Falling when there is no air around you is a strange feeling. You sense the drop and gravity takes a hold of you. There is, however nothing rushing past you, nothing tugging at your clothes. It is almost like floating downwards, the speed of your movements not palpable, until...
There was no pain. Only a far away realization that I wasn't falling anymore and then... nothing.
Suddenly I stood on my feet again, my head having trouble orientating myself properly after awaiting some sort of crash that, however, never came. Puzzled I glanced around, only noticing the diffuse orange light after some seconds. There was stone around me, raw, with no traces of symbols or engravings. A weird bubbling sound crept into my ears, as if there was water boiling nearby. My look wandered upwards, finding the hole through which I had fallen. The cable was nowhere to be seen. It must have been too high above.
How, then, had I survived the fall? Why was I standing upright on my feet and had not crushed to death? Something must have stopped my fall.
I winced as a loud beeping noise rang through my suit. And suddenly I also understood why it was so hard to breathe. Remembered.
The oxygen was running out.
Beep! – Beep!
I laughed. It was hard in the thin air, but I couldn't help it. Surviving the fall, only to die anyway. This wasn't fair. It just wasn't. I dropped to my knees in defeat, slowly screwing the helmet open. It was instinct. Just this small wish to not die inside a glass dome around my head. It didn't matter, I'd suffocate anyway. And I wanted to have a clear sight. Just for the last moments of my own mental wellbeing.
Another thought that made me laugh a little. The helmet dropped to the ground.
This was it.
I took one last breath and...
Wait... Did I just breathe? Completely baffled I tried it again and sucked in some air, oxygen. Maybe a little thin and too hot to be comfortable, but still... How was that even possible? The sensor the Master had with him had clearly shown no signs of it. And yet...
I shot to my feet and scrambled for the communicator.
"Jump!" I shouted into it an hastily rambled on. "You can breathe down here! There's got to be... I don't know what. I survived the fall. There's got to be some gravity bubble or whatever. Don't even have a scratch and it was damn deep."
My heart thudded excitedly in my chest from the good news, then, after some seconds passed, because of fear. I paced up and down, away from the hole. A minute passed.
Again I raised the com, barely daring to speak.
"Are you..." I gulped, afraid to finish the question. It drove me mad that there was no answer. Hadn't he said... Had it been a lie? No, no, no, no! I stopped dead in my tracks, glaring at the communicator. Sweat dropped down from my forehead, from the heat and from my fear. Time seemed to stand almost completely still while I raised the device to my mouth again. "You said you'd survive longer than I." My choking voice was barely a whisper.
It hadn't even been so long! There was no way... "Dammit, answer!" I pleaded. "I swear, if you lied to me... I... I..."
My hand lowered. Tears burned in my eyes, unable to fall. Suddenly everything crushed over me like a wave. The past days, the beast in my head, the elevator, the fall, the heat... and now the missing answer. Shit! This was too much. I couldn't breathe anymore. It was so hot, my stomach cramped and I slid down the stone wall, sobbing out all the tension. Fuck! It couldn't be true! It wasn't possible! It was a cruel joke, nothing more. I was dreaming, trapped in a nightmare.
Trapped in hell.
I wrapped my arms over my head, buried it between my knees and trembled. This was it. This was hell. Heat and fire all around, the squelching bubbling sounds from afar, nightmare after nightmare, chained to a mockery of reality. Chains... I actually heard them, rattling nearby, scraping against glowing stones, scorched black by fire and...
"This is no place to sleep, seriously."
My head shot up, the sudden movement making me dizzy. My mouth dropped open in disbelieve at what I saw... whom. There he stood, just about to take his helmet off. I hadn't heard a thing over the bubbling noise. Or was it just another part of my nightmare? Some weird trick of the devil...
The Master tossed the helmet aside and turned around himself to get a look at our surroundings. Clumsily I got to my feet and trod closer. He looked at me in puzzlement, observing my wide eyes, not moving a muscle when I tapped against his chest with a finger.
"'Cause I am. What're you rambling about again?" he mocked, rolling his eyes in annoyance.
I couldn't help it. It was simply impossible. Before he could even react, I already had my arms flung around his torso, hugging him tight.
"Oi, stop that!" he cried indignantly. "What's gotten into you, you stupid, insufferable..."
A sob shook me and I clung to him even tighter, no matter his words, not caring what he might do to me. My body was shivering, despite the heat and it still felt as if I couldn't breathe, as if the world would collapse at any moment.
"Are you having some sort of panic attack?" the Master finally asked annoyed. "Ugh, it's always the same with you humans. You get into just one moment of a little danger and you break."
Somehow I found my voice again, the words simply tumbling over my lips, "'S not the danger. You didn't answer..."
"Yeah, was busy climbing the cable. Didn't want to jump all the way... just in case. Now stop clinging to me!" He shoved me away, scowling deeply.
"You could have said that!" I accused. "I really thought... Shit. You scared me!"
His brow raised. "Why's that?"
"I... I thought you were... dead."
Another shiver and a sob went through me. The Master poked my head.
"Ah, and now you're sad because I'm not. Seriously, if you want me gone..."
"No!" I choked out, barely able to get a sound out. It was only a whisper. "Don't you dare leaving. I was really worried."
"For... me?" His voice had lost the sarcasm and had taken on a puzzled tone.
I nodded, dropping my head against his chest to hide my face, just standing there for a while with trembling shoulders. The Master pushed his fingers under my chin to make me look up. The surprise in his eyes was honest, as was his confusion. His thumb stroked over my cheek, wiping a tear away I hadn't noticed falling.
"I've done not one good thing to you," he mumbled softly. "You shouldn't cry."
I clenched my teeth to keep the tears at bay, trying to breathe slow and steadily. Somehow I even succeeded and wiped my eyes with a sleeve. Of course it was stupid. Of course he was right. But that didn't change a thing.
The Master glanced down at me, almost uncomfortable looking. Eventually he huffed, ruffled my hair and strode away, leaving it up to me to stay behind or to follow. Not a hard decision. Even though everything inside of me screamed to just sit down, to simply stop, I couldn't. I had come so far, there was no halting now, no time to collapse.
And leaving the Master out of sight frightened me more than anything that might lie ahead.
Just a little longer, only a few more steps, I told myself, calming my breath.
I wasn't alone in this. He hadn't died. Wordlessly I glared at his back, how he strode through those corridors of stone with a confidence as if nothing here could harm him. Not once did he turn around, not once did he ask if I was still there.
The rattling of chains got louder, as did the bubbling sound of... lava? What else could it be? The orange light and the heat down here made it obvious. And weren't we right in the heart of this planet?
Soon we rounded a corner and with a gaping mouth I found out what had caused the noise; what had been creeping through the darkness of the sanctuary base and had possessed my mind.
There, inside a lake of lava stood a monstrosity as huge as the cave itself, with a horned head, his face contorted in a horrifying grimace. The thick neck chained to the wall, making the beast unable to move far away from its spot. All it could do was scream into the air, to let out a noise that ran like acid through my veins. Compared to this thing we were like ants.
"Bloody hell," the Master let out, then chuckled. "You're an ugly thing."
Carefully I stepped next and a little behind him, halfway hiding, halfway curious, as much terrified as fascinated. The cave shook slightly and a deep laugh reverberated through the stone.
"Ahhh, you found me." The snout of the devilish thing contorted to a snarl, or maybe a laugh. "Welcome to my humble realm."
"Oh, it's indeed cosy," the Master mocked. "Bet you never get cold."
The thing laughed in its deep voice, then pointed a finger at me, chains rattling. "Did your mind change, Time Lord? You brought me the human child again."
I stiffened and peeked up at the Master. The beast truly had a skill to implant fear and doubt into one's mind. Could it be? Had he not struggled against my wish to come along because he knew he might need some sort of... sacrifice?
The Master turned his head to look down at my scared face. Suddenly a hand slipped onto my shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly, before he let go again.
"No. You can't have her."
"Fool!" the devil roared. Fire splashed upwards. "You could have so much power. With me there would be no limits. You think you can rule over time! I can go beyond."
The words sunk in, my heart dropped again. I had refused this power willingly. Because I did not want to lose who I was. And even though he stayed silent for a long time, I knew the Master wasn't considering the offer.
I glanced around the massive cavern, searching for anything to give answers. But all I found were a few urns on sockets, and crudely drawn pictures on the walls.
"Why do you need someone else?" I heard the Master ask, eventually. "Those chains don't look so tough."
"Do you really think," the giant snarled deeply, leaning closer as much as he was able to, "I would still linger in this pit, if I were able to break free on my own?"
"Och, maybe you're just a little daft." The Master shrugged, not at all impressed by the size or the threatening aura. "Let's try again. It might change my opinion. Maybe I'll even let you go." He let those words hung in the hot air, deliberately drawing out the pause. "Why possess another person? Why not just try and break free physically?"
The demon stayed silent, his burning eyes only staring in hate and ancient wrath. A good question indeed. The mind of another one must limit his powers a great deal. The Master turned away and towards me, now also observing the few hints.
"It was easy," the beast spoke hastily, almost as if it wanted to prevent us from looking. "There is an oh so tiny tear in the veils between minds." He pointed a long finger at me. "There is a gap in your barriers I could easily slip into. A gap that should not be."
Confused I blinked at the creature, then at the Master, whose eyes steadily widened in realisation.
"Whoops," he made and grinned impishly at me.
"What? What does that thing mean?"
"Weeeeell... remember when I wanted you to hear the drums?" He waited until I nodded. "I might have used a tiny little bit too much force to get into your head."
I narrowed my brows at him, slightly pursing my lips. Next I scowled at the devil.
"That the reason you possessed me of all people? There are plenty of others upstairs. Could have taken anyone."
He laughed his deep rumble of a laugh, ugly, sharp teeth showing. "I can," he growled amused. "It takes effort. It is difficult with the chains. But, given enough time, I will claim one of them. I already spread a part of me inside their little pets."
I exchanged a glance with the Master. "The Ood?" I asked.
"Might be. Not my problem." He shrugged and turned back to the devil. "Alright. Enough chit-chat. I'm getting bored with you. How do we get back to the surface?"
"Bored?" The beast roared out a thundering laugh. "Oh, poor little child. Are the lessons too easy? Are the purple butterflies in the silver trees so much more fun to watch?"
The Master winced subtly, as if those words rang a bell in him.
"Is it so much more tempting to envision the universe in all its mighty beauty? How it would be to own it all?"
"Pshaw! What do you know? You're chained and useless," the Master spat. "I can get all I want."
"Oh... you never did. So, so young still. In red robes, running through academy corridors. I can see it all."
"Then stop with it. That's all long ago. Nothing to play with for you."
His words sounded... uneasy. I peeked at the Master with curiosity and worry. Did the devil speak of the Time Lord's past? He definitely seemed to have fun, laughing darkly to himself. "I can play with you however much I like. There is no way back. No up, no away. You reached the end. You will stay and die here with me. And I can talk to you, Time Lord. I can speak of all the things you wanted to forget."
The Master glared hatefully at the giant. One quick look darted towards me, vanishing fast. He didn't want me to know, I realised. About who he used to be, about who he was today. And again I remembered that I actually knew nothing at all about this man. Only vague glimpses that barely made sense.
"Don't listen," he murmured towards me.
And the devil laughed.
"She has no choice! You're here, at my mercy. Both of you." He let out a devilish laugh. "Yes, my body might be chained and useless. But my words... oh my words always were what frightened all of you so much. Little, well-picked truths at the right time."
The Master snorted, gritting his teeth. His eyes shot back upwards, challenging the beast. "Might be. What do I care? I won't listen."
"The little one might, though. With all that urge inside her, to find knowledge, to seek what is true and real. But there is no such thing. Reality is the biggest illusion and she knows it, am I right?"
I tried to ignore the words and just shrugged, crossing my arms over my chest.
"You know there is no place for you. Nowhere in all of time and space. Too similar, yet too different to your own kind. No one will ever understand. They don't want to. Why bother with you when there are so many other people that aren't foreign to what they already know?"
I smiled grimly, leaning against a stalagmite. There was nothing he could say that I didn't know already. Nothing I hadn't mulled over a million times in my own head. Go on, I thought. Tell me something I have never thought of. Surprise me.
The devil seemed to sense my thoughts, or maybe just knew them, since he could read our memories so well. His face contorted in satisfaction.
"And now you cling to whomever pays you any attention. Like a chick to a hen. You think he could be a friend. An ally. Two outcasts, bound together." Okay, maybe there were some things I hadn't thought about thoroughly, yet. I quickly tossed an uncomfortable glance at the Master, but he didn't even look my way, busy with the images on the walls. "What do you hope to gain, little one? He counts much more years than you will ever reach. You are nothing alike."
The words stung. I knew they shouldn't, knew they were meant to do exactly that. They still hurt.
"My, what are you a bully," the Master mocked, peeking at the devil from behind one of the urn sockets. "You really wanna go on talking until we die? Spare your breath, or you'll get bored fast." He chuckled and tossed a grin at me, even winking, as if he thought he had made a great joke.
I couldn't help the small smile tugging on my lips. He obviously had listened, but didn't seem to care at all.
"Bored? I don't think so. You're so weak and pathetic, you will break long before your bodies die. You will sit there, squirming in agony." It was a dark promise. "Go on. Resist me. I have all the time. And I'm not ever feeling alone. Not like your wretched kinds. Running around, always searching for other souls not to be lonely. All the stolen glances. All the times you took his hand and he did not notice? The stolen kisses that were only fun, only for exploring. Because you knew he would always be running, always be one step ahead, in his mind... with his hearts."
"Just shut up!" the Master shouted suddenly, hands clenched to fists. "You have no rights to scramble through my memories! You have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Don't I?" The devil leaned down, his face almost at our eyelevel, face scrunched up to a dangerous snarly grin. "Oh, so alone. I see your hearts, little Koschei. Aching, bleeding, hating... and loving so deeply."
What I saw surprised me. The Master didn't move, didn't speak. Only his fists trembled slightly. In the face of this thing he found himself powerless, unable to prevent it from dissecting his memories, unable to even punch the hideous creature.
"Bully someone your own size!" I called out, almost freezing as those huge, evil eyes focussed on me. Slowly I grinned, drawing out my moment. "Or... should I accidentally drop one of those urns, maybe?"
"NO!" It roared with all his might, tearing at the chain. Fire raised almost up to his waist.
The Master looked at me, puzzled, his gaze wandered over the pictures on the walls, then over the urns. His eyes widened as he understood.
"Not so useless now, am I?" I asked mockingly, returning his spreading grin.
A/N: I always wondered if the Doctor survived the fall because of his Time Lord body, or because it wasn't that deep in the end... or, since there was oxygen down there, there might also have been some whatever to stop the fall.
Also, yes, I totally went there... If you squint hard enough at what the devil tells the Master. *snickers*
And then there's the fact that it never made much sense to me, why the devil possessed only Toby. (Probably only because the actor looked so creepy with red eyes and all the tattoos, lol.) So I came up with something else...