We had to walk more than once to get all the children to the TARDIS, since they didn't know the way and, especially the smaller ones, didn't dare to cross the darkness on their own.
On our last way back we stumbled upon the bartender, who was again busy wiping the table. He nodded a greeting towards us, but said no word about our company or made any other sign that he remembered what had happened to him. A few people started to pour into the saloon, finding their usual spots to enjoy a beer or more and when we reached the room with the portal there were the soft tunes of a merry song starting to squeeze their way through the building.
The noises vanished as we entered the darkness and I felt a small hand hastily grabbing mine. At least I wasn't the only one who was spooked by this place, even though I had sort of gotten used to it.
Now that all the children had gathered in the console room, scared, but curious, I had no idea how to proceed without the Doctor.
"Don't look at me," the Master grunted. "I'd just lock them all inside a cage and be done with them."
"You were the one suggesting to take them along in the first place," I retorted sourly. "Or were you really just hoping for some slaves?"
He pursed his lips, scowl dark and dangerous. But I was by far too tired and hungry to even consider being scared of him.
"You're an insolent little brat," he ground out. "Has anyone ever told you?"
"N-ho?" I laughed. "Come on. Don't make a scene and help me bring them somewhere safe."
"No." He folded his arms and stubbornly glanced sideways.
I sighed and stopped giggling. "Look, they'll probably dismantle the console or whatever if they stay in here."
"Then ask the bloody ship to get them a room."
"Yeah… mhm… good idea. You do that. I'm hellishly exhausted." I yawned widely, having reminded myself of my current state.
But the Master still didn't move, instead tapping a rhythm of four with his foot.
"Please?" I asked and then even added, "Master."
The smug look on his face vanished quickly, however and he continued tapping for a bit before he, reluctantly, spoke up.
"....doesn't listen to me."
"Who?" Confused, I blinked, getting more and more aware of my own exhaustion.
The Master grumbled, tapping some more as if he were nervous. In the end he let out an exasperated noise. "The TARDIS. She hasn't forgiven me for the paradox machine… don't think she ever will."
"'M pretty sure she'll help the children, though."
He didn't budge. His face as stubborn as ever and everything about his posture telling me that he wouldn't do anything at all to help me. I groaned, annoyed and also angry.
"Hey, kids!" I called out. "Come with me. I'll find some room for you lot where you can stay until the Doctor is back."
Some nodded, others cheered happily and a few seemed as tired as I felt. But all of them followed obediently and so I trusted the TARDIS to guide me. And really, a golden path of light appeared on the floor, accompanied by surprised and amazed noises from the children. The youngest ran around and danced around the golden path, pointing at the specs of glowing particles in wonderment.
We were led to a large room with many beds and toys. Against one wall stood a row of wardrobes, all filled with fluffy pajamas of all sizes. I didn't wait for everyone to change in fear of them wanting me to stay with them. And that certainly was not something I could bear right now, as much as I usually liked children.
Surely, the TARDIS would keep them safe and probably give them whatever they needed. And whatever I couldn't give, right now. My head was clouded and heavy, hurting as if someone had smashed a brick into it. And my brain was more overloaded than probably ever before, making me unable to cope with any more input. At all.
And still, I couldn't just go to sleep. Instead I came back to the console room, hoping to learn if the Doctor had managed to reboot all the people and also curious as to whether they would remember ever having had children. And maybe I was also worried, because, knowing him, there was always the chance for him getting into some sort of trouble.
So I found myself on the jump seat, in a position that certainly wasn't healthy, but comfy. To distract myself I had taken a book with me, although it quickly turned out to be a lost cause. The soothing humming of the TARDIS, the faint light and my own exhaustion made my eyes heavy and the words on the pages blurred to unreadable shapes.
How much time passed is hard to tell. The next thing I knew was hearing the Master's voice close to my ear.
"-should be in bed instead of in here."
My eyes blinked open, finding him standing above me with raised brows and a smug smile.
"Not yet," I mumbled. "Want to wait for the Doctor."
"What for? To give him a kiss for the rescue?" The Master asked derisively.
"I'd have to kiss you both then." I poked out my tongue, suppressing a yawn. "Nah, 'm just a lil' worried he's going to get eaten by Matrix zombies," I grumbled, vaguely remembering having maybe even dreamed about that just now.
"How do you know about the… Oh, you mean those movies, don't you?"
I blinked up at him, nodding and deciding to ask another time what he meant.
"Oh, don't bother waiting. He's fine. That idiot is way too stubborn to die."
"'N then he gets shot by a glitch or so."
"I fixed those, too, while I was meddling with the code."
My mouth snapped shut, swallowing the next dumb protest. It bugged me somehow that he was probably right and I knew it was dumb, but I wanted to make sure. It simply felt like the appropriate thing to do.
I must have slipped away again after that, because the next thing I remember is waking up to people talking. My heavy eyes crept open, revealing the two Time Lords whispering something to each other. It looked like they were arguing, but weren't they always? At least it meant that everyone was safe and I could continue…
"Come on. To bed with you," the Master said, poking my head.
"'s comfy," I mumbled. "Sod off."
"Yeah and tomorrow you'll be nagging again."
Suddenly I felt hands on me, wandering to my back and to my legs. Confused, I blinked open my eyes and let out a small yelp when I got suddenly lifted into the air. Immediately I felt dizzy and unsafe, maybe a little scared, too.
"Geez, I won't drop you." The Master chuckled.
My hands clawed into his shirt while he carried me. I had never liked leaving the ground, moving without my feet touching anything was uncanny and simply unnerving to me. And still… when I recognized the familiar scent and feel of my room I was already half asleep again.
"Let go," the Master grumbled, trying to pluck my fingers from his shirt after he had laid me on the bed.
I didn't want to, suddenly unable to stand the thought of being alone in the darkness. "Sleep wi'me," I mumbled groggily.
The Master snorted and pried my fingers open. "You're way too sleepy for that, little one."
I rolled my eyes at the sarcastic remark. "Just sleeping, dumbas." And quieter I mumbled, "You wouldn't let me anyway."
"Most certainly not, human," he snarled, although it lacked the usual venom. Then he grunted and sighed, stroking a finger over my cheek. "We'll, guess I could need a nap. Move over."
Smiling softly I finally let him go, skidded a little towards the wall and waited until there was a weight on the mattress, aligning itself with me. But he stayed out of reach, not moving an inch closer.
"No cuddling, you hear me?" he grumbled.
I pursed my lips, what he couldn't see in the dark, and halted my movements before I could even properly start them.
"Fine," I pouted, disappointed. But this was still better than being alone, so it was sort of okay.
With that I grabbed my blanket and drew it over me to get the warmth I was missing. When had I taken off my boots? There was no time to feel cold, too fast did sleep reclaim my consciousness. How might the tiny dragon be? Thick fog crept over my awareness, engulfed my thoughts and everything I knew. Was there a shuffling next to me? It got warmer, maybe. Maybe it was a dream.
"Not even trying?"
His question had torn me out of sleep for a fraction of a second, but failed to make sense.
"You just obey. Why's that? You crave to be close to someone… anyone."
"Hmmmm," I hummed, unhelpfully. "But you don't."
I heard a soft laugh. "That's a reason?"
"Sure. 'N it's respect. Simple as that."
There was silence, then a snort. "I'm a bad man. I did things you can't even imagine, little light."
"An' that means you don't deserve your boundaries to be valued?" I retorted, half amused, half… pissed.
His words made a weird kind of anger bubble to the surface. They could mean a lot. Either that he himself didn't care about other people's boundaries, which was likely, despite the fact that he seemed to respect mine, most of the time. Or it meant that people had disrespected his own over and over again until it felt as if that was the norm.
"It means I am well aware that there is no such thing as respect." Now he sounded just bitter. "Only pretending. A way to make people feel safe so you can manipulate them. Be manipulated."
"Ugh, 'm too tired for that," I grumbled. "This's stupid 'n I'll prove it to you. Good night."
With that I closed my eyes and didn't say a word anymore, not moving an inch from where I was.
"Then I could just go?" There was a clear sarcastic undertone in the question.
"If you keep talking, yeah, sod off," I groaned.
"But you wanted me here."
"I want to sleep!" I whined. "And if you don't let me, I'm going to throw you out myself."
"Oh? How's that supposed to work?" He clearly enjoyed himself there.
"'M going to kick your nuts and roll you out," I offered, half smiling, half pissed. "Now shut it."
"You wouldn't dare."
Quickly I skidded closer and pushed both hands against the Master to simply toss him down, if nothing else. I had enough.
He didn't budge, though, only giggled at my vain effort. I let out an exasperated sigh, and ceased the attempt, dropping my head against his chest.
"Why are you like this?" I whined.
He stopped giggling and wrapped an arm around my back. "It's fun to annoy you. And you have some weird standards."
"Just because I don't want to urge you to do things you don't want to do?" I snorted. "That's hardly weird. Now get lost... pleeeease."
"I don't think so." The Master picked up the blanket and tossed it over us both.
His arm held me tighter and he even drew me against him so I couldn't slip away anymore. Warmth spread in my body, but also the urge to fight against this.
"Sleep tight," he muttered into my ear.
And so I relaxed, deciding to ignore how binary his actions were. I was too knackered for deep thoughts anyway and being held securely and being able to listen to his heartbeat… it definitely should not make me feel that safe. But sleep took my thoughts away long before I could ponder about this too much.