The Sound of Drums

Summary: He had thought the sound of drums had been the sound of the universe. It wasn't until the very end that the Master realized just how right he had been.

Author's Notes: So I was driving in to work this morning, when Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" was on the radio, and one of the lyrics is "the sound of drums", which, being the Dr. Who fan that I am, got me thinking about the Master. I pondered it for my half hour car ride, and then wrote it out real quickly as I waited to go to ethics training, and here we are now.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Master or the Doctor or the TARDIS or anything else fun like that. I do own an overactive imagination and a fickle muse who likes to send rabid plot bunnies after me at inopportune moments where I can't write them down right away, and then they fester and grow into something like this.

He realized the truth of things at the very end, as his blood leaked out on the floor and the Doctor begged him to regenerate and not leave him alone. It amused him, knowing why he had been driven to this point, and had he the strength, he would have gleefully rubbed it in with his sometime-friend. But it had been too long, and it would only get worse if he came back again, and as much as he enjoyed the pain in others, he had a remarkably low threshold for his own.

He knew now when it had started, and knew it would never stop. From that first moment at the end of the universe when he opened that fob-watch and memories engulfed him, he had been overwhelmed by a terrible sense of loneliness. All his long life, no matter how far he went, no matter what crimes he had committed, the Master had never been alone. Not really, not when he had the echo of a thousand other Time Lords buzzing inside his head. In that first moment of despair, he had cast out, searching desperately for someone, anyone, to keep him company inside his own head. And that was when he first heard them, the drums beating their steady, maddening rhythm, over and over, bah-bah-bah-bum, bah-bah-bah-bum. He couldn't escape them, couldn't drown them out. Even inside the Doctor's TARDIS, even in the Time Vortex, even a million billion years into the past, the drums haunted him, echoing within that vast emptiness that once held one of the greatest societies ever known.

But it wasn't until the very end that he realized just how right he had been in thinking the sound was that of the universe, when his life crept out of him, when the beating slowed down and yet remained the same, when it split into two sets of drums, one with the same steady, familiar pace, the other a beat behind, loud and deafening as the blood pounding in his ears.

He would have loved for the Doctor to know the truth, to know it had been by his hand the Master had been driven mad, that the drums he had used to destroy the Doctor's precious Earth had been coming from him. Because when the Master had cast his mind out into all of time and space, the only thing he had found was the steady beating, bah-bah-bah-bum, bah-bah-bah-bum, over and over, and his mind had latched on to it as if it had been the presence of a Time Lord.

And as one set of drums continued its beating, his own drums slowed, two hearts no longer beating in time with those of the man who was soon to be the last of his kind, hearts no longer beating in synchrony as they had done for so long, and he could hear, bah.... bah.... bah.............

He had won.

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