"You're lying," Rose said quietly, her voice calm and even. She smiled gently at the Master. "I know you're lying."
"My dear Rose, I assure you I am not lying," the Master replied in the same tone of voice. "I would never lie to someone who clearly knows so much about Time Lord history. It would be an insult."
"But I KNOW you're lying," said Rose insistently, still the epitome of tranquillity. "Know why?" The Master opened his mouth to object, but was cut off by Rose continuing, "Because I can see it in your eyes. I've always been able to tell when you're lying and when you're telling the truth, because your eyes give it away. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's more subtle, but I can always – ALWAYS – tell."
"You forget," he said in an oily voice, "that your Doctor is dead." Rose flinched, but the Master ignored her. "The Doctor is dead and I am alive. No matter what characteristics your Doctor had, he does not have them any longer because he is not alive to have them. May I remind you, Rose, that I stole his body. I stole his body when he was in his Eighth body, and therefore this body – his Ninth – should be unrecognisable to anybody. The Doctor liked his … companions …" The word was laced with innuendo, and Rose blushed a furious shade of red as she fought back tears of anger and humiliation. "I, however, am a much more solitary creature. I have not travelled with anyone since inhabiting the Doctor's body." He leaned forward, invading Rose's personal space. She stiffened but refused to recoil, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing her so uncomfortable in his presence. "The question therefore, my dear, is not about me. It's about you."
"What about me?" she asked bluntly. The Master smiled again.
"You recognised me," he said. "Or, more accurately, you recognised the Doctor. How is that possible?"
"I used to travel with the Doctor," she said.
"Yeah. Used to. Years ago." She gulped, trying to think of an explanation that wouldn't involve the whole 'parallel worlds' scenario. "He … told me about regeneration. Explained that you changed bodies and stuff. And he told me Time Lords had two hearts, and your medical scans have shown that your physiology is Gallifreyan, so …" She trailed off, leaving the rest of her explanation unsaid. The Master raised an eyebrow by exactly two millimetres and Rose just knew he'd been practising that in front of a mirror.
"Now you're the one who's lying," he said.
"I'm not lying. It's the truth."
Before Rose could even reply, the Master was out of his chair and by her side. He'd moved with a superhuman speed and grace, quite unlike the Doctor's ungainly strides, and Rose was taken aback. She looked over to Mickey for support, but he just sat in his chair, staring unblinkingly at the spot where the Master had just been. She ran over to the two-way mirror and peered through, shielding her eyes from the light so she could see into the room. Pete and Sarah Jane were also staring at the chair that Master had just vacated. Rose banged on the window with her fist, but there was no response from either of them. Nothing. She turned around and jumped when she saw the Master had moved silently to a position right behind her.
"What have you done?" she hissed. "Put them right."
"Put them right," she repeated sternly, more forcefully, "or I will make you suffer."
"Threats are useless now," he said quietly, and the hairs on the back of Rose's neck stood on end. One of his trademark smiles inched its way across his face.
"What have you done?" Rose whispered, her cool exterior crumbling. She was trembling now, fear and anger coursing through her veins, as the Master didn't move an inch.
"My dear Rose," he said icily. "I would have thought the Doctor had explained to you the wonders of Time Lord biology. Surely the clue is in the name? Time Lord. Think about it." Rose looked around and her eye fell on the clock on the wall – it had stopped. None of the hands were going round. Mickey was frozen. Sarah Jane and Pete were immobile.
"You've … you've stopped time …" she breathed.
"Well, that's a crude way of putting it," the Master said, "but you've got the general gist. Technically, time hasn't stopped. That is impossible. What I've done is merely slowed time down dramatically."
"You can do that?"
"It's child's play."
Rose's skin itched uncomfortably. She could feel the heat coming off the Master, and in the silence of the room she could just about make out the double-beat of his hearts mingled with the sound of her own heart hammering against her chest. If she didn't know any better, she would have thought he was trying to seduce her. His eyes were drilling into hers, a small smile playing on his lips. She knew that if he moved his head down just a couple of inches, his lips would be on hers. That thought more than anything else made her skin crawl.
"You seem uncomfortable," the Master commented. Rose blinked. Were her ears playing tricks on her, or was that concern in his voice?
"I'm not a big fan of people invading my personal space," she retorted. The Master merely frowned slightly.
"I apologise profusely," he said, and this time Rose was sure that she could hear a note of disquiet in his voice. She relaxed ever so slightly. "Despite my harsh exterior, I don't like to make people physically uncomfortable. Biting wit and insults are more my forte. I try my best not to make people feel too ill at ease when I'm in close proximity to them." He'd lowered his voice slightly, deepening the tones. Rose could feel the reverberation of his voice deep in her chest, and she started to relax a bit more. The corners of the Master's eyes wrinkled a little as he smiled – a genuine smile, not a condescending one – and Rose couldn't help but smile back. She'd forgotten how blue his eyes were.
"You must hate it when people you dislike get too close to you," he continued, lowering his voice still further so that it came out as a husky whisper. "It must be so uncomfortable." Rose couldn't answer. She was captivated by his eyes. The icy blue fire that she had fallen in love with all those years ago was back. This can't be the Master, she thought. It's got to be the Doctor. It has to be …
"It's so much easier when you trust someone, isn't it? When you know someone and trust them so much that you'd let them do anything." Trust. There was something Rose never thought she'd do again. She'd trusted the Doctor with her life more than once, and he'd trusted her with his. The fire in his eyes burned brighter and Rose couldn't look away.
"Doctor?" she said in a cracked whisper. He brought his hands up to cup her face gently and Rose felt her heart skip a beat. It's him, she thought triumphantly. I knew it. He smiled again.
"You could stay here, and fill your life with work and food and sleep, or you could go … anywhere." He gave a restrained smile, as if he was longing to break into a grin but was desperately trying to keep his exterior calm. Rose smiled.
"Is it always this dangerous?"
"What's going on?" Rose said. Mickey grabbed at Rose's legs.
"I really don't know what you saw in him," the Master said patronisingly. "That jacket! Honestly." He looked at the Doctor, who ignored him. "Talk about rough stuff."
"Yeah, I can't," Rose said apologetically. "I've got to go and find my mum, and … someone's gotta look after this stupid lump."
"I'm standing over there," Rose said. "And … and I've got long hair. And Mickey." She looked over at the Master, who was leaning nonchalantly against the exterior of the TARDIS. "What did you do to me?"
"We're in your memories," he explained.
"But … how?"
"I'm nosy." He looked over at the Doctor. "And he's boring. Let's find something more fun, shall we?"
"Let me out! Let me out!"
The Master looked around. Rose had merely blinked and they'd suddenly shifted from the estate to Platform One. She looked questioningly at the Master, who merely tapped his temple.
"Very nice," he said, looking around. "Although I think I'd prefer polarised glass without the cracks in it myself." He peered out of the window and perked up considerably. "Oh, the destruction of Earth!"
"Sunfilter rising. Sunfilter rising."
"Showing you the death of your own planet on your first outing." He raised an eyebrow at Rose, who was watching herself hammering on the door with a look of disbelief on her face. "Well, it's one way to break the ice, I suppose …"
"We'll go down fighting, yeah?"
"Cardiff, actually." The Master shot her a look of pure confusion.
"Cardiff?" He looked round at the Gelth-possessed corpses and wrinkled his nose up.
"Hannibal crossed the Alps by dissolving boulders with vinegar."
"Are you frightened, Rose Tyler?"
The Master clicked his fingers and Rose felt a ripple of … something … pass through her, making her shiver violently. By the time she'd recovered, the Master was looking at the now-motionless Dalek with an unreadable expression on his face. The memory was frozen in time, with Rose looking at herself and Adam looking like they were playing a game of musical statues. She cleared her throat to get the Master's attention. He slowly turned his head around to look at her.
"One survived!" Rose suppressed a grin at the slight edge of panic in his voice.
"You have no idea."
"What's this place?" the Master said, squinting around. He brought up his arm to shield his eyes from the light that surrounded them, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't block the light out. Rose stood calmly beside him, the light apparently having no effect on her at all. There was an unearthly music in the background, barely audible, but still there. It felt like it was part of them.
"My memory," she said. "For an all-powerful Time Lord, you can be a bit dense sometimes." He shot her a look before continuing his attempt at working out where they were.
I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself.
"Bad Wolf?" he asked. Rose shrugged.
"This is all I remember," she said. "Light and music and words. If you can make any sense of it, be my guest." She took a step away from him and he frowned at her. After a moment of silence, he closed his eyes and his image flickered for a moment before he opened his eyes and stared at Rose with a look of utter horror on his face.
"You weren't lying," he whispered. "You really did destroy the Daleks." Rose just smiled.
"Boring," she said.
"I have got … a mole. Between my shoulder blades, I can feel it, there's a MOLE. And it's alright. Love the mole!"
"He regenerated," the Master said. Rose nodded. The Master cocked his head to one side. "We'll see how he turns out."
"So, the year five billion, the Sun expands, the Earth gets roasted."
"That was our first date!"
"We had chips!"
"That's what I'm going to look like next?" the Master said disdainfully. He wrinkled his nose up in disgust. "I'm a scruff." He paused for a moment and sniffed childishly. "Better than that blasted leather jacket, I suppose …"
"Hello Reinette. Hasn't time flown?"
"Madame De Pompadour?" exclaimed the Master. He laughed appreciatively and shook his head in disbelief. "That sly old dog!" Rose glared at him harshly.
"Nothing happened," she said firmly. "They just—"
"Danced?" The Master grinned vindictively. Rose said nothing.
"You will die, and I will live."
"Was that the devil?" the Master asked.
"We don't know," Rose said, shrugging. "I reckon it was, but the Doctor … I don't think he let himself believe it."
"The Devil Incarnate?"
"So what?" Rose demanded. The Master gazed at the scene before him and gave a low whistle. "I just have newfound respect for the Doctor now," he said. After a short pause, he said, "Well, maybe not respect per se … but still … the Devil …" He paused again before looking down at Rose with a thoughtful expression on his face. "What planet was this on?"
"Thinking of making a trip?"
"Well, funny you should mention that …" Off Rose's glare of swords and daggers, he hastily continued, "Not to unleash it! Great Rassilon, never to unleash it! Please," he scoffed. "I like the universe. It's comfy. France is a good place. I like France. Wouldn't be anywhere near as fun to rule if it was all fire and brimstone."
"It's the Devil. Incarnate. Imagine what kind of conversationalist he'd be."
Rose just rolled her eyes.
"Where are we? Where did the gap come out?"
"We're in Norway."
"What were you doing in Norway?" the Master asked, staring confusedly at the scene in front of him. Rose watched herself talk to the Doctor for the last time and it broke her heart in more ways than one. It was bad enough that she could relive it inside the privacy of her own mind … but being here, watching it play out in front of her like a film, next to a man who looked so similar to the Doctor she used to know … it was almost too much to bear.
"He came to say goodbye," she said quietly, hoping the low volume of her voice would disguise the emotion in it.
"Is that why you're snivelling so much?" he remarked. Rose glared at him.
"I think I have a right to 'snivel'," she muttered mutinously.
"Oh, come on," he said. "He's just saying 'goodbye'. You could go and visit him at Christmas."
"I COULDN'T!" she suddenly raged, exploding with all the pent-up anger and grief trapped inside her. "I couldn't go and visit because I'm trapped here! I'm trapped on this godforsaken planet with no way of contacting him because I made a stupid, selfish decision. Oh, look at Rose Tyler! She's trying to save the world! Well, she's not. She's trying to make the Doctor realise how much he means to her, and trying to make him see that she's not just another little human girl! And guess what? I failed. I saved the world and all I got was this lousy parallel world. I can't even visit any other planets because the technology here is useless and backwards. I'm stuck here for the rest of my own life and it's all my own fucking fault!" Eyes blazing, fists clenched, Rose ignored the tears pouring down her face and just directed her tirade at the Master, who was so shocked by her outburst he'd actually backed away a couple of paces. As she struggled to get her breath back, the Master straightened his jacket delicately and raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Finished?" he asked archly. Off Rose's furious glare, he smiled. "Good. Because I think I understand everything now. Why your knowledge is so superior, why you recognised me, why you feel so empty inside – don't deny it, my dear, I'm inside your mind, remember? – and I think, after all that, I deserve a question." His smile grew wider. "What exactly is the Skasis Paradigm?"