach through the light again, this time submerging almost half of his body in it. "Oh, is that music?"

The Master grinned, folding his arms. "It's not cowardice, Doctor. Sane people call that survival instinct."

But the other one wasn't listening anymore. His head vanished, then the rest of him. Almost. Only his foot remained with us, then his hand returned and waved.

I tossed a glance at the Master and he shrugged. The little hand gesture seemed to be enough for him to actually follow and a moment later I was all alone in the all consuming darkness of the monstrous ship. A cold shiver went through me as I got aware of it, of the pressure that grew within my chest, the fear of being abandoned, the fear of unspoken horrors lurking in the blackness behind me. A fear that paralyzed me instantly, made me unable to move, unable to turn around to convin