I couldn't sleep. Of course I couldn't. Too much was running through my head, too many unanswered questions, too many fears.
So I did what I always ended up doing, grabbing a hoodie and stepping outside to be greeted by a knowing hum of the TARDIS. I only huffed and smiled at the playful nudge, as if she wanted to tease me for my behaviour. The golden path appeared slowly in front of my feet and guided me through a set of unfamiliar corridors. They seemed to be made of bright wooden panels instead of the usual metal. Not the most unusual material I had ever seen in here, but definitely new and sparking curiosity in me.
The door I ended up in front of was made of dark wood, adorned with an elegantly designed petal knob. My hand already rose to knock when I made out the faint sounds of music. A piano, for sure, its tone hauntingly sad, dripping from the keys like raindrops and memories. I hesitated for a bit, then decided to simply slip in as quietly as possible.
The room was big enough to give the instrument a nice acoustic, but not huge or pompous. More like a large living room. There were shelves with books and a big old leather sofa with a small dark table in front of it. The floor was carpeted, silencing my steps as I walked closer to the middle of the room where the piano stood proud and black and with its wing opened. Candles on its case were the only source of light in the room, their faint glow keeping the corners in a hazy darkness while illuminating the middle just enough to reveal the notes on the papers.
Not that they were used, I supposed. The Master sat on the piano stool, wearing his usual attire of black and red, his posture oddly relaxed and his fingers flying over the keys in a way that was only possible through years and probably even centuries of experience. I sneaked closer, carefully sitting on the sofa and, since I didn't wear shoes anyway, drawing my knees up under my chin, simply listening, watching.
The melodies were entirely foreign to me, probably not even stemming from earth. And why would they? Each key was played with care, each note telling a story of their own, letting images spark in my mind, incoherent collections of colours and impressions, the smells of long forgotten memories.
So enchanted was I that it took me several seconds to realise that the music had stopped, its echoes still reverberating through the room. I looked up and met the Master's gaze, unreadable in the dim candle light.
"Didn't know you can play so well," I mumbled with a smile. "Sorry, didn't want to bother you."
"That's a lie," he answered, arching an eyebrow. "The TARDIS wouldn't have brought you here, otherwise." For once he didn't sound pissed about the fact, more amused.
I shrugged, drawing my knees a bit higher. "Just can't sleep. And it's nice to listen. Makes me almost want to learn it, too."
"What's keeping you?" He stroked a finger over some keys, without pressing them down.
"Mhm… no sense for rhythm. I tried it once, but..." I shrugged again. "Guess I just have no talent for it."
The Master laughed and glanced back, then slid to the end of the stool and waved me over. "It's only a matter of practice."
Hesitantly I unfurled, slipped from the sofa and walked over the soft carpet to the piano. The light of the candles gave the whole room such a cosy atmosphere that the thought of not sitting alone was rather tempting. The stool was long enough to fit us both and wide enough to sit comfortably.
"Take your right hand," the Master instructed and pointed at three different keys, "and place one finger on each." He did the same a bit further down and started to play a simple melody. Once, twice, then he looked at me, nodding at my hand.
I tried repeating the few notes and after he showed me the pattern a few more times I could actually play it decently enough.
"Not as bad as I'd expected," he mocked. "Keep playing."
"It's not so hard, this one," I mumbled, repeating the few notes until I had found a rhythm.
"No. But it's an important part, so don't stop." He grinned at me and my raised eyebrows, then put his hands on the keys.
The Master played a single note, repeating it a few times as if to attune to my (probably wrong) rhythm. Then he added a second note and a third, very slowly building a melody. It was a simple one, somewhat melancholic, like the song from an old music box. But after a while it got more complex, a bit faster. I had to focus to not lose myself in his play and to keep my part straight, even when the music got more complex. The melody let goosebumps appear on my arms, made my heart increase in speed. It was a melody full of wonder, wearing the sound of falling stars and autumn wind. His fingers flew over the keys, eliciting magic wherever they landed, weaving together both our parts to something utterly fascinating and beautiful.
Then he got slower, let the melody fade away until my part was the only thing remaining. I repeated it one last time, keeping the last note a little longer than the others, letting it hover in the air as the last reminder of the play.
"Decent enough, I'd say," the Master commented. "I would have expected you to fail spectacularly."
I snorted and poked my tongue out at him. A smile found its way to my lips. "That was… nice. Thank you."
"Thanks for what?" He let out a laugh.
I kept my eyes on the piano, struggling for words. "For… this. I mean… it really was beautiful. That's a nice thing to keep as a memory. Just a small thing, you know. A good thing."
He huffed. "You're being weird again, lil' lumin. Why are you even here?"
"Yeah, you said that already. But that's not the reason, is it?"
I shrugged, sinking together somewhat and talking to my folded hands in my lap. "Maybe… I thought… maybe we could… continue with the practice. The… telepathic stuff. I know I'm pretty useless and slow and I'll probably die of old age before I can manage, but…" I glared at my hands, anxiously waiting for a response.
The Master let out a huff and chuckled to himself. "And there I thought I'd be the last person you would want to see too soon. Shouldn't you be disgusted and whatnot? Bathing in your precious morality?"
Shyly I peeked over at him, seeing him eyeing me with as much disgust as with curiosity. Or was it something else? It was hard to tell. I didn't know anymore what to expect, what to feel or to even think. After the piano play I had almost hoped his outburst from the console room would just be another of his tempers, or maybe the drums bothering him again. But maybe he had only done it so it would hurt a lot more when he kicked me out now.
"I don't care about that," was all I mumbled, in the end.
"Didn't seem like it."
Now I looked up, watching him watching me. He was waiting for a chance to strike, for an opportunity to be right and to let me know it. Right now I could pretend to not care about the lost lives, about his actions and how he treated me. But if I was going to be discarded, I could as well tell the truth.
"I certainly won't approve of it," I grumbled. "And I really don't get why you did that and what the motive behind it was. Except for simply being an arse. But… I don't know those people. They are just… numbers."
"Well, you are twisted," mocked the Master.
"And also…" I added, almost whispering from the weight of the mere thought, "It's my fault. Hadn't I shown that advertisement to the Doctor he would have never investigated."
Silence hung in the room for what felt like a small eternity. It only got broken when the Master started to quietly laugh.
"How can you be so torn, little one?" he asked, practically radiating mirth. "The outcome doesn't really bother you. All that does is the thought that you might be responsible for it."
Was he right? It certainly felt like it. I wasn't able to comprehend such a number. It was too big, too far away. Maybe that was the reason…
A bitter smile whizzed over my face. "Guess that's why I'd go and burn some planets with you," I mumbled." I can't get the size of it into my head. Nothing to do with morality, I guess."
He laughed even louder for a moment and shook his head. "You're hilarious. Really. It would be so easy to completely corrupt you."
I tensed, shrinking under his gaze. The Master stopped giggling and his burning stare landed on my face. "Sometimes I forget that there is more in you than shows on the surface," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe I should start remembering it from time to time."
I wrinkled my nose, not sure if I liked whatever he might mean with that. Nothing good came to mind.
The Master sighed and I glanced over at him. He was looking up, contemplating, but there was also an air of resignation around him.
"You're too scared," he eventually said, meeting my eyes. "You can't connect with another mind when it frightens you."
I lowered my gaze, a heavy lump in my chest.
"How could I not be?" I mumbled. "I don't know how to be with people. I've never been close to anyone, not really. Not in a way that meant anything."
I glared at my folded hands and let out a weary sigh. Sure, I had relationships in the past, here and there I had friends and family. But none of those people had ever felt safe enough to let them come actually close. And none of them had ever even tried. For all of those people I had been nothing but a means to an end, meant to be and to do what they expected, without giving much back. Never before had I truly connected with anyone.
"I… shouldn't have come," I mumbled, realising this wasn't going anywhere. He was right, after all. "It's probably better I leave."
There was no answer, so I slid from the stool. But then my wrist got grabbed and the Master tugged me back, made me turn around. He raised the other hand to cup the side of my face and quickly dipped his head, pressed his lips to mine before I could react. My hands shot up, wanting to push him away in shere instinctive reflex, but then I let them sink again and he retreated already from me, chuckling at my confused expression.
"Wh… wha-" I stuttered. This was definitely not what I had expected. "Why did… wha- what was that for?"
The Master still lingered close, still gently holding my face. There was mischief glinting in his eyes and something I couldn't name.
"Just felt like it," he said, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards. "Don't pretend you wouldn't like it."
"Uh… no. I mean yes. I mean… Can we just… not?" He was so close to me, sparking the inappropriate urge to just lean in myself and… "This is so confusing," I mumbled, unable to look away.
"Because you try to force meaning to it, lil' lumin." He leaned closer, brushing his lips against mine for a moment, without actually touching, eyes burning with the flames of the candles around us. "Only important question is, what do you want?"
Always a choice, never a force, even though he probably could. And gods did I want this, no matter if I understood why.
I swallowed, shoving all thoughts aside and leaned forward slightly, hesitantly, and closed my eyes when our lips found together once more. This time it wasn't just a brief brush and I responded to his slow movements, deepening the shallow touch to a proper kiss. And that definitely did something to my guts, to the speed of my heart. He caught my bottom lip between his teeth, making my breath hitch. And then there was a brush of his mind against mine, a curious poke, a request to be let in.
I leaned in some more, grabbing his shirt slightly. His hand was on my back, gently pushing me closer and clawing into the fabric of my hoodie when I signalled him to initiate contact. Why stop when I was going that far already? It didn't matter whether or not I understood it, I only did whatever felt right in that moment and I definitely wanted that contact. All of it. I sighed out a shaky breath when our minds poured into each other, momentarily overwhelmed by the strangeness of another presence so intermingled with my own. It wasn't a rush, not a tumbling and falling like it had been the last time. The kiss intensified the connection, but the Master kept it at a controlled level, never allowing it to go too deep.
It still was almost too much to bear. My whole body was tingling and it only got worse when I felt his tongue on my lips, a nudge of his mind enough to make me gasp a breath and he boldly slipped between my teeth. I felt his mirth and couldn't help but smile and at the same time stroking my own tongue along his, not a fight, only exploring. There was curiosity on both ends, a deep sitting satisfaction at our minds being so intertwined and an ever growing urge to be close. Just close with no direction. Simply the potential of it.
I felt his hands wandering down my sides, almost hesitantly drawing me against him. He sent an image into my mind, making clear that he wanted me nearer than just standing there. One hand wandered to my thigh, giving it a tug in his direction. And I simply reacted, obeying to the growing demand for closeness that originated from us both. I shifted, broke away from the kiss just far enough to let him draw me against him, making me climb up and straddle his lap, glad that the stool was wide enough.
"What're you..." I mumbled, unsure if this was even appropriate. We had sat like this a few times already, but for him it had been only a matter of practicality, back then. Hadn't it?
"Dunno?" he muttered, sounding honestly unsure. His forehead dropped against mine, thumbs stroking over the cloth of my hoodie. "Didn't expect you to go along." The connection lessened a little, but was still squirming in ourselves like adrenaline. "Just seeing where this goes."
Immediately our lips found back together, but I caught a quick glimpse at how wide his pupils were, at the hunger in his dark gaze that matched my own. I wasn't thinking about it any longer, was caught in the tight grip of the moment.
His mind dug deeper into mine, letting us nearly forget the almost illusive line where one began and the other ended, but his control was strong enough to keep us there, to not allow us to get lost without return. We swam in that warm glow for what might have been minutes or maybe just mere seconds. Something was different than the last time, more urgent, more demanding, scraping at parts of me that made my skin glow and my breath heavy.
Despite all the control, I felt how we slowly slipped deeper, how neither of us could stop the kiss from getting fiercer than had been planned. The squeeze of his fingers made me squirm a little and he hissed at the movement, making me freeze in surprise and getting light-headed when I felt something press against the thin cloth of my sweatpants. My heart leapt to my throat, beating there wildy at the unexpected sensation. His lips pressed harder against mine, as if to distract me, but I couldn't help it, too far gone, maybe too curious, maybe something more than that. I slightly moved my hips forward and against the bulge under me. The Master sucked in a sharp breath and for a moment our connection tumbled even deeper before he could get a hold of it again and drew us both back to shallow water.
A surge of heat shot through my whole body, pooled into my belly and lower. There was no way I would have ever expected him to react like that to me. He could control it. All of it. At least when being conscious enough. Maybe not when all of his focus was on keeping our minds separated.
There was something like an indignant growl, maybe in our heads, maybe deep in his throat. I slightly rocked forward again, experimentally, a little uncertain, then bolder when he didn't do anything to stop me. His fingers dug even deeper into my skin and his breath stuttered together with mine each time I rubbed over him.
His mind within mine was unsteady, almost torn between continuing this and just throwing me down. Beneath my hands his chest rose and fell heavily, his hearts beating faster than ever before. I could feel how he wanted to keep control over the situation and simultaneously give in to just letting go for once and I was already expecting him to cut the connection. But then his hands slipped under my hoodie, landed on skin and drew me closer so I could move in a way that was just perfect for both of us. He swallowed a groan of mine and barely suppressed one of his own, but then let it out anyway.
I didn't think any longer, couldn't, wasn't even entirely sure where the border between us was anymore. Our intermingled minds didn't allow for it, made me feel everything ten times more intensive and almost hyper aware. I rocked harder against him, feeling a familiar coil building and also knew he wouldn't last long either. His hands encouraged every movement, his breath getting shallow and quicker at the same time. We broke the kiss and the pressure in my abdomen grew, suddenly tipping me over the edge in a final move. The world went black for a second and I buried my face in his neck, still slightly moving to draw out the moment and to feel him snap as well, fingers digging into me, a deep growl rumbling through his chest. I felt him pulsate against my damp underwear, felt his pleasure spark through my own mind and sucked in a breath, losing the world and every sense of time for a confusingly intermingled eternity.
Still panting and still cooling down I felt a light caress in my mind, a soft stroking of thumbs along my sides, together with the deep breaths that made his chest rise and fall noticeably.
Not what I had been planning, came a muttered thought. And I knew he was telling the truth. Damn you.
I huffed out a laugh against his neck. Not what I had been expecting, I thought in return.
Our minds had loosened their grip on another, still tightly intermingled, but allowing for keeping us apart with ease. I sat straight again, a little awkward, now that the heat had vanished.
"I should kill you now," came his utterance, lacking every seriousness.
And suddenly he shifted, had me in his arms from one moment to the next, completely ignoring my surprised yelp. He ungracefully dropped on the sofa, glaring down at me as I lay there, not moving and too confused from the sudden Action to do or say anything.
Only when he sat down and gestured for me to move a little, did I react again. He lay down next to me, on his back, one hand under his head and facing the ceiling.
"Don't tell me you want to continue," I teased.
"Not going to happen," grumbled the Master and tossed me a dark glare. "That was as far as it gets."
I snickered and lay to my side to face him. "And why did you drop me here?"
"Need to think."
"And that… requires me to be next to you?"
He rolled his eyes.
"Don't want to pick some clean clothes either?" I wondered. Maybe just to annoy him.
He blinked at me, seemingly confused for a moment, but then he let out a huff. "Please. I still had that much control over myself."
"Why, of course you can control that too." I mumbled, not actually surprised.
He didn't say anything else and I wasn't sure if it would be wise to annoy him. Curiosity be damned.
"So, this was just caused by our connection?" I asked quietly and could almost feel his eye-roll.
"Yes. Now shut up."
"Didn't seem like you minded," I couldn't resist teasing.
The Master groaned and finally turned in my direction. "Why am I not getting rid of you already?"
"Because you single handedly brought me here yourself?"
It really wasn't clever to rile him up like that, considering that I was trapped between him and the sofa backrest.
"What aren't we brave all of a sudden," he grumbled, although it lacked venom. "Before, you were too scared for everything."
Well, yes. Sort of. He had a point. "I… just did what you told me. Just did what felt right." I looked away as good as it was possible. "'n it was you just kissing me all of a sudden. And then you drop me here and pretend to be all pissed about everything. I don't get you."
His glare could have been deadly, but then softened and vanished with a sigh. "You wouldn't get it."
"Definitely no." He scoffed, but smiled, reaching out to pluck my glasses from me and place them on the table next to us. "I'm not pissed, little one. I just need to think. And you're a damper to the bloody drums, so I need you here."
"'kay," I mumbled, feeling how exhaustion slowly started to claim me. "But you can… I'm just human, yeah. But I do understand some things. So if you need a second brain…"
"I'll just dig through yours?" He snickered at the thought.
I sighed. "Just ask. It won't make you less evil to do that from time to time."
The Master raised a brow, the smile still lingering in the corner of his mouth. Then he leaned forward and breathed a faint kiss to my forehead. "Shut up and sleep. And don't you dare miss your practice tomorrow."
The grin just appeared on my lips without my assistance. When it meant to continue our sessions I could definitely wait to get all the answers to my lingering questions.
The Master turned on his back again, one hand below his head and thinking about who knows what. He was close enough and the sofa too small to really keep any distance, so I curled myself up at his side and used the lacking protest to stay like that. Shortly after, I felt the light touch of his fingers, gently playing with my hair.
It was comfortable and weird and despite it all it took me a lot longer to fall asleep than it usually would. I had no clue what to make of the situation and the Master clearly was no help with it. If only I could just look into his head from time to time, but for that to happen it would probably need a few years of practice.