"Then take me with you," the Master requested, spreading his arms wide, approaching the Time Lords. "Let me ascend into glory!" he continued, an insane smile on his face, awaiting praise for his deeds, a reward for freeing them from the time lock. But instead....
"You are diseased. Albeit a disease of our own creation. No more," Lord President Rassilon almost spat at the Master, whose face fell as Rassilon started to extend his arm, the gauntlet over his hand starting to glow.
The Master started to back away, suddenly realising that he was helpless. Had finally lost for good. But then, the unexpected happened as the Doctor mustered the last of his strength, putting himself between the Master and Rassilon, pointing Wilf's gun directly at the Lord President. And the Master's hearts leapt with joy, at the thought that the Doctor cared for him enough to gather the strength to put himself between them.
The Doctor had watched their conversation carefully. Had known Rassilon would never let the Master join them, and had all the while been mustering the last ounce of strength in his body, so that when the time came, he stood and aimed the gun at the President, the look on his face quite clearly reading as 'Back the hell off, Rassilon, he's mine!'
His long time enemy, friend, nemesis, and even, a long time ago, lover, and Rassilon would not take that away from him. So he offered himself as a shield, knowing full well that Rassilon could kill him easily with that gauntlet before he even had the chance to fire. But he didn't. Choosing instead to face the Doctor with a choice.
"Choose your enemy well. We are many, the Master is but one," he taunted, missing the devotion to the Master in his eyes. Knowing them as long time enemies, and nothing more. Not realising there to be more to it than protecting the universe from the end of time. Not understanding that that alone could never have given him enough strength and resolve to stand and point a gun at another man.
"But he's the President," the Master put in, also oblivious to the Doctor's mental state. "Kill him and Gallifrey could be yours!"
Then the Doctor did what he had sworn he would never do. He pivoted and turned the gun on the Master. On the very edge of breaking. Knowing that he should, for the good of the universe, yet also knowing he never could. He couldn't bear to kill the only one he had ever truly loved. It was a true dilemma. He couldn't not shoot for the sake of the universe, and yet he couldn't bear go on without the Master knowing he was gone at his own hands.
"He's the one to blame, not me!" the Master was practically shouting as the Doctor aimed the gun at him and the warm feeling in his hearts fell away. He was surprised to find it pained him to know the Doctor couldn't care for him that much. He cared more about protecting the universe than he ever would about him. As it always had been. And with those thoughts, realisation dawned. "The link's inside my head. Kill me, the link gets broken and they go back."
He tried to read the Doctor's expression, but the Doctor was so worn and the Master depleted from the leaking of his life force that he couldn't make head nor tail of him. The Doctor's expression remained unchanged, the gun unwavering in its aim at the Master. "You never would you coward!" he told the Doctor. The Doctor. The man who healed people. The man who never carried a weapon. "Go on then, do it" he spat. Taunting the Doctor, never once believing he might fire.
The Doctor listened to the Master's taunts. And something inside him was on the edge of breaking. And after all, a little voice in his head reasoned, he's a Time Lord. Surely he'll regenerate. A look of determination crossed his face as his finger tightened on the trigger.
The Master saw this, and was suddenly scared. He shook his head slightly, pleading with his eyes.
And that was enough to snap the Doctor back to his senses. Enough to remember the Master couldn't regenerate. He was dying. On his last legs. And realise that even if he had, the link would not have broken. But also enough to move away from that breaking point. He could never kill the Master. He loved him. And with that thought he turned back round to face Rassilon, the gun once again aimed at the power hungry president.
"Exactly! He's the link as well, not just me. Kill him," the Master told him the moment he was turned away, completely oblivious to the Doctor's emotional turmoil.
Rassilon however was confident. He had observed the Doctor, and knew him well enough to see that he could never kill without something inside him breaking. "The final act of your life is murder. But which one of us?" he goaded the Doctor, pushing at the very edge of his sanity.
The Doctor was torn. He knew what he should do, but also knew that the Master was right. He never would. He stood his mind in turmoil, gun still pointed at Rassilon, when he saw a movement just behind the President, and looked to one side to see one of the figures who had been stood with her hands covering her face had lowered her hands and was looking at him, tears in her eyes. He started. It was a face so familiar. One he had thought he would never see again. She nodded slightly on the direction of the Master, and suddenly he knew what he had to do. He pivoted to face the Master once again, his face so full of resolve as the gun pointed directly at his chest.
As the Doctor turned on him once more, he could see that face was so full of resolve, nothing he could do or say would ever change the Doctor's mind when he was that determined, yet still he backed away, tears welling in his eyes. Tears of terror, and something more which he couldn't quite identify. Until the Doctor uttered the first words since he had picked up the gun.
"Get out of the way" he murmured, making certain that his eyes said all that those words truly meant. Everything behind them.
A look of confusion crossed the Master's face, before understanding came. An understanding of what was being planned. And of what it meant to the Doctor. A smile played across his lips, his hearts fluttered and his stomach did a loop the loop as he dived to one side for the Doctor. And as the Doctor shot the White point star, nothing else mattered other than the realisation that what the Doctor had meant was 'I love you' And the realisation that despite himself, he loved the Doctor too. He was even more shocked to realise that even during all those years when he had done horrendous things to the Doctor. Tried to kill him. Even then he had secretly still loved the Doctor. But now? Now he knew, he realised he didn't care any more, and he would do anything for the Doctor. Anything.
The Doctor's hearts leapt as he saw the smile of understanding on the Master's lips. That smile alone gave him enough strength to face the death he knew he was about to face. As the White point star shattered he turned back to face the President.
"The link is broken. Back into the time war Rassilon. Back into hell!" he spat at him, angrily. Angry for so many reasons, most of which he couldn't even put into words.
Rassilon glared at him raised his arm, the gauntlet on his hand pointing towards the Doctor.
"You'll die with me, Doctor," he responded as the gauntlet started to glow.
"I know," was all the Doctor could say, resigned to his death, bringing to the front of his mind that smile on the Master's lips, so that it would be the very last thing he thought of before he died. The man he loved with such a beautiful smile. As he concentrated on that memory a voice interrupted him.
"Get out of the way," the Master said, making sure it was in such a way that the Doctor couldn't help but see the double meaning, in much the same way it had been when the Doctor had said it. He couldn't let the Doctor.... HIS Doctor die now. He was dying anyway. His life force draining away every moment. He didn't have much more life to live, but he could do something right for the first time in so long. He could save the Doctor, the man he loved, from the death he imminently faced.
On hearing those words the Doctor turned towards the Master as he dodged to one side. He could not help but see the meaning behind them. He was stunned and thrilled both at the same time. It was more than he had ever hoped that the Master might love him back. And yet he could see that the Master was giving up his own life so he might live. A selfless act of love, which caused the Doctor's hearts to burn with both passion for the Master and pain, knowing he would never be able to explore his feelings with the one being in the universe he wanted to be with for eternity.
The Master directed a beam of his own life energy, hitting Rassilon squarely in the chest, knocking him backwards.
"You did this to me!" he growled, adding the hatred of the things done to his own life to the already strong hatred he felt from Rassilon trying to kill his Doctor. "All my life!" he bellowed, breaking off the pulse before directing another beam from his other hand to hit him in the chest again. "You made me!" he roared, gathering the very last of his life energy. He broke off the pulse, and then sent another shorter one.
"ONE!" His skeleton flashed for all to see as he sent another shorter pulse.
"TWO!" His skeleton continued to flash randomly as his life force was slowly drained. He sent a third pulse as he moved closer to the Time Lords.
"THREE." His life force was failing him. He could barely muster the strength for the final pulse he wanted to send, but he thought of his Doctor. How he was saving the life of the only one he had ever loved. And that gave him strength enough to send a final pulse, almost the very last of his life.
"FOUR!" he bellowed before the time lock engulfed him and he was dragged away from Earth, stuck there, dying with no way of return, but happy in the thought that in the final moments of his life he had done something worthy of the man who loved him. The man he loved more than he could have ever known before now. And he knew he had done many wrongs, but in that moment, the only thing that mattered was that his Doctor lived, and could go on through the universe. And he was at peace for the first time in hundreds of years.
The Doctor watched on his emotions in turmoil as the Master sent pulse after pulse of his own life at Rassilon. And as the Time Lords were pulled back into the time lock, taking with them the Master, he found he no longer had the strength to stand and collapsed to the ground, mourning the loss of the Master. His Koschei. He wished he had been strong enough, fast enough to bolt forwards and pull him out before the Time lock had engulfed him. To have his Koschei there in his arms, however damaged they both were, all he longed for now was to hold him, but it was too late for that, so he just lay on the ground, broken, mourning all that had been lost. But at least he had something to cling to. That his final moments had been to save him. And Rassilon, he was going to make the most of what the Master had given him, live to the full in memory of the man he'd lost. Never forgetting that sacrifice of love.
"I'm alive," he murmured, as he rolled over to push himself up. "I'm still alive!" he said slightly louder, laughing a quiet slightly bitter laugh, as he held in mind the image of the Master smiling at him. As he silently mourned his lost love. His Koschei, who would live on in his hearts forever more.