II.

Recap, thought Ianto grumpily. I'm on a pan-dimensional spaceship hiding behind a kitchen counter from a very dangerous alien pursuer. Brilliant. Somewhere on the other side of the room, he heard a door swing shut and the sound of footsteps.

"Did I hear voices?" asked someone curiously.

"Well, that's a loaded question if I ever heard one," said the Doctor, snorting in a rather undignified fashion.

"Are you talking to your TARDIS now, Doctor?"

"Maybe…" A pause. "Yes."

Ianto imagined someone shaking their head. "I always knew you were madder than you let on…and you let on a lot."

"Yeah, well, I guess my mad genius is just too much for some and while I may have let on, you're still way crazier than me. Exhibit A: time locking my TARDIS without my permission. I'm pretty sure there are couple laws against that, not that I put much value in protocol, but it's worth a mention. Exhibit B: That bloody shirt. Where the hell did you get that? It looks ridiculous."

The other voice sounded vaguely offended. "What's wrong with this shirt?"

"So, is there any particular reason you chased me off planet Earth, dragged my TARDIS out of the Time Vortex, and boarded my ship without asking, or were you just bored and thought it would be funny?"

"Well, it was funny and I have to point out, you ran. I only chased you because you ran."

"I always run. S'what I'm there for."

"…have you been drinking? " The speaker sounded thrilled.

"…a bit."

The sound of hysterical laughter immediately followed and Ianto chose then to sneak a peak around the edge of the kitchen island. The Doctor's back was to the kitchen area, his hands stuffed in his pockets, managing to look very in calm despite getting called out on being pissed up the wall and slightly hung over. The Torchwood agent, only peeking around the corner of the counter, could just see the newcomer. He was tall, taller than the Doctor anyway; perhaps just a little older and blond and dressed all in black. The young man chortling at his classmate's expense looked like something out of famous painting. The Doctor seemed slightly scruffy and unkempt beside him.

"Oh, Doctor. What would I do without you?"

"Be terrifically bored I'm sure. How'd you get through the front door by the way?"

"Still have the key."

"I never gave you a key," said the Doctor,

A slightly self-satisfied snicker followed. "Nicked it."

"Lovely. And what have you been up to these days? How's Ushas? Graduated yet?"

The Master shrugged. "Not sure."

"Haven't been back to Gallifrey in a while," said the Doctor mildly.

The Master's smile was warm, but somehow, Ianto found it suspect. "We just got away from there didn't we?" His query was bland as the Doctor's. "Why would I go back?"

"You wouldn't if you didn't have to." The Doctor fiddled with something on the console, pulling his sonic screwdriver from his pant pocket and aiming it at a trouble spot on the panel somewhere. "And I suppose you don't have to?"

"No, I don't have to."

"Master." He looked up from what he was fiddling with to level a look at the other alien. "What. Do. You. Want?"

A silence. "I wanted to talk to you." It was almost a confession, quiet, slightly embarrassed.

The Doctor's tone didn't soften, but there was a hint of patience in it, a reasonable willingness. "You know what I think. You already know."

"So no chance of talking this over?"

"Oooh, lemme think," said the Doctor glibly. "Ah, no."

"And that's final is it?"

"Yeah, yeah. Pretty final. You leaving now?"

"Not even remotely. What were you doing on earth?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?" The Master arched a brow.

The Doctor sniffed, circling the console and flipping toggles. "Nothing. I was a bit tipsy so I pulled over for a minute. Turns out hypervodka is one of the few alcoholic beverages that we don't metabolize very well. Not," he added, glaring suddenly across the array of buttons and switches, "that it's any of your business."

"So you've heard…"

"Of course I heard," snapped the Doctor. "Everyone's heard. The whole bloody planet's heard. Probable Gallifreyans in the Looming have heard, for Rasallion's sake. What's wrong with you? What in all the starry skies would make you think that was okay?"

"You weren't there," the Master pointed out quietly.

"I didn't have to be. If you thought you'd done right and you believed it then you wouldn't be here trying to justify yourself to me."

A snort. "I'm not justifying myself to you. I don't need your approval to do what I want, little Theta." There was a curling scorn wrapped around the nickname. Ianto could detect a potshot when he heard one and that sounded like a doozy, the way the other alien was using it. Either way, the Doctor didn't rise to it.

"Don't be petty," the Doctor responded, voice flat. "You're better than that."

Another silence.

"You have to understand, it wasn't like they told you, Doctor." Ianto suspected that was as close to an apology as this guy came: swapping out a name.

"Just tell me what happened. None of your razzle-dazzle either or I'll throw you out that door and I mean it."

The Master sighed. "I was just looking into things, like we always do, like you and I used to do. Just watching," said the Master carefully, like he wasn't sure he wanted to be talking. "But I got caught. They were looking for help and they found me; they wanted my help to stop their enemies. They told me their story. I investigated the other side and I… I helped them."

"You mean killed the opposing forces," said the Doctor quietly.

A beat.

"Yes."

There was the soft sound of footsteps. The Doctor moving away from the other.

"There wasn't any other choice. I couldn't just let them all die."

"Rasallion…"

"I did it because they needed help. I was trying to help."

"By killing?"

"I knew you would see it this way. You don't understand, the other race was sub-evolved. They would have never understood reason. They would have never changed; they had no capacity for it. I made a decision and there haven't been any consequences in the Timelines. Why are you so upset?"

"Since when are be judge, jury and executioner?" the Doctor cried. "Can't you see how terrible that is? One person, deciding others don't deserve to live? We promised each other, we agreed we would help people; that we wouldn't just stand by and watch needless atrocities pass us by to, but not like that. Not like this." Ianto could feel the burning of those winter blue eyes without having to see, the slight tremble in his words that meant he was almost literally shaking with the intensity of what he was saying. It made Ianto want to stop breathing. "That makes the Council right.That makes them right about us, don't you see? They warned us, they told us, getting involved is dangerous if you can't resist the temptation to make those kinds of decisions."

"They aren't right about us, Doctor. We aren't abusing our power or losing perspective. I made sure this wouldn't have any long term effects –"

"You wiped out an entire sub-species!"

"They were set to die out by the end of the war anyway," the Master explained calmly, gently. He voice was full of sincerity and pleading, needing his friend to understand. "I just saved near half a million lives ending them a few decades early."

"No. You can't do that," the Doctor said fiercely. "You can't choose one over the other like that."

"Why not? Why not, when every logical empiric judgment says to?" demanded the Master. "When other races do so every hour of every day, the ignorant and the violent deciding who lives and who dies when we actually have the capacity to see who does and doesn't matter in the whole of Creation. Aren't we the exception? Aren't we the only ones actually justified in making those kinds of choices? Isn't it our duty to shoulder that responsibility?"

"You're not serious. You're not actually saying this to me," the Doctor muttered, pacing away from the other alien. "Master, please tell me you don't really believe that playing God is our right as Time Lords. That's mad. That's exactly what we don't get to do, because we have so much power. To presume to police the whole of Space and Time is tyrannical, it's wrong and it opens doors that lead to oblivion. You know that! Tell me you know that."

"I know that. Doctor, stop pacing and sit down."

"Tell me when you started thinking like this."

"What?" There is an edge of shock and ire in the question.

"When did you start even considering this kind of thing as an option?" the Doctor reiterated more insistently.

"You act like I've changed while you weren't looking or something," said the Master accusingly, remotely hurt, immediately angry. "I'm still me. I've always been this. Why are you acting this way?"

"Why are you acting this way?"

"Stop pacing!"

A silence.

"If we're going to debate this in the realm of pure logic, Master," said the Doctor a little coolly. "Then you need to let go of my arm."

Ianto was facing a bit of a dilemma now. The Doctor had told him to hide and with enough enthusiasm to make him think that this Master person was at least a little bit dangerous, and from what he'd heard of the conversation so far that assumption certainly seemed to be true and them some… more than some. A lot. The Torchwood agent felt that he could be in over his head just slightly. These two spoke of war and genocide like it was within their power to effect, like Time and Space were theirs to meddle in, theirs to change and it made him think of Jack and his stories of some distant dilapidated organization called the Time Agency, whose job it was to manipulate the timelines and explore the past, present and future – who'd fallen into ruin and corruption before Jack excused himself from their ranks… or been forcibly ejected, it was hard to tell.

Either way, Ianto knew that messing with time was big 'do not even think about it' in Jack's big book of Rules Ye Shall Not Question, and therefore a big no-no in Ianto's. Also, genocide was generally a frowned upon extracurricular. The Master, whoever he was, to the Doctor, to the whole of reality, was a dangerous, dangerous man. But he also seemed – in a strangely desperate fashion – to be reaching out, and the Doctor – whatever his thoughts – seemed more than willing to listen. In other words, much as Ianto might be tempted to leap out and offer his immediate aid (even if it was only human and useless, for all he knew) the Doctor might not appreciate it, as he was trying very hard to help the other settle down and listen.

Ianto Jones decided if the Master didn't let go, he was going to do something. The other alien still had a hold on the Doctor's arm, gripping him at the bicep hard enough to stretch the skin tight across knobs of bone in his knuckles. If it hurt, the Doctor's face gave no sign. The Master's expression was like-wise impossible to read. He closest approximation of his mind set that Ianto could think of… was puzzled. He was looking at the Doctor as though he were a strange and unexpected riddle, one that disturbed him in its complexity.

The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Let go, you dumb clod."

"Not until you see reason."

"Didn't I just give a very concise explanation for why reason and force don't play well? You're not impressing anything on me until you get yourself back under control and stop acting like a thirty-year-old. Saavy?"

"There are rumors," the Master said, ignoring the command. "The Council would send for me, but I don't feel like walking into their company without some kind of warning, Doctor. What do you know?"

"I don't know anything. Why would they tell me? I'm the one person on Gallifrey they wouldn't tell anything to."

"I don't think they told you anything, I think you went to look for yourself. What did you find out?"

There was another silence. "They want to issue a Trial at the Schism."

The Master growled and released the Doctor suddenly to pace the grating of the TARDIS floor. "I knew it! Those doddering old fools. They would try to test me… again. " He muttered something in another language and continued pacing, looking for all the world like a restless animal, moving back and forth across the width of the walkway around the center console. Despite his anger, there was a very real shard of fear embedded in the slightly frantic pace of his steps and the way his eyes shifted suddenly and wildly about, as thought search for some escape route or venue of egress not yet tried. His friend looked on in silent concern while the Master cursed a couple times and continued his restless motion.

The Doctor's tone was gentle. "Maybe you should stay away from Gallifrey then. Lay low until they forget about it."

"Why so they can think I'm –?" The Master broke off. He stopped walking to stare blankly at the other alien. A couple seconds passed. "You don't think I can pass it do you?"

"I didn't say that."

"If you thought I could pass it, if you thought they were wrong then you'd tell me to go back and face them and prove them otherwise. You always tell me to face them, to show them up every chance I get. The only reason you'd tell me to back off is because you think I'll fail the Trial. You think I'm burning up don't you, like the all their religious little edicts talk about? I'm mad. That's what you're thinking."

"You're not. That's not what I said. I'm just –"

"Don't lie to me!" the Master shouted. He was across the space between them and grabbing the Doctor's shoulders before Ianto or the Doctor realized what he was doing. He forced the startled Doctor around to look him in the eye, standing too close, his manner breathing violence in every nuance and tension and Ianto felt his hand jump for the gun he didn't have. But the Master seemed to calm. He just closed his eyes and stood there, wearily. "Just tell me. Don't try to lie. It's all over your face so don't insult me with petty comforts. Tell me what you really think."

"… I think, right now, you'd fail the Trial."

"Failing the Trail isn't a temporary affliction, Doctor. Fail it once, fail it always."

"That's not known for certain and you're different. You're better. You're one of the cleverest. You've done incredible things. Who's to say you can't defeat this?" The Doctor leaned forward a bit. "You could run," he suggested, as through that were the option he himself preferred. "I'll help you if you want. Let me help you."

The Master shook his head. "Exile? You'd do that? Leave Gallifrey to help me?"

"If that's what it takes. I promise."

A crooked, rueful smile worked its way across the Master's mouth. "Then you'd come with me? Fix whatever's wrong with me? Make me better, is that it?"

The Doctor nodded. "If you want me to."

The Master looked strangely at the Doctor, gazing up at him with a sudden penetrating sort of hunger that Ianto again feared for the strange pilot. Even the Doctor seemed to see it, because he tensed just a fraction, his brow knitting slightly – then it was gone. The blond alien smiled gratefully and grabbed the other boy's head like a brother might, grinning at him and earning a grin in return.

"You're always there for me, aren't you?" he demanded.

"S'what I do," cheered the Doctor.

The Master's smile faded slightly. "I don't know if I understand what's happening to me. I can't explain it. It's too… it's just this complicated idea in my head. It's so strange. Like this insistent, inevitable rhythm of questioning and thoughts I can't get away from. Like a bass line in my mind. I can't explain, Doctor."

"We'll figure it out then."

The Master shifted the placement of his fingers slightly. What was formerly a casual hold around the back of the other alien's head changed incrementally, relocating his hands to side of the Doctor's face. The Doctor didn't move to stop him, but his expression became closed, sudden and intense as the Master set his thumb and forefingers against his cheekbones and temples. There was something in the positioning; a definite purpose and Ianto decided the way the Master continued to look at the other boy ratified that supposition.

"I could show you," the Master suggested. Something in his tone sent a cold burn of apprehension sliding through Ianto's belly.

"I'd rather you just try to explain it."

A cold smile. "Don't trust me?"

The Doctor's smile reflected that coldness. "Exactly."

The Master didn't move to let go. He stood there gazing intently at his friend's face. Ianto felt a definite crawl of wrongness. The Master leaned forward slightly as if looking for something and said quietly, "In that case, you shouldn't have let me this close."

The Doctor's arm flew up to knock his hands away, but the other alien was too close. He shoved the Doctor backward, knocking him onto the console and killing his leverage – and then the strange pilot stopped fighting. The Master's hands never left the Doctor's face. Ianto became aware suddenly of the blood pounding through his skull, heat rushing through his body in an acid adrenaline rush of urgent fire demanding he do something. The Doctor was gritting his teeth, hands curling on the console as though they were manacled at his hips or pinned by an incalculable weight. Contact telepathy? thought Ianto wildly. He's paralyzed him? Ianto, who did not naturally have a predisposition for the use of firearms, found himself wishing he'd brought his.

"Just relax," the Master said. "I'm trying to show you."

"I didn't ask you to," his captive snapped.

"You'll understand in a minute, Doctor."

"What's that drumming?" he whispered.

"Ignore it," the Master replied blandly.

"It's… Is that –? Rasillon, is that what you hear? All the time? Why didn't you–" The Doctor broke off, face contorting. "What are you doing?"

"It's okay, Doctor."

"Stop, Master. Stop right now. You're –" The Doctor broke off with a small cry. His hands flexed and coiled against the console, but he didn't move – no doubt now, he was unable to move. Sweat beaded on his forehead. "Stop it. "

The Master's reply was very calm, methodical. He readjusted his hold on his friend's head, speaking very matter of factly. "I don't need to be fixed, Doctor," was what he said. "I don't need to be better. I don't need your pity or your morality or your help. What I need is for you to understand. This will make it easier." His expression revealed a depth of madness that made Ianto's heart flee into the deep recesses of his chest and stop. "I'm making you better, Doctor."

The Doctor struggled visibly, biting his lip until his teeth drew blood, his hands pressed into the console so hard the edges of the paneling left impressed ridges in his skin. The Master flinched once, as though pained by the sudden flare of a migraine, then seemed to refocus and the Doctor began to shudder.

"You wouldn't do this," he gasped. "Koschei, Koschei wouldn't do this. You're not like this."

"I am not Koschei," the Master said gently. He tipped the Doctor's face up. "I am the Master. And you will obey me."

And that's when Ianto hit him with a frying pan. Given, it wasn't very classy but it was the best he could do in a bad situation and it worked out pretty effectively. The Master crumpled to the floor and the Doctor was released with a loud desperate inhalation of breath, like a drowning swimmer breaking the surface at last. He wobbled dizzily and Ianto tossed the pan aside to steady the pilot who grabbed his shoulder for balance. He sat there shuddering and gasping erratically. His face was bloodless, sweat running down his cheeks in ready drops.

"Doctor, are you alright?"

"Yes, Ianto. Thank you. I'm… alright."

"What happened?"

"He tried to… show me something…"

"Okay. What did he really do?"

"I'm not sure. It felt like… like he was trying to make me think like him."

"He's insane," cried Ianto in horror.

"This is wrong," the Doctor said desperately. "This is all wrong. He couldn't. Not to me. He wouldn't do that, Ianto Jones. We're friends. He wouldn't…"

"I'm chucking him off the TARDIS."

"What?"

"I'm chucking him out. Sort this when there's less imminent danger, yeah?"

"R-right."

It was with some satisfaction that Ianto tossed the unconscious blonde alien back into his own TARDIS. The Doctor flipped a couple switches, pointed his sonic screwdriver at something or another inside the other ship and Ianto heard something blow and short out inside. He pocketed the tool and closed the TARDIS doors on his supposed friend. Face empty as an old donations jar, the young pilot made his way back to the centre console and initiated another flight sequence. Ianto felt the wondrous machine vibrate all around him, this time moving with a great deal less turbulence than before and leaving the other alien behind.

"Doctor, are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Ianto Jones. Don't fuss."

Ianto came around to the other side of the console, across from the Doctor. "That other bloke…" he said, "he was a friend?"

"Used to be, Ianto Jones," said the Doctor coldly. "Mind you, that would have been much worse if it weren't for you." He smiled sideways at the puzzled human. "Thank you for that Ianto Jones. You saved me back there."

"Any decent human being would have done the same," Ianto said frankly. "No need to thank me, Doctor."

"I'll take you home, shall I?" the Doctor offered. "I'm sorry for all this."

The human on the time machine just shrugged. "I don't know. I mean…" He scratched the back of his neck and looked up at the young alien with no shoes on. "I've got some time if you'd like a bit of company. I'm running on adrenaline now so…." Another shrug. "I mean, it's my first time on a time-machine."

The Doctor stared at the paneling under his hands, seeking some kind of sense in the buttons and the levers and the exposed wiring stuck out from the metal here and there like broken threads in an old rug. He looked up and his blue eyes were old and terribly young and sad and grateful.

"Okay, Ianto Jones. I owe you one after all," he said grandly, folding his arms in a self-important fashion. "Where and when would you like to go?"

Ianto grinned. "I always did want to try this. Just once."

"So where to?"

"Thirtieth and Yates, London," said Ianto softly. "The north side of Brinkers Ice Rink. December, 23, 2001."

The Doctor adjusted a couple mechanism on the console, looked up at his passenger. "There are a few rule, Ianto Jones."

"I know, Doctor."


"What's her name?" the Doctor inquired.

He'd put on some shoes at last, a pair of large snow boots that looked as though they were intended for a larger man. The cold didn't seem to bother the young pilot over much.

"Lisa," Ianto said quietly.

The two of them stood on the edge of the ice rink and watched a pretty black girl in black stockings and a pink scarf twirl about the edge of the rink. She wore a well fit, sensible grey woolen jacket and thin black gloves. Her hair was tucked inside the warm dome of a light powder pink cap and she was laughing merrily at something her companion was saying. The young man with her – Ianto's past self of course, a student still reading for classes he would ultimately abandon for her – he had an elbow linked through hers to keep her steady.

"Where is she now?" the Doctor asked, breath steaming lightly.

Ianto tucked his hands in his sweatshirt pockets. "Dead. Not long ago."

The Doctor looked at him. "I'm so sorry."

Ianto nodded. "Yeah."

The two time travelers watched the couple fall over in the middle of the ice rink and fail spectacularly at getting up again for a while. They instead used their predicament as an excuse to grab at each other and press their smiles into each other's shoulder and neck. Ianto blinked a couple times, but never looked away. The Doctor said nothing and they went on watching for the next half hour or so, until the Ianto and Lisa who no longer existed tired themselves of skating and took a seat on a bench off the ice. They sat talking, Lisa's head tucked until Ianto's boring black scarf, gloved hands twined together.

"On my planet everyone is born into a massive family," said the Doctor suddenly. He tucked his hands into his greatcoat pockets. "There's a sense of unity that makes it nearly impossible for them to understand the concept of being alone. Almost nearly. Family dedication is everything."

Ianto took his eyes from the twin ghosts across the ice and looked at the Doctor instead. He was looking at the sky, expression far, far from London and a tiny ice rink.

"They were never much good with orphans."

"You were?"

"Me and the Master both. He was adopted into a high ranking House, of course, and had all the protections that afforded him, but we thought alike on, oh, just about everything. Same pranks, same schemes, same daft sense of humor that got us inches from expulsion every other decade. We stuck together on everything. All the time, the two of us. Made all sorts of promises about what we'd do with our lives when we got out of the Academy. Filled our teacher's chair with fifty-first century Crazy Glue." The Doctor smiled and it was full of broken things, promises being only a few of them. "He was my best mate."

There was a beat, allowing his confession to hang in the air, free at last. "For what it's worth," said Ianto. "I'm sorry, Doctor."

The Doctor nodded across the ice. "You're getting up."

Ianto sighed. "Then it's time to shift. I'm about to point myself out to Lisa."

"You remember this?" The Doctor demanded, following the Torchwood Agent as he moved away from the rink and toward the TARDIS again.

"Yeah. More and more now."

The two of them stood in the TARDIS doors for a moment.

"She's beautiful you know," said the Doctor.

"I know," Ianto said through the cotton in his throat. "I just wanted to think…to think of her differently. Like this instead of…"

"I understand."

"Thank you, Doctor."

There was a companionable silence.

"Hey, do y'wanna get smashed?"

Ianto thought it over. "Yes. Yes, I think so."


By the time the two of them managed to find their way back to Ianto's house, the young Torchwood employee had been subjected to seven shots of hyper vodka and his first bout of semi-psychic flirtation with an alien that appeared to mostly be a plant. The Doctor was impressed. Fluvian Kips rarely went for candidates outside their species. Ianto must really have a good energy about him, excellent energy for him to retain it while severely pissed. Ianto also handled himself very well inebriated. They ended up falling down drunk and had to put the TARDIS on automatic re-route to find the way back to Ianto's house.

Inside the tea kettle was still warm. The clock said only five minutes had passed.

"Phone's ringing," said the Doctor.

"Ignore it," Ianto grumbled. "Important calls only come on my cell."

"Kay."

Ianto was snoring by the time the Doctor dragged him to the sofa. On the message machine came a slightly irritable woman's voice snapping something about Himalayas. He sighed, rolled his neck slightly and metabolized the alcohol in his system with a bit more careful exactness than he had earlier. That done, he found that one awkwardly colored quilt and threw it over the man, stuffing a pillow under his head. The Time Lord smiled crookedly at him.

"Good-bye, Ianto Jones. It was good to meet you."

He left the house, closing the door quietly behind him. He laid his head back against the door for a moment. He took a deep breath, then – as if having reached some resolution – he moved to the TARDIS.

"Excuse me."

The Doctor looked up. There was a blonde man in a suit and dress shoes standing on the sidewalk looking at him. He'd taken off his overcoat and tossed it over the mailbox as though he'd been waiting and was wearing a strange slightly unreadable expression. He came up the front walk and, assuming 4 AM must be normal visiting hours, the Doctor smiled and warned him, "Ianto's a bit tired right now. Maybe check back later and he'll be game for a chat."

"Oh yes," said the man, coming to stand by the TARDIS. "Quite right. It's a bit early, but now's the only time I've got."

"That's a shame," said the Doctor. The man was staring at him in a very direct manner. It was peculiarly difficult to look away. "Are you going somewhere?"

"Something like that. Very busy week. Election Day's coming up. I'm running you know."

"Brilliant. Good luck Mr…?"

"Saxon, actually." They shook hands and the Doctor was pleased to have brought his tally up to two. "And you are…?"

"The Doctor."

"Ah, yes. Well, Doctor, would you mind if I did something very strange? It won't make sense to you, but I assure you it would do me a great deal of good. A great help."

Hearing that, well, there wasn't any two ways about it were there? The Doctor nodded cheerfully. "A request I never refuse. What can I do?"

The man reached up and placed his hands on the Doctor's shoulders. Then he just looked at him. Singular and intense, the pale blue of his gaze was pervasive as an ocean. He wasn't a large man by any means, sort of pale and handsome with sandy hair and kind of weary face worn by what could have been laugh lines. He was looking at the Doctor as though he were the only thing. Like there was nothing else around and the Doctor felt his hearts quicken without reason, a chill moving up the back of his arms and down his spine. He was trying to think if this was a human custom that he'd missed when Mr. Saxon sighed.

"It's so tempting," he said quietly. "You being here. I have the machine now after all… the paradox would hold."

"What are you talking about?" the Doctor demanded suspiciously. "What machine?"

"Nothing. I'm sorry, Doctor. Political machine. It's the stress talking you know. I'm sorry."

The Doctor shrugged. "What for?"

Mr. Saxon smiled wearily. "Oh where to begin? Well, I suppose here is good as anywhere – if we're talking about beginnings. Tonight is where it all started as it were. Or ended. Depends how you're looking at it."

"I don't –" began the Doctor, but was cut off when the man cupped his head suddenly and kissed him.

The act so startled him, the young Time Lord didn't resist at all as an alien, a virtual stranger, worked him over – all tongue and teeth and so intense he bumped up against the TARDIS doors, eyes widening as the larger man pinned him there and devoured his mouth, breathing him in like there was something he needed – some cure or an answer – inside the Doctor that he could extract over the back of the young Gallifreyan's tongue. Overwhelmed and unfamiliar with this level of physical intimacy, he assumed this too was a nuance in culture that he hadn't grasped at the Academy and tried to understand it. He let his head fall back, turned his face up and opened his mouth to let the human in, puzzling over the click as their teeth brushed, how the man's tongue felt strange on his, like damp sand paper, the scrape of fingernails on his scalp, the comfortable weight pressing him into the front of the TARDIS.

Then the Prime Minister-to-be broke contact; pulling away just far enough to speak clearly, his forehead still pressed to the Doctor's, hands around the back of his neck. His eyes searched his face.

"I'm going to confuse you for the rest of your life," he whispered. "Good-bye, Doctor."

The Time Lord blinked, slightly miffed. "But why did you do that?"

Mr. Saxon, however, was already walking away. He waved once, a single jaunty backward sweep of the hand, then rounded the corner and was gone.

Author's Note:

And that's that. Thanks to anyone reading this silly little thing. Feedback is a 'yes please' and I hope you enjoyed!