"Ugghhhnn, my head," groans the Doctor as he slowly awakens to take in his surroundings only to find himself once again bound by chains, but this time in the Zero Room.

The Master is sitting directly across from him straddling a chair while watching his every movement. "Aw, what's wrong, Doctor?" he inquires without a trace of sympathy. "Are you feeling a bit out of sorts?"

"You! What the hell are you doing here?" he rages while he jerks on his chains. "I left you behind!"

"Did you truly believe that I would leave you alone with Rose, even for one moment, if it wasn't all planned out to the minutest detail?" asks the Master with a smirk. "You were played Doctor and so easily too. I can only hope that it's your madness that's made you this dense."

The Doctor merely sits there seething as he absorbs the Master's words. It had all been a trap, a set up, and he had missed it by a mile. "Where's Rose?" he demands as his eyes scan for any sign of her.

"I'm right here," she replies as she enters the room, "I was just putting away the Vortex Manipulator."

"Where did you get it?" asks the Doctor while keeping his eyes trained on her. "I know Jack's is disabled, I made sure of it."

Rose walks over and stands alongside the Master. "Shortly after we returned to this universe, I contacted Jack and told him what happened to you and to see if he knew of anything that could help you. He didn't."

"However," picks up the Master, "once we finally realized how to snap you back to reality, he was more than willing to help us obtain another Vortex Manipulator. Apparently, he knew of a few Time Agents who had been careless enough a time or two to lose theirs and where we could find them."

"Which, of course, is how you were able to return to the TARDIS," grits the Doctor between clenched teeth.

"I had to leave the ship; otherwise you never would have believed that I had left. Even using my own telepathy to limit your link with the TARDIS, it's still strong enough that you'd know that I was still onboard. The Vortex Manipulator was the perfect failsafe to bring me back." The Master's mouth hardens into a grimace and he watches Rose kneel at the Doctor's side and he has to force himself not to bark out an order to stay away from him. It took him a long time to accept that she still loved the Doctor, albeit not in the same way that she loved him, and he doesn't want to betray her trust of his faith in her. He doesn't believe in a lot of things, he never has, but there's no doubt in his mind or heart that he believes in her.

Rose wraps her fingers around the Doctor's own, the only part of his arm that was left unbound by chains. "Once you knew the Master had left, the TARDIS weakened your bonds so that you would attempt an escape and she alerted me when you had so that I could go to your cell." She raises her free hand and runs it through his hair in an apologetic gesture. "I'm so sorry that I had to trick you into following me into the Zero Room, Doctor, but you know that if I had asked you that you never would have come willingly."

Her fingers curl more tightly around his and he gently squeezes them back as he drops his gaze to the floor. "So now I've lost my TARDIS to him as well as losing you, eh, Rose?"

"Doctor, no, it's not like that! We're only trying to help you and the TARDIS knows that, if not then she never would have offered her assistance!" She stares up at him beseechingly, her gaze begging him to understand as she moves the hand in his hair to his jaw and tilts his head to face her. "We only want to help you, Doctor, and now we know how to do it."

He merely sits there gazing at her sadly before he finally speaks. "And that can only be accomplished by teaming up with the Master, Rose? My worst enemy?" He nearly crushes her fingers in a punishing grip as he watches her with calculating eyes and flashes a cruel smile. "If you want someone who's capable of handling me, there's a certain eighteenth century French courtesan that I would be more than happy to recommend."

Rose barely has time to cry out in shock and pain before she hears the thudding of the Master's chair hitting the floor and stares on in horror as he grabs the Doctor by the throat and steadily increases his grip until the Doctor's face turns purple.

Never speak to her like that again, do you understand me?" growls the Master. "Rose is trying to help you because she loves you and I'm only helping you because I love her."

Rose rushes to lay a placating hand on the Master's arm and pleads, "Master! Love, please don't do this! He didn't mean it; you know that, he not right in the head!"

The Master stares hard at the Doctor before he relents and releases him to drop his head down in a coughing fit. When the mad Time Lord is able to regain his ability to speak, he keeps his eyes shut to stave off the pain and takes in huge gulps of air. "Well, that was rude, both the attack and the words. I'm sorry too, Rose, maybe I should have asked for Sarah Jane instead." He opens his eyes and gives her a cold stare. "She always knew what to do, but maybe that's because she's a grown woman and not a child."

The Master cradles Rose's injured hand while she stares down the Doctor and refuses to flinch from either the pain in her hand or in her heart. "I wouldn't dare inflict you on her in your present condition. She deserves better than that, we all do."

He snorts in derision as the Master continues his inspection. "Nothing's broken," he declares angrily, "but there's a bit of swelling. We can go into the Infirmary now or wait until after this is done, it's up to you."

"We'll take care of it now," replies Rose firmly. "I told you earlier that I was ready for this." She casts a disdainful glance at their curious prisoner. "I want this done as soon as possible."

"You want what done?" He narrows his eyes in suspicion as he glares at them. "What are you two planning now?"

The Master stalks towards him and taunts, "Oh, you're going to love this, Doctor, it's something that you might have even thought up yourself at one time! And although I personally prefer putting you down like a rabid dog, Rose has persuaded me to have you fixed!" He pats his head like a beloved pet while the Doctor shakes off his hand in a fury.

"Knock it off!" orders the Doctor sternly. "What are you going to do to me?"

After casting a quick admonishing glance at her lover, Rose then turns to the Doctor and begins her explanation. "It's quite simple really, you see, we've been going about this all wrong, Doctor. The TARDIS has tried to reach you, the Master's tried using his telepathy, and I've even tried using Bad Wolf, but nothing seems to work so that led us to wonder what more could we really do. That's when the Master started regaling me with old stories and brought up one in particular about your Fifth life's regeneration not going as smoothly as it should have and that's when we realized, we needed to bring the Zero Room into play."

The Doctor's head jerks up as he notices the hum of the TARDIS grow steadily louder and more insistent at the same time that Rose and the Master intertwine their fingers and move towards him.

"What are you two doing?" he shouts while he struggles against his bonds. "Stay away from me!"

"What's that old saying, Doctor?" inquires the Master as Rose lays her hand on the wall behind the Doctor and her eyes begin to glow gold as the TARDIS' hum increases to a roar in his head. "Oh yes, it takes the Children of Time to save a village idiot." And with that final declaration, the Master stretches out his fingers along the Doctor's temple and along with Rose and the TARDIS, plunges into the Doctor's mind.


They were inside the Doctor's mind. Rose remains in place, surveying everything around her, extremely grateful for the Master's hand still grasping hers and the constant hum and presence of the TARDIS in the back of their minds. This would be impossible to take on all alone, she has no idea how the Doctor has been able to suffer this madness by himself for so long.

The Master immediately does his own analysis of the Doctor's mind and grimaces at what he sees. Not only due to the obvious damage that any trained telepath could see caused by previous trauma and strain, but at the disorder that reigns about them.

If not for the ephemeral feeling that she was experiencing, Rose would swear that they were standing in one of the TARDIS' corridors. Numerous doors line the hallway that they're currently standing in and every time they hazard to open a door, they promptly discover that it is littered with clutter and debris.

The Master releases a mirthless chuckle as he studies the various interiors. "Unbelievable, I thought his mind would be better organized than this, it's in more disarray than his TARDIS."

The slight slur earns him an uncomfortable niggling feeling in the back of his mind and he is well aware of how lucky he is. If it wasn't for the fact that he was actually trying to help the Doctor, that niggling feeling could have easily been a heavy pounding inside his skull. "Sorry," he offers contritely. "Although to be fair, it is true." OUCH. And there's that pounding. He mock glares at the ceiling of the Doctor's mind. You know that I'm going to need a clear head if I'm to accomplish anything. The pounding instantly ceases. He releases a sigh and in kinder tones sends out, Thank you.

Together, they search an abundance of rooms that seem to be popping up left and right as if merely to delay them in their final goal. And it works, but only for so long and when they eventually do meet their objective, they can do no more than stand together and stare at the sight before them. They stare not in relief, victory, disgust or even awe, but with extraordinary dread and great pity. For what lies before them is not the Time Lord Victorious but the Time Lord himself, or what remains of him. He is pressed against the darkest corner of his mind, curled into himself as he rocks back and forth, apparently the only comfort that he is willing to offer himself.

The Master and Rose's gazes slowly travel from his prone form to each other and without any words or gestures between them, silently proclaim that they will find the man that they had both called friend in prior lives and bring him back to them because after viewing this shattered man before them, nothing else will be considered acceptable.