Hermione Granger thought of her time with the Doctor still, even after almost half a year. It had been an amazing time, one which she knew, deep in her heart, she would never forget. She could still remember the first moment she stepped onto the TARDIS…
Hermione jumped into the TARDIS, a spring in her step, still not quite daring to believe that this was really happening. Pinch me, I'm dreaming.
"So," the Doctor said, still grinning. "Where to first?"
"Anywhere," said Hermione, shocked that this was, really happening!
"Anywhere?" said the Doctor, mild admonishment in his voice, but a playful grin on his lips. "Oh, come on Hermione! There must be somewhere you really really want to go!"
She thought for a moment.
"Egypt," she decided. "Egypt in the time of the Pyramids."
"Oh, how marvellous," came a sarcastic voice from the side of the console room. "Blood, sand, and Osirians."
The Master, wearing a simple black suit, scruffy, a loose black tie and complete with a pair of black converse, was leaning across the console room, looking immensely bored.
"Do you mind?" said the Doctor, looking over at the Master. The way he said it made Hermione think that this arrangement of the Master travelling with the Doctor had actually been going on for some time. "I could've just let Jack shoot you, you know."
"Ok, ok sorry!" said the Master, holding his hands up in surrender, looking vaguely pained. Hermione noticed he was wearing a bracelet, silver, with a single red – buckle? Button?
"What's that for?" she asked, pointing at it.
"This?" said the Master, pointing at it and answering before the Doctor could. "Oh, a little trick of the Doctors. Keeps me from doing anyone any harm. He let me keep my screwdriver though."
He illustrated the point by bringing his screwdriver, which was as far as Hermione knew a lethal, updated version of the Doctors sonic screwdriver, out of an inside pocket. He waved it merrily. Hermione turned to the Doctor, who was looking mildly bored with the talk.
"How long 'til we're there?" she asked, eager to get on with her adventuring.
"Couple of hours. It is pretty far back," replied the Doctor, smiling at her. "You should probably get something a bit more... 'Egypt Friendly', on."
Hermione looked at her school uniform; a warm jumper, thick robes and shirt and tie, and the back up at the Doctor. "I see what you mean," she said, nodding.
"Master, take her to the wardrobe, will you?" asked the Doctor politely. The Master shrugged, and then went through a door, leaving Hermione to follow. He moved quite fast – presumably to annoy her – but she could keep up.
As she walked, she grinned. She was a time traveller. Well, again, but she hardly thought there was any comparison between her Time Turner third year and travelling with two immortal Time Lords to ancient Egypt.
She could hardly wait.
Of course, with those two, it was hardly surprising that there was going to be some danger…
All was quiet in the world, quiet and still. In a New York dockyard, the only noises were the creaking of metal and the water, lapping against the dockyard shore.
The New York dockyard was snowed under, and any staff that might have been there would surely be dressed up warm. As it happens, there was only one human there, in the dockyard, running for her life alongside two Time Lords.
The human was Hermione Granger, a genius trainee witch one week into her travels with the Doctor, one of the Time Lords. The other Time Lord was called the Master, a former enemy of the Doctor's who now travelled with him.
If anyone had been watching from a distance, they would have also seen the twenty or so steel men chasing them. They were the Cybermen, a race of ex-humans from the planet Mondas who liked turning human beings into Cybermen (although 'liked' may not be the right term, since they had no emotions), and Hermione had only just been rescued from being converted into one. The adventure was long, exciting, and this was the finale – the equivalent of coming in at the last ten minutes of the action movie; lots of explosions, no explanations. Annoying, but very exciting to look at.
The same theoretical observer we were discussing before would have seen Hermione take a wooden rod out of her jacket pocket, aim it at the Cybermen, and yell out an incantation. The Cybermen would have been seen to be scattered by a bolt of yellow light. The Master too would have drawn a small, handheld device, aimed it at the Cybermen, but the Doctor would then have yelled at him – they would have had a brief, pointless row, and then Hermione would have grabbed them both and dragged them into a blue box. Unless the theoretical observer knew these three and the dynamic that they had together, they would have been confused at the silliness of having a row when being chased by metal men intent on robbing them of their lives.
The observer, had there been one, would then have died as the entire dockyard exploded into a truly impressive fireball.
Hermione flopped down onto the chair in the console room, catching her breath, adrenaline pumping through her veins. The Doctor was at the console, furiously flicking switches like he always did after an adventure, and the Master was standing at the other side of it, exhausted – he, after all, had been the one who'd saved Hermione from the Cyber-Conversion chamber, and doing so without resorting to killing them – something he could not do – was difficult.
After a moment, Hermione finally caught her breath, and turned slowly to the Master, a furious look on her face. The Doctor looked away, mildly embarrassed for his old friend, and slightly scared of the new one.
When she spoke, she spoke quite clearly, in a voice that showed her annoyance plainly and directly.
"Remind me never to let you pick our destination again."
They had had some times. The adventures might be dangerous, but the Doctor had been through this stuff so often, and the Master was a law unto himself. And as for her – well, the Doctor was quite capable of removing the Trace, and he had done so almost instantly upon learning about it.
He was a funny man to travel with, when she thought about it. Sometimes, he could be – well, actually quite scary. Sometimes, he needed someone to stop him. He had laughed when she had said that, said that someone had said those exact words to him some time ago. The Master would groan at the Doctors reminiscing, and cover his ears, and the Doctor would tell her about Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble. Although, to be fair, he had never once mentioned Iris Wildthyme…
The TARDIS materialised with its usual cacophony and flourish. Hermione stepped out first, followed by the Doctor, in blue suit, black shirt and dark red tie. He was looking around, as if searching for something.
"Are you sure the time trace came from here?" she asked him, looking around as well.
"Well, either that or the TARDIS is playing a joke on me," he replied. And then, something hit him, and he walked around the side of the TARDIS. They were in a regular old field, with harvested… whatever it had been, grass, weeds… it was wholly unremarkable, boring, except for one rather pertinent fact.
A double-decker bus sat in the dead centre of it, bright red, incongruous as snow in hell. The Doctor gaped at it in shock.
"What…?" he said at long last.
"What's a route-master doing here?" asked Hermione, but the Doctor didn't answer… he was in a daze. A rather dazed daze. He was walking towards it slowly, as if not in complete control of his actions.
"It couldn't be..." the Doctor said, as he walked.
"Couldn't be what?" Hermione asked, walking next to him.
The door to the route-master opened as they walked, and Hermione's hand twitched towards her wand… but there was no threat. Only a twenty something woman, dressed in clothes appropriate to the 1920's, with long, red hair, and dazzling smile, and a spring in her step. She stepped out of her route-master, smiling at the Doctor as she did so.
"It is," he said, mixed joy and dread creeping into his voice.
"Doctor!" the woman called out.
He continued walking slowly towards the bus, Hermione following warily. He looked vaguely like he wanted to laugh, or cry – or perhaps both. Hermione didn't know who this woman was at all – unless one of the old companions he had told her about had picked up a bus in the meantime. When he stood directly in front of the woman, she frowned.
"Well, aren't you going to say something?" she asked.
He stood there for a moment longer, and then hugged her, laughing.
"Well!" she said, as they broke apart, "That was hardly the reception I was expecting!"
"You're alive!" the Doctor yelled. "You aren't dead! You're alive! Wow! Brilliant!"
"Calm down," the woman said. "You'll scare your current travelling companion…"
She gave Hermione an appraising glare.
"Are they getting younger?" she asked.
"No," the Doctor said. "Hermione is… well, a special case," he finished lamely.
"Uh huh," the woman smiled. "Well – introductions?"
"Oh, yeah!" the Doctor smiled. "Right… Hermione Granger… this is Iris Wildthyme. Gentlewoman Adventuress, Time Lady – sort of. Ish. Kinda. And, oh yeah," he finished, "old flame."
"You're admitting it then?" she said. "Took you long enough."
"Yeah…" the Doctor grinned. "Well, stuff's happened, you know…?"
Hermione blinked, her eyes wide, a growing sense of annoyance building up inside of her.
"Tell you what," she said, "I'll go inside, and leave you two to it, shall I…?"
Inside, the Master looked dumbfounded when she mentioned it to him.
"What?" he asked, having not believed his ears.
"Have you ever heard of Iris Wildthyme?" she repeated.
He nodded, still looking dumbfounded.
"The Doctor's one and only proper girlfriend," he said. "And by proper, I mean the only he'll ever admit to, apart from his wife of course..."
"Wife?" said Hermione, aware that her voice had risen in pitch. The Master smiled at her.
"He's one thousand, one hundred and three," the Master told her, speaking slowly, like he always did when trying to make her feel stupid. "I think it's safe to say he's had a few women in that regard."
Hermione gaped at him, frowning in shock.
"He - he doesn't..." she said at last.
"Doesn't seem the type to have girlfriends?" smirked the Master. "Believe me, all the 'Celibate' stuff is a front. He's had more women than Captain Kirk."
Hermione sat down, deciding (wisely) to not think about it.
An hour later, the Doctor came in, a blissful smile on his face, hands in pockets.
"Iris Wildthyme," he laughed. "I should've known she'd still be around. No stoppin' her!"
Then he saw the looks on his companions faces – the Master looked annoyed and Hermione shocked, and he took a breath, went up to the console and flicked a switch, setting them on their way.
"What took you so long?" asked the Master innocently. Hermione glared at him.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever," said the Doctor, blushing slightly.
He wisely decided not to reveal that Iris had kissed him goodbye, full on the lips. He had a reputation to uphold, after all. After about three nanoseconds thought, he decided to go and see the one man that would take the others minds off his tangled love life. He set a course for Cardiff.
Jack would know what to do to calm them all down.
Ah yes… Captain Jack Harkness.
She still blushed when she thought about him, not because of anything that had happened, but because… well, Captain Jack Harkness did that to you. That was what he did, he made you blush, because, unlike the Doctor – or indeed, anyone Hermione had met – he was so full on, in your face that to not blush would confirm that you were a robot that as almost inevitably there to kill them.
And he always got them in trouble.
"I suppose you have an explanation for this?" Hermione asked, when she saw the Doctor, the Master and Jack in the prison cell.
"It's his fault," Jack said, pointing at the Master.
"Nuh uh," the Master replied, childishly. "It's all your fault. You just had to go into that bar…"
"And you just had to start a fight," Jack replied.
"It's a bar," the Master protested. "You start bar fights in a bar, that's where they're supposed to happen!"
Hermione held up a hand, and sighed. She felt vaguely like somebody's mother.
"I hope you've all learned a valuable lesson," she told them.
"I have," the Doctor said, sullenly. He was in his best black tuxedo, although it was ripped in two places and dusty as hell. "Two lessons. One, don't go out on the town with these two," and he pointed at Jack and the Master, who both looked mock-outraged. "And two," he said, taking his jacket of and scrunching it up, "never, ever wear this suit again."
It wasn't as if they were never fun. So, when she thought about it, why did she leave?
The answer was very obvious, really.
The Doctor was working at the console when the reminder alarm sounded. He closed his eyes and sighed - it was that time of the decade again. He didn't want to do this, but he had no choice; it was something of a solemn duty.
"Master," he called out across the console room, "watch that Hermione doesn't follow me when she wakes up, will you?"
The Master looked up at him. The Doctor had told his one time enemy about his... prisoner, some time ago, and to the Master's credit, he had promised to always help when he could. That included keeping Hermione away from the prisoner's room when visiting time came around.
"That time at last?" he asked.
"Yup," the Doctor said.
"Okay, then," the Master nodded. "I'll make sure your pet human doesn't go in after you."
The Doctor sighed, and nodded, and he set off.
The old Eye of Harmony room was completely pointless now that Gallifrey was gone. No power came anymore, because the source was little more than a bunch of atoms scattered across what was once the Kasterborous constellation.
The Doctor watched the old eye for a moment, and sighed. He then pressed the button to open it. He hated talking to this prisoner, but he had to; to make sure he was still here.
Almost immediately, a voice spoke out into the gloom of the room.
The Doctor stepped backwards slightly, as a reflex; this being scared him.
"Are you ok?"
"I'm a copy of the real thing. The ghost in the machine. Would you be alright? Even worse, I can sense him close by..."
"He travels with me, now," the Doctor explained.
"Not through choice I trust?"
"No," said the Doctor. "I made him come. I took responsibility for his actions and made him my task."
"You sound almost like me... then again, from what I can sense from his mind, he's almost like you now..."
"That's a bit of an exaggeration," the Doctor admonished.
"I doubt that," the being snarled. "Saving worlds, helping you out, not even killing anymore..."
"Only because I don't let him."
"And now you're defending him. But still, he's beside the point, isn't he, Doctor."
"Eh?" The Doctor was confused. He stepped back again.
"You're thinking now that, if one Master can be redeemed, why can't the other?"
"Do you want to be redeemed?" the Doctor asked him.
"Not in the slightest."
"Then you don't have to be. You can just stay here."
"Or I can escape."
The Doctor stepped further back.
"You can't" he said. "You're only an echo, you said so yourself."
"Your female companion was the key," the echo of the Master said, and his voice had lost some of its etherealness "Her 'magic,' as it is known. I've been absorbing the excess for months."
The Doctor stood even further back, edging towards the button that would shut the Eye.
"I used her power to restore my own..."
The Doctor pressed the button, and the Eye closed. He sighed in relief.
"...body," the Masters voice finished. The Doctor spun around, to face an exact, if younger, replica of Yana. "And in case you were wondering, I'm not trapped in there anymore."
The Doctor moved a hand to defend himself, but the Master felled him with a chop to the neck, and then started kicking him, taking all the frustration of his life out on the Doctor, almost a century of being trapped in the Eye bursting out of him into the violence he was unleashing.
It took him a moment to realise that he was naked. He searched the Doctors mind for the location of the wardrobe, and ran for it.
"Disappointing, old friend," he muttered as he left. "I expected better."
The Master – the original one - looked up when he felt the Doctor's psychic cry. He knew what it must mean, but he was not looking forward to this confrontation, to seeing a disturbingly familiar face.
"Oh no..." he said.
Then the other one came, walking out of a door, and looking right at him.
He was Yana, or rather a younger version of Yana.
"Oh yes!" yelled the other Master. He was dressed in what looked vaguely like a copy of Yana's old style, which mildly annoyed the Master, since that had been Yana the disguise, not the Master the man.
The real Master went for the Laser Screwdriver in his pocket, but the other Master was quicker, rushing across the room and into the storage cupboard where lay…
"NO!" yelled the real Master... his TARDIS was in there!
He ran after the echo and flung the cupboard door open, to see his beloved Grandfather Clock vanishing...
"What's all the yelling about?" asked a soft, tired voice from behind him.
Hermione stood, gaping at the Master, whose fury was more then evident in his expression and the laser screwdriver in his hand.
"A very old prisoner just escaped," came another voice, before the Master could respond. The Doctor, looking worse for wear, staggered out of the Eye of Harmony corridor, and blinked at the Master.
"Prisoner?" repeated Hermione surprised. "I didn't know you kept prisoners."
"One," said the Master grimly. "Only ever just the one."
"He took your TARDIS?" asked the Doctor, his tone of voice sympathetic.
"Yes," muttered the Master tonelessly. "I'm sorry -" the Doctor began, but the Master was already at the console, banging in co-ordinates, spinning wheels and pulling levers. After a moment, the Doctor joined him.
"Where are we going?" asked Hermione, still confused.
"After him, if the Doctor doesn't mind," replied the Master, not looking up.
"I don't mind at all," said the Doctor grimly, pressing a button. "We've gotta find 'im, and that TARDIS, before he does real damage."
The Master – the echo of the Master that had been trapped in the Eye of Harmony for so long – was standing on top of a hill waiting for the Doctor. When the blue box materialised behind him, he wasn't surprised.
After a moment, the Doctor was stood behind him.
"Hello," he said. "Shall we get on with this?"
The Master turned to face the Doctor. The other Time Lord widened his eyes in shock. The echo of the Master was slowly fading away, and was already half transparent. His body was dissolving into nothing.
"What's happening to you?" the Doctor asked, horrified.
"I obviously didn't think my escape through hard enough," the Master joked. He sensed the other Master – or rather the weakling who dared go by that name – inside the Doctor's TARDIS. "I'm disintegrating. To tell you the truth, I'm sick of life, Doctor. I'm free – and if that means I have to die, then so be it."
"There must be something we can do," the Doctor insisted. The Master smiled. He felt his atoms sliding apart.
"Nothing Doctor," the Master replied. "I'm free, that's all that matters."
Then he felt himself go… his atoms danced on the breeze… and he felt his consciousness fly away with it… it was finally, truly over…
It was after this, after I realised that it wasn't always fun, that I came to a decision about my life, and more importantly, where I wanted to live it.
"Doctor," she said. "I want to go back."
The Doctor looked up, and his eyes were full of shock, horror, and sadness.
"I'm sorry," she said, "but… I've got a future there, and friends. I don't want to leave them forever."
The Doctor said nothing for a long moment, and then, to her surprise, he smiled, and nodded, then set the controls.
It took half an hour, relatively speaking, from where the TARDIS had been before, to get to where it was heading. In that time, the Doctor and Hermione talked, they laughed, they cried. The Doctor also told Hermione the Master's real name. She got her favourite Brighton (the planet, not the city) shades and hat (which said "kiss me quick" in Flamsalck), and when they finally got there, they were both grinning. It wasn't a tearful farewell. It was just a see-you-later.
"Bye Koschei!" Hermione laughed, as she went outside.
"My name is the Master!" he yelled back, grumpily. He would have revealed the Doctor's real name, but then the Doctor would have killed him – well, overstatement, but it wouldn't have been a pretty sight. Outside, the Doctor left Hermione with the boys. Judging from their faces, she'd just left.
"Like I said, ten seconds!" the Doctor grinned, before going inside his ship.
Sometimes, even now, she wondered whether they're alright, and whether they're still travelling. Then she realised, they probably were, saving worlds, fighting monsters, and doing an awful lot of running.
Good for them.
Hermione finished writing the journal of her travels, and closed it with a sigh. She looked up, and smiled.
It was a beautiful night…
The Doctor walked over to the console, and set them off again. The Master looked him over for a moment, and was surprised when he spoke.
"You alright?" he asked the Master. The Master widened his eyes, and sighed.
"Why wouldn't I be?" he asked. "Are you?"
The Doctor blinked, and smiled.
"I will be."
"Now what?" the Master asked. Before the Doctor could answer, a beeping came from the console. The Doctor checked it, and frowned.
"Stattenheim summoner," the Doctor said. "Harry must be in trouble."
"How do you know it's Harry?" the Master asked.
"Because he's the only person who has one," the Doctor said. He reset the co-ordinates, and the TARDIS landed. He went outside, hands in pockets.
The Master watched him go out, and when he left, he rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Here we go again," he said.