He didn't have to ask what would happen to him, for he had been put through this before. The coppery taste of blood still lingered in his mouth, his nose bridge still throbbed maliciously, fractured by his victim's enraged mates. His vision was blurry, his left eye swollen purple and shut. He could barely stand up but still he moved, scuffling like an old limp dog as he was dragged into the middle of the crowd by the chains secured around his neck. The men cheered when Micranus kicked him in the spine, and he landed face down on the wooden table. Hungry hands grabbing his ass and pinching his butt cheeks. His arms were twisted and his hands were tied behind his back. A mug of cheap wine was poured over his head while the drunks laughed at him. His legs were kicked apart and his ankles were bound. Marcellus was very scared, and cried when they stuffed a piece of cloth in his mouth. He cried out for the Doctor as though a child would plead for his father, a primal cry for help, but he knew he wouldn't come for him now. Deep in his heart, he knew what had happened. He remembered it, and still felt the Doctor's kiss – a Judas kiss - burning on his forehead.
The first slap of the rod went for the back of his ankles, the next came down on his thighs. The rest he couldn't distinguish, for it all twisted and joined into a fierce agonizing pain that shredded him to pieces. His legs collapsed under him, dangled formlessly behind his body while his torso lay on the tabletop like a slap of butchered meat. Simon came forward, a short figure appearing out of a loud and threatening crowd. In his hand he held the burning candle. Marcellus shook his head and pleaded through his gag, although he knew it wouldn't help. It never did. Simon pushed it in his anus, and for an agonizing long moment, the fire burned him from the inside, scorching his intestines. He screamed, and as Micranus started to hit his back with a horsewhip, he wriggled and folded shamelessly. He lost control of his bladder, and vomited from the pain when the costumers started to take him, roughly and savagely, tearing everything apart. There was so much blood coming out of him, he didn't understand how he could bleed this much and still be alive.
They yanked his head up by the steel collar around his neck, he couldn't breathe, his lungs burnt, and soon he could hear the blood rushing in his ears while the world swirled in front of his eyes. His mind was a raw open wound, reacting on instincts, the light of reason completely gone. There was only fear, despair, and a violent need to escape. No more of this. No more. When they started cutting him up, all he could do was scream, and all he could cry out was the name of the Doctor, although by that time, the meaning of that word had been lost to him.
When he opened his eyes again, he was standing on top of a high cliff, the coarse sea wind swept into his face, blasting his cheeks with fine grains of sand. The ledge he was standing on was narrow, brittle chalk stones that crumbled off and tumbled into the dark sea below with the slightest movement that he made. His back and the palms of his hands were pinned against the rockface. Crying seagulls circled above his head like hungry vultures in the desert. His heart raced. There was nowhere left he could go. Both sides of the ledge had broken off, the cliff itself was too steep to climb, and there wasn't even room for him to turn around. All he could do was to stand there on that little patch of dirt, on that narrow edge that separated life from certain death, and cling on to it while the elements punished him mercilessly.
"I know you Marcellus."
It was his own voice. No, it was the Master's voice, speaking to him, and he recalled how he had found him, hidden away by Micranus in that abandoned shed in some dirty back-alley in Rome. He remembered how he had threatened him and filled his mind with images that had confronted him with his own mortality.
"I know you better than you know yourself."
He took in a ragged breath, filling his lungs with the cold air, and glanced downwards. A thousand feet beneath him, the grim forms of sharp rocks stuck out of the waves like shards of glass sticking out of an open wound.
"Let you stand on narrow ledge of a cliff, a thousand feet above a dangerous ocean and a bed of sharp rocks beneath, and you will hold on for dear life."
He closed his eyes, just for a moment, the seagulls mocking screams died away, his heart pace quieted down till all he could hear was the rustling of the ocean and the waves breaking on the rocks below.
"You'll keep standing for eternity if you must. Everything is better than to die at once."
He remembered his life as a slave, kept by a cruel Roman master. He remembered how he was degraded and tortured, fell severely ill and was thrown out in the streets to die. He remembered how he was tormented by his mind, the drums and the Master's voice, constantly ordering him to steal and murder, crimes that conflicted with his own wavering morality till he had completely lost his sanity. He recalled being arrested and being locked up in jail to rot. He remembered how frightened he was when he was going blind. He remembered being abandoned by the Master.
And he remembered how the Doctor had finally found him and saved him, only to betray his trust and cast him once more into hell.
Somewhere in the surrounding darkness, he could hear the Master laughing.
"To seize existing is more terrifying than anything you can imagine."
He wished he could press his hands against his ears to block it out, but his palms were sweating and he didn't dare to lift them from the rock surface. It was only after he noticed the idiot's grin on his face that he realized that the insane chuckle came from himself. The chuckle swelled into a full mad laughter, and he couldn't stop till the tears ran down his cheeks.
That's where you're wrong Master. He thought, smirking and tasting the salt of his tears on his lips. There are indeed more terrifying things in life, experiences that surpassed even the horror of death. Only, once you have gone through them, and you know how truly evil and debasing these experiences are, your mind tries to forget them in order to move on. But once given the choice to endure them again, knowing how bad it was, no sane man would turn down a merciful way out.
Really, anything is better than to go through it again.
The waves were white strokes of foam, framing the coast. There was no glistening of light on the water surface, the ocean appeared as a pool of darkness.
Gently, he pushed himself away from the rocks behind him, and for a moment he was weightless, no pull of gravity in any direction threatening his existence. It would not last for long.
"No! Stop! Don't do this Marcellus!"
He turned towards the voice. The Doctor stood next to him. Their paths were only separated by a five feet long gap in between them. The Timelord could not reach him, but he was edging closer, his feet almost tiptoeing on the most narrow parts.
"Leave me alone." Marcellus was not asking, he was begging the Timelord. "No more of this. Please. I want peace!"
"I found a way to cure you." The Doctor said, licking his lips nervously. "You don't have to do this. If you jump there will be no ways left to bring you back."
Marcellus shook his head. "You betrayed me, Doctor! Why did you do this to me? I thought that you were my friend."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. It was the only way to save you both." The Doctor moved closer to Marcellus and held out his hand to him. "Please, take my hand Marcellus. Trust me. Trust me one last time. Don't jump."
Marcellus gazed at the Doctor, but did not move. He swallowed hard and turned away to face back to the open sea.
"Marcellus!" The Doctor yelled. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry for everything that I've put you through! But please, don't do this!"
Marcellus stared down at the dark abyss beneath, an almost content smile spread across his face as his heart finally found peace in the idea to become one with it.
"Guess what Doctor. The Master had it all wrong. No one knows me better than myself."
He pushed himself off the rocks and tumbled forward, head first, as if he was diving down into the water. He heard the Doctor's cry ringing in his ears.
His arms spread out from his side. His heart picked up pace, throbbing wildly in his ribcage like a captured bird. So this is how it ends. He thought. This is how it feels to die. He was falling rapidly, plummeting into darkness. The wind swept away the cries of the gulls. It felt like it would never end.
Something suddenly stopped him and he felt the pull of gravity reconfirmed, yanking down his body with increased weight. He was suspended in the air, his feet dangling high above the ocean. His left arm and shoulder hurt immensely, as if it was being pulled out of its socket.
"Doctor! I wouldn't mind a little help here!"
He looked up at what was keeping him from falling. His heart froze when he saw the Master standing at the ledge, holding on to his right hand with a steady white knuckled grip.
"Doctor!" The Master yelled with a reddened face. "I'm slipping! Get your bony ass over here or we are both pretty much fucked!"
They dragged him up at the top of the cliff where he collapsed on the mushy green ground, his legs shaking. He watched fearfully how the two Timelords lay down beside him, exhausted by their efforts.
"It's a good thing you know the way around here, or Marcellus had been done for." The Doctor uttered between two deep gasps for air. The Master didn't answer him, but eyed at Marcellus like a cat would a mouse. He suddenly jumped up and grabbed him by the neck.
"What do you think you were doing, you little shit!?" He spat, shaking him so hard that his head bobbed up and down like that of a rag-doll. "How dare you! You could have killed yourself and I would have been stuck here inside that rotting corpse of yours as a brain-dead vegetable you fucking dimwit!"
"Hey! Let go of him!" The Doctor rushed over and managed with much effort to pry the Master's fingers from Marcellus's neck before he turned blue. "I said let go! Can't you see he's terrified?"
"Well he should be bloody terrified, especially when he finds out what I'm planning to do to him!" The Master rambled.
"You're not going to harm him in any way and you know it." The Doctor said strictly, placing himself between the Master and his shivering alter-ago.
The Master opened his mouth, ready to make another empty threat, then reconsidered, rolled his eyes and kicked some dirt and rubble into the air.
"That was very VERY inconsiderate of you!" The Master eventually said, is voice dripping with sarcasm and waiving an accusing finger at Marcellus. Hell, he had to say something. He turned to the Doctor. "Happy now?"
The Doctor ignored the Master and turned around to take care of Marcellus.
"Are you all right?" He asked.
"Please don't hurt me." Marcellus said in a weak voice, flinching away from his gentle touch. "No more of this. I can't stand it."
"It's okay. I found a way to cure you. You'll be safe from now on. No more madness."
"Stop it! I don't believe you." Marcellus shook his head. "How can I after what you've done to me? Why didn't you let me die?"
The Doctor swallowed hard. "I can't let you die. I can't. Marcellus, I know that it's difficult for you to see it now, but the world is truly a better place than you imagine it to be. And I want to show that to you. I want you to be happy."
Marcellus gazed up at the Doctor, than glanced over his shoulder to the Master who was sitting a couple of feet away from them, pulling grass out of the ground with roots and all, while he eyed maliciously at him.
"I don't know if I want to be saved if I end up like him." He muttered. He stared into the Doctor's eyes. "Why did you bring him here? Is there is something that you need to tell me?"
"Marcellus." The Doctor looked away, trying to find the right things to say. "I can't choose between you and the Master. You are both different, but the same person at the same time. If I let the Master resurface, you will stop to exist. If I let him stay here inside your mind, he will eventually destroy you. The only way for me to save you both, is to find a way for the two of you to co-exist."
The Doctor searched his pockets and took out his sonic screwdriver. He held it in front of Marcellus's eyes.
"You both have to give up a part of yourself to gain a part from the other. It's the sacrifice you have to make to chose life."
Marcellus stared at the tiny blue light shimmering in the tip of the device. He didn't know what he should think of this, being only minutes earlier that he had decided to give up on everything and to jump towards his death. But the Doctor knew what he was doing, he showed Marcellus a glimpse of all the things that had seen, things that had amazed and astounded him, the beauty of the universe, the mystery of life, the love and the courage that reside in the human heart. He wanted to convince him. He needed Marcellus as much as he needed the Master. He needed Marcellus to keep the Master sane.
When the information transfer was over, Marcellus seemed to light up, and a glint of hope could be detected in his eyes. The Doctor stood up and held his hand out to him.
"Please Marcellus, trust me one last time."
Jack didn't know what to expect when he tried the door of the Tardis, but he certainly did not expect to see him, standing there leaning against the door-post, wearing a casual grin on his face.
"Captain Jack! Long time since we've seen each other. You are looking for the Doctor?"
The grin widened while he stepped aside and gestured that he should come further. "Oh do get in, I'll make you a nice cuppa while you wait. He went to the shops. We were low on supplies. Must only take a minute."
"He left you by yourself? Alone, with the Tardis?" Jack asked, appalled, and staring at him with suspicion. He didn't know to whom he was speaking to, this man wearing an oily smile that spread from ear to ear reminded him too much of the Master, but if he was the Master, how could the Doctor have trusted him with his precious timemachine?
"I know what you're thinking." He said, while Jack entered the pilot room, it occurred to him that the former timeagent kept his hand on his revolver. "But I'm not him."
"Are you Marcellus then?" Jack asked. Mentioning the name alone gutted him with guilt. He suddenly realized that he was in such a helpless situation. Although he was armed, he could not hurt him for he feared he might kill an innocent man. If he was the Master but was fooling him by acting as if he was Marcellus, he was in serious danger. When he dropped the question, he didn't expect to get a sincere answer, but he did.
"Yes and no." He frowned as though he was getting confused himself, and rubbed his chin. "It's complicated."
"Last time that I've seen the Doctor, he asked me to return the fobwatch. Didn't he let you open it?"
"Never seen it." He said with a disinterest in voice. "Must be lying around somewhere if you say so. You know what, I go have a look for it in the drawers later on."
Jack could have kicked himself in the head for his stupidity. Oh sure, inform the deranged psychopath about the little trinket that would restore him into a Timelord proper, brilliant really. "It doesn't matter!" He shook his head to remind himself to stop messing things up. "Just tell me, who the hell are you? Are you the Master?"
The man with Harold Saxon's appearance cocked his head to one side and put his hand against his cheek. "What does it matter?" He answered, his voice suddenly defiant as if he had enough of the niceties. "Are you going to be less of a self-indulged righteous prick if I was?"
That did it. Jack's nerves finally broke. He was convinced that something was wrong, and raised his gun at him. "What did you do to the Doctor! Tell me! Where is he?"
"I told you he went to the shops! He loves to go grocery shopping, God knows why. He's like a gerbil keen on storing food for the winter, you should see the stock of chicken noodle soups that we have. It's bloody frightening."
"You're not fooling me with that act." Jack sneered, keeping his gun at the level of his adversary's head. "I know that you're the Master, who else could you be."
"I said I wasn't the Master." He gazed up at him, more annoyed than that he was intimidated by his weapon. "Really captain, you tried to kill me once when you left me to rot in that Roman whorehouse, I thought you might remember me from all the bad dreams that immoral act would conjure in your otherwise spotless conscience."
"Stop fooling around." Jack snapped. "I know Marcellus, you're not him."
"And I trust that you should know. You created him. In a way, I must thank you for it, like a son should thank his father for his creation, only most parents don't go sell their offspring into slavery and prostitution." He turned and walked away from him without even considering that he was still under threat of being to be shot.
"Hey, stop! Don't move!"
He raised his hands up in the air, and without turning around he vanished into the kitchen.
"Just putting the kettle on. You might have bad manners, but I'm not a bad host."
Jack lowered his gun in amazement. He didn't know what to think of this. Somewhere deep down, he knew. He knew by looking into the other man's eyes that he wasn't the Master. But he wasn't Marcellus either. There were certain parts in his mannerism that reminded him of the renegade Timelord. The way he smiled that oily smile that never reached his eyes. The hint of sarcasm in his voice, and that hateful glint in his eyes whenever he addressed him. But on the other hand, he could no longer detect his madness, and he didn't seem cruel or violent. The captain flinched and almost dropped his gun when he returned with a tray, balancing two steaming mugs of tea with a packet of wafer biscuits on top.
"Are you going to point that thing at me all day?"
Jack put his gun away, although he was still hesitant, it even occurred to him that it started to look ridiculous. When he was offered tea, he took it from his host's hand most warily.
"It's not poisoned." He reassured, and dipped a wafer biscuit into his own mug. "If that's what you're thinking." He sat down next to the console and put his feet up. "Don't you get tired standing there? Sit down. I said it would take a minute but I'm pretty crap at predicting time when it comes to guessing how long it takes for him to buy-out the food section at Marks and Spencer. I could take ages."
Jack sat down in the chair opposite to the man, remaining silent while he watched how the Master finished half of the package of biscuits. He seemed uncomfortable about being stuck with him in the same room, and kept shoving food in his mouth to make it seem like he was too busy chewing to have a conversation. After a long silence that became more embarrassing and more painful by the minute, the Master finished his tea, sighed and looked disapprovingly at Jack who hadn't touched a drop.
"Look, I said it wasn't poisoned. At least pretend like you can trust me and take a sip. You're making me nervous."
Jack kept his eyes on him, but finally brought the mug of the now lukewarm liquid to his lips. He took the tiniest sip, and placed it on the console board beside him.
The Master sighed for a second time within a minute, and rolled his eyes.
"So." He muttered. "What brought you here to seek the Doctor? Is there another monster of the week loose?" His folded his fingers and let his hands rest on his stomach. "You want his expert opinion on the matter?"
Jack pretended he didn't hear the sarcasm in voice.
"Actually, Martha sent me. She called me a week ago and told me to check on the Doctor and you."
"Martha sent you?" His face suddenly brightened, and the cynical tune in his voice disappeared. "How is she?"
"She was worried. The Doctor sent her away without telling her what he was planning to do. She didn't know if he had actually changed you back or not."
"She is such a sweet girl." He smiled, and this time, it did reach his eyes. "I met her, she must have told you about it. I was in a very bad state. She felt sorry for me and really tried to help."
"Did he change you back?" Jack asked, and leaned forward in his chair.
"There's not one bad bone in her body." He muttered, ignoring Jack's question. "A girl worthy to be a Timelord's companion. And still he let her go. Such a waste."
"I said, did he change you back?" He asked again, raising his voice.
The Master stared at him, the malicious glint returned to his eyes.
"No. He didn't. But he did something else."
He leaned towards the captain. Their eyes were now fixed on each-other, unblinking, as if they were engaged in some strange kind of staring contest.
"Are you sure you want to know, captain?"
Jack grinned. "Why, is it such a great secret?"
He grinned back at him, coldly. "The Doctor, he saved me, or us. He saved the Master and Marcellus. He saved us by letting us die, just a little." He observed how the confusion appeared on Jack's face. "Are you still following me captain?"
"What you're saying doesn't make any sense." Jack snorted.
"Oh it does. Perhaps I should explain it to you in more simple terms. The Doctor made us into one. He joined our minds. I am no longer Marcellus, nor the Master. In fact, even I don't know who I am, not really." He laughed cynically, and swallowed hard. "There are traces of them both, lingering inside me, making me into who I am. I consist out of fragments of both men's character. I feel the Master's anger, and I feel his fear. I have his nightmares, and I hear…" He closed his eyes, and threw his head back. "I can hear the drums. They are not so close as they used to be. They are somewhere far away now, but they are still here. They didn't stop when the Master seized to be the Master." He opened his eyes again, and bit on his lower lip. "I told the Doctor that it had vanished because he was so worried. But I lied." He smiled somewhat remorsefully at Jack, the sincerity in his expression alarmed him. "And then there are parts of Marcellus in here." He put his hand flat on his heart. "He was such a good man. You captain." He nodded at him. "You made him such a good man. He's the part of me that keeps the Master's anger in check. The yin in the yan so to speak, if you believe in such bollocks. Morality, and loyalty, and kindness. Only…" He paused to look up and away from Jack, putting a finger on his lips in contemplation. "Only that's not the only part of Marcellus that's left behind. There is something else. Something darker…" He stood up and stalked around the Tardis. "Something that wasn't there when you took him to see Simon and sold him into slavery. You didn't put it into the man when you created him, but it had grown out of a tiny seed that rooted in his mind during his unfortunate stay in Rome, nurtured by everything he was forced to go through. It had fed on his fears like a malignant tumor."
Jack was alarmed and he hand slipped slowly toward the tilt of his service revolver. He tried to keep his gaze fixed on the Master, but his eyesight suddenly started to blur. He blinked, but the world swirled in front of him.
"I guess it was born out of necessity really. Without it, Marcellus would not have endured for so long."
Jack was feeling sick, everything was swaying, as if his head was stuck on a merry-go-round. He tried to get up but his legs were like made of rubber. He pushed himself up, leaning heavily on the console. He needed to stand up and pull his revolver. He was in danger, the Master had put something in his tea and he was poisoned. He couldn't die, but there were things that could happen to him that were worse than dying. He knew for he had experienced it before, when the Master was still the Master and he was his at his mercy.
"You said, you said you weren't him." He managed to utter, his tongue felt thick, and he sounded as if he was drunk. "You weren't, and you said there was no poison."
He laughed while a bitter grin adorned his face. "Not poison captain! Drugs! Rummaging through the Doctor's medicine cabinet, I found the stuff he treated me with when I was still a mind-wreck. This one seemed very suitable for the occasion. One of my very favorites, little Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds. Purified by the Sisterhood and a 1000 times stronger than normal. Get you rocketed to the stars, straight away." He only had to push him with one finger on his chest, and Jack tumbled helplessly to the floor.
"A hunger for vengeance, captain." He said, smirking down at him. "It's what kept the poor lad's heart ticking. Through all the horrible things that he had endured, till the Doctor finally saved him from his sad-sad life. It didn't go away when Marcellus seized to be Marcellus. It's still here." He pointed at his hart and his head. "And now, it's only fair that the he gets what he wants, don't you think so, captain?"
"What – what are you going to do?" Jack slurred, his vision already split double. His voice came from a far-away place, and sounded as threatening to him as a violent oncoming storm.
He crouched down, his face looming over him with eyes that seemed relentless and cold. "What to do to a man that cannot die?" He grinned, pulling a knife from under the tray. Jack stared at it with widened eyes. "Now, you didn't really expect me to go into the kitchen for only tea and biscuits, were you?" He pointed the knife at the captain. Down and down it went, till it lingered just above his belt. "After all, I still have half of the Master in me."
He thrust the knife into Jack's belly and twisted the blade. Warm blood flooded over his hand, and drenched the sleeve of his white shirt. Jack gasped, and jerked up, his eyes bulging.
Oh my God. He thought. I'm helpless. He can do anything to me now. The bioconverter! The bioconverter onboard of the Tardis is still functional and the Doctor trusts him. The team, they don't know where I went. He can leave with the Tardis and kill me a thousand times before they find us. It will be like how it was on the Valliant all over again.
Only this time, he would be his only prisoner.
His heart rattled in panic when the Master leaned forward and whispered into his ear, as if to share a secret.
"What can Marcellus do to a man who has wronged him, but cannot die, captain? Tell me? What should he do?"
His mouth moved but he could not speak, and soon the world faded into black for Jack.
He woke up, his shirt still wet and cold with his own blood. He was lying in the bushes, somewhere outdoors in a small patch of woodland. Twigs snapped under his body as he tried to get up, leaning on his elbows. Somewhere from his right side, the churning sound of the Tardis came to him like an alarm bell, spurring his senses back into focus.
The Master! The Master killed him and now he's running off with the Doctor's Tardis!
He stumbled back up as fast as he could on rubber legs. He must stop him! Who knows what kind of disaster that maniac would create once he was able to travel back and forth in time freely to carry out his evil plans. He must warn the Doctor. He must stop him till the Doctor arrived!
He ran two steps into the direction of the sound before an electric current went down his legs and paralyzed his muscles. He cursed and fell to the forest ground, his head made a dent in a pile of rotting leaves. He managed to move his hand down his pants and into his pocket between the violent zaps. He removed a small silver ball, throwing it against the trunk of nearby tree before it could numb his fingers. It zapped two more times before it finally stopped.
The sound of the Tardis had died down, and Jack realized that he had missed it. He had let the Master get away. Frustrated, he screamed and tossed a fistful of leaves in the air.
The small metal ball came suddenly back to life, sending out two sparks before it flashed up brightly, blinding Jack with an eerie green light. He squinted his eyes and forced himself to gaze at the human figure appearing in front of him. It was a hologram of the Master, recorded previously inside the Tardis.
"Captain, don't mind getting up. There is no need for your heroism, I didn't steal the Tardis. If you are watching this message, the Doctor probably has just come back and we're busy trying to force the groceries into the fridge. I left with the Doctor, and this time, I'm not lying." He smiled broadly, and tapped his nose with his finger. "Anyway, to come back to what Marcellus would do to the ex time agent who has wronged him deeply. A dear friend of mine once told me that no one can remain consumed by hate and not eventually go mad. He taught Marcellus to forgive, not because it's what a pathetic petty minded hypocrite like you deserve, but because it is needed. And I believe that we all need a second chance." Rumbling in his pocket, he brought out the fobwatch and showed it to the captain. "Don't worry about the Doctor. I owe him this second chance in life. I would never hurt him. And as for this." He dropped the clockwork, and let it dangle from the short silver chain. "I don't think I need this. Not yet." He dropped it into his other hand and let it disappear again. "So captain Jack, guess it is goodbye for now!" His smile turned pleasant, but was still faked. "Hope to see you not too soon. The Doctor promised me one hell of a trip, something about a planet where it is Christmas the whole year around. Can you imagine it." He rolled his eyes and grinned, milling his fingers around his head. "It's crazy! He's crazy! Actually, I think I might be sanest one on board. Oh and by way." He grin widened, and even though he was staring at a hologram image, Jack could clearly detect the vicious glint that reappeared in his eyes. "Next time we meet, you might not keep your shirt clean either." He shrugged indifferently, as the transmission came to an end his image started to fade. "I might have forgiven you, but I'm not bloody mother Theresa…"
The hologram vanished into thin air, leaving the captain behind with a mixed feeling of great relief and anxiety.