Of course I was alone when I woke up, the calming warmth of the Master beside me missing. There wasn't even a blanket or pillow to grab and cuddle in the absence, so I was left feeling maddeningly bare on the sofa and the dimly lit room. Somehow the candles were still burning and everything looked like it had before. The only thing that indicated any passing of time was the fact that I felt rested.
I turned on my back and thought about the previous evening. To call it strange was a heavy understatement, but I had no better term for it.
I grinned against the ceiling and at the same time felt a little ashamed. Maybe I should have stopped it right from the start, seeing how pissed the Master had been afterwards. But he had encouraged it, so there was that. It hadn't been me alone and I doubted that, even through our connection, my desires could have just overtaken his own. Actually… I really hoped that wasn't the case. It couldn't be, right? Otherwise he would have reacted differently… although he had sounded very adamant on assuring something like this never happening ever again.
Then again had he been the one starting to kiss me like… actually like no one ever had before. Not that I could recall, anyway. And why had he? Just to prove a point? Because he needed our connection to run deep enough so I could find the drums? Getting there the safe way was probably too slow for him and my capability of learning to navigate the psychic field was too limited.
Either way. I had to get up or otherwise my head would simply kill me with all the unanswered questions.
Donna's voice rang through the console room as I strode in, groggily, a mug of steaming coffee in my hands. It was hard to tell what exactly she was going on about, and why was she wearing a purple dress?
"Just save someone," she pleaded, hands on the console to steady herself.
Now I saw that both of them were covered in dirt. Had they been out while I had slept? The Doctor looked at Donna as if she was asking something impossible of him, eyes hard and distant. The same look he had when he talked about the Master. About a lost cause, a vain attempt.
"Please." Her voice trembled with tears. "Not the whole town, just… someone."
The Doctor gritted his teeth and his eyes fell on me, who stood there like a mismatching sock. Whatever was going on seemed serious and for the Doctor not to jump around and trying to save every single person meant it to be something far beyond my understanding. His eyes darted back to Donna, he swallowed. And finally he pushed a lever and set the TARDIS in motion.
When it stopped he ran to the doors and reached a hand out. Light and heat and ash was suddenly pouring inside the room and next a family followed, dressed in what looked like ancient robes. Greek or Rome? I'd never been good in history and had no idea about the fashion of those times and places either. More ash got stormed inside before the Doctor shut the doors and ran to the console to get us away from whatever place as fast as possible.
Donna had her elbows on the console, head in her palms as if she was exhausted. A deep sigh came from her lungs and she raised the head again to glance at the family, who was slowly losing their panic and gaining curiosity instead. For them this place must have been even more alien that it had been to me. No one dared to touch anything, but eyes were wandering everywhere they could reach.
"We're safe," said the Doctor. "I brought us away from the volcano."
"Volcano?" repeated the older man. "Do you speak of the smouldering mountain?"
"Yes… yes, I do. Where can I drop you? Anywhere's possible."
"Just… just outside town," said the older man. He seemed to be still in shock from whatever had happened outside. "Away from the fire."
The Doctor nodded. He looked a little exhausted, dirty and dishevelled as he was. Donna was in no better shape. I had to ask them later where the heck they had been to end up like that. The woman of the family named a place to be left and off the TARDIS went, sending the boy to the floor and the others slamming into one another or against a pillar.
The Doctor and Donna accompanied the people outside and returned shortly after. I felt completely at the wrong place, being clean and well rested and still holding the coffee mug.
"Pompej," sighed Donna and dropped into a seat. "And of course on volcano day. I should have expected it. Really should have. 'cause it was aliens. Gramps always said they were everywhere. He doesn't know how true that is."
"Must have been impressive," I wondered aloud.
"Oh… oh it was." Donna smiled. "Just that bugger over there-" she nodded at the Doctor- "really was so bold to tell me he couldn't save those people. As if."
I tossed a glance at the Time Lord, wondering. "Fixed point?" I asked, remembering he had told me about those.
The Doctor nodded, his face sombre. He looked at Donna and smiled a little. "Thanks… for reminding me."
"Oh, don't even start." The woman yawned loudly and nudged my shoulder. "Want to show me the kitchen? I need a good strong tea before I get into the shower. You do have tea here, right?"
"Yeah, sure." I sauntered towards the doors, tossing a glance back at the Doctor. He still had such a dark look on his face. "You alright?"
He glanced up at us, almost surprised for a moment. It seemed as if he had gotten lost in his own thoughts there. But then he smiled and nodded.
"There I take a nap and you two fly off and detonate Pompej," I mumbled amused, placing a tea bag in Donna's cup and pouring hot water from the kettle over it.
"How'd you know it was us?" she asked, surprised. "Don't tell me that box has cameras following us all around. Oh, that would be annoying! It's not following me to the loo, is it?"
I giggled and slid the cup over the table. "No cameras. I simply heard enough of the Doctor's stories to have guessed right. Apparently. Did you really blow up the volcano?"
It wouldn't surprise me, really.
"Yeah…" Donna sighed. "Yeah, I guess we did. Pompej or the world… ohhhh, what a choice. That was horrible. How d'you manage that all the time?"
"M… me?" I looked up from my coffee and eyed Donna. She nodded. "Oh… I don't really. I mean… I try to stay away from any big adventures."
Donna looked at me, her dirt stained face an open picture of surprise. "So, not all of his companions are in for that?" she concluded, although it was more of a question.
And somehow her conclusion made me turn away, ashamed of how afraid I was to do what others could manage with ease. "Guess he's happy to have you here, now," I mumbled.
"Oh, he loves playing with earth girls," came a sarcastic remark from the doors.
We both turned our heads to see the Master strolling in. He was wearing all black, still the same outfit of shirt and waistcoat he seemed to like. My eyes wandered over him, suddenly aware of so many details I had never bothered to notice before. He was able to move so casually in such formal clothes, looking as if it was the most natural thing. The fabric of the dress-shirt neatly moved over the muscles and… I blinked and glared at my coffee mug instead.
"Don't come running and complain to me if he gets you into stuff you can't handle," the Master continued, contempt oozing from his voice.
Donna huffed. "And why would I even want to complain to a sourpuss like you? I'd rather talk to a wall instead!"
The Master chuckled, poured himself a tea and leaned against the counter with crossed ankles, managing to look surprisingly elegant while doing so.
Alright, stop that! I scolded myself. It was bad enough that I was, obviously, attracted to him at all. I didn't need to make it worse.
"Because," the Master drawaled, "you might think that just because I'm the same species I might also share his proclivities. So let me tell you, once and only once, that I don't." He sounded pissed, although nothing had happened so far. "I'm nothing like him and if you get your human arse into trouble, I will not come running and I will not save your planet, or any at all and I will not get myself in danger because of anyone."
Donna glared at him and then rolled her eyes. "Alright, alright. Don't get your knickers in a twist. I can't stand you anyway and I don't get what the Doctor even wants with a grump like you. Don't care, really. Stay outta my way and we're good."
The Master grinned, although it was more a display of teeth, a sneer of the dangerous kind. Donna held his gaze, however, visibly unfazed, and then slowly emptied her mug.
"I really need a good shower and a few hours of sleep." She sighed and smiled at me. "See you tomorrow. Or… I guess there aren't really days in a time machine, are there?"
"Not really. You'll get used to it." I returned the smile and watched amused how she placed her empty cup on the counter and strode outside, all while adamantly ignoring the Master's very existence.
"Insufferable species," grumbled the Master as soon as she was gone.
"You came in just to provoke her, then?" I asked with a quirked eyebrow.
"I wanted tea. I didn't want to suffer human stench and the terror of underdeveloped brains around me," he growled and was already about to leave again.
"My, someone got up on the wrong foot this morning," I mumbled.
"And you're in a far too good mood," came the grumbled reply. The Master turned back and eyed me with a dark look.
"Dunno if it's any good. Ask me after my third coffee." I yawned, actually not feeling that awake yet. "But you clearly levelled up your xeno-racism."
"You really don't seem to like Donna. That's okay. Just ignore she's here." Maybe the Doctor was right and I really did have some influence. So I could at least try. But his behaviour was riling me up somewhat. "Doesn't mean all humans are the same."
The Master regarded me like one would a filthy rat, all contempt and the barely contained urge to squash it under his boot. I winced at the feeling he emanated, cursing whatever empathic knack I might have. He walked to the table, placed his tea down and leaned with both hands on the surface.
"Ah, now suddenly you're better than the rest, I see," he snarled. "Let me tell you something-"
"Whoa, stop it," I grumbled. "I'm not even awake long enough to have done something to you. What the heck's your problem?"
He stabbed a finger at my chest. "You are."
I blinked at him, completely at a loss for words. This couldn't be about… could it? I narrowed my eyes and grunted. "So, you are pissed about it."
"Never said that."
I gnawed on my bottom lip and shook my head slightly. "Look, it might have been just because of the mental stuff, but I'm pretty sure I can't make you do anything against your will." I glared at him, trying to read anything from his reaction. Or the lack thereof.
The Master almost tenderly sat his cup down and bent lower towards me, his tone, as he spoke, wearing a quiet and carefully neutral tone. "What if you can?"
My eyes slowly widened in shock and disbelief, both emotions running through me like acid, burning and cold and just so utterly impossible. I swallowed, not at all sure how I managed to keep eye contact.
And then, from one moment to the nex, the Master started to giggle. "Just kidding. Stop looking at me like that."
I let out an exasperated groan and dropped my head on the table, mumbling, "I hate you. I so, so hate you."
How the heck could he do that to me? This was beyond unfair. I heard him walk a few steps closer and felt his nimble fingers ruffle through my hair until I looked back up at his teasing smirk.
"No, you don't. You wouldn't be so stupidly concerned otherwise."
"Arse," I grumbled, without really meaning it.
"That's hardly anything new, now, is it?" He stuck his tongue out and giggled at my death stare. All of his previous ire seemed to have vanished somehow. Or maybe it had never been real in the first place. However, his face became serious again after some seconds.
It still gnawed on me, though, so I had to ask again. Just to be sure. "I can't, right? Make you do stuff against your will."
The Master huffed and rolled his eyes. "Seems to be hellishly urgent to find out whether or not I fancy you."
"Wh…What? No. It's not about… I know you don't."
"And still you think it's important I want to do these things." His eyes bore into mine as he leaned closer down. "I'm not human, little one, don't you ever think th-"
"That's the point!" I snapped and shot from my chair. "This whole telepathic thing is out of my control. I don't even know what exactly I'm doing most of the time. And I certainly don't want to accidentally make you do anything you don't actually want." I took a deep breath to calm down. "So, don't even joke about that."
Perplexed, he blinked at me, mouth slightly opening as if to reply, but no words came out. The moment dragged on for endless seconds before his lips turned upwards to form an uncertain smile.
"Mhm… I see. You've been hurt, because your ex forced you," he concluded quietly. "And now you want to make sure you're not doing the same to someone else."
"Uh…" Now it was me who struggled with words for a moment. "Maybe…? Would that be so bad?"
"It's just funny," he grabbed a chair to plopp down into it, suddenly all curiosity again. "You don't seem to mind murder. Well, you do, but not really, be honest." There wasn't even a chance to answer. "But when it comes to rape… no… not even that. You find any form of force despicable. Making people do things against their will… That's it, isn't it?"
"Sometimes I think I'm nothing but a stupid puzzle for you to solve," I grumbled, not liking to be observed and my behaviour catalogued like that. "And yes. I hate that. And yes, I do mind killing. It's just…"
"Just…?" The Master eyed me curiously, stealing my half emptied coffee to finish the job.
How did we always end up having those weird conversations, I wondered. Some of it was cultural differences, that was obvious. Other things were… just plain weird. And the Master had a real skill for making me think about things I had never thoroughly pondered before.
"It's… because when someone's dead… they're just gone. It's the end. But if you do something really bad to someone… they will have to carry that around for the rest of their existence. I think that's worse."
I glanced up at the Master, waiting for whatever response he might show to this. It was the truth, or at least as truthful as I managed to be in that short time I had to think about it. He tapped against my mug, repeating his ever present drumbeat, staring into nothingness for a good minute or two.
Finally he stood up without a word, looking down at me with a quirked brow. Our eyes were locked for a moment and then he quickly moved and flicked his fingers against my head.
"Ouch, what was that for?" I protested.
"You're an idiot."
"Fuck off. You wanted to know."
"It's a stupid reason. Why would you bother if you'd hurt me? You know who I am."
"So?" I raised both brows.
The Master laughed. "I'm a bad guy and nothing will change that. You shouldn't worry."
"Yes, I know who you are. And it changes absolutely nothing." I had a deja vu. The conversation was familiar. And by now I also started to understand why his attitude was pissing me off so much. I left the chair and stood in front of the Master, glowering up at him. "Being who you are is no reason to let others just hurt you."
He glared back, holding eye contact and radiating as much contempt as he was probably able to, but I had no intent to back off. Eventually he smirked and playfully pushed against my chest to make me sway backwards a little.
"Hilarious little thing you are. See why you're so problematic?"
"Cause I challenge your worldview?" I taunted and walked to the door, turning back once before I left. Just to get a glimpse of his expression that tried to be amused, but actually hid so much more. "I'm afraid you'll have to deal with that."