Chapter One: Who was Rose Tyler?

Months. That's how long it had been. The Doctor was still an elderly gentleman, and the Master felt great joy whenever he could torment him. It wasn't anything the Doctor couldn't handle. After the Time War, no horror could compare. Well, that's what he thought. He was wrong.

It was an average day on the Valiant. Averagely miserable. The Doctor was seated at the table, like he usually was. He knew the Master had entered when he heard his god-awful singing. However, the fun didn't begin until the Master leapt in front of his chair with a broad smile.

"Hello, Doctor. Beautiful day, isn't? Just lovely. I know that you aren't one for talking lately, which really breaks my hearts. Sincerely it does. Well, coming from me that means next to nothing. I was doing some thinking. Serious thinking. Pontificating, if you will. How do I get the Doctor to talk me? Then, I thought of something. You were always fond of your companions."

The Doctor shifted uncomfortably, giving the Master everything he needed. He was on the right track. He loved it when he found a way to get under the Doctor's skin.

"Before I turned the TARDIS into a paradox machine I had a looksee. Nothing big. Just the latest files. I didn't find much, but I did find something interesting. A little gem. Martha isn't your first companion since the Time War. There was another. What was her name? Oh yes. Rose Tyler."

He glared intensely at the Master, but he still didn't answer him. The Master kept pushing.

"There were a few things here and there. It didn't say much about why she left. I began to wonder, what was it? Did you drive her away? Did she get killed? Maimed? Oh, I hoped that she was maimed. She looked so pretty in her file picture. Almost too pretty for her own good. So, I decided to do a little research. I wanted to find her, and find her I did! Rose Tyler is dead. Died in the Battle of Canary Wharf. Oh, and you were there. Torchwood said so. How did that feel? Watching your companion die?"

The Master searched the Doctor's face for a response. He didn't seem upset. The Doctor was always sad about death, especially for his human playthings. That gave the Master an idea. He kept talking.

"You know, I think that you should be reunited. I could always dig up the body. That'd be a sight. A corpse of your companion right here on the Valiant. Staring you in the face. By now, very decomposed."

No response. Could it be that she didn't really die? He grinned. Oh, he could be so clever.

"She isn't dead, is she? Maybe I can actually find her. The living, breathing human girl. I could bring her here. The games we would play! How lovely that would be!"

The Doctor's face hardened at the first part, but he clearly wasn't worried. Rose was alive, yet she was somewhere that even the Master couldn't reach. She must have gone missing during the battle and they assumed that she was dead. What did that mean? She had to be far, far away. The Doctor was so confident of this. It hit him. What if the Doctor couldn't get to her either? He had to work that angle.

"I won't be able to find her, will I? But something tells me that you can't find her either. Your eyes are so unhappy. Like a puppy dog lost without its mother. Lost…that's where Rose Tyler is. You've lost her, haven't you? She's out there somewhere. Alone. Frightened. Probably kicking herself for trusting you."

"Stop it," the Doctor finally answered. "I'm telling you right now. Don't."

The Master clapped his hands. "It speaks! We have had a breakthrough. Hold that thought. Let me get a chair…" he pulled over a chair and sat, crossing his legs. He leaned on his fist attentively. "Tell me about her. Go on. How'd you lose her?"

"I'm not going to tell you anything."

"Doctor, we're old friends. Something like this must kill you inside. Don't you want to talk about her?"

"No."

"Well, if you won't I will! I'll just talk and talk and talk and talk. It'll be all lies, of course. That's what I do best. I did go into politics for a reason. Ah, where do I begin? Rose Tyler was a worthless human. Couldn't do anything right."

"Don't use her name," the Doctor warned, growing angry. "That's a mistake."

The Master leaned in excitedly. "Why is that?"

"It's the name that keeps me fighting."

This was better than he thought. The Doctor must be in love with this human. It was like Christmas morning. "You loved her!"

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Stop it."

"You stop it. C'mon, Doctor. Tell me one thing about her. That's all. Just one thing to start."

He hesitated. "I'd rather be tortured with Jack."

"But this is torture! Look at you. Pathetic and in love. So sweet. Just pulls at the heart strings. If you don't tell me, I'll go to the TARDIS right now. I might snoop around. Maybe I'll find her old room. Destroy everything. All that you have left of her."

"There's nothing there."

"You're lying," the Master chuckled. "You are such a horrible liar! Dear Lord, it is an insult to con-artists in every corner of the universe! Seriously, leave it to the professionals. Either you talk, or I erase every last trace that she ever traveled with you. Even the file."

The Doctor scowled. He had left her room exactly the same. The only photograph he had was in the file, and the Master would be able to erase it. The TARDIS was the paradox machine, but he'd have enough power to access it. Nevertheless, he hated talking about her. It broke him in half. It'd break him even more to lose the only connection he had left.

"I'm waiting…" the Master hummed with a smile.

"Only if you give me your word on Gallifrey that you'll leave her things and the file alone."

The Master held up his hand. "I swear on Gallifrey."

"And Rassilon."

He groaned. "And Rassilon."

"And your mum."

"All right! I promise! Just get on with it. How'd you lose her?"

He took a steadying breath. "It was at the Battle of Canary Wharf. She was about to be sucked into the void with the Cybermen and Daleks. I couldn't get to her. Her father from a parallel world appeared and took her back. She's in that world with her family."

"Parallel…" the Master echoed. "Interesting. Now, why did you fall in love with her?"

Painfully, he swallowed. If it had been any other person in any other circumstance, he wouldn't have spoken at all or continued to speak. But, this was the Master. His oldest friend and most devious enemy. So, with agonizing reluctance, he mumbled, "Too many reasons."

"Give me a bloody example, then."

"…she was unstoppable. Once, she took the Time Vortex into her head."

The Master's eyes grew wide. "She couldn't have survived that."

"No, that's why I took it from her. It did kill me. I had to regenerate."

He made a sad sound. "How romantic. Why'd she do that? Just for fun?"

"No, not for fun. I sent her and the TARDIS to London for the last time. She wouldn't accept that. She broke into it and stared into the Time Vortex so she could save me from the Daleks. The Emperor survived the Time War and created an army. She killed them all with the wave of her hand, including the Emperor."

"Really?" the Master said in disbelief. The Doctor nodded. "No wonder you loved her. Attractive and powerful. Where'd you get Martha? You should send her back. She's not Rose Tyler, is she?"

The Doctor wouldn't answer.

"That's what I thought," the Master chuckled. "The countdown continues! Let me just say that I am very glad that Rose Tyler isn't the one out there. I might actually be a bit concerned. Well, not really. Maybe a tad. Why don't we talk more about this companion of yours tomorrow?"

"No. I talked once."

"Then I'll break my promise to Gallifrey, Rassilon, and my mum. If you keep talking, I won't touch anything on the TARDIS. Cross my hearts."

The Doctor grimaced. "Why are you doing this?"

"Like I said, it's torture for you. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Nice and tingly. It even tickles. I want to know who Rose Tyler was. Do we have a deal?"

He hated to do it, but he knew that they'd defeat the Master somehow while he would never get to replace Rose's things. It killed him to answer. "We have a deal."

"Wonderful! Same place, same time. I do hope your schedule isn't too full for your old mate. Make sure you add me to your very busy calendar."

The Master patted him harshly on the shoulder and sauntered away, whistling cheerfully. Cringing, the Doctor thought back to his happier days with Rose and the TARDIS. They were gone forever, and that was worse than anything. The Master knew that, and he was going to exploit the weakness until there was nothing left but a shell of a Time Lord.

Every day after that, the Doctor had to share one story about Rose. He kept them as vague as possible, but it was wearing him down. The countdown was wearing down as well. It was just a matter of time, and he hoped that Martha had succeeded. The Master had to be stopped.