The Master giggled and dropped his head against mine. "You're such a twisted little thing."
"You have to talk," I countered, still having half of a smile. "This's twisted on both ends, just so you know."
"Mhm…" His hands moved to my back again, slid under cloth and found their place on skin. "Nothing new for me." He drew me a bit closer. "But to have a human of all people go along. That's a first."
"'m not," I mumbled and watched as his eyes fixated me with a question in them. "They never treated me like I belonged to their species. I never understood how they even think and… operate?"
"That doesn't change your DNA, little one." The Master chuckled.
"I know. But if they don't accept me as one of their own… then what am I?"
There was an energy lingering on the edges of my mind, hovering, almost caressing. A chuckle made me snap my awareness back to the Master's eyes.
"An idiot. That's what you are. You think way too bloody much about everything."
Well, that definitely was true. "But that also allows me to find ways and solutions others don't," I retorted.
"Ah, I see." The Master retreated his head from mine and wore a smirk. "I'm a complex puzzle for you to solve. You like the challenge. That's why you want to find the drums. To prove that you can, not because you want to help."
I shrugged and gave him an apologetic grin. "I do want to help. But yeah, that's a big part."
He nodded. "Good. I hate people with an insufferable helper syndrome." Swiftly he drew me closer and his head landed back on mine. "Now concentrate. You can't find anything at all if you don't know any basics."
Startled, I tensed for a second, but relaxed quickly and closed my eyes. This closeness was still frightening, but the Master was right, if I wanted to find the drums I also had to overcome parts of myself.
"We have all night. So we can as well use the time," he muttered. "The first thing you have to know is how to create a shield around parts of your mind."
"So you can't harm me?" I teased and heard him chuckle.
"So you don't hurt yourself. And yes, you need to be shielded from me too. A light connection-" His mind slowly eased into mine- "doesn't do much. I can't hear your thoughts, but I can sense your most dominant emotions."
"That works both ways, doesn't it?"
The Master hummed confirming and I felt him creep deeper, past the surface level he had just mentioned. My heartbeat increased a little, my breath hitched. There was no way I would ever get used to those sensations and literally sitting in his lap didn't make this any better. I felt as if I was slowly engulfed by water, as if I was sinking deep into the abyss of an endless ocean of darkness. No, not darkness, not the abomination I had witnessed inside the ship, but a soothing absence of visual stimuli.
What an imagination. There was a laugh in my head and the Master's voice, amused and somehow also fascinated.
Can you hear my every thought?, I asked back in silence.
More or less. The ones that stick out. Those and your emotions. That's what you need to shield.
What for? You know so much about me already.
A proper laugh rang in my ears and I felt his fingers dig a little more into my skin, the motion bringing me back to the physical world for a fraction of a second, only to then fall back into soothing darkness.
You can hide things you don't want me to see. If you don't, I can and will see… well… everything. I could literally feel him smirk suggestively and slapped his shoulder. The Master only giggled. Hey, that's why I'm warning you. This is also important to keep track of who you are when we go deeper.
So that I can discern what's me and what's you?
A soft hum vibrated through my mind. Exactly. Use your image of water. And if you feel me approaching a thought, a memory, whatever you want to keep to yourself, put it inside a bubble.
Bubbles are transparent…
I felt annoyance spark through me. Definitely not my own. And it made me giggle when I heard him swear, For fucks sake, stop overthinking.
Probably just to get back at me he started to dig around in my head. It felt weird, dizzying, as if someone was physically poking parts of my brain and it took a bit for me to realize what he even did there. Emotions resurfaced, old and almost forgotten, of summer days on my bicycle, driving to the nearby lake.
A Lake. Water. Bubbles. Right.
Other images, school, boring lessons, me writing a small note and shoving it in the direction of the girl next to me, heart thudding… Bubble. A soap bubble, the walls disturbing the image and everything else to an unrecognizable mush. I felt a smirk tugging at me and playfully shoved it away somehow.
More images, walks in forests and parks, a day I had climbed over small mountains in nothing but cheap shoes and casual clothes. Dangerous, but fun. Careless. A swimming pool, the ocean, me diving as deep as I could, me swimming as far away as possible. Me as a child finding blood in my underwear for the first… Bubble.
Another snicker. A scene of me, again in school, kids all around me, calling me names and… Bubble. Forwards in time, the first time I was at a guy's home… Bubble. No more images, but this time sounds, music? It was hard to make out. I couldn't grasp it. There was nothing threatening about it. Darkness, endless black and the void and… Bubble. This one I wanted to hide from myself.
The moment I had witnessed the Master holding the Doctor against the wall… Bubble.
I know that already, I heard a grumpy voice.
And I created another bubble for everything this scene had made me feel and think and be scared of.
I also know that. You should hide stuff you don't want me to see.
I knew that. I did. But some things I simply wanted to get rid of, forget, compartmentalise.
The Master didn't stop, moved even deeper into my memories, further back in time. The day I had hid in my aunt's apartment, only one story below my parents, knowing that every moment they might come in and… I slammed a bubble around the scene as fast as I could, feeling my pulse thudding directly in my throat. But it didn't stop. Further back, me sitting on a swing in a lonely playground because everyone else was at school already. Only I waited… and waited… slowly realizing that I had been forgot… Bubble.
Don't, I begged. Don't go there.
More images. They came rushing even faster. The angry face of my mother when she… Bubble. The day I was so sick I could barely leave the bed and was… Bubble. The evenings we had to spend in dresses… Bubble. The endless sermons we had to endure about a god I didn't believe in… Bubble. A voice shouting… Bubble. The feeling of being hit so hard that I crashed to the floor… Bubble.
The desperate crying of my sister in the room next to me… Bubble. And tears stung my eyes, my body tensed and trembled.
"Please stop," I muttered, hands fisted into his shirt.
The images stopped. A wave of soothing warmth flooded into my awareness and at the same time I felt the Master retreat from my mind a little.
"You need to be able to do this," he uttered.
"You don't have to look in places that aren't your business," I grumbled back, without real ire. He was right, after all. Depending on how deep we went, there was no real barrier anymore. "Didn't you see everything already? The last time."
"Was too busy stopping the process." He let out a humourless laugh. "But yeah, had I indulged in it I would have."
Gently, the flow of consciousness that was his mind left my own, the remaining emptiness weighing heavy. A dizziness overcame me so suddenly that I almost lost balance, but the Master grabbed my shoulders already.
"You're probably exhausted."
"Ugh… yeah. Weird. It never did that to me before."
The Master chuckled and shoved me down from his legs, but allowed me to keep leaning at his side. My eyes wandered up to the blue glowing moon, wondering if the colour had intensified or if my senses were just overblown.
"You never actively did something while we were connected." An arm was wrapped around my shoulders, drawing me close. "Your pathetic race is not equipped for this. You might get yourself burned."
"Aaaand we're back at insults."
"Just the truth." He squeezed me and snickered. "Sleep a little. Shouldn't be long before the Doctor has figured out our coordinates."
Oh. So that was why he thought we had time until morning. He really knew his fellow Time Lord, didn't he? But the thought slipped away together with my consciousness as sleep claimed me faster than I wanted it to.
"I'm so sorry this took so long! Whatever happened to this place distorted my calculations too much. Finding your bio signatures wasn't easy. Really not. Didn't look immediately, of course. Couldn't have known you've gotten lost, now, could I?"
The Doctor's babbling tore me out of my slumber and slowly I realized I wasn't sitting anymore, but lying. Not on stone, but on… fingers gently stroked through my short hair, absently playing with a strand of them. I definitely was lying on a lap, facing away from the Doctor.
"Yeah, thought so already," came the Master's bored answer. "I'm surprised you made it a few hours early."
"Wh… what? I did my absolutely best to-"
"Nah, I just expected you to sulk a lot longer."
His snickering shook me a little and I decided to leave the comfy position and sit up. Only then did I get aware of the Doctor's curious look and realized how strange this scene must look to an outsider.
The moon had almost completely vanished behind the red rocks and from the other side the sun was already casting its warm light over us. The contrast was fascinating.
"Well then!" The Master shot to his feet and clapped his hands eagerly together. "Let's get back to town."
"I actually-" The Doctor followed his counterpart hastily- "wanted to check the surroundings to find out what caused the moon to turn that blue. Hey. Wait for a second!"
He did, stopped in his tracks to turn around, but his look wandered past the Doctor and landed on me, as if he wanted to make sure I was following. The other Time Lord did as well.
"You alright, Lucy? Must have been a frosty night."
"Oof yeah, it was. Had to snuggle up on him to stay warm." I thumbed at the Master and tried to rush past him. A fist landed on my head, just hard enough to make me playfully duck and giggle.
"So, Doctor, where did you park the TARDIS? Don't tell me you came all the way by foot."
"Uhhh, actually…" The other Time Lord caught up. "I can't bring the TARDIS. No coordinates. I mean, there are, obviously. But only over here. Not there and-"
"Stop rambling!" the Master groaned. "How did you get here?"
"Vortex manipulator. Had to feed the bio signals from the TARDIS console into it and then cross the portal before it dignified me with an output. It's like… like… we're in a different dimension over here. But we aren't! I double checked."
"I know," was all the Master replied and he stretched his hand out. "Back to town. Now. I have a theory to test."
Something about the way he said this and about the gleam in his eyes when he did made me cautious all of a sudden. The Doctor didn't seem to notice, however, probably too eager to find the mystery's solution. He waved me over and pulled a sleeve up to reveal a small device on a wrist strap.
"This isn't as comfortable as travelling in a capsule. Not at all. You might feel sick or nauseous afterwards. 'specially after your very first jump. Don't worry, will pass." He typed in something and the Master put his hand over the device, motioning me to do the same. "Ready?"
I nodded and watched as he pressed a button. Something pulled at my stomach, a force that ripped me forward without letting me stumble. I fell, raced into the pits of eternity and… stopped.
Surprised, confused and dizzy I fell backwards, managed to catch myself and bumped against the Doctor instead. He grabbed my arm and helped me steady myself. Luckily he was right and the dizziness vanished after some moments. Instead I got aware of the noises of townsfolk, of horses and the whistling of an old train somewhere in the distance.
The Master stepped back, red sand swirling under his boots. A triumphant spark appeared in his face as his hand vanished inside the pocket of his vest to produce his laser screwdriver.
"Thank you, my dear," he purred at the Doctor and pointed the device straight towards the sky. Here the blue moon still hung visible, unconcealed from the high rocks.
The Doctor's face went pale and he launched forward to stop the other man, but a blinding red beam already shot into the air and my mouth dropped open when it actually hit the sky. Fine streaks of neon blue exploded around the point of impact, sparkling dust rained down from every single crack, evaporating long before it hit the ground. Everyone around us stopped in whatever they were doing, all eyes glued towards the surreal scenery.
No, not stopping, I realized as soon as I managed to tear my eyes away from the beautiful spectacle of light above our heads. They slowly walked towards the center of the impact, towards us, started to form a circle of curiosity, all eyes resting on a single point. The laser beam faded and the Master lowered his arm, triumphantly grinning, first at me, then at the Doctor, before his gaze wandered over the crowd.
"And now," he spoke in a foreboding voice, "bow before your Master!"
And one after the other…