"You… what?" Dumbfounded, I blinked a few times.
"I'm vaccinating earth's population against this silly little virus." The mug ended on the table, right next to where I was sitting on it - now empty. "I helped develop the formula. Or rather… I did develop it and then leaked parts of it to several people, so they would speed up the process."
His answer completely caught me off guard, rendered me literally speechless for quite a while. I even forgot to be smug about the stupid chocolate.
"That's… a lie?" I finally stated, although it was clearly a question.
The Master got up from his chair, straightened his back as if he had sat for a little too long and walked up in front of me. He stopped so closely we were almost touching and he also bent down the tiniest bit, observing my stunned face.
"It's the truth," he told calmly. "Don't you believe it?"
Perplex I blinked, opened my mouth without saying a word and simply shook my head. Without a warning the Master shot forward, placed both hands on either side of me on the table so I had to bend backwards. His stare was intense, the smile on his lips, however, subtle.
"You don't know a thing about me," he stated, a slight accusation suddenly swinging in his voice. "Why don't you believe it? Because the Doctor told you I'm evil? Probably said I'm insane as well, didn't he?"
Had he? I didn't remember it well. Everything had been so fast and had left me with no time to think about everything. The derisive smile grew wider on the Master's face, all while I was still trapped in such close proximity to him. So close that I could feel the warmth of his body and could almost sense his heartbeat.
It took every ounce of my composure not to reach out a hand and to place it on his chest. After all the unexplainable occurrences, after my whole existence seemed to be nothing but a déjà vu, he was the only thing, so far, that felt truly… real. Even after hours had passed. And having him so close only amplified the sensation, making my head almost spin.
"So" - unaware of my inner turmoil he went on - "only because a man you barely know said so, you assume I'd be up to no good. Is that right?"
"He hasn't even told you anything. Not about me, not about our history. I bet he hasn't even told you that he held me captive for years. For no other reason than because he believes to be superior."
The hate in his eyes was now burning hot. I could literally feel it seeping into my consciousness, unpleasantly tingling within my very soul. And finally I pushed my hands against his chest, trying to get a little more distance between us. My fingers brushed soft cloth, spread against firm muscles and felt… felt the beatings of… two hearts.
Like a drumbeat
The same moment I thought it, the sound also appeared in my head, scratched at the edges of my consciousness.
"Okay, I had no clue who you were when I came here," I admitted. "That's true." The pleased expression on his face made me feel almost sick. I swallowed, trying to ignore the beating rhythm under my fingers.
"You still think I'm bad." A statement, not a question.
"You hurt me."
What else did it need for me not to trust him? There was no reason to do so. And the beating… the ever repeating heartbeat in his chest, steady, strong. So alive. A crescendo of sound, of an increasing drumming within my own head.
"Yeah. You're an intruder, after all. Why should I… Hey, what's with you?"
There was no concern, only a slight curiosity, maybe annoyance. The sound of four beats increased in volume even more, threatening to split my head. An involuntary groan escaped my mouth and I twisted, almost doubled over, only to drop against the Master's chest in front of me. My hand grabbed his shirt, desperate for something to hold on to.
"That's not me, this time," the Master drawled.
"It's… ugh… what is this?" I ground out.
"No idea. Do you have a seizure?" The question was followed by a chuckle.
I shook my head against him, hoping he wouldn't move away, or else I might collapse. Without a halt, without even the Illusion of warmth.
"It's a rhythm," I muttered somehow. "It beats four times. Like clockwork.
I heard a snort, then a hand pushed against my shoulder. "Two hearts. That's what you hear. Keep your bloody distance and it won't bother you."
You have to tell!
No, no, that wasn't the problem. "It's not… Not you," I muttered, only not collapsing because of his hand. "'S in my head. Gosh, why's this so loud?"
"Are you nuts or something?" He waved his fingers in front of my face, a mocking grin on his lips. "Or is it sleep deprivation?"
Confused, I blinked a few times, unable to form a proper answer. The weird drumming noises slowly started to fade again, but left me numb and dizzy. "Didn't you hear that?" I wanted to know. It had been so loud, so clear as if the sound had been within this very room.
The Master cocked an eyebrow and shook his head. "There's nothing. Can you stand?"
Finally he retreated from me and I inhaled, glad about the newly won space, but a little scared I might collapse without any support.
"I… yeah. I can."
"Good." The Master clapped his hands together. "Then get lost. I don't need you going crazy here. Sleep. Don't bother me." He leaned closer down, grabbing my elbow. "And next time I tell you to make tea… make some."
Grumbling, I tore my arm away and strode to the other room. What the hell had that been? It had sounded like a double heartbeat, yes, but also… not. And it definitely had been in my head. I knew it, was certain. Because… when I closed my eyes and concentrated… I could still faintly make it out.
I sighed and dropped onto the sofa, only to shoot up from it again.
There was no sofa in here before!
This time I knew the room had changed. The kitchen I could have imagined, but not this.
Was the Master right? Was I going crazy? Nothing around me seemed to make any sense anymore. As if reality itself was losing it.
The Matrix is collapsing, I thought with a chuckle.
Maybe it was only the hypnotism. It had messed with my head quite a bit. It had to be. Rooms didn't just change. I dropped back on the sofa, feeling utterly exhausted. What had I even been thinking, agreeing to all of this? I should have been sceptical or even scared shitless when the Doctor had told me about this plan. It wasn't like me at all to blindly stumble into stuff like this. But somehow…
Somehow this all still felt like a strange déjà vu.
The sound of a beating heart woke me up. No, not one. Two of them. Four beats, ever repeating in my head… not my head. Under my ear. As if I had pressed it to someone's chest to listen. But there was nothing but the fabric of the sofa beneath me.
For a while I lay there, listening, my mind not yet fully awake. Could it stem from the TARDIS? She had somehow communicated with me from afar, after all.
The room was dark. It had been like that before. No windows. Not for the first time did I wonder about this. But, then again, it wasn't the only strange thing.
Sighing I sat up and rubbed a hand over my face. Sleep was nowhere to be found. There had been maybe an hour of it; maybe two or three, but certainly not more. Near the sofa was also a small table with a lamp on it. That and a pile of books. All about science.
Since I had not much hope of finding more rest I got up and made some coffee before entering the other room again. The Master wasn't there, neither was his laptop. For a good while I sat there at the table and waited.
The mug was already empty and I surely had dozed off a dozen times already. There was no clock. No way of telling how much time passed. On top of that, all the doors around me were closed. I couldn't even hear the people from the office outside. Were they even working?
The worst thing about being a prisoner, I realized, was the boredom. So I went and took a shower, then skimmed through the bookshelves. Somewhen I stuffed some bread with cheese on it into me to calm my nagging stomach. Then I slept. And repeated the process, completely unable to tell how much time I spent on my own.
And being alone with my own head was never a good thing. Too many thoughts started to plague me. About possibilities, dangers, theories and memories. And on top of all those was the ever present, subtle rhythm of four beats in the back of my head.
After who knows how many days I sometimes only sat there, glaring at the ceiling with a blank mind. It was strange, because surely a week or two had passed already, but it felt like it had only been some minutes. As if my brain had condensed all this time.
When the door finally opened I was barely aware of it, at first. But then the Master trod into my line of sight and I shot straight, glaring at him with disbelieving eyes.
"What?" he asked with a smirk. "Missed me?"
I shot up from the chair I had been sitting in, dropped the book to the table and approached quickly.
"You have no idea," I whined. "I've been dying here!"
He raised an eyebrow. "I'm actually surprised you're still alive." There was mock swinging in his voice. "Thought you'd just starve or do some other stupid human thing."
"You what?" I let out a laugh. "No, it was just horribly boring. I'd rather been tortured again instead of enduring this. Seriously."
Maybe that hadn't been the wisest thing to say, considering the mean grin. The Master stepped right in front of me, not allowing for any personal space to exist. "I've been researching a little. About you."
"Or rather, about what you are."
I scrunched up my nose. "A bored autistic rogue dwarf?" I joked, contemplating adding some other funny RPG references. But he probably wouldn't get those. Or kill me for them. "Ugh, please give me something," I begged. "I don't care if it's bad or mean. I just need..." I let out a groan and shook my head. "Just need some input. Anything. My head's bursting from running in circles. And I can't even tell how time passes. No clocks, no light, no windows. Why don't you have some god damn windows here?"
The words just bubbled out, once started it was hard to stop. The Master only blinked at me with barely contained amusement. When I was done, a grin formed on his lips and he pointed behind me.
"You really are going nuts, little human. No windows? What're those then?"
I spun around, convinced he was messing with me. But no, there, right in my back, sat a row of tall windows all along the wall of the office room. Orange light flooded inside, tinting everything around us in the burning colours of sunset.
Utterly perplexed, I walked up to the glass and tapped against it, then looked outside. The familiar sight of a city. Nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. I could even make out the sounds of cars and chatting people. I felt the Master treading closer. He stood behind and somewhat next to me, one arm raised to lean on the glass. Like that he trapped me between him and the window, but I didn't care.
"See?" he said and chuckled.
I turned my back to the glass and looked up at his smirking face. There wasn't much space between us. I could feel the warmth of his body, could hear him breathing. It didn't bother me, however. Since he was back, everything seemed to finally make some sense again. As if his presence alone held together all of reality.
"Wha… what's happening to me?" I mumbled.
"Good question." The smirk vanished, got replaced by a more serious expression. "You should tell me what you are. This will make everything so much easier. I couldn't find out anything about your skills. And… your energy signature..."
He narrowed his eyes, as if he was searching my face for a lie. "It's more dense than that of other people. More… solid."
"Right now I feel not solid at all," I grumbled. "What does that even mean?"
The Master grinned at me. "I have… no idea."
"Does that… is that why I hear this weird drumming noise? But it started only when I met you… must come from you then."
For a moment he regarded me with a curious look, then he stepped away and laughed. "It's cute that you dream of me, but all you heard was my heartbeat."
"Uh, no. No, it's not," I protested. "It's still there. Like some… background noise. Like… drums."
Nervously I fiddled with my hands. Could it all be because of the TARDIS? Had she hacked my mind and was now messing with it? Maybe the Master wasn't even the bad guy here. Thinking about it… if he really was about to heal this stupid virus… and the Doctor planned to stop him from doing so… then there was a possibility that his ship had messed with my head in some way so I wouldn't swap sites. That I wasn't susceptible to hypnotism anymore was only one tiny profit. The rest…
"There are no drums," the Master stated, matter-of-factly. "You're imagining things, lil' lumin."
"Seems like I'm imagining a lot latel-" I paused, trying to ignore the strange tingling sensation on the crown of my head. "What did you call me?" An icy cold shiver ran down my spine. A pang of fear, a slither of panic with no origin.
"I didn't call you anything?" The Master laughed. "Come on. You've been alone for only a day. Not even a human should be bothered by that."
A day? That was impossible. It just was. My perception of time was a mess, true, but… but… I started to get dizzy from everything, let out an almost silent sigh and clutched my head, then snapped my eyes up to meet the Master's, still twinkling green and with curiosity and impish amusement.
"I need to get out of here," I groaned.
"And then do what?" His hand slammed against the window in my back, making me jump. "Do you really think I'm so stupid? You'd just try to run back to the Doctor."
A laugh escaped me and I shook my head. "Definitely not! It's his fault I'm in this mess. He and his bloody time machine!" With a weary sigh I dropped my head against the Master. I didn't have to move much for it, close as he was, feeling so soothingly… real. "Please, I need to… Just for a while. Cuff me if you must."
We stayed like that for maybe minutes, I couldn't tell anymore. Neither of us moved. The drumming sound in my head slowly vanished, got replaced by the double heartbeat in his chest. If only the world would start to make sense again. If only…
"Alright. Let's go out for a bit."