The Reaper was incredibly tired. Of travelling aimlessly, of chasing a ghost and never landing anywhere in time. Years of his own timeline had passed, he wasn't even completely sure how many, and he couldn't get any closer. The coordinates always were too distorted.
It was no use to continue like that. He had to find a way to fine tune the signal from the psychic link. Somehow. As if he hadn't thought about it over and over again without any result.
With a sigh he closed his eyes and leaned against the humming console. His thoughts wandered back. Back to his most recent years on Gallifrey, no, further even.
There had been a young woman. A human and a companion of the Doctor, his favourite enemy. She had tried to free the Doctor when he had managed to capture him once. But somehow, instead, she had ended up travelling with the Reaper for a while. They had been... close? Something like that. He really wasn't too eager to think about it.
But back then there also had been the drums in his head. And there was Rassilon, most accursed of all Time Lords, who had been responsible for this torment. The Reaper had gotten his revenge. But in exchange he had been stuck on Gallifrey after the Doctor had sealed it away.
Of course he had been able to flee. He always got away somehow. And he had spent some quality years just being... him. Although sowing destruction and madness over the universe didn't feel as satisfying anymore, without the drums to drive him. And alone.
But one day... he had met this human woman again. Somehow she had simply materialized inside his TARDIS. But something...
...Something was wrong, he realized as he stepped closer to the figure. It was her, no doubt. But it was as if he couldn't see her clearly. And then he remembered the glitch, and that the Doctor's TARDIS had frozen her time stream to prevent her atoms from dissolving.
She heard or maybe just sensed his presence and turned around, no, flickered like a candle flame, like a loose collection of particles, waving in all directions. She had short, blond hair, looked a bit boyish and her bright green eyes fixated on the Reaper.
"I know you," she whispered.
"I'd be damn pissed, if you'd simply forgotten me," he mocked and tilted his head. "Freezing you didn't quite do the trick, eh?"
"Freezing... mhm..." She reached out a hand as if to touch his chest, but her atoms spread around him, like water flowing around a rock, and she took it back. "Who are you?" the woman asked and looked up to him. "I don't remember."
Those words sent a nasty sting through his hearts. Sure, he hadn't been bothered to look for her after Gallifrey... but that...
"You... don't remember? And still you materialized inside my TARDIS?"
Puzzled she looked around, as if she would realize only now where she was.
"How old are you now?" the Reaper asked with a raised eyebrow. "Must have taken quite a while to get that bad."
"I..." She hesitated and thought for a while. "I don't know. There are memories. So many of them." Slowly her hands reached for her head, but she couldn't even touch herself anymore, and for a moment she stared at her fingers. "A thousand years. More. Probably. Maybe a lot more. I don't know." Then she looked back up and asked again, "Who are you? It feels like you were important."
Again it stung. Why? After all these years... He stepped closer and tried to cup her face, but his hands went right through her and he retreated, swallowing a mean lump in his throat. "I don't know anymore," he admitted finally. "Without the drums... I'm... no one."
The woman started to flicker some more, as if she could barely hold herself together any longer, and she pinched her eyes together as if in pain. "I'm fading again," she muttered. "Am I dead?"
The Reaper shook his head and swallowed again. "No. I'm... not sure you can even die anymore. Not in that state. I can't... I can't even release you from that."
"But you have to. I... there is... it was important." She shook her head. "The eye of the storm. You have to be there. To... remember. To close the loop."
Something clicked painfully in his mind. Of course. It made sense. Her life was a paradox. Taking it would make him remember. A memory strong enough to ripple into his past and enable the whole ordeal in the first place.
"That's cruel," he spat out and looked away while folding his arms in front of his chest. "Not even I would construct a loop like that."
Then again, if he would refuse, his whole timeline up to this point would change. They would never meet and none of the things from back then would have happened.
"Whatever. It's so long ago," he grumbled and kicked against his console. "What do I care? You're just some random human. Why would it bother me to kill you?"
With a sinister scowl he glared at the phantom, but it seemed as if she couldn't comprehend his words. Instead her matter waved and flickered violently, before standing almost still for a vague moment.
"Not enough energy..." She looked around some more. "I'll just stay here for a while."
And then she was gone. Just like that. And from then on he hadn't seen any sign of her ever again. There were only those rare occasions, where he could feel the energy around him shifting unnaturally, had hoped she would still be there. Somehow. So he wouldn't have to take on this journey all alone. To find a younger version of her that was still able to die properly.
He snapped up from his reverie and looked around, surprised to hear this name. No one, not even he himself, had used it for years. Hearing it now felt weird and... wrong.
There it was again.
"Where are you?" he asked into the air, while turning.
Somewhere the air flickered, slowly getting darker, and after a while a silhouette formed, became a young human woman, that smiled widely. He stared at her, unsure if he was hallucinating. Relieve flooded his mind a moment later.
All this time... he hadn't been alone.
"Tzzzz, had some fun letting me think I'm going crazy again?" he sneered and pursed his lips.
"How long was I gone?" the woman asked and looked around, seemingly much more aware of her surrounding than the last time. "I was inside your systems for a bit. It... I don't even know how I did it. Probably got lost in there for a while."
"Yeah... a while." He snorted. "Wait... did you pull me into your childhood some days ago?"
"Uh... did I?" She tried to rub her neck, but then remembered that she wasn't solid anymore and scowled at her hand for a moment. "I tried to stabilize the signal from the link. I think I managed now. There is one point that is... I don't know if it will work, but... but..." Her matter started to flicker again and her eyes became empty.
"Well... let's try that then, shall we?"
With a look to his controls he found a new set of coordinates there and got his TARDIS moving. Without turning around he grabbed his coat and stepped outside, finding himself on a beach in the middle of the night. Nearby he found a small fire lazily shrinking down to embers. And in front of it...
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then muttered, "There you are."
--- oOoOoOo ---
Back inside he got the TARDIS to some new coordinates. "If I'm forced to do this... And I'm honest here, I hate it... then at least I'll do it someplace that is worthy of an ending. And you! You will stop suffering like that. I forbid it!"
He pointed a finger at the ghost that was still standing around and she looked into his face, her eyes confused and somewhere else entirely.
"Who are you?" she asked, her voice weak and tired.
"Tch, seriously. That's getting annoying." He stepped towards the woman and poked into her swirling matter. "Once and for all, and this time you better remember!"
He stemmed his fists into his sides and grinned from ear to ear.
"I am the Master! And I will get my possession back now."
With that he left, not letting himself take a last look at his ghost.
It was time to prevent this from ever happening.
--- The End ---
Hey there! I hope you all enjoyed this little random adventure. In case you are confused as to what exactly happened... this was a side story to my other fic The Master's Game. So if you want to learn more, head over and read that. ;D
Thanks for reading and reviewing!