After much pondering I decided it would be best if those two Time Lords would finally get along. That certainly had to dissolve a whole bunch of problems. And even though I had no clue about those things, I decided it might be fun to play matchmaker for a while - preferably in a way they wouldn't notice. So, when we found together in the control room to celebrate the silly mockery of what would be Christmas, I tried to stay out of the way. I told myself I was okay with being a side character, with standing aside whilst others occupied the centre.
We had brought a large table into the room, where everyone could find a place. And when the Master brought in a serving cart with deliciously looking and smelling items, I was sure we all would get poisoned. This was too good to be true. Not only that, but he made a real show of placing every pot and plate to create a little piece of art in itself, a satisfied and also challenging smirk plastered on his face the whole time.
"Tell me, you could have fabricated this!"
A choir of admiring oh's and ah's went through the children, who were finally allowed to take place on the long table. Only the Master's presence probably kept them from digging into the food right there and then.
The Doctor stood there, mouth agape and almost drooling. "Nooo, that would have been impossib- is that a felertchi tart?"
"It is." The smirk could not have been prouder.
I sat between a bunch of children, the Time Lords opposite to me. The Master let a last, content look wander over his work, then finally allowed us with an inviting gesture to suit ourselves.
"Now I'm really surprised," I said between mouth-fulls. "I didn't think you could actually cook so well. Did you know, Doctor?"
The Time Lord looked up from his plate, tossing a quick glance at the children next to him, who were also digging into the food as if they had been starving, enjoying it so much that they didn't even have time to misbehave. Then he shook his head and smiled widely.
"Nope. Well, yes. Sort of. But they were different times."
"Cesrevorun, sixth day of the quadron moon," said the Master, reminiscing about the occurrence. "I tried to poison the meal of your little group."
"Yes… but aside from that, the meal was amazing! I always thought it was a waste of talent."
"The cooking or the failed poisoning?"
The Doctor gave him a look that made the question obsolete and I couldn't help but to beg them to tell the entire story.
"Maybe later. Too busy eating," said the Doctor, munching happily. "Enjoy it, Lucy. That's a rare treat. Almost like being a child again, huh?"
I lowered my cutlery and stared at the food, trying to fight the surge of bad emotions that rushed through my guts all of a sudden.
"Do children get this all the time where you're from?" asked a small girl next to me.
I smiled sadly. "Not all of them. It's a… custom on my planet, in my time. But… doesn't matter."
"Did you celebrate it differently?" asked the Doctor.
I shook my head. "We didn't celebrate at all. Not after I turned four… or was it five? My parents converted to a different… religion. Not one of the official ones. A niche thing…"
"Oh. Did they celebrate something else, then?"
"No… from then on there was… nothing. No Christmas, no birthdays, nothing else either." I poked a potato with my fork, glanced up at the Doctor's surprised face. "Doesn't matter."
"Whaaaat?" cheeped a boy. "All the kids got food and you didn't? That's not fair!"
"It just was a day like every other for us. But, of course we knew this was only the case for us."
The girl that had hung up the stars with me gave me a bright smile, reminding me of her small gesture. It would have been nice to find a tiny glittering thing in our apartment to cheer us up during such days. When my sister and I had known that everyone was gathered with their family now, enjoying warmth and laughter, while we tried our best to stay quiet and unnoticed, so we wouldn't…
"Let's go to the library after dinner!" The Doctor's cheery voice interrupted my thoughts. "I decorated the fireplace and we can tell stories."
And so we did. After the meal everyone was too full and lazy for even considering doing much more than sitting around and digesting. The Doctor had been right. The book shelves were covered in red and green decorations, all comfy and warm. And there the Time Lords told some stories, with glowing eyes and wide grins and completely ignoring the fact that many details were not suited for children's ears at all. But, of course, they were all listening.
The little ones were gathered around us, on stools, cushions and two of them snuggled up on me. A fire crackled in the oven and we had hot chocolate and wine, mead for me, because I liked it more.
It was fun to listen to one story after the other, comfy to have the kids to cuddle with. Nothing could destroy that mood, not even the Doctor probing me to tell about what had happened in my childhood, ever the curious one, no harm meant.
I didn't relent. Not entirely. But I told them about what I could remember of when I was little, of the few years we had still celebrated, of how huge the Christmas tree had seemed, of how I had loved to play with the lametta. And then, in a lower voice, of how, later - when the magic had been shattered for us - I had envied other children when they had told about their fest.
"When I got older I always tried to be somewhere else during the holidays," I told. "With my aunt or my older sister. But they weren't too happy about that. They had their own family."
So, after a while, I had spent those days on my own, instead. And without any family or friends it wasn't anything to look forward to anyway. "I came to love the time before the fest. When all the streets are decorated with lights and there are Christmas markets everywhere. When everything smells of nice things and you could just vanish in the crowds and have mulled wine and crêpes."
But those few weeks were always over far too quickly, leaving nothing behind but grey and empty streets and the relentless cold and depressing darkness of winter. Quickly I brushed the subject away, asked for some more stories. And, luckily, the Doctor didn't press further.
Only when the smallest of the kids were sleeping, we went to the console room again to crank up some music and fool around. Although the Master refused to take part in it at all. He rather sat in a jump seat, with crossed arms and a sour look.
It was a funny sight, considering that he had participated the whole evening, with only occasional dark looks and minor protests.
"Hey, Lucy." The Doctor nudged my shoulder, took my hand, turning it so my palm was facing upwards. "I thought, if you never got any presents it's about time."
And with that he let a tiny package land in my hand, wrapped in golden paper and decorated with a small red ribbon. I carefully opened it and found a small white stone inside - when I moved it there was a blue shimmer on the surface, like a reflection.
"Ah, it's nothing special. It's a moon stone. From earth. They used to believe that they had some real moonlight captured inside. And you like the moon, so…"
"It… really is pretty. Thank you."
I hugged the Doctor and couldn't keep my eyes from the stone for a while. It was fascinating how the blue shimmer appeared only at certain angles.
Eventually, though, I nudged the Doctor and nodded at the other Time Lord, then retreated to watch. The Doctor had actually understood what I had hinted at and approached the Master, stretching out one hand with a wide grin. And when the other refused, it appeared as if the Doctor was starting to mock him, just enough and probably with the exact right words to have the Master shoot up, all of a sudden, pushing some buttons at the console to make a flashy song play I had never heard before.
It had a fast rhythm and was quite contagious. The dance they started was a weird combination of steps they had to perform next to one another, as if they pretended to be mirror images. Somewhere nearby I saw a few of the teenagers who were still awake try to do the same, but failing miserably.
It was clear that both Time Lords had fun showing off to one another, teasing and taunting with daring new moves and eventually facing the other, fingers interlocked and slowing down with the fading beats of the song. The next one playing was a tad bit slower and this time they performed something akin to a walz, although without the turns.
They fooled around during the steps, trying to get the other one out of rhythm. More than once one of them succeeded and in the end the Master simply pushed the Doctor away with one hand, making him stumble backwards and almost to his bum. He did wild swings with his arms to get his balance back, then hauled forwards to get his revenge, bumping playfully into the Master. But he was faster, grabbed the Doctor's wrists and grinned wolfishly. His eyes shot upwards and he nodded in the same direction, making the Doctor follow his gaze before he promptly drew the man against him by the wrists.
There was a moment of hesitation. The Doctor lowered his head, visibly flustered, but then said something both had to laugh about. And just like that he leaned down a little and the Master stretched just the tiniest bit and the mistletoe did its job. It was a brief kiss, but still much more than only a peck. I turned away to leave them their privacy, but already the Master pushed the Doctor away again with a laugh and a grin that was supposed to be mocking, but somehow failed.
I still turned away, ignoring how my guts twisted. Or at least trying to. There was no space for me in all of this and I didn't even want one. I liked it when my life was uncomplicated and right now it was at least complex enough for me to not want anything on top of it.
So I volunteered to bring the remaining children back to their room, read the ones who were still awake, a short story and snuck out again, undecided whether to return to the console room or not. The evening had had a comfy atmosphere, animosities had been set aside in favour of fun and bickering and…
"What the heck do I do?" I asked into the air, leaning against one of the corridor walls. "I'm not even sure what it is I'm feeling."
The TARDIS hummed sympathetically, but there was no hint or anything else in it.
"I shouldn't cling to anyone just because he pays me attention, just because I can steal a bit of comfort from him."
Another hum, this time questioning.
I shrugged. "It's stupid."
"I… because…" I sighed and closed my eyes, trying to find out what the chaos in me meant. "Because it's just that. I just enjoy not being lonely. And look who it is I'm enjoying that with."
The next vibration I felt was clearly a giggle and it made me smile, but also playfully slap the wall.
"You hate him. And for good reasons. He's only concerned with himself, isn't he? And considering all the bad things he did…"
Another humm rang through the air, bearing a weird mix of accusation and question and pure mockery. All at once and somehow so clear that I sunk together in a small pang of shame.
"Yeah, you're right. I don't really care about that. Not as much as I should."
I jolted away from the wall when I got zapped, cursing from the surprise. The TARDIS whirred and let a golden glittering path appear on the ground that led back to the console room.
Well, her intention couldn't get more clear.
So I did what she wanted and trudged back towards the still playing music. When I opened the door I found the Time Lords fooling around to the music. The Doctor showed his presumably best moves, only to have the Master shake his head and step next to him, showing him how it was actually done. The other one tried to closely follow the steps, but stumbled over his own feet and was caught in time by the Master before his face could connect with the floor.
Meanwhile I snuck to a jump seat and made myself comfortable there, deciding to have fun watching them and maybe doze off after some time, surrounded by laughter and music and the comfy atmosphere of what wasn't Christmas at all, but somehow a lot better anyway.
A few minutes later the Doctor pointed upwards to another mistletoe, grinning and quickly stepping away. The Master laughed at him, stretched to plug down the twig, then turned to search the room for the rest of them, eager to find every single one and get rid of them.
His eyes landed on me, squinting. He dropped the decoration on the console and came over, looming over me with a scowl.
"You hung them up, didn't you?"
I grinned at him and poked my tongue out. "Yup. Don't complain. It looked like you had fun with them."
"Did I now?" His grin made me gulp and shrink together.
And suddenly he hooked a finger into my collar and pulled me up, ignoring my protest. He took some steps backwards, dragging me all the way with him and stopping so abruptly that I bumped into him. A hand slipped to my back, held me close and made every thought of escaping obsolete. His other hand went below my chin, playfully pushing it upwards to meet his wolfish grin.
"What're you doing?" I squeaked, afraid he would feel how fast my heart was pounding against his chest. "'m sure the Doctor's watching."
"Do I care?" He tipped my head a little higher, looking above us where I saw… another mistletoe. "This is entirely on you, lil' lumin."
"B… but… that wasn't…"
I didn't come far with my stammering, interrupted as the Master leaned down and pressed a kiss to my lips, sealing them and every muffled sound for some seconds. He pulled me closer, but retreated his head, lips wandering to my ear instead.
"Don't do something like that ever again," he uttered against my skin, making me shiver.
I only managed to nod, unable to breathe when his hands slipped away and down my arms until they reached my hands, stroking over the skin of my palms and over the tips of my fingers. His mind bristled against mine, only enough to be there, a reminder. An unspoken threat ran through my blood, promising no good should I dare to disobey.
"I… won't." The words left my lips in a whisper, my whole body tensing.
"Good." The Master bent away from me, giving me a cheeky tongue-touched grin that belied his previous warning. "And if you don't want me to kiss you, stop giving me reasons to do so."
I shrunk together even more, mouth snapping shut. My heart was beating wildly in my throat, maybe from fear, maybe from excitement. It was impossible to tell. He left me no time to find words and instead marched away to the door to the inside.
The Doctor called after him, but there was no answer at all, so he came to me, instead.
"What did he do?" asked the Doctor, worry in his voice. "Didn't hurt you, did he? I'm sorry. Was busy fixing a loose cable. Has been bothering me the whole evening and I couldn't-"
"Y… yeah. Fine. Good night, Doctor." I let out a long drawn breath, trying to calm myself and to appear relatively unfazed. Somehow I even managed to smile. "And thanks for the fest. This was fun."
"Ah, no problem. I love a good- Where are you going?"
I turned around, already on the way to the doors. "Bed. I'm really tired. Sorry. Good night."
The Doctor babbled on for a bit, but I didn't pay his words any attention, too dazzled.
Why had the Master dragged me unter that mistletoe? Just to make a point? Or had he really wanted to… I shook my head, deciding that it didn't mean anything. He was mocking me because he knew how confusing I found all of this.
But a small, annoyingly hard to muffle part in me couldn't make the smile disappear from my face whilst I strode through quiet corridors.