"Bends Between Us"
Genre: Drama, Angst
Time Frame: Everywhere
Characters: The Doctor, The Master
Summary: There is a Time that connects us, Doctor. You have always known that.
Notes: I've been working on and off with this since I saw the finale, and I probably had just a bit too much fun with it . . . I also probably mixed a bit more of personal canon with legit canon than can be considered healthy. (Really, I only disregarded the Doctor being loomed from the Other, and gave him a normal birth. I also took some liberties with the Master's running before the end of the Time War. Besides that, we're good to go.)
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"bends between us"
He remembers hundreds of years back, being young, untainted by Time and her ways.
He remembered being called to his father's study more often than not for some form of mischief or the other – anything from the usual follies of youth to the more . . . unique situations that seemed to follow him around like the very air itself. He remembered the weight of the older Time Lord's eyes on him, almost harsh on his younger frame. He remembered the rug in the middle of the study – it had been red, cerise and stark now in his mind. He often stood right in the middle of it with Koschei at his side while his father traced around them in circles, his rich voice exasperated on the mountain air. (If he remembers now, there was amusement there, pride for his son, as well. It is a memory that warms many a too long night.)
"Imagine my surprise to have a council-meeting interrupted by a scribe to inform me that my son and his friend made their way into the Kilimor's Paradox with nothing more than my screwdriver and a rather wicked tongue." By then it was well known that he could talk himself out of almost anything.
Koschei fidgeted miserably next to him. He remembered trying not to beam too much in pride.
The Paradox had been nice, somewhat. Overrated, mostly. Sometimes, Time Lord secrets were more for the grandeur of having secrets rather than anything else, he knew.
"I'm sorry," he offered, completely unrepentant. At his side, Koschei echoed his words.
"I'm sure you are," his father muttered, his eyes glittering.
When he held his hand out, he put the screwdriver in his father's hand with naught but a disappointed sigh.
"I'm going to have to hide this better," the older Time Lord muttered.
He merely shrugged. This was a game long played between them.
After a few more minutes of the required lecturing, he and Koschei headed for the door, anxious for red mountain fields and crisp spring air already.
"Next time, do something that I won't have to tell your mother about," was his father's last call after them.
He laughed as he pushed the heavy outer door open. The twin streaks of sun which greeted him were bright; welcoming and inviting in the form of silver and gold threading between fields of poppy red.
He tries to remember Gallifrey this way always.
He stared into the Untempered Schism first; Koschei second.
The face of Time was a tormented thing. It lived and breathed and pulsed with a thousand heartbeats. It flared golden with immortal flame and black with so many lives lived and lost before swirling in a tempest of memories and time lines and loves and losses . . . It lived. Time was alive before him.
And she sang. Time sang a haunting melody that pulsed low in his bones before echoing in the second of silence between both of his heartbeats. If he wanted to, he could reach out and touch the melody. He could become one with her – Lord and Master both, all if he had the courage to do so.
But he didn't.
He turned and ran.
In many ways, he had yet to look back.
He heard his father, and Koschei's father talk with the President's council afterwards.
"There is a time that connects them," was the seer's voice, like the scratching of nails on the silver trees. "Time threads between them, twining and suffocating. Where one rises one shall fall and one shall fall for the other to rise. Give and take, ebb and flow, moon and sun entwined in Time's thrall . . . Four times over, eternity lies . . ."
He winced at her tone. He hated the silver witch in that moment so very much for the hard edge to Rassilon's voice. "You understand the meaning of this?"
He hates her even more for the fear in his father's voice as he responded, "I understand, my Lord President."
"It would be best to start withdrawing now. Time waits for no one man's horror."
That he knew too well already. That, at least, he had seen within the Schism, terrible and violent and golden and so, so beautiful . . . So terrible.
At his side Koschei was mumbling, "One . . . two . . . three . . . four. One . . . two . . . three . . . four," over and over again.
He tried to keep his fingers from tapping in time with it.
One, two, three and four . . .
His hearts pounded in time with it.
He stayed for the events of the War of Time itself. He, a rebel recalled by home, Gallifrey's discordant son himself, leading her very own as a warrior on the front lines. Here, took the lives of his enemies and eventually his people both. His friend and enemy entwined in one man was dead at the conflict's start, and once resurrected by Time Lord arrogance made a run for a far off corner of the stars so that his own newly returned life would continue on.
His hand trembled on the Moment's key, knowing that when this was done, he would be either coward or killer both, based on his next action. His hand trembled. Knowing what one had to do and actually doing so were two very far off things indeed.
When this was over, he knew he would never take up arms again. Ever.
For now, Gallifrey had to fall. It had to fall, had to, had to . . . If he repeated that enough, maybe he would start to believe it. He had to, for his own sanity's sake.
When, in his mind, a far off link resurrected itself, he could hear The Master's voice.
"Doctor, don't do this!"
No, the Master was Koschei again in that moment, calling on a telepathic link that had been in place as children. As friends. Born as it was between them as if between brothers.
It was a link that he had not called upon since those terrible days after the Schism. His friend's mind had not been the same place after that. And then, in too short amount of time, his friend had became his enemy.
He closed his eyes, remembering Darkheart and Ailla and the black-hole that he had sent his friend into. . . He then remembered Earth in the twenty-eighth century, and he remembered standing trail for his former friend's murdering of the then Lord President. He remembered the Eye of Harmony, and he remembered Tremas . . .
He remembered giving Koschei a few years of life amongst the living as John Smith. Oh, how Death herself was a fickle mistress at times . . .
For a moment, his hand stayed on the lever.
"Doctor!" the voice again, pleading. "You know you can't!"
The terror there stopped him. It was a selfish terror, but it was one that he felt deep inside as well.
"I have to," he said softly.
"It's genocide!" The Master insisted, going straight for what he knew would barb and blister in the most violent wound. "All those lives will be lost – blood on your hands, all of theirs. Can you do that? You, who cannot kill an enemy if he had a dagger to your pulse . . . Can you kill your people? Can you live with being the last of your kind?"
"I have to," he whispered, his hand tightening on the lever.
Gallifrey had to fall . . . her people had to fall . . . For everyone else. One for the many, it was something he found himself living by so very often.
"You have always been a coward," the Master was spitting now. "So run, let us live and run – to some far off corner of the universe and live your life in peace while you let us live ours."
"That's the problem – no one will be living if Gallifrey has its way." his voice was numb. Detached. It was easier that way, to not think, to not feel.
He could feel the Master's hatred in his mind. It threatened to cripple him in that moment, as it always did.
"Everything seems so much clearer when you're running," the Master whispered. "You yourself said that."
"Then run," the Doctor said on a voice of steel. "Find a far off corner of the stars where this won't reach you."
The Master chuckled, his voice trembling on the war in the air the death echoing in their bones. "No amount of running can escape this," his tone was chiding, the pragmatic to his optimist as always. Only, there was no optimism to be found here. Not today. There was only the faintly bitter knowledge that he was more of the Time Lord he never wanted to be in that moment than he ever was when he pulled the lever.
In his mind, The Master's voice died, and he mourned his passing for what he thought to be the very last time. He mourned all of their passing as around him Time screamed in pain as her own children were ripped from her.
He screamed as well, falling into her familiar gold as life threatened to start anew.
He remembered the days after the war, stumbling as a newborn in a new body – ears worse than his other bodies, and his nose not too terribly bad. He wore leather like a shroud, with ashes in his veins and war still heavy on his tongue.
He remembered late nights with whispering voices, speaking of haunting things. From Rassilon he heard angry obscenities. From Romana, apologies – he had not wanted to survive this way, you see. From his father all he heard was understanding and pride. Those hurt more than the oaths and angered cries together combined.
In his nightmares he could only hear the Master laughing. His was a madness twinged with pride.
When he picked up the shop girl from London, the voices faded into something almost remembered, like a ghost of a far off memory. With her, he was so very content to forget, for just a little while.
After all, as with all humans, Time was never much more than that.
He remembered in the days before the year that he erased from Earth's history. He remembered nightmares that made up his sleep – the softly whispered voice that threaded through the laughter.
"You didn't run far enough, Doctor."
The next day, Martha and he met an aging professor with a fob watch encrusted with Time Lord magic and secrets uncovered in unknowingly ancient eyes.
"It's really a shame that things have to be this way, Doctor."
The Master's voice was mocking; his tone anything but remorseful. For a moment he was tempted to go on the same spiel he uttered almost daily – forgiveness and redemption and pleas all combined. The forgiveness would cripple the Master in the end, he knew.
For now, he was feeling every ache of his unnaturally aged body acutely, and he was in little mood to humor the Master's boredom. The year that had passed . . . It weighed heavily on him.
Beneath them, the Earth was encased in silver white. The Master tapped a thoughtful finger against the viewport glass. "I think that I see a dragon in that cloud there. How 'bout you, Doctor?" He was laughing merrily, almost childish in his glee.
The Doctor did not look below. Did not look up at all.
"Aww, you're no fun in your old age," the Master teased.
He snorted softly.
"C'mon, this was your favorite thing to do when we were younger – you always had your head up in the bloody clouds. You couldn't see the ground right before you. But, maybe you had it right in the end, after all every single one of those indecisive relics perished - Kuddos to you for that, by the way."
Beneath his skin, the twin pounding of his blood through his veins burned. When he raised his eyes the Master smiled a wolf's smile, knowing very well of the tender spot he hit.
"Oh, does that sting, Doctor? Why not be proud, o' Destroyer of Worlds? – after all, you accomplished within moments what whole races tried to within centuries."
"Don't speak so lightly of the dead," was the only thing he said, his voice hoarse and hard.
The Master shrugged, "Because there are so many to steer clear of." His laughter was tinkling. His eyes grew misty, far away. "Although Gallifrey herself was a loss. She was so beautiful in the end - gleaming red like hellfire, with trees catching the light of the hearts of the stars themselves. Death everywhere, raining from Satan's own skies . . . Oh, she was a sight to behold in those last days. Her people caught in the sound of drums, all echoing with the madness of war cries."
He closed his own eyes at the truth in the Master's words, and remembered home – his childhood home, as it was before. He remembered gentle sunlight and never ending fields and graceful mountains rising to reach the sky. He remembered laying in the knee length grass as he started up at the clouds, finding shapes there. The suns would set one at a time, one light dying while another blazed on . . . There was never true night on Gallifrey.
He drifted off from the world about him as he thought of home, the Master's taunts falling on old, deaf ears.
The year stretched resolutely on.
The Master's insanity grew.
As her husband's glee and madness grew, Lucy Saxon grew more distant. Gone were the conservative suits of state, instead she was decked in scarlet red, rubies around her neck and her eye shadow dark to hide the violet blooming around her eyes. Her hands shook in the presence of her husband, and she fiddled often with the golden band on her left hand.
Still, her eyes could now and then be seen cast wistfully on her husband. She was not yet completely free of his thrall.
"Amazing, the human resiliency, isn't it?" the Master commented once upon seeing his eyes linger for too long at the pretty doll who sat daintily in the corner. "Of course, you have observed that longer than me – they always were your favorite, weren't they?"
He tensed, but said nothing.
"Such fire for such a race so short lived. Such a passion . . . Oh, you can live through them, can't you Doctor? Show them the stars and they'll give everything, even their hearts. Of course, you have never taken on that offer, have you?" The Master's eyes had turned to Lucy, possessive and searing. "The drums . . . they are not so loud around her," he mused. "I think I understand your affection for the human race so very well at times."
He was silent still.
"A pity you let that one go – in not living while she had the time you now live with the memory of nothing," the Master continued. He cursed that bond at the back of his mind that let the Master know about her, a name he hadn't uttered in so long . . .
"Ah well, a coward to the last. In every way."
He thought of Rose then – safe and away from this. Happy, maybe.
And he decided that he'd rather be a coward any day.
When, days later, he held Koschei's form close to him as his life slipped so uselessly away he thought of Rose, and the blooming feeling of loneliness that was flooding him in suffocating waves. In that moment he reflected on how easily it was for a human to wilt under a Time Lord's will. In that way only, Lucy resembled Rose if but for a moment
"Perhaps the drums will be silent now," the Master was mumbling, his eyes growing glassy and far away, so very far away . . .
No, not again. He could not be the only one again . . .
"Please," was the last desperate attempt, his eyes broken as he let every happy moment – every childhood moment thread through his mind and to the broken man dying beside him. "Please, don't leave me alone."
The Master's grin was bloody, his eyes mad and strangely peaceful. "I win," he whispered on a final exhale.
And it was over.
He saw Lucy blink wearily as the gun dropped from her listless hands. Her eyes were beaten and her once scarlet mouth was pale as she muttered, "Til death do us part, Harry."
He traveled. Saved the world a time or two.
He grew older.
. . . and then he was prophesied to die.
In the end, it was only fitting that the whole of Earth had bad dreams night after night, filled with the laughing visage of the one man who Time really had bound him to.
He heard drumbeats in his head the whole way back to Earth, and looked down to find that his own fingers had struck up the beat.
He hears beats of four in a never ending song.
He hears it again when he touches his mind to the Master. And Rassilon, but they were real . . . it was not insanity. Something -someone was calling. Something was planted there. Both were trying to return.
The implications of that did not bode well, indeed.
And still, when he had the chance to save the race he loved so very dearly in exchange for the man who by all means he should hate with everything in him . . . he found that he could not.
So, when he growled "move" in a low sort of voice, Koschei was quick to smirk and jump out of the way. Behind him he could hear the wind howl. In his bones he could feel Gallifrey die again.
It did not get easier the second time around.
The beats were humming in times of four, and he thought it was his end when Rassilon took aim at him. And then he stiffened when he heard the faintly uttered, "Move," behind him.
The Master took up aim, and pouring his very life force into it as he struck out at Rassilon, screaming that the man had made him what he was, taken what he could have been . . .
He did not feel one ounce of remorse as Rassilon perished.
And as white engulfed his childhood friend, he thought that he heard and saw Koschei's mind under the Master's madness, reaching out for him.
There's a time that connects us, Doctor. Surely you've felt that.
It is good for it to end this way. It's good for you to remember me this way.
White was engulfing the connection. Death always felt so white and gold combined . . . nothing about it was ever black.
One last sort of goodbye. And then he was gone.
And the Doctor took in a deep breath as he felt the strand between them finally break apart and settle in fraying pieces. That was the last time, he knew . . . Today was a day of many lasts. In a morbid way, it was a good day to die. A perfect way to start on again.
Squaring his chin, he stepped up to meet his fate. Alone.