We met more people and heard similar stories while the Master organised hot beverages and snacks here and there. At first only for himself, but after the Doctor grudgingly accepted that no real harm was done by it to anyone, the Master also got something for him and me. Not for Donna, though, which ended in yet another bickering fight.
"I will absolutely feed you to the first nasty monster we find," she shrieked. "And I hope it is a disgusting, slimy thing so your stupid neat suit gets dirty!"
"Pah! Before anything can even touch my clothes I'll have it burned and shredded with my laser," grumbled the Master.
"Well, maybe it would inspire you to be less business and more person."
"What, and run around so stupidly dressed like that one?" He thumped at the Doctor.
"No-hooo. You rather run around and pretend to be all superior. But really, you're just a brat."
"S'cuse me!? Who's yelling around here? And only because you didn't get your hot ghotgat."
"It looked like hot cocoa!"
They glared at one another for a good minute before the Doctor finally decided to step in. He lightly grabbed Donna's wrist and nodded ahead so she would follow. And she, grudgingly, did. Not without throwing a last venomous glare at the Master, though.
"Crap, crap, crap!" called the Doctor, running a hand through his hair and making a mess of them. His eyes were glued to the console monitor.
"What's going on?" asked Donna, worriedly. "You don't let us out of the room and are babbling stuff."
The Master visibly pressed his lips tightly together, obviously keeping himself from starting the next argument, or telling Donna how stupid she was. His gaze wandered to me and he rolled his eyes, nodding towards the other two.
I only nudged him, torn between being mad about his behaviour towards Donna and being amused by how much it all annoyed him. The behaviour made me think, however. It couldn't only be Donna's brash character that made him dislike her so much. Her being human definitely had a huge part in it, seeing how much he despised my species.
But what then made him tolerate me around him? There was nothing special about me, not even remotely. I wasn't brave or clever, and usually I didn't give his deeds much attention. And on top of that he was constantly annoyed by my way of thinking and my lack in being willing to indulge him in his insistence for being evil.
"... and if any of you comes into contact with that stuff it will slowly make your brain melt. Not funny, believe me," babbled the Doctor. "That's why we have to stay in here. It's safe. Security protocols and filters and all that."
"We'll then let's go and have a look at that lost city they were all talking about," challenged Donna. "I'm not going to sit around in this room for days and be bored out of my mind."
"Bored? How can you be bored while being surrounded by so much amazing alien tech?!" The Doctor's mouth hung open.
"Oh, is the human not impressed by your toys?" mocked the Master. "That almost gives her a bonus point."
"It's just stuff that makes too much noise and blinks," Donna commented, throwing her hands up. "Why would anyone be impressed by that?"
"Alright… and there goes the bonus point again."
"Oh, because you understand what all those things are doing," mocked Donna and scowled at the Master.
He grinned at her from ear to ear, although the expression looked more dangerous than happy. "Actually, I understand a lot more of it than your boyfriend."
"Boyf…" Donna mouthed the word with an incredulous look. "Listen up, you twat! No one would want that idiot to be his boyfriend!"
"Oi, that… that actually was mean," protested the Doctor.
"Just look at him!" She made a gesture to show his stature. "He's so thin you give him a hug you get a papercut."
"I… I get it, Donna. Thanks." Now his voice was a little whiny. He even forgot to continue his inputs to the console.
The Master started to laugh, holding his belly with crossed arms. "This is fantastic. You get your bonus point back." He wiped the corner of his eye with a finger. "Finally a human girl that's not falling head over heels for him. That must be a first."
"Tha… that's not… it's not truuue," whimpered the Doctor.
"Definitely not true," I seconded with a scoff.
"You don't count," dead-panned the Master. "You barely count as a woman. And you're weird anyway."
That earned him a half hearted elbow to the ribs, which he, of course, simply ignored. He rather went over to the Doctor, in a vain attempt to convince him that what he was currently doing wouldn't solve our problem.
Donna fiddled with her necklace, not at all content with the situation, so I joined her and together we watched the Time Lords bicker and fight over tech stuff we didn't understand. What else was there to do? Wandering off on our own was dangerous and I wasn't willing to get into a situation where I would have to protect or rescue Donna. I was neither particularly strong, nor fast, nor anything. I couldn't risk not being able to help, being forced to watch helplessly how someone else got hurt because of that.
I winced when I felt a hand on my shoulder and glanced up to meet a warm smile.
"You look bothered," said Donna. "I'm sure they'll fix this."
"Cause they will." I smiled up at her, hiding my thoughts as I had learned to do.
"Funny though, if they have a shared goal, they can work quite well together, right?"
I chuckled. "Yeah, amazes me every time.
"What's there to giggle about?" grumbled the Master. "Make yourselves useful at least."
Donna huffed. "Ohhhh right. Because you would trust us little humans to meddle with your precious time tech, ey? Get lost."
That threw us both into another giggling fit, much to the Master's dismay. He stormed back to the console, bumping into the Doctor's shoulder on full purpose, who tried to push back, but got swiftly trapped between his counterpart and the console table. The Master loomed over the bent-backwards Time Lord, his hands on the console on either side of the other one and visibly fuming.
Donna leaned over to me, not daring to speak so they might hear us. But she nodded towards the scene, making some questioning gestures, or what seemed like such to me. I simply shrugged, not exactly sure what she meant, so Donna poked her head in their direction again, now stroking a finger over her throat as if to ask if the Doctor was in danger of getting murdered.
I shook my head, wrinkling my nose questioningly and shrugging. Then I looked at them and back at Donna, wriggling my eyebrows suggestively. Her own brows knitted together, then her mouth opened to an O and closed again. Her head nodded to the Time Lords once more and she pointed first at the Master then at the Doctor, then quickly pursed her lips to what might have been a weird kissing gesture.
I nodded, but also rolled my eyes and made an exasperated sighing gesture. Donna's mouth hung open for seconds, before forming a clear, but silent No way!
Which I answered with another shrug and making a 'so and so' gesture with my hand.
"What… are you two doing?" came the Doctor's sudden voice, making us both jump.
I tossed a quick look behind him, finding the Master tinkering with a sulky face. He didn't pay us any attention whatsoever and, hopefully, hadn't witnessed anything. Donna grabbed my arm, adamantly pushing me towards the exit.
"We… just decided to have a bit more sunlight. This room feels a little crowded and we don't want to bother you two or disturb your repairs… You know. Silly human brains, can't cope with all this stuff here."
"Uh, hey, look, I'm sorry it came out like that. I don't mind any of you being in here or asking questions. I know-"
"It's alright, Doctor." She pushed me a little further, holding my shoulders. "We won't wander off. We're right here, in front of this door. Take as long as you need, you two. You know… bit alone time. Might do you good. Talk a little… I mean, I say talk, but…" I nudged Donna with my elbow and she let the rest of the sentence slide." Whatever. See you later."
"They're not… you know… dating or anything, are they? Never seemed like it." Donna glared at me, wide eyed, oblivious to nature's beauty or the fact that we seemed to be stranded for a while.
"Nah, 's not like that." I shrugged. "But if you stick around for a while you'll see. They'll deny it, though."
"Ha!" called Donna, clapping her hands together. "So you try to help a little and push them here and there, right? Smart move. As long as it's subtle at least. Can't imagine them being too happy would anyone interfere. But seriously? With that bloke?" She thumped at the closed door with an incredulous look and an open mouth." I heard only a fraction of why he's not allowed to run around on his own and I'm already spooked. He's a flippin' monster, that one. No one should… sure, they are the last two. Maybe's just that. None of my business, but it's just so unbelievable. How could anyone in their right mind do something else but hate that guy?"
My stomach did a weird flip at her words, all mirth suddenly gone from my mood. Her reaction was understandable and still it did something to me I couldn't quite pinpoint. For a moment I felt the urge to defend the Master, to tell Donna that he wasn't all bad and… who am I even kidding? Everything he did was always only for his own good and the few times he behaved somewhat decently were overshadowed by all the times he was aggressive and harsh and brutal.
What type of person would one have to be to feel anything but contempt towards a man like that?
Luckily I didn't have to give an answer. The door opened and released a dishevelled looking Doctor, who ran a hand through his hair and was constantly mumbling technical terms and other stuff I didn't understand. Shortly after, the Master followed, studying some data on a small pad in one hand. His brows were furrowed and the tip of his tongue peeked out between his teeth, adding to the concentrated look.
"So, are we stuck or what's the plan?" asked Donna.
"Weeeell…" The Doctor rubbed his neck and looked everywhere but in our direction. "I guess we're staying for a day or two. Found out where the leak came from, but the TARDIS systems need a little time to filter out all the gas from the air circulation and get it out of the contaminated rooms, etc."
"He means we'll have to stay in this dumpster and deal with the locals," grumbled the Master, looking up from his data pad. "As if I have nothing better to do."
"The mountains are nice. Fresh air, blue sky, snow and sunshine." The Doctor beamed, doing his usual best to brighten the mood.
"We might learn more about this abandoned city," I tossed in, secretly hoping for more after the old woman's tale.
"Can we have lunch first?" asked Donna. "This day was already long enough and I'm not in the mood to deal with this on an empty stomach. We're stuck either way, isn't it so? Let's at least have it cosy."
So it happened that we ended up in an inn with several rooms and a pot full of stew, a loaf of bread and even wine at our table. The Master had snatched the psychic paper and had used it together with some hypnotism to organise everything, doing what the Doctor refused to do. He seemed, however, to be somewhat okay with the other one doing it, so there wasn't any protest and we got spared more unnecessary fighting.
The stew was hearty and satiating, the wine sweet and the atmosphere cosy and warm. The room was filled with chatting and laughter from many people, the clinking of glass, an occasional song and the sound of chairs.
Later in the evening a man approached us, middle aged, a bit shorter than the Doctor and with short brown hair. He wore clothes that were suited for hiking, a knife at his belt and several pouches on his hips and legs.
"Hey there," he greeted, hand raised. It didn't seem as if he were shy, but certainly cautious, eyeing us thoroughly before he continued. "I saw you at the market before. With old Hanny."
"That half dead, insolent woman?" drawled the Master.
"Yes. We talked to her," said the Doctor. "Told us a nice story. She's really good at that. Almost got me spooked."
"Certainly spooked me," mumbled Donna.
"She isn't the only one who knows those stories," said the stranger. "In fact, my friends and I are planning to start another expedition tomorrow. Listen, before you call me crazy."
"Would never," mumbled the Master, taking a sip from his wine.
"We've been exploring the mountains for years now with the help of every old map and tale we could get a hold of and we're extremely certain we managed to narrow down the potential location of Jir - That's the name of the lost city. We also found that out. "
"And now you need help?" asked the Doctor, brow cautiously raised.
"Erm… well… The thing is, even if we find the place and return, no one would believe us. And I saw your friend here-" he nodded at me - "having a picture device. And also… the more the better. The place is said to be haunted."
"Mhm yeah… some people mentioned ghosts already," agreed the Doctor. "Wonder what those might be… But, I'm afraid we're not really equipped for a hike like that and we can't enter my… uh… we can't."
"Since when?" asked Donna with a surprised look. "You normally jump into every adventure that's waving from miles away!"
He grinned awkwardly and rubbed his neck, shooting a quick glance over at the Master, who gave him a glare back. Then his eyes wandered to me.
"I'm in," I dead-panned.
"Whot? This could be super dangerous."
It was no wonder the Doctor was so surprised when I usually tried to stay away from any too big threats. But this was something else.
"It's a lost city!" I explained, smiling wide. "A place that's probably abandoned for centuries." Out of the corner of my eyes I saw the Master smiling to himself. "I certainly want to go! Please!" I begged with big eyes.
"But… uh…" The Doctor's eyes darted towards the Master again.
Mine did too and I scowled at him. "You'll behave."
Silence spread among us and I held my breath for a moment. The comment had shot out so fast I hadn't even thought about it. But now I got hellishly aware of my insolence. Not long ago and the Master would have killed me for this without a second thought. His eyes widened, as did the wolfish grin on his face.
But he stayed put and only let out a laugh. "You making demands? This has to be awfully important." Encouraged by the lack of murder I glowered some more at him, until he stopped laughing. "I'm not coming along. I'd rather stare at a rock for three weeks." He nodded to the Doctor. "That one doesn't want my company anyway… not to speak of the human." A sneer in Donna's direction made all too clear who he meant.
"No one wants your company," came her sour reply.
"Alright, no fighting again. Please," pleaded the Doctor. "If everyone's okay with this… I mean a lost and ancient city does sound like a good adventure. Would enjoy it. Bit of hiking."
"And how do we get equipment?" asked Donna.
"That won't be a problem," said the stranger quickly. "We have enough and a bunch of the guys who usually come along aren't with us this time. You can have their stuff."
"Mhm… does sound promising. I'll see what I can fetch from the TARDIS." The Doctor now beamed, ready to jump into the adventure. "What's your name anyway?"
"Oh, right." The stranger grinned and straightened. "I'm Darwil Halgos. Leader of the expedition. And I'm also part of our local University, if you were wondering. We're doing it for the fund and the thrill, of course. But there is also a huge part of curiosity. We'd be the first to come back with actual footage!"
"Darwil, nice to meet you! I'm the Doctor and the two lovely ladies here are Lucy and Donna." We both gave a small wave and smiles.
"Well then. Let's meet in the morning. We'll have everything prepared until then and you lot have enough time to prepare. Yes?"
"Absolutely yes!" sang the Doctor and grinned widely.
I shared an exciting look with Donna. She also seemed to be all in on the idea. Only the Master still had his sour look and probably wouldn't get rid of it as long as we were around.