A/N Technically speaking, this is my first time writing Master/Tenny, and I honestly have no idea how I feel about it. XD I started this ages ago, but just finished it up last week and decided that it was post-worthy. I'd love a review giving me your input! (Also, the ending is supposed to be somewhat ambivalent, but I have a feeling I failed at that, so cheers.)
Rated T for swearing and snogging
Disclaimer I don't own Doctor Who or any associated characters, events, etc.
He thought it was all over.
It was supposed to have ended with the shot from the woman in the scarlet dress, the tears and the fire. A grand finale, certainly, but a finale nonetheless. He'd thought that he'd finally recovered from that. Well, perhaps not recovered, but at least been able to somewhat move on. Back to being the last of the Time Lords. It shouldn't have been so hard of an adjustment, but it was.
Oh, god, it was.
There had been the tears. So many tears. His being alone in the TARDIS, no one had seen him on the occasions when he experienced the pangs—when he'd suddenly slumped against the control board, not caring about the warning alarms that went off from the buttons he'd accidentally pushed, because all that mattered were the sobs, out of nowhere, that tore his throat and scorched his lungs. They didn't last long, not usually. Just a few minutes before he found himself crouching on the floor, his eyes burning and his hearts aching, feeling oddly hollow around the stomach area. It came in waves. Always in waves. Sometimes, reflecting on how horrible of a person the Master had been, there was no pain at all. He deserved it. He deserved to die. If a single creature in the galaxy deserved death, then it was him. But other times, it was horrible. Unbearable. Unbearable to the point where it seemed like there was simply no way out, like he'd just keep sitting there, leaning against the TARDIS's console and staring at nothing, forever.
It had been hard with Rose, too. But the solution then had been to keep moving. Because Rose was alive. Even now, she was alive. It wasn't the same. He was dead. Dead. He's dead. He's dead! He wasn't thinking or experiencing anything right now, not anything. He was gone. There was nothing left of him, nothing at all.
He was gone.
Then it would come back again, in a suffocating way, simply because the Doctor felt so alone. There was truly no one like him left. No one. And not a person to travel with anymore, either. No companions. No Rose. No Martha. No Jack, even. Just… him. Him and the TARDIS.
He should have been used to being alone by now.
He was, too, after a while. He'd managed to pull himself together long enough to start moving again, darting about the universe and stitching up time, making it pretty. Doctoring it, so to speak. He didn't pick up any more companions, because he didn't want to have to risk it. There was too much of a chance that he'd break down once more, and that would never do. This way was easier—his being able to tell himself that nothing was constantly dependent on him. He could go where he wanted, really, skip around in time, dabble where he wished… on his own. He wasn't sure how long he'd keep going on like this. Till the end, perhaps. Never risking anything. Such wasn't the way he was used to living, but it would have to do.
It was, after all, only a way to pass time.
But after a while, he'd decided that this was best for him. It was better without emotional ties. Finally, the point came where he hadn't cried for three full days. It was something of a relief to know that he truly was making progress, though at the same time, it felt horrible. He was moving on, really moving on, from his one and only lifelong friend. His one and only dead lifelong friend, who, in those last moments, had undeniably felt like something more.
He hadn't really thought about the fact that he was landing the TARDIS in the early 21st century. It was a particularly enjoyable time for him—a nice point, right around where the Earth humans began making their first connections with other sentient life-forms. Always a triumphant location to visit on that particular planet.
The day was decent, too, he acknowledged as the TARDIS's door creaked open. He leaned his head out, glancing left and right down the busy London street. His stomach clenched oddly when he saw the back of a young blonde woman, but he was used to reacting in that way ever since… well, the Canary Wharf battle.
But now wasn't the time to think about her—about Rose—because… because he simply couldn't. A crisp but sun-warmed breeze dashed across his forehead, and he hastened to pull his coat a bit tighter around his thin shoulders, kicking the door shut behind him and starting aimlessly down the street. He wasn't quite sure why he was here today, just knew that he had a vague urge to visit Jack, and here had been the last place they parted ways. If he'd truly wanted to pay the American a visit, he knew that all he'd have to do was contact Torchwood, but he wasn't terribly concerned that his hope be fulfilled, not really. It was nothing more than a half-realized wish that he might contact the only person he really even had connections to at this point.
A small flash caught the corner of his eye, and he glanced quickly in the direction it had come as his ears processed raised voices emerging from the same location. Paparazzi. A number of black-clad figures armed with cameras, clustered around a slim limousine.
He wondered only faintly who it be, not caring, really. Celebrities weren't his concern, not unless they were—
"Mr. Saxon, would you care to tell us exactly what prompted you to run for office this term…?"
His reaction to the Rose-haired girl was absolutely nothing compared to this. He felt his whole stomach turn over so violently he was nauseated, and every particle of his body seemed to freeze, drenched with first heat, then cold as his eyes focused on the blond man pulling himself out of the car, good-naturedly waving away the reporters.
It was him.
He was right there, and—and he was alive. Standing there. Breathing. A winning smile plastered over his handsome face as he took his wife's arm. For a moment, the Doctor could swear that he heard drums thundering in his head… one two three four, one two three four, one two three four…
He couldn't move from the sidewalk. It was unclear to him whether he desired more to run towards the Master as fast as his legs could carry him, or to dart back to the TARDIS and take himself somewhere galaxies away. His blood was pumping far too hard, and his muscles remained petrified as the man calling himself Harry Saxon slowly looked up, brown eyes skimming over the crowds to focus on him.
He could see the surprise break over the face, mild, shown only in the slightest raise of the eyebrows, a tiny part of the lips. He stared back, straight-faced simply because he didn't know what other expression he could possibly pull on, staring as the faraway mouth of his closest friend and greatest enemy framed a name.
The word was coming out as a sort of faint, shaking confirmation, merely a path for the air spilling out of his suddenly overworked lungs to take. "…Master."
Then he was tripping backwards, his head spinning in utter denial. There must be something, some sort of rule for why this couldn't work, a law that the two of them meeting would shatter. But nothing occurred. It seemed that, in all truth, there wasn't a thing wrong with him encountering a dead man.
This dead man.
Right now, though… right now, the Master was alive. How did that work? He was alive. He was there. Right there. He was thinking… he was feeling something, something that the Doctor didn't know (and wasn't sure he wanted to, either). He was saying something to the crowd around him, releasing the arm of Mrs. Saxon and striding forwards.
The Doctor ran.
He didn't know where or why he was fleeing, just that he couldn't do this—not here, not now. In this moment, the Master didn't know how close he was to death. And yet he was. How long was it?—there would be that year that never existed, maybe a couple of extra months if he, Martha, and Jack hadn't arrived yet.
In less than two years, you're going to be dead.
There was no way he could tell him that. There was no way he could not tell him that. And so he sufficed to run, to tear through crowds, mumbling a quick "sorry" or two as he shoved humans out of the way. He couldn't do this. Can't do this, can't do this. But he was only gathering attention, and with the future Prime Minister after him…
He felt somebody grab his shoulder and roughly force him down, where he threw his hands forward, yelping as they scraped the sidewalk. He tried to pull away, but strong fingers were gripping his wrists, twisting them uncomfortably and snapping a pair of cold, too-tight cuffs around them.
"No—you really don't want to be doing this," he tried to tell the stoic policeman who stood over him, glaring. "You really, really don't. Listen, you—"
"Oh, I think we're doing exactly what we want to, sir," the officer growled back, giving his handcuffs a little jerk. "On the commands of Mr. Harold Saxon himself, you're under arrest for suspicious activity."
The Doctor stumbled forward, struggling to straighten up but still remaining in a somewhat hunched position as he was pulled away. Before his surroundings arranged themselves properly again, he was contained in the claustrophobic interior of a police car, leaning against the door as it lurched and began to roll away. He pressed his wide-eyed face against the window, grasping at the inside of his pocket for his sonic screwdriver and he watching a small crowd of staring people disappear around a corner. His fingers managed to curl around the edge of the sonic, and he flipped it up, barely managing to clutch it firmly. There, better. Now, just to fix these handcuffs—
He tried again, failing to ignore the horror that was rising up inside his chest. He pressed harder, gritting his teeth, but the usually dependable tool was as useless as a stick of metal. The Master must have planted a device in the car, something to prevent sonic devices from working in its vicinity. Of course he would—he'd known, known that the Doctor was coming back for him—there was no way, though, that he could possibly be aware of the point that was currently occurring in the Doctor's own time stream. He had already done this. The Master was dead, dead to him, anyways. This was over.
It was supposed to be all over.
Shoving the screwdriver back in his pocket and fighting a persistent need to panic, he leaned forward, trying to speak through the thick layer of glass separating him and the car's driver.
"Please, you—could you just hear me out, please? There are things about Harold Saxon that you don't know you can't trust him—I can prove it, just let me tell you!"
He was, of course, ignored. That was how the government worked, it would seem, for the most part—honesty was put aside in the face of power. That didn't stop him from struggling, though, harder and harder until the cruiser lurched to a stop. Then he flopped back against his leather seat, breathing heavily. What was there to do? Resistance seemed useless. If there was one thing he had learned during his years fighting against the Master, it was that when the other Time Lord wanted something, he would almost definitely achieve it.
"Can you at least tell me where I'm going?" he asked wearily, raising his dark brown eyes to gaze at the burly guard who stood in the doorway of the car. The man's heavy brows drew down, and he hesitated for a moment, suspicion showing in his wide, hard face before speaking reluctantly, in a low grunt.
"Mr. Saxon wants to see you personally."
That was all he disclosed, however much the Doctor urged him to give more information. The surroundings that he was exposed to when tugged out of the car by the handcuffs seemed to consist of—of all things—the parking lot of a restaurant. The building loomed in front of him, a wide, wood-paneled entrance hall glinting behind large glass doors.
"Where…?" he began, but the heavy man only pulled harder, and he gritted his teeth against the pain cutting into his wrists, stumbling forwards. There seemed to be no one else in the parking lot, which was at least something; that way he wouldn't be a complete laughingstock for any passerby. He probably did look rather odd, after all—a messy-haired man in a long coat and handcuffs, being dragged into a luxury restaurant by a man who wouldn't have looked out of place as the leader of a clandestine crime ring. The cool air whipped by him, and he found his gaze skating rapidly along the edges of the lot, wondering if perhaps someone would recognize him—a pathetic hope, since he almost never saw his companions after leaving them officially. The result matched the odds: the lack of a single person in his vicinity wasn't altered at all as he neared the doors. He managed to straighten himself up into a slightly more dignified position as his captor lugged him inside of the building.
"What's going on?" the Doctor demanded again. "I—this—please…" Trying to reason was useless. In fact, there was probably no point to it, anyways—this restaurant could have looked a good deal more frightening. A soft, almost romantic tune was playing from hidden speakers, and a neatly suited maître d' stood at the front, behind a wide, heavy wooden desk on which sat a computer and a small crystal jar of after-dinner mints.
What the hell…
"Saxon," the Doctor's guard explained simply when the maître d' shot him an inquiring glance, and the single word was met with a slightly open mouth and a nod of understanding. The Doctor found himself being chauffeured into the wide, carpeted dining room, a massive area with multiple chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. He found himself wishing that he'd paid a bit more attention to where the car had been driving—this was no part of London he knew, and escaping from it would prove even more of a challenge if he wasn't familiar with his surroundings.
It took him exactly two seconds to locate the Master in the otherwise entirely empty room, sitting back against a velvet-backed wooden chair with a smirk playing around his thin lips. A few shoves later, the Doctor half-fell into the chair across from him, doubling over and glaring across the table, which was set with twin glasses of sparkling wine and had a single flickering candle positioned in the middle of the creamy tablecloth.
"What's all this, then?" he asked warily, as the muscular man knelt down and began shamelessly knotting ropes around his ankles, tying them to the chair legs. He glanced down briefly in disgust, then raised his eyes again to meet the Master's patient stare.
"Obvious, isn't it? I'm treating you to dinner. Be flattered."
He just scowled harder, as his feet were effectively attached to the chair and the guard, his work done, slipped the sonic screwdriver out of the Doctor's pocket before tromping out of the room. The Doctor exhaled subconsciously, oddly relieved to be alone with the Master, though he really should have felt the opposite, if his mind was working even somewhat reasonably. This was, after all, an insane murderer that he seemed scheduled to spend his night with. He wasn't scared, though. He was never scared of the Master, never had been. Only scared for him. For what did to others, what he might do to himself someday.
Scared of losing him permanently, but he didn't let himself acknowledge that part.
He had lost him permanently, in any case. Or he was supposed to have. And yet here he was now, staring at him across the table, bound and handcuffed and completely helpless. This wasn't how things were supposed to turn out, not at all.
"Quiet this afternoon, are we?" The Master leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and resting his chin on a cupped hand. His chocolate eyes glimmered as he twisted his face into a mock-pouting expression. "Sad because we lost our friends…? Pretty Jack and lovely Martha. Where are they now, hm? Wandered off? Or has a more… permanent devastation severed those particular bonds?"
The Doctor bit back a genuine explanation. The Master couldn't know that he was from the future, couldn't know that he himself was… dead. He swallowed instead, not speaking a word but keeping their eyes at the same level.
"Very quiet. Boring, in fact. Was it a painful departure? Are you… saddened by your loneliness?"
If only you knew. 'Saddened' didn't begin to cover the agony that he'd been living in for weeks and weeks now. Not even near. And it wasn't caused by them, you idiot, it was caused by you… that much was true. He'd been so distraught by the Master's death that he'd barely had time to think about Jack and Martha leaving him. He was almost glad, in a way, that neither of them had stuck around. He would have had to hold in the tears, and he'd experienced hundreds of years' worth of doing just that. He didn't want to have to bear the restraint any longer.
He was restraining now, though, absolutely. Having to look in the Master's very eyes, meet that steady, dark amber gaze and not so much as flinch at the memory of the light seeping out of it…
You're dead. Can you see it in my mind, in my stare? Can you see how much I miss you?
But the Master's expression remained unconcerned, almost humored, and the Doctor gave up with a small sigh. "Saddened, yes," he finally decided to admit, making sure not to specify why exactly that might be. "And a bit disappointed, that you should do something as uncivilized as… abduct me like this."
"Abduct you?" The Master took a long, low sip of dark red wine, looking almost thoughtful. He took his time, half-emptying the glass before continuing with his speech. "I wouldn't call this… abduction, no, that's awfully primitive. You're on a dinner date, Doctor. If such a simple thing is repulsive, then I envy all those legions of poor companions who fancy you so much."
"Dinner date?" For some reason, the words caused a slight twist in the Doctor's stomach, and a slow tingle spread across his fate. Rather than stopping to ponder why the playful word choice had such an effect on him, he held up his wrists, still tightly cuffed together. "This is rather one-sided for a dinner date, I have to say."
"I'd let you take them off if I trusted you more."
"You're one to talk about trust."
He grinned. "I suppose so. Should I feel betrayed that you don't put more faith in me?"
"To be betrayed," the Doctor replied delicately, "you have to first have someone you rely on. And I somehow doubt that you ever depended on me in such a way."
"Do you now?"
They both stopped moving for a second, the Doctor's fingers frozen in their contemplative worrying of his handcuffs and the Master's glass held suspended several inches from his mouth. They both realized the Doctor's error—as atypical as it may be of many archenemies, these two did trust each other at one point, trusted each other more than anything else. And that'd been hard to put behind for both of them, which was probably why they kept running into each other, kept getting tangled up in the same affairs.
Maybe, whether or not they processed it at that moment, they were seeking each other out.
The Doctor forced himself to break the electric gaze between them, looking down at the creamy silk tablecloth and letting out a slow breath. "In any case," he murmured, "I think it can be accepted as an established fact that neither of us exactly trust each other at this point."
"Well, if you're going to be so black-and-white about it, perhaps. I prefer to see things as more of a spectrum than that."
"I'm black and white? In my experience, there are only two types of people in the world for you—allies and enemies."
"Interesting," the Master purred delicately. He placed his wineglass on his placemat with perfect precision, and its thin stem caught the low light, sending rippling shadows across the table, which in turn created twirling patterns over the glinting metal of the Doctor's handcuffs. "You don't know me very well at all, then, do you?"
For some reason, the words sent a pang of sickness through the Doctor's stomach, and he tilted his chin up, frowning slightly. "Alright, do I get a chance to rephrase?"
The Master tilted his head, eyebrows raised in a clear indication to go on.
"You treat people as though there are only two types in the world."
"Ah, interesting. Still imperfect, though… are you really that blind, Doctor? Do you really not see…?"
The Doctor stared evenly, not responding.
"There's a third type… a third type of person." The Master's finger ran delicately around the rim of his glass, and he smirked thinly at the Doctor. Somehow, in that moment, he looked oddly… normal. Here they were, having what seemed like, despite its contents, a rather normal conversation. It was almost like they were just on an average dinner date, like they weren't eternally lonely creatures from another world…
Like one of them wasn't dead.
It was true, though, that the Master was dead, and the Doctor couldn't allow himself to forget that. Because it wasn't going to change. No matter what he did now, that was a fixed point in time if anything was, and if he let himself fall under the illusion that he could possibly alter it, it would become a thousand times more unbearable. So he took a deep breath, hid in the back of his mind, and resumed the easy banter, attempting for the action to look effortless but probably failing.
"A third type. Superiors? You didn't seem to respect them all that much at the Academy, I have to say… hardly different from your enemies. You admired them a bit, though… I could see that in you, even if you wouldn't let it show…"
He trailed off, since the Master was waving his hand impatiently. "Superiors, no, of course not. They're all enemies now. Almost everyone is… except for Lucy, and of course the sweet little Toclafane… oh, but you don't know about them yet, do you?"
The Doctor fought not to respond. He knew of the Toclafane perfectly well—but not according to the Master's timeline. And then, of course, there was that mention of Lucy… Mrs. Saxon…
No. Stop it. Don't let yourself think about that, this isn't the time to break down. But now that he could see the Master's eyes, he could remember all too vividly how their light drained, how the apparently young man's body went limp in his own arms—
"Enlighten me, then," he said, his voice a demand more than anything else. He needed something else to fill his mind with, something to push back the tears tickling at the back of his eyes. "What is this third type of person?"
He blinked, hesitated. Somehow, the answer managed to come to him as a complete surprise, despite (and he was only seeing it now) the rather obvious lead-up to it. "Me," he repeated quietly. "I'm a whole category to myself, then?"
"Naturally. Not ally, not enemy. Or, I suppose… ultimate enemy, on occasion. If you choose to identify yourself as such, anyhow."
"I wouldn't necessarily," the Doctor murmured evasively, reaching up to scratch the back of his head and unwillingly bringing his other hand in the same direction, the glittering chain between them stretching tight. "We've been friends… in the past. There's no need for that to be completely lost, even now."
"That sounds almost like an invitation," the Master mused in response, his voice low and heated. "A peace offering… what do you say we let it go? Just for a night… remember Gallifrey? The Academy?" His eyes looked almost… innocent, for a moment, locked in the Doctor's gaze, wide and half-hopeful as his tone grew even softer. "The fields, the sunshine… remember, just for a moment. We could have that all back, you and I. This one night, we could have it back."
"Gallifrey is gone," the Doctor replied coldly, ignoring the fierce pull in his chest at the other Time Lord's words. "It's been gone for centuries. There's no use trying to paint a picture of it now, because it's never coming back."
You're never coming back.
"It's not gone," he snarled back. A low core of steel had crept into his words, hard and strong and fierce. "I don't give a damn about the planet, Doctor. Why would I? It was a hellhole, a trap. No one could appreciate me… or appreciate you… there were only two types of people on that place, and ally wasn't one of them. One made it worth living through the other."
"You don't need to speak in code," the Doctor objected, but the words gave him light chills nonetheless. Made it worth living. Was I really that much to you?
"Fine," the Master agreed roughly, leaning forward over the table. His fingers, placed flat on it, curled slightly, winding the silky cloth up in between them as he watched the Doctor like a predator. "I won't speak in code. Fuck code."
He lunged forward in a single moment, and the Doctor barely had time to yelp in protest before there was a tight grip on the chain linking his hands together, dragging him forward, cutting his wrists. His confused, half-articulated whimpers were cut off by the Master forcing their mouths together in a hot, hard motion, and the keen coming from his throat morphed into a low groan. His hands were stinging where the icy metal cuffs sliced into them, but he was too electrified to pay much attention. The other man's grip moved to his shoulders, dragging him in closer, and he felt a stray elbow knock aside his own wine glass as the Master's tongue curled under his own teeth, the edge running along them daringly. Wine drenched his sleeve and a shattered chime rang through the air as broken glass cascaded to the ground. For the briefest instant, the Master pulled back, leaving only a few millimeters of space between their faces.
"…Indelicate," the Doctor managed to gasp out.
The Master, chest heaving, quirked his mouth up slightly. "Quite," he purred, fiercely gripping a handful of the Doctor's hair. "You'll find that my style is rather…" His head tilted slightly to the side, and his fingers ran up and down the Doctor's cheek and jaw in shaky, uncoordinated movements. "…Wild."
"I'll… find it?" he repeated.
"I should certainly hope so." With a slight whine that showed him to be bored of talking, he leaned in again, this time standing up and bending down over the table so that he could attack the Doctor from above, kissing his forehead and lips and cheeks and chin, slipping a hand under his suit top and probing his tense, tight shoulder blade with warm fingers. "Mm… you have no idea how long I've waited for this," he breathed.
"I might… have some idea," the Doctor managed to whisper. And he did—he did, because he wasn't just putting up with the Master's actions, he was kissing back, he was responding in ways that he didn't even realize he wanted to. What he got in return was a low growl, and then a massive crash as the whole table was shoved aside, toppling over. For a moment, he was tripping slightly sideways, unable to break his own fall with his cuffed hands, but then he was hitting the ground and being pinned there, pushed up against the wreck of the table, broken pieces of the chair still roped to his ankles, shattered glass and spilled wine in a glimmering pile around him and the cracked wooden structure scraping against his back. The Master fingered the raw skin of his wrists, irritating it, but the Doctor didn't mind, because his whole head was buzzing.
"So?" the Master breathed against his lips. "What do you say? A night… one night, to forget."
Forget… forget… forget…
It all came back then. The future, the horrible, inevitable future, that wasn't going to leave him however hard he might try to forget, the pain of which could be amplified by a thousand times if he dared to take things farther this one night, to confirm the emotion that had always been between him and the Master in reality… he'd only just gotten over the other Time Lord's death, and barely—the thought of having to go through that agony again, of having it be worse…
"You're giving me a choice…"
"…Please?" the Master's voice was nothing more than a silken murmur, and the Doctor's whole chest ached as he gazed into those wide, dark chocolate eyes, as a thousand memories of the past and future flooded his mind. If only there was a way to change—but there wasn't, no way to change it. Nothing to do.
"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry," he breathed, a desperate apology to himself as he leaned in to kiss the Master again.