My heart jumped into my throat as I lost balance and fell backwards. There was nothing. Just the open door. Only space. The darkness. I tried to grab the door frame, the Master's sleeve, but I was too slow. My feet left the ground, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.
I heard a mean laugh and the Doctor's scolding, although that also sounded amused. All those horrible things I had read about happening to a human body in space...
They all simply did not happen.
My look wandered down and I felt dizzy in an instant. My feet didn't touch anything, there was only endlessness. I was… floating.
"Whoops!" the Master laughed. "Did I scare you there, little one?"
"Come on, Master. That was mean." The Doctor, too, was barely holding back a laugh and he happily waved at me. "Didn't I mention the TARDIS' protective shields? It also creates an oxygen bubble around herself. Which is why we could look outside the doors like that, by the way."
Right. I hadn't even thought about that. Normally we would have gotten sucked out. Being around weird things seemed to have made me overlook other strange things.
"There also is some basic gravity, barely noticeable, so you can kind of swim around somewhat," the Doctor continued with a grin.
"And since you were so excited about being in space I thought I might let you do the dirty work." The Master folded his arms, leaned against the doorframe and giggled to himself.
"You could have still warned her." The other Time Lord slapped his arm playfully and the Master only stuck out his tongue. Thoughtfully the Doctor rubbed his chin. "What do you think? I haven't been to space for a while. Let's join her."
"Oh, I don't think so. Go and play alone." The Master rolled his eyes.
But the Doctor wouldn't give up so easily and tugged at the other one's arm to shove him outside. A small fight broke loose that made me think of brothers squabbling. One moment the Master had the Doctor in a headlock, the next he was pushed backwards and fought with his balance, but he could catch himself in time, grabbed the Doctor's tie and managed to get himself back inside.
In the end they both landed outside with me somehow, both giggling like children and still shoving each other around.
I stayed out of the way, carefully tried to manoeuvre around. It really was like swimming, just without having water around me. The protective shields also seemed to hold the temperatures stable, since I didn't feel cold out here. Which was odd. My brain had a really hard time processing all those properly illogical things.
Watching the two Time Lords having some childish fun together was refreshing and amusing. It almost seemed as if they hadn't behaved like this in forever, and maybe they hadn't - not with each other. I watched the Master grabbing a good handful of glowing stardust to rub it in the Doctor's face. As revenge he got pushed into the whole cloud, where he stirred up a mess and left dust traces behind him when he escaped, some nasty curses on his lips.
For a while they chased each other and I was content just watching from the TARDIS' roof. Somehow I had the feeling it would be best not to interrupt. Even though I didn't know all of their history, it felt as if they truly needed this moment, a break in all the animosity, a break from the tension and the hate that might linger between them for centuries.
The Master drifted through the darkness on his back, having a somewhat serene smile on his face, one I was quite certain to have never witnessed myself. The Doctor lazily swam over, hovered nearby and waited for the Master to drift over. He was at chest height to the Master's head and gently took it in his hands, stroking over the other ones' temples.
"I haven't seen you so carefree in centuries, Master," the Doctor said, smiling and glancing down at the other one's face.
The Master opened his eyes and looked back. Another smile tugged on his lips. "Remember when we hid the principal's time rotor in the arconeum? It almost was like this."
The Doctor giggled. "Yes, that was one of our better pranks."
They both laughed at the memory. The Master reached a hand up, stroked a finger over the Doctor's cheek. "Some days I wish everything could be like it was then," he murmured, barely loud enough for me to understand.
A sad huff came from the other Time Lord as he leaned closer down. "We were only children."
"Mhm… and everything was so much easier." The Master bent slightly upwards to get closer, but the Doctor almost immediately backed away, let go of the other one's head and even drifted backwards a bit.
The disappointment was clearly written all over the Master's face whilst the Doctor swam back to the doors, almost as if he was fleeing. I hid on the roof, out of sight. This wasn't my business and I didn't want them to think I'd be spying on them. I wasn't. It was simply tempting to learn more about how they related to one another. A puzzle which seemed to yield more questions each time they interacted.
And none of your business, I reminded myself with furrowed brows.
Instead of wondering about it more I went to fulfil the task I had been given. The dust clouds wore so many colours and some of the dust seemed to have different consistencies. It also was fun to just swim around in space, even though it made me nauseous to look into the distance. No matter where my eyes landed, they could not find a point to fixate on, and my brain didn't like this at all.
I took samples from many different dust patches. The vials were small and many, so there was enough opportunity to collect. Maybe I would even keep some of it. In one vial I collected more than a single sample, some of different shades of blue and purple, that looked really pretty when stacked on top of each other.
Here and there I also checked the egg, once even held it into the dust to see if there would be a reaction. Nothing happened, though, so I stored it away again.
It also was hard to tell what time it was, or how much of it had passed since I was floating out here. Eventually I returned to the front of the TARDIS, where I saw the Master sitting in the door frame, feet dangling into space while a dark look clouded his features.
"Having fun?" he asked with a crooked smile, when I approached.
"After you almost scared me to death?" I mocked. "Yep, lots of it." The Master smirked and watched as I did a roll in the air, only to stop, hovering upside down. I floated closer and poked out my tongue. "How you're not falling down?" I asked, trying to sound as serious as I could. "You sit the wrong way around."
He blinked as if he needed a moment to get the stupid joke, then a small, almost noiseless laugh found its way out of his throat. It didn't manage to completely cover his mood, but I still counted it as a success.
"So, you were afraid?" he asked.
"Well, yeah. A little. That really was mean."
Another, slightly wider smile spread on his face and it was weirdly soft. "About time," he said and heaved himself to his feet. "And don't you ever again forget how that feels."
Every smart response I might have had caught in my throat and I rotated in space to match his orientation. Was he right? Could I really fear death again, instead of chasing it? The Master's face dropped when he looked at me.
"That was meant to be funny, idiot," he grumbled.
"Oh," was all I managed to let out and I forced a smirk on my face. So many years of faking happiness, it had its advantages. "Okay. You managed. I was afraid."
I didn't tell him that my fear had probably only been instinct, called forth by the suddenness of the situation. Or was it? And this godforsaken smile on his face then, as if he would actually care.
One that he used to hide his own sadness, his own misery, the pain. I manoeuvred back to the door, hovered in the frame, awaiting the Master to step back to let me back in. Instead, however, he grabbed me around the waist, slipped under my hoodie and spread his fingers on my skin. They were warm and careful and he couldn't keep himself from letting out a relieved sigh, all while I felt his presence hovering in my head.
This man was just totally unaware of the concept of personal space! And he obviously had no idea that humans regarded skin contact mostly as quite intimate. That or he simply didn't care. I wasn't even sure myself if what I felt was a slight anger, or even amusement. Probably a mix of both. Besides, I knew I was only a tool, the only way he had to quiet his mind a little.
"The drums again?" I asked.
"Again?" he uttered. "They never shut up. Never. Not for a single second."
Well, that would probably drive anyone crazy. I didn't mind him using me for some temporary relief of them, but couldn't he just ask?
"Hey, let go." I slightly pushed against his chest. "I wanna come inside."
The look in his eyes darkened, but he still removed his hands and allowed me to carefully enter the door. It was a weird sensation to go back from zero gravity to feeling my own weight again. For a few seconds I gripped the door frame tight, not daring my own body to cope with the change immediately.
"Are they worse today?" I asked, partially to distract myself.
The Master hummed confirming. "It almost hurts again." He shook his head, eyes pressed shut.
"I still don't get why I help with it," I mumbled and released the door frame, carefully balancing my weight.
"I could find out," the Master mumbled, glaring at me. "But you wouldn't like it." My questioning look got answered with a mean grin. "I'd have to probe your head, dig and scratch more than just the surface." He took a step towards me, a glint of madness in his eyes.
I swallowed, unsure if that even meant something bad for me. So far, connecting was actually a quite pleasant experience and since it helped him with the drums, I was more than glad to oblige. Then again did I remember how it had hurt the first time, as he hadn't toned down his abilities to my human mind.
"Is that... dangerous?"
"Might." The corner of his mouth twitched amused.
"Does it hurt?" I raised a brow. Pain was something I could handle quite well, but at least I wanted to be prepared.
It seemed as if the Master took my hesitation the wrong way, though. He laughed out, a cruel mockery swinging within his voice. His hand slammed against the door frame next to my head as he bent down to my eye level.
"Do I care? Do you think I'll leave you a choice?"
I opened my mouth to respond, to tell him, I was okay with it, but something about him stopped me from speaking. A mild hypnotism maybe? Was he even aware of it? Dammit! Why couldn't he just ask and let me answer normally? I shook my head, glaring at him.
"All I want is for those bloody drums to be quiet," he now growled, stroked a hand over my cheek. "But if I break you, I'll lose this chance." His hands glided down my sites, making me squirm and wonder if he even knew what he was doing with me. And again he took my reaction the wrong way, his look getting darker. "No, I won't ask. I am the Master, don't you ever forget that. I just take whatever I want. You can shield your silly little mind as much as you like, I can just break through it."
What an idiot! I wanted to shout it out at him, but couldn't and settled for just giving him a scowl. Barriers my as! If he wanted in my head, I wouldn't stop him. If the drums would vanish from his mind, maybe it would allow him to finally calm down, to be free of his involuntary madness.
His fingers slipped under my hoodie and shirt once more, still warm, still strangely gentle as they wrapped around my sites. I closed my eyes, determined not to resist, although I had no clue how mental barriers even worked. Intend must be enough and so I breathed out, imagining how the walls around me just dissolved into scraps that floated away. The same moment I felt the Master, his presence, his determination. But it was like wanting to breach a door, only for it to open at the last moment. Instead of crashing against the resistance he had awaited, there was just nothing.
And he fell.
The stream of energy from his mind tumbled into mine, spread like warm smoke, pooled right into my chest. I gasped, had trouble breathing for a second. The Master tried to stop, surprise, panic, confusion, rage, it was all there, reverberated through me as his fingers dug deeper into my sites. Something in my mind seemed to pick it up, reflecting, no, intermingling with it. Threads that wrapped around each other, a splash of blood vanishing in a vast ocean.
His forehead dropped against mine and he drew me closer, still trying to get free in the same process. I was frozen, overwhelmed by all those weird sensations. It was warm, swirling in my head, my chest, pulsating in the tips of my fingers. Did I even want to stop this? My pulse was racing madly, everything around us disappeared, got swallowed by what I felt. And I wanted more of it.
There was a small groan, from me, from him? It was hard to tell what belonged to whom. I sensed how much he was. All the years and centuries of his life, all the good and the bad, all the losses, the love, the hate, the cold loneliness. It was his and it wasn't. It was mine and it wasn't either. There was resistance, struggling, all in vain, only leading to our minds entangling even more, like fish trapped in a net.
And it just wasn't enough. I (we) sensed the potential, felt a tingling of how much more this could be, how much deeper we could both reach inside another. When had my hands clawed into his shirt? When did my eyes close? Was that amusement? Was it fear? Uncertainty, still struggling, still fighting. Still craving for so much more. I felt his breath against my lips, saw his eyes, that couldn't see mine any longer and could nonetheless.
More. We could be so much more. And there was so much curiosity. Mine? His? Ours? Fingers on my skin, eyes boring into each other, lips ghosting over mine. A question, a demand. A possibility. No struggle was left, no vain attempt to entangle. Careful, oh so careful did he move, did I. Lips touching lips, igniting something new, sparking a flame that ran through my whole body that was pressed against his, held tight, mouths moving, eyes closed. And he was so ancient, and I learned that time had a taste. Our minds tumbled deeper, pooled into an endless ocean that was both and neither of us together, that was beyond ourselves. I got lost, so did he, I knew it, because he knew, I felt it, because he did. My hands dragged him closer, his held me tighter. And finally we stopped tumbling, stopped the rush and managed to stay somewhere.
Somewhere so deep there was no name for it. A place in our intermingled minds that was more true than reality could ever be.
And there I heard it... Cold and foreign and old and... wrong.
Du... du... du... du
Du... du... du... du
Du... du... du... du
The sound, once noticed, spread, reached into my mind, but couldn't settle, retreated. It felt unnerving, threatening, like what I had heard on the brink of death. Not a heartbeat, but an artificial tone, a fixed set of four beats, ever repeating, always the same. Fading, slipping before I could grasp its origin.
And slowly we stopped being one and became two separate things once again. Carefully the Master untangled our essences. Not as fast as would have been possible, both clinging to the longing for a connection, or maybe just enjoying the chase of tongues and the soft movements that lost their urgency and tapered off as we resurfaced.
For what felt like minutes, we kept standing there, eyes closed, waiting for our breaths to calm, for the beatings of hearts to go back to somewhat normal. I felt fingers letting go of my sites and opened my lids to blink at the Master above me, who seemed as confused and overwhelmed as I felt. Neither of us had awaited such a snowball effect.
But he caught himself much faster than I could, a crooked grin spreading on his face, while he quietly laughed to himself, before his twinkling eyes came to rest on me again.