The Master stood in the corridor with his back leaned against a wall and closed eyes. Almost as if he were waiting or sleeping even. There was nothing particularly strange about him, he looked clean and was dressed neatly in dark blue jeans and a black dress shirt. His hair was tidy, his goatee shaven.
And still I froze in place at his sight and contemplated running as fast as my tired feet might take me.
The TARDIS was silent, did no longer tug or urge me, but her panicky reaction still sat heavy in my chest. Had she not realized where she had been leading me? Had she wanted to show me something else and had stumbled over the Master as much as I? And if that was the case, then how had he managed to hide himself that well?
Whatever the answer might be, something was off and I pressed a hand over my wildly beating heart. One way or another… I had to confront him about… well, everything. But first I simply wanted to know how he was, so I took some slow steps towards him.
My suspicion got confirmed the moment his eyes snapped open to fixate on me, following my every movement like a predator. Not a single muscle twitched in his face.
"Hh...ey." With the attempt of a smile I shortly raised my hand in a greeting. "How are you?"
The Master blinked, his pupils were dilated slightly, swallowing most of the warm hazel. His predatory look melted into a wide grin. "Look at that," he spoke up, his voice sounding strangely distorted, a little too high and somewhat strained. "A light in the dark."
Perplex I glared at him and my confusion grew even more when he stepped forward, grabbed my shoulders and dropped his forehead against mine, the smile still on his face. I froze, sensing something I had no words for, but knew it wasn't good.
"You did well, lil' lumin. So, so well." He chuckled and retreated slightly, still holding my shoulders. "Because, you see, now it all makes sense! It's there and that means I will find it!"
"Huh? What the…?" I let out confused. His words made no sense to my exhausted mind.
The Master let go of me and laughed in a deranged tone, grabbed his head and shook it. His eyes snapped to me again, the irises… vibrating slightly.
"What have you done?" I asked confused. "Are you high or something?"
His laugh stopped, hands falling to his sides, and instead he seemed to sulk for a moment, his tongue darting out to lick his lips. "I'm searching for them," he finally told. "The drums. Just have to dig deep enough. Scrape the right places."
"How?" Suspiciously I squinted at him, having the feeling he was doing something really stupid. Something like… trying to alter his state of mind to look for them in places he usually couldn't access.
My answer was a giggle and a sway. The Master dropped against the wall again, glaring wide eyed at the ceiling as if it were particularly interesting. Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead. Then, suddenly, he shot forward, swiped me off my feet. I had no idea what exactly happened, but a moment later it was me with the back against the wall and his hands around my throat, a manic grin in front of my face.
"Oh, you really did so well, Lucy," he sneered. "But you forgot. Little stupid human did forget." His grip got tighter, prevented me from speaking, made my limbs numb and useless. My lungs burned, covering the throbbing where my head had hit the wall. "I got what I wanted. This is why I saved you. It makes sense, doesn't it? I know now that you will hear them. That's all I need."
He laughed, loosened his fingers and allowed me to breathe again. Somewhere in my daze I came to the conclusion that the TARDIS must have sensed his deranged state. Therefore the warning. And before I could fully recover, he was back again, one hand on the wall next to my head, the other stroking along my cheek,but the almost tender touch wasn't there to soothe me, let a shiver run down my spine.
There was an almost apologetic look on his face. Almost. "Now I can take back my life force. You don't need it anymore, after all, don't you agree?"
I blinked, too shocked and dazed to really answer. He was playing with me again, wasn't he? But right as I thought it, his hands wrapped around my head and I felt a tug from deep within my chest, like the cold shot of adrenalin, like taking a deep breath in the cold of winter. It wasn't pain, but something far, far deeper. A force that gnawed on my essence, that started to pull something from me, tried to rip it out of a socket. I gasped and tried to struggle, without finding the strength to actually do so.
Again. Again I looked into the darkness, as I had so often now. And again, with a weird clarity I shouldn't even have in that moment, I felt no fear; there was only sadness and resignation, the strange sensation of floating in deep water. Somehow I managed to raise a hand and place it on the chest in front of me. He would be on his own again, stuck and raging and hurting so, so much.
I heard a sob.
And realized the tugging on my essence had stopped.
Confused, I glanced from my hand upwards and found pinched eyes and clenched teeth. His breath was ragged, strained by the roaring in his head.
"It hurts," he ground out. "They hurt so much, little one."
In the end it had been this very sound that had saved my life. There still was a weirdly cold feeling inside my chest, but it faded slowly.
The Master was shaking, sweat pearled from his forehead and when his eyes opened, they were slightly twitching, as if he had no control over their movements anymore.
"What drugs did you take?" I asked quietly and took some deep breaths. Maybe I wouldn't have a clue what any of the stuff meant, but getting him to talk might be better than having him do stupid things again. "Tell me… Please."
Even through his pain he managed to take on a sarcastic grin. He dropped forwards, leaned with both hands against the wall and trapped me in place.
"Oh, what didn't I take?" He chuckled lightly. "Everything I could find. Everything that works with my stupid biology."
Okay, that sounded entirely not good. No wonder he was completely mental. I pushed both hands against him. This was going nowhere.
"Med bay, now," I ordered, trying to sound as if it were obvious he would listen.
The Master looked down at me, making the impression that he didn't even have the strength to go anywhere. The shaking got worse and when he pushed himself away from me, he only collapsed to his knees, suddenly giggling to himself as if it were the funniest thing.
I needed to get the Doctor. But I also couldn't leave the Master on his own here, even when he deserved it a thousand times and more.
"TARDIS?" I spoke into the air, hoping the ship would hear me. "I know he scares you, but I need the Med bay door here. And the Doctor."
The Master let out another giggle. "She won't help. Hates me."
"Tough!" I snapped and ran a hand down my face. "Is any of the stuff in your system dangerous?"
He looked up and blinked, pupils now swallowing all color. "Might." He kicked his lips. "But I need them to stop."
"Why, isn't that great," I grumbled, bending down slightly. "Can you stand?"
"Tzz, f'cause I can."
Well, at least he tried. Somehow the Master actually got back to his feet, but then almost dropped again. I grabbed him, more on instinct than anything else and tried to steady him, what wasn't easy with my current state and a general lack of physical strength. And now that I touched him, I realized how badly he was shaking, how cold he felt.
To my relief a path of golden light appeared on the ground. The TARDIS might hate him or not, but she must sense that I had no intention to give up so easily.
We walked for some minutes and again I wondered why the TARDIS could move some of the doors seemingly everywhere, but had to lead me through corridors to get me to others. And the longer we walked the slower the Master got, now constantly mumbling things I could barely make out. Some of it didn't sound not too good, apparently describing various effects of his drugs and how different types reacted when taken together.
"Rare side effect," he mumbled. "Tolperzen together with Alasepra. Makes your heart stop. Can. Might. Have two, doesn't matter."
And then he murmured some words that sounded just strange and made no sense. They sounded old and elegant and for a second I wondered why the TARDIS wouldn't translate it. Was it his own language?
Finally the trail of light stopped in front of a familiar door and I managed to push it open with one hand, then somehow steered the now silent Time Lord inside and to the bed. With some of my help I managed to at least have him sit on it.
His eyes were completely unfocused, sometimes twitching and never staying in one place for long. I felt for his pulse and found it at an alarming speed. Not that I knew much about Time Lord biology, but I had heard his heartbeat often enough to know that they pounded way too fast, right now. Aside from that it sounded as if he had trouble getting air, his breaths coming in rattled sucks.
And finally he collapsed. Just dropped backwards on the bed, where he kept shaking and sweating.
I let out a curse. "Master! Don't you dare not bring alright!" I warned, then hurled around to get the Doctor.
The same moment, however, the door sprang open and the very man stormed in, his look worried and also confused, the puzzlement only growing when he saw me and the Master in his current state.
"The cloister bells rung," he said through his teeth. "And the med bay was glowing red on the monitor, so I came as fast as… what's wrong with him?"
The Doctor produced his Sonic Screwdriver from a pocket and let it whirr over the Master, then he held it to his ear for a few moments.
"Oh, no no no no, Master, what have you done?"
"He drugged himself," I tried to explain, feeling incredibly helpless.
"Yes, I see that," the Doctor snapped. "Why haven't you stopped him?"
"Wh… hey! I already found him like that! And believe me, it wasn't easy to get him here."
His mouth snapped open, but then shut again. With a deep breath he ran a hand over his face, then got out his specs and slid them up his nose.
"Sorry," the Doctor mumbled while he collected a bunch of small devices. "'m just worried. This is not good, Lucy. Not at all. If my readings are correct, and they are, then…"
He took some more scans, a blood sample, tested the pulse and held one of the Master's eyelids open to shine a small light into it. With every action his expression got more worried.
"Is he in danger?" I finally dared to ask.
"Might… yeah." The Doctor let some drops of blood fall into a green liquid and watched as it took on a neon blue color. That made him curse.
"H… how bad?" I barely brought out the words, sensed the answer already.
The Doctor swallowed, ran his tongue over his lips and gave me desperate glare. "He shouldn't have mixed those. And I can't even tell what else there is in his system. Need to take more samples. And quick."
A lump formed in my throat as I realized he was avoiding a direct answer.
"Doctor," I inquired with a shaky voice.
"Yeah? Uhm… what?" He didn't even look at me.
Slowly he lowered the small flask he had been shaking, his dark brown eyes meeting mine to reveal a fear in them I had never seen before.
"Bad side effects. Could… might… most likely will prevent regeneration. If necessary. That's bad. That's absolutely…" He paused, swallowed down his rambling and looked back at the flask. "Can't give him anything. Too risky. But if I wait for too long…"
"Doctor, please," I now begged, grabbed his arm and then almost whispered, "Tell me he won't… die."
Silence fell over the room. Gently he moved his arm away and squeeze my hand. The Doctor looked up and could barely hide the tears in the corners of his eyes.
"Fuck!" I let out. "No! That's… Like, what? That can't be! It's not possible!"
Again he squeezed my hand, his eyes lit up and he almost jumped.
"Phashgerot Alpha!" he called out. "The spores of hyralia shrooms. Heavy detox. Doesn't matter what he swallowed. But we have to be fast. Don’t know how fast, but it's all we've got, understand?"
"Not at all," I confessed and tugged at his hand. "But don't just stand there. Let's go!"