"You can't stop me." The Master repeated, forcing himself to be resolute, but his resolve was crumbling fast. "Please…" He gazed down at Lucy. There was no hate or resentment for his weakness in her eyes. There was only fear.
"Please…" He whispered. "Stop me…"
But Death remained silent and still.
He cried out in frustration and flung the phial against the cave wall where it shattered into a million fragments. Then he let go of Lucy, who looked at him in surprise and shock.
"An act of madness." The Master said resentfully. "Thank Gallifrey there can't be many more." He turned to the Grim Reaper and raising his hands up in the air in surrender. "Congratulations. You've won. You've erased me from existence. Happy now?"
A strong wind suddenly swept through the cave, extinguishing the numerous rows of candles.
YOU ARE RIGHT. Death told him. MY TASK IS FULLFILLED. MY EXISTENCE IS NO LONGER NEEDED.
The Master and Lucy were forced to grab onto a limestone pillar when the entire rock bedding started to tremble beneath their feet.
"Oh no." The Master muttered when he saw that the Grim Reaper was retreating into the dark. "No! No! No! NO! That's not what we agreed on! I've made my choice! I chose her! You have to let her go!"
Death remained silent and observed calmly how millions of candles were extinguished at once when the metal shelves started to collapse around them.
"You can't leave her here!" The Master yelled. "How is she supposed to get out?"
LET IT BE TIMELORD. Death told him in a voice that was like a dying echo. LIFE IS FOR THE LIVING. YOU NO LONGER BELONG TO THEM.
He moved back into a crevice and dissolved in the fast approaching darkness.
River had made her way back to the Doctor and was relieved to find him still fast asleep under the tree. She picked up her backpack and quickly went through it, fishing out a small locator device that could be used to send out a pick-me-up signal to the Judoons. With a little luck, she and Doctor will be out of here within an hour, leaving the other Timelord trapped inside the paintings with Mr. Bones on his heels. She wasn't sure that the Master was dead, but she had a strong suspicion that he soon will be. The Doctor of course, won't forgive her for this, but at least she knew he was saved. She was about to switch on the device when a hand grabber her by the wrist.
"What are you doing?" The Doctor asked quietly, peeking at her through one half-opened eye.
The Master took Lucy's hand and dragged her out of the cave while behind them the heavy iron shelves keeled over and came crashing down. As they dashed through the tunnel, the destructive tremor intensified and compromised the wall structures, causing the crystals to break off from the ceiling.
"The whole cave is going to collapse! We have to get out of here!" The Master shouted.
They kept running till they reached the shores of the underground stream.
"How do we get back? I can't remember where the portal was." Lucy told him.
The Master peered over the vast body of water that had become turbulent and wild. "Ariel! Come to me! I need your help!" He called, and out of the restless waves, the air spirit appeared.
"Open the portal!" The Master commanded. "Guide us back to the surface before we are buried alive down here."
"Oh my most unfortunate lord." Ariel informed him regretfully. "I am afraid I cannot comply."
"I've warned you good sir. Once you have followed her into the deep, you may never enter the upper world again."
"But your master is gone! You don't need to keep to his insane instructions!" What was this imbecile worrying about? Can't he see that they were running out of time? He peered nervously at the waterfront that was now coming towards them, silently seeping over the rocky shores till it reached as far as their feet.
"Listen, I am your master now and I order you, bring us back to the surface!"
"I am sorry, but I am still bound to my pledge to him. The girl. I can take her back, but not you milord."
The Master turned to Lucy. The ice-cold water was now lapping at their ankles. Soon, the entire cave will be flooded.
"You came after me. Even when Ariel warned you not to." Lucy mumbled, realizing what he had done for her.
"You have to go with him." He told her determinedly.
"But if you stay behind you will drown!"
"Look does that even matter? I am dead already!" He stopped himself and breathed in deeply. "Lucy, listen to me. I am sorry. I can't bring you back, but you will be safe. Find the Doctor. He is clever. He will fix everything. I promise he will get you out."
"I can't. You…you gave up your life for me." Lucy said, her eyes tearing up. "I can't just leave you here to die."
The Master swallowed hard and forced his hearts to turn to stone. "Consider it as a debt repaid." He said grimly. He grabbed her by the arm and pushed her into the stream. Lucy gasped when the icy water hit her in the chest and swallowed her whole.
"Quickly!" The Master yelled from the flooded shore. "Take her Ariel. Bring her back to the Doctor!"
She was about to swim back to the shore when Ariel folded his arm around her waist and dragged her down, back to the upper world, back to safety.
The Master was now left on his own.
He climbed on top of a small pile of rocks. The water levels kept rising at a dangerous pace. When the water started to come above his chest and forced him to swim to stay above the waves, he heard the final whispers of Death as his shadow brushed by on its way to leave this mortal world.
"How long do I have left?" He asked him while he struggled to stay afloat.
YOU HAVE ONE DAY BEFORE THE TIMELINE IS READJUSTED. NO MORE.
"One day." He echoed, letting the grim message sink in. His hearts turned as cold as the pitiless water that surrounded him.
When he was submerged till up to his nose, and the tiny air pocket between the leaping waves and the cave ceiling began to disappear, he closed his eyes and took one last breath of air. As the waves closed above him, he didn't struggle. He didn't fight. He just let the brilliant chill shackle his spirit, and let himself drift aimlessly, rolling where the river took him, a ghost wandering over the water.
He was submerged in darkness, and here he would have stayed till his final day was over, if not a favorable current brought him within reach of the Doctor who appeared from the deep. He caught him and pulled the nearly unconscious Master towards a wooden door that stood in the midst of a swaying field of plants. He pushed his shoulder against it, and the door opened, flooding the water from the underground stream through the portal. The Doctor held on to the Master as they were flushed through the opening to the other side.
They were channeled through the doorway onto a green lawn. Still couching up water from his lungs, the Doctor crawled over to the Master who was lying on his back on the damp grass with his eyes closed.
The Doctor dropped on his knees and placed his hands flat on his chest. "Come on now." He muttered as he started pumping his hearts, leaning in with his whole weight.
"It's just a little bit of water, breathe!"
After a few of attempts to revive him, the Master finally gasped and garbled, and rolled to his side, puffing like an old motor choking on thick oil.
"There you are! Good boy!" The Doctor slapped him on the back with a thankful smile. "Knew you wouldn't die on me."
"Where is Lucy?" The Master wheezed.
The smile vanished from the Doctor's face. "I didn't see her. River took me to the spot in the river where you two disappeared. I just dived in. I found you, but I couldn't find Lucy."
"She has to be here." The Master scrambled back on his feet. "I told Ariel to bring her safely back to you."
He gazed around. They were standing in a well-kept garden with tidy borders abloom with scented flowers. High in the sky, a lonely skylark sang his summer song.
"I am sorry Master." The Doctor told him. "The current was too strong. I was lucky to find another portal opening up. I had to drag you through or we both would have drowned."
"We went into another painting?" The Master shouted at the Doctor, horrified by the prospect of leaving his future wife behind. "What about Lucy? She can't get out of there on her own!" He was about to steal the sonic screwdriver from the Doctor to locate another portal, when the large fountain in the center of the lawn suddenly made a strange sound. It was as if something large was stuck inside the pipelines and was upholding the flow. The entire fountain began to shake violently, and the two stone lions stopped spewing water.
The two Timelords exchanged wary glances before approaching the rattling construction. They gazed over the railing into the basin. Miniature shockwaves rippled over the surface in ever expanding circles until a large jet of water burst in the sky, reaching as high as the nearby trees. Ariel appeared, draped in lily leaves and green water plants, he was carrying Lucy in his arms.
"My dear lord. Here is your bride, safely and soundly delivered to the Doctor, as you have beseeched me." The airspirit spoke as he gentle put down Lucy on the grass.
"Oh." The Master sighed in relief. "For once I am glad that you hardly use your fairy brain and take your orders so very literally."
As soon as Lucy's feet touched the ground, she ran over to him and hugged him tightly. Lost for words, he wrapped his arms around her, and on to her for a while.
When she was finally feeling a little more like herself, Lucy turned to the Doctor. "What happened to River?" She asked.
"Oh I wouldn't worry about her if I was you. She will be fine." He replied without much emotion.
The Master studied the Doctor's face. It told him that if he had something to say about River Song, this wasn't the right time.
"We on the other hand," The Doctor pressed on. "-can keep on going through portals and jumping from painting to painting till we're gray and old, but we're not going to get out if we're only relying on luck." He put his hands on his sides and checked the surroundings. "This place doesn't remind me of any of the Shakespeare plays, and I've seen most of them, if not all."
"It's not a scene from a play." Lucy told him, glancing around to make sure that she was drawing the right conclusion. "This looks exactly like our garden in summer. It even has the twin lions in the fountain and the little teahouse behind the flowerbeds."
"Maybe you accidentally picked the right portal and we're already out?" The Master opted.
"No." The Doctor muttered, fixing his eyes on something most peculiar at the far back of the garden. "I don't think I'm that lucky…not yet."
The Master and Lucy followed his gaze. There was a 2 by 3 meter square object hovering in the air in front of the evergreen shrubs. It resembled a gilded wooden frame that surrounded a large canvas. Coming up closer, they saw to their great relief that the picture showed a most familiar scene.
"That's our drawing room!" Lucy pointed out.
""It's a painting of our Christmas party! And we didn't even miss much judging by the amount of fruit-punch that is still left in the bowl." The Doctor grabbed the sonic screwdriver as he studied the wooden frame. "This barrier is just paper-thin. I think we could breach this and be back just in time before your father get to the roast turkey." He grinned and licked his lips as he whirred the sonic over the borders of the canvas. One corner was just loosened up when a red laser hit the center of the painting and punched a hole right through the dimensional shield. Stunned, the Doctor looked over his shoulder to see the Master holding River's upgraded sonic turned laser screwdriver.
"What?" The Master shrugged. "It was taking you ages. I don't have that much time to waste."
"That's River's sonic!" The Doctor blurted.
Before he could yell at him again, the shield that separated the tiny idealized world of a perfect English summer from that of lord Cole's drawing room cracked and shattered into pieces. The Master didn't wait but took Lucy by the hand and together, they jumped through the portal. The Doctor quickly followed.
The select company that lord Cole had invited for the party was in a state that could be described as borderline socially acceptable drunk when the Doctor appeared with his companions at the other side. Their entrance was not even noticed by most of the guests. Distracted by the many popular Christmas songs that were continuously barking through the speakers, they could not have heard the clatter of breaking glass. Others did see the three of them suddenly appear in front of one of the more unremarkable new addition to lord Cole's collection, but after shortly considering the amount of sherry and eggnog they had consumed, they just decided that it was best not to mention it. The only one who seemed really surprised to see the mistress of the house appear in the drawing room rolled up inside a wet and dirty horse blanket, was Peeves the butler, who had ran right into her and had dropped his serving tray by accident.
"Miss Cole?" Peeves asked, looking at her in complete shock while the last remaining glasses of sherry slid off the tray. "Where-where did you come from? You weren't there just a minute ago!"
"Peeves?" Lucy couldn't believe her eyes. "Oh it's really you!" She glanced around and was quickly reassured by the familiar faces of family and friends. "We're out!" She exclaimed. "We're really out! Oh thank God!" She hugged the butler.
"Who is this gentleman?" Peeves asked, staring over her shoulder at the Master, who looked like he has just returned from the 100 years war. "I don't remember letting him in. If he's invited than I am afraid he might have misinterpreted the dress code for tonight. This is not what your father had in mind with casual."
Aware of how he must look, the Master was moving a little to the back to avoid too much embarrassing attention when he bumped with his backside against a small sign that was placed next to the garden-painting through which they had just escaped. It read:
This contemporary artwork by Eliza Diaz was donated by the Infinity Corporation UK to the collection of Lord Cole for his most honorable contribution to the British art scene.
"Why am I not surprised?" The Master grinned. He was just turning around to look for the Doctor when he saw him heading back to the staircase.
"Hey! Where are you going?" He asked.
"Up. It's not over yet." The Doctor replied knowingly before he disappeared upstairs.
Since Lucy was still busy calming down the butler, the Master slipped away through the crowd and followed him.
It took a while before the Doctor found the one specific painting that he was looking for. He discovered it after he had searched through most of the rooms on the second floor, hanging above the mantelpiece in lord Cole's study. It was a painting that depicted a very familiar scene from Hamlet, with poor Ophelia drifting on her back in the river between the reeds with her eyes cast upwards, staring vacantly at the branches.
"That's her." The Master told the Doctor. That's Katie, Lucy's friend. I recognize her face."
The Doctor didn't respond but let his eyes wander over the fields beyond the trees that lined the river shore. There, standing nearby a cut down tree, was River Song. She was still trapped inside.
"You're going to let her out." The Master snorted. He grinned sourly and shook his head. "I knew it. The bitch almost had you killed and still you do not the heart to leave her there to rot."
"She's not going to need any help. River has a tracker device that enables her to contact her people. They should pick her up any minute now." The Doctor told him, while he kept his eyes fixed on her. "I just want to be sure."
"And who might those people be?" The Master asked with considerable hostility.
"Not anyone you might want to run into." The Doctor told him strictly, making clear that he wasn't going to elaborate on the matter. As soon as he had said this, the little painted figure disappeared from the canvas.
"Goodbye River Song." The Doctor sighed, experiencing a strange mix of sadness and relief. "Hope to see you again. But not too soon." He added as the ominous future that she had revealed to him still preyed on his mind. "By the way." He turned to the Master, cocking an eyebrow. "If I was ever that petty-minded and vindictive like you are now, I would not have gone looking for you. You would have still been stuck inside that tower."
"Is this supposed to mean something?"
"It means that perhaps showing a little bit of mercy now and then isn't such a bad thing."
"Mercy?" The Master repeated, wearing a scornful grin on his face and acting like the concept was completely alien to him. "You want me to be compassionate? To her?"
"Yes." The Doctor told him sternly. "Not everything has to be retaliated. Not everything has to end in blood."
The Master wanted to say something spiteful, but had a change of heart when he saw the expression Doctor's face. Groaning inwardly, he took out the laserscrewdriver, and started to help melt down the dimensional barrier.
It was long past midnight, and Christmas Eve has already turned into Christmas day when the two Timelords were parting from Lucy in a quiet corner of the back garden where the Doctor had left the Tardis.
"Thank you for bringing Kate back. Thank you for saving our lives." She held the Doctor tightly in her embrace and kissed him on both cheeks. "Thank you for everything really."
"You keep an eye on her." The Doctor told her. "Luckily, she can't remember much from the being trapped inside a painting and being a suicidal Danish noblewoman." The Doctor smiled. "Still, she will feel even better when there's a good friend around who keeps her from wondering about the bits she does remember."
"I will good care of her." Lucy nodded. "Thank you." She told him again, but no matter how often she expressed her gratitude, she still had the feeling that it never was going to be enough.
The Doctor waved at her and disappeared inside the Tardis, leaving her alone to say goodbye to the Master.
Before he could say anything, Lucy took him in her arms and hugged him so tightly that it was obvious that she was reluctant to see him go. A little awkward, he laid his hand on her golden locks and softly caressed her hair.
"So, you didn't tell him." She whispered, gazing at him with worried eyes.
"What's the use?" He said quietly. "It's over. Mr. Bones won't come back to haunt you again. Now you can finally live the rest of your life in peace, in the way you should have done, without Harold Saxon." He gave her a little smile, trying hard to hide his beaten spirit from her. "Lucy Cole, soon to be Lucy Winston." He sighed. "You know, I still have to get used to that ridiculous name."
Lucy returned him a morose little smile. "What about you? What is to become of you?"
"Well, I am still here, which means that Death must be wrong about us. It didn't really need to be choice between you or me."
"But he said -"
The Master put his finger on her lips. "Don't you worry about me. I'll be all right." He lied.
Lucy looked him in the eyes, searching for the truth that was too hard to bear. "Will I ever see you again?"
"Yes." He told her, his lips curled into a sad grin. "But it won't be me."
Lucy nodded, she understood. Her eyes shimmered with tears. "So…I guess, this is goodbye."
She pulled him closer and kissed him. Through her tears, their brief union tasted bittersweet. When they finally let go of each other, she felt a little part of herself die.
"Goodbye Harry." She whispered when she watched him go inside the Tardis.
"Goodbye my Timelord." Lucy said quietly, as the wind swelled up and the Tardis vanished before her.
She knew that Death was never wrong.
The Doctor didn't want to be reminded of River Song. He didn't want to remember what kind of doom the Ood elders were prophesying for him this time around, and he certainly didn't want to know what the future held for him and the Master. What he wanted and needed right now, was a distraction, so he could run away from his problems and could pretend that they weren't there just for a tinsey little while longer. Oh there were plenty of excuses. It was Christmas day and they had somehow managed to save everyone. He was traveling with another Timelord who he had know over 900 years and whose snarky company he had slowly grown fond of in some bizarre sort of way, and after some rummaging in the kitchen he had even rediscovered a frozen turkey in the bottom of the freezer. It was a frighteningly large bird that he must had kept there since this avian species was first discovered in the 15th century, and he never had the chance to do something with it.
"You know, we should celebrate Christmas, just like anyone else." The Doctor blathered. The Master winced a little, realizing that his companion had shut down the brain department for the rest the day.
"Let's have a proper Christmas dinner." The Doctor rambled on. "One with all the trimmings, gold and silver baubles, cracking crackers, and oh! Those cheerful little paper crowns!"
Normally, the Master would have protested and balked like a stubborn mule by the very prospect of such horrors, but much to the Doctor's surprise, he was strangely demure and even helped him out with decorating the tree. After the console room was transformed with colorful twinkling lights, the Doctor took care of diner by incinerating the turkey and torturing the hell out of the vegetables. The Master didn't complain when he was served a slice of meat that had all the elasticity and the taste of a rubber boot. He didn't make any sarcastic remarks when the Doctor dropped a half-cooked potato on his plate by accident and shattered the china. He even let the Doctor murder a Christmas song or two, humored him by pulling a cracker and let the over-enthusiastic Timelord put a ridiculous paper crown on his head. Lucky for the Master, there was plenty of alcohol to soften the pain.
"Do you want another mince pie?" The Doctor asked, peering at his companion through wine-hazed eyes while resting his head on his hand. "I've got another half a dozen coming up in..." He gazed down and tried to focus on his watch. "…Oh let's say...about 10 minutes."
The Master took a sniff and noticed the awful scent of burnt pastry that came wafting out of the kitchen.
"I think you will find that they were already done half an hour ago." He answered calmly. "And no, I would rather not. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind another glass of wine." He added hastily, and refilled his glass up to the rim.
"Peaceful isn't it?" The Doctor muttered, gazing happily at the twinkling lights that were quickly fading out of focus with a moronic grin. "There is nothing better than to share a nice meal with a friend at Christmas. By the way, I want to apologize for the food. I know it's not perfect. It's just that I wanted to give it a try. I've always wanted to cook for Christmas, but for some reason none of my previous companions ever encouraged me to."
"Really? Oh I do wonder why." Deadpanned the Master.
"You've been absolutely brilliant." The Doctor grinned through his intoxication. "I promise, next year we're going out." Feeling ridiculous guilty for what River Song had told him, he suddenly felt the urge to smother him with kindness. Such are the wondrous workings of the good Doctor's brains after too much alcohol consumption. "I know this little place in 19th century Scotland that serves a really delicious roast goose. We should go there." As he said it, the Doctor's head started to slide down, coming dangerously close to his plate with brick potatoes.
"Sounds wonderful." Muttered the Master, carefully taking his plate away.
"You're my best friend in the universe, and you deserve a real feast…you deserve…so much…so much more…" The Doctor slurred, and sank his head onto his napkin with his eyes closed. Within a minute he started to snore.
The Master sighed and removed the slightly embarrassing paper crown from his head. "So this is how it's going to end." He muttered, feeling a bit disappointed. "No great revelation. No deep discussions about the meaning of life. Just you, lying drunk with your head on the table in a pool of your own drool, frolicking with the merry queen of intoxication, while I am left on my own, counting the last seconds that I still have left to live."
He stared at his unconscious companion and let out another forlorn sigh, followed by a quick glance at the Doctor's wristwatch. "Oh well, at least I don't have to see you whoring yourself out to the god of all hangovers. Although, it could have been comical of course." He crumbled the paper crown to a tight ball and tossed it under the table. Briefly, he considered waking him up, but then he recalled that he wasn't very good at saying goodbyes. Besides, he told himself, the Doctor was bound to get all over-emotional. Better to prevent all the unnecessary drama, and to remember his good companion as he was now, peacefully asleep and snoring like an over-enthusiastic space-whale during the mating season with that ridiculous little paper crown sliding over his eyes.
So the Master quietly left the dinner table. They were in space, circling in orbit around the Earth. He opened the Tardis doors to let the moonlight enter the room and took a chair to sit down to watch the starlit galaxies, while he waited for the inevitable.
Minutes turned into hours. The Master kept going back to check the Doctor's wristwatch to keep a fearful eye on the time while steadily, his stomach tightened into a nervous little ball. Death had predicted that he had only 24 hours left before the timeline would be readjusted. At least 24 hours had passed, and he still existed. Then it became midnight and the first Christmas day was officially over, but he was still there. Anxious and still skeptical, he checked his pulse and his heartbeats, and breathed extra deeply to test his lungs. He opened and clenched his hands and wriggled his toes. His body seemed to function perfectly. One hour past midnight and the reality finally became clear to him. He wasn't going to be erased after all. He had survived.
Something had happened.
Something had happened to Lucy.
The Master leaped up from his chair and headed for the console. The Doctor, waking up from his slumber, scrambled back up with his napkin still stuck to the side of his head. "Master?" He saw him rush by and tackle the Tardis controls like a madman. "Master, what are you doing?"
Without answering, the Master set the data on December the 29th of 2005 and started up the engines.
The destination was London where they landed in the middle of busy Oxford Street in front of a large bookstore. In the shop window that was still elaborately decorated with Christmas tinsels, was a cardboard sign adverting the book-signing event that was currently taking place. The Master stepped out of the Tardis and was about to rush inside when the Doctor came after him.
"Why did you bring us here?" The Doctor noticed with alarm the life-size cutout of the Master's former self who was gleefully staring at them from behind the shop window. "Did you lose your mind? This is Harold Saxon's London!"
"I know what this is! But I need to know."
"Know what?" The Doctor studied his face. "What are you not telling me?"
"I made a deal with Death. He promised me that he would spare Lucy if I would let her remember what happened on Christmas Eve. It would change the future in such a way that I would have perished at the Naismith mansion. I was to be removed from the time stream in exchange for her life."
"What?" The Doctor stared at him with great concern and shock. "And you didn't tell me any of this?"
"Look it doesn't matter. You were drunk and unconscious and I was at peace with my fate." The Master answered him sternly. "Death told me I had 24 hours left to live before time would mend itself."
"24 hours? But you're still here." The Doctor said, trying to stay optimistic. "So…it didn't work. Death had it wrong then!"
"He wasn't wrong Doctor." The Master answered bitterly. "Don't you get it? Something must have happened to Lucy." He turned away from him, determined to find her before it was too late.
"Wait!" The Doctor followed, eager to stop him. "You can't go in there! You can't let your former self see you!" He was about to pull him away from the revolving doors when a young man in a postman uniform came over and interrupted them.
"Um, excuse me sir, but did you two just come out of that blue box over there?"
"Yes." The Doctor answered, a little perplexed. "Yes we just did."
"Why do you care?" The Master asked with suspicion.
"Well…I've got a delivery for you." The young man took out a sealed envelope out of his shoulder bag. "It's a signed letter for someone called uhm…Harry?" He looked slightly embarrassed. "That's all it says on the envelope."
"You work for the royal mail?" The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "And you're delivering a letter to us?"
"Yeah. I know it's strange. This letter has become something of legend." He handed it over to the Master. "I was told that it was delivered at the post office a year ago, with the strict orders to give it to two blokes who would emerge from a blue wooden box in front of the Barnes and Nobles in Oxford street on December the 29th, 2005, at around 3 in the afternoon." He slimed nervously at the two Timelords. "The lads at the office thought I was thick for trying to actually deliver it. There had even been a bet going on with a couple of quid in the pot. Even I thought you wouldn't show up. I guess I am the one who gets to point and laugh now." He took out a clipboard and a pen. "Please sign here." He pointed at an empty box at the bottom of the receipt form. "Would you mind if I take a photo from the box? Just to make sure that the others will believe me?"
Before the Master could tell him to sod off, he grabbed his mobile and took a couple of snaps.
"Thanks!" The young postman said as he tucked his mobile away. "And Merry Christmas to you both!"
The Doctor waited till he had disappeared around the corner. "Who sent you this?" He asked the Master.
"It's from Lucy." He answered quietly, and carefully, he took the letter out of the envelope.
My dear Harry
I hope this letter has reached you in time. It has taken me long to think up a way to deliver it to you. However, I figured that if you want to stop me from saving your life, it would be at the most critical moment, which is on the day when we first met. I knew that you were lying to me when we said our goodbyes. I have to confess that at first, I was grateful for that lie. For a moment, I had believed that I could step into my shiny new future. I could become Lucy Winston, the content wife of a loving husband and the mother of a sweet child and find happiness in that. I could have lived the rest of my life without ever really come to know you, but then we kissed, and because of that kiss, everything changed.
It was in the early hours of Christmas morning when a car pulled up in front of Cole Manor. Lucy was awake, unable to catch sleep, she had been staring at the empty spot on the lawn from her bedroom window when her train of thoughts was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Although she knew it was only a very slim chance, she was still hopeful that it might be the Master and the Doctor, and she ran down the staircase to answer it before it could wake up Peeves or her father. Outside in the frosty cold stood a man in his mid thirties who smiled politely at her with a cigarette between his lips. Behind him, a cab was still running with white smoke drifting up from the bonnet.
"Hello there miss, and a merry morning to you!" Drazek greeted cheerfully.
"This has to be a mistake, I am pretty sure that no-one at this address has called for a cab." Lucy told him, hiding her disappointment.
"Oh but I am not here to offer transportation miss." He grinned so wide that she could count his nicotine stained teeth. "I am here for a special delivery."
He took out something from his pocket and held it out to her. Lucy's breath stalled. She couldn't believe her eyes.
"Take it miss." He whispered, offering her the small phial with the crystal clear green liquid. "It's all paid for by my sponsors."
"I've got a couple of them." Drazek shrugged. "Some are more charitable than others. I must say that my current subsidizers have been very generous to me." He studied her and gave her a sly smile. "From that look of recognition on your pretty little face I take you know what this is and how to use it. So I'll leave you to it. It's your choice, obviously." He waved while he headed back to his cab. "A Merry Christmas to you!"
"Merry Christmas." She muttered, she held the bottle against her breasts and shut the door behind her. It was not until the cabby had driven off and she had returned to her room that she noticed the little card. It was attached with a neat red bow around the neck of the phial. It had a little robin on the cover, carrying a branch of mistletoe. When she flipped the card, she found a message written in elegant handwriting on the back. It read:
With compliments of the season, Infinity Corp. UK.
The moment you kissed me, I remembered how it felt to be in love with you again before the drums entered our lives and plunged us into madness. It is like basking in the sun; it is warm, and radiant and absolutely wonderful. When I first met you and looked into your eyes, I entered an endless summer.
Inside the bookstore, Lucy Saxon was finally at the head of the queue.
"I loved your book."
"Of course you did." Muttered Harold Saxon as he took the copy from her without looking up and sloppily scribbled his signature over the first page. He was getting bored with these worshiping morons, and his impatience was starting to wear down his thin veneer of graciousness. "Otherwise you wouldn't be standing in line for hours, just to get my autograph." He added with a mildly sarcastic tune and returned the signed book to her with a big faked smile plastered on his face when he finally met her eyes.
There she stood, every bit as beautiful as the future Master would remember her. Her eyes were shining with nothing but adoration for him. Her cheeks had the complexion of blood red crabapples in the winter snow, while her demeanor was adorably shy. It was simply impossible for Harold Saxon not to be captivated by her innocence and beauty.
"Forgive me, I forgot to ask for who it was for." He corrected himself, suddenly remembering his manners. He flipped the book back open again. "What is your name?"
"Lucy. Lucy Cole." She told him with a timid little smile.
"Lucy, Lovely Lucy in the sky of diamonds, and in her radiance, she outshines every star. Now tell me, you said you loved my book?" He said as he handed her copy back to her with a playful wink and a charming smile. He just adored to be admired, especially by beautiful women.
"Oh yes. I loved every part of it. Although…I thought the title could do a little better."
Saxon arched a brow in amused surprise. "What's wrong with the title?"
"It's called the life and times of Harold Saxon, forgive me but that sounds rather unexciting for such a intriguing book. It would have suited it if it was just another autobiography of some colorless and passionless political figure, but not this. Your book is not only about politics. It's not even only the story of your background, the rise of a successful businessman to the public eye. It's about who you are."
Saxon cocked his head and studied her. It had been a long time since he was intrigued by anyone. Putting his hands on the back of his head he leaned back in his chair. "And who am I in the eyes of my most beloved reader?"
"You are a dreamer, and a fighter." Lucy said. In her soft voice was a sincerity that could even touch the most cynical of hearts. "You fight for your ambitions, but you fear them as well. You want desperately to be loved, but at the same time, you don't think you deserve any affection." Her cheeks turned crimson when she realized that she had perhaps said too much. "I am sorry for over-interpreting it. I guess all that I was trying to say is that it's a very touching story. It deserves a better title."
He gazed at her for a long moment, his strange mesmerizing eyes unblinking, till she started to feel really uncomfortable. Just when she thought he was going to tell her that her ideas were absolutely ludicrous, he clapped in his hands.
"Bravo! Bravo Lucy. That was insightful! You should know that I was my intention to name the book differently, but my publisher thought that the original title was a tad too bold, so they recommended me to change it. Frankly, I absolutely agree with you, the current title is just boring. I am sure that a lot of people are not picking it up because they see the cover and think the entire book is a big yawn. That reminds me, I have to sack my publisher."
Lucy smiled in relief. "It's not too late to correct it Mr. Saxon. I am an editor at the Black Swan publishing house. I could help you to re-edit the current edition. It should improve your sales."
"PLease call me Harry." He informed her. "A woman with insight and useful abilities." Saxon said with an admiring smile. "Miss Cole, you are a true credit to your sex and a rare diamond to find."
She found herself sitting behind her writing-desk in her bedroom at Christmas day. The bottle with bright green liquid was placed next to her. Although her heart was bursting with words, it was almost impossible for her to capture any of them in paper and ink.
Her hand reached out for the phial, and she traced the delicate curves with the tip of her fingers. Outside, in the garden, downy snow was softly drifting from a dark blue sky.
From the moment she had seen her dreadful end in Broadfell prison, she had known that the woman who had thrown the bottle of anti-elixir at the resurrecting Timelord wasn't acting out of revenge. She was not angry, or sad, nor did she fear retribution from her vengeful husband. She did it, because she loved him, and would not allow the monster to return to murder the man she had once loved.
With a slight trembling hand but a resolute mind, she started writing her letter to him, casting her thoughts to paper and sending it out into the future for him to find.
I know you will try to stop me. I know that if you have the chance to speak to me once more, you will tell me how stupid I am to give up my life so futilely, but even if you could, you will not be able to change my mind. When I was in Broadfell prison, the Doctor's companion Martha Jones once visited me, and blinded and embittered by my desperate situation I had asked her why she had risked everything, even her own life, to save the Doctor. She told me that an universe without the Doctor was one of perpetual darkness where the warmth and light of the sun was but a distant memory. She could not bear the thought of that cold, loveless world.
I know now, that I simply cannot bear the thought of an universe without you.
I may not be a brave woman. I am not special. God knows, I am not even that smart, but for one brief moment in my life, I was the Master's companion. You took me to see the stars. You allowed me to touch that fragile light that shone beneath your cold mask. I was Lucy, dancing with my beloved Lord in the sky of diamonds. For that, I am forever grateful.
My only regret is that I will never see you again. You. The Doctor's trusted companion and my repenting time crusader who has saved my life in so many ways. My only comfort is that one day, in a not too distant future, we shall meet again…
On a cold December day in 2005, the Master and the Doctor hid away from view in the porch of a nearby department store when Harold Saxon came out of the bookshop with Lucy by his side. They were talking and smiling to each other as they took the short stroll over the pavement to the black limousine that was waiting for them. When one of his bodyguards held open the car door, Saxon halted for a moment and stuck his nose in the frosty air. His remarkable sense of smell picked up a most familiar scent. Even though the Doctor had hidden the Tardis by placing it out of sync with time for just one second, and even though he could not see the other Timelord, he knew that the Doctor was close. Smiling to the general public, he let Lucy get inside the car first. He then glanced back in the direction of the two hiding Timelords while adjusting his sleeves and black leather gloves. With a knowing grin, he got inside the car, and ordered his driver to bring them back to his office.
And although I may not remember you, may not recall in my mind everything that has happened to us that fateful night, in my heart I will always know…
From a cold corner of Oxford Street, the Master emerged out of his hiding place with the Doctor by his side. As Harold Saxon's car pulled up in front of the red traffic light, he caught a glimpse of Lucy. She was just glancing over her shoulder, looking back at him. Their eyes met for a brief, fleeting moment.
I know you, Timelord. I love you, and that is enough.
Through the rear window, he saw her smile at him before she turned away.
As the car drove around the corner and out of his life, he let her letter slip from his fingers. Caught by the wind, it drifted higher and higher into the sky, till it finally disappeared over the rooftops.
This is the end for this installment folks! Catch the next story entitled: The Most Happy Bride, in March. I know it's a long time to wait, but I am afraid real life is demanding some time from me at the moment, so please be patient and check my site for further updates! Meanwhile, let me know what you think of this story, it keeps me motivated to go on.