"Whoops," the Master let out, childishly smirking. "That got a bit out of hand there."
I blinked stupidly at him, how he still had one hand next to my head, propped against the door frame, his head only as far away as necessary. I found myself completely at a loss for words. Because of so many reasons there was no way to pick one, no way to shove one of them in his face.
"A bit..." I repeated toneless, trying to get my head to comply again. I felt numb, tired and at the same time totally binged up, when I brought myself to actually look him in the eyes. "What the heck was that?"
There was a mockingly raised brow, a smug smirk. "I think people call that a kiss."
I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Stop messing with me," I whined. "That was just part of this whole snowball effect, wasn't it?"
"Partially." The Master shrugged and mumbled, "It does need a certain attr- anyway." He straightened. "You just said it yourself. Snowball effect." Grinning, he tapped against my head. "Hard to stop, once it gets rolling."
I slapped his hand away, although I wasn't pissed or anything. Just tired and confused and maybe a little overdosed with some of those bloody hormones a human body tends to produce in such a situation. And he absolutely was not allowed to wear such a charming smile, I decided at that moment.
He snickered at my probably dumb expression and poked out his tongue as he leaned closer down to my eye level. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, little one. But if you wanna know-"
"Just shut up, will you?" I grunted and this time it was me who grabbed his collar, if only to bump my forehead against his. "Give my brain a moment to catch up." And my body some more moments to cool down. Gosh dammit!
I was met with wide, surprised eyes, then a small grin. "For a second I thought you wanted to snog me again."
"That's so not going to happen." I huffed. "and you were the one starting it."
The Master's eyes twinkled mischievously. "Was I?"
Well, okay, I had no clue who started that part. Everything had just... happened. But had it been because of the sudden connection, or because there was something... else? Attraction? Maybe. He certainly was handsome, but that wasn't enough. And no matter how honest I tried to be with myself I could not find anything beyond this. Maybe there wasn't even a proper name for whatever bound us together. And maybe I was still way too confused and overwhelmed to want to think about it.
Right now it simply felt good to be so close and just breathe. The Master didn't try to get in my mind and also didn't move away. It felt as if I (we?) needed this little bit of contact to process everything, to get all of it back in order and to remember that there had been something important. Oh so very important.
"Are you hurting?" the Master asked softly, for once without mischief or mockery in his voice.
I let out a long breath and slightly shook my head. "No... yes. I don't know. Not physically. Ugh... that's all your bloody fault. You just need to storm in everywhere, don't you?"
He chuckled quietly and took my head in both hands. "Wasn't expecting to be let in like that. Usually people can't stand having me in their mind."
"Can't imagine why," I replied, oozing sarcasm, but then got half serious. "Just ask next time. And don't dare to start with your pride again."
The Master gave me a scowl, his eyes darkly boring into mine. "As if you would let me. I felt how much it scares you."
Another drawn out breath (sigh?) pressed itself out of my lungs. I realized that I was still clutching the lapels of his shirt and let my hands sink. Only a little, not really knowing where to place them and not wanting to let them uselessly dangle by my sites. So, somehow they just landed on his chest, where I subtly felt his weird heartbeat.
Scared? Maybe I was. Humans are always scared of what they don't understand.
I huffed and smiled with closed eyes. "Guess I'm overall more curious than afraid."
Maybe not clinging to life so madly had its advantages, after all. A thought I kept to myself, one he might not ever truly understand, despite his age. Those hearts beat so strong, nothing in the universe could ever stop them. The Master simply would not allow it.
Only seconds had passed, although they felt like a small eternity. He hadn't moved, forehead still propped against mine, my hands still resting on his chest, the double pulse beneath. That noise that was so calm and soothing and yet could be so…
My eyes snapped open. "The drums."
His brows knitted together. "Still annoying." The hands around my head gripped tighter, but only a little, just enough to remind me that they were there. "Don't move. I'm not going to-"
"I heard them," I interrupted and felt him wince, eyes widening.
The Master swallowed, closed his eyes and breathed out. "My heartbeat," he muttered. "Nothing more. "
But I shook my head. "No. That wasn't you. This-" My hands curled over his hearts- "feels warm and alive. But what I heard there… It was cold and frightened me. Like a machine, or a code."
The Master let go of me and stumbled backwards, his face a mixture of horror, disbelief, fear and hope, all at the same time. His mouth opened, quivered a little, his eyes darted left and right as if to search for something that might make sense." No… no no no, that's not possible. It's not. It just isn't." He shook his head, clawed his hands into his hair and dropped against the door frame behind him. "Can't be. Can't be. Not after all this time. Not after…" He looked back up, lowered his hands and glared at me, desperately seeking an answer. "I tried so much. I've been to so many places. None… nothing. Not even the Doctor found them."
"He… never listened for himself, right? Maybe it's not something you can find with machines."
The Master's eyes landed on me and he waved me over. I obeyed, unsure what he wanted, but when I was in reach he only took my head in his hands again, thumbs stroking over my temples.
"I have to look," he whispered. "I just have to. I'm sorry."
His words and tone confused me. Why did he seem so uncertain? And even more important… Why did he apologize? Of all people he was the last one I would have ever awaited to hear those… I winced.
Something moved in my head. It was the Master, but it was different, wrong. I groaned as a sharp pain went through my mind, when it felt as if a glowing stick of metal got stabbed through my head. I clawed at his arms, but the grip was relentless. A sob shook me, another groan. I clenched my teeth to endure it and…
Then it was over.
The Master slipped out of my mind, eyes wide. He was shaking. The pain vanished, although not completely, left me with a subtle headache.
"What did you do?" I asked, still more surprised than angry.
It seemed as if he barely was aware of my words and it took him several tries before he brought out a word. Even then, they were barely audible.
"After effect. Our little snowball went too far, left you wounded. Any more contact after that is bound to be hurting." His head snapped up, a desperate madness gleaming in his eyes. "I had to know," he breathed.
So much for asking. But he seemed in no shape for a lecture, more as if his sanity was about to completely snap. And it must have hurt him, too.
The shocked look vanished and instead he quietly laughed to himself, muttered something I couldn't make out. The Master stumbled back, hit the door frame and sunk down there, hands clawing in his hair, his head lowered deep.
For several moments I just stood there, unable to react, not knowing what to do, or if there even was anything I could do. Was that still a laugh? It sounded more like crying.
"Hey," I carefully said and squatted down in front of him. "Everything alright?" And a little quieter I asked, "did… I hear them?"
At first there was no reaction, but then, slowly, the Master lifted his head. His eyes shimmered wet, but no tears were falling. And still, in a way, he seemed broken, lost. As if his whole reality had just crumbled to a pile of dust.
"So many, many years, little light," he muttered. "And you're the first." He swallowed, blinked. "Maybe I'm not so insane, after all. Can that really be?"
There was some dumb joke already on my lips, but I decided to save that for later. Instead I smiled reassuringly (at least I hoped I did.)
"Oh, you two look as if you're plotting something," came the Doctor's voice all of a sudden. "Nothing bad I hope. How are the samples going?"
"Samples?" I asked dumbly, having completely forgotten about them.
"From the stardust, moron," the Master grumbled and shoved me back outside the doors without a warning.
Surprised I wriggled my arms until I remembered that I was just floating out there. Always those mood swings! As I floated back to the doors I watched the Time Lords.
"Why so grumpy, Master?" the Doctor asked with his usual bubbliness. "Having a headache?"
"You know exactly what plagues my head, Doctor." The last word was spat out hatefully. He got to his feet and approached the other one.
"Uhm, right." The Doctor faltered for a visible moment, then caught himself. "I've found some new devices on a few planets, recently, and the black market of-"
The Doctor did, dumbfounded and wide eyed. He yelped a little when the Master suddenly grabbed his lapels to draw him down to his eyelevel.
"Centuries," he growled. "I could have spent centuries knowing! But you would not listen!"
"Master-" the other Time Lord tried to free himself from the grip. -"there is nothing to lis-"
"You heard me right." The Master's voice suddenly was calm, too calm.
There was so much hate brooding underneath, so much pain. I could feel it even from meters away. And I understood. Had the Doctor believed him, had he listened just once…
The Master let go of his counterpart and stepped next to him, almost whispering, "You've always been nothing but a coward… Theta."
With that he bumped the other one with his shoulder and rushed inside the TARDIS, leaving the two of us back, dumbfounded and - in my case - a little clueless. What had the Master just called him? Was that his actual name?
Even If, it wasn't any of my business. The Doctor had chosen who he wanted to be and I wasn't planning to disrespect that. In the end I knew all too well how it felt to hate the name your parents forced upon you. Many years ago I had discarded it and taken on a new one. A new me, since everything from before was gone anyway.
The Doctor coughed and rubbed his neck, a small apologetic smile on his freckled face.
"He'll come down again. You've got some samples? It was fun outside, wasn't it?" His voice sounded more thoughtful, however. "Just… hovering there. Just being. No gravity, no up or down. No right or wrong."
"Yeah, it was fun." I nudged him and scrambled out the small vials from my pockets. "There. I just took something from everything I came across."
"And this one?" The Doctor held up a vial that was filled with all different colours.
"Oh. Just a souvenir. The dust is so pretty and since you said it's not… it isn't dangerous, is it?" I raised a quizzical eyebrow. Somehow I could never be quite certain.
"Uhm… weeeell… shouldn't." Keep it. As long as it's in the vial, it's safe either way. "
So I snatched my souvenir back and stuffed it into my shoulder bag, right next to the small dragon egg. I almost was tempted to wish the Doctor a good night, but then I remembered that not even half a day had passed yet. Why then did I feel so utterly exhausted? Was it the playing around outside? Or was it another after effect of what had just happened with the Master?
I hadn't felt extraordinarily rested since a few days already. But the new environment and all the small non-adventures, as the Doctor loved to call it, sure took a small toll on me. I wasn't used to so much action, even though I would never want to stop it.
"Any plans for the rest of the day?" the Doctor asked. "I'm going to have a good look at the dust, so…"
"Not really. Maybe the library. I like it there."
Before I had reached the door, the Doctor called me back once more. "Lucy, it might be tempting to explore the TARDIS, but be careful and listen to her and your instinct."
I flushed a little and kneaded my hands. "I… didn't want to snoop around."
But the Doctor only laughed. "It's okay. There are so many hidden places in here. Even I don't know them all. And usually there should be no danger. But you're human… and there are more dangers than only the physical kind."
"Okay. Got it. I'll be careful."
"Great!" He beamed at me as I turned and then started to type things into his console I wouldn't even remotely understand.
It was indeed tempting to stroll through the corridors, even though I barely dared to peek into the rooms. The sheer amount of possibility overwhelmed me somehow, made me almost anxious. A feeling that also didn't vanish with the Doctor's allowance.
And besides, I was completely knackered and not in the mood for any kind of adventure.
The thought made me huff. Over the past days the Doctor had briefly mentioned companions he had had before and all of them seemed always so thrilled to run into danger, to save the world and the universe. An urge that was completely lacking in me. Earth and its inhabitants had left me broken and abandoned. There was no way I would risk my own well-being for them.
Not all of them at least. Somewhere in the back of my mind I still wanted to make the lives of my dad and my little sister better.
I halted in my tracks and glared numbly at the wall before me. The thought of my dad sent a sting through me. In all of my life he had been the only person to accept and love me for who I was. Sure, he had also been passive and had never stepped in when she…
I shook my head and sighed. So often had I thought about possibilities, about ways to help. But if people are too weak to help themselves… then what was left?
One thing, however, was clear. The Doctor wouldn't help me with that. So maybe, in the end, I would have to get the Master to do so. But freeing him would mean betraying the Doctor… And during the last days I had grown fond of him, had seen that he was a good person, or at least tried to be. He tried so hard that he ignored how much it overwhelmed him, how it made him bitter and mean sometimes. But still… I couldn't simply betray him.
With an exasperated sigh I dropped my forehead against the wall. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Why were the lives and well-beings of people so intertwined?
And where was my place in all of this?