Title: Red Hands, Clean Hands
Characters: Theta (Young Doctor), Koschei (Young Master), Ushas (Young Rani), Simm!Master, Tenth Doctor
Blurb: The Doctor had a year to think about and he remembers the reason why the Master is the way he is. And it is true, the Doctor has always run away, and never stopped.
Author's Note: My own spin on some of the novels. I haven't read many of them. Actually hardly any of them but I do know the basic story. They've been done to make them more, ahem, easy to get in a couple of hundred words of writing.
The Doctor knew what it was, every action; every trauma, each tiny thing that drove him to the edge. He had known him as a child. He hadn't been born that way. Some people are born evil but that wasn't him. That had never been him.
As a child the Master, who had been nicknamed Koschei, had been loved and respected by his entire family. He was his father's favourite child. You would never have met a nicer child. He was intelligent, bookish—loved a good book; an Agatha Christie fan, of course—cheerful, funny, optimistic, perky, and above all, he was kind. Kind!
Could anyone ever remember the Master being kind?
The Time Lords would associate many words with the Master and none of them were kind. They were ruthless, daring, cruel, foolish, ambitious, controlling, megalomaniac, and even though he was intelligent he was, as the Rani would put it, unhinged.
Until recently the Doctor had always thought that it was the day the Master killed that bully that had tormented them all the way during their novice hood. The Doctor couldn't even remember his name now. It was like the entire thing had been so traumatic that he had blotted it out of his mind. It had only been recently that he remembered it. He could tell you what shade of red the grass had been, how it smelt, how the air tasted, how the metallic taste of blood welled up in his mouth, the pain in his temple, the colour of the second sun setting over his head, and he could remember the Master looking at him with those eyes…
Many hundreds of years ago the Doctor, (who had then been affectionately called Theta), had found himself bored in the middle of a chemistry lesson. He couldn't have been any more than ninety, listening to the teacher go on and on. He only enjoyed the practical. He sat next to the Rani, (nicknamed Ushas), and she gave him all the answers. A complete genius was Ushas. But if there was no practical he'd get bored and he normally went to sleep, often on Ushas's lap if she'd let him. It depended on what mood she was in. Otherwise it was the cold, hard desk. The tragic thing was that she never wanted to fall asleep in any of the other lessons he had with her. He had learnt to accept very early on that you couldn't have everything.
One day he slept right through the lesson. As she was staying longer anyway to work on her chemicals, Ushas just left him to sleep. He had to sleep on the desk because she was in a cruel mood. It was rather tempting to not even wake him up when she was done and lock him in the lab.
"You're so evil to me sometimes Ushas," Theta accused.
He said that one time when he was chucked out of his dorm room by Koschei for snoring, and she took him in only to make him sleep on the floor by her bed. Not even a sofa! "I wouldn't be surprised if you were the girl The Beatles sung about in Norwegian Wood."
"Be grateful!" she had snapped back, "At least I didn't make you sleep in the bath."
As she was putting her chemicals together to make a compound she had been thinking about for some time she noticed that Theta was sweating and shaking like in the middle of a nightmare. He groaned repeatedly 'No!' over and over, snarling out undetectable words. Then he started to shout. He sounded tormented and terrified.
Ushas decided it was time to wake him up.
She rushed up to him, picked up his head by his dark blond hair and dropped it back onto the table. He woke up immediately. His head shot up and he tried to focus on the closed down info-robot, recharging for the night. He saw no students, no tutor, not nothing. Catching his breath he looked to his side and saw Ushas. She stood there with her hands on her hips, scowling but it was obvious her scowl was hiding an ounce of concern.
"Are you alright, Thete?" Ushas asked.
He took a deep breath and nodded, "Yes, yes… I'm fine. I was just having a bad dream."
"Looked more like a nightmare," she replied.
"It was a real life nightmare," he explained.
"What do you mean?"
Theta looked at her without saying anything.
He had promised not to say. All those years ago and it tormented him still. He wasn't even sure what had happened and what was his imagination, fuelled by the many dreams he had about that day. He had been just eight years old. Fifty years later and he was still scared, scared that the elders would find out the truth.
"Thete, tell me what it is" Ushas demanded.
"I can't!" he cried. "If I tell you I could be executed and then I'll never be able to qualify the academy or get a doctrine or anything!"
"Why, what could be so terrible?" Ushas asked.
"Something I saw many years ago, over fifty years in fact, when I was just a little kid" he explained. "I promised I'd never tell."
"Koschei" he replied.
Ushas pulled up a stool and sat looking at him for a while. Theta stared back at her for a while before he looked at the clock and then her again, "What are you just going to sit there and stare at me?"
"Till you tell me, yes" she replied.
"I can't tell you!" he said. "What if someone found out?"
"There is no one but you and me in this room. If there is someone listening in they'll drag you away and make you talk now whether you tell me or not. Better to just spit it out. Your secret is safe with me," she promised.
"How do I know that?" Theta asked.
"Because I am your mate at the moment and I have no malicious designs on your mistakes made in childhood. Plus I have no one to tell," she explained. "Who did you think I could tell? I don't know anyone apart from you and Koschei, and I'm not going to tell him you told me, am I?"
Theta sighed. He had wanted to tell someone for a long time, and since Ushas had asked and was one to torment you until you told her what she wanted, he decided to tell her the truth. He looked out the window, through the door to the corridor and even under the tables to make sure no one was listening in; once he was satisfied there wasn't he sat down in front of her. "Alright, but you have to promise on all of time and space that you will never tell anyone."
She nodded, "I promise."
"Well," he began slowly. "When Koschei and I were little kids we were the best of friends because of our parents; his dad is my mother's brother."
"Yes," Ushas replied. "I know."
"We used to sneak out of the nursery and even go outside the city to play in the snow if it was winter. If it was summer we'd go to the river and talk about all sorts of things but mainly books. Anyway sometimes one of the bullies would follow us because I was always picked on by bullies in my family, and most of them were my paternal uncle's sons. One day a cousin of ours followed us to the river. He often did that, beating us and making us feel inferior. That day was fateful, though. It was the day that…"
He paused for a moment considering once again whether or not he could tell Ushas. Although she was far from sympathetic you could count on her to keep a secret because they are of little interest to her.
"The day that…" she asked, snapping him out of his thoughts.
Theta took a deep breath, "That day he was especially violent. I can't really remember what happened but Koschei and I tried to stand up to him. He got angry, very angry. Normally when we made him angry he'd stove one of us to the ground, force us to watch the other get beaten up. Today it was my turn to watch."
He took another breath; his was sweating, and his hands were shaking.
"He shoved me to the ground, keeping his foot on my back for a couple of moments before me kicked me. I was in so much pain. I looked up and I saw him grab hold of Koschei. He held him under the water. He was drowning…"
He glanced at Ushas; she was listening intently.
"And then?" she asked.
"Then," he repeated. "Then I don't know but what I do remember is feeling angry, very angry, and scared. I wanted to help Koschei but I couldn't pull myself up. Next thing I remember is—Oh, Rassilon! Promise me you won't tell anyone, Ushas!"
"I told you I wouldn't."
"He killed him."
"Koschei," Theta explained, "he must have killed him because the next thing I remember is looking at our tormentor lying dead in the river. There was blood seeping from his head. A stained rock lay near by. You could see the red of blood even in the grass. I could smell it, Ushas!"
She looked at him in shock. It was an expression that rarely crossed her face. "You could smell the blood?"
"Yes," he replied. "I could smell the blood and the death and the fear. I looked at our cousin, the rock, and then at Koschei. He was staring at me in complete horror, like, I don't know, some deep guilt. He clearly didn't know what to do. I did though. I knew that if anyone found out that we had killed a cousin we'd be exiled from our families, forced to live outside the city like plebs! We'd never be able to complete our education…"
He grasped Ushas's arm and looked at her, "You understand, don't you?"
She looked at him, "Are you telling me that Koschei…"
Theta nodded, "He killed our cousin. He must have done. You can understand why, can't you?"
"Yes," she quickly said. "Yes, I think so. He might have killed Koschei, so he couldn't have done otherwise. But I don't see why you had to cover it up. You couldn't have stopped him and Koschei could have said it was self-defence. So why…"
"I don't know!" Theta snapped. "We just… panicked… we were terrified! We were kids who had done something terrible, something our families would hate us for, something that the academy would exile you for…"
"But it was Koschei, not you!" Ushas replied.
"I know but," Theta began. "I was the one who… told him to cover it up."
Ushas nodded in realisation, "Ah."
"I don't know," he said. "I just ran over to the body and pulled it out of the river. He was still bleeding. Koschei was standing there, still looking at the body and me. I told him to that we had to get rid of the body. I said we should burn it so we did. We buried any of evidence near the pyre and threw the bloody rock in the river. We swore never to talk of it again."
He looked at her guiltily, "I never have up until now. I have betrayed my vow."
Ushas found herself taking his hand and forcing her normally stoic face to smile, "Maybe you've been hiding the guilt too long. Maybe Koschei should talk about it too, I mean, he killed a fellow Time Tot. That must haunt him everyday…"
Theta looked at Ushas and asked her an impossible question, "Would you kill someone?"
"Depends what you mean by 'someone'."
"I mean another Time Lord."
"No," she replied quickly, bluntly. "Not unless I had to. Koschei had to. I understand that. I even feel sorry for him… I always thought he was a little… unhinged."
Theta scowled, "Don't say that about him! He's a good person, really."
"I never said he wasn't!" she snapped back. She then regained her calm voice, "I meant he seems a little… strange. I've heard the stories about your childhood countless times. I find it hard to believe that the Koschei who played with you and the Koschei who can hypnotise lesser species to obey him is the same person."
When the Doctor saw what the Master became he wondered if it was that moment that did it. The legend of the vortex might have finished him but the death of that cousin started him. The guilt of what he did tied together with the torment of keeping it a secret. It would eventually turn anyone to the bad is they were as unstable as the Master. And the Doctor let him know it.
"I could help you" he kept telling him. "Please let me help you!"
"It's too late" the Master kept saying. "It is hundreds of years too late."
"Maybe if you just said it out loud you'd feel better" the Doctor rasped from his bird cage.
The Master looked at him as if he didn't know what he meant. "Say what out loud?"
"That you killed your cousin…"
The Master clutched his head and shook it violently.
"I didn't do that!" he cried.
"Yes you did," the Doctor said, trying to be soothing. "You did it in self-defence. No one can blame you for what happened. People will even understand why you kept it secret, but maybe it's time to let all your guilt out?"
The Master advanced on him, "What guilt? I have no guilt over the death of my cousin's, why should I?"
"You killed him," the Doctor said. "Deep inside you that guilt is still there."
"I didn't do that!" the Master insisted.
The Doctor stared at him, "What do you mean you didn't do that? I saw everything."
"You saw nothing," the Master retorted. "I'm the one who saw everything."
"What do you mean?"
The Master ignored him, "I know you told Rani everything, back in the university. After that she always thought me mad, unhinged."
"I told her not to say…"
"She didn't," the Master replied. "I was looking for both of you that day and I listened to you both talking at the door. I heard you telling her your little story, selling me out…"
"But there was no one in the corridor when I checked."
"I came along when you were half way through the conversation," the Master said, pointing an accusing finger at the Doctor. "You completely sold me out to the Rani. Even then she eventually saw you for what you are… a liar."
There was another pause.
"What do you mean by 'you saw everything'?" the Doctor asked again.
The Master stared at him for the longest time before he sniggered in cynical manner. He ran his hand along the Doctor's cage and battered it from side to side. The Doctor tried to hold on, his frail body ready to break at the slightest movement.
He repeated. "What do you mean?"
The Master smiled, "And you say I'm in denial. That I'm running away. That I'm mad? You've never stood still in your whole life. I face up to my guilt and live with it. You just run away and pretend it didn't happen, because you believe that if you run for long enough it'll go away."
Nine-hundred years ago or there about, two little Time Tots ran in the fields outside their city. They'd speak of the future, of time travel and of the adventures they wanted to have when they grew up and old enough to fly a TARDIS. They would play games, taking turns to be the hero or the monster. The little blond Time Tot, nicknamed Theta, had always thought his dark haired friend, nicknamed Koschei, to be the nicest kid in his class; friendly and always liked a good book. Sometimes they'd go out just to read an earth novel together under a tree near the river Lethe.
"Let's go to that star first" the blond boy said, pointing at the brightest star.
"Yeah, I hear that there are forests thicker than cheese and beaches as long as the dynamiter of Clom and oceans that go out as far as the eye can see," the dark haired boy replied.
That day they had been followed by the dark haired boy's cousin Torvic. He tormented the pair of them at school, at home and everywhere. All their lives the two boys had been beaten by bullies because they were different. This was the day the blond boy decided to fight back.
Torvic punched young Theta to the ground before grabbing Koschei by the hair and pushing his head under the water of the river. He dunked him over and over again, finally holding him under for a long time. Koschei truly thought, that moment, that he was going to die. All his dreams of escaping Gallifrey would come to nothing more than a dream inside a little boy's dead mind. If he was held under the water for too long he'd be unable to regenerate too—it was always dangerous for a little Time Tot to attempt regeneration.
Theta pulled himself up. He knew that Torvic was capable of killing. He was a renegade in the making. He could grow up to be the most evil and cruel Time Lord ever to come from Gallifrey. He was a monster, the thing that he and Koschei had nightmares about. Theta never felt so angry, so full of hate, so powerful that it blinded him. All he could see what red. He had to stop him. He had to!
Gingerly, he pulled himself to his feet clutching the back of his head and rubbing his neck that was painful from Torvic's assault on him. Eyes open he looked down to see a large rock near Torvic's feet. A very large one.
Torvic kept Koschei's head under the water, putting his weight on him as he slowly began to stop struggling. He didn't know Theta was standing behind him holding that large rock.
With a swift movement Theta lifted the rock and smashed it into the back of Torvic's head. He crashed to the ground straight away, probably killed on impact. But that wasn't enough for Theta. He was angry, so scared and so full of hate. Koschei was now helplessly trying to drag himself from the river. Theta was so angry. He smashed Torvic again and again and again. Neither boy could say how many times Torvic was hit, but Theta only ended when he had calmed down. Once he had, he stared at the horror of what he had done. He threw the rock down, it making a large splash in the water.
His eyes began to clear and he saw what he had done. Koschei stood drenched in water staring at Theta in horror. Torvic's blood was splattered on his face and on his clothes. It dawned on them both what had happened, although he neither of them said it. Theta had killed Torvic.
Shivering, Koschei kept looking at Theta. Eventually his friend took charge. He told Koschei to go home and get changed, to bring him a new set of clothes too. Theta decided that he would collect wood, set a fire and throw Torvic and his blood strained clothes on a pyre. He would burn the lot.
Koschei agreed knowing what would happen to Theta if anyone found out what he had done. Just before he panickly ran off to get what Theta wanted, he called after him. Koschei stopped at looked at Theta who walked towards him. He stood looking at him for a few seconds before embracing him. Koschei didn't know what to think. He was so horrified by what had happened.
"I'm sorry," Theta said, full of guilt. "I am so, so sorry! I did it for you… I was so scared. He was going to kill you…"
Koschei tried to get his head around the situation. There was so much to do; find them fresh clothes, build a pyre, and burn the evidence without thinking. Koschei looked at the blood strained rock and walked towards it. Theta watched as he picked it up and hurled it into the river, it hitting it with a loud splash. The water rippled all the way to where Torvic's head floated in the water, no long gushing blood and turning the water red.
Taking a deep breath Koschei turned back and walked towards Theta. The young boy stared at his friend with his light blue eyes. Finally face to face Koschei stopped and laid a hand on Theta's shoulder. He even managed to force a scared, melancholy smile.
"I know," he said. "I forgive you."