Title: One TARDIS, Two and a Half Time Lords
Characters: River Song, the Master, Doctor (Ten)
Pairing(s): River/Master UST, minor Doctor/Master UST & River/Doctor UST
Spoilers: A Good Man Goes to War, references to Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead and End of Time.
Word count: ~2,250
Summary: A plan to save the Master brings him face to face with a young River Song and, to the Doctor's misfortune, they get along famously. Rewriting time always has unintended consequences.
Author's Notes: I initially wrote this because I felt the internet needed more River and Ten, but then the Master showed up and stole the show. Feel free to let me know what you think, I'm always up to constructive criticism.
Disclaimer: I don't own any characters recognizable as being from Doctor Who. They are the property of their actors, producers, writers, and studios, not me. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made in the writing or distribution of this story. It was good, clean fun.
"What's your name, little girl?"
She glares at his address, another enemy made for them both. "You may call me Gamma Omega." Omega, one of the founding fathers of Gallifreyan society, would have balked at the Doctor resorting to this. There's power in a name.
"You're too weak for that name."
"You're too mad to be so brilliant, but here you are."
"Clever. You must be The Doctor's child bride. How touching." He expected someone older—and human. This is a gift. With a face all of twenty-one human years old, she can't be less than a child to him.
"I'd like to kill you, but he's very attached."
"He does that."
"I've noticed," she rolls her eyes.
"You don't have to kill me. We could travel together." He likes her already and there are few he likes. He doesn't particularly want to give her back.
She doesn't refuse. "And where would we go?"
"How do you intend to get us 'anywhere'?" Her able hands curl on her commendable hips. He's been victim to those fists. He's beginning to consider it a point of pride.
"I'd find a way." He likes her strength. She ripped a door from its hinges, to throttle and to save him. The nanogenes still make her glow.
"Your enthusiasm is impressive."
"Not as impressive as your hair."
She fingers the curls pleasantly. "I certainly can't fault your taste." Dry, sarcastic, and just a touch of vanity. Tolerable, he thinks.
"I can't fault the Doctor's either." He's going to steal her, but first he's going to make it hurt.
Now that he isn't dead, the Master begins to enjoy life a great deal. The Doctor, with the help of his less than sweet assistant, drags him aboard his TARDIS and locks him in. There are repairs to be made on Earth, but the Doctor wants to run. The girl isn't impressed; his old friend is. He's choosing family over friendship. It's self-serving in the extreme, so like the superior being he refuses to be.
Weeks go by in the Doctor's attempts to 'reform' the Time Lord formerly known as Harold Saxon. Harry develops a Pavlovian response to the Doctor's appearance: he falls asleep whenever he enters the room. A man can only tolerate so much uninventive self-righteousness and keep his lunch. The Master enjoys gourmet food and abhors sleep. So, naturally, they both suffer until the lady—who is no Gamma Omega—puts a stop to their host's futile efforts.
In her words, "This is tedious. Can we please do something else?"
Harry is so glad he could kiss her. And he does because he can. She kisses him back and pats his face kindly as she walks away. She's unmoved while the Doctor is furious. Although that isn't the result he wanted, it's one he'll gladly take.
He's force-fed another lecture on propriety and how not to touch the Doctor's companions. The girl, the woman who is much older than her young face prays tell finds the entire affair amusing. Thusly, he doesn't trouble himself to shield her when a Luddite with a blowgun sets his sights on her on Rondus III. Neither does she trouble herself to let keep him from falling headfirst into a hunting pit in the Gamma Forests. They both nearly die but live; oddly enough, that makes them almost friends.
He likes that. The Doctor hates it, so he likes it all the more.
The Gamma Forests shouldn't burn, but they do. When they return to the sleepy, peaceful, boring, tree-ridden planet, there isn't anything there. Not even trees.
The Doctor, white knight that he tries to be, is immediately frantic. He scans all frequencies though they had little in the way of producing radio waves. He roams the surface with his eyes when the TARDIS tells him things he doesn't want to know.
There is no one left and nothing. It's all burned.
His old friend, his once and always something more grieves in the dirt, counting the lost and storing the number in his mind. He'll add them to Gallifrey. They aren't worthy of that. The Master doesn't think any species is but knows better than to say it when the young one cries, too.
The Doctor has her in his arms in moments though she fights him. She begs him to fix it, to bring it all back. This was hers, he knows before the Doctor can say. This was everything, she tells him, memories coursing behind his eyes fit to make him sway. He hasn't touched or touched one of his kind in too long. Fascinating as she has been to him, he hadn't dared to hope.
The three of them and their ridiculous, thinking box kneel on the face of a dead world and send it off. Someone ought to remember these people before the universe forgets them. Or so the others say. He only stays because he doesn't want to be alone, and this is the least lonely he's felt in years.
River-Melody, Pond-Song, never-Gamma holds his hand. All of time winds between them, binding them fast. In her he finally sees what the Doctor sees and all that he can't yet. He sees things her Doctor never will. Therefore, he will do for her the thing her Doctor never will.
He'll save her life in the end.
She stares 'evil' in the eye and laughs. It reaches for her with webbed fingers and pinprick thorns, but she doesn't run away. The Doctor reasons until they're out of time. Harry, the Master, whatever name most fits in this veritable enclave of never-ending mayhem watches. He laughs when she does, does not flinch when the Doctor does, and does not retreat when he orders it, either. He has not taken orders for years upon years; he isn't looking to make a career change.
River Song, his new fascination, takes them somewhat better. She takes one step back when the Doctor commands and no more. Harry grins as the Doctor orders, asks, pleas again. The bright apple of the Doctor's eye stands down until he's wrong and everybody dies—same disaster, different day. She sleeps fine once the dust has settled, her memories filled with things uglier than even she has volunteered to do.
His friend—are they friends, would-be lovers, or brothers-in-arms? Sometimes, he thinks none of those, while other times all of the above. Whatever the case, the Doctor treats the youngest of them like the delicate child of a bygone era. It might be entertaining if it weren't so thoroughly nauseating. The girl is frustrating and sarcastic and secretive; he bows to her whims, counts to ten, and doesn't pry. Harry spars with his words and excavated swords, pushes her into walls, and makes her shiver when he's lewd. She isn't a child, however the Doctor might have himself convinced. Something old wrapped in new, wide-eyed skin, he'd guess, though he hasn't quite deciphered her secrets yet.
And she is all secrets: her origins, her genes, her name, her training. Her Doctor is no better, though he can't seem to tell who he's keeping the secrets for or who he's protecting them from. Secrecy isolates him as secrecy always does, locking him in whatever web he's weaved while practicing to deceive, and trapping them out with only each other for company.
River Song has a gift for mischief, he finds. They're a match made in the Vortex, or somewhere equally pleasant.
Between them, they win the fight easily. River kills the expected eight J'Slau meta-warriors and the Master easily matches her. The Doctor is unhappy with the body count, but they spend too much time smirking smugly to hear his dissatisfaction. He doesn't like them together, they're entirely too comfortable.
Though the three of them enter the TARDIS together, the other two up and disappear without him. They don't come back till later, soaking wet and whispering about some hell they've found to raise. He doesn't think there's anything especially dangerous aboard, but he daren't leave this uninvestigated.
"Where've the two of you gotten off to, then?" He tries in vain not to bristle at the enigmatic glance they share. If they aren't communicating silently, they're completing each other's sentences. It strikes him badly.
"Did you know there's a Luytidian forest onboard," the Master begins.
"And that it's occupied by actual, live Luytidian tribesmen," she concludes.
He hadn't known. "Of course, I knew. I'd hoped you would leave them in peace."
"If they hadn't tried to fillet us, we might have!" River says while the Master murmurs, "Not likely." She pinches him and the overgrown juvenile grumbles unhappily. They're like the wonder twins of dubious behavior and it makes him very, very nervous. The last thing the universe needs is one and a half bored Time Lords with all of time and space to run. This wasn't what he thought he'd find when River Song finally entered his life.
"Whatever they did, I'm sure you gave them ample reason." He eyes the Master's attempt at innocence doubtfully. The man has never hid his machinations well and he hasn't spontaneously gained a talent for it. "Oh, now I'm really convinced." He nods to his deceptively youthful companion. "River, go make peace with the Luytidians. The last thing we need is them getting out and seeking vengeance if something goes off-track."
"Will do." She executes a smart about face and disappears into the ship with a teasing smile at the Master, who pouts spectacularly at being left behind.
They hardly use words anymore. He refuses to feel left out; it'd be absurd. The Doctor returns to his previous task of jiggery-pokery, the TARDIS sending him a constant stream of tolerant comfort as he goes. Nothing needs fixing, but he needs to keep busy; the old girl's always known him too well.
"Why does she get to keep playing with the natives while I'm stuck here?"
"You're not stuck here. In fact, you're more than welcome to leave." He aims a pointed frown at the puddle the Master is leaving on his floor. "You're dripping."
The Doctor nudges up his glasses and turns away. "Well, I've got work to do."
"We both know you're lying. Even the half-breed knows."
He grasps his screwdriver more tightly but carries on. The Master knows that River is his Achilles' heel and she is for reasons he doesn't quite understand yet. Any insults toward her turn into rows that last for days. Yet, he's only too glad to make her his partner in crime. His old friend's duplicitous behavior makes the Doctor uneasy. River's been the heart of too many conspiracies, he'd like their time together not to be rife with another.
"Leave her be. She can't help what she is." He barely understands what she is much of the time.
"Why should she 'help' it? She's incredible, impossible."
The Doctor knows that already. "I'm surprised you think so. Last I heard you thought humans were spineless, gormless primates. What's changed?"
"I met your girl."
He peers at the other man over his frames. "My 'girl'? You must be joking. River Song is nobody's girl." Not for lack of trying, mind. Everyone they meet seems inclined to try.
"She's no human either. Simple minds must resort to simple words to describe what she is."
He puts down his screwdriver carefully. The impulse to bleep the Master or worse is a difficult one to resist. He misses Donna terribly just now. "Why do you care?"
The Master leans casually against the console—still dripping. "Why don't you? You're the one who proposed this jaunt across the cosmos. I've just come along for the ride. You thought the last of the Time Lords should be together, run together, fight together. Here we are, and you don't care. We're not boring you, are we?"
He scoffs. He can't begin to explain how inaccurate that is. "Of course I care. What gives you the impression that I'm less than thrilled? None of us are alone anymore—that's fantastic!" The word warps his mouth; it hasn't been familiar in a long time. Of course, the Master reads that easily. He reads too much too easily, the Doctor thinks.
"More lies? Be careful, lying can be hazardous to your health. Besides, what would our little protégé have to say?" He snaps his fingers. "Don't tell me, I think I know this one. She'd say that you always lie. She gets it in one, that one." The Doctor is disconcerted at how oddly proud he sounds. "You might have enjoyed traveling with me and you certainly enjoyed traveling with the girl, but both of us, together? That makes you nervous. You can't control us together; we control you."
He'll contend to the grave that this isn't his fear. "No one is controlling anyone. We are all in this together." They have to be, they're all that remains. That isn't something he can say aloud, he can't give them that power any more than he can give them his name, though River will someday know it.
The Master is confident in his worrying way when he says, "For now," and turns away. His squelching footfalls go in a four-time beat that mimics the Doctor's nightmares. Sometime between the start and the stop the Master is going to lure her away, the Doctor's certain of that now. He'd known that using her to save his former comrade was a risk; he hadn't anticipated this in the return.
Time can be rewritten, yes, but sometimes it shouldn't be. He's learning this lesson a bit more each day.