The Master stood outside his former base, watching it burn to the ground. He knew he should have fireproofed the place, especially when the locals had started getting restless. Perhaps the sedatives he'd been putting in the water had had unintended side-effects, or perhaps they were just naturally upset about giant evil brains trying to take over Brazil. Either way the plan was, for lack of a better phrase, going up in smoke.
The Master sighed and turned away from the flames, pulling his gloves on. At least the Doctor wasn't here to see this.
"Master? Is that you?"
"Holy Rass- I mean, my dear Miss Grant!” The Master schooled his features into unconcern, despite the appearance of his nemesis’ currently favorite blond. “How delightful. Is the Doctor with you?"
"No," Jo looked sad. "We're not working together anymore."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said the Master, with some actual sympathy. He could afford it, since Jo didn't seem much concerned with capturing him or such nonsense. "I assure you, you're better off without that idiot."
"I know, I actually left him. Although I heard he's left Earth altogether now. Mike Yates called, do you remember him?” Jo’s mouth twisted wryly. “You tried to kill him once or twice."
"Did I really?" The Master raised an eyebrow. "Nothing personal."
"Anyway, the Doctor changed his appearance, wrapped himself in a huge scarf, and took off with the assistant that replaced me. The Brigadier's awfully upset."
"The man's completely unreliable," said the Master. "I'm not surprised he's left his responsibilities go hang."
They stood in silence together, and then walked a ways to avoid the encroaching flames.
"So, what are you doing in Brazil?" Indulging in idle gossip while your plans turned to literal ash was bordering on the bizarre, but there wasn't anything else pressing to do.
"I met this bloke," said Jo, and launched into a ridiculous story of a whirlwind love-affair and a slap-dash marriage before leaving with her scientist beau to travel the Amazon. The Master would say it sounded like a transparent plea for attention from the Doctor if it didn't sound so much like his first marriage. He and the Rani had made it as far as the Monan Host's homeworld cluster before they broke up.
Apparently Jo and her Clifford Jones had only made it to El Salvador.
"He turned out to be a total wimp," complained Jo, waving her arms. "He got bit by a snake - not a boa constrictor, mind, but a tiny grass snake - and he said we'd have to stay in the city for two days so he could recover! I mean, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a hands-on scientist to just buck up, do you?"
"Certainly not," said the Master, his attention wandering.
"He wanted me to take his name, too. Jo Jones? No thanks. It sounds awful."
"True." She already had the lisp. She didn't need a stutter as well.
"Plus," continued Jo, "he was okay in the sack to begin with, but after about a week he just gave up completely. You know, I actually caught him trying to read while his tongue was-"
The Master tried to decide whether clapping his hands over his ears was worth the indignity.
"Spare me the details, Miss Grant. Tell me, how did you get from there to here?"
"Oh, after my divorce, I reported in to the local UNIT branch. They gave me a job, set me on investigating the poisoning of the water supply..." Jo trailed off and looked knowingly at the Master.
"Ah." The Master had wondered if Jo’s appearance had been a mere coincidence. "You set fire to my base."
"Not me personally," said Jo. "Well, yes, me personally, but it was an accident. I wouldn't purposely put all of this rainforest in danger."
"In point of fact, this is a coffee plantation," said the Master, morosely. He watched as a limb covered in roasting beans smashed to the ground, revealing dark figures in the distance. "Who's that?"
"Probably the UNIT team I've been waiting for," said Jo. "I was hoping I could keep you distracted long enough for them to catch up."
The Master, unsurprised by Jo's treachery, wasted no time with recriminations. Pushing her to the side, he crashed through the burning trees to where his TARDIS was hidden. He could dimly hear the sounds of pursuit as he ducked inside and threw himself at the controls. The TARDIS shook gently as it went into flight.
The sound of the doors closing startled him. They should have been secured much earlier.
"So," said Jo. "Where are we going?"
The Master stared at her, mouth slightly open.
"Well, I couldn't just let you get away, could I?" said Jo. "Although I admit I hadn't quite thought through how to get out of here without the Doctor chasing after us."
"Right," said the Master. He stalked around the console, fingers twitching. Jo backed up, looking unnerved, until she stumbled over the edge of a hat-stand. The Master sprang as she flailed her arms to keep her balance, and caught one of her hands, pulling it behind her back. He grabbed the back of her neck with his free hand, holding her in a lock.
"You've made a dreadful error, Miss Grant," he said, quietly. "There's no back-up in the vortex."
"What are you planning?" said Jo. She struggled a little, but the Master held on.
"Nothing I can tell you as of yet," said the Master. Mostly because he hadn't actually thought of anything. It was flattering that Jo imagined him as a spontaneous schemer, but he needed time to process what had happened and decide how to use a discarded assistant of the Doctor's.
"This way, my dear," he said, pushing Jo forward. He'd just lock the girl up and then take all the time he needed to decide what to do.
An hour later, Jo had gotten out of two pairs of handcuffs, a set of manacles, chains, a combination arm- and leg-lock, a packing box, and a Draconian prison suit.
The prison suit had taken longer to put Jo into then it had taken her to get out of, and its origin had reminded the Master of the circumstances of their last meeting. He had shot the Doctor - actually shot the Doctor - and then he had run away. He should have finished it there, but it seemed as if there was always something to keep him from eliminating the Doctor once and for all. The Master sat on a chair he’d brought over to the console and nursed his melancholy as Jo worked both arms out of the suit and then began undoing the buckles on her legs.
"Are you alright?" she asked, looking up.
The Master sighed and stood.
"Perfectly fine, I assure you," he said. "We seem to be at an impasse, however, don't we?"
"Yes," agreed Jo. "Why don't you just stop locking me up? I promise I won't do anything."
"Promises," said the Master thoughtfully, "aren't worth much from UNIT staff. No, I think I need a better constraint." He turned on a machine that was bolted to the console and bars of light sprang up around Jo. "There. I think you'll have a little more trouble with that."
"What is it?" Jo touched one of the bars and then jumped back, sucking a burnt finger. The Master chuckled.
"A hard-light cage. Now, be quiet and let me think." He still hadn't decided what to do with her.
The problem was, capturing one of the Doctor's companions should have been a coup. But the Doctor had regenerated and left Earth, and the Master didn't know whether the new version of him cared a fig for the recently-married Grant. Worse, he didn't know where the Doctor was or how to contact him. All these difficulties could be surmounted if he worked hard enough, but it would take some time, especially with Jo slipping out of everything.
The thought made him look up, and he saw Jo had gotten her head and shoulders out between the bars. She pulled them back in, quickly, but the Master just turned off the cage without comment.
They stood in silence, briefly, sizing each other up.
"Look," said Jo. "Why don't we just call off all this petty antagonism? I can tell you don't really know what to do with me, and I don't really know what to do with you either. I don't know how to pilot a TARDIS, so it's no good me trying to capture you."
"What do you suggest instead?" asked the Master.
"Let me tag along for a while," suggested Jo. She smiled. "I've gotten a taste for seeing the universe."
The Master turned it over in his mind. Having Jo as a willing companion would make things much easier. He could take his time finding the Doctor, and then show him that the Master was taking very good care of one of his former friends. Whether ‘care’ was a euphemism for hostage situation would depend on how Jo adjusted to his company. For his own part, the Master preferred his solitude, but he could bear a fellow traveler for a short time, especially if it was in the service of a plan.
"Agreed," said the Master. He held out his hand and Jo shook it. "Glad to have you aboard."
The first trip with Jo did not go well. It went so spectacularly poorly, in fact, that it ended with the Master in a underground cell. Jo was standing guard in a Revolutionary General's uniform. This was not because she had stolen it in order to rescue the Master. It was because she was a Revolutionary General.
"I thought you understood I was going to try and take over the planet," said the Master. He rubbed his head with his thumb and forefinger. "You do know who I am, don't you?"
"I thought you only did that when the Doctor was around. You know," Jo raised her eyebrows, "for attention?"
"What are you trying to imply?" The Master waited a second and then began talking again as soon as he realized Jo might actually tell him. "Anyway, no, I really do this habitually. I do not ask that you accept this. I only ask that you not lead the rebel forces that topple the government that I am subverting."
"Sorry," said Jo. She tried to look contrite, but she obviously didn't mean it. "I just thought it would be the easiest way to find you, after we were separated. Also, everyone kept complaining about how oppressed they were."
"I can't imagine how instigating a country-wide revolt was easier than asking if anyone had seen a bearded man in black," grumbled the Master. "Just get me out of here."
"Oh, hold on, this bit's easy." Jo rummaged in her pockets and produced a key. "Not as interesting as lock picks, but I guess being on the captors' side has its benefits."
"Yes, yes," said the Master. "You're very impressive. Now hurry up before someone questions why their fearless leader is watching a lowly political prisoner."
Jo unlocked the door just as the relief guard came to check in. Fortunately she made up for her deficiencies as a conqueror's assistant by being really quite good at kicking people while wearing four-inch platforms.
Perhaps, thought the Master as he and Jo ran for his TARDIS, he should start a little smaller. Ease her into it, that sort of thing.
The second trip went much better, except for the part where Jo would not stop talking.
"I mean, I'm not one of those extreme feminists who hate men and don't shave their legs, but I do think equality is worth fighting for."
"Very true," murmured the Master. He was back in one of his favorite disguises - that of a genius scientist, building an innovative machine. The fact that this machine was intended to take psychic control of the world was something he had neglected to mention to his grant committee. They thought his machine would simply allow greater insights into sonic theory and, as such, had given him a budget and a laboratory.
"Equality for everyone," continued Jo, "regardless of where they come from, or what they look like, or who they fall in love with."
"An admirable goal." The Master picked up his soldering iron and began joining two thin pieces of metal together. If he could get the angle exactly right, they would form the last piece of his amplification unit. He set aside the iron and examined his work.
"But of course you understand that," said Jo. "What with the Doctor and everything."
"Of course," agreed the Master. This really was a nice job. He'd be finished by the afternoon at this rate.
Jo's words slowly caught up with him.
"Just a moment, what did you say?"
"I said," Jo raised a pair of long-suffering eyebrows, "that I'm sure you understand the need for sexual equality, given your thing with the Doctor."
"What 'thing with the Doctor'? There is no 'thing'." If the Master's voice reached a higher pitch than usual, it was only because he was confused. "What are you trying to imply?"
"You don't have to hide yourself from me," said Jo. "I understand. I've got lots of gay friends. Well, one. But we're very good friends."
"Miss Grant, I assure you," began the Master, but he couldn't seem to derail Jo's train of thought.
"It's not your fault the Doctor's so completely oblivious. He does that to everyone - I don't think he ever noticed when I was flirting with him either."
The two plates snapped apart in the Master's hands. He carefully set them on the table and picked up the soldering iron again.
He was upset. This was because his carefully constructed plans to take over or destroy the Earth had been misconstrued as misguided attempts to woo the Doctor. This was not because he was imagining Jo flirting with a more receptive Doctor.
"If you take my advice," said Jo, "you'll just put it to him straight. Who knows, he might say yes."
"Thank you, Miss Grant," said the Master. "I'd prefer it if we didn't discuss this any longer."
The join was much shakier this time. But it would work, which was the most important thing. Elegance was secondary, especially when he didn't have an appreciative audience.
"Sore subject, huh?" Jo smiled sympathetically. "Why don't you tell me what your machine is supposed to do?"
"Ah, you see, the population of this planet is highly susceptible to a form of hypnosis that uses harmonic tones broadcast by radio waves. This machine amplifies those waves and hijacks normal broadcasting apparatus so that, for a few moments, everyone in the world will be hypnotized. The tones then shut off, leaving a gap for me to submit instructions."
"Wait, you're putting the entire planet under your control?"
"No, no," said the Master, hurriedly. He did keep forgetting that Jo wasn’t entirely on board with galactic domination. "Well, yes. But you must know, Miss Grant, that the Apalians are a terrible, war-like race. They have committed atrocities without number," he invented wildly, "and they must be stopped at any cost, even the loss of their free will."
"I see," said Jo. She was still looking at him suspiciously. "Go on, then."
The Master did. None of it worked very well this time, either, but at least Jo helped him instead of his enemies. They were making progress.
The third trip went poorly again, though for once it hadn't anything to do with Jo. They had managed only one step out onto the juridical plains of Braire before they were arrested for parking without a permit. The TARDIS, disguised as a local vehicle, was impounded, and Jo and the Master were locked up together pending a hearing. This, in and of itself, was merely one of the hazards of traveling to a particularly law-obsessed planet. Once he had access to a lawyer, the Master was reasonably confident that he could turn all this to his advantage. The part that made this experience completely unbearable was that Jo was back on her favorite subject again.
"You know, back when we were locked up on your space ship, I tried to tell him. Doctor, I said, he does keep trying to give you half of the universe. Maybe you should be a little nicer. But he was too busy escaping to listen to me."
"Thank you for pleading my case," said the Master. He stared up at the ceiling, willing it to drop down on him before he had to listen to another word of Jo's completely ridiculous idea of relationship advice.
"And then after that," said Jo, "you'd shot him and disappeared. I told him your hand must have slipped, but he was too busy being upset about the Daleks."
"Was he," said the Master. The ceiling was not cooperating. He began to weigh the actual disadvantages of just throttling Jo.
"Yes, and I have to tell you, I'd avoid them if you want to get back together. The Doctor really hates the Daleks."
The Master's control finally broke.
"I do not want to 'get back together' with the Doctor, Miss Grant. I was never with the Doctor, so obviously we cannot return to a state of affairs that never was in the first place." He had stood up now, leaning over Jo, who was still seated. His voice was still low, he was keeping it there, but he was unable to stop its intensity. "I do not appreciate you terming my attempts on the Doctor's life as 'accidents.' I am committed to the Doctor ceasing to be a problem for my plans for world domination. This could, as you say, occur by him accepting my offers of partnership. Let me clarify that it would be a partnership of the minds, not of the bodies. His meddling could also be halted by his death, and I would experience no remorse if I was the one who had caused it. Regret, perhaps, at the loss of a great intellect, but nothing else. Do you understand?"
"Our counsel's here," said Jo, biting her lip and trying to look unfazed by the Master’s tirade.
Their assigned defender was, when the Master turned around, petrified in fright. Perhaps he imagined the Master had been about to kill Jo in retaliation for some unknown crime. The Master had not been about to kill Jo, more's the pity, but he could work with unadulterated terror.
He gave the defender a thin smile, and set to it.
The fourth trip did not go anything like the Master had expected. He had been setting the TARDIS' coordinates to yet another potential conquest site when Jo stopped him.
"We've been doing an awful lot of things that you wanted to," she said. "Why don't we do something I'd like?"
So the Master had reset the coordinates and allowed himself to be dragged along for a light lunch and shopping. Jo had been making do with what clothes she could find on the Master's TARDIS, but admittedly there was somewhat of a deficit of women's clothing.
"What do you think?" asked Jo, outside of the dressing room of one of Yarabtha's thriftstores. "Too many feathers or not enough?"
The Master watched her spin, bemused.
"Perhaps just a tad too many," he ventured. In his opinion halter tops were not supposed to have any feathers at all.
"Good, that’s perfect," said Jo. "Let me change and then we can go."
The Master watched Jo's bags while he waited. She'd found a full wardrobe, if a wardrobe consisted of mini-skirts, capri pants, long fur or feather coats, neon shirts and a half-dozen pairs of wedge and platform boots.
The Master had a sinking suspicion about who was supposed to carry all of this back to the TARDIS.
"So tell me," said Jo, from inside the changing room. "How many times have you tried to kill the Doctor?"
"I really have no idea, Miss Grant," said the Master. Fifty-three times, altogether. "I hardly keep count."
"And you've never succeeded?" Jo opened the door again and stepped out.
"Obviously not." The Master picked up most of the bags without comment. Together they walked out of the store without bothering to pay.
"In fact," said Jo, "I seem to remember you saving the Doctor's life on several occasions. Like when the Daleks wanted to exterminate him. Or when the Keller machine stopped one of his hearts and you gave him CPR."
"How did you know about that?" Jo had been locked up and the Doctor hadn't even been conscious at the time.
"One of the guards told me, I think he was watching through a window or something. Bit of a creep. Anyway, all I'm saying is, don't you think this means something?"
The Master was saved from answering by the appearance of several security workers who were apparently upset with them for shoplifting. The Master thought removing such bizarre clothing from their premises was undoubtedly doing them a favor, but they had to run anyway. They made it back to the TARDIS just in front of the shop’s security, closing the doors to the sound of giggling and low chuckles.
"Thank you," said Jo, when she’d caught her breath. "I had a lovely time. Think about what I said, will you?"
"Of course," said the Master, fully intending not to do so.
That night, the Master woke up in a sweat, a slow surge of arousal trickling through his body. He'd just had a very vivid dream.
He’d actually won out and taken over somewhere, he didn't know exactly what city or planet, but it didn't matter because the Doctor had been there. He'd been chained at the base of the Master’s throne, just as in Atlantis, only it was the new Doctor. The one the Master barely knew, except for Jo's description and a few images pilfered from Matrix records. The Doctor had been begging, pleading with him, and then he had-
The Master struggled to fit what had happened next into his world-view. It was difficult. Criminal masterminds were not supposed to dream of their best enemy sucking their cock.
Obviously this was Jo Grant's fault for placing the idea in his head. People had odd dreams all the time, the product of the jumbled thoughts of the day before. Only last month he'd had a dream about giant crocodiles doing a salsa, and that had been because the Riarii, who looked surprisingly like giant crocodiles, had served him something that tasted like salsa at a banquet. Wait a few hours, give it to the subconscious, and voila! Dancing reptiles. Or sex with the Doctor, as the case may be.
The Master ignored the way that thought made him shiver, just a little. He also tried to ignore his erection and go back to sleep, but he was too keyed up. In the end, he had to get up and take a cold shower. Finally, dripping wet and with a slight headache, he collapsed onto the sheets. He dreamed of nothing, or, at least, nothing to which he would admit.
"You look tired," said Jo, sitting in the kitchen the next morning. "Something bothering you?"
"No, of course not, why would you ask?" The Master didn't sleep often, but when he did he needed it. Losing even an hour, as he had last night, threw the rest of his week out of joint.
"Sorry." Jo shrugged her shoulders and poured the Master a cup of tea. "You've just got rings under your eyes." She drew half-circles under her own eyes to demonstrate.
"I do apologize. I didn't mean to snap." The Master sipped at his tea, burning his tongue. It hurt, but it woke him up, which was the purpose of tea.
"No, I'm sorry. I've been thinking about it, and I was wrong to pressure you about the Doctor. It's up to you to decide who you want to murder and who you want to have a relationship with."
They smiled at each other, briefly, before the Master was unnerved by all of this amiable apologizing and Jo remembered she had eggs frying. The Master felt as if he should say something else to Jo, but he couldn't think of anything. He settled for spooning sugar moodily into his tea instead. By the time Jo was back with her eggs the tea had gained the consistency of thin syrup, exactly as the Master liked it.
He should just take Jo home. It had been nearly a week, with nothing but more incarcerations to show for it. He hadn't even decided what to do if the Doctor ever did show up.
An alarm went off in the console room and the sound was amplified by the TARDIS' comm system. The Master's head snapped up from where he'd been contemplating his tea. That alarm never rang.
That alarm meant the Doctor was on Gallifrey.
"Is the TARDIS on fire or something?" asked Jo, concerned.
"No," said the Master. He pushed his chair away from the table and got up. "We've found the Doctor." Normally he would have concealed that information, but a plan was forming, a plan which meant Jo would know what was going on sooner or later.
He hurried out of the kitchen and to the console, where he checked the Gallifreyan date before shutting off the alarm. Then he found a toolkit and opened one of the panels on the base of the console.
"You've been looking for the Doctor all along, haven't you. That's why we kept getting in to trouble, you were hoping he'd just show up." Jo had caught up. She was even faster than normal in the slippers she had gotten for wearing in the TARDIS. "I knew it. I knew you were in love with him."
"Please, Miss Grant, I'm busy. Hand me those pliers, the ones with the yellow handles." The Master uncoupled a few cables while he waited.
"These ones?" Jo pushed a pair of pliers into view under the console.
"No, those have mustard handles."
Jo huffed and presented another pair.
"Ah, yes, those." The Master used them to uncouple the chronological limiter that kept him in sync with the Doctor's and other Gallifreyan's time lines.
"So, what now?" asked Jo. "We rush off to confront him?"
"No, of course not." The Master closed the panel up again and stored the limiter and the toolkit in a cabinet. "Now we go to Gallifrey a few months ahead of him and lie in wait."
"Oh, that sounds exciting," said Jo with a surprising amount of sarcasm. "I'm just going to eat my breakfast, if it's all the same to you."
She'd brought it with her. The Master did his best to remain blasé to the indignity of returning to your long-lost home while your companion ate eggs standing up.
The Master had always liked the preparation part of his plans. They involved long periods of peace and quiet, not doing anything much but always working toward a goal. It was a nice combination of anticipation and diligence that almost made up for the way the Doctor nearly always stumbled in at the last minute and mucked everything up.
Preparation in this case meant sneaking back into his old rooms in Gallifrey and awaiting the President's rumored resignation. He'd done his best to keep Jo occupied in the meanwhile, but she was acting more bored than relaxed.
"How much longer until the Doctor arrives?" asked Jo. She was sitting on the Master's work-table, swinging her legs.
"Four days," said the Master. He leaned closer to his work, ignoring the way his table jittered every time Jo's left leg swung back.
"What are you doing now?"
"I'm creating a psychic premonition of the Lord President being assassinated. I'll send it through my TARDIS to the Doctor's, and then he'll come here to prevent the President's death without stopping to think. He's so predictable in his heroism."
"Wait," said Jo, frowning. "You came here because you knew the Doctor was going to show up. But now you're making him come here in the first place? Isn't that a paradox?"
"Yes," admitted the Master. He finished the premonition and sat back to examine the casing that would slot into his TARDIS. "But it's not a very important one. Ignore it and it will go away."
"Fine," said Jo. "Have you decided what you're going to do when the Doctor gets here?"
The Master affected not to hear her. In point of fact, that part of his plan was slightly lacking. He did have some preliminary conceptions, but they all involved summoning omnipotent entities and not actually talking to the Doctor for more than a moment. He suspected these half-formed ideas were little better than distractions for himself.
He hadn't slept well the entire time he had been on Gallifrey. Too many dreams, and then he'd given up on unconsciousness as a bad job.
"How's your work coming?" he asked.
"What, the secretarial thing at the lab? It's fine. I was just chatting with this guy over coffee, you know, Ardeliavrelar, I was telling you about him-"
"Yes, yes," said the Master. "I meant, are you any closer to gaining access to that cache of staser weapons?"
"Oh, I suppose," said Jo. "The techies always tell me to put them away at night instead of doing it themselves. I thought you were only going to have an imaginary assassination, though."
"It's always better to have a proper basis for your fiction," said the Master. He stood up and stretched his legs.
"I see," said Jo, thoughtfully. "Anyway, I wanted to ask you about Ardeliavrelar."
"Never met the man." The Master got his coat from the hall, the one with the long hood that hid his face. He'd decided against his normal disguises - Time Lords had a nasty habit of recognizing old school-mates and so on no matter how many pairs of glasses they wore or how disparate of a hair dye they used.
"It's not really about him so much as his name." Jo jumped off of the work-table and followed the Master to the door. "Everyone on Gallifrey has these really, really long names. Is that why you and the Doctor use titles? Or are they shortened forms of your long names? Is your real name Masteraruguladesmond?"
"What? No." The Master put on his coat and opened the door.
"Can I call you Desmond?"
"Please don't," said the Master.
"What about Arugula?"
"You're being ridiculous. I'm going for a walk." The Master shut the door in Jo's face.
She'd been getting more irritating the longer they'd been on Gallifrey. She kept asking why they couldn't have arrived a day earlier than the Doctor and gone on from there. Some people simply had no idea how to run a covert operation.
The Master walked down the street, engulfed in his long black robe and oblivious to the stares of his fellow pedestrians.
Sleep deprivation was making the Master's hands shake. He watched them jitter idly as he and Jo waited among the plebeians in the Panopticon. The President was resigning and soon the Doctor would appear and this could all come to a head.
"What's happening now?" whispered Jo.
"The Cardinals are getting ready to meet the President," said the Master. "If you're really interested, listen to old Runcible. He's broadcasting the event or some such nonsense."
"He's not doing anything now," observed Jo. "Just talking to some tall man with curly hai- Master, it's the Doctor!"
"What?" The Master threw off his hood, the better to see. The movement caught the Doctor's attention and his eyes widened. He began to make his way through the crowd toward Jo and the Master.
He was wearing formal robes. Why was he wearing formal robes? The Master felt dizzily like this was the beginning of another dream, but he was certain he would never have imagined the Doctor's eyes to be so bug-like. They were nearly popping out of his head.
"You!" said the Doctor once he was close enough to be heard without shouting. "I should have known."
"Yes, my dear Doctor, me." The Master threw his cloak off altogether and swung the staser pistol concealed under it to point at Jo. "And I've got one of your abandoned companions with me as well."
"Jo? Jo, what are you doing with him?" The Doctor stepped forward into the sudden chaos of people running away from the gun, but the Master stopped him with a shake of the head.
"No, keep back. I'm a little over-tired, and you wouldn't want to make me act rashly."
"So this was your plan all along," said Jo. "Master, I thought we were friends! You took me shopping!"
"Make no mistake, Miss Grant, I was only biding my time. Still, I enjoyed your company to some extent, if it comforts you, and I certainly appreciated your theft of this staser." The Master laughed a little wildly. "Oh, if only you'd known what I intended it for. Now, Doctor, do exactly what I say or your former assistant will become your late assistant."
"Very well, Master," said the Doctor. "What is it you want?"
The Master considered it. Somehow he'd never expected things to get this far. He hadn't even had to warn away any guards yet. Instead it was just Jo and the Doctor and the President getting ready to name his successor in the background.
"I want," he said slowly, and then there was staser fire and all three of them turned just in time to see the President fall to the ground.
The Master's eyes were quickly drawn down to his staser pistol, the only weapon immediately visible in the Panopticon. He tried to hide it, but he could hear the whispers of the surrounding plebeians, and soon there were guards making their way toward them.
"So my vision was true," said the Doctor, quietly. "I've never demonstrated foreknowledge before."
"There are more pressing matters, Doctor," hissed the Master. "We've got to get out of here."
"What, so you can go back to threatening me?" Jo shook her head and cupped her hands around her mouth in a makeshift megaphone. "Guards! Guards, he's over here! The man in black!"
The Master cursed Jo's betrayal, skating over the fact that he'd betrayed her first. He backed away as the guards raised their weapons, but then they fired and the world went black.
The Master faded back into consciousness by degrees. At first all he could see was shapes and colors and all he could hear was a low, steady voice. He was lying on the ground, but his head was on something soft and comfortable. Slowly everything resolved itself until he could recognize the Doctor.
"...awake, are you? Good. Wouldn't do for you to sleep through our trial and execution."
"What?" The Master could now hear the words, but he couldn't quite process them. Where was he? In a cell. His head was pillowed by the Doctor's thigh.
He was lying on the Doctor's thigh. The Master struggled up, making his head spin. The Doctor watched him without any expression as the Master maneuvered himself until he was supported by the wall.
"We're to be tried and executed immediately," said the Doctor. "The President’s assassination must be punished quickly, apparently."
"But-" But he hadn't done it. For once in his life, the Master was completely innocent. He tried to think. "Surely one look at my weapon will show them that it hasn't been fired."
"It was fired. When you went down, you dropped the pistol and it fired into the ground. Shoddy safety catch."
"I see." The Master's head hurt. Unconsciousness was no substitute for sleep, and being stunned always made him feel nauseous and weak. And now the Doctor was here and they were going to be executed.
“You really didn’t have anything to do with it, did you?” mused the Doctor, bringing the Master’s attention back to him. “Somewhat unexpected.”
The Doctor wasn't wearing formal robes anymore. Presumably they'd been confiscated, leaving him with only his... white billowy shirt, dark red pants, and tall black boots. He looked like a cinemagoer's idea of a pirate.
"I thought you had a scarf," mumbled the Master.
"I'm in disguise," said the Doctor. "Unfortunately it's not a very good disguise."
"Wait." The Master's head was beginning to clear. "Why are you locked up as well? What are you supposed to have done?"
"I'm an accomplice to the assassination," said the Doctor. "I tried to warn everyone that there was going to be one. Left them a note. They got it, but took it as a threat." He started to get that bug-eyed look again. "I knew it was going to happen. How did I know it was going to happen?"
"Because I sent you a telepathic message through your TARDIS," said the Master. It was best to explain now so that the Doctor would stop worrying at his newfound psychic abilities and start figuring out how to get out of this cell. "I was just trying to get you here. I didn't actually know the President was going to be killed."
"Very strange," said the Doctor.
"Yes," said the man in purple robes who had just walked up to their cell. "Almost unbelievable, you might say."
"Hello, Doctor, Hello, Master." Jo popped around the purple-robed man's back. "This is Castellan Spandrell."
"Jo's been telling me all about you," said the Castellan. He was a gruff, older man with a strong accent that marked him as coming from outside the Citadel. He was probably disgustingly competent to have risen so far in spite of that.
"Probably all bad," said the Doctor. He grinned, showing far more teeth than the Master felt comfortable with.
"More or less," agreed Jo. "But I know neither of you killed the President. And the Castellan believes me, don't you, Castellan?"
"There are other eyewitnesses who agree with you," said the Castellan. "And there are oddities. Why, for instance, were no guards allowed in the Panopticon until immediately after the President's death? One would almost think someone in power was facilitating the murder. But," the Castellan shook his head, "Chancellor Goth is pushing ahead with the trial anyway. He won't listen to reason."
"So we're off to investigate," said Jo. "I thought we'd just let you know what was happening."
"Thank you, Miss Grant," said the Master. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Your help is much appreciated. If I may, I apologize for my behavior earlier."
"It's alright. I should have expected it, really. You and the Doctor just sit tight." Jo winked. "Take an opportunity to air your feelings, maybe?" She and the Castellan walked off.
"What did she mean?" asked the Doctor.
"Miss Grant thinks I'm in love with you," said the Master. He was far too tired to think up a proper lie, and what would be the point? It was only the diseased imagination of a young woman. The Doctor would undoubtedly laugh it off and that would be that.
"Ah." The Doctor got up and walked over to where the Master was sitting. Then he leaned down and in silently, studying the Master's face. The Master tried to pull back a little, but he was already pressed against the wall. Instead he was forced to hold still as the Doctor's bug-eyes came closer and closer.
"Well?" the Doctor said when his nose was almost brushing the Master's. "Are you?"
"I've got a set of lock picks hidden in my gloves," said the Master, quickly. His voice cracked a little, but he ignored it.
The Doctor continued staring at the Master for a moment and then backed away, allowing the Master to strip off his gloves. The small brass picks glinted as he removed them from the cuffs. He had to tear open the lining to get at his torsion wrench, but he had another pair of gloves on his TARDIS if he ever got back. If he didn't, his foremost concern probably wouldn't be his appearance.
It took much too long to get the cell-door open, even if the Castellan had neglected to place a guard in sight of them. He was probably relying on their wish to be exonerated and didn't expect an escape attempt. But the Doctor and the Master were both exiled criminals and renegades, to varying degrees. The Doctor may be slightly more welcome on Gallifrey than the Master, but slightly more welcome than not welcome at all was still really not very welcome.
The Doctor was also hanging over the Master's shoulder and breathing on his neck. It was very unnerving and also suspiciously nice, and the Master was glad when the lock finally clicked and he could slowly push the door open.
"Right," said the Doctor. "Let's get out of here."
Incapacitating the guard outside of the cell area was simple, and a quick argument over whose TARDIS they should try to reach first was settled once the Master realized how close the Doctor's old Type 40 was. They were already nearly there, despite the slow, sneaking pace and the many stops to hide when someone came down the same corridor.
"We'll just get my TARDIS, pick up yours, find Jo, and go from there," said the Doctor. "Plenty of time for arguing about nefarious deeds when we're away from dear old boring Gallifrey."
"Agreed," said the Master.
"We also need to have a talk about feelings," said the Doctor, still with that terribly straight face. The Master wasn't sure if the Doctor had another expression besides that and the manic grin.
"Of course," he said, fully intending to just get onto his TARDIS and away.
They turned around the corner and there was the faux police box. They hurried to her, the Doctor pulling his key from his pocket, and then they were surrounded by Chancellery Guards.
"Trying to run, were you?" A fair-haired man stepped out from the shadows. The Master recognized Chancellor Goth, the President's presumed successor.
"Yes," said the Doctor, simply. "We'd heard you were trying to have us executed without a fair hearing."
"At least you were to have a hearing," said Goth, smiling. "Now I suppose I'll just have to shoot the dangerous escaped prisoners before they harm anyone. Your staser, Captain."
"Sir?" The captain had the grace to look unsure.
"They killed the President, man!” Goth lost his smile immediately, scowling at his underling. “Give me your staser!"
"Sir, we have them surrounded. We'll just take them back to their cell."
"Fine," breathed Goth. "I'll just have to use my own." He pulled a bright crystalline staser from his over-robe and aimed it at the Doctor.
"Don't be a fool," said the Master. His hearts thudded but he managed to keep his voice calm, reasoning. "You think the public won't hear of this? You can't kill us in cold blood."
"Oh, they'll hear of it. Shooting down my predecessor's murderers will make an appropriately impressive start to my career, don't you think?" Goth's smile became modest and unassuming, as befitted a hero. The Master didn't think much of his current position, but he had to admire Goth's ambition.
"Looks like we're done for," said the Doctor. "Oh well."
"No!" shouted Jo, running in with the Castellan close on her heels. "Stop!"
"Ah, Josephine Grant. The overly vocal defender of the obviously guilty." Goth turned his head but didn't lower his weapon. "As you see, I'm just about to punish your two friends' crimes."
"But, Chancellor, they haven't done anything," said the Castellan, puffing. "We have proof that neither fired a shot at the President."
"And we know who did," continued Jo. She waved a canister in the air. "This video shows you aiming a weapon at the President. That gun you're holding now, in fact."
"The Public Register broadcast," said Goth. He turned completely now, his face a mask of tortured surprise. "I was going to destroy it after I killed the cameraman, but I was distracted by these two."
“Exactly,” said Jo, proudly. “The Master told me the President’s resignation was being reported on, so I knew there had to be a record somewhere.”
"Chancellor, I'm afraid I'm going to have to detain you pending investigation of your role in the President's death." The Castellan gestured at the guards. "Take him."
"No!" Goth raised his staser again, pointing it at Jo, then the Castellan, then the captain of the guard. "I'll shoot you. I'll shoot you all!"
Behind him, the Doctor and the Master looked at each other. Then they moved in unison, grabbing Goth from behind. The Doctor held Goth's arms while the Master took away his staser, handing it, with great ceremony, to the Castellan.
"You bastards," snarled Goth. "How dare you lay hands on me."
"How dare you try to frame us," retorted the Doctor. "It wouldn't have worked in a proper trial. The Doctor and the Master working together? It's absurd."
"You managed it this time," pointed out Jo.
The Doctor paused for a moment, obviously thinking about that. Then he looked down at the Master and laughed. The action showed his really absurd number of teeth and popped his eyeballs and made him look, against all odds, unreasonably attractive. The Master smiled despite himself.
Once the dust had settled and Goth had been taken away, the Master and the Doctor still found themselves being bustled toward the Doctor's TARDIS.
"It will be much easier to explain what has happened if you have already left," said the Castellan. "Right now, you are conflicting evidence. Gone, you will be quickly forgotten."
"A moment," said the Master. "Though I agree with you, I'd much prefer leaving in my own TARDIS, which is-" He stopped as the Castellan shook his head.
"Your TARDIS was impounded following your arrest. I can release the Doctor's Type 40 because it was officially delisted after his exile was rescinded, but your own TARDIS is listed as stolen." The Castellan shrugged his shoulders. "Admittedly, it is easier because the Doctor's TARDIS is so outdated and in need of repair - yours is in a perfect state, with what my technicians tell me are some fascinating modifications. It would be difficult to make the CIA part with a possible advance in temporal mechanics."
"I told you I had a reason for keeping my old girl." The Doctor tapped his nose as if he was marking a target for someone to punch. The Master restrained himself with difficulty.
"Oh, goodbye!" Jo hugged the Doctor, incidentally shielding him from the Master's annoyance.
"You're not coming with us?" asked the Doctor.
"No," she said, looking up at him. "Delia said he's got a travel pass coming next week and I could go with him. He's conducting research on Telos. No offence, Doctor, but I do get into a lot of trouble when I'm with you."
"Ardeliavrelar," supplied the Master. "A co-worker of Jo's at one of the laboratories."
"Wonderful," said the Doctor, sounding proud and pleased. "I'm very happy for you."
This, the Master thought, was exactly why the Doctor went through so many companions. He was far too willing to let them run off with the first non-Doctor entity they showed romantic interest in.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" he asked out loud. "Remember what happened the last time you ran off with a man you hardly knew."
"I do," said Jo, pulling away from the Doctor. "He ended up being completely in denial and then used me as a hostage against his crush."
The Master frowned and prepared to navigate Jo back to the point, but she surprised him by hugging him as well. He rested his hands awkwardly on her shoulders and decided she could make her own bad decisions.
"I did have fun," she said, squeezing him tightly. "I hope it works out between you and the Doctor."
And then Jo was waving and the Chancellor was pushing them into the TARDIS again and they were off Gallifrey.
"Where are we going?" asked the Master. The Doctor was pulling levers on the console, doubtless in a hurry to leave their planet behind.
"Nowhere." The Doctor stopped moving, abruptly, and the Master could feel the shudder as the TARDIS slowed until it was hanging in the vortex. "I thought we could talk."
"About what, exactly?" The Master wasn't sure if he was up for this. Now that the adrenaline was starting to fade, he was reminded that he was exhausted and drained, and he hadn't even his TARDIS to go home to. Feigning ignorance was unlikely to succeed, but it was easy.
"You said that Jo thought you were in love with me." The words fell inexorably out of the Doctor's mouth, measured but unstoppable. "I asked if you were, but there were other things to deal with. Now that we're finished, I'd like an answer."
"Yes," said the Master, if only to see if he got another expression out of the Doctor. But the blank stare only moved slowly into the same deranged smile that was fast becoming familiar.
"Yes? You’re in love with me?"
"Yes," said the Master, defiantly. "By some definitions, anyway." Probably ones the Doctor wouldn't appreciate, the ones about power and possession and also a new and extremely intrusive fantasy about those actually very impressive teeth at the back of his neck. The Master decided not to elaborate.
"Excellent!" said the Doctor, and that appeared to be it.
"What," ventured the Master after an overlong pause, "do you think of me?"
"Oh, that you're a brilliant evil genius, stubbornly set in your ways, and possessed of a bizarre gift of having both a wild imagination and a complete lack of inventiveness. And I love you too, of course. By some definitions."
"What?" The Master wondered if sleep deprivation could make you hear things. The end of that set of statements had seemed very out of place.
"The problem is, you keep killing people and taking over worlds. Or trying to, anyway. But I haven't seen you in quite some time, and you didn't do much of anything wrong today. You even helped bring a murderer to justice." The Doctor drew close to the Master, as close as he'd been in the cell. "I think Jo's changed you."
"Ridiculous," snapped the Master automatically. "I threatened her life today, in order to get you in my power."
"Exactly," said the Doctor. His voice, always low, became gravelly. "You didn't care about taking over Gallifrey at all. Flattering."
The Master had tilted his chin up and the Doctor had bent down so they could look each other in the eyes. Now the Doctor moved hardly at all and brought their mouths together.
Perhaps this was what the Master had wanted, when he had held Jo at staserpoint. Or perhaps there had been something else. In any case, this was nice - the Doctor pushed his tongue into the Master’s mouth - very nice, and he was much too tired to try and determine what that something else had been.
The Master gripped the collar of the Doctor’s ridiculous pirate shirt and pulled him into a deeper, proper kiss.
When the Master woke up, he had distinct memories of having been fucked by the Doctor. This was not, lately, unusual. What was unusual was that it actually seemed to have happened. He was in the Doctor's TARDIS. He was in the Doctor's bed. Most importantly, the Doctor was sleeping next to him, in a pile of blankets and curly hair. The Master prodded him, cautiously, and the Doctor snorted and rolled over.
Moving his shoulder hurt. When the Master looked at it there was a large purple bruise, indented with teeth-marks.
"Rassilon, what is wrong with you?" he said, voice raspy from sleep. He had no idea how long they'd been out, but it had probably been quite some time. He touched the bruise experimentally and hissed with not entirely exaggerated pain.
"You told me to bite you," said the Doctor. He rolled onto his stomach and cracked an eye open. "You enjoyed it at the time. Rather vocally."
"I'm not enjoying it now," said the Master. He stretched his other arm, gingerly, and winced as that one pulled as well. He knew this body bruised easily, but this was ridiculous. "Both sides?"
"I thought it would be better if you were symmetrical," said the Doctor.
"For future reference, that is not the case." The Master levered himself out of bed and padded into the bathroom. The Doctor made no moves to get up, and the Master cleaned himself up in peace.
Once he was done, the Master stared at himself in the mirror over the sink for quite some time. What he should do is take advantage of the Doctor's incapacitation and gain control of the TARDIS. Or he could make the Doctor another offer of partnership. They could travel the stars, taking over each of them one by one.
Both of these ideas sounded like quick recipes to putting an end to a good thing.
"What are you thinking about?" said the Doctor, softly, bent down so he could talk directly to the Master’s ear. He’d managed to enter the bathroom without making a sound, though the Master had seen him in the mirror at the last moment.
"What to do now," said the Master. He chuckled to distract himself from his honesty. "I haven't a clue."
"Mhm." The Doctor stretched up a little so he could rest his chin on top of the Master's head. "Stay until things die down on Gallifrey. A month or so. I'll help you steal your TARDIS back, then - I don't see why the CIA should have it."
The Master mulled it over in his mind. Perhaps Jo Grant would be back on Gallifrey in a month. Given her track record, she'd have gotten frustrated with Delia by then. The Master had grown fond of her, for a certain value of fondness highly tempered with annoyance. It would be a shame to leave her trapped on a planet so dull that everyone interesting had had to escape, go mad, or both. He or the Doctor could give Jo a ride back to Earth, if she liked.
A month with the Doctor would undoubtedly also be a month of compromise and frustration. But quite possibly also a month of repeat performances of last night's entertainment. The Master had to admit that, despite the aches the morning had brought, the experience had been, well. More than acceptable. Not something to scoff at.
"A month," he said. He looked at the Doctor's eyes reflected in the mirror. They were calm, waiting for his answer. "I think I can put up with you for a month."
"You put up with me?" The Doctor grinned, mad and happy. Grinning meant he couldn't keep his head on top of the Master's, so he pulled away. "Master, it'll be a question of me putting up with you."
The Master opened his mouth to protest when the Doctor, infuriatingly, ruffled his hair. And, slightly less infuriatingly, started sucking on the bruise on the Master's left shoulder.
After a while, the Master remembered to close his mouth. Then he thought better of it and pushed the Doctor off his shoulder. The Master turned and pressed him against the wall opposite the sink, determined to give the Doctor a taste of his own medicine.
Really, this whole affair was a terrible idea. But, on the other hand, the Doctor was making remarkably interesting noises. Especially when the Master’s beard scratched over his nipple as the Master worked his way down the Doctor’s chest with his hands and his mouth. Perhaps, thought the Master, it was time to make his own bad decisions as well.