As exhausted as I was from everything, it didn't take long for me to wake up again. We still lay in the same position, the Master in my back, holding me securely, but in no way so firm that I couldn't just slip away.
Was it a conscious move to manipulate me, or did the Master really care that I felt safe with him? Well, otherwise he might lose his chance to soothe the drums. I didn't dare to hope for anything more than that. We would never be friends, despite the strange… relationship we had developed. It was giving and taking. On both ends.
Lying like this should have made me feel uncomfortable, it should have awoken painful memories and disgust. Especially since those memories had been dug out so forcefully. But somehow it had almost the opposite effect. A resolve of the past, an acceptance that it wouldn't be repeated.
Lying here like this, it made me feel warm, made me sigh content and snuggle back against him some more before I closed my eyes again to slip into the weirdest… dream?
There were images in my mind, faint, then stronger, then almost as clear as if I were there myself. The Master's hand on my belly winced a little, telling me he saw the same. Not a dream, but a memory, conjured up by his weakened body and mind.
Maybe… I should slip away and not do the same with him that he had done with me. It wasn't for me to see, was it? For now the images didn't make sense. I could still get away, could still resist my falling lids. Too knackered, too comfortable. And a part of me was curious to see what he would probably never tell me about himself otherwise.
So I stayed and gave in to the heaviness of sleep, gave in to the desire to…
He glares at the small, silver band around his wrist. It looks like silk, is soft to the touch, but impossible to rip apart. He had tried, over and over again, with his hands and his teeth and every tool he could find within the endless rooms of the TARDIS. But she refused to open any door that might contain something useful to him. No weapons. Nothing he can use to leave the ship. He couldn't anyway because of the band.
A handcuff. One's enough. It's not to restrain his hands, but himself. From leaving the TARDIS without the Doctor, from hurting the other man or the ship. If he even tries there will be a telepathic nudge. One that does not much more than startle him for a moment. It's enough to keep him from doing what the Doctor calls inappropriate. It's better as the collar that gave him electric shocks. Is what the Doctor says.
It's worse. For the Master, that is. The telepathic zap feels like a roar of thunder inside his mind. A thunder consisting of four beats, louder than usual, so much louder. He has tested how far he could bend and stretch what the cuff is supposed to prevent him from doing. The result was devastating.
One zap, bearable. He could simply try again and again, each time getting startled. It's small. It's incredibly effective and practically immobilising.
After five minutes of trying to hack a console he is nothing but a mess. Lies on the floor, colt sweat on his skin, shaking. He heaves himself to his feet, stumbles, every organ inside his body revolting.
Not from the zaps, but from the intensity of the drums.
He can't take it, empties what little is in his stomach into a trash bin near the console.
How can the Doctor not believe they are real when they could do that with him?
He almost misses the electric shocks. They hadn't hurt, but had given him a big enough twinge of pain he could focus on for some seconds. Not more, but it still helped. Maybe that's why the Doctor had given up on the collar. It hadn't helped with his goals. Almost the opposite.
The Master is back in those few first weeks. After the Doctor had fled the earth, with him on board. His friends were mad at him, because he chose one of his own over them. He chose the man who had tried to build their planet into a war machine.
As if those silly rockets could have hit a dent into any advanced civilization's war ships. The resources on earth were too limited for that. But seeing the desperation in the Doctor's eyes had been motivation enough. He could have toyed around with some of the lesser developed planets nearby, scavenged them for better materials, working his way up from there.
It wouldn't have lasted anyway. They both knew it right from the start. A TARDIS was a powerful machine, incredible, but its power was not endless. The paradox would have started to crumble within the next three… maybe four hundred years. The effect wouldn't have been the same as after one meagre year, though. After centuries it would leave holes and tears all throughout the universe. Small pieces of mismatched realities, of timeliness without any logic.
Sometimes he wondered if that alone could be enough to destroy the entirety of time and space.
Sweet, sweet chaos.
He shudders pleasantly at the thought of him being there, in this very moment when reality falls apart, splinters into an unending implosion of ruptured possibility.
It might be the reason the Doctor doesn't take him to any place with even remotely conscious life forms. Even with the insufferable handcuff, he still fears the Master that much. A thought that made him smile. A tiny victory in his defeat.
If only it were quiet.
Months… in what measurement? But they had passed. The Master hated all those bland places the other man dragged him to, to get his head clear, to take a stroll and stretch his limbs, to see something different than the TARDIS and her corridors.
It was a nice change, he had to admit. But what were those forests and mountains to him? What did he care about yellow oceans and giant fish in the sky? What was so special about a cave that reached right into the core of a planet? It had been infested by far too big twenty legged crabs anyway. And not the friendly kind. He still had no idea why throwing some of them into the core had upset the Doctor so much.
It was all just distraction. From his horrible gatekeeper who thought he could fix the Master. There was nothing to fix, only some things to twist and bend until he would no longer be himself. And from the drums, those never ending tormenting beats.
He had smacked the Doctor right into his stupidly grinning face one day when he had dared to babble for an hour about something useless, while the drums had a particularly nasty volume. Worse than that, the Doctor had found him a few times, crumbled to a shaking mess, when they had been unbearable.
He had not believed a word, had been too scared to listen for himself, had been so insolent to tell him they weren't real because he had never heard them whenever they had been connected during their academy years. But oh, stupid Doctor, back then they had been so much quieter.
All the Doctor did was to offer to conduct tests. To find the rhythm. They both knew it wouldn't yield anything, but for the Doctor it was an escape and for the Master it was a tiny slither of hope that maybe one of the devices would pick up on them.
A compromise. A handcuff.
Time drags on and he loses track of it, wants to at least. Being a Time Lord doesn't really allow for it. Somehow they settle in. Somehow they get along, although they don't. It's a routine now, tests, barren planets, shallow conversations that end in rage and an ever growing hatred towards the Doctor, which is almost an impossibility.
And then he finds it, stumbles over the blueprint out of… the blue. The Master grimaces and studies the paper. The cuff isn't that elaborate. It's the simplicity that made it so hard to break. Now he only scoffs, gets out a completely unimportant tool and lightly taps against the band around his wrist, sees it sailing down, too light for a proper fall.
The Master glares at the small thing with as much contempt as fits into his hearts, hating the mere thought of putting it back on. But now that he knows the functionality, he can deactivate the nasty stuff, maybe add something useful.
The Doctor doesn't recognize a thing. He takes him to a few inhabited places for the first time, hopes. The Master pretends to be mildly interested, has a nice and friendly chat with a local inhabitant. The Doctor beams whenever he thinks the Master can't see it. But he does.
He behaves. For the most part. The Doctor is too infuriating to keep the mask on all the time. He pretends to have calmed down, to have accepted his fate as a prisoner. As a reward he is left out of sight more often.
It's a relief, honestly, but the Master would never admit to that. The price to pay was too high. And he wasn't sure for how long he would be able to keep the act up. Too much heat and pain were surging through his mind.
But for a while… for a while he could manage.