When I awoke it was as if I had slipped right back into my previous state, only deeper and lost in an impenetrable fog. This time the dreams had left me alone in my sleep, but I still felt as if I could need at least a day or two of it. However, even that thought slipped away from me as I quickly sunk back into the darkness.
Time seemed to simply jump from one moment to the next. If I hadn't set up a clock near my bed I wouldn't have noticed its passing at all. But even like this I couldn't do more than vaguely acknowledge the fact, unable to draw any conclusions from it.
The next time I woke up, my throat felt dry and the whole room was too hot to breathe. I wanted to get up and drink some water, maybe take a cold shower. Or change into some proper clothes, at least. I was still wearing the outfit from outside. Or wasn't I? No, right, that couldn't be.
Time skipped once more, although I was unable to tell how much of it. The numbers had changed , but made no sense otherwise. Now, however, I was freezing cold and unable to dispel the discomfort by my blanket alone. I wanted to scold the TARDIS for cooling down the room too much, but was unable to get out a single word. My throat was too dry and my head too heavy.
And then there was only darkness.
"Lucy? Are you alright? You've been in here for… ohhhh! Your head is burning ! Not good. Not good at all. Wait here. I mean… you won't run away in that state. But wait. I'm back in a moment."
All I brought out was a raspy grunt, hoping the Doctor could even hear that .
Something was wrong with me? It made sense. Probably. Or maybe this was some incoherent dream without any logic. I didn't care much.
" Who 's calling himself Doctor ?" snarled a familiar voice. "How the heck am I supposed to know what's wrong?"
"Because you know what happened!"
"I told you what happened!."
"And you expect me to just believe-"
"-that she fell into icy water? Yes! Why the heck would I lie about that?"
There was silence for a while. At least no one was talking anymore. Instead there were different sounds I couldn't place. A cool hand on my burning forehead. A while later I was lifted up slightly, felt a glass on my lips and managed to swallow a bit of its content, which was bitter and sweet at the same time. After that I felt less thirsty, but my consciousness faded almost instantly.
Again it was cold, when I woke up the next time. The numbers on my clock still refused to make sense, however. The door to my room opened and a dim light flickered to life. The one in here was adjustable so I could set it to however bright I could endure. Right now it wasn't much, so I was grateful that the Doctor didn't crank it up. He carried a tray with a bowl and a cup and some small bottles, his face lighting up when he saw me awake.
"Hey there," he greeted softly. "Don't move too much. I'll come to you."
Not that I had planned to do so. My whole body felt as if I had climbed several mountains, my throat was dry and hurting and my head was about to certainly split in at least five parts within the next few seconds.
Sick. My brain finally decided to be aware enough to piece together why I felt so weird. My mouth already opened to ask, but not a single sound left my sore throat, so I pursed my lips, sulking at the disability and the irony of it, considering my previous mute phase.
"We're honestly not yet sure what it is," admitted the Doctor. "Probably a virus from the planet, so it must be a local illness. Probably not more than a usual cold. But your body isn't familiar with that particular kind of virus, so…" He sat down the tray on my bed and rubbed his neck. "The Master is researching a cure. Or at least something to mitigate the symptoms. He's good at that, don't worry."
"Now that's some high praise, coming from you," a mocking voice said from the door.
The Doctor hurled around in surprise and I looked up, for the first time wondering why I could see clear. Was I still wearing those contacts? And what about… I looked down on me and found that I was wearing comfy checked sweat pants and a long-armed shirt. Had I changed into that myself?
The Master stepped to us, holding out a small vial. "There. It's not some kind of magic cure, but if you put some drops into your food for a while you might survive relatively unscathed." A nasty grin followed as he pushed the vial into the Doctor's hands.
"Thank you," the other Time Lord muttered. "Should be enough for now. Although I doubt she would have died anyway." He opened the small bottle and dripped some of its brownish liquid into the bowl before he handed it to me. "There, eat up. I'll look after you again in a bit. Need to keep those kids busy, you know?"
With that he tossed a last look at the Master and rushed out of the room. I had a hard time catching up on what he had said. Kids? A cure? Oh, right… and food. I glanced down at the bowl in my hands and eyed the soup in there. It had a nice smell, but still made my stomach turn.
"Eat," the Master commanded. "At least a little. I didn't make that to be thrown out."
I looked up in surprise and saw him standing there with crossed arms and a scowl on his face. So I took up the spoon and started to slowly sip a little from the bowl. There was only broth inside, but it was strong and warmed my insides, so I ate until my stomach started to rebel.
My memory got hazy after that. The Master took the bowl from my hands and said something I can't recall before I fell back into my dreamless, timeless slumber.
A cool hand on my burning forehead woke me up. Shadows swallowed the dim light, barely bright enough to reveal the form of a small figure. A child, surely not older than maybe ten.
"My sis had something like that too," they said. It was hard to tell if it was a boy or a girl. The voice not telling much. "she went away because of it. And Dad couldn't even remember her afterwards. That made me reaaally sad, you know?"
I couldn't give an answer and only nodded, trying to smile, but failing miserably. The child, however, grinned happily.
"Don't tell him, but I'm glad that Master man got us away from there. And the Doctor is looking for a nice new home to go to. But I want to stay here. This place is amazing. And huuuuuuuuge!" The child spread out their arms. Then it suddenly winced and grimaced. "Sorry. You need lots of rest."
And just like that, the child ran out of the room, leaving me in a weird silence. I remembered how we had taken them all along, remembered the machines and the small dragon. Did their throat burn as much when they spewed fire? Probably not.
"Move over," a voice demanded softly.
I barely managed to open my eyes, only vaguely recalling having eaten something before. More of that soup with medicine. Now my head was incredibly heavy, but my throat didn't hurt as much anymore. Automatically I did what the voice had told and slipped a little towards the wall, making space for… someone to crawl under my blanket. And it was not another child.
"Don't mope. I just want it a little quiet for a bit."
All I could manage was a weird, strangled sound, neither protest nor agreement. I frowned, also because the lights were on, for whatever reason. At least, now that I was half awake, I could make out the Master clearly, his smile mocking, as he lay there on his side, head resting on one hand.
I pursed my lips and scowled, nodding at the lights. Only to find out they weren't on at all. Instead, there was a light-hose neatly draped over the headpiece of the bed's frame and running over the small bookshelf that hung on the wall right next to us. It's light was of a soothing orange glow and actually really nice to look at.
The Master followed my puzzled gaze and chuckled. "Must come from the TARDIS. That ship likes you for some reason. I tell you, it's unusual for TARDISes to be that autonomous… but most of them, if any at all, have never been in service for so long. And never with only a single pilot."
My eyes widened at the information. I had thought nothing of it, so far. Aside from the fact that a sentient ship was weird in itself. For me at least. But I had no idea how their society used those ships, usually.
"You're feeling any better?" The Master's question brought me back to the present. "I tested some of the little rats to see if they caught it too and maybe have anti- Don't look at me like that! I didn't hurt any of them, yeah?"
I let out a disbelieving huff, actually still too knackered to fully process his words. And why was he here? Hadn't he left? Had I slept that long afterwards? No, he had been away in between, I vaguely recalled. He had made that medicine, right. Maybe if I took more of it my memories would stop slipping so fast.
"Are you sleeping again?" I heard his mocking voice. "Well, no wonder. I won't bother you for long. No touch needed. Seems like being in such a proximity is enough already. Somewhat."
A thought shot into my head and suddenly I was wide awake again, pointing at me and then at him. His raised eyebrow made me gesture some more. I pointed at my throat and made a croaking sound, then pointed at the Master again and at his throat.
"Ohhh, no. It's not contagious for me. Just for your pathetically weak body." He smiled way too happily at that.
I pursed my lips and stuck out my tongue, but then got serious and locked eyes with the Master.
And for a moment time stood still.
As unfamiliar as it was to be able to keep eye contact without feeling uncomfortable, it had never felt so… intense. As if his hazel brown was turning into fiery embers, the sparks of an eternally fading flame. Not dying, never dying, but always at the edge of ceasing. And there I remembered, despite my foggy head. I remembered how I had found him, filled up with all drugs and maybe poisons he could find to finally set an end to the eternal drumming in his head. Or maybe even more than that. Maybe he was chasing another sort of end entirely, maybe without knowing.
The moment was over as fast as it had started, time returning to what might be its normal speed. There were no embers, only soft brown and the reflections of dim orange lights within them.
I stretched out my hand a little, let my finger tap out the rhythm of his drums on the mattress between us. Then I glanced up, questioning quietly.
"Yeah, annoying. That's why I'm here."
But I shook my head. That wasn't what I wanted to know. He had said, no touch was required, but before he had always seeked it out. And now, all of a sudden, he hesitated so much to get close to me. Almost in the same way I had been struggling before the night under the blue moon. Did that mean he had learned something? Was he afraid I wouldn't keep my promise to find the drums? But back in that cave…
I opened my mouth, wanting to tell him I hadn't forgotten and that I would learn everything I needed to search for them, but not a single sound left me. Much to his amusement. But his giggling stopped when I sat up and leaned closer, pointing with both hands at his temples.
"Nah, I decided I actually like you so mute," he teased. "Like that you're a lot less confusing." He giggled to himself.
I didn't care, though and still leaned down, hovering my fingers next to his head, waiting if there would be any protest. Instead, there was only a mean smirk on his lips.
"Go on," he said. And so I did, not actually knowing how this worked at all. "You know, the thing is. I am a touch telepath… You are not."
Again he laughed, raising his hands to enclose mine, but decided otherwise and gently stroked his fingers over my wrists. Right over the pale lines of scars. His touch sent a shiver through me and also a pinch of sadness. Of course he was right. I wasn't capable of anything, couldn't just slip into other people's minds like he could. His hands left mine, folded behind his head. And he curiously continued to watch me struggle.
Tears of frustration pricked my eyes. It wasn't fair that I couldn't tell him anything, that I couldn't even convey a single small thought to him.
You are not alone .
The Master winced and suddenly he slapped my hands away, eyes wide. He sat up, too, slightly crawling away from me in the process.
"What the… that's not possible ," he muttered bewildered, almost frightened. An expression I had never seen on him before. "You can't."
I looked at my hands, turned them as if I could see anything and looked back at the Master with raised eyebrows. It appeared as if he was contemplating just running out of the room, getting as far away from me as possible. So I let my hands sink and skidded backwards a little, lowering my head.
"Impossible," the Master muttered again, barely audible. He came closer to me, took my hands into his and raised them slightly. When my eyes met his there now was a new fire burning in them. "Do that again," he demanded.
So I did. My fingers landed on his temples once more and I concentrated on sending him a thought or an image. Anything.
Frustrated, I let out a strangled noise. It had only been a coincidence, maybe the Master himself had initiated contact somehow and hadn't been aware of it.
"Can't have been me," he answered my thought with a smile. "That's the thing. The temples are a direct route, but they are basically a one way lane. Powerful for any sort of manipulation and other stuff, but not helpful for proper connections."
So that was the reason I never slipped into his mind when he was there, but could with any other kinds of skin contact? And did that mean he had just heard my thoughts or had he wondered about the same thing?
There was no answer to that thought and so I lowered my hands and also my head, somehow disappointed and even somehow ashamed, although I couldn't tell why.
"Mhm… let me try something," the Master muttered and pushed my chin upwards so I had to look him in the eyes again. There was a weird smile tugging at his lips. "You know how to do this," his voice commanded, suddenly firm and dark. "You will project a thought into my mind so clearly I can hear it without a doubt."
There was a light tingle on the crown of my head and I reached out my hands to his temples once again, closing my eyes. Yes, I knew how I had done it. Why it had worked. It wasn't only a thought, not mere words, but a desire to be heard, to be connected.
I heard a triumphant laugh and opened my eyes to see him grin widely. The spell was broken, the hypnosis gone.
You heard that? , I asked.
"Yes. I hear you, my little light." Tenderly he stroked a hand along my cheek, his smile soft and genuine. Confusing. "Impossible," he repeated in a whisper. "You are nothing but impossible."
Flattered, yet not less puzzled, I raised my eyebrows.
But, doesn't it only work because of the hypnosis?
The Master chuckled. "No, you idiot. I can't make you do stuff you're not capable of. This-" he pointed at my hands and enclosed them with his own, holding them in place at his head- "this is you and you alone, although I have no idea why and how."
The touch of his hands sent something new through my mind, an emotion, sharp and cold.
It scares you , I thought.
"Yeah, somewhat," he admitted and let go of me. "Time Lords train for decades to master this skill. Longer even. It takes us almost all of our childhood to get a hold of the basics."
Quickly I let go of his temples and guiltily looked down. This wasn't right in many more ways than I could even begin to understand.
The Master leaned forward, dropped his head against mine and caught my careful gaze with a smile.
"I'm sure this will be useful," he muttered. "Might even help to find the drums."
Shily, I returned the smile and nodded. The Master retreated and lightly pushed against my shoulder.
"Lay down and sleep a little," he ordered, although in a soft tone. "I need you in good health, before we start your lessons."
So I did, slipping under the warm blanket, facing him and wondering if it would be alright to come a little closer. My question was answered when he lay an arm over me to pull me against him, slipping his hand under my shirt and on my back in the process. I couldn't help the happy smile, not caring if I was even allowed to wear it. But snuggling up on him like this… it really had become one of my favourite things to do.