beholdthedrums: [Saxon] (............)
The Master ([personal profile] beholdthedrums) wrote2009-08-02 12:29 am

FIC: Shadows and Ghosts and the Whispers of the Mind

Community: [ profile] justprompts
Prompt: Song: Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap
Character(s): The Master, the Doctor, the Rani (briefly)
Words: 2,603

I donno if I'll continue it. For now, it's just a standalone.

where are we?
what the hell is going on?
the dust has only just begun to form
crop circles in the carpet
sinking feeling

spin me round again
and rub my eyes,
this can't be happening
when busy streets a mess with people
would stop to hold their heads heavy
--Hide and Seek, Imogen Heap

He was human; this he knew well enough, but there were memories that countered it. Stupid things that sometimes made him ill at night – starting wars, committing genocide – there were others, too. Things that didn’t make any sense. Things like green brains and having two of certain organs. Things like having an unshakeable fear of taking aspirin, which was terrible on the days that he had a thunderous headache.

He dreamed of beautiful colored fields and listened to a song in his mind that couldn’t possibly fit anywhere on Earth, and then when he thinks of it, the song shatters in his mind, leaving him filled with anguish. He dreams, often, about a woman in a red dress, holding a cold gun towards him, face blank. Sometimes he thinks he sees her walking through the streets, or buying groceries. He sees ghosts of other people, too. They follow him, moan and groan about his existence, drawing up a drumming sound in his mind.

When the ghosts go away, the drums do too. It should bring peace to his mind, but it leaves him more aggravated than before, because this never stops. It’s a continuous cycle, making continuous motions, continuously trying to drive him over the edge and cross the line into insanity.

He’s not sure how much longer he can take this. He’s nothing to the world, himself. A shadow that people cast funny looks at – long, lingering stares, like they were seeing someone that wasn’t him. Like he wasn’t real.

He was! He was a real person! There were days… there were days when he wanted to stand atop a building and spread his arms wide and yell. Yell so that the world can bloody notice him!

Street corners were terrible. See a blue box sitting there, so out of place, then he turns around and it’s gone. Did he just imagine it? Was it ever there?

Human, he thinks, briefly in disgust. How’d I let this happen to me? As time goes on (and oh, time, now that’s a word he savors – a word he feels drawn to) he sees more. Brief flashes: the woman (a snake) in the red dress, laughing; a silvery ring with special symbols on its face, and he keeps checking for it on his hand, but it isn’t there; other people who he knows aren’t ghosts, but he can’t put names to them. He hears: ‘Harold Saxon has become Great Britain’s youngest Prime Minister!’ like a radio broadcast; ‘The Mister Master has saved us! Oh, we are saved! And the machine – the Mister Master is building us a great machine!’ in a voice that gives him nightmares; ‘We just saw the president get assassinated!’ in panic; and the last one… the last one he hears spoken to him, over centuries in different voices and they’re all familiar, but he’s only grasping at straws to find the answer.

Now he stands across from a lithe man who wears a scared, shocked face, with one of those familiar voices. The man says “Master” and like clockwork and with no reason, he replies evenly with “Doctor” and then he feels real fear, stepping back from the man in confusion. He cancels out his words of ‘knowing’ the man, quickly demanding, “Who are you?!”

“Just… calm down. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to startle you, really,” the man says carefully, holding out a hand as if it would help ease his troubles. “I’m… a friend, I promise you. I’m the Doctor. I just want to help.”

“Well, that’s what doctors are supposed to do, isn’t it?” he quips in reply, cocking his head to the side and regarding the other. Familiar. It’s all strikingly familiar and he can’t stop it. He wants this man, the Doctor, to leave him alone… yet at the same time he can’t tell him to go.

“What do you go by, right now?” the Doctor asks.

“I… don’t,” he replies, frowning. He’s a shadow – shadows don’t have names. He’s human, but he’s not. The memories whisper that he’s something else, but they won’t say what. The ghosts call him things, but he never remembers any of them. He stares at the Doctor, uneasily shifting side to side. “Who am I?” he whispers.

“You’re the Master. And I can help you, if you let me.” The Doctor slips closer, hand still held out before him, and the Master doesn’t retreat. “Will you?”

“I…” He shouldn’t, part of him thinks, but he doesn’t understand why. He needs things to start making sense, he can’t go on like this, he’s losing his mind. “Alright,” he finishes.

“Okay.” The Doctor nods. He stops before the Master. “I need you to try and remember. I’ll help you.” He raises a hand to the side of the Master’s head and slides his eyes shut. Something tells him that they shouldn’t be doing this in the street, and he hears the Doctor chuckle softly in agreement, but they do anyway. “Think as far back as you can remember.”

Which is easier said than done, but there’s suddenly a splurge of memories painting images before him, between a palette of minds, and he sputters out a curse and feels like he’s swaying, but he’s not. He’s standing, petrified with fear, eyes widening as the Doctor’s brows tighten in concentration, and then… and then… he starts to remember.

“Harry, dear, you really must finish your tea.”

Lucy leans over him, hair tumbling down her shoulders, eyes sparkling. She holds out the cup and he accepts it, staring down at the liquid, confused. “Right. Of course. When did I get here?” He sips at it, staring at her.

“Don’t you remember? You’ve been here all night.” She leans away, stretching up to her feet. She rolls a ring in her palm with a thumb, eyes narrowing. The symbols flash towards him, and he watches them a moment, fixated, then shakes it off and goes back to his tea.

“Farther back, you need to think. We’re missing something here.”

The Master can’t help laughing as he works on the Toclafane vessel. The first few were duds, tossed away towards a makeshift trash compactor, but now he was making progress, if only he could shut the damn thing up for awhile. Truly they could be headache-inducing creatures; maybe he should give them an off switch?

Lucy comes by, sliding up behind him, resting her head on his shoulder. He turns his own to plant a kiss to her lips, then returns to the rather chatty Toclafane, saying nonsensical things that the Master simply ignores.

“Master,” she breathes airily against his cheek - oh, he loves her. Dearest Lucy. “I’ve brought you a gift.”

“Have you now?” he asks, charmed. He closes up the Toclafane and pats the top of it, then turns in Lucy’s arms to face her. “And what may this gift of mine be, darling?”

She moves away her arms and holds up the ring in her hand, smiling softly. “I found it; I thought it suited you.”

He doesn’t show his surprise, but plucks it from her, running a finger over the Time Lord language. She found it? Where? The TARDIS? Well, that wouldn’t surprise him much. He grins and kisses her again, sliding the ring onto a finger. “How kind of you,” he says.

“But it isn’t from the TARDIS. I know it isn’t. Where did she get it, then? You can’t just find that sort of thing laying around at a flea market.”

“I don’t know, Doctor.”

“There must be something here…”

“Look, I don’t know, maybe you should stop digging –”

“Rani,” the Master gasps, clutching his head and trying to push back, away from her. This is wrong, it can’t be right! The Rani is supposed to be dead, and she sure as hell shouldn’t be Lucy. Her laughter makes him sick and he really doesn’t like realizing that she has him cornered. “Why don’t we just sit down and have a nice chat over a cup of tea?” he offers, watching as she toys with his ring, passing it off between her hands.

“Oh Master,” she tsks, “the problems you find yourself in.”

“You shot me,” he accuses, voice taking on a higher pitch, “why would you shoot me and then resurrect me again?” How dare she think she can try and control his life!

“Your stubbornness is marvelous, Master. I knew you would die. I’m surprised that the Doctor thought you’d do otherwise. Oh well, he wasn’t stuck in a TARDIS with your sorry self for so long.” Her expression hardens and, like the snake she is, she suddenly lashes out towards him, holding him down. “Feeling a little resurrection sickness, Master?” she purrs.

He’s weak. Much weaker than he should be. “What do you want, Rani?” he snaps.

“I know how to have backup plans, Master. You ruined all my precious work when you found me – dear old Lucy. Let’s just say I decided to hold a grudge this time, since all you ever do is ruin everything. You and your obsession.” She leans bodily against him, and if she were ‘Lucy’ he would have enjoyed it. Out of the blue, she says, “Do you remember being human, Master?”

“Yes. I hated it.”

“Oh, good. I mean, if you had said that you’d treasured it, that would’ve made this all rather moot. As if I’d do anything you would enjoy.” She grabs a wrist and pulls his hand near to her, biting a corner of her lip. “One more thing I should say: this is going to hurt.” And she slips the ring back onto his finger, only this time, it’s burning, and it continues to burn through him – mind and body.

He wakes to a tea cup being pressed into his hands, and his ring being lifted off his finger. Peculiar, but he drinks the tea anyway, then pushes it away from him, coughing. “Oh god.” The tea tasted fine, but he was going to be sick.

“Easy now. You have to take it in strides.”

“Something feels wrong. What’s going on?” Taking deep breaths, he manages to calm his stomach again.

“Harry, dear, you really must finish your tea.”

The Doctor pulls away sharply, enough to stir up the Master’s drumming. They rattle through his mind for a few moments, before settling again like dust. The Master just stares at him, startled. “What… was that.”

“I… telepathy,” the Doctor manages lamely. He looks at a loss for words, which is funny because it’s the Doctor - although the Master doesn’t exactly understand how that’s supposed to be funny. He pulls his hands to his face and takes a shaky breath, then turns away from the Master. “I can’t believe it. Lucy’s the Rani. But I can’t sense her – no, no, who am I kidding… it’s the Rani, of course she found a way to hide herself…”

The Master has had enough of this. “What - is going on?!” Raw emotion. Raw, human emotion. He’s not like these other people – whatever happened with the stuff in his mind, that wasn’t him. The Doctor is like everyone else, staring at him like he’s expecting to see someone, but he’s not that person. Why does everyone have to look at him like this?!

He thinks of the woman in the red dress, who was there with him, kindly, when he woke up, offering him tea and a couch to sleep on until he righted himself. She called him Harry and that felt almost right, still off, but righter than what the Doctor was calling him.

The Doctor pivots back to face him, words racing from his mouth. “The Rani did something to you, something with that ring. She gave it to you in the first place, right? When you were working on the Toclafane at Utopia,” this he says darkly, like getting around that thought is hard on him, “and then she must have got it back from the pyre… Somehow she resurrected you – wouldn’t surprise me if she figured that one out, too – and forced you to have the ring again and… it did something! We have to find her.”


“…What?” The finality in the Master’s words throw him off guard.

“No, I’m not going with you. I can’t be who you’re expecting me to be.”

“But – but you’ve got – you’re the Master! You’re not human, you’re a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous! You’ve been human before. You hated it. You’d hate it right now if you remembered!”

“But I don’t. This is just some hoax, and I’m tired of it. I’m going home to take a nap, and when I wake up I’m going to forget any of this happened.” He walks passed the Doctor, holding in a breath, feeling as though he was breaking. He’d ignore it – he ignores a lot of things these days. The list continued to grow.

“You’re always running,” the Doctor’s voice pierces him. “No matter the form you take. You either cause destruction, or you run. You can’t possibly think you’ll survive in the way you’re living life right now.”

The Master looks towards him, seeing the Doctor’s back. “I can live just fine!”

It’s a lie, and the Doctor knows it. “Why don’t you ever let me help you?!” the Doctor shouts, over-passionate eyes swiveling to the Master. “Is it engraved in your psyche or something? ‘Don’t let the Doctor help me’? Even human, you can’t stop and think for a moment that I could make things simpler? The drumming is still there, lurking under layers; I heard them. You can’t do everything alone, Master!”

“Stop calling me that!” he yells.

He expects the Doctor to give up, to turn away and leave. The Doctor instead walks up to him, mere inches away, whispering, “I thought you liked it when I said your name.” Something snaps, and the Master recoils, cradling his head. He thinks of Malcassairo and Utopia, Lucy and the Rani, the Toclafane, the Doctor and the TARDIS and Gallifrey; he hears the dying screams of the last of the human race, the last time he heard his TARDIS sing to him, of the never-ending drumbeat. And then it’s gone again. In an instant, bottled up.

But the Doctor saw it; he saw the Master he knew in those brief moments. “I know you’re still there, Master. I know you’ll resent my help, but I think you’ll resent being human even more. Go home and sleep. I’ll find the Rani, and we’ll fix this. I wouldn’t wish this upon any Time Lord.”

That night he dreams of space and time travel. He sees other worlds and there’s a certain beauty to each, but on the flipside, he sees those same worlds in a mess of chaos or destruction. He sees different people causing it, yet his mind acknowledges them, somehow, as himself. He clings to pillows and sheets in distress, finding himself lost in his own mind, hearing his own voice – a bite to it – hiss to him: “I am the Master, and you will obey me.”

In the morning he skips breakfast and searches all the corners near his flat until he finds a blue box sitting on one. He glances away, expecting it to be gone when he looks back, but it stays where it is, with the Doctor leaning outside of it. The ghosts stay away from this other man and his blue box, and the Master thinks maybe, just maybe, this man can truly, help him.

[You know, from what I can tell, Yana never had the Master's ring. Sooo... it was definitely something he got/made later on :O]
[Oh, and mixing personas is always fun XD;]

[identity profile] 2009-10-11 06:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm stealthily crawling here to tell you that I loved this fanfic. Especially the Master's insistence on how everything the Doctor was telling him couldn't possibly be real