A/N: Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted a story here! I have a few that I'm working on, might post the beginning of a new full-length story, once I have a title. In the meantime, this came into my head for some odd reason. (I think it may have something to do with watching Gulliver's Travels in class...) It's like a weird little AU, sort of, maybe...think what you will of it.

"Are you awake?" asks the man as he closes the door behind him.

The patient's eyes are halfway clear, and they follow the man, but there's something wary in their shadowed depths, something that doesn't know who the man is or why he's here.

"What do you want?" he asks. His voice is surprisingly clear and strong, and if it were all the man had to judge by, it would seem like he was healthy. A glance shows otherwise; his face is hollow, and there's the kind of leanness in his limbs that comes from starvation.

"Only to speak with you," the man says calmly. "Please don't be afraid."

"Where am I?" asks the patient, looking around. "Why can't I move?" He's slipping away already, losing track of the here and now. "What's going on?"

"Can you tell me what you're seeing?" asks the man. His pen hovers over the paper, waiting for the patient's answer.

"Daleks!" the patient shouts suddenly. "Haven't you learned by now?"

He rocks back and forth, struggling, but he can't move his hands. The man frowns and makes notes. "Please calm down," he says seriously. "I have a few questions to ask you."

The patient looks at him again, but his eyes aren't focused, intent on something that isn't there. He mutters under his breath, a stream of words and fragmented sentences that mean nothing, not to the man who stands against the wall taking notes on his clipboard.

***

Night is falling as the second sun sets over the Mountains of Solace and Solitude; the silver-leaved trees gleam with the last of its fire. The Citadel still seems to glow faintly, even as darkness creeps over the mountains, and not far from the Time Lord Academy, Theta Sigma is running as fast as he can away from the officials chasing him.

Lucky he's good at running.

When he glances over his shoulder, he doesn't see them, but that could also be the darkness and he's not taking any chances. He's almost there, he's pretty sure, but it's hard to think very clearly when you're panicking about the people who fully intend to drag you back to the Academy just like last time.

It doesn't help that he feels a little bit guilty for doing this now, because he helped with the plan but the idea wasn't exactly entirely his, and he did find the ship, but he wouldn't have found it if they hadn't found the junk yard. But his head is going to explode if he doesn't get away from the Academy now, and he's definitely not going to last another week.

So he's doing it alone, going through with the plan without his best friend, which isn't exactly a good feeling but he'll come bac, sometime.

He reaches the junkyard and almst breathes a sigh of relief, but he's not safe yet. Now that he's here, he knows where to go, and if he's a little more careless than usual as he scrambles over the old scrap, at least he has an excuse.

He falls and skids down the hill to land by the capsule. Wincing from the sting of a dozen or so cuts and scrapes on each arm, he climbs to his feet and pulls open the doors, just as he hears the voices of the officials. A shadow stands against the dimming sky just as he's locking himself in.

"Come on, then," he says, smacking the console and starting to press switches. "Wake up, they're going to catch me!"

There's a great deal of humming and creaking and groaning as the ship comes to life, but he doesn't have time. "Come on, you old heap of junk!" he shouts, kicking her. A fountain of sparks erupts from the console, and he jumps back, before running around one side to send them both hurtling into the Vortex.

***

The secretary leads him to the door, never mind that he's been there a hundred times by now and knows it the way he knows his heartbeat. "Wait here," she says politely. Not as if it isn't locked, or anything. He gives her a look, but he doesn't comment.

She knocks on the door and calls, "Visitor for 28-521, sir. Please let him in when you're finished."

He waits just outside, leaning against the wall. Everything about him says he's a good boy—his serious expression, his neatly trimmed hair, his dark blue almost-uniform. It's an image he hates, but he doesn't need people to think any less of him. Being one of the crazies is bad enough.

The door opens and a man in a coat comes out—a doctor. "Good afternoon," he says coldly. "I trust the secretary knows you're here?"

"Yes, sir," he replies, bowing only slightly. He's always been rebellious and defiant, but he's careful about the way he does it.

"You may see the patient," says the man. "I wouldn't expect much."

"I know, sir." He gives the man one last cold look as he walks in and closes the door behind him.

* * *

The Doctor has a lot of time to think while he's a prisoner on the Valiant. He worries about Martha some, about whether she'll be able to do what he's asked her to. She's the only chance he has and her hope looks slim, but maybe she can do it.

Mostly, though, it's the Master. Not surprising, really, that he contemplates his captor, the coward who escapes the Last Great Time War, who survived in secret all those years. The only other living Time Lord, who's no longer recognizable as his former best friend. The madman, convinced that he'll never be free of the sound that's haunted him all his life, until he rules the whole of the universe.

Some people have hated the Master. Many have feared him. A handful have looked up to him, convinced by his smooth talking that he means only the best. Some have respected him, some have followed him, and maybe one person has even managed to love him—even, knowing who and what he is, knowing that he's out of his mind.

The Doctor pities him. He would hate that, wouldn't want anyone's pity, but that changes nothing. He's alone and afraid, desperate to escape or fulfill a summons that never existed, fighting against the rest of existence with everything he's got when all he has to do is ask, and he would have the help he needed.

The Master is too arrogant to accept help or pity, too proud or too insane or perhaps both. It's impossible to reason with him—his logical, structured mind refuses to listen to anyone else. He's so determined to have order, so focused and rational, except for his insistence to believe that the drums inside his head are calling him.

They're so different, they always have been. It was mostly circumstance that drew them together, and the fact that it's always safer to be with a friend than alone. They protected each other, and that had become friendship eventually.

The Doctor would like nothing better than to have his oldest friend back. He's sure that the Master isn't beyond saving. The only problem is, he doesn't want to be saved.

In some ways, that's the saddest thing of all.

* * *

"What's going to happen to him?"

The director frowns at him. "It depends. His condition may be alleviated somewhat, if we can treat it or if time helps."

"When?" he demands, his voice rising a little.

"We don't know."

He pauses before asking, "What's wrong with him?"

"It's a side effect of the Trial. It may manifest years later. In some ways, it's among the most dangerous forms of madness."

He thinks the most dangerous form is the kind that gets you smacked around by everyone, but he says nothing.

"You see, when he looked into the Schism, he was aware of every possibility, of all the things that have been and that could be. They've lain in wait in the back of his mind for years, and now he's become too entangled in possibilities to act upon any of them."

"But he'll get better, right?"

The director meets his eyes solemnly. "He may, or he may not. If you would allow it, I would like to be perfectly honest with you, but I fear the truth may be painful."

"I want to know."

The director bows his head. "Your friend will not be returning to the Academy. He will not complete his training. The chances are that he will never recover."

His face betrays nothing. He knows because he's spent years learning how to show no expression, in the interest of his own survival. The director won't strike him, but he can't be trusted, so he can't be allowed to see how much this information hurts. The director can't know that he's just lost all hope for his only real friend.

"Your visits do neither of you much good. He doesn't recognize you any more than he recognizes anyone." The director fixes him with an empty gaze. "If I may make a suggestion, it would be the best for both you and your friend if you forgot about him."

He should be polite and say thank you, and show his respect by bowing, but he doesn't care. He turns and leaves without a word, his face still betraying nothing, but his hearts at war inside his chest, torn between hurt and anger and loss and a horrible, guilty sense of triumph.

They'd thought it would be him. They'd always thought it would be him, but it hadn't been. He hadn't been the crazy one, in the end.

But it felt wrong to be pleased when the one who had taken his place was his best friend.

A/N: Like it? Hate it? No idea what this means or what's going on? Review! :P And a cookie for you if you can figure out who everyone is/what's going on... I might write more about this if people want, and if I have inspiration...
(A side note: the second section probably has an official version, which naturally I will have completely destroyed, but this idea forced its way in and since it's an AU already, I went with it.)