Title: Who Have And Have Not Sinned
Rating: Thematic T.
Genre: Conversation, introspection.
Beta: Killed by the Master.
Continuity: The Last Of The Time Lords, added scene in-ep thingy.
Prerequisites: The final arc of Series 3.
Summary: On the Valiant, late one night, the Master comes up for a chat.
Disclaimer: The BBC has the rights for Doctor Who locked up in a cage on an airship's bridge and... okay, I think this metaphor has gone as far as it should be allowed to. The opinions expressed herein are the properties of the characters and not of Anthony Hecht. POV may distort reality. Processed on equipment which also processes angst. Questions, comments and compassion can be left in replies or directed to magistrata(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you for reading!
He heard the Master before he saw him, or rather he heard the door--the soft hiss of the Valiant heralding the shaft of apricot light which spilled from the hallway. The Doctor stirred in his cage, raising his head and pushing his meagre weight off the metal floor.
"I notice that you're sleeping now," the Master said, hardly resolved from a silhouette against the light. "Age does strange things to a Time Lord."
"Why are you here?" the Doctor asked. He was tired--always was, these days--but couldn't bring himself to resent being jarred awake. He hadn't had pleasant dreams.
The doors shut, sealing them in the semigloom of the Valiant's bridge. "Lucy is sleeping," he said as if it was an answer, gliding over the floor with worn grace. "Odd, isn't it, Doctor? You'd never have aged. Not in a million years, if you survived that long. But I hacked your biology--add on a few paltry centuries and look at you, you shriveled, pathetic thing." He drew up, threading his fingers through the bars. "And now you're sleeping. I wonder--if I pushed it far enough, would you become human?" His eyes narrowed. "Would you enjoy that?"
"If there's one thing we share it's that we've both been human," the Doctor said. The Master was taunting him and he knew that, but he had to make the effort--find a common ground, find a point of reason. He'd come too far and seen too much to give up on the Master now.
"Hhuh." The Master let go. "Don't remind me."
"They're not that bad," the Doctor said.
"A pathetic, virulent, base species." He looked toward the portholes, beyond which was the cold expanse of night. "What they constructed was impressive," he allowed, "but look how quickly they fell! As if they wanted to be conquered. As if they were waiting for me..."
"You came to them," the doctor said, trying to haul him out of manifest destiny by force of logic alone. "Integrated yourself into their society."
"They have their uses," the Master said, offhand.
"Is that all? Uses?"
The Master rolled his eyes, scanning the ceiling. "Amusements?" He looked troubled, but the Doctor couldn't divine why.
"You can't believe that," he said. "You have to see something more in them."
The Master was silent.
Ask me what I see in them, the Doctor mentally urged. Ask me of their merits. Open your eyes--just a bit, just so you can see what you've done. "You took a companion," he said.
The Master smiled, as if reminded of past triumphs. "Lucy," he said, tongue rounding the word, tasting every sound.
"Why?" the Doctor asked. "That's one thing I don't understand. Why? To mock me?" The syllables fell slack in his throat. "I know you don't love her."
The Master looked down at him, raising an eloquent eyebrow.
The Doctor's hand shifted on the cage's bars, and both hearts beat faster. "Or do you?" Has the Master learned love? If that was the case, there was hope--if that was the case, anything was possible.
"I keep her for the same reason you kept your menagerie," the Master said, and the Doctor's hand tightened.
"Don't compare us--"
"I do, though." The Master's face had a strange earnesty to it, as if he had never lied or wanted to. "You and I are dangerous, Doctor." A small smile appeared and disappeared. "Though you, decreasingly so."
"We are what we have to be," the Doctor said.
"We are what we are. Killers. Murderers." He drew one finger down a bar, smudging the cold brass. "Conquerors."
"Is that what she is, to you?" the Doctor asked. "One more conquest?"
"No!" The Master's head snapped up, eyes flashing in the sparse light. "She's the one thing I won't destroy."
As soon as he said that he snarled and looked away, as if he hadn't meant to say anything. The Doctor thought about Lucy, the bruising around her eye, the spirit she had shown once which he now no longer saw. He wondered if the Master had the capacity not to destroy her, or whether she'd already been destroyed.
"Do you feel it, Doctor?" the Master said, voice low and dark and needing absolution. "One pure, pristine thing? One person to bear witness to all that I do?" The Master's voice dropped. "One thing, in all the universe, I have saved from the destruction of the drums." He opened his mouth to continue, and pain crossed his face. A tremor travelled from his eyes to his lips. "...it's so hard."
"There's an easier way," the Doctor said. "Stop killing."
"Oh, that's rich!" The Master stepped back, collapsing into an office chair. All sincerity evaporated, replaced by the barely-contained manic levity that was his usual face to the world. "The man who destroyed our entire race telling me not to kill." He leaned forward. "Tell me, Doctor, would that advice help you?"
The Doctor sat, slowly. It was hard to stay standing in this new form, its limbs artificially weak. "I don't kill," he said, "if there's any other way."
The Master looked him over, distorted head to unsteady feet. "How lucky for you."
He wants to be saved! The Doctor's twin heartbeat was shaking his entire body. Somewhere, deep below layers of madness and the incessant drumbeat, he felt certain that the Master was struggling toward the light.
The Master leaned down to the cage. "If I'm not the destroyer of everything, it means nothing," he whispered. "And she will die."
Unspoken was the warning: It will be on your head, if you depose me.
"It isn't about power," the Doctor said.
"It isn't about power." He struggled to stand again, gripping the bars and staring at the Master's eyes. His old enemy didn't understand--he had to understand. "Caring for someone. It doesn't make you more or less powerful--it makes you better."
And just like that, the rapport between them snapped. The Master stepped back, a tight-lipped sneer across his features.
"You would say that, Doctor," he snarled. "You with your concerns of being a better man. I have no such illusions."
He turned, heading for the hallway. "Wait!" the Doctor called.
He paused in the doorway. "I am the Master," he said. "Power is all I need."
He left, and the door hissed shut behind him.
The Doctor sank to the ground, staring after him. "You're wrong," he whispered--because the Master needed care more than anyone, needed some speck of humanity more or as much as the Doctor ever had. And he would never listen. He'd destroy himself just as surely as Lucy, and sometimes it seemed there would never be a way to save either. "You're wrong."