Heat shimmered like dancing waves across the sand dunes that stretched out before them as far as the eye could see.
Jack licked his parched lips for the thousandth time wishing he'd thought to ask for directions rather than trusting the Time Lord's instincts.
He'd shed his heavy coat a few miles back and his shirt clung to his body like a second skin.
Walking next to him, the Doctor bounced on the balls of his feet looking quite comfortable, and still wearing his brown overcoat.
"Ah, smell that," he exclaimed, sniffing the air.
"Dust?" Jack grumbled.
"Better, Jack. Paradise."
"Damn, too bad they've already discovered Death Valley," Jack mumbled, concentrating on placing one foot in front of the other.
"One would think you'd lost your sense of adventure, Captain," teased the Time Lord, catching up to Jack and grinning at him unperturbed.
"You know, Doc, I should have listened to my gut and not followed you on this crazy scheme."
The Doctor stopped suddenly, shock registering on his face. "You don't believe me?"
"Look around, just sand and more sand." Jack waved his arms wildly, using up the rest of his strength before collapsing at the Time Lord's feet.
For a moment the Doctor thought Jack was being a bit over theatrical, until he squatted down next to him.
Cool fingers touched burning skin and the Doctor's demeanor became instantly serious.
He scanned the horizon to get his bearings, and then hoisted Jack over his shoulder.
The weight caused him to stumble about awkwardly before he finally regained his balance and began plodding forward.
Sand slid into his shoes and he sunk to his calves with each step.
He was breathing hard by the time he reached their destination, and sank gratefully onto the ground next to Jack's body.
Jack stood in the heart of the volcano and knew the meaning of hopeless.
The oppressive heat crushed the remaining air in his lungs, and left his exposed skin raw.
He could only watch in despair as the burning river of lava snaked past him and forged new paths of destruction, unable to halt its progress.
He was falling.
He gasped and spit, coughing hard against the cool liquid that trickled into his throat.
Bleary eyes opened and he recognized the fuzzy outline of the figure hovering over him.
"You bastard," Jack whispered hoarsely, pushing feebly against the Time Lord.
"I'm flattered you remembered my name."
Jack struggled feebly, his body too weak to push away the other's hold.
"Tsk tsk, Captain. I would have thought you were smart enough to realize you aren't strong enough to escape."
"You died, I watched you," rasped Jack, still not completely believing this was real.
His eyes widened with fright as he struggled to look around him.
The Master laughed at Jack's pathetic attempts and leaned so close they were sharing a breath.
"Of course, only the Doctor would you lead you to believe that fairy-tale. Do you want the truth?"
Jack closed his eyes, took a deep breath and tried to remember where he'd been before the volcano.
The Master's low chuckle broke his concentration and Jack slumped in defeat, unwilling to open his eyes.
He'd survived the year that wasn't; he'd watched the Master die in the Doctor's arms, and he'd lost two members of his team since the Valiant.
Had it all been a hallucination?
Was this just another one of the Master's diabolical schemes designed to torture him?
He felt something cool brush lightly across his forehead and he cringed at the touch of those cool fingers.
"Jack," the voice called, and Jack clenched his eyes tighter, fighting against the hold.
"No," he cried.
He wanted to run and hide, wanted to forget.
He ached for the respite unconsciousness would afford him and silently prayed the Master would be merciful.
There was slight pressure against his left temple and Jack flinched, clenched his jaw and waited.
"Jack," the voice was more insistent, softer this time and full of concern. "I can't help unless you let me in," the Doctor whispered.
Jack couldn't stop the sob that escaped him as he willingly opened his mind to the Doctor.
Jack welcomed the calming presence of the Doctor in his mind offering no resistance, although he could sense the Time Lord was in search of something.
Jack squirmed and fought against the Doctor's hold when a dark shadowlike figure emerged and stepped forward to halt the progress.
So sudden was the appearance of the apparition, the Doctor couldn't hide his own reaction as he flinched and pulled his thoughts back reflexively.
Jack's body tensed as the two auras collided in his mind.
His body reacted to the battle going on inside, twisting and tensing, limbs seizing as the conflict ensued.
There was a guttural cry as the Doctor's fingers slipped from his temple and he could feel the weight of the Time Lord drop against his chest.
Jack struggled to open his eyes even as the darkness engulfed his senses.
An ominous sound of measured footsteps drew closer and Jack understood what it meant to be trapped in your own mind.
He found himself standing in a maze of corridors, each one led into darkness and no clues as to which direction offered hope.
He knew that step, an unmistakable step that had haunted his waking hours on the Valiant.
Jack ran down another corridor in an attempt to put more distance between him and the footsteps.
No matter which way he'd turned or how fast he ran, the footsteps continued their relentless pursuit.
For all he knew he'd been running in circles, but he was still free.
Jack frantically pushed against the solid walls seeking any means of escape and in defeat spun back to face the dark corridor as the footsteps neared.
His heart beat wildly in his chest, keeping time with the slow steady stride of his tormentor moving closer.
He took a deep breath.
Jack knew it was time to quit running, not because there was seemingly no means of escape, but rather he'd allowed this evil to control him for too long.
It was time to make a stand.
He was no longer chained to massive steel pipes with gun-toting guards watching his every move.
No, this time he would face his adversary as an equal, man to man, or man to monster as he'd come to believe the Master to be.
The sadistic Time Lord had given new meaning to the word torture at Jack's expense.
Jack steeled himself for the inevitable.
Jack quivered as the steps continued their unhurried approach, their sharp resonating tone a warning, a threat, an assurance, that rang loudly throughout the corridor.
The sound pounded as a deafening thunder, ricocheting amongst the walls and engulfing Jack in a cocoon of madness.
Jaw set, eyes darkened with hatred, and fists clenched, he stared into the gloom and waited.
A blurred image began to take on the figure of a man stepping out of the darkness, and Jack swallowed hard, tensing in anticipation.
The footsteps stopped abruptly and an unearthly silence dropped on him.
Jack threw himself forward, screaming.
He'd held on to a small glimmer of hope that the sudden reversal of emotions and his surprise attack would catch the Master off guard.
It was not to be.
The Master deftly sidestepped Jack's charge and reversed the momentum with lightning quick reflexes.
Jack found himself lying on his back, his head slammed into the cold tile floor, and staring upwards into the leering face of the evil Time Lord.
Gloved hands caressed Jack's cheek as the Master leaned closer; his knee planted just below Jack's Adam's apple, making breathing difficult and ensuring compliance.
"I'm disappointed in you, Jack."
"I'm not afraid of you." Jack's voice was cut off as the Master rested more of his weight on Jack's sternum.
Jack's right arm was pinned against his body by the Master's other leg, but that didn't prevent him from pushing back with his free arm.
The Master hardly seemed to notice Jack's feeble attempts as he pulled off his gloves with his teeth, finger by finger.
He basked in Jack's agony.
The Master placed his chin in his hand, setting his elbow onto the top of his thigh and curled his lip slightly as Jack gasped.
The Master drummed his fingers in a well known pattern against his chin. "I never meant for you to be afraid of me," he confessed, contemplating the man below him. "No, don't fear me."
The drumming stopped and the Master stared into Jack's eyes with malice. "It's what I can do that should terrify you."
With those last words the Master pushed off of Jack and casually brushed himself off.
Jack was momentarily stunned at his unexpected freedom and lay still.
His eyesight blurred and he turned to see the Master now wearing red trainers and a brown pin-striped suit.
"No." Jack refused to believe his eyes and rubbed a hand over them as cruel laughter echoed around him.
"Look at me, Jack," coaxed the Master.
Jack shook his head, he couldn't, and he wouldn't believe it.
"I can imagine your pitiful human brain doesn't want to accept the reality that we are the same, your precious Doctor and me. Gallifreyans share more than a heritage," explained the Master, as if talking to a child.
Jack placed the heels of his hands over his eyes and curled away from the voice. "He's not a monster like you," Jack spit out.
"What's your definition of a monster, Captain?" the Master sneered.
Jack flinched at the warm breath that flowed past his cheek and ear, and dug his heels into the floor pushing himself further away.
"Yes, that's right. Run. Run, just like he taught you too. Never one to stand and face the consequences, just make a hasty retreat. RUN DOCTOR RUN!" he shouted, and then seemed to calm himself a bit.
Jack felt him close the distance between them again.
"Do you know what it's like to have your home destroyed? The feeling of complete and utter loss left behind?"
"I do," Jack managed to answer.
The Master's hands wrapped around Jack's wrists and easily yanked his hands away from his face.
"You couldn't begin to understand," the Master's voice challenged him.
Jack continued nodding, and dared to open his eyes.
His heart pounded in his chest, and he bit back a sob when he realized he was looking into the Doctor's eyes.
"Yes," his voice broke. "I know that feeling of loss."
They stared at each other for a moment.
"You can't let it consume you, Doc. Fight it, don't let this destroy you. Too many folks need you."
The Doctor stared at Jack in puzzlement and shook his head, slowly releasing his grip on Jack's arms and taking a step back.
Jack quickly got to his feet, rubbing the bruises on his wrists.
"You can defeat him; you can end this control he has over you."
The Doctor looked down at his own hands, turning them over as if seeing them for the first time.
He shook his head. "I can't."
Jack heard the defeat in his voice and stepped forward to wrap the Doctor in an embrace.
"We'll do it together, Doc," he whispered, holding him tighter.
They lay together in the lush grasses listening to the water lapping gently against the shore.
The warm sun reflected off the sand helping to dry the two wet bodies as they basked in the comfort of the afternoon.
"How'd you know, Jack?" The Doctor broke the silence.
Jack shrugged as he rolled to face the Doctor. "I realized he was only controlling me when you entered my thoughts."
"I could have killed you."
Jack laughed lightly. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."
"No, I suppose I'm not," the Doctor agreed. "Still, I suppose thanks are in order."
Jack's hand turned the Time Lord to face him.
"Let's not have a next time? I can only deal with that much guilt once in a lifetime."
The Doctor's manic smile broke out as he answered. "Well, with my regenerations and your immortality—"
His words were stopped by Jack's fingertips on his lips.
Jack shook his head, leaning forward to replace his fingers with his own lips.
He pulled away momentarily, enjoying the look of peace on the Doctor's face.
The Doctor opened his mouth to speak, Jack interrupted. "Always wanted to say this, shut up and kiss me."