Disclaimer: I own only my muses, one of whom had to cut his holiday short for this one. :)
Warnings: Lashings of angst, mentions of blood with implied violence, and a bit more angst. Woo.
This one's for Ilssii-Koschei, and could be considered a follow-on/sequel to the last one I wrote for her - "Out of Time" - or a standalone, tagged to "End of Time" part 1. Hope you enjoy it! :D
A day had passed.
He could be sure of that – couldn't he? Not from his temporal senses, which were blinded, numb, like a hollow ringing in his ears left after the assault of a dynamite blast. Tatters, shreds – that was all that remained of his awareness of the flow of time around him – just enough to convince him that time was, in fact, passing.
A day of…
…one two three four…one two three four…
There had been blood, he remembered that. Bright blood, a vivid, crimson fountain that scattered itself like a light rain across washed-out grey, dust and rocks. Dark blood, pooling on cracked, black tarmac in the shadow of a rusting, corrugated iron fence, creeping like cooling magma along the crevasses towards his feet. Fresh blood…momentarily, his tongue darted out to moisten his dry, cracked lips…dried blood…oh, he was so hungry…
A day to…
…one two three four…one two three four…
…to survive. That was all that mattered. He was alive – he was so alive, and he could feel the energy inside him that told him so. It burned – oh, how it burned – it burned like nothing in Heaven or Earth, fuelling him even as it demanded to be fed in turn.
"Have to eat…have to eat…" The muttered words, muffled as he drew his knees up and buried his face in the dark fabric of blood-stiffened jeans, barely sounded in the freezing air of the old warehouse in which he huddled. Sheltered from the icy draughts that blew through like whiplashes against his burning skin, he was curled in the mouth of an immense concrete pipe, leaning against the smooth, sloping sides. The sun had set, and although he couldn't have said how long it had been since the dirty crimson of dusk had been swallowed by a slow wash of indigo, that indigo had now given way to the deepest, most complete ebony of the small hours of the night. Thick clouds blocked out the stars and moon entirely – it was like the last night of all, the last night that humans and Futurekind alike had gazed on before sinking into the cold death of the universe. He too had raised his eyes to that empty sky; he had turned his back on that absolute void, only to find it awaiting him a mere year later at the other end.
A day since…
…one two three four…one two three four…
One of his hands, tightly gripping the soft fabric of the sweatshirt he now wore as he wrapped his arms around himself, released its hold and moved up to his head. He couldn't think, couldn't plan, couldn't control…
A flicker – a glimmer of orange-white off iron and stone. For an instant, he was thrown back into a roaring inferno that seared through his mind's eye; he scrambled upright onto his knees, the trembling urge to run already quickening his breath. But no – the light was cold, and there was no crackle of flames, only a fizz of electricity in faulty wires. A streetlight outside, valiantly dragging itself to life, the light filtering through a hole in a ragged canvas that had been nailed to the roof to guard against the elements.
All of a sudden, he couldn't bear the darkness for one moment longer, and his eyes snapped open, fixing hungrily on the pool of light that had landed on the wall opposite him. Something shone there, and as his eyes focused, he could make out a rectangular shape propped against a stack of bricks. A car windscreen, he thought, cracked across the middle with several further spiderwebbing cracks either side. Grime caked one side, but it must have been moved recently, as the side that faced upwards was the cleaner, and with the opaque backing to the glass, it reflected the light clearly back at him.
Almost without his realizing, he had shuffled forwards, leaning over the edge of the pipe, closer and closer until a movement within the glass answered.
His amber-hazel eyes widened; so did those of the face that stared back at him. Hair a ghastly white, with a dark blot of congealed blood smeared through it and smudged down one side of the pallid face. Sharp features pinched and drawn, dark circles under hollow eyes, rough stubble covering the chin and cheeks. And those eyes – the eyes could have been those of a dead man – no light reflected back from the eyes, which stared back at him unblinking and unmoving.
His breathing stilled, the drums and the pounding of his hearts coming together to beat dully in his ears, and even the whistling of the wind through the chinks in the walls seemed to pause as if waiting for him to make the first move.
A motion at the corner of his eye caught his attention, but he didn't turn his head. It could have been the flapping of a tarpaulin against the wall, but he was certain he could feel another presence there now, and he knew instantly who it must be. He could picture him now: one of his earliest regenerations – combed hair and neatly trimmed beard; a dapper, grey jacket and trousers; a fine cigar held delicately between the finger and thumb of one gloved hand as he surveyed the Master who knelt in the pipe. He would be crossing the warehouse now, walking at an almost leisurely pace until he came to stop in front of the Master, where his other hand would reach up to brush invisible specks of dust from his sleeve.
"Tut tut tut…" His brows would furrow, and he would shake his head slowly. "What a mess. Look at yourself. What have you come to?" He would pause – not because he was waiting for a response, but as if taking a moment to contemplate what he saw before him. "Is this any way for a Time Lord to live? Why, I'm surprised you even remember who you once were. I would never dream of-"
"I am the Master now!" the Master burst out, the words coming as a choked shout.
"Really?" The man would raise his eyebrows as if in disbelief. "Well, in name, perhaps – but you are not the Master. Tell me, what else do you have?"
"I…" The Master's mouth was dry, and he swallowed hard. "I have…"
"Hatred." It would be another shade of his past that answered, limping out of the shadows on wasted legs that could barely support him, moving stiffly as his degenerate joints screamed through his nerves in protest. From within the concealing folds of the rags that had served as his cloak, lidless eyes would meet his wavering ones, and a mouth of rotten teeth bared in a perpetual grimace would move as he spoke. "Hatred and pain. Ohh yes – you understand pain. But now…" The decaying husk would shuffle closer, drawing a deep, rattling breath. "Now, you understand hatred as you have never understood it. But not for the Doctor – oh no…" He would lower his voice to a hiss. "So…is this how it ends for you? Cowering in a sewer, despising your very existence! At long last, you…will…die…"
"And to think, the Doctor will never know!" He remembered clearly the soft laugh of the one who had followed, and could imagine him striding forwards, his clear, blue eyes fixed on the Master's face. "I never thought I'd live to see the day… You don't even have the psychic energy left to call him for help, do you? Of course," he would move close – uncomfortably close; the Master drew back, pressing himself against the cold concrete of the pipe, "he wouldn't help you, would he? You disgust him." When he smiled, his lips would part to reveal long, pointed canines, and his eyes would flash yellow in the half-light. "You're little better than an animal now."
For an instant, the light died, plunging the warehouse momentarily into blackness once again – but of course, the next had been rather fond of a dramatic entrance. There he would be, lit at his back in the orange glare reflecting off the glass, his resplendent, Gallifreyan finery looking surreally out of place in the drab, rundown warehouse.
"Look at this place." Head held high, he would turn this way and that, his phosphorescent eyes sweeping his surroundings. "You could've had it all, you know – this planet, these people… Think about it – all that power. They'd all have to call you Master then. The Doctor still thinks you're dead – can you imagine the look on his face when you take over his favourite planet from right under his nose? You could've done all that."
"I still can!" the Master protested. "You'll see. This planet will burn!"
"And they'll never know what hit 'em," the leering figure would drawl. "What're you waiting for?" With a snarl, the Master pushed himself upright and made to rise, gripping the edge of the pipe white-knuckled to support himself. Seconds later, a white-hot pain shot through his body as the unstable life-force inside him flared up, and he fell to his knees. Briefly, he caught a glimpse of a bare skull grinning back at him from the glass before he doubled over, eyes clenched shut, fighting back the wave of energy. The fading laughter of his predecessor was quickly drowned in the hammering drums until that was the only sound that remained, the driving rhythm that overwhelmed even his own hoarse breathing.
When it passed, he kept his fists pressed against the sides of his head, shoulders hunched, head bowed – he didn't want to see the one who would be there now. He couldn't stand to see the concern in those world-weary, blue eyes, the perplexed frown deepening the tired lines around his mouth.
"Go away," the Master growled. "You're dead."
"Well, so were you – a day ago, was it?" There would be a sympathetic hand reaching for his shoulder; he recoiled before it could touch him. "Still, that's in the past now… You always did have a fighting spirit – and do you know, I think the Doctor might actually admire that in you?"
"You're lying. You were the lie, Yana." The Master shook his head with a harsh, bitter laugh. "You're not real."
"Well, that hasn't stopped you listening to the others, has it?" With the words would come a trace of a smile, that candlelight of optimism that refused to die in the old Professor. "Then again, maybe it's about time you listened to someone other than yourself, hm? He could help you – and God knows, if ever you needed him, it's now."
"I…" To the Master's horror, he found his voice cracking. "I can't – he won't listen."
"Oh, I'm sure he'll open up when the time is right…" A pensive look would pass across his face, like a cloud drifting across the sun, and for a moment, his eyes would mist over, lost in thought – and then he would shake his head with a tired chuckle. "Where was I? Ah yes, right… You've got to let him in too, you know."
"No!" Before the Master could help himself, anger had flooded his mind – just the thought of baring his soul to his most bitter enemy set him burning with humiliation. How could that weak, feeble old human that was buried in the deepest recesses of his self even think it – how dare he? "No – I will not go crawling to the Doctor for sympathy!" The light from outside was flickering again, on-off, on-off; he groped blindly behind him until his fingers closed around something smooth and round and solid. Desperately, he snatched up the rock, raised it over his shoulder and flung it straight at the wild-eyed silhouette that had lifted its arm in unison with him across the warehouse. The image shattered, glinting shards scattering in the orange-white lamplight like sparks…
…and then it was gone, and the warehouse was as cold and still and silent as a tomb, leaving the Master more alone than he had ever been, with only the ever-present hunger and something that he couldn't quite place aching in his chest.