I've been reading some Master fics lately and decided I wanted to write one, so this just sort of began in my head and I let it go where it went. I greatly dislike stories where he suddenly becomes sane, so this is quite the opposite. I was pleased to discover that a lot of people thought some of the same things I do about this idea. The end isn't really fulfilling, as an ending to a one-shot goes, but it's almost impossible to change without destroying the idea that I'm trying to put forth.
Set after The End of Time, when the Master gets sucked back into the Time War with Gallifrey and the rest of the Time Lords.
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, though I sincerely wish I did. The Master will always be my darling.
He was asleep.
Rassilon had ordered his immediate imprisonment upon Gallifrey's return to the Time War. It was the last day of the war, but no one had cared. The Time Lords were furious, enraged that someone like the Master, who had been a warrior for their war, would help the being he hated the most in order to send them back into the Hell they had been stuck in. They had all but killed him during the transport to his cell.
Lord President Rassilon had used the power of his glove to reverse the damage that the Master's body had taken. He no longer had to voraciously feed and he could no longer use his life energy as a weapon. None of that would matter to the Time Lord when he awoke though. What mattered was the silence that was now prevalent in his head; he could hear his own thoughts again.
He raised his head from his chest. In a prison somewhere, chained tightly to the wall, without even a window for light. Likely the military prison of the Time Lords. He sniffed the air. No circulation; the air smelled and tasted stale. He felt like a human in this place, chained without hope. Then again, hope was never something he had believed in.
The Master squinted his eyes in the darkness. A form stood at his cell door, voice familiar. The last one he wanted to hear. Rassilon sneered.
"My name is the Master," he rasped. His throat was dry and it throbbed. He was uncertain how long he had been asleep, but his mind was filled with the fact that the hunger and the drums were no longer there.
"You have been asleep for three days, Koschei," Rassilon continued. "I healed your dying body. You should thank me."
The Master laughed and his chains rattled. "Thank you for what? For imprisoning me? Destroying everything I could have been?" The Lord President didn't answer and the Master laughed again, breathing in the dust and debris that clung to his clothes. "I should thank you, Lord President. Really, I should. But I won't."
Rassilon stiffened. "I will return."
"Don't bother," the prisoner spat. The gloved hand clinked against the bars as a goodbye. He slipped back into darkness.
"What is he doing?" Rassilon demanded two hours later, reaching the observation chamber. A guard had just informed him that the Master was now fully conscious, awake and...
"Well, Lord President, he's..." The man paused. "He's drumming."
The lack of hunger didn't bother him.
Not even slightly. Before, it had been used to achieve an end and he relished in the ability to re-dispatch some of the lives he had likely once killed before. The Year That Never Was, that's what the few of them had called it, the ones who could remember. He could see all their memories, when he took over the world. The Master Race.
The humans were so much like the Doctor. Optimistic, kind, irrational. Dark, sad, vengeful. But he had believed him this time. The drums had been real, and he had proved it to the one who needed to hear them the most.
The drums. His drums. He shifted his arm and the chains rattled their protest. His mind was quiet. His anger toward Rassilon was understandable and he still held it. It was his fault that everything had happened in the first place. His fault that he had fled to the end of the universe and aged to an old man. His fault that he had died yet again, and had been held in darkness until Lucy provided him with an escape. Easy excuses to hate the man.
"You did this to me! All of my life!"
The drums were gone now, but the Master saw it as a punishment, not a reward. The drums had always been there, a constant, even if nothing else ever was. All he knew was insanity. Now that he had gotten what he wanted, why did he ever wish for it in the first place?
He had enjoyed his insanity, he thought abruptly. He had laughed and killed and been happy, all because of his drums. They had fed who he was, kept him alive and going. They were his fuel against the Doctor, upon whom he wished nothing but the most sorrowful misery. The familiarity of the drums were preferred to the terrible silence he knew nothing about. That a sound could shape a living being so much was both interesting and terrifying, but a thought deep inside his mind wondered if he would have turned out this way regardless.
He realized it all now, sitting in his dark cell. He wanted his drums. Because although the drums had driven him mad, the silence in his head was far more maddening than he could have ever imagined. There was a void where they used to be, a void even he couldn't fill with thoughts and words. Silence. He hadn't even had silence when he was asleep, the rare times he managed to slip unconscious. The lack of sound was utterly terrifying to him now. It scared him like nothing else ever had. He had to have something to fill the silence, the silence that kept screaming at him.
So he drummed. He shook his chains and rattled them to the beat of four, over and over again. He relished in the noise, the familiarity of the many years they had spent with him. Over and over he hit the chains against each other, against the wall, until the timbre of the sound was most pleasing to him. They echoed everywhere, down the halls of the prison and into every cell. He wasn't sure if there were any other prisoners here, but it was likely. It was their turn now, to be a carrier of the drums. Because the drums brought happiness. They brought a way of life. And most importantly, they brought an end to the wretched silence.