The weather was perfect. The Doctor could feel the warmth of the afternoon sun beating down on his face. A slight breeze ruffled his hair. Birds were chirping in the distance. It was a lazy summer day, a peaceful kind of day for enjoying wonderful scenery, reading a book or just relaxing. Everything was perfect. He didn’t even need to open his eyes to know that the view was breathtaking. It always was and he knew if he looked it would just bring tears to his eyes.
Heaven’s Sky, the planet was called. It was known for its spectacular views of the sky meeting the ocean and its phenomenal sunsets and sunrises that lit the sky up like fire burning on oil. In all of the Doctor’s travels he had never been here before. He always longed to take his companions to see what he considered to be one of the most beautiful planets in the universe. Now that he was here he couldn’t even bring himself to open his eyes and look at the idyllic scenery. This was the last place he wanted to be.
The Doctor was sitting slouched over at a table. His eyes were closed and his head was resting on his arms. He was so tired lately, utterly exhausted. The warmth of the sun, the breeze, and the pleasant chirping of the birds was so relaxing he could feel himself beginning to doze off.
The clinking and clanging of dishes lightly banging together caught his attention. He opened his eyes and sat up, stretching the stiffness out of his back muscles from being hunched over for so long.
The smell was wonderful. The food looked delicious. The small round table he was sitting at was overloaded with a dozen decadent desserts and rich pastries served on the finest bone china. There were cakes, crepes and pies covered in whipped cream and coconut, cream puffs and éclairs that were smothered in dark chocolate. There was red velvet cake covered in cream cheese frosting and half a dozen different freshly baked cookies. The smell was mouth-watering. It was a feast for the eyes as much as it was for the stomach. There was so much food he was sure the table was going to buckle under the weight. Every square inch of its table clothed surface was crammed full of dishes.
“It looks delicious, doesn’t it?”
A voice caught the Doctor’s attention. He tore his eyes away from the food and glanced up to see the Master sitting across the table from him in his best suit placing a white silk napkin on his lap.
“It all looks so good I don’t even know where to start,” the Master said excitedly as he eyed the food in front of him.
The lavish balcony door opened and a young girl with startlingly blue eyes and green hair in a black uniform came in carrying a large pot of tea. She nervously moved a couple of dishes out of the way to make room for the teapot, setting it down in the center of the table. She gave a nervous, sweet smile to the two of them before leaving without saying a word.
“Believe it or not, they even have your favourite tea, Doctor. I requested it just for you. It’s surprising they’d have it on this side of the galaxy but I guess miracles do happen. And the weather is gorgeous! Much better than the last time we had tea. Remember the rain?”
Remember the rain? How could he forget?
The Master leaned over and reached across the small table to pour the Doctor a cup of tea. He added a splash of milk from the jug and a couple cubes of sugar, making it just how the other Time Lord liked it.
The Doctor watched the Master stir his tea with a spoon, seeing the steaming hot liquid swirl in the cup, before the Master pulled the gold plated spoon out and used it to stir his own tea. The Doctor stared at the dark contents of his cup in silence until it stopped swirling and became still enough to see the tired reflection of his expressive brown eyes staring back at him.
“Oh come on, Doctor! Relax! Enjoy the view!” the Master exclaimed as he took a sip of tea. “It’s breathtaking!”
“I’ve seen it,” he mumbled softly, defeat weighing heavily in his voice.
“You haven’t even looked yet!” the Master said exasperatedly. “It’s just as beautiful as they say it is, even more so in person.”
The Doctor closed his eyes and tried to quell the growing sorrow that was creeping into his hearts. It would absolutely break his hearts to look. Seeing that young girl coming in to bring the tea reminded him so much of his daughter. They had the same eyes, like blue sapphires. It was all too much.
“At least drink your tea before it gets cold. We have all afternoon to enjoy the view.”
A heavy sigh escaped his lips. He opened his eyes, feeling the Master watching and studying his every move, as he took a hold of the fragile china mug with shaking hands. The heavy chains around his wrists rattled with every tiny movement he made. Instead of feeling embarrassed by wearing them in public it long since bothered him. He didn’t even care anymore. It was getting harder and harder to care about anything. He’d worn them for so long, the tight metal biting into his delicate flesh, restricting his movements that he hadn’t even noticed. He could barely feel the sting of the pain they caused anymore. It was overshadowed by the agony and anguish of sorrow and defeat that weighed down his hearts. It was too much to bear.
The chains jangled noisily like chimes as he brought the cup to his lips, trying hard to keep the constant tremor of his hands from being noticed by the Master. He took a sip of the steaming hot tea, welcoming the heat as it scalded and burned his dry throat. It tasted perfect. The Master, as always, made it just how he liked it. The other Time Lord always knew what he liked… and what he didn’t. They were perfect that way.
“Look at the contrast of the water and the sky,” the Master remarked, absentmindedly tapping away a rhythm of four with his index finger against the side of his cup. The drums plagued him worse now than ever. “I’ve never seen anything like this. You won’t find this anywhere else, Doctor. You know as well as I do that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Another gust of the breeze ruffled the Doctor’s brown hair, bringing with it the aromatic perfume of alien pink and red flowers that lined the railing of the balcony they were on, adding to the beauty of the moment.
The Doctor stared at the flowers for a long second before looking past the two guards vigilantly standing near them to see the breathtaking scenery beyond. It was just as beautiful as the Master said, even more so. The blue water was sparkling and shimmering with the rays of the purple sun. The point where the horizon touched the water gave the illusion that the ocean was endless, stretching into the sky and reaching for the heavens.
The movement of the wind and the tide made the water look as though it was alive. It had a soul. The entire planet had a soul. It was something so indescribable it could only have been created by the hand of God. Light wisps of clouds streaked across the sky like strokes of paint. The sparkling water glittered like diamonds. It was perfect. Everything was perfect. The view brought tears to his eyes that he couldn’t shake. It truly was heaven’s sky.
“It- it’s beautiful,” the Doctor whispered softly, trying to blink back tears that were blurring his vision and stop them from falling. The Master was right, only once in a lifetime would he see a view like this.
The constant tremor escalated. His hands shook and he spilled boiling hot tea all over them. The burning sensation was strong enough to rouse him from his feelings of dreamlike serenity and tear his gaze away from the view, breaking the moment and sending him cruelly crashing back to reality. He gasped and dropped the cup on the saucer with a clink of china.
Stretching his chained wrists and feeling the metal cut painfully into them, he awkwardly reached for another silk napkin that was in front of him and wiped the hot dripping tea from his hands. They stung and burned. He tried to block out the pain as he carefully checked the tablecloth to make sure he hadn’t stained it. Thankfully it had only been a few drops, which he quickly mopped up with shaking hands, feeling rattled. All the while he could still feel the Master’s eyes on him, his gaze never leaving him for a second, just like the two guards standing near the railing.
“Alright, Doctor?” the Master called from across the table.
“I’m fine,” he replied stiffly, trying not to show the pain he was feeling. He picked up his tea cup; most of the tea had stayed in the cup, and took a long sip, staring hard at the saucer as he purposely tried to avoid the Master’s eyes. A few seconds later, when he could no longer postpone the moment, or the inevitable, he placed the half drank cup back on the saucer and watched the Master pile dessert onto his plate.
“I’ve heard the éclairs are supposed to be good. I ordered lots. There’s two of everything, help yourself,” the Master offered.
“I’m not hungry.”
For a fraction of a second the Master gave him a dark, knowing smile before biting into one of the freshly baked éclairs. It was messy good. Chocolate was dripping down his fingers and whipped cream was oozing out of the other end, making a deliciously sticky mess.
“What number is this?” he casually asked the Doctor, licking at the chocolate running down his fingers. “I can never remember.”
“151,” the Master repeated meaningfully, the happiness in his voice unable to hide the dark undertones of his motive. “And many more to come.” He glanced over at the spectacular view before eating swallowing the last mouthful of his éclair. “You know, it’s a shame we came in the afternoon and missed the sunrise. I’ve heard they’re supposed to be fantastic.” He caught the profoundly depressed look on the other Time Lord’s face and sighed. “Oh cheer up! Maybe we’ll stay longer and watch the sunset before we leave. It should be better than that other planet we were on, the one with the 17 moons, what was it called again?”
“Serenity,” the Doctor replied, shifting uncomfortably in his chair as he tried to ignore the guards’ constant watching of him, always staring, never leaving him alone, and making him feel confined, agitated, restless and claustrophobic in every open space a true reminder of his unending and constant imprisonment.
“What number was that one?”
“134.” He briefly closed his eyes as he remembered. He never ever forgot even though he desperately wanted to.
“134. That’s right.” The Master nodded to himself as he remembered before cutting himself an enormous piece of chocolate cake with an extremely dull butter knife. The heavy significance of missing knives wasn’t lost on either of the Time Lords. “Are you sure you don’t want any?”
The Doctor shook his head, feeling slightly sick to his stomach at the thought of food at a time like this.
The Master chuckled softly. “You really should eat something, Doctor. You’re getting skinner by the day.”
It was true. The longer he was forced to stay with the insane Time Lord, the more it wore on his body and mind. The longer this went on, the harder it was getting for him to cope with the madness of his reality. Several times, in the early days, he’d made a dozen different attempts at escaping. They all ended dismally. One time, on an afternoon strikingly similar to one such as this, he’d gone so far as to grab a steak knife and threaten to kill the Master with it. All the other Time Lord did was laugh at him and the guards quickly restrained him.
Other times, he tried to run for the door or climb down the balcony and escape but he never quite managed to succeed. Deep down, when he held the knife to the Master’s throat the first and second times, pushed to the edge of sanity as his warped world was and turned upside down, mere moments from killing the insane Time Lord and ending the hell he was currently living in, he couldn’t. He couldn’t kill him. They both knew it. The idea, even given the bizarre surrealism his life had now become, was absolutely absurd. They both needed each other. The planet could be engulfed in flames, burning around them in fire and chaos, and they’d still be having tea together enjoying the view.
Now the Doctor knew better than to run. It was pointless. He’d given up trying long ago. He lost track how long ago, but he never forgot the number of planets they visited or the people they met. They were permanently seared into his memory, each one just as painful as the chains that cut into his wrists.
The Master loved to brag and gloat. Knowing it was impossible for the Doctor to escape or kill him the cuffs were completely unnecessary. They were just for show, symbolic of his imprisonment. The insane Time Lord had a thing for jewelry and he loved seeing the Doctor helpless and restrained.
“I told you, I’m not hungry.”
The Master shrugged. “Fine, have it your way.”
The Doctor breathed in the scent of the strange looking alien flowers lining their quaint balcony, trying hard not to look at the view, not to think about what was next, what always came next when it was time to leave.
“So Doctor, any idea where we should go next?” the Master asked, almost as if he read his mind.
“Nowhere,” he replied heavily through gritted teeth, unable to hide his hatred or his disgust. His hands were trembling even worse than before. This time the Master noticed him squirm and gave him a cold smile of delight.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. There’s plenty of daylight left and a few hours to think about it before we go. This really is a beautiful place. It’s a shame we won’t be able to come back.”
The Doctor had thought of begging. He’d done it before in the beginning but now it was pointless. He’d be wasting his breath. The harder he tried to stop the Master the worse the consequences were. Every day it was the same. Another day, another planet. 151 planets later and the Master still hadn’t tired of this morbid game, this death and destruction and the sick pleasure he gained from seeing another part of the Doctor’s soul die a little more inside as each planet they visited was met with destruction that he was powerless to stop.
The Doctor tried to calm his frayed nerves by taking another sip of tea. The chains rattled so loudly and his hands shook so badly he could barely get them to cooperate. Instead, giving up halfway, he set the cup back on the saucer and closed his eyes, concentrating on the sounds and smells around him. Sometimes if he tried hard enough he could pretend that it was just another lazy summer day full of happiness and promise. Sometimes if he tried hard enough he could forget, for a few precious, fleeting moments that he was alive, living through this insane nightmare his world had become where the Master had everything and he had nothing to look forward to except watching another planet burn and die.
He could feel tears welling up in his eyes. Soon he knew he wouldn’t feel anything at all anymore. Each planet that was destroyed numbed him to the despair that gripped his hearts. 151 planets down and the rest of the universe waiting to burn… How would he feel at the end, when the rest of the universe was burnt to ash and the two Time Lords remained, still playing this insane game? How would he feel after everything beautiful in the universe was destroyed, burning like Gallifrey before his eyes and warping his mind into insanity that was just as consuming as the Master’s? The thought was too horrifying to consider.
The Doctor became lost in the warmth of the sun on his face and the sensation of cool air on his skin as a breeze softly blew the fragrant smell of flowers his way. He savoured the sound of the birds chirping, trying incredibly hard to lose himself in this nearly perfect moment, this moment of peace where time, for a short while, seemed to stand still.
“Yes?” he answered, desperately trying to hang onto the moment so he wouldn’t forget that sometimes there can be solace in a world of chaos and beautiful destruction. As he opened his eyes he felt the feeling quickly begin to fade away, replaced by the ever constant fear and dread that consumed him. Their eyes locked. He pleaded silently, secretly hoping that the insanity would stop, the drums would stop and he’d have his old friend back.
“I need you to do something for me,” the Master said longingly, a rare flash of sanity conveying in his expression amidst the constant war against the drums and his insanity.
“What is it?” he asked, letting a hint of hope enter his tired voice, wishing it was the end. Instead his hopes were dashed, his unending nightmare lived on as the Master, noticing and not caring how he felt, eyed another dessert across the table that was just out of reach.
“Can you pass me a cookie?”