Prompt: #19 White
Spoilers: Last of the Time Lords etc
Some notes: In answer to smithy161s valid question - are they all going to be less than PG? - No. Hopefully not anyway. They're also not all going to be from the Master's POV. This one is though. Both PG and from the Master's POV. It's also a bit of a sprawling mess and the ending makes me want to die a bit, but my original end no longer works. Which reminds me - this fic originally written for the prompt "death", but then I changed it because I reckon I can do something better with "death" if I put my mind to it. So now it's all about 'white'. Oh yes.
Also, my knowledge of Old!Who is patchy at best, so forgive and ideally correct any grave errors. Thanks :)
He remembers dying.
He remembers dying and the drums have stopped, which means he must be dead. Logically.
The Master is a fan of logic, but he’s also been dead before - only once, but more than enough to make a lasting impression - and he knows what to expect from it. He expects nothing. Not even silence, which implies a consciousness able to appreciate the lack of sound. There is only pain and falling and then, if you’re lucky, waking up again, not dead any more. That he is able to remember this implies that, wherever he is now, he isn’t dead.
There were contingency plans, of course: Lucy, the ring, the Doctor’s loneliness, another morphant form, another human body – but he’s been alive before as well and this doesn’t feel like life either. It feels like nothing, which is what death would feel like, assuming you could feel it. The plans have failed. This is something else.
His new universe is white and quiet, like the human idea of heaven. If it is heaven – how ironic that he should end up there, after everything that has happened. Though, if it is heaven, he has arrived on a serious off day, because the Master doesn’t feel very peaceful; he feels bored and angry. Being stranded in eternity with only your own mind to wile away the eons sounds more like hell. It’s true that, if there is a hell, he probably belongs there, but it doesn’t explain why he escaped it last time. How much more badly behaved has he been since he last died? Yes, there are a few billion more deaths on his hands, but nothing worse than usual. Anyway, the Doctor brought them all back to life, didn’t he. It isn’t fair that they should still be held against him. And besides, if heaven really had set an acceptable limit of seven billion deaths on a conscience someone ought to have said something. He would certainly have spared some of the ones he hadn’t killed personally. They weren’t even fun.
He frowns and he can feel it: the skin between his eyebrows creasing in annoyance. When he puts his hand up to check he finds that his fingers have feeling, and, what’s more, he can see his own hand in front of his face. It is the same hand he had last time he looked at it before he died, which is just lazy. There could at least be some sort of perception filter. He finds he can sit up and that he had been lying down. The white silence is still complete, but it doesn’t seem to go on forever any more. It feels like…
“A zero room.” He laughs. “This,” he says again, “is a zero room. Come on, you can tell me. It’s a zero room, isn’t it? …Doctor, I know you’re there. Come out; come out, wherever you are.”
There is more silence, and the Master purses his lips and tries to stand, though he still has no idea where the floor is. “Look, I know you’re there,” he says again once he’s standing, “because this is a zero room and I’m not controlling it. But I was lying down on something, which means that someone is. Ipso-facto, you’re lurking and watching me, which is just rude really.”
When nobody replies the Master shouts “Doctor!” and is surprised to find it sounds desperate, rather than angry. “Doctor, I’m bored. Get me out of here!”
He starts walking in an arbitrary direction. Theoretically, zero rooms can be infinite in space, but most aren’t: it all depends on the controlling consciousness. The Doctor probably wants him to feel like he isn’t a prisoner, so it’s possible that he will be walking for a long time, but then again – perhaps not. It’s something to do anyway. He walks.
What might be minutes or years pass and the walls are still out of reach. Infuriated, the Master stops and yells “Doctor!” again. No one responds and the Master realises what the Doctor must be waiting for; what he would be waiting for if their situations were reversed. “Please,” he says quietly. “Doctor. Please, get me out of here.”
There is a second or a week’s pause and then the Doctor materialises in front of him. “Hello,” he says, cheerfully, ruffling his own hair as he does so. “Did you call?” His smile is wide and boyish like they’ve been out boating or something equally wholesome. And the Master thinks insufferable prat, but with a rather fond relief.
The Doctor looks just the same as he did last time they met, but, like the rest of the room, he is strangely white. It’s not that he’s wearing a white suit, though why the Doctor chooses not to in his day-to-day life is a mystery given his obvious messiah complex. Perhaps it makes washing the blood out too difficult. No, the Doctor in front of him is clearly wearing a dark blue suit, maroon tie and trainers, yet he is also all in white, as if a filter has been placed in front of him.
“I thought you ejected your zero room,” the Master says conversationally.
“Yes… I did,” the Doctor says. “I built another one though. Handy things to have around: zero rooms. Plus, I quite enjoyed building it. You know, bit of a challenge. Haven’t built anything so complicated in centuries and, of course, I’d lost the instructions so I had to make most of it up. I think it works. Mostly. But it's difficult to tell. My first one came free with the TARDIS. A free gift. Much better than a pen. Mind you, I could use a pen: Martha seems to eat them. But, I could also use a zero room, which is why, of course, I made another one.”
The Master smiles thinly. “Good idea using it as a prison.”
The Doctor looks briefly puzzled, then smiles and laughs again. “Oh, you mean the Raak! Oh, that… that was fun. I didn’t think we’d manage to get it through the door, but, well, we couldn’t just leave it, but once we managed to get it inside it turned out the swimming pool was empty. Drained dry - just like that. I don’t think the TARDIS trusted Philip - that was his name, Philip - very much. Fortunately, the zero room was up and running again so we instated Phil there, before dropping him home. It wasn't really a prison though, more a sort of... temporary holding area.”
“This is all… fascinating,” the Master says, “but I was talking about one of your more recent prisoners.”
The Doctor frowns again. “We haven’t had any more recent prisoners.”
“What am I then - an honoured guest? I suppose you think this is mercy, well it isn’t. This is imprisonment, the same as I gave you, but at least I had the decency to acknowledge it.”
“Ah,” the Doctor says, sadly. “I see. You think this… is a zero room.”
“Well, of course it is.”
“I’m sorry,” the Doctor says. “I thought you knew.”
“The drumming’s stopped, hasn’t it?”
The Master’s eyes narrow. “What do you mean? What have you done to me?”
“I haven’t done anything to you. I don’t even really exist here.”
“No," the Master says, stabbing the air in front of the Doctor angrily. "You’ve done something. What is it? Tell me.” He is panicking now. “Let me out. I want to leave. Doctor, let me out! Let me out! Please, I don’t want to stay here forever. Doctor, please. You can’t…”
He backs away and finds a wall behind him, suddenly. It’s happening again, he thinks sinking to the floor: the Doctor in the white light. He can almost see the others on the Valiant chanting his name. But this time the Doctor doesn’t wrap himself around the Master and hold him like a child. He waits for the Master to cry and shake and sob, and then holds out his hand.
“Come on,” he says, and the Master takes his hand and stands up. Now they are touching, the white filter, or whatever it was, fades away, and the Doctor is colourful and whole once more. The Master raises their linked hands and smiles rather wryly.
“I take it I have you to blame for this,” he says. “The real you.”
“Oh yes,” the Doctor says, happily. “All my fault. That’s forgiveness for you. It has repercussions.”
The Master feels like punching him, but only for old time’s sake. So this is death, after all. It’s just this time there’s more than nothingness. This time there is the Doctor’s forgiveness and strangely this is OK. The Doctor leans forward and kisses him gently, and, even though the Master knows, logically, that he must be dead, he feels alive.