Before Harry met Lucy
Spoilers: post The End of Time, non-canon
Part of Series: Shattered Worlds is part of a series called "A Timelord and his Madman", but can be read as a stand-alone. The series include: (1) His Silent Mind, starting from the events of the End of Time, but with an alternative twist that the 10th Doctor was not forced to regenerate. (2) Judoon Justice. (3) A Murderous Feast. (4) Shattered Worlds. The links to these stories can be found on my author's page, or go to my author's page to find the link to my website for more information.
Versenaberrie was so kind to make some beautiful trailers for this story. You really should check them out. A link can be found on my author's page.
The wipers scratched in unison over the windowscreen while outside, rain trickled down in the dark streets of London. The night's cold was still in the air, and the cabby driver blew into his hands to warm them before putting them back on the wheel. When the traffic light turned green, he drove the cab around the corner into Coventry Street, while on the radio, a sleepy broadcaster tried to inject some much-needed cheerfulness into this gloomy December day.
"Good morning Londoners. It's 4 AM and you're listening to BBC 2 radio. We've got tons of music waiting for you to get you out of your warm comfy bed and into the dreary traffic, but for those early birds who are already up and running, here's another song to bring you into the festive spirit, a golden oldie, Joni Mitchell and "River".
"Joni Mitchell, real classy that is." He muttered, and stared out of the front window. The city center of London had not yet awakened. Its famous streets, which belonged to the bankers, city workers and tourists during the day, were still the domain of the garbage men, lorry drivers, and unholy figures, who preferred to do their business in the dark because it would not bear the light of day. Drazek, the cabbie, could easily be appointed to the last two categories, and he was looking for a client.
It wasn't easy to make a living here on Earth. Not when you're an alien immigrant, who had been forced to leave his poor home planet that was ravaged by ecological disasters with wife and kids. For one thing, the Freedonian body shape had very little resemblance to that of the dominant life form on Earth; the biped, long limbed, slender build mammals that called themselves the human species. The body suites that his wife had made to allow her family to blend in weren't very comfortable. He would love to stretch his 8 tentacles now and then, but he knew from experience that people didn't like to be driven around by an eight-legged, 5 feet tall squid-like Arthropod, and he didn't want to draw too much attention to himself, not now the kids were doing so well at school.
The point was that they weren't exactly legal. The authorities, not the earth authorities of course, but the ones that governed outer space, and those were the worst, knew who he was, and he and his family were tolerated. However, this toleration had a price. It was one of the reasons why he was up before dawn, driving around the abandoned streets around Piccadilly. That was why there were two bottles with dubious content wrapped in a plastic bag next to him on the passenger's seat.
Drazek was content with his day job. It was steady and safe, and when he was initially asked, he wasn't too keen to start messing around again with the old ways. Freedonian mysticism was notorious for its dangerous potions and semi-magical rituals that were bound to set your house on fire or turn your wife into a chicken, byaccident. However, when THEY called in the middle of the night and asked you for a favor, you couldn't say no. Not in the difficult position he was in.
Actually, he better showed up on time with the merchandise.
He passed by the National Gallery, and noticed the big billboard signs advertising the up and coming exposition on romantic art. Visit the private collection of Lord Maximillianus Cole, it read, more than 150 artworks based on the famous works of William Shakespeare. A special Christmas event, sponsored by the Infinity Corporation UK.
"Classy. Must remember that one." Drazek mumbled. The tourists would love to tip a little extra to see to that sort of thing. It was what they came to England for. A bit of art and a bit of theater. Honestly, you wouldn't come here for the bloody food.
At the big square, he turned the cab around again and finally saw a lonely figure standing in front of the Anteros fountain. She was dressed in a white raincoat, and held a blood-red umbrella up against the steady drizzle of rain. Drazek parked his cab close-by, and stepped out, taking the plastic bag with the bottles with him.
"So." He said, eyeing her from top to heels. He didn't expect that they would send a proper human to do the business. If it wasn't for the red umbrella that they had agreed on to use as a secret mark, he would have still been looking for a bulky 3 feet tall Judoon officer who had been fitted into an uneasy undercover shimmer.
"So, they're sending a little lady this time. That's real classy." He took out his package of cigarettes. "Mind if I smoke? I've got a 12-hour shift coming up. Need my nicotine fix to stay awake."
"Did you bring it?" She asked, cutting right to the chase and sounding not very friendly. Drazek wasn't impressed. He had been around bossier women. Now and then he did have to go home and face Mrs. Drazek. He took a long drag from his cigarette and showed her the plastic bag.
"Two potions. As ordered." He said, blowing out a chimney worth of smoke.
"Right, hand them over to me."
"They told me that I would get paid for this."
She rolled her eyes. If she wasn't so bloody rude, she could have been pretty, he thought. Going through her handbag, she fished out a wad of banknotes and waved it at him.
"The potions." She demanded.
He handed her the bag. She took it and immediately started to inspect the content.
"Which one is which?"
"The Red one is to wake him up. Or it up. I'm not sure how to categorize something like that. The only thing that I know for sure, is that once it's awake, you better get the bloody hell out of the way." He grinned. Oh there was no doubt in his mind that their plan was absolutely moronic.
"It's not your business." She remarked, as if she was reading his thoughts. "What about the green potion?"
"Makes him forget." He replied, blowing smoke through his nostrils. "I must warn you. Don't try anything out on yourself. The dose is just enough to wipe out the short-term memory of a Timelord, but what's in that little bottle is more than enough to turn a whole busload of humans prematurely dement. It's 70% concentrated extract of the black Judas tree, not some cough syrup from the pharmacist. So be careful."
"So it's strong. I got that." She answered with irritation in her voice. "For the record, I have no intention on trying it out on myself."
"Are you sure?" He gave her a sly smile. "Maybe just a drop? After the foul deed is done? Not that I judge you or any of my sponsors. It's just like what they say. Fair is foul and foul is fair, to quote the old poet." He grinned.
She stared back at him with a look that could turn a man into stone. "How do I use the potions?"
Drazek leaned back against the side of his cab and sucked in the air through the stump of his cigarette till the tip glowed brightly orange.
"Air." His voice dropped to a low whisper. "Let it inhale the red potion. The green one, he has to drink. You can decide in which order, but I would guess red first, then the green." He threw the cigarette bud on the ground and stamped it out. "Now, can I get paid?"
She tossed him the wad of banknotes, which he caught and pocketed away immediately. He could count them later. One thing good could be said about these bloody space pigs, they were at least reliable. His contact had already turned around and was walking away from him when he shouted after her, for no other reason than that he was still a cabby driver and curiosity was part of the job description.
"Is it true what they say about him?" He asked. "About the Doctor?"
For moment, it seemed like she was not going to respond, but then she slowed down, hesitated for a moment, and finally, turned back.
"What do yourillegal alien friends say about him?" She asked, giving him a warning.
The cab driver put his hands inside his pocket and grinned.
"That he is a changed man. They say that this planet is up for grabs because he no longer cares. Because he's too busy running with the devil."
"That's a lie!" The fierceness of her response only broadened Drazek's grin.
"Thought so." He admitted, although it was obvious that he didn't believe her at all. If everything was as it should be, they wouldn't have to contact him, and she wouldn't need the potions. "Well." He headed back to his car. "It's been nice doing business with you. I'll be off. The best of luck. Oh and if the Shadow Proclamation needs anything else in the future…"
But River Song was no longer listening. She held the bag with the bottles tightly in a white knuckled grip, and crossed the streets in determined strides. That Freedonian muck head was wrong about the Doctor. He would never abandon this planet and its people. He loved them too much. But it didn't mean that someone as noble, brilliant and kindhearted as the Doctor could not be corrupted. It didn't mean that he wasn't in great, great danger. Reaching the other side of the road, she rummaged through her handbag and took out her transporter to get her back to the ship.
It was about time that someone removed the devil from the good Doctor's side.
He was running with the Doctor.
It was thrilling, with all of his survival instincts screaming for more. Each step an exciting exercise. Never boring. Well, there had been moments of course, for example when the Doctor was wasting his life on his worthless hobby of cataloging black holes, and other moments when he was just bored out of mind when his fellow Timelord was spewing gibberish with no end and he had to stop listening to protect himself from severe and irreversible brain-damage, but not now.
Absolutely not now.
An arrow shot by, passing over his head only with the length of eyelash, followed by a curse in 16th century French uttered closely behind. A quick look at each other and both Timelords speeded up, knowing that a rather painful death was chasing them on the heels.
"These people are taking this way too serious." The Master breathed. He was grinning, and much to the Doctor's irritation, enjoying himself immensely.
"This is France! Of course they take it serious! Are you ever going to give it back to them! They are about to turn us into pincushions." The Doctor eyed accusingly at him and the small vat he was carrying. "I don't care that 1578 was a most excellent vintage year. No matter how good this stuff is, it's not worth of getting your backside stuffed with arrows for."
"Not in a million light-years." Came the reply from the Master as he tapped on the wooden vat. " I won it fair and square."
"You didn't pay for it. They aren't calling us stealing English dogs for nothing you know."
"Well how would I know that you're dirt poor and didn't have anymore money on you?" The Master responded annoyingly. A threatening shadow flew over their heads. "Dive!" He warned.
They bowed just in time before another flight of arrows hit the cobbles in front of their feet. They leaped over them at the very last moment. Straightly ahead, the street split into two.
"This way!" Both said authoritatively, and each of them turned the opposite corner, leaving their followers in confusion to decide which Timelord to chase. Finally the mob split up, with the more menacing men heading after the one who had stolen their vat of priceless Premier Cru wine with raised pitchforks and loaded crossbows.
The Master shot a glance back, making sure that they were still following him, before he vanished into a shadowy side street. He ran down the public staircase till he reached the stables next to the town's only auberge. The two Timelords had been staying in the 16th century Saint Emilion for only two days and already, he was starting to get bored. It was about time that they left this one-horse joke of a town, but getting back to the Tardis might be a problem if the locals keep screaming for your blood.
TimeforplanB, the Master thought. He turned another corner, his feet half slipping over the white limestone cobbles. He really needed a better pair of shoes. The old trainers the Doctor had given him were starting to get worn down, and honestly, they looked like a pair of hobo shoes.
He ran into the stables, knowing exactly what he was doing, and found what he was looking for kept in the horse pen at the back.
"Greetings my four-legged noble friend." He said with a big toothy grin. "Remember me?"
The humongous black stallion inside the pen turned his head sideways and looked down at Master. Recognizing him, he snorted, and widened his nostrils while he lifted his upper lip. If a horse could hiss angrily like a cat, this was probably how it would look like.
"So you do remember me. No hard feelings I hope?"
You have to know that there had been this little "accident" on the very first night they arrived in this sleepy French town. The Doctor and the Master had supper in the auberge, when some of the locals started telling them tall tales about this horse named Black Satan, who was so wild and mad that no-one in the whole region of Bordeaux could possible ride it. The Master, encouraged by the constant flow of reasonable consumable wine, had in perfect 16th century French informed them that he was a skilled horseman, and bragged that no horse, however wild, could throw him off. An enthusiastic bet followed under much protest of the Doctor, which was completely ignored by the Master because he was too confident and too drunk to listen to his companion's nagging. After the bets were fixed, they had all ventured outside to see how the stranger was going to make a total fool of himself. One look at the monster horse that the locals bought to him, and the Master was fiercely regretting his words. He still managed to climb on Black Satan's back while the rearing animal was held down by a tangle of ropes and four bulky farmers. It was then that the Master finally realized that he was sure to crack his head open on the pavement once the mad creature was released. In a fit of slight panic, he decided to hypnotize the horse and make the bloody thing stand still for a minute or two, so he could cash in his bet and get the hell off. He hadn't hypnotized anything for some time now, and he was a bit rusty in practice. He had also never tried it on a horse before. The result was quite disastrous. The fiery steed turned to a board of wood instantly, tipping to his side with his four legs stiff in the air. The Master just managed to jump off in time before being flattened. Needless to say, the incidence didn't go down well with the locals. It didn't go down well with the monster horse either, who responded to the Master's sudden presence in his stable by slamming his head against the pen like a maddened bull.
"Ah, how sweet." The Master cooed. "You're just too pleased to see me again. And they say horses don't make affectionate pets."
Angry voices came form outside the stable. One of the French farmers looked inside, spotted him, and alarmed the rest of the mob. The Master waited till the raging steed backed away a little before he unlocked the pen and threw the wooden barrier wide open. Somewhere inside Black Satin's mad horse brains, the sight of a straight open road without serious obstacles (he was sure that those soft human farmers could easily be trampled) automatically activated the springs in his legs. He reared up, whining threateningly, which gave the Master enough time to move out of the creature's way to the back while the horse scared the wit out of the angry Frenchmen. The Master grinned. With one slap on the horse's backside, he released the steed from hell, setting him onto the townsmen. The mob dispatched like a flock of headless chickens, running for dear life, as Satan headed for the exit in one mad bolt for freedom.
The rest of the journey back to the Tardis was surprisingly uneventful. When the Master strolled down leisurely through the northern town's gate and saw the Doctor standing next to the Tardis with his arms crossed, waiting worriedly for him with a strict expression on his face, he simply returned a broad grin and held up the vat of wine in triumph.
"Told you I was going to keep this." Coming closer, he noticed the horrible state the Doctor was in. "Why on Gallifrey are you completely covered in this dreadful slime?" He asked, raising his eyebrows.
"I had to jump in the nearby river to get rid of them." The Doctor explained, rather sourly. The Master sniffed and wrinkled up his sensitive nose.
"I know I know. Don't tell me. I smell like dog wee." The Doctor sighed. "It's like an open drain down there. But…hang on, where is your angry mob?"
"I honestly don't know." The Master relied innocently. "Perhaps eaten by a horse?" As he lowered the vat, an arrow shot out of nowhere and pierced right through the lid. The Master shot an angry look over his shoulder. "Hey! You IDOT! Careful with that! That's priceless first label wine you're messing with!"
They answered him with a second onslaught of arrows and stones, propelled mainly at his head. The Doctor rushed inside, quickly followed by the Master, with the locals in hot pursuit. Just when they thought that they were safe and the Master was about to shut the door behind him, a hail of stones coming from a slingshot was projected through the opening and smashed into the back of the vat, puncturing a web of holes.
The Master looked absolutely appalled as the wine poured out the many holes and spilled all over the floor.
Hands started to stick out from the side of the door as the angry mob was trying to force its way in.
"What? What are you doing?" The Doctor shouted and ran right back to ram his shoulder against the wooden panel. "Lock the bloody door! They're getting in!"
"I'm busy!" The Master shouted back, and pressed his hands on the punctures, trying desperately to stop the spill.
"Right." The Doctor wheeled around and with the last of his strength, managed to give a good shove. The angry farmers, worried about loosing their fingers, pulled back their hands and the Doctor finally succeeded to shut the door entirely. Quickly, he turned the lock.
Finally. Safe at last.
He sank through his knees, exhausted and panting like an overheated dog.
"Curses!" The Master hissed in frustration. It was no use. The liquid kept seeping through his fingers and draining out the completely sieved canister. "Get a bowl! A bottle! A teapot, anything! There's almost nothing left!"
The Doctor just glared at him. He then slowly got up, took the vat from the other Timelord's hands, dropped it, and kicked it as far away from him as possible.
"That…was completely unnecessary." The Master replied in a strangely calm and polite voice.
Something snapped inside the Doctor and suddenly, the blank expression on his face made way for something so sinister that it actually frightened the Master a little.
"OH believe me...THAT!" The Doctor pointed out, standing on the tip of his toes as he loomed over the Master. "WAS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!"
"Well. You don't need to shout like that. Good grieve Doctor, it's just a barrel of wine." The Master replied, staring back at him with a puzzled look on his face. He weaseled himself out of his cornered position and headed for the helical staircase.
"Would you terribly mind if I select some new clothes from your wardrobe?" He asked as if the Doctor wasn't completely boiling over in anger. "I think I spilled something on my coat." He gave him the sweetest of smiles before he vanished into the upstairs chambers, leaving the Doctor to press his lips together and smash his head against the railing to get rid of his frustrations.
Three hours later, and the Doctor's wardrobe looked like it had been hit by a mini tornado. The Master stood in front of the mirror admiring his reflection. He was surrounded by piles of crumbled-up clothes that had been taken out of the closet and thrown carelessly over the floor. Although far from perfect, he was reasonable content with the current ensemble that he had chosen. The old outfit really had to go. The Doctor had picked it out for him in the early days of his recovery, and was composed of the sort of sensible clothing that your mum would have chosen for you to make you the laughing stock of the playground. A wind-tight jacket, sturdy jeans, wooly hat and mittens, that sort of thing. He even gave him his best pair of running sneakers, in case he got into trouble and needed to bolt (which had happened quite often). It was of course, all done with the best of intentions, but unfortunately, it came from a man who once thought that a stick of celery was a brilliant fashion accessory. Honestly, none of the Doctor's regenerations ever had any sophisticated taste, hence the current eccentric hobo-look that the Doctor now carried with a misplaced sense of pride. The awful long coat and white trainers combination was enough to make the Master wince. If he wanted to run around looking like the village idiot with all the sophistication of a boiled potato, that was fine, as long as he didn't expect the same from him. The Master preferred a touch more class.
"Are you still admiring yourself in that mirror?" Came the question from the Doctor who was standing next to the staircase, below in the console room. "How long is this going to take? And didn't the mirror crack yet?" He added in annoyance.
"Patience is a most valuable virtue, Doctor." The Master mumbled, and flashed a charming smile and a wink at himself before he reappeared at the top of the staircase in his showy new outfit. "I feel like a man reborn." He said as he headed down the stairs while readjusting his silver cufflinks.
The Doctor stared at him with raised eyebrows. In his black suit with subtle dark-blue stripes, his flashy deep purple tie, crisp white shirt, and long black coat, he looked like a 21st century dandy on the prowl.
The Doctor crossed his arms. "Where are the sneakers I've given you?" Eying down at the shoes the Master was currently wearing. They were Italian leather, expensive, and polished so obsessively that they actually glowed. "You can't run on those. What if you get into trouble, again?"
"Well, I still have you, don't I?" He cracked a smile and winked at him. "So where are we going? 16th century Saint Emilion didn't exactly work out. Your Tardis must be getting demented."
"Oh don't start. You set out the course to track down the Alfa-Omega symbol in time and space, and that's just exactly what she did. She couldn't know that the same emblem was used by the order of 16th century Saint Emilion winemakers."
"At least I had a somewhat enjoyable time. What about you Doctor?" He smiled charmingly at him. "Who would have thought that the locals take the auction at the yearly wine-harvest festival in such high regard. It was a shame that I didn't get to keep my souvenir though. It would have been marvelous with some good ripe cheese and a lick of fig confit." He said, while doing a disturbing imitation of a well-known cannibalistic psychopath by sucking in air between his teeth.
The Doctor just sighed. Yet another day traveling with the Master. Yet another near-deathandbeingchasedoutofthevillagebyanangrymob experience. In the end, you got used to it. And of course his companion wasn't the least concerned about anything. Why should he? He got the Doctor, who was crazy enough to take care of him and clean the up mess behind his backside like some nanny looking after an overactive toddler. He just dreaded to think how the changing room might now look like after the Master was finished with it. Sometimes he really did feel like he was tilting at windmills.
A pair of hands clapped shut in front of his face. "Hey." The Master said, looking him in the eyes. "Stop daydreaming Gladys. We're still caught in an exciting pursuit of that sinister Infinity Corporation that kidnapped Rachel, remember? So let's show some initiative here."
The Doctor blinked his eyes tiredly. If only the Master could control himself. If only he wasn't a borderline autistic sociopath who had the wits of a genius but the maturity of a six year old, the Doctor's life could be so much better.
"We're going where the Tardis leads us next." The Doctor replied instead. "Only this time, we make sure that the symbol is linked the Infinity Corporation. That should rule out any funny wine-business." He pulled the lever down and sent the Tardis spinning into the vortex.
They landed in Oxford Street, right next to a phone booth. It was around six in the early evening, almost Christmas time, judging by the decoration in the windows of the high street shops. It was all artificial snow, Red-nosed Rudolfs, glitter Santas and Christmas trees. The air was frosty, and the Doctor pulled up his collar as he admired the cheerful lights that hung across the entire street.
"Oh this is absolutely wonderful!" He cheered with boyish joy. "I love this time of year. It's a good time to come back to London in the 21st century. I love Victorian Christmases, but you do miss the lights and the shops and oh! Those silly little Santa dolls that jiggle and dance when you whistle."
They just passed by a whole lot of them, sold in a stand in front of a department store. The Doctor grinned, eyes wide in anticipation, and wet his lips, but before he could produce a whistle, the Master pinched his lips shut between two gloved fingers. "Oh no. Let's not do that." He remarked dryly, and pulled him away.
"What's wrong with dancing Santas?" The Doctor asked after he was released and had covered a safe distance.
"Everything." The Master replied. "They are the stuff of nightmares." He stuck his hands deep inside his pockets. These fancy leather gloves aren't actually well isolated. He hated to admit it, but he actually missed his wooly mittens. "The idea that some fat git wanders around on your roof in the middle of the night and is trying to break into your property is just ridiculous. You are even supposed to encourage this kind of behavior with an offering of milk and cookies. If I tried anything like that I would be shot."
"Well there is a slight difference between you and grandfather Christmas of course." The Doctor said with a cheeky smile.
"I was trying to make a point. These Earthlings are teaching their kids to believe in benevolent fairytale creatures, deluding and coloring their world with sweet candy colored lenses, while instead, they should have warned them about the real dangers in life, educate them how cruel this world can be and teach them not to be so incredible stupid."
"Blimey, what a delightful father you would make." The Doctor muttered as they made their way through the crowd to Piccadilly Circus.
"It's just common sense, Doctor. Think of Rachel, her parents didn't tell her much about the Nazis. They tried to shield their daughter from the evil of men, perhaps they did it out of love, but in the end, if it weren't for us, she wouldn't have made it. If this world is as bad as you and I know it is, you better prepare your children how to face that evil, instead of wasting their time and teaching them decency, morals and respect, while they're better off if they knew how to be devious, vicious and relentless."
They crossed the busy road, running over to the other side in front of a loaded double-decker bus. "Anyway, where are we going?" The Master asked after he was finally finished with his bitter monologue.
"The National Gallery." The Doctor answered, and picked up a free newspaper from a freezing teenager who was distributing them near the metro station exit. "It's all over the front page." He showed it to the Master as they leaped up the stairs.
"The date is December the 14th 2004. Good year." The Doctor muttered, shortly remembering what he'd been up to at the time. "New exposition showing the neo-romantic works of 18th century art inspired by the writings of the great Poet. A must see event sponsored by the Infinity Corporation UK." He read aloud. "This festive season, take your kids and come and visit the magical fairy tale worlds of the greatest stories ever told." The Doctor grinned, folded the paper and handed it over to the Master.
"Oh look at that, fairy tales and kids. Must be right up your alley then." He said sharply, and went inside through the glass door entrance. The Master, who gruntingly put the folded paper inside the pocket of his long black coat, followed him.
"We're here for the special exposition." The Doctor told the woman behind the ticket counter.
"I'm sorry sir, but the exposition is not open for public yet." She said, smiling apolitically at him. "It starts the 15th of December, which is tomorrow. If you like, I could pre-order two tickets for you."
"There are people going inside the exposition hall." The Master remarked, noticing the long line of well-dressed men and women in the lobby waiting to show their ID pass to a museum attendant before they disappearing inside a secluded area. The signs above the entrance clearly stated that it was for the special Shakespeare collection. "Why are they allowed in?" He asked the ticket lady. He observed her for a short moment, and then gave a little sight before he grabbed the Doctor's wallet out of his long coat.
"Hey! That's mine!" The Doctor objected.
"How much extra do we have to pay you to get in?" The Master asked, counting out the banknotes on the counter.
"Nothing sir." She responded, rather shocked by the offering. "We don't do things like that. It's against museum policy."
"Give that back!" The Doctor snatched the wallet from him, and folded the notes away. "Stop threatening her with money. We're in London, England, 21st century, which means that there are rules and regulations, and bribery is out of the question."
"Don't be absurd, of course it isn't. How do you think those fat cats get in?"
"Well, they received an invitation for the opening party of course." The lady behind the counter explained. "Most of them are art lovers, or are friends of Lord Cole who owns the private collection. Some of them might have donated money to the Gallery, but I can assure you sir, we didn't take any brides." She added seriously.
"Told you." The Doctor said, and exchanged his wallet for the slightly psychic paper. "I am so sorry. I forgot to mention this, but we do have an invitation. We're from the sponsors, Infinity corporation UK? I'm doctor John Smith and this is my friend –"
"Colleague." The Master mumbled.
"I mean colleague." The Doctor corrected, and raised his brows.
"The name is Harold Saxon." The Master added with a charming smile.
"Oh, why didn't you say so immediately?" The worries cleared up from the ticket lady's face after she checked out the invitation letter held in front of her nose. "Let me print out the ID cards for you. Here you go, show that to security and they will let you in."
"Yes, brilliant." The Doctor mumbled, only loud enough for the Master to hear. "Introduce yourself as the would-be psychopathic prime minister of England. You must be dying to get into trouble."
"There is nothing wrong with a bit of danger. It makes life more thrilling and traveling with you less dull, Doctor." The Master smirked as he took the ID passes from the counter. "Besides, I like Harold Saxon. It's a good name."
"It has the sound of a popular grease politician all over it." The Doctor muttered.
The Master smiled as if he was actually flattered by the snide remark. "Exactly." He told him.
Inside the exposition hall, the party was already in full swing. Elegantly dressed women and men in gray suits and dinner jackets mingled with the more eccentrically dressed art experts and Shakespeare scholars. Groups of people were standing around the paintings, involved in heavy discussions on the use of color and light by the scrutinized artist. It surprised the Master how much verbal drivel people could produce about this sort of thing. He grabbed a drink from a passing waiter's tray and looked around, searching for someone interesting to talk to. Preferably a woman and mind-boggling gorgeous. His eyes settled on a brunette in a stunning green cocktail dress that hugged her curves like a second skin. The Doctor meanwhile, had been talking nonsense to him ever since they got in, and was currently very busy lecturing on the pros and cons of serving hors d'oeuvres on little cocktail picks. Thank Gallifrey, now that he had traveled with the Doctor for while, he had learned when to stop listening to him to protect his brains from turning into mush.
"Let's mingle, shall we?" He told his Timelord companion, and got rid of the empty glass on a passing tray before he headed off.
"Yes, you do that." The Doctor said, as he watched how the Master charmed his way into a conversation with a dashing brunette. "Never mind me." He muttered, and noticed not without irritation, how the Master already put his hand on the small of the woman's back as he coaxed her away from the artworks and towards the closest bar.
He frowned and looked down at the little pork sausage that was skewered on a green plastic pick. "Why do people keep doing that?" He muttered to himself, not realizing that he actually sounded sour. Really, don't they realize how much extra waste this would produce? Not to mention the potential choking hazard. It may sound ridiculous, but people do become careless after a couple of drinks, especially at a party.
"Excuse me sir, but is there something wrong with the sausages?"
The Doctor gazed up. A tall, middle-aged man in his late fifties stood in front of him. His face was long and lean, and he had combed his thinning hair to the side. He was dressed like upper class gentry, and from the haughty look on his face and the way he held up his thin nose in the air, he probably was.
"No of course not." The Doctor answered. "Well there is this matter of these wasteful cocktail picks, but I rather not bore you with that." They shook hands. "The name is doctor John Smith." The Doctor introduced himself.
"Lord Maximillianus Cole."
"Lord Cole." The Doctor repeated, as the name immediately rang a bell. "Lord Maximillianus Cole, oh but it's you isn't it? In the papers and on the billboards outside. This is your private collection."
"Call me Max, no-one ever calls me Maximillianus. It's a rather long name and people tend to spell it wrong in the most hysterical ways. I don't believe we've ever met before?"
"Oh, no, Lord Cole. I mean Max. I'm from the sponsors. The Infinity Corporation?" He flashed his psychic paper at him. "The company had tickets left. My colleague and I are art lovers so they let us come."
"That's just a plain sheet of paper." Lord Cole noted.
"Pardon?" The Doctor said. There were only a couple of people in the whole history of the human race who couldn't be fooled by the psychic paper trick, and running into one of the scarce few still left the Doctor bit gob-smacked every time, but he quickly composed himself and examined his gadget with a scrutinizing look. "Oh but you're absolutely right. I'm sorry, must have left the invitation letter at home. I showed you my grocery's list by accident. Didn't need anything, apparently. I didn't forget to bring the ID passes with me though." He showed it to lord Cole.
"Yes, your ID pass does state that you're dr. John Smith." Max mumbled, lifting his glasses. "I'm sorry, I didn't expect the sponsors to send so many people. There was already a whole group of you gents here this afternoon." Lord Cole apologized, but the frown was still there on his face. "All right then. Tell me, what do you think doctor?"
"Of the paintings of course. Actually, I didn't care much about the sausages. The food that's being served here isn't exactly five stars. People come here to admire the artworks. So what do you think of my collection?" He asked, giving the Doctor a look as to say that he should be careful in stating his opinion.
"Er, marvelous, splendid. Very…colorful?" It wasn't that the Doctor didn't know anything about art. Au contrary, he once went into apprenticeship of the great Michelangelo himself and could chisel out a fine statue out of a lump of formless marble anytime, but he didn't had enough time to look around yet. He had been too busy with the nibbles to form a decent articulate thought about the 18th century artworks. "I like the er…shapes. Yep. Very artful." He nodded.
Lord Cole just stared at him with an expression that could bring out the early frost. "You don't have any opinions about them at all, don't you?"
The Doctor grinned sourly. "Not the slightest idea." He admitted, a tad embarrassed. Unlike his current companion, the Doctor was a rubbish liar at best, but there was something about this man, the way he looked at you with a mix of anticipated disappointment and fatherly strictness, that made him realize that keeping pretence was just pointless.
"Oh." Lord Cole's face warped from disdainful into something that might be described as somewhat pleased. "That's perfect!"
"I beg you pardon?"
"I don't like people to look at my paintings with a certain preconception about what they want see." Lord Cole pointed out. "All those horrid art scholar types that come to these sort of parties to spew their fixed ideas of how everything should be interpreted. I tell you, it's stiffening, kills the enjoyment of looking at something beautiful by analyzing it to death. You sir, have the right attitude. And I'm glad that I've finally met someone on this boring party that doesn't start to lecture me on my own collection as soon as I introduce myself."
"Well, It's a pleasure." The Doctor answered, a bit baffled. "I suppose."
"Sod those little sausages. Let me fetch you a drink." Lord Cole told him as he guided the Doctor to the nearby bar. "After that I'll show you the most prized beauties of my collection, and than we'll have a proper talk about art."
After lord Cole got a large whiskey for himself and a Shirley Temple for the Doctor, they made their way through the gallery at a leisurely pace. Lord Cole showed him his favorite pieces, an angelic scene at the river where a fragile Ophelia sits on a rock and stares woefully into the distance, her father murdered, and by her sweet prince Hamlet forsaken. Then a painting that showed the proud and ambitious lady Macbeth, holding up dead king Duncan's crown for her husband like an archbishop would hold up the king's crown for coronation. The beautiful but fierce Titania, after she's been tricked by Buck's pink love potion, cuddling up against her ridiculous donkey lover Bottom as she lay dreaming in the fairy woods on a soft bed of willow boughs and underbrush leaves. But there was one painting that stood out amongst the others, not for its beauty or its craftsmanship, but for the fact that the Doctor couldn't associate it with any work of the great Bard. It hung in the largest of the five exposition rooms, and dominated the wall right opposite of the entrance. It was a portrait of what was possibly the most frightening entity that a man could encounter, and no one, who passed by in the gallery, could not be intimidated by it.
"Oh, that's very life-like." The Doctor muttered, gazing up at the 2-meter tall portrait of Death itself. "Not that I know how he's supposed to look like. To me, death always sort of happens, rather inconveniently, usually at the most rotten times, but…I suppose if he had a real physical form, this is how people would see him." He stared at the tall hooded figure. The skull that grinned without mirth, and the soulless gaze that regarded each man as equal in the knowledge that all life was only transient. His trusted scythe kept by his side, ready to cut through the thin threads of life.
"Impressive, isn't he?" Lord Cole took a good swig from his glass. Although he owned the painting and must have seen it at least hundreds of times before, he still appeared to be a bit unnerved by it. The Doctor didn't blame him. The dark figure in the painting was also giving him the shivers just by looking at it. It evoked something primal in the observer, and instinctively, you knew that you should be afraid.
"I call him Mr. Bones." Lord Cole joked mirthlessly, like a man facing a deadly disease.
"He could be the stuff of nightmares really. Why is this painting in your collection lord Cole? I'm sorry for being rude, but it has nothing to with Shakespeare."
"Ah doctor, that's not true, is it? Of course he plays a role in his works. Actually he didn't write any play without it. Well not the tragedies anyway, I never liked the silly comedies he wrote. But the tragedies, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, and let's not forget Titus Andronicus, all of them ending in murders or suicides, a blood-drenched dagger, a poisonous drink, deaths, deaths and more deaths. If anything, Mr. Bones here is practically a reoccurring character, a constant factor and a focal point around which all Shakespeare's stories evolve. Why, you could even say that Death, in many ways, was the real lead-actor in all of his great works."
"The eternal dark shadow of men who stays in the wings." The Doctor said pensively. "- waiting for you when the final curtains falls."
"That's very elegantly put." Lord Cole said. "But you're right. It's kind of intimidating. My dear wife never liked it. She forbade me to display it anywhere in the house. I had to keep it in storage for all these years. Of course, now that she has passed away, I can do with it what I bloody well like." It was difficult to cut through the sarcasm and catch the sadness in his voice, but the Doctor was a very good listener. "Are you married, Doctor?" Lord Cole asked him to take his mind off his late wife.
"No I don't know that kind of pleasure, sir."
"A girlfriend perhaps? You look like a man who needs a life's companion by his side."
"Well, er, I am currently traveling with a sort of companion, a friend."
"A male friend?" Lord Cole lifted a brow. You could actually see him thinking.
"Well, he's not that sort of friend. I'm not that sort of friend. We're more like friend-friends, buddies, flatmates, that sort of things." The Doctor driveled, feeling very awkward now. "He's that colleague I mentioned before."
"Does he know as much about art as you do?" Lord Cole said, amused. For the first time since the Doctor met him this evening, the corners of his lips were curved upwards instead of down.
"I should look for him." The Doctor opted, changing the subject. "I haven't seen him for a while. Let me introduce him to you."
The Master had not made it far yet from the bar. He was still chatting with the brunette in the green dress, and was, judging by the location of his hand, which was obscenely close to her bosom, making quite some progress. Just when the Master was leaning towards the girl, and was about to kiss her full on the lips, the Doctor inched between the two early lovebirds and interrupted them.
"Ah Master, there you are. I was just having a wonderful conversation with our host about the paintings."
"I was about to indulge myself in this most gorgeous girl. Would you mind leaving me at it?" The Master told him reproachfully.
"Harry? Who is your friend?" The pouty brunette asked, hanging on his arm and eying hungrily at the tall handsome stranger.
"He's not a friend. He's more of a colleague." The Master answered, noticing the look on her face. "And don't you even think about it." He added strictly. "He snores like a bagpipe and he has the most aggravating habit of warming his freezing feet against your back." Remembering the narrow bed that they had shared in Saint Emilion with a slight shudder.
"I thought you said he was your life's companion?" Lord Cole asked skeptically.
"What?" The Master said. Oh this was rich! He raised his eyebrows in amused astonishment, turning around quickly.
"I didn't!" The Doctor threw his hands up in defense. "I really didn't. I said you were a friend of mine. A travel friend." He tried to prevent ridicule from the Master. "An annoying, lustful idiot of a friend, but nevertheless a friend."
Lord Cole gave the Master a sturdy handshake. "I'm Lord Maximillianus Cole, pleased to meet you mister - ?"
The Master seemed to have lost his tongue. He just kept opening and shutting his mouth, like he was a goldfish in a very dirty oxygen deprived fishbowl.
"Er, his name is Harold Saxon." The Doctor replied for him. "I'm sorry, he's a bit autistic. His brains could shut down just like that when it comes to straining his poor social skills."
"Really?" The brunette cooed. "Oh, my poor, poor little Harry! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Probably because I didn't know I had it in the first place." The Master grumbled.
"Well they never know it for themselves, do they? Still, you should see him at the blackjack table." The Doctor joked, gaining a not very subtle elbow in his back from the pissed off Master.
"Ah, I see some old friends arriving." Lord Cole said, doing very little to make it sound less like an excuse. "I think I pop over to say hi. It's been very interesting to meet you doctor Smith, and you sir." His grey eyes rested on the Master for a while, and narrowed a little. The Master was strangely nervous till the elderly man turned back to the Doctor. "I wish you both a good evening." He said with a slight nod.
There was a visible relief on the Master's face after lord Cole left. He grabbed the Doctor by the labels of his coat. "We're leaving this party, NOW!" He told him forcefully. He let go of his baffled fellow Timelord and headed for the exit.
"Hey, were are you going? I thought you were going to stay over at my place?" The girl asked, tip-tapping after him on her high stiletto heels. "Hey! You can't just leave. Is this because you're autistic? It doesn't matter! I really don't mind!"
The Master wheeled around and pressed a kiss on her lips. Waste not, want not. He thought. Then he turned to Doctor. "Are you coming or not? Because in case you forgot, you removed the biolock last week, so I don't need you to fly the Tardis."
"You don't have the keys to ge-" The Doctor stopped midsentence and patted down his pockets. Obviously, they were not there anymore. The Master was getting alarmingly good at pick pocketing lately. Annoyed, the Doctor looked up, only to find that the Master had already marched out of the gallery. He grunted and followed him.
"Tell him to call me!" The brunette called longingly after him, before she remembered that she forgot to give him her number.
"What was that all about?" The Doctor asked when they were back inside the Tardis. "You were running away like you've seen a ghost. Sure that girl was a bit clingy, and she clearly seems to have serious problems with men judging by her poor taste for this evening, but generally, she was harmless."
"I didn't run away because of her, you idiot. Don't you know who that was you were talking to?" The Master said anxiously.
"Who? Lord Maximillianus Cole? He owns all the artworks in this exposition. Quite an eccentric man. He has one really strange painting that is so incredibly creepy that you wouldn't even belie-"
"Lord Cole, Lord Maximillianus Cole." The Master repeated.
"Yes. I told you that, what's wrong with it?" The Doctor asked, getting irritated.
"Lord Maximillianus Cole, who prefers to be called Max, because people cannot ever spell it right."
"He does prefer to be called-"" The Doctor wrinkled his brows. "Wait a minute, I didn't tell you this. How did you know?"
The Master swallowed. "Because he told me, when I was dating his darling daughter."
The Doctor's face went a little pale when he realized what the Master was telling him. "Lord Cole is Lucy Cole's father." He muttered, and winced as if he had swallowed a lemon.
"And you just introduced me as Harold Saxon to my future father-in-law who wasn't supposed to meet me until about what? Three years from now?"
For a moment, the Doctor repeated the Master's goldfish in a dirty bowl impression. "We should leave." He replied, sternly.
"Definitely." The Master concurred, and both bolted to the console.
The Doctor was just starting up the Tardis engines when the Master, getting too hot to be comfortable, removed his long coat. When he draped it over the railing, the newspaper fell out. Just by accident, he got a look at it.
The headlines had changed.
"Doctor, wait." He picked up the newspaper and began to screen over the front-page. His eyes went wide with horror.
"What? What is it?"
The Doctor grabbed the paper from the frozen Master's hands. It read:
One dead in mysterious family drama. London. UK. Police began investigations after a young member of the prominent Cole family was found dead under mysterious circumstances in their estate. With little details known so far, the police reported that the family's butler, mister Peeves, returned after a short family visit to find Lord Maximillianus Cole's only daughter Lucinda Cole, aged 24 deceased without any visible injuries. The coroner's further report ruled out poisoning. There were also no traces of a break-in, the spokes man added.
"Oh this is bad." The Doctor muttered, feeling the hairs at the back of his neck rise. "Really bad. Whatever is happening now inside that museum, it is altering the time stream. This paper is showing us what could happen if we let it take it course. If we don't interfere now -"
"Lucy's going to die." The Master whispered with a far away look on his face.
"We have to stop this. Whatever it is. We can't leave." The Doctor said, shutting down the Tardis.
'I haven't met her yet. I didn't even know she existed." The Master stared down at the paper. Bright-faced, doe-eyed Lucy. Age 24, she was still so very young. But how old was she when she killed herself in order to stop him from coming back, 29?
Only 29 years old.
"The headlines only changed because we are inside the Tardis. She is allergic to the violations in time space and picks these things up as easily as a six years old picks up measles." The Doctor rambled. "The time stream itself is not altered. Not yet at least. It's not too late to stop it from happening. Master, are you listening?"
The Master turned and stared at him with hooded eyes. "Maybe we should leave this as it is, Doctor." He said in a hoarse voice.
The Doctor was stunned. "This isn't a joke! Don't you realize how serious this is? If Lucy was killed before you met her, you wouldn't be shot, and you wouldn't have returned wrong. You wouldn't have brought back the Timelords and gone through everything you've gone through, good nor bad, if she wasn't your wife. She made you who you are today and without her you could just-"
"Be removed from existence, like a bad stain in the fabric of reality?" The Master scoffed.
"Don't tell me you don't want to save her because you still resent what she did to you."
"I don't resent her. I want…I want to protect her." He shook his head. "Doctor, what kind of life is she going to look forward to? If she survives this, she's got another 5 odd years to live, and 3 of them she will spend in absolute misery because of what I am going to do to her. The things I've showed her…" He swallowed, remembering how he had wiped her hopeful smile from her face when he opened the door for her to Utopia. The blank, suffering look in her eyes when she finally realized what kind of monster she had married. And all that time they had been together, he had enjoyed tormenting her, and he had loved to watch that light of kindness slowly die out in her to be replaced with nothing.
He had ruined her.
"I don't want that to happen to her again. She's much better off without me, even if her life turns out shorter this way." He told him determinedly.
There was long silence in which the Doctor just stared at the Master with a look of severe disbelief on his face.
"Oh you sad man. You sad, selfish bastard." The Doctor finally said, gaining a puzzled look from the Master. "You say that you don't want to do anything about it because you want to spare her? You just want to spare yourself! You don't want to life with a conscience that suffers her demise like a dagger to the heart. That's why you want to let her die. So your crimes could be erased, just like yourself." The Doctor shook his head. "Cowardice is not a virtue, Master, but it suits you rather well." He said bitterly, and left the console room in disgust.
Next chapter will be posted next Saturday, the 11th of December. In the meantime, if you like this story or have any comments on it, please let me know. Hit the review button below.