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Doctor Who Fic: "Like gold to aery thinnes beat"

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  • Doctor Who Fic: "Like gold to aery thinnes beat"

    Like gold to aery thinness beat
    by Rosamund

    There is always somewhere to run. There is always somewhere to run.

    *

    He listens to two hearts, their thuds dull, his head resting on the centre of the Master's chest. The fingers of one hand explore the fleshy skin around the Master's hipbone. The Doctor feels like there is something enormous beneath his fingers: the Master contains all that is vital, all of space and time, and it is something that can never be expressed by skin and lungs and two hearts resiliently beating.

    The enormity of it, of all that is now worthwhile to him, existing inside that one despairing form is not too much for him to conceive of. He's the Doctor after all, and he alone can visualise space before it was stable enough for there to be atoms, when it was a confusion of nothingness, like an action painting or the swirling fulcrum of a candyfloss machine.

    Not alone, though, not he, alone. He is not the only one, and perhaps that is the enormity that he struggles with. He never knew there was such passion in him. It is so different from enthusiasm, or love. It is whole galaxies. Something that, like gold, can only be formed where the pressure is most intense. Gold is born at the heart of a supernova, and he wonders how even his mind could be a place with enough intensity to forge these emotions.

    *

    [I}You are everything[/I]. He could never say words like that.

    He asks, instead, things like, "do you remember that time we went to?"

    "Not another reminiscence," the Master will cut him off. "Don't start talking about a better time. This is all you've got left."

    He means it to be cutting, and he hates that the Doctor smiles at him and says, "I know. And it's plenty."

    *

    They argue about inconceivable things.

    "We'll have to leave again," says the Master with a cheery grin.

    "Not again. What did you do this time?"

    "Killed a man. In a pub. Why?"

    "Does this planet even have pubs?"

    "Maybe it was his house."

    "His house?"

    "I really couldn't say," the Master says, gently taking the Doctor's wrist with his hand. "Have you no sense of fun?"

    He leans closer, nose to the Doctor's ear. "Not any sense of fun at all?"

    "No! I mean, yes. Why did you kill him?"

    "Does it matter? Can you really classify these things as "men" anyway? I think I spoke wrong, earlier. Killed a thing, I meant to say." He flashes that grin again.

    There is shouting outside the TARDIS. "Must be loud," says the Master, looking interested.

    "What did you do?" the Doctor asks again.

    "Well maybe it was more than a thing. Might have been a king or something. Can we go?"

    "A king?"

    "Yes, yes, I know you have a soft-spot for royalty."

    "But that was King Daneen XI! He changes this whole planet, wins the Third War of Tears! You're changing the whole course of history."

    "You're always going on about that. I really think it would be a good idea to leave. You never know what they might be able to do with those wings."

    And the Doctor agrees, and wonders, once more, how he can possibly get used to conversations like this, how he can sigh and shut his eyes and allow himself to be mollified by the Master's hands, when someone always has to die.

    *

    They have other conversations too. Usually in the dark, because that is when the Master wakes with a strange look in his eyes, a look neither manic nor gleeful, and wanders through room upon room, allowing himself to loose his path in the endless mazes of the TARDIS.

    The Doctor follows him, bare feet hushed on cold metal, allowing there to be silence until he is acknowledged. He doesn't want to talk about this. He wants to hold the Master, and remember other days, days that never turned into night, warmed by two suns. He tries not to look at the Master whose face is twisted in despair, who seems disgusted at his own self-pity and weakness.

    "Are you so cruel?" the Master will spit at him. "Are you so selfish?"

    "I'm afraid I am," the Doctor will say. "I have nothing left but selfishness."

    "No love, no loss, no longing? Nothing noble?"

    "All of those, too, but they are all defined by my own selfishness." He crouches beside the Master who has slid to the floor in some abandoned room, between coils of machinery. He finds the back of the Master's neck, and rests his hand there, rubbing gently with his fingertips.

    The Master presses his forehead closer. "Can you hear them? Can you feel them in my blood?"

    "It's quiet here. I can hear engines."

    "All those little, quiet sounds, I can't hear them. I could never hear the rain hammering on windows, or conversations in the distance. Only drums."

    "Yes."

    "I can't hear your breath at night, either. Only drumbeats."

    The Doctor pulls the Master towards him, so that they meet in a painful tangle of limbs, and then he holds on, because that's the only thing he can think of to do. It's at moments like these that he most wants to run.

    "I can't," the Doctor tells him.

    "Can't what?"

    But the Doctor doesn't answer, because he can't say those words. [I]You are everything. If you don't exist, then nothing else can.[/I}

    "I'm going deaf, Doctor," the Master says. "It's a strain to hear you over the drums."

    The Doctor wonders if the Master can see his expression in the dark, and buries his face in his neck in the empty silence at the centre of the TARDIS.

    "You always make fun of humans for living their lives surrounded by fear of death. You say it's like their every movement is shaped by the possibility that they will die."

    "Yes."

    "Well, my sanity if surrounded in just the same way by madness. And so is yours. That is how we live."

    The Doctor tries to smile. "We're not crazy."

    "I didn't say we were," the Master replies, and sighs. "You are cruel, and self righteous and arrogant."

    "I couldn't have got this far if I weren't," says the Doctor.

    "I am all those things too."

    "I know."

    "Were we all like that, us Timelords?" the Master asks. "Arrogant and full of loathing?"

    "Maybe," the Doctor says.

    "I can't sleep," he says, "I can't ever sleep." And he nuzzles his head against the Doctor's shoulder, and the Doctor holds him as he breathing evens out, his legs twisted uncomfortably on the cold metal floor.

    *

    They argue about inconceivable things. The Doctor never knew that he could feel so much and yet still shout about forgotten promises and broken machinery.

    He knows the name of every star in every galaxy in the universe, and the concept of the vastness of this is easy for him to grasp. For a Timelord, there is always somewhere to run to. Time and space twist together into eternity, and he knows he can always escape.

    Except now he isn't a constant, unaffected by the pull of shifting stars. The galaxies have somehow worked their way inside him, and he aches with the vastness of them. He holds the Master desperately and knows that this one body contains everything of any value.

    "Let go of me," the Master says when he wakes, shaking his limbs free, a look of loathing inescapable on his face. The Doctor loosens his hold, but that isn't really letting going. The stars swirl inside his head as he watches the Master stalking away, and he knows he can cause the man he loves great pain, as long as he can remain with him. As long as he can see him, and know that he is everything. There is nowhere to run from that.
    "When people call people nerds, mostly what they are saying is, 'You like stuff', which is just not a good insult at all, like 'You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness'."
    -John Green
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