by TardisGhost [Reviews - 79]Chapter or Story
"Why did he kiss you, before? Are you two together?" Jenny regarded me with the most curious look I had ever seen on a woman her age.
I tossed a quick glance at Donna, who was still busy noting down the numbers on the metal signs we came across. The Master walked ahead, making sure there was no danger and sometimes hacking into a console to get us past doors or lasers. None of them had been as threatening as the ones before, luckily.
"Noooo." My response came late. What could I even say? We sure as hell weren't together, although the meaning to this term appeared skewed now.
"I bet there's probably laws against it," came Donna's voice from next to me. I jumped, having not noticed her being close enough to listen. "You're not even the same species."
"Donnaaaa," I groaned.
"What? You want to tell me again that there's nothing between the two of you and you were just bored in your cell?"
Donna nudged me and when I looked up there was a warm smile on her face. "Just tell me if this is coming from both sides or if he's forcing you into anything. And if yes, then be warned that I will punch his stupid face. Hard!"
I blinked, too perplexed to answer right away. Sometimes I forgot that other people only knew the worst of him. Not a surprise, considering that he did his best to keep it like that. How few people had he ever allowed to have a glimpse of his other side? How long had he hardened this shell of isolation?
"This's all mutual." I kept my voice low, somehow afraid he might hear those words. Of course he should know how I felt about this, he probably did. I was sure he did. Admitting this to myself was the true scary part. "You… don't need to understand, Donna. 'S just what it is."
"If you say so." She shrugged. "Well, even an arsehole like him needs to have some heart… somewhere."
"Believe me, Donna Noble, I do not."
The Master didn't even turn. Of course he had overheard the whole conversation with his hearing being better than ours. For a brief second I was tempted to call him a liar. Instead, I just smiled to myself and poked my tongue out at Donna when she gave me a pointed look.
After that we fell silent for a while, until Jenny came back with new questions.
"So, what's it like? Travelling?" She observed us, her eyes gleaming with curiosity.
"Never a dull moment." Donna sighed happily. "It can be terrifying, brilliant and funny, sometimes all at the same time. I've seen some amazing things though. Whole new worlds."
"And exhausting," I added, pursing my lips. "Wish I had your energy levels." Somedays it really seemed as if Donna had a bottomless pit of energy.
"Aaaw, don't worry, Lucy. You're doing great."
Jenny hummed. "I'd love to see new worlds."
"Oh, you will. Right, space boy?"
"Don't call me that," the Master growled.
"That's not an answer," Donna insisted.
The Master stopped dead in his tracks, just so he could hover menacingly above us, nose wrinkled. "I'll take her to the Doctor and see what his sickeningly weak hearts have in stock for her. That's all."
"You mean… you mean," Jenny gasped, "you'll take me with you?"
The Master grunted and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Well, we can't leave you here, as long as we don't know what the heck you even are."
"That's a yes, then," concluded Donna.
"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. Come on, let's get a move on." The girl ran ahead, jumping in joy and tapping against the walls.
"Hey, slow down," I called after her. "You don't know if there are more… traps." But she was too far ahead already.
"Kids. They never listen." Donna giggled and glanced at the Time Lord next to her. "Oh, I know that look. I see it a lot round our way. Blokes with pushchairs and frowns. You've got dad-shock."
"The fuck what?"
"Sudden unexpected fatherhood. Takes a bit of getting used to."
The Master shook his head, following the motion with an exasperated eye-roll. I couldn't tell, in that moment, what kept him from threatening Donna. It was so unlike him to converse with her almost normally. But there was something about him since the whole thing had started. And it seemed to gnaw on him relentlessly. So much so that he didn't get angry and didn't even forget his self proclaimed protector role for the sake of a good shout.
Instead he only shoved his hands into his pocket and answered quietly, "Definitely not."
"Well, what is it then?" Donna kept pushing her luck with him. "Having Jenny in the Tardis, is that it? You're so afraid of having a little responsibility all of a sudden? That's nothing to be scare-"
"Donna, shut up."
"Oh no, I'm not going to. For once in your life you can take on that role and just be-"
"A father?" The Master grunted, but it almost sounded like a strangled sob. "Been there already. Don't need it again."
"Yeah, so then you can… wait… what?" Donna fell silent when his words sunk in.
I had suspected it. There had been hints. More than enough of them. There was the way he had interacted with the children from the androids and some other small and seemingly insignificant comments here and there.
The Master didn't respond at first, but then he shot a helpless look at me and sighed. In that moment I literally felt his pain radiating from him and wanted nothing more but to take his hand at least. But I was sure he wouldn't let me.
In the end he started to talk, although his voice almost drowned in the low surrounding noise. "I had… a daughter once. Back on Gallifrey. It's… a long time ago. And even if she…" For a brief moment he paused. "Doesn't matter. The war would have killed her together with everyone else. There is nothing left. And some weird clone is never going to replace…" He growled again, tensing up and kicking a loose cable away that protested with some flying sparks.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know," Donna mumbled.
I got to them and walked next to the Master. "Why'd you never tell?"
"What for?" he grunted. "That was centuries before you were even born. It's no use to keep dragging the past around."
"Is that… why Jenny makes you so angry?" I asked.
And also confused, and startled.
He only shrugged. "Everything has changed since then. Now I know that it will only make you weak and pathetic if you let anyone too close to you. So I won't."
"No one, huh?" Donna tossed me a quick glance.
Again he rolled his eyes. "Whatever you think this is," he gestured between him and me, "it is not. We two have a deal. That's all." He gave me a pointed look to suffocate every response before I could even come up with one. "And that girl? She's unique. Might be good for something. Good source material for experiments."
"You want to experiment on her? Are you nuts?" Donna threw her hands up. "And there I… For one flipping second I thought there might be something decent in you."
Her response caused him to snigger. "Never."
"Or that attitude is just a cover for how you really feel."
"Thanks. But I don't need a psychologist. I'm well aware of every trauma and insanity in my head." Grinning, the Master tapped against his temple, winking.
Donna shook her head. "That's not funny."
"No." He didn't stop the quiet chuckle. "No, it isn't. But what do you care, human?"
I listened to their conversation, watching Jenny running ahead. It was the first time I witnessed the Master being so open with anyone else than myself. Donna had that effect on people. As loud and as harsh as she could be, there was also something about her that clearly said, 'I understand it. And if I don't, I still accept'. She was the same with me, and with everyone we ever met along the way.
"Well, for one, and you better listen, space boy. I care, 'cause the Doctor sees you as a friend for whatever reason. Second, Lucy obviously cares, no matter if she wants to admit it or not." I pretended hard to be busy observing a red glowing control panel nearby. "So, if they can see some value in your existence then so do I. And that means, yes, I care. Deal with it."
The Master snorted, but otherwise said nothing. There was no arguing with Donna Noble. And she was also having enough of the conversation, speeding up her steps to catch up with the girl.
"I should just leave the red-head here to rot," he grumbled after a while. "Any idea how to explain her disappearance to the Doctor without him getting angry?"
I giggled and nudged him. "Come on, she's not that bad."
"I hate people who pretend to care just to impress someone else."
"Not her. I don't think so." I couldn't stop fiddling with my fingers, so I shoved them into my pockets. It took some minutes of walking in silence before I dared to finally ask, "You alright? This must be weird for you. It would be for me, that is."
He grunted, but then slipped his hand into mine. "Yeah."
"But uh… say…" I coughed awkwardly and made sure the women couldn't hear us. "If you're not fertile, how come you had a child?"
The Master stopped dead in his tracks, tugging at my hand to make me turn around, while the others vanished around a corner. When I looked up, his face was serious, maybe a little sad. "I wouldn't say it, if it weren't true."
"I… it's just strange. You said…"
"That is not something I'd do to you," the Master growled. "Or to myself."
I hadn't expected him to get so serious about this. That wasn't even what I was curious about, even though it had made me think for a moment. But no. "I trust you with that. I'm just… curious? Confused?"
"It was only in my first regeneration. After that never again. I make sure to check that every time."
I cocked a brow, blinking. "Regeneration. I heard you and the Doctor talk about that here and there, but you never explain."
"It's not that important…" But when I kept staring he sighed and finally said, "We can more or less cheat death. If our bodies get injured too badly a process is triggered that changes every single cell in our bodies, rearranges them."
"Oh… so that the injury basically vanishes?"
He hummed and shook his head. "Yes, but so does everything else. It changes our whole appearance. A new face, new voice, a whole new body, new everything."
My mouth dropped open and I hurried to close it again. "What… just like that? You looked different before? How different? How… often?"
It was hard to wrap my head around this. It sounded like a hoax, but the Master didn't seem to be joking. I had thought the different appearance was due to his age back then. He had only shown me an image of his teenage self.
"Often enough. I've lived a dangerous life." He gave me a cheeky grin. "And the outcome is more or less random. So the changes are usually quite drastic. Height, build, facial features, hair, eye colour. Everything changes. Like I said… every single cell gets rearranged."
That was a lot to swallow. "And… it can also change… other features? Although… now that I think about it, you also said you loom your children, so…"
"Not… in this case." He continued walking, tugging me along. "It was a huge scandal, believe me, but… that was a long time ago. Let's not talk about it. Some stories are only there to be forgotten." A low grunt left him at the sight of Jenny.
I could understand his reaction. Seeing her probably dug up too many buried memories, and emotions.
Jenny came back, still with the same happy jump in her movements. "They've blasted through the beams. Time to run again. Love the running. Yeah?"
"Certainly not." I groaned.
"Oh, c'mon, Lucy. A bit of sports won't kill you."
Donna giggled and her gaze wandered to our interlaced hands for a second, before wandering back to my face. Her look told clearly what she held of the Master's statement from before. He kept a firm hold of my hand, not even trying to hide anything, and my heart did a stupid jump because of it.
But there wasn't time to think. The sounds of gunshots from nearby urged us to move.
We were close to the temple.