Character Study, General, Humor, Satire, Standalone
1) Based on a prompt from alt_universe_me for the spoiler_song community holiday fic exchange on LiveJournal.
2) The "meta" format is not my own; I stole it from a series of fics written for eleventy_kink, also on LJ. The important thing to know about the meta space is that the characters are aware they are characters and are free to comment about things like their own motivations, the authors, their opinions about the stories they are in, etc., etc.
3) Many thanks to Elisi for spoiling me with Master and Doctor/Master recs in preparation for writing this.
The TARDIS materializes in a vast, white space with no discernible features. After a moment the Doctor pokes his head out the doors to have a look around. He seems confused as he steps out and surveys the emptiness, followed by River.
DOCTOR: Where . . . ? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but where are we?
RIVER: We . . . are in a meta! Oh, I do love these.
DOCTOR: (taking some readings on his screwdriver) Meta what? Metadrogenes III? Metaphero Korbeseus? The Star Plains of the Metatraxis system? It doesn’t look like any Meta I’ve ever been to.
RIVER: It’s not a planet, Doctor. It’s meta. A meta. Think of it as being . . . backstage on your own life. (The Doctor gives her a slightly queasy look.) It’s a chance to step outside it all . . . take stock . . . look at where your story lines are going. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll run into an author or two. I’ve got some choice words about my characterization of late . . . .
She trails off and the Doctor follows after her, trying not to appear too panicked.
DOCTOR: Should we even be here, though? It feels all . . . wrong. (He shudders.) I mean, normally I’m all for exploring the unknown, but this is just . . . . (River stops to watch him, a ‘this is gonna be good’ look on her face.) Boring! It’s boring! There’s nothing here! We should go . . . . (suddenly suspicious) You seem awfully calm about this. (He leans into her face, squinting at her acutely.) How do you know about this place, anyway?
RIVER: Honey, I’m a walking, talking extra-textual element in your own life. I practically live here. I’ve got one foot here all the time! Oh, don’t look so distressed--you’ll get used to it. Just keep breathing and try to maintain a sense of humor.
The Doctor straightens himself up and attempts to look dignified, still watching her suspiciously from the corner of his eye.
Suddenly words pop up out of the ground to float in the air in front of them:
Pretty much anything with River and Eleven, although I would like to see them encounter Torchwood, the Master, a new planet, or Stephen Fry. But, I'm not that picky, so really, anything will do. Any (genres)except fluff, humor is preferable, and I don't mind if the fic is silly, in fact I encourage silliness.
The Doctor pulls back in surprise and scans the words with his screwdriver. River folds her arms and reads quietly to herself.
DOCTOR: Is that . . . ?
RIVER: A prompt, yes. Somebody wants fic. Pretty damn open-ended, though. I guess we’ll just have to see what shows up and run with it. Whose brain are we in anyway? (She grabs the Doctor’s screwdriver from him to take a reading of her own.) If we’ve landed in meta, the author’s probably scraping for ideas. (pulling a face at the readout:) Blimey . . . .
The Doctor snatches the sonic back and squints at it, confused.
DOCTOR: Where are you getting this from?
RIVER: (ignoring his question) What is ‘fluff’ anyway?
DOCTOR: (relived to finally be able to contribute) I believe anything excessively sweet and romantic without real dramatic weight.
RIVER: I thought that was ‘shmoop’?
DOCTOR: One would think so, but technically shmoop requires a caramel coating.
RIVER: Huh. Learn something new . . . . So no fluff, then. Are we allowed to hold hands?
DOCTOR: Better not risk it . . . . (He gets distracted.)
A strange figure has appeared suddenly on the “horizon,” and as he walks forward, he grows in size far more rapidly than one would expect so that within seconds he is standing before them. He is tall, slightly portly, slightly academic-looking, and with a bulbous, crooked nose.
DOCTOR: (to River) Is that . . . ?
RIVER: It must be. I mean the prompt said . . . .
(at the same time:)
DOCTOR: Master? RIVER: Stephen Fry!
(They glance in confusion at each other, then back to the stranger.)
STRANGER: I say! Hello. Yes, that’s . . . that’s me. (He waves a finger between the two, acknowledging both of their greetings.) It’s nice to be back. I’ve regenerated, you see. Well, yes, you can see . . . (He smooths down his lapels, admiringly.)
DOCTOR: How can you be back?!?!? I thought you were gone forever . . . again.
STRANGER: You saw the prompt--that seems like reason enough for crackfic.
DOCTOR: Oh, right. Quite. (turning to River) You recognize him? What’s going on?
RIVER: It’s Stephen Fry! You . . . you really don’t know him? You hang around his home turf enough: 20th, 21st century earth . . . ? Humph. He’s quite famous. Comedian. Man of letters. (extending her hand) River Song--big fan. (The stranger shakes her hand and nods politely.)
DOCTOR: Why should you know him? I thought you were from . . . you know . . . SPACE! And THE FUTURE! (He makes expansive gestures with his arms.)
RIVER: It’s a long story. But you . . . (turning to the stranger) you said ‘regenerated’! Are you . . . ?
DOCTOR: (jumping in before the stranger can respond) Another Time Lord! We’ve got . . . . That is . . . . It’s . . . sort of hard to explain, actually.
STRANGER: (amused) Evil ex-boyfriend.
The Doctor looks ready to protest, then thinks better of it. River makes an “oh” face and then nods thoughtfully as though this explains quite a bit indeed.
RIVER: I think he may have mentioned you. Frequently. And you go by 'The Master'?
STRANGER: That is my name, yes. Although I must insist that you call me Fry!Master. I’ve looked it up, in the fan communities, and it seems that’s the done thing. I figure there must be an endorsement deal in it for me somewhere down the line. Maybe something with a fish and chips chain . . . .
DOCTOR: (confused and suspicious) Fry!Master, right . . . . So you’ve been hiding out . . . as a comedian? Any particular reason why? Do you have an evil plan to laugh everybody to death?
FRY!MASTER: Thought I’d go in for a bit of a retirement, actually, on earth. After that last dust-up, what with the Time Lords and the . . . yes, anyway, it seemed like a good moment to slow down for a bit, reassess my priorities, pursue some creative projects I’ve been putting off. You’re looking well, by the way.
DOCTOR: (stifles a slightly panicked laugh) You’re the greatest evil mastermind the universe has ever known, probably. You expect me to believe you’re just taking it easy on earth because you . . . needed a break? I’m sorry, I’m not buying it.
FRY!MASTER: (sighs and looks at the Doctor like he’s a particularly dim and frustrating child) Do you know how much work it is, Doctor? Living up to your standards of evil? It doesn’t come naturally. People don’t really operate that way. I mean, I like a challenge as much as the next genius, and I had fun with it, I did. I did my best to make it convincing: the drumbeats, the maniacal laughter, the self-interest, and most importantly, the vaguely plausible nod to doing something praiseworthy and heroic but in an unnecessarily brutal way--I know how much you like that. But the thing is, Doctor, no matter how carefully I crafted the whole thing, sooner or later sustaining the illusion would require me to just be evil for the sake of evil. And there’s something exceedingly sloppy about that, don’t you think?
RIVER: (who has been attentively absorbed in this whole exchange and nodding along thoughtfully) Very inelegant. And yet you did it anyway. You poor thing--that must be so wearing on you.
FRY!MASTER: Oohhh . . . thank you, my dear, it did get tiresome. But in the end I was willing to do it, for him. I do so like to see him happy.
RIVER: Are you listening to this, sweetie? The sacrifices people make for you!
The Doctor looks at her like she’s grown a second head.
DOCTOR: Why are you . . . agreeing with him?!?!? (He flails his hands and forces his way between River and the Master, crowding into River’s space.) Get away from him! You’ll get . . .
RIVER: (amused) Evil cooties? I am capable of making independent, rational decisions, Doctor--I’ll talk to who I like. (The Doctor doesn’t back down, so she goes on.) And if I’m contaminated by association, it’s nothing you haven’t already associated in that baffling head of yours. (She pokes his forehead for emphasis.)
DOCTOR: (eyes crossing slightly as he follows her finger) I have done no such thing!
RIVER: Mmm hmmm. (She leans around the Doctor to speak to the Master instead.) Were you watching during that encounter with the Angels? Did you see his face when he found out I’d been in prison?
FRY!MASTER: Oh, he lit up like a Christmas tree! (He pretends to be choked with fond emotion.) That takes me back. Try subjugating a whole world sometime, he’ll never leave you alone again. Someone has quite the fetish.
DOCTOR: (skulks away in a humph) Evil does not make me happy.
FRY!MASTER: But you must concede, Doctor, it does get your attention. Far more than just being competent and resourceful and not bitching about your mood swings. Oh, it’s not entirely your fault, we all like to have our worldviews validated by others, but the thing is, you’re so very skilled at projecting yours onto other people that . . . I don’t know quite how to say this, but . . . you inspire me, Doctor.
DOCTOR: NO! Just . . . NO! You are not blaming me for making you evil!
FRY!MASTER: (offended) Certainly not. I take full responsibility and credit for all my decisions then and now. But what was it that young fellow said? The beak-y, stammer-y one who’s been following you around?
FRY!MASTER: Yes, him! Intelligent lad. He said ‘you make people want to impress you,’ Doctor, which is entirely true, and I admire you for that, I do. But sometimes, honestly, there is just no impressing your through rational means.
FRY!MASTER: But I’ve had enough, finally. The time has come to start living for me, and what with that new writer you have driving everything, it’s not like I’m needed in narrative any more.
RIVER: (seeing his point) Oh, you’re right! Now that’s very interesting . . .
DOCTOR: What?!? What is?
RIVER: Our dear Mr. Moffat has no interest in evil.
FRY!MASTER: Bless him.
RIVER: Though you should hear the reviewers griping about it . . . .
DOCTOR: Now I refuse to believe that. How could someone have no interest in evil?
RIVER: The greatest collection of your enemies ever assembled on screen, Doctor, and why were they there? (She starts to laugh.) To save the universe from you! (more laughing) Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I am. But you have to love that irony. (suddenly serious) I did warn you to run away.
FRY!MASTER: How does it feel, Doctor, to be--what was it? ‘The most feared thing in all the cosmos’?
DOCTOR: I’ve been trying not to think about it, thanks.
FRY!MASTER: Don’t worry; I’ll be sure to remember for you. And in the meantime, here I am, quite content, and I’ve been able to do some writing of my own, and I’ve been getting exercise every day, and eight hours of sleep a night! (to River) You know, I feel so much better?
DOCTOR: (only half convinced) So, you’ve honestly reformed then? Well, then, I’m very pleased. Very pleased indeed. (warming to the idea) I knew you’d have to come around eventually! You should come traveling with me! We’ll see some of the univer---
FRY!MASTER: (exasperated) HOLY MOTHER OF ALL . . . . NO! NO, Doctor! None of that! I see that gloating look in your eye! This is NOT about you, and I refuse to let you use it to fuel your own sense of sanctimonious . . . self-righteous . . . . (to River) I’m so angry I can’t string words together.
River pats his arm sympathetically.
FRY!MASTER: (composing himself) I told you, Doctor, I take responsibility for all my decisions. This. Is. Mine.
DOCTOR: (taken aback) I . . . .
FRY!MASTER: (quietly) Look to your own house.
DOCTOR: Well, that’s . . . good, I guess.
FRY!MASTER: (raises an eyebrow and gazes at him for a long beat, then:) Now you’re just being insulting. (to River, humor restored) Don’t make the same mistakes I did, my dear. As soon as you cave to their narrative conventions, you’re never leaving with your dignity intact.
RIVER: I’ll certainly do my best.
DOCTOR: Narrative conventions!!! She killed someone! A good man! What do you expect me to think about that?!
FRY!MASTER: Oh, do use your imagination.
RIVER: (conspiratorially, in a mock whisper) He thinks I kill him!
FRY!MASTER: HA! Hahahahahahahahahahahahhahaha! Haha! Ha. (clutching his stomach) Oh, thank you. I needed that. Oh, that is too rich.
DOCTOR: (insulted) What? It’s a great idea! (to River) You’ve been looking so lovely and menacing, if I may say so, all season, with that blaster of yours. Think of how dramatic it would be: you shooting me down, in cold blood! Gunshot right to the chest! But, you know, I would regenerate and all that, and then I could forgive you and---
RIVER: (cutting him off) Lead me to abandon my evil ways through the power of your niceness?
DOCTOR: (narrows his eyes at her, but does not disagree)
RIVER: (to the Master) He doesn’t listen, does he? (to the Doctor) No, darling, I’m not here to fuel your martyr/hero complex--that’s the last thing you need. Bleah. I feel sordid just thinking about it. And . . . a little used. (to the sky) Can we get some tea around here? I need a pick-me-up.
A full tea table appears just behind them, and they go to gather around it.
FRY!MASTER: (picking up the tea pot) You know, if worse comes to worst, you can always come stay with me here. It seems very accommodating, and those sandwiches look excellent.
RIVER: Well, let’s hope it won’t come to that, shall we?
FRY!MASTER: Would you like some tea, Doctor?
FRY!MASTER: (cutting him off) Better not. I suspect it might be evil tea. My dear? (hands the cup to River)
DOCTOR: (watches, slightly helpless) What does evil taste like?
RIVER: (sips, considers) Earl Grey. (The Doctor looks longingly at her cup.) Oh, don’t be so sad, honey. Here, have a crumpet--I’m sure they’re safe. (turning back to the Master) Now, you must tell me all about this paradox machine you built once. I’m utterly fascinated, and he won’t tell me a thing about how it worked.
FRY!MASTER: You’re too kind by half. Yes, I was extremely proud of that one . . . .