Disclaimer: Still nothing... :( Lord Cole of Tarminster is an off-screen character - I've taken artistic license in using and developing him, but I don't actually own him.
Explanation: This fic has its roots in a comment that was made in another of my fics: "Time and Time Again: The Bloopers" (ID 5947196), where at one point, the Doctor and the Master had an unexpected physical and psychic collision. The Master teased the Doctor about being slapped; the Doctor responded by saying "Oh, and you think I didn't see that little 'talk' you got from Lord Cole?". LeonaWriter left me a lovely review and mentioned how she'd like to see that "little talk". And gradually, something emerged, mostly scribbled on little bits of paper in my pockets during lectures. Turned into something a bit longer than I'd anticipated, as things tend to do with me...I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a good thing or not!
Warnings: Very minor warning for the last third or so, which contains (ab)use of alcohol. Having never drunk alcohol myself, anything pertaining to it in this fic is either imagination, theoretical knowledge of biochemistry, Wikipedia or artistic license.
Very subtle hint as to whereabouts in the Doctor's timeline this takes place - see if you can spot it!
"'Ere we are, sir," the chauffeur announced as the car rolled to a halt, wheels crunching on smooth, clean gravel. In the back, the Master leaned forwards in the leather upholstered seat, one hand on his chin, lips pursed thoughtfully. It had been a good several minutes' drive since they had turned into the driveway of Tarminster Estate. The car had passed through a security checkpoint carefully concealed behind the stone lions which flanked the front gate, driven past a copse of woodland that bordered the estate grounds and now pulled up between wide, sweeping lawns.
He waited while the chauffeur jumped out of the car and hurried around to open the door for him.
"Thank you, James," he said, stepping out and straightening his coat. The man's name wasn't James – in fact, he had no idea what his name really was – but the chauffeur smiled appreciatively and nodded all the same. Only in its first few months of operation, and the Archangel Network had already wormed its way into the subconscious of this weak-willed human. If Harold Saxon said his name was James, then he would answer to James.
Looking around, the only person the Master could see was an old gardener ambling around some greenhouses in the distance. It was strange – surely, they would have been anxiously awaiting his visit all day. Everyone in Britain wanted to meet him by now; everyone wanted to shake hands with the next up-and-coming world leader. There seemed to be an awful lot of handshaking involved in human politics.
Even so, he had been invited – by Lord Cole himself, no less. A handwritten letter had arrived on his desk the previous day expressing the wealthy peer's desire to meet the man who seemed to have won his daughter's affections, and requesting that Mister Saxon visit his family home the very next day.
Out of the corner of his eye, he became aware that the chauffeur was standing to attention beside him. Without turning his head, he made a shooing motion with one hand.
"Of course, sir – sorry, sir," the chauffeur gabbled, fumbling the car keys. The Master began to walk towards the house, hearing the crunch of tyres on gravel as the car moved slowly away. Just as he reached the heavy double doors with their enormous brass doorknockers, they swung open. The Master was pleased to note the look of deferent respect in the eyes of the butler who stepped back to allow him into the hallway; he removed his gloves and held them out, and the butler took them with a bow that was perhaps a little lower than he generally gave even to the most important guests. Oh, yes – the Master could get used to this! He made a mental note to obtain a butler of his own when his plans came to fruition.
"Ah – Saxon, there you are." A booming voice resounded in the elaborate, mahogany-paneled hallway and Lord Cole entered. The Master quickly applied his most winning smile and extended his hand, which was nearly swallowed in the meaty grip of Lord Cole. He was a broad man, wide-shouldered, with his ample form straining against the buttons of a tweed hunting jacket. At least half a head taller than the Master, he peered down his nose with lined grey eyes, his bushy moustache twitching as he surveyed the Time Lord. Taking in the man's features, the Master decided it would not be prudent to observe the complete absence of genetic markers to show any relation to Lucy. It would probably also pay to keep to himself any comments about the steely grey toupee that perched on top of Lord Cole's head like some sort of roadkill. For now, at least. Once he ruled this planet, it would be a different matter – but he kept that thought to himself as well.
They headed down a narrow corridor with walls lined by portraits of past Lords and Ladies of the Cole family and turned off into a library. Leather-bound tomes that probably hadn't been touched for years, but were nevertheless without even a speck of dust, filled bookshelves along one wall. The bookshelves were separated by gilt-framed oil paintings; the facing wall was mostly high windows overlooking the grounds of the estate.
"So you're a published writer yourself, then," said Lord Cole.
"Yep," the Master replied, his sharp eyes quickly scanning the shelves and locating a copy of "Kiss Me, Kill Me" near the door. "You've read my autobiography, of course?"
"I have," Lord Cole answered. A smile of satisfaction that had been creeping onto the Master's face froze midway – there was something in his voice that wasn't quite right – and at the next words, it was wiped off completely. "And quite frankly, young man, I thought it was a load of hogswash."
The Master fancied he'd picked up some interesting 21st century Earth vocabulary during his time so far in the British Parliament, and several examples of it came to mind at that moment. Evidently, the Archangel Network was experiencing some minor teething problems. And the pretty, naïve Lucy Cole was an integral part of his plan – a part of the plan that came with social obligations.
Well, nothing his natural charm and charisma couldn't get him through, particularly in this regeneration. He quickly masked his alarm and annoyance with a look of mild surprise and disappointment, and raised his eyebrows.
"Still, my daughter seems smitten with you," Lord Cole snorted. "And the household staff seemed terribly excited this morning." He snorted again, turning to face out the windows. The Master's eyes wandered around the room and came to rest on a large and particularly dull painting of a man and woman in stiffly formal, antiquated dress standing beside a horse. Lord Cole glanced around, catching where the Master was looking.
"These have been in my family for years," he said. The Master checked that the man's attention had returned to somewhere outside, before taking a step towards the painting. Once again, he made sure Lord Cole's back was turned – and then leaned forwards and licked the painting, tasting the array of elemental isotopes in the greasy paint and integrating it with his acute temporal senses. A movement to his left caused him to jump back abruptly – the butler, who had returned and was watching him closely. The Master grinned and winked. With the total lack of expression that came from years of immaculate training, the butler merely sniffed, bowed again and stepped back to stand beside the door, hands folded.
"1640s, if I'm not mistaken?" the Master calculated, unable to keep a trace of smugness from entering his voice. Now it was Lord Cole's turn to raise his eyebrows in surprise.
"You know something of art, do you?"
"Oh, yeah," the Master lied. "It's one of my many passions."
"Hm. Pity. You always struck me as more of a pragmatic type." Lord Cole turned back to the window and the Master stuck out his tongue at him. From somewhere near the door, he heard the butler sniff again.
"Do you play golf, Saxon?" Lord Cole inquired, turning around. Quickly regaining his composure, the Master nodded with what he hoped was an enthusiastic smile, racking his brains.
"Excellent," Lord Cole declared. "You must join me for a few rounds this summer. I have an eighteen hole course on the grounds. Which club are you a member of?"
Golf… The Master had visited Earth many times in his centuries of life, but between plans to conquer the planet and enslave its inhabitants, human sports had never been high on the agenda. Golf…what the hell is golf?
"Oh – I haven't really had time to play lately," he shrugged. "What with launching the Archangel Network and rebuilding Downing Street and everything…new Minister of Defence, you know. I'm going to start work on designing an aircraft carrier for UNIT in a few weeks." Lord Cole seemed to accept this answer – and, to the Master's utmost relief, finally appeared impressed about something.
"I hear you're the pick for the next Prime Minister, too. Saw the front page of the paper this morning."
"Ah, yes," the Master beamed proudly. "'Saxon leads polls with 64 percent' – isn't it great?"
"Now don't start getting cocky, young man," Lord Cole snapped, and the Master quickly assumed a serious expression and nodded. "When you've been in politics as long as I have, you'll learn a thing or two about counting your chickens before they've hatched. You're not- Are you still here?" This last was directed at the butler, who jumped and hurried for the door. "And shut that door." The moment the door was obediently clicked closed, Lord Cole moved towards the Master, lowering his voice to an almost threatening level. "Now I've been meaning to have a little talk with you, Saxon…" The look of innocent surprise that passed across the Master's face was probably more genuine than any he had shown in a long time.
I haven't done anything! he thought indignantly. Well, not yet, anyway…
"I've seen your type," Lord Cole continued. "You think you're God's gift to women – you have your way with them, then you're off to the next one. Well, you remember this, Harold Saxon – that's my daughter you're hanging around this time."
"Really, I wouldn't dream of-"
"I'm not finished! Now, I don't know your family and I don't know where you came from – and quite frankly, you could have fallen from bloody outer space for all I care – but if you lay one finger on my Lucy…one finger…" He raised his hand and jabbed the Master in the chest with a finger like a sausage, "…you'll have me to answer to. Got it?" The Master gritted his teeth. Just a little more than a year…he pictured himself holding a sharp pair of secateurs over that finger, the blustering Lord Cole on his knees, pleading for his life…
"Use my name, Cole!"
"Master…Master, please, don't…"
"Got it?" Lord Cole repeated.
"Oh, absolutely," the Master agreed fervently.
Dinner was served in a parlour overlooking a lake that divided the manor house from the estate's private hunting grounds. Again, the Master found himself enjoying the efficiency and meticulous service of butlers and various servants, who seemed almost too eager to please him – several times, Lord Cole had to snap his fingers to call their attention to him. The food was excellent – baked squash in a thick, aromatic sauce of a strong Earth spice that the Master couldn't quite remember the name of.
"Is there anything that sir would like?" The servant standing by the Master's chair seemed to hardly notice Lord Cole's presence across the table.
"Mmm…yes – this sauce is excellent," said the Master, taking his time and relishing the undisguised irritation on Lord Cole's face as another butler walked straight past him to join the first in attending the Master. "I'll have some more of that."
"How much would sir like?"
"How much have you got?" the Master grinned, and the servants bowed and scurried away.
"Have you visited Tarminster before?" Lord Cole asked. The Master thought for a moment – actually, the name did sound familiar…
"Wasn't there a bit of trouble around here once?"
"Hm, yes – about thirty years ago, I believe. Bit of a disturbance in the town…"
"Something to do with that UNIT lot, I heard," the Master supplied, scooping up the last of the sauce from his plate. He'd never seen any harm in emitting a few details of the truth. Lord Cole snorted.
"Aliens," he muttered. "Intelligent life from other planets – of all the ridiculous things…what are you smirking at, Saxon?" Fortunately, the Master was saved having to answer by the arrival of the butler.
"You can get me a clean fork while you're here," Lord Cole ordered.
"Ginger marinade with caramelized cane sugar," said the butler, setting a bowl of sauce beside the Master, who was almost too busy enjoying the sight of Lord Cole's moustache bristling to notice. Lord Cole cleared his throat loudly, and the butler turned, seeming to notice him for the first time.
"Certainly…of course," he said and hastily hurried from the room.
"You know, my family has owned this land for centuries," Lord Cole began, evidently needing to reassert himself as the head of the household. "It was a gift from the King himself in the Hundred Year War. The Royal Family hid in the first manor house during the Civil War…" The Master dipped a soup spoon into the bowl of sauce; Lord Cole's eyes flickered to his hand, but he made no comment. "…and then this house was built for my family in the eighteenth century…" Really, this sauce was delicious – the Master would have to source himself a supply of that spice when he finally took his place as Master of this planet… "…lost a lot of money during the Industrial Revolution, but my great-great-great grandfather inherited one of the steel foundries in Birmingham and…" Of course, that all depended on the construction of a functional Paradox Machine. He had already started to review the workings of the Doctor's TARDIS. It had been so long since he had flown a TARDIS of his own – decades stuck in a human body with little more than staples and string to realize the potential of his genius – and the Type 40 he had stolen from the Doctor was a considerable downgrade from the newborn, pristine capsule he had been allocated during the Time War. But it could be done. The TARDIS's systems might be long-obsolete and held together more-or-less with sellotape, but it was still a living TARDIS. Perhaps if he removed the spatial stabilizers and wired them instead to the timeline navigation apparatus – that could enable the contact between the two points in time. Disabling the vortex streamlining ought to ramp up the power a little, and with a temporal loop established, it could even be the key to creating a physical link between…
"…Saxon, are you listening?"
"Hm? Oh, yes – of course," said the Master. "Do continue – it's fascinating." He met Lord Cole's gaze with the sincerest smile he could manage; the man narrowed his eyes.
"Well, if you're finished, I suggest we retire to the drawing room. Lucy will be joining us later, and I thought we might talk politics, man to man, before she arrives."
The two made their way through the house to a small room on the far wing of the building. Like the rest of the house, it was sumptuously furnished. Red velvet curtains draped the walls, a thick carpet underfoot muffled their footsteps as they entered, and two high-backed leather armchairs were pulled up before an ornamental brick fireplace. While the Master seated himself in one of the chairs, Lord Cole opened a cabinet in the corner and brought out two glasses and a large crystal bottle, which he set on a table between the chairs.
"This was brought down from Scotland by my father after the war," he said gruffly. "Cask strength single malt." He uncorked the bottle and poured a generous splash into each of the glasses before settling himself and taking one. The Master took the other and sniffed it curiously – it was old, but aside from that, he could tell very little. Whisky was just one of many human pleasures he had never had the chance to experience in previous visits to Earth. He took a mouthful, swallowed – and then found himself choking as the amber liquid burned his throat and set his eyes watering.
"Good, isn't it?" said Lord Cole, already halfway through his glass.
"Yes…yes, very good," the Master croaked, taking another sip. Actually, he thought, once the initial scorching of the strong drink had worn off after about the third mouthful, it didn't taste half bad.
"I drafted amendments to the Landowners' Acts back in 1968, you know," Lord Cole began. "And if I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty splendid job. Before all this politically correct nonsense, that was…" When the Master downed the last of his whisky and Lord Cole picked up the bottle to refill the glasses, the Master hesitated. It could have been his imagination, but he thought he was beginning to feel a little lightheaded, and his eyes darted between the two of them, comparing Lord Cole's massive, bulky form to his own slight build. Still, he was a Time Lord, after all – he was fairly sure he could handle one more glass.
"…and then they're trying to pass all these tax cuts for those parasites that don't work for their money like you and I," Lord Cole was still rambling. The Master tried to disguise a yawn by taking another mouthful of whisky. "…wishy-washy communist thinking, if you ask me. Well not in my country, no sir!"
"No, sir," the Master agreed, leaning back in the armchair and putting his feet up on the table. He grinned broadly at Lord Cole, whose forehead had begun to crease into a frown. The frown seemed to change its mind and was replaced with an amicable smile, and Lord Cole leaned over again with the bottle to top up the Master's glass. The man's hand must have slipped (the Master was certain it couldn't have been his own hand); a splash landed on his tailored black jacket and several expletives burst from his mouth. Lord Cole raised his eyebrows and the Master chuckled,
"Learned that one from the Australian embassy." He thought he saw the corners of Lord Cole's moustache twitching, but the man shook his head disapprovingly.
"Now that's another problem with your generation, Saxon."
"I'm older than I look, you know!" the Master retorted indignantly.
"Really?" Lord Cole appeared disbelieving. "How old are you, then, if you don't mind my asking?" The Master secretively tapped his nose with one finger – or tried to, succeeding more nearly in poking himself in the cheek.
"Ah, now that would be telling!"
"You're hardly one for secrets, Saxon. Everyone knows your life story." The Master laughed, rolling his eyes at the absurdity of the idea. His voice dropped to a conspiring whisper and he leaned forwards, reaching to steady himself against the edge of the table.
"Oh, you'll see. You'll see…" Eyes glittering, he laughed again and downed the rest of the glass of the whisky in one gulp. "I'll rule this planet soon – you'll see…" At this, Lord Cole roared with laughter, tears streaming down his flushed cheeks, and the Master joined him.
"You're completely mad, do you know that?" Lord Cole gasped. Abruptly, the Master stopped laughing and slammed his whisky glass down on the table.
"Yes," he whispered. "Oh, yes – I might be mad…but they're there, always there. Just listen. They're coming…here come the drums…" He began to tap the whisky glass on the surface of the table in a repetitive rhythm of four, holding Lord Cole's gaze, waiting for a response. Lord Cole, for his part, appeared completely bewildered. The Master raised a finger, tilting his head as he listened to that familiar beat. "Listen…can't you hear it?"
At that point, the drawing room door creaked open and the Master raised his head to see a butler with Lucy enter the room – no, two Lucys. Two Lucys, who looked from him to her father, red-faced and staring blankly at the Master, who was still erratically tapping against the table with the glass.
"Lucy!" he slurred. "Lucy, my darling…my faithful companion…"
"Oh, father!" Lucy exclaimed, sounding exasperated.
"Not my fault Harry here can't hold his liquor," Lord Cole shrugged indifferently. The Master watched the two Lucys resolve themselves into one as she approached him to remove the glass from his hand. He pouted and made to stand, both hands firmly on the arms of the chair. It took two or three attempts, but eventually, he was on his feet. The whole floor seemed to tilt precariously before his eyes, first one way, and then the other as his hand contacted the chair again.
"Father, do you always have to do this?" he heard Lucy's voice hiss. Her hazy figure became two again, and then four; the butler hurried forwards to support his weight with one arm around his shoulders. Focusing unsteadily on the butler's face, the Master recognized the man and beamed expansively.
"It's you!" he giggled. "That was…that was an excellent sauce you served at dinner. What was it?"
"Ginger and caramelized cane sugar, sir," the butler replied.
"Yes, sir." Some part of the Master's foggy mind brought itself sharply into focus, dredging up half-forgotten lessons from the Academy – spices of the universe and their varied effects on Time Lord physiology. Ginger… In fact, he could even vaguely recall the Doctor mentioning that one to him once. Useful in some circumstances, true – the chemicals of the pungent root would interact with his enzymes to counteract the effects of some toxins…and exacerbate the effects of others.
"I think we should go now," said Lucy with a concerned glance at his face, which had broken out into a sweat.
"But we hadn't finished talking politics!" he protested weakly as the butler assisted him towards the door.
Outside, the chauffeur kept his eyes averted while the butler helped the Master into the car and closed the door behind him. Even after the car began to move, he remained slumped against Lucy, where he slid his arm clumsily around her waist.
It was all a bit of a blur after that. He could recall very little of the drive home, aside from beginning to feel more than a little ill once they reached the main road.
The next morning, he found himself lying on a bed in an apartment owned by Lucy in the centre of London, still fully clothed but minus his shoes and jacket. The curtains were drawn, for which he was very grateful, seeing as his head felt as though a ray of light could have sliced it in half like a hot butter knife. Honestly, he couldn't remember a headache like this since the Rani had dosed him with some sort of experimental concoction back in the Academy. If it weren't for the drums, it might have been bearable – as it was, every tap beat itself against the inside of his skull, the relentless rhythm of four drilling excruciatingly into his brain.
"Oh, shut up…" he groaned, raising his hands painfully to his ears. "Please, just this once…" Merciless as ever, the drums continued, and he slowly propped himself up on his elbows. Lucy had left two aspirin tablets and a glass of water on the bedside table; he brushed the aspirin onto the floor, picked up the glass with a shaking hand and downed the water in a single gulp.
By the time he had made it across the room to the dressing mirror, he more or less had his options weighed. He surveyed his reflection blearily – hair dishevelled, shirt untucked, face that could easily have fit the Earth idiom "death warmed up" – and grimaced. Still, he reassured himself, he had looked worse on more than one encounter with the Doctor.
There could be no denying the meeting with Lucy's father had not gone according to plan. It was only a minor hitch in his long-term schemes, however, and one that could be rectified fairly easily. Early on after meeting Lucy, he had made sure to extract a few snippets of information from her that could prove useful in the future, particularly about her family. He knew that it was more than likely that Lord Cole had finished off the rest of the bottle of whisky after he had left, and probably set into another. If Lord Cole felt anything near as wretched as the Master did this morning, his iron-willed mental barriers would be seriously weakened, which presented the Master with two potential footholds: one being the possibility of implanting a few necessary false memories of the previous evening; the other being to perhaps alter a few existing traits. Hypnotism was a flexible and powerful tool, and what better way to gain Lucy's trust than by removing her father's regrettable habit.
Priorities to consider first, though. Even if he had to kill someone for it, this Time Lord was not furthering his master plan before a large, strong cup of coffee.