chelle

Dr. Who

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The Definition of Light

chelle

Title: The Definition of Light

Fandom: Dr. Who

Author: chelle

Author's email: chelle@chelle.slashcity.org

Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/

Archive: Ask first

Rating: PG 13

Pairing: Doctor/Master

Notes: Set during "The Last of the Time Lords."

"You know the thing I find most interesting about getting old?" The Master asked, leaning in the doorway of the Valiant's bridge, his eyes fixed on the cage suspended from the ceiling. "Well, older." He stepped into the room, approaching the cage with a slow, easy stride, the kind that said the advantage was his.

His enemy merely gazed back, wide brown eyes trapped in an ancient face and shrunken body.

Not bothering to wait for an answer, he said, "How no matter how much we change, there is some core, some part that remains essentially, unalterably us." Stopping in front of the cage, he smiled. "Take you, for example. Quite possibly as old as it's possible for a body to be, and yet there is something about you that is still that boy, the one who was too smart, too curious for everyone else's comfort."

"Why are you here?"

That at least was different. Used to be the Doctor wouldn't shut up. But for the past year he'd spoken only in short, succinct sentences, as if denying the Master his words would make a difference. The Master smirked. "We always had our best conversations in the dark, when everyone else was fast asleep. Remember?"

"Yes."

"Ah, Leukothm, you used to be impossible to shut up. Well, almost impossible. I could usually find a way if I really tried." He moved closer, lifted a hand and curled it around the bars. "Not that I always succeeded. You do tend to babble when you're excited, or thinking. You should do that again, think out loud."

"My thoughts aren't very interesting these days, I'm afraid."

"All focused on how to kill me?"

"No, not that, never that."

Letting go of the cage, the Master took a step back and turned away with a small shake of his head. "Leukothm." Going still for a moment, he slowly pivoted back to face the man in the cage. The man he'd beaten at last. "Leukothm. Do you ever hear it? Echoing in the darkness. Your name. Leukothm. Leukothm."

"It was never my name. Not to anyone but you."

The Master smiled. "I almost expected you to adopt it. The Light. It's certainly no less arrogant than The Doctor."

"You forget; the ending's possessive." Those eyes fixed on his. Those eyes that used to be blue, then green, used to be warm and deep. And were now brown and too large, outsized, but still not cool, not cold, never that. "It doesn't mean The Light. It means My Light."

His voice was hoarse with forced age, but if the Master closed his eyes he'd still be able to hear the whisper in a voice fresh and young, full of wonder, "My light?" He'd be able to see the smile that had come with the words.

"Remember the first time you called me that?" the Doctor asked. He always had been able to sense a moment of weakness.

"Of course." He tried for the calm, the cool, he'd once had. An incarnation with a beard and a penchant for black, one that somehow managed to keep the drums locked in a corner, their relentless pounding reduced to a dull roar. He smiled the way that other Master had smiled.

Beneath the smile he was remembering, heat and darkness, the shock of sliding into a lover's body for the first time. Two bodies, entwined, clinging, rocking together, the rhythm nothing like the one in his head. The pleasure that chased everything else away, the word that fell from his lips just as his lover began to tremble in his arms. Leukothm.

"You really never heard them?" He'd been so sure that the drums had spoken to his Leukothm, right up until the end.

"It was always just you." This time the words were sad, almost as if the Doctor had wanted to hear them. But he hadn't. Leukothm might have, but the Doctor, never.

"You used to move like them at times, with that rhythm." He tapped his fingers on his thigh.

"Only because I was moving with you." Implacable, the Doctor had always been implacable.

The Master snorted and stepped close again, but this time he didn't touch the bars. "You were good at that. Maybe I should tell Lucy how good. Wives should know such things, after all."

"Maybe you should."

The Doctor was no fun like this. The brilliance had once danced across his skin, lighting him up even in the dark. He'd been full of words and dangerous ideas, the boy who could have been the star of a generation of Time Lords, its leading light, if only he'd applied himself. Instead, they'd spent their days exploring whatever took their fancy, and their nights defying their elders, their traditions.

When you had the power to destroy entire galaxies, passion was a sin. The apple in Gallifrey's eden.

Passion led to destruction. To an eternal dance that had never been love, couldn't have been.

Because all he knew was the drums.

What the Doctor knew, the Master had never been able to determine.

"No matter how good I was, you were always better," the Master said, and for the first time all night, in almost a year, the Doctor looked surprised. "Even now. I'll destroy this planet. But you." He leaned so close he could have kissed the Doctor through the bars. "You committed genocide, destroyed an entire race. Destroyed your own race. Now that, that is success."

Loss unimaginable crossed the Doctor's ancient face, sparked in his eyes.

In some deep, buried part of him, the Master winced.

"Go to bed. Find your wife. Try to escape," The Doctor said.

It was a dare. The Master's gaze narrowed. "Escape?"

"The drums. Or was I the only you ever found who could drown them out?"

Snorting softly, the Master curled the corners of his lips upward into a small smile. "Tell me, Doctor, who was it you were hoping to heal when you took that name? Me, or the universe? I never have been able to decide which is more arrogant."

"Maybe it wasn't either."

"You were what? Trying to heal yourself?" The Master took a step back, away from the cage, far enough that he could take in the entirety of the Doctor's shrunken body with a steady gaze. He shook his head. "No. Never that. You were always the one thing you couldn't see clearly, but then you never stood still long enough to look in the mirror."

"And you did?"

"Maybe. But I wasn't running, I embraced my destiny."

"That's not how I remember it. I remember it hunting you down. Cornering you. No matter what you did, no matter how hard you tried to escape."

Escape. The word echoed in his brain, the drums taking up its beat. "And now here we are," the Master answered, spreading his arms in a parody of vulnerability. "Two men. Two Time Lords, who couldn't escape fate, and no one left to appreciate the irony, except me, of course."

"And the undying man," The Master added. Tilting his head to the side, he considered that for a moment. "Maybe I should tell him about you. What you're like in the dark, give him something to think about while he's chained up." Leaning against the end of the table nearest the Doctor's cage, the Master widened his stance and squared his shoulders, displaying the advantages of his newest body. "The way you used to wrap your legs around me, pull me into you. Envelop me. Dark and light, yin and yang, creation and destruction, together in one bed."

"We weren't philosophical opposites. We were men. Young men, I'll grant you, but men. Men capable of tenderness, passion, kindness, even understanding, after a fashion."

"Along with cruelty, deceit, and betrayal," the Master added.

"Do you honestly think they didn't know what you were, what you would become?" The Doctor said. "They were Time Lords."

"You didn't see. You didn't know."

"That's where you're wrong."

"So you were trying to save me."

"No. I wanted you to save yourself."

"For you."

"Yes." The Doctor was looking at him, implacable as always, but in his eyes, deep in his eyes, there were sparks. "I wanted you to save yourself. For me."

Perhaps you didn't offer enough of an incentive. The words were on his tongue. A lie, except lying was as easy as breathing, sometimes easier. But the drums were muted tonight, satisfied by the destruction he'd already wrought. The horror he'd inflicted on the one person whose pain had ever mattered.

He pushed himself away from the table. "I'm going to bed. Get ready for another busy day of terrorizing the humans. Can't be too well-rested for that." He started for the door without waiting for a reply.

"Dream well."

The whispered words followed him into the hallway and up the stairs, followed him all the way to his bed.

"Dream well," Leukothm had whispered, just as sleep had begun to take him. For that one night, he had.