"What're you looking at me for?" grumbled the Master, hand stuffed into his pockets. He was in an obviously bad mood for whatever reason.
"Haven't you heard them?" I asked. "It's said to have ghosts."
He rolled his eyes. "Every old place is said to have some."
I pursed my lips, kicking a small stone away. After a night at the inn we were all waiting outside the TARDIS while the Doctor had gone inside to snatch a few useful items for us. The leaking gas didn't seem to be too harmful for Time Lords. At least not during a short exposure. Donna had placed herself by the doors, waiting impatiently, while I tried to convince the Master to come along.
"The Doctor always insists that ghosts aren't real," I grumbled. "He'll be no fun."
"And what makes you think would make me so daft to believe in them? Haven't seen any, so far."
"Then's about time, isn't it?" I nudged him playfully. "What could you lose? And maybe you find a way to use the spirits of the dead to work for you."
The Master deigned to look at me with puckered brows. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Are you trying to play me, little one?"
I simply nodded and chuckled. "Yep."
At first, there was no reaction. The Master simply let his eyes wander over the shadows in the distance, before they landed on me. "You're bad at it. Don't just admit your intentions. That ruins the whole point."
"So… you're coming?"
"No." He poked a finger at my head. "Stop bugging me or I have to assume you'd miss me, otherwise." He shivered dramatically.
I let out a short laugh and taunted back, "Maybe I would." The deadly glare, however, made me add some more, before the Master could decide to avoid me again. "You were curious about the dragon, too. And it's psychic. So maybe we'll need your skills."
"And there are ghosts."
The Master sighed loudly.
"Master of ghosts. You'd be the first to call yourself that."
"I'm master of everything," he said proudly, with a little smirk.
"I think you're just scared of them."
"They aren't real!" he said in a voice one would use to teach an especially dull child.
I crossed my arms and grinned impishly. "I get it. Seen enough horror movies, too. I know how creepy they are. You don't have to be embarrassed."
"I'm not… you know what? I'll prove to you that they are bullshit. Whatever is lurking there I'll dissect it in front of your eyes and then you can shut up about it."
"So, you comin'?" I asked with the widest grin.
The Master glared at me, realisation sinking in. But now there was no way for him to keep his dignity and get out of the situation at the same time. His face fell.
And suddenly there was rage clouding his eyes, devouring his mind, and a moment later his hand was around my throat, shoving me backwards until my back hit the TARDIS.
"What on earth do you think you're doing?!" screamed Donna. "Let her go!"
I struggled against his grip, not really scared, but surprised by the suddenness; by the pain of his fingers pressing against my bones, the lack of air that made me want to cough. He wouldn't hurt me, or would he? It never became easier to tell and with every second I barely could breathe I lost my ability for logic. So I lashed out, not with my body, but with my mind, pushed it against his and suddenly felt how I tumbled inside without a warning. We fell, without anything to hold us and with the sheer force of instinct. And somewhere in all this chaos I slammed against a kind of wall and let out a tiny scream as a roaring noise filled my head, so loud, so all encompassing and suppressing that my head would burst any second. And I knew those were the drums he was hearing for all of his life. I knew it and still was unable to understand, because the constant rhythm left no room for thoughts, left no room for fear, left me with nothing but instinctive rage and the urge to fight them back, to push them away, to drown them out, to do anything, anything, anything, just so it would go away.
The Master gasped and flinched away from me as if he had been zapped. Without his hand on my throat I sank to my knees, panting and holding my throbbing head, almost crying in relief as the pounding of the drums lessened and finally, finally faded away and left me completely after what had felt like an eternity.
Donna was still alternating between pleading and shouting and banging against the doors. The whole ordeal couldn't have lasted for more than a few seconds.
"It's alright," I managed to rasp out.
Donna stopped and I heard her say, "It's absolutely not alright. He hurt you! That bastard needs to be locked away right here and now!"
"It's okay, Donna," I repeated, this time more determined while I heaved myself back to my feet again, one hand on the TARDIS to steady myself. "But I won't stop you from slapping him, if's what you want."
I wasn't looking at her, though. My gaze was glued to the Master, who was barely a step away from me and wore a look of utter shock and confusion. He blinked and swallowed visibly, letting the hand sink that had still hung halfway in the air.
"Damn, forgot you can do that," he muttered and furrowed his brows in anger. His voice, however, was controlled and showed nothing of the hot steering rage from before. "Don't ever try to play me again. Can't stand that."
I snorted, mirroring his look. "And I can't stand being choked."
We glared at each other and didn't even stop when the door creaked open. "What's going on here?" asked the Doctor. "Did anyone attack? Was there a dragon? Did…?" He fell silent.
"That lunatic tried to kill Lucy!" snapped Donna. "I told you he's gonna do it, one day. That idiot is completely out of control!"
No. No, he wasn't. If the intensity of what I had just heard was anything to go by then he was the absolute definition of control. And I had not the slightest clue how he managed to stay so calm most of the time when this beating monstrosity was thrashing and roaring inside of his mind for every second of his life.
"It's okay," I repeated quietly. "I was being kind of a jerk and he didn't actually hurt me."
More than one disbelieving look landed on me, accompanied by silence that seemed far too loud after what had been pounding in my head for only mere seconds.
Finally I managed to tear my eyes away from the Master and looked at the Doctor and what he had managed to gather from inside the TARDIS. Donna still glared angry daggers at him, though, and I lightly touched her arm to make her stop and nodded at the stuff on the ground. The Doctor cast a last, thoughtful look at the other man, then joined us and explained with a grin what he had collected.
There were some travelling backpacks with handy strips and buckles to make the weight less prominent. There was packed food, light military rations and bottles of water. A few rolls that might be sleeping bags or ground pads. Rope, a knife, a pack of bandages and some other things I couldn't recognise. The Doctor stuffed everything into the only backpack he had apparently found and one shoulder bag that could fit at least some basic supplies.
Donna took the small one, whilst the Doctor got the backpack.
"We'll totally die with such little materials and gear," grumbled the Master, arms folded and one foot tapping on the ground.
"We?" asked the Doctor. "I thought you didn't want to come."
The other one snorted. "Yeah and leave you idiots to die and be stranded here for the rest of my lifes? Your bloody ship won't let me fly and I have no intention to get friendly with the local folks."
My eyes widened and I could hardly keep a wide grin from my face. I poked a fist in the air and quietly called out a small - "Yessss!" - then peeked at the Master with a cheeky smile.
"You have a serious problem, you know that?" he said, half bewildered, half annoyed.
"I'm well aware," I retorted.
The Master huffed and shook his head, but I was sure there had been a small smile on his face.
We walked back to town to meet with the other group. The situation from before had us stay silent for the most part and the Master stayed in the back anyway, clearly unwilling to participate in anything.
The group we joined consisted of four people, one of them the man who had recruited us. Another, younger, man was with them, probably in his mid twenties (in case they aged similarly to humans), with light stubble on his face and tousled blonde hair. Then there were two women, one as young looking as the other bloke, the older one probably the same age as our recruiter. They both had curly brown hair, although the younger one wore them in an undercut and combed to one site.
What they all had in common were their outfits. They reminded me a lot of what people wore in post apocalyptic settings. Patched up linen and leather, brown colours and dust coats. The only thing missing were gas masks. But this wasn't the Fallout games, so of course they didn't have some. (And I had trouble keeping myself from smiling stupidly because of the resemblance to this favourite game of mine.)
"Those are Meyla and Ulkta," introduced the older man, pointing first at the girl, then at the woman. He then nodded to the boy. "This is Bor."
They all smiled and wriggled their hands or fingers in a greeting. The Doctor then introduced our own group, ignoring the questioning looks the others gave at hearing the Time Lords' names. He also said no word about where we actually came from, nor that we were different species.
"We found one spare coat, a few rations and some tools. Here." Darwil showed us some hooks, a small hammer, a shovel and a few other things that might come in handy. "The coat's a bit small, though. Lucy might be the best fit. It belonged to my son once, but… anyway."
I took the coat and eyed it with a barely contained grin. It was dark brown in colour and had multiple buckles at the front, an endless amount of pockets and it also seemed to be good protection from the weather. And yes, it actually fitted my size.
"Now you look like some scavenger from Tarellion," mocked the Master. "Only a few sizes too small and a few muscles too weak. And probably a few braincells too dumb."
"Why, thanks. And you look boring. As always." It wasn't the most elaborate retort, but the best I could come up with. Especially since I didn't want to trigger another fight.
We divided the rations and tools among us and then studied the maps the group had brought, showing all the paths they had already taken and the routes they knew lead to nowhere. One line was marked in bright green and Bor explained that a flying gadget of his had managed to shoot a single picture, before the camera had broken down. Said picture showed nothing but vague shapes that told me nothing, but they all seemed to be excited and even the Doctor nodded appreciatively.
I receded a little, not having a clue about maps, and my bad sense of orientation didn't help either. Instead I grabbed one of the smaller backpacks and emptied its content on the ground, then carefully collected what seemed to be useful and placed it back inside, mindful of weight distribution and the space things took up. Not that I had done this often, but the few times I had been on a hike with a loaded backpack had taught me how important it was to only take what was necessary and to have everything packed in a way that didn't leave you with a broken back after a few hours.
I felt a stare in my neck and looked behind me, seeing the Master watching me intently. After some seconds he walked over, dropped to his knees and wordlessly emptied my backpack again.
"Oi, it was ready to go," I protested.
"You won't need those pots. The Doctor already has the cooking gear on his. And you should take the other sleeping bag. It's lighter." He grabbed a small, brown bundle and attached it to a loop. "Also, can't be bad to have some first aid with you. Just in case. And rope. Rope is one of the most useful things you'll ever have on you."
I nodded, listening to everything he explained, obviously having lots of experience with these things. And, strangely enough, he was good at explaining, too. Way better than with explaining the psychic things. But maybe that was because packing and survival was a lot easier in general. To my surprise he also packed a bag for himself, even though I had awaited him to leave it to the others to carry everything around.
"I'm trusting the Doctor to get out of whatever lies ahead. But not those others. And if I have to come along, I want to be prepared as well as I can."