"It's gone! I destroyed it!" That haunted her almost as much as his final taunt: "Everything you know is a lie."
It hadn't been that long ago, really. A few thousand years since she'd brought back Gallifrey. Alright, so perhaps it was a fair while ago. She had been so happy that her home had finally been returned to its rightful place. And she remembered before that. Remembered the pain of being the only remaining member of her species. The last of the Time Lords.
She'd had to be sure. While the Fam was distracted with other things, she took the TARDIS on a quick trip. Or at least, it was supposed to be a quick trip. She had had to see it for herself. She'd had to be certain.
The tears had soaked the sleeve of her coat. She'd been trying to use it to keep them off her face, not that that had worked. She still had tear tracks down her cheeks. Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy. She had no idea how long she'd been sitting here with her back pressed to the sturdy, old, wooden doors.
They hadn't always been. Wood, that is. The doors. Once, a long time ago, they'd been all but featureless. She could still remember the TARDIS as she'd been when she first stole her. A blank slate. So, so different to what she was now. The Doctor supposed they had that in common.
He really had done it. Destroyed Gallifrey. Their home. And even if it had been horrible, seeing the Citadell reduced to smoldering ruins, devoid of any life…
They are very different things, choosing not to go home and knowing that home is gone and you can never return. That choice is everything. And home often feels like nothing more than a cage until you lose it.
It was as she sat there, trying to get her head around it, that she felt a familiar niggling in the back of her mind. Something dark and cold, and yet familiar and comforting. She took it for what it was, getting to her feet and moving to the controls. He had found her, it seemed.
All at once, like letting out a breath she'd been holding for lifetimes, she let him in. There wasn't anything terribly clear at first, just a lot of emotions. But that had always been more her speed. She was a terrible telepath, but she'd always been a decent empath. Some regenerations more so than others. It didn't take long, though, for the words to come.
"I see you finally came home."
"Where are you?" she replied, unable to keep the rage and grief out of her thoughts. "What have you done?"
"Can't you guess? Why Doctor, I'm hurt. You don't remember all those summers we spent together?"
She was back out the doors and running almost before she could think. In the back of her mind, she could hear the Master laughing at her. She paid it no mind, instead putting all of her focus into running as fast as her legs would allow, her long, almost galloping strides putting distance between her and her TARDIS much more quickly than she could have moved with a human in tow.
When she got to the fields, she almost didn't recognize them. Scorched earth. There was no other way to put it. What had once been a beautiful field of red grass and wildflowers, part of a sprawling estate that was in turn part of the larger lands belonging to House Oakdown, was now nothing more than a desolate, blackened wasteland. It almost looked as though someone had set off a bomb here. And given the figure she could see striding towards her through the haze that hung over the haunting landscape, a bomb really wasn't out of the question.
"Well, look who finally decided to come home!" the Master called across the emptiness. "Do you remember it now, Doctor? All those summers, all those nights? Just you and I, running through the fields or laying side by side the grass, looking up at the stars?"
She backed up a step, immediately on the defensive when the expression on the Master's face came into view. Keeping her eyes sharp and her voice level, she replied, "Your home, not mine."
"Oh, this may be my father's estate," he said, the smile hiding something nasty - something rotting and poisonous - beneath it. "But it was never home. Not after you left. Not after you abandoned me. Nowhere was home after that."
"I didn't mean for you to get hurt," she told him warily.
The Master let out a wheezy, disbelieving laugh. "You didn't… I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU MEANT! Look, Doctor! Look around you! Hm? Was this what you meant? Was this what any of us meant? Maybe this is what we meant!"
The Doctor flinched at the shouting, but stood her ground. "Kos-"
"DON'T!" he snapped. "Don't you dare call me that. That child that name belonged to DIED a long time ago."
He paused and took a breath. As he let it out, the smile he'd been wearing before oozed its way back across his face, more a baring of teeth than any kind of expression of joy, although there was a twisted sort of mirth to the expression. "So, Doctor, have you figured it out?"
"Have I figured what out?" she asked warily.
The Master's smile widened. "The lie at the beginning of everything, of course."