Title: And From Thy State
Beta: Betas have no role in the Master's monomaniacal obsessions!
Continuity: Pretty canon, yeah. Introspection, some manufactured scenes, a lot of interpretation of given scenes.
Prerequisites:Utopia, The Sound of Drums, The Last Of The Time Lords.
Summary: Sometimes the Master wants the Doctor to die. Sometimes he wants him to live. The problem is, most of the time it's both.
Disclaimer: BBC OWNS ALL. Except what it doesn't. The opinions expressed herein are the properties of the characters and not of John Milton. Objects in obsession are closer than they appear. Master may or may not cause Doctor to drown in bucket. Questions, comments and uncertainties can be left in replies or directed to magistrata(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you for reading!
At the end of the Time War all crimes are forgiven. The Time Lords call in their pariahs, their criminals, their renegades--every last member of the species joins the ranks against the Dalek threat. The Master is there with them, fighting on the front line.
When the Doctor arrives in his TARDIS, he hates him more than ever. The Master sees the whole of potential trembling in his peripheral vision, but only two possibilities thrum strong in the chaos: the Daleks will die, every last one, or the Doctor will.
When he realizes this, he escapes. Not because he believes the Doctor will fail; such a thought would be fancy at best and now approaches heresy. He escapes because he believes that the Doctor will succeed, but that his success will mean the end.
The end of the universe comes more quickly than he thinks, and with it comes the end of the line.
With Chantho felled, he walks to the Doctor's hand and takes the apparatus made of it. The glass is cool--as cool as a Time Lord's skin, cold compared to the feverish heat of a human body; as cool as the air in place where he came so close to dying.
He's a Time Lord. Compared to him, humans are always close to dying.
The last ship of all time, the greatest marvel of design and invention, is soaring through space toward the dream that is Utopia. And the most precious thing in the universe is in a jar in the Master's hands. A part of his oldest enemy. Something to lead him home.
It's almost too good to be true, hearing the Doctor beg with fear in his voice, but it is true and that makes it better. He's anticipating the play and interplay, the frantic search for the endgame, because he's hungered for it so long. And when the Doctor tells him--"It's only the two of us! We're the only ones left!"--it's the most perfect truth he could have imagined. Just the two of them, the last of the Time Lords, the last of the titans, left to battle. It's the start of a glorious new age.
At the same time, he's glad he let the Futurekind in. After all, it would take an army to kill the Doctor--but an army is exactly what he has.
Drained from his regeneration, he rests on the floor and listens to the TARDIS singing him a lullaby. This TARDIS is old and falling apart, different from every TARDIS he's ever stepped inside--it feels like a person, like a wise, living person, like someone he can destroy. He's always been good at destroying.
He's set a bomb in Martha's flat and soldiers to guard her family, and when his pawn Bishop phones in--"Mr. Saxon, we have a code red on the Jones plan,"--he's glued to the speaker phone waiting for the news. Martha will lead the Doctor straight to his gunmen. Who will fire the shot that kills him? When?
He imagines it in grotesque detail, savoring every note. Rich blood frothing at the wounds, aerated and forced out by however many hearts are left beating; muscle torn, breath interrupted, fear releasing chemicals into the blood and brain--he imagines the look in the Doctor's eyes, the moment of terror as he regenerates or doesn't, the quick fade of Martha's screams, of Jack's, as he falls into darkness.
He hears the order through the line. Bishop is cold and ruthless and he loves her for it. He hears the shots. And when they fall silent his hands are on the phone and his knuckles are white and his breath is tight in his throat--"Is he dead? Have you done it?" He's yelling, on his feet, fingernails bruising the perfect varnish of the Cabinet Room desk. "Is the Doctor dead?"
There's a second's pause, and Bishop answers darkly: "No."
He lets out a very small sigh, and smiles.
His personal phone is too quiet. He prefers the speaker phone by far. When the Doctor answers, wresting the conversation from Martha's pleas, he pulls the phone from his jacket and turns it on. He's very attentive for the rest of the conversation, picking out the words the Doctor whispers, whispers into his ear.
On the airfield the noise of engines separates into drums. Winters' protests are drowned by the drums. The stars above him scatter like drumbeats across the sky.
He sees through the perception field. Who could direct the mind of a master hypnotist? The footsteps of his escorts sound like drums, and the rhythm of his twin hearts beats like drums, and the hail of bullets which end the Doctor's life would sound like drums except he never orders them to fire.
The instant after he activates the screwdriver on the Doctor, ripping apart his biology and reordering it from the inside out, he falters. The Doctor spasms and flails, his screams rough and interrupted, and the Master thinks He's dying, he's finally dying for the last and only time, go to him--
--but the thought is gone within the second, manifesting only as a moment's flinch. The tiniest tremor in the muscles around the eyes and it's vanished, and he keeps the weapon trained until the job is done.
In the Year of Waiting for the Ships to Launch, he comes to the Doctor innumerable times. He sends the guards away, sends the controllers away, empties the bridge except for himself and his enemy.
He tells him about the drums. He tells him about the whispers of sentience he still felt within the chameleon watch. He drops all the hints he needs about the Tochlophane. He tells him about Lucy, about the Time War, about his resurrection and summons before the hastily-convened War Council of the Time Lords, he tells him about the euphoric joy he felt while building the paradox machine.
He never quite remembers what the Doctor says, but he does answer--and long after the conversations have ended he remembers that voice, that velvet voice, rounding out the edges of his dreams.
Every night he decides how to kill the Doctor. Every morning he keeps him alive.
Even he's not sure what the aging technology does to a Time Lord, how the reverse-regeneration works, what its long-term or immediate effects are. He keeps the beam trained on the Doctor until he falls and writhes on the floor, until he shrinks inside his clothing, until his struggles can no longer be seen.
He steps over with a rush of Did you kill him is he dead? Did you kill him is he dead? screaming in his mind, giddy at the prospect of triumph, of having ended the Doctor in such a way, of being the victor at long, long last. This is the day of my victory! rings in his ears.
Then the Doctor crawls out, unnaturally large eyes staring from underneath one brown lapel, and it's just another day again.
Sometimes he comes to see the Doctor in his cage, when the Valiant has sailed into night or night has overshadowed it. He stands very silently, watching the rise and fall of his chest, assuring himself that he's still alive.
He tells him about the drums again. They're so loud, they're drowning out everything. The world is the drums. The universe is the drums. It's incomprehensible, it's hardly fair, that the Doctor shouldn't hear them. He has to hear them.
He doesn't, and that's good--because if one person should be spared them, it should be him.
Dawn breaks to Martha's laughter. The Doctor shatters the bars of his cage into atoms. The Master runs and runs and runs--
The drums inside his head are driving him insane. The Doctor always wins and it's driving him insane. The paradox will break and it's driving him insane. And he's prepared to burn the world--why can't he win?--and ready to end everything if it means ending him, and he's been breaking apart the world for a year now and finally it's coming together again.
Once again, he accepts defeat. While everything inside him is screaming outrage and hatred and anger, he's so close to peace. This is the way things are, the way they've always been. Doctor triumphant, universe saved. This is the way things should be.
He's been expecting the bullet so long that it comes as a surprise.
The Doctor rushes in to save him and he's got strategems planned already--regenerate, wait, watch, be ready. But he feels the Doctor's arms trembling--I win?--and sees the tears in his eyes--I win!--and the drums rise and rise and rise. This close, he can hear the Doctor's hearts beat. They're strong and steady and alive, and the most eternal thing besides the drums. And the Doctor is shattered, the Doctor is crying, and he drinks the Doctor's tears like a communion. I win. I win. I win.
This was never what happened.
He's so close to the Doctor now. All the evidence is there, written in his face, his survival, his grief--he's destroyed but not destroyed. This is what the Master wanted, what he always wanted, and this is what he has.
For the very first time, it's enough.
He's sinking. Everything he's hated, everything he's needed, resolve themselves into one man and one moment. Neither resentment nor disdain occur to him.
He asks about the drums again, and now there's no reply. There will never be a reply.
He falls, and lets the Doctor take the drums away.