Author's Note: This is the sequel to my other fic, Master and Commander (.net/s/6593585/1/). In order to understand this, that one should be read first. Also, I've rejigged some of the episode to fit the story - hope it works!
It had been one of those days, the Doctor mused as he hurried down the corridor, anxious to move as quickly as possible without alerting anyone to his presence. Still… at least he'd found out why Queen Elizabeth the first hadn't taken a shine to him. Well… as a matter of fact she had. At first. He rounded a corner and almost ran straight into Rose. 'There you are!' he said, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice and failing. Where had she been? 'Come on!'
He grabbed her hand and dragged her after him, back towards the TARDIS. Once they reached it he yanked his key out of his pocket, listening for sounds of pursuit as he fitted it to the lock and opened the door, practically falling through it.
Something was wrong, he knew. He knew before Rose snatched her hand away and disappeared into the recesses of the ship without so much as a by your leave. Not that he expected one, really. But still... something would have been nice.
He sent the TARDIS into the vortex and sighed, running his hands over his face tiredly. He should go and find her.
She was in the infirmary, rooting through one of the drawers with a distracted air about her. He watched from the doorway for a moment, leaning against the frame.
'What are you looking for?' He asked finally.
'Nothing,' she said, sitting down on the cot and running a flannel over her wrist.
She was hurt. She was hurt and he hadn't noticed. He was across the room and standing in front of her inside the skin of a second. 'Let me see.'
He looked into her eyes, surprised at the vehemence in her tone. She was furious. 'Rose-'
'Just find me the dermal thingy and leave me alone, Doctor,' she said tiredly.
He found the dermal repair kit and set to work on her wrists, ignoring her protests. Rope burns. These were rope burns.
'There's no point kickin' yourself about it now,' she said.
He didn't look up. Couldn't meet her eyes. Once he'd repaired the skin at her wrists he put the tool down and turned to leave the infirmary.
'You left me,' she said. Her tone wasn't accusatory, just dull. It would have been better if she'd thrown the words at him, had been angry.
He turned, sliding his hands into his pockets. 'No.'
'She wanted to marry you, did you know that? Stupid me, I was in the way. So she was gonna have me executed. I was gonna be beheaded and you disappeared,' her eyes were boring into his now, dark and angry.
'I was working with the counsellors...' he said, the words tasting like ash.
She smiled humourlessly, the expression wrong on her face. 'Right. Course you were. Except... would it have mattered, Doctor?'
'What?' he asked, genuinely puzzled.
'If I hadn't escaped, would it have mattered?' He stared at her, but she wasn't looking at him. 'S'just,' she continued, 'you've barely spoken to me in weeks. And you just disappeared...'
He moved until he was standing in front of her again. 'I'm sorry.'
'Are you?' she looked down at her hands again, twisting the flannel in her fingers.
'Rose... These last few weeks...' he trailed off, unable to finish. He'd been pushing her away again, he knew. Since the Cassandraic warnings had been delivered to him he'd been so afraid of what was going to happen to him, what that would mean for Rose - for them – that he'd been running. Not just from her, either. Running from the galaxy, hiding in the past, visiting uninhabited planets. Drowning out the prophetic mutterings of the universe, the summons of the Ood with the constant sound of motion.
'You're not gonna tell me, are you?' she asked.
He tilted her head back, meeting her eyes. 'You know I wouldn't leave you.'
She jerked her chin out of his hand, looking back down at her hands. 'Do I? She was a queen, Doctor.'
'So?' he asked, more than a little exasperated now.
'So? So I've seen before-'
'Never think that,' he said sharply. 'I wouldn't... I couldn't... Rose,' he sighed, gathered himself so he could speak softly once more. 'Why d'you think I didn't let this happen for so long? This... You and me... It's important, Rose.'
He cut her off, tilting her head back and kissing her. She pushed against his chest but he refused to move too far back, instead pressing kisses to every available bit of skin he could find. 'I'm sorry,' he murmured against her forehead.
She looked up at him, her eyes dark, but no longer angry. She was sad. For him. She could see he was hurt, that something was wrong and it hurt her. He heard himself groan as he stepped closer, pulling her towards him, nearly lifting her off the cot in the process.
He kept his eyes on her sleeping form as he dressed. When he was satisfied she wouldn't wake for a while, he tiptoed out of the room, carrying his shoes.
No more running. He had to know. Rose deserved to know. Nothing was worth seeing her that hurt. And no amount of running made a real difference, anyway. Everywhere he ran with her it was the same. He will knock four times. Your song is ending. It is returning.
Time to pay a visit to the Ood. But first… first he had something he needed to do here, before Rose awoke and came looking for him.
'That man is dead.' He felt the words leave his mouth forcefully. Knew they were true. The Master was dead. Had died in his arms. Had burned by his hand. Like the others… he clamped down on that line of thought before it had a chance to start.
Taking the hands of the Ood again, he saw Donna's grandfather, Wilfred Mott. He looked worried. Donna!
'Wilfred! Is he all right?' the Doctor demanded. 'What about Donna? Is she safe?'
'We are none of us safe,' the Ood Elder said, 'you should not have delayed. For the lines of convergence are being drawn across the Earth. Even now, the King is in his counting house.'
The Doctor saw images of two people he didn't recognise and said so, impatient to get back to those he did know.
'And there is another,' the Ood continued. 'The most lonely of all. Lost and forgotten.'
'The Master's wife,' the Doctor said. Lucy Saxon was sitting in a cell, looking very alone. Terrified. 'She… she was… it wasn't her fault. She was… the Master, he's a Time Lord, like me.' He sensed their incomprehension and took their hands, sending them images to make them understand. 'The Master took the name of Saxon,' he said quickly, desperate for them to get it. 'He married a human, a woman called Lucy. And he corrupted her.'
'She stood at his side while he conquered the Earth. I reversed everything he'd done so it never even happened. But Lucy Saxon remembered.' He saw Lucy fire her gun at the Master, knew they were seeing it too. 'I have to go!' he said, making as though to rise.
Around him, the Ood's eyes began to glow red as they pulled him back into the circle.
'The Ood have gained this power to see through time. Because time is bleeding. Shapes of things once lost are moving through the veil. And these events from years ago threaten to destroy this future. And the present. And the past.'
'What do you mean?'
'This is what we have seen, Doctor. The darkness heralds only one thing. The end of time itself. Events that have happened are happening now.'
Once more, the Doctor saw the Master in his head, laughing. Saw Lucy in her cell. And something else, in the darkness behind her, something more. Eyes in the dark. Animal eyes.
He stood, pulling himself free of the Ood and running as fast as he could. Back to the TARDIS.
He was a little surprised to see Rose in the console room, sitting on the jumpseat with her feet up on the console. She was reading a book, as though today was just like every other day. It was, for her.
He shouldn't have kept this from her for all this time. Tearing his eyes away from her, he made for the console, sending them to Earth. He had to see it for himself, sense it, before he could speak to her, tell her what he was terrified would happen. He will knock four times. That was what the Master did, wasn't it?
When they landed he ignored her questions and flung the door open, staring around the London street he'd landed them in. And there it was. The Master was here. Definitely here. And he'd been too busy running to notice. Too busy keeping himself away.
'We believe everyone in the universe must dream of him now.' That was what the Ood had said. Rose. He turned on his heel and headed back into the TARDIS, calling to her.
She slid off the jumpseat walking around the room until she was standing between him and the console. 'What?'
'Have you... have you had funny dreams lately? Nightmares? About someone we know?'
She looked at him a moment, wide eyed. 'Is that what this is about? Do they mean something? Doctor-'
'Just... Just answer the question. Please.' He was doing his best to keep his tone level. He closed the door behind him and walked up the ramp until he was standing just in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders gently.
'The Master,' she said quietly. 'I've been dreaming about the Master.'
'Is he laughing?'
She looked confused, but answered anyway, trusting him more than he deserved. Always more than he deserved. 'No.'
He needed to see. 'Can I...?' he began, unsure how to phrase the question. Regardless, she nodded. He raised his fingertips to her face, close enough to her now that he could see she was afraid. They'd not done this. Never this.
Pushing that thought to one side, he closed his eyes and was immediately confronted with the face of the Master. And Rose was right. He wasn't laughing. He was screaming. Sobbing. Terrified. Enraged. Hurt. Insane, yes. Definitely. Without a doubt.
And the Doctor knew. He was going to die. The certainty washed over him, seeming to leave nothing but calm in its wake. Everyone had been telling him. It was all over the universe, the words following him everywhere, as the Bad Wolf once had. He choked back the thought, unwilling to allow it to escape into Rose's mind, but he couldn't hide his terror.
Rose's presence surrounded him, reminding him why he didn't do this with her, why it was a bad idea. He should pull back, he knew, distance himself from her. Just as he resolved to do so she reached up and laid her hands over his, gently pulling them away from her face.
'Why didn't you tell me?' he asked, the words coming out on an exhale, making him sound breathless.
'Didn't wanna worry you...' She murmured, still holding his hands.
He saw it then. He was frightening her. Had been for weeks now. Too terrified to stop himself. She'd been frightened half to death and hadn't said a word, lest she worry him. And he'd refused to accept the words of the Ood and all the others. Had thought he could keep running forever. He was going to lose her. No. That wasn't right. She was going to lose him.
'Oh, Rose,' he whispered, his hands freeing themselves from hers and drifting back to her temples, reaching for her mind. He couldn't stop himself, he knew as he pressed his fingertips to her skin and his body against hers that he was going to take this to far, too fast.
He was cold, deadened by the weight of having to stay here, to see this through because it was the right thing to do. Because it was his job and there was no one else. Because it was his responsibility. He needed her heat. Just once more. He felt her reach for him - both physically and mentally - and surrendered. 'I need you.'
She watched him carefully as they righted their clothes. Once he'd pulled his suit jacket back on and straightened his shirt, he stepped forwards, drawing her against him and kissing her, softly at first, but then more deeply, tilting her backwards against the console.
'What was all that about? She asked breathlessly when he released her. Half amused, half afraid.
He kissed her again, pulling her against him a little too sharply and stealing what little breath she'd managed to recapture. Then he released her and headed for the doors.
'Back in a minute,' he said, throwing the words over his shoulder as though they were nothing. As he closed the door behind him he heard her start down the ramp. Too late. He raised the sonic screwdriver, aimed it at the TARDIS, and activated it.
He kept his back turned as the TARDIS dematerialised. Once the sound had faded he reached into his pocket, withdrawing what looked like a large watch and strapping it to his wrist. Rose's Vortex manipulator. Good thing he'd never deactivated it, really. Not the best way to travel, he'd be the first to admit, but doable.