This was written for stunt_muppet's request: a short story in which Three, Jo and Delgado's Master end up in a domestic setting, but the only way I could think of this particular threesome being caught in any kind of domestic situation would be by involuntary entrapment. Or a blizzard. Enjoy.
"What is the reading on that primitive chronometer?" the Master put just the right amount of sneering superiority into the request, a not-so-subtle reminder to his fellow Time Lord of the low lot he'd chosen to spend his days with and a snub to the small human across the kitchen.
"The clock says seven-thirty," Jo put in quickly to head off the retort she could see forming on the Doctor's lips.
The Doctor settled for an annoyed flash of the eyes and went back to his own task, converting the former innards of two wrecked snow-mobiles into one workable snow-blower. There were parts scattered all over the small living area. The Master opened the oven door, grunting as he lifted out the heavy roasting pan.
Jo finished setting the table, watching as he poked at it with fork, muttering something under his breath. "Isn't it done yet?"
"If we had a properly advanced method of cooking it…"
"We'll have to make do," the Doctor interjected. "Just answer the question. Either it's edible or it isn't."
"…as I said, if we had a properly advanced method instead of this sitting around a fire picking at bones…"
"It isn't done, is it?" Jo asked wearily. "Either that or you've burnt it." If they didn't find a way out of this cabin soon…
The Master lifted his chin, looking down his nose with injured nobility. "By your own professional opinion, Miss Grant, seeing as this is your planet, what do you recommend?"
Jo sighed. "I told you, I'm not a cook…"
"It's raw on the inside and burnt on the outside, isn't it?" the Doctor put in. "I told you the temperature was too high." He reached out, pulling the small kerosene lamp closer to his work.
"Have you become such an expert, Doctor? Perhaps you would care to instruct me how to shape arrowheads and clubs as well."
The Doctor finished attaching a wire and sat back, running a hand through his white hair. "Simple calculations based on the mass, approximate liquid ratios, method of heating and the size and material of the oven would've told you the same. You've become too dependent on preformulated settings, haven't you?"
The Master narrowed his eyes.
Jo suddenly smacked an empty bucket into his hands. "Go scoop some snow for water. We'll need it to wash up after." She handed him a second one and turned to the Doctor. "I'll see if I can get any usable meat off of that thing. Bring in some more wood for the fire."
"We've plenty of wood…"
"Just…do it!" she snapped.
He looked at her with surprise. "All right. If you like." He shrugged into his cloak and opened the cabin door with a bow to his adversary, who pushed out past him, buckets in hand. The Doctor followed him out into the snow-filled darkness, giving Jo a nod as he firmly closed the door after him, the blast of cold air from their departure swirling about the room before dissipating in the warmth of the fire.
The two occupied for the moment, Jo picked up a dull knife and stabbed at the fat marmot carcass; neither of them had trusted the other enough to be sharpening knives, though the Master had been horribly efficient at the butchering anyway. As much as she'd hated to see it done, finding it nesting beneath the tiny cabin's foundation had been a godsend. She managed to pull off what used to be a leg and got it onto a plastic plate then started on the second one.
Their meagre emergency rations from their packs were long gone but the snowstorms showed no sign of letting up. What would've happened to them without this half-buried vacation cabin in these mountains she didn't know. It was half-empty and only poorly outfitted for winter, but sound. They would've been another statistic for the Swiss papers, three more foolish British tourists lost…move on to the sports reviews.
"Oh…" she said as she suddenly remembered the generator and reached over to hit the kill switch. The tiny light on the oven vanished and she moved the lantern over to see what she was doing.
Not only did the tiny salvaged radio gave them nothing but static, not only did the howling wind incessantly whip new drifts over the door, but the cabin's generator could only be run once or twice a day to cook their meals with oven, they had to conserve the fuel. An interior kill-switch was one of the first things they'd rigged, one of the first things the two adversaries had worked on together without argument. Well, not without argument, but still, they'd cooperated. Sort of.
But then there'd been the snowmobiles, with the Master trying to cobble one working vehicle between the various parts and the Doctor quietly making sure none of it really worked as intended. Oh yes, that had been interesting.
The Master lost his chance to reach whomever it was he was meeting up with - he hadn't been too open on those plans, except to curse that they'd been ruined - so at least that much had been accomplished, but she was beginning to think death by alien invasion or whatever he'd been plotting would've been preferable to this. Even if they were finally done with all the threatening and counter-threatening - the ongoing storms had seen to that - their constant bickering was enough to drive her right 'round the bend.
She wrangled off three somewhat edible-looking portions and added a spoonful of the tinned fruit they'd found on one of the shelves then looked around the empty cabin. It was too quiet, and neither one of them had come back in.
She set the plates on the table, added the small pasteboard salt-and-pepper set she'd found and wiped her hands. The wind howled overhead and ice crystals spattered on the kitchen window. Had something happened to them? What if the Master had decided to spring some sort of trap on them? What if the Doctor were even now needing her help?
"Stop it," she chided herself. "You're letting your imagination run off with you."
The radio crackled and suddenly a voice came through, fuzzy and popping, but recognizable. "Trap One!..fzzt… One! This is Greyhound. Please…fzzzt… in. Trap One, if you can read ….fzzt sppp…give some signal or response…"
Jo lunged across the room, grabbing it up. "Greyhound! Greyhound! It's us, I mean, Trap One! Do you read?"
"Greyhound! Do you read? This is Trap One, we're here, in a cabin about half way up the north face! We need help!"
"Ssppp…. Trap One, we read you! Is everyone all right? Any injuries?"
She quelled her fear that an injury was going on somewhere outside right then and answered with a steady voice. "No, all three of us are fine. We'll need help with the third one. Our transport has broken down." That was an understatement. That any of them had even walked away from that spectacular crash was a wonder unto itself.
"We read you. Transport and help are on the way. We should…ffzzzzt….you by… sppppt…tomorrow night at earliest…fzzt…. Can you last?"
"We can. We'll be fine! There should be chimney smoke."
"…spppp…..ssst……smoke. Ssssss…..pppppffff…..Greyhound out."
Trap One out!" Jo hugged herself. Tomorrow night! There would be an end to this neverending snowbound madness at last. She had to tell the Doctor. She looked over at the dark, snow-buried window. Of course that meant she had to find the Doctor. They really, really should've been back by now.
She gathered up her coat from where she'd hung it to dry, it was still a bit damp, but warm. Buttoning it all the way up to her chin, she poked her feet into her boots, pulled on her singular remaining glove and took up the lantern.
The door wanted to stick a little and she had to give it a good tug to get it open. Outside the cold wind hit her like a wall, making her gasp; she put her head down against it and pulled the door shut behind her, keeping one hand along the cabin wall as the small light swung in her hand. Working her way along the side, she waded through the snow towards the small lean-to that served as a woodshed. "Doctor?" she called, the wind snatching the words right from her throat. "Doctor!"
Crunching and sliding over the crest of a recently-broken drift, she found the edge of the shed and ducked through the open doorway. It was empty. The wind whistled tunelessly through the few cracks that weren't already sealed with snow, the meagre collection of sticks and small logs they'd managed to wrestle in sat stacked and undisturbed. The hatchet was missing.
She suddenly shivered from more than the cold. Turning, she went out into the wind again, almost tripping over the two buckets. They sat filled to the brim with packed snow, small drifts already building around them.
She put the lantern down to the ground, trying to discern any kind of footprint or path. Only a faint trough in the snow, leading off around the shed had any promise. But what could she do? If the Master laid some kind of trap, what use could she be? She had no weapon… yet, the Doctor might need her. She couldn't not go. Going back into the shed, she picked up a hefty stick of wood to use as a cudgel. It wasn't much but it made her feel better, just carrying it.
"Doctor?" she tried once more. No answer. She doubted she could even be heard more than a few yards as it was.
Back into the storm she went, pushing against the cutting wind, her movements already growing heavy with the chill. Squinting her eyes against the tiny bits of ice she tried to discern that faint path vanishing beneath the blown snow. The storm paused to take a breath and then slammed her with a gust that nearly took her off her feet.
Heart pounding, she skirted a roof-high drift and came around the side of the cabin, her light held low, blown snow melting against it and dripping down to form instant icicles on the base.
There, just ahead -
The Doctor's cloak was coated in snow. He was half-slumped, down on the ground amid the drifts. And over him…
The Master turned toward her, his shape looming up before her, dark and menacing in the night. Her trembling light picked out the a hatchet blade, spattered with reddened snow.
"No!" Jo cried. "No, what have you done? Doctor!"
She ran forward, swinging her crude cudgel up so quickly the forgotten lantern fell, sputtering into the snow. "Jo!" the Doctor's voice, even as the Master blocked her unpracticed swing, his hand closing hard on her wrist, expertly swinging her around.
"And what have I done?" the Master's offended, cultured voice asked. She could hear the ice beneath his veneer of courtesy as he twisted the wood from her hand.
"He's broken our hatchet, that's what he's done," the Doctor was saying. He sat back up, startled, as she yanked her wrist away and half-fell towards him into the snow, sobbing. "Jo? Jo! What happened?" Scrambling over to her, he pulled her onto his knees, quickly checking for injury. She just turned and grabbed onto him, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face into his shoulder. Confused, he cradled her, looking up at the Master who shrugged and tossed the heavy stick of firewood off into the dark.
"Is she always like this?" he asked. "Humans are so excitable."
"I don't know…" the Doctor said, stroking the snow away from her hair and face. "She's had some kind of a shock, and she's cold. Help me take her in. I can't find that handle and I'm not volunteering to go digging about in any more frozen marmot-offal. We'll have to make a new one."
The Master wiped the recovered hatchet blade off in the snow, handing it to the Doctor who stuck it into his pocket.
They carried her in between them, the Master kicking the door shut behind them. She was lowered to the rug in front of the dying fire, the Master quickly working to bring the flames back to life, the Doctor wrapping her up in one of their few blankets.
"Where are those buckets?" he asked.
"Outside. I could hardly carry her and those at the same time," the Master replied shortly, rearranging the logs in the fireplace to stop it smouldering.
"Some hot water would help bring her temperature back up," the Doctor said, chafing one of her hands. "Plain will have to do, unless we've anything like tea."
"Are you asking me to make tea?" the Master snorted in disbelief.
The Doctor gave him a brief flash of a smile. "Yes. Now fetch that bucket, I'll start the generator."
Jo sat in front of the fire, nursing one more cup of blessedly hot water with a few shreds of licorice floating in it; the Doctor had managed to lightly flavor an entire pan of water with their singular bit of candy; it was unusual but better than nothing, and the Master had carried it over to her, at the Doctor's request, with a sardonically graceful bow worthy of the Queen's butler.
Their unconventional evening repast reheated and consumed with a formal politeness, they'd washed up with the still-cold water yielded by the snow-filled metal bucket by the fire and went to their own solitary pursuits. After this many nights they'd settled into something of a routine, leaving her to her rest (without trying to suddenly tie her up and use her as a pawn) and staking out the opposite ends of the cabin (without trying to find ways to lock each other out). Neither of them slept as much as she did, but at least the evenings were quiet.
On the rug in front of the fire, Jo listened to the glassy sound of the embers settling and reached for a stick to poke at the fire, watching the sparks fly up in a shower of gold. The fresh flare of warmth and light shone on her hair and put the color back into her cheeks. After a few moments, the Doctor set down his tools and came to settle beside her, his arm coming around so she was half-wrapped in the cloak he still wore. It was a comforting gesture and she accepted it, leaning into his chest with gratitude.
"I'm sorry we worried you, Jo," he said gently.
"I should have known you could take care of yourself," she said. "All I did was complicate things." She looked up at him; his blue eyes sparkled from the dancing of the flames, his hair shone like silver. He glanced down at her, then looked back at the fire.
"Yes, I suppose I can take care of myself," he said softly, "but who doesn't find it at least a little pleasant to discover there's someone else who cares as well?"
They were quiet. After a moment, the Master's voice came to them from the dimness of the kitchen. "Doctor? I think I've a way to solve our food supply problems. Assuming Miss Grant is warm enough."
"You stay here, I'll see what he's up to," the Doctor said. He gave her shoulders a little squeeze and got up, leaving her feeling strangely cold and lonely. There was a pause, she heard his steps returning and then smiled as the warmth of his cloak enveloped her.
She stayed where she was, pensively curled up by the fire. On the other side of the room the Master and Doctor were now hashing out elaborate plans to lure and catch a stag, sketching on scraps of paper. The Master was certain he could rig a powered roasting spit for the fireplace. The Doctor thought the toaster oven elements might be used to de-ice the cabin's small windows. Both of them agreed the oven needed to be more efficient and started into calculations on an alternate fuel for the generator.
By tomorrow evening, the Brigadier had said. Tomorrow, or the next day, their help would arrive. Tomorrow they would go back to being adversaries. She hugged her knees and smiled, pulling the cloak about her. The news could wait.