The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1945
The red converse catches her in the ribs.
Flaminarixodaparcaftion flies unhappily into a wall that should not have been where it was. She can feel six-sided holes in the substance of the barrier, and an orange-ish light gleams faintly. It confuses her.
The leg wearing the converse draws back, ready to strike again, cool and mechanical. And utterly aflame with rage.
She flinches, closes her eyes and waits. But instead of a blow, a wind rushes beside her, brushing her face. Because a voice cuts her attacker off.
The single spoken word is harsh, yet gentle, every syllable possessed of an untenable need to wrench things. This, this is the voice of the Doctor, if a bit trembled and rasped, no matter the body.
He gains strength as he straightens on the TARDIS grates, oh yes, this must be the TARDIS because the Eye above the exit isn’t on her anymore.
“Traitor!” she spits. But her body is sideways. The saliva just courses down her chin in a little clear trail of embarrassment. And plops down between the grate holes, frying in the underworks.
Her Koschei drags his foot back, the toe of his converse bumping like a skipped stone on the grates as he moves to kick her again.
The Doctor is the only thing holding him back, quite literally, because without his steadying hand, the other Time Lord would slip to the grates again. He’s weak for some reason. The two of them, together... at the party, too. It does make sense. But the Doctor is affected, so it must have been the Master who parallel parked the TARDIS near the exit.
“…you disguised a TT capsule as a storage cupboard?” she asks, injecting incredulity while she looks around the console room, committing everything to memory.
“She won’t let you fly her, sweet child,” the Doctor says, pushing himself up. His tweed jacket is rumpled; his bowtie undone. He staggers to the console and just leans. “… she thinks you need a spanking. But that’s all right; she thinks that about me most days.”
He’s looking at her as though he expects her to believe him, Flamina realizes as she shifts one knee out from under her rump and sits up a bit. She glares up at the Master, who is, strikingly, standing between the Doctor and herself. She wipes her chin with her white silk sleeve. “Why do you care about this animal, Koschei? He tried to burn us! He killed his own children. Why did you save him?”
Just a sigh at first. Then, “…you brainless chit. He did it so everyone else’s children wouldn’t die in the flames of Rassilon’s glory! Uhg! What do you think would have happened if Rassilon had succeeded with his Final Sanction? There would have been nothing left BUT Gallifrey! And then it would have gone poof, too. Think think think you little fool!” he turns, his bright eyes shifting wildly as he follows the readouts of instruments. “The Doctor doesn’t have all day.”
The Doctor smiles, then slides down the center column like a thrown piece of meat. “The temporary stay against the chaos infection I gained by trapping myself between two bodies is gone, because Nurse Ratchett here pulled me out of limbo. The TARDIS can’t help me, because entropy and time are like apples and oranges; they don’t interact or compare in a way we can resonate with coherently. So… oh dear. Here I go again. Déjà vu.”
He slides down further, and the Master moves to settle him on the floor, gentling him like a sick child.
Dust is flowing from the Doctor’s left tear duct and trickling off into the console room’s self-contained atmosphere.
“I think you... ought to show her…” he murmurs softly, closing his eyes and sinking onto his front. His lips smush against the grates, just up to the point where they meet the thick glass bottom.
“Fine, fine! Just don’t stay like that! You’ll get waffles!”
The Master sounds frightened, and the Doctor wants to smile for him, but all he can manage is to blow the air from his lungs.
“Oh that’s brilliant. We’re fucked and you make farting noises.”
“…Master, please! I’m dying here…”
Flamina feels like a doll. This is unreal. She’s sitting in the TARDIS with the man she killed and the man she wants to kill. How is it then, that neither one is dead? How came the blood between two killers thread? And… she trails off, her poetry forgotten for sudden curiosity. What is the Master pulling out of the Doctor’s pocket?
A gasp escapes her at the silver glint. Her lover’s mask! The Master has it. Has he had it all this time?
“You killed him? I haven’t seen him in ages. So that’s where he got to- my sword, my Terrorist. There is no point to my lives then.”
She draws a shard of glass, long and wicked, from her bodice.
“You know, I thought you almost loved me till you did this,” the Master says softly, licking his tongue along the mask’s carved rim and taking a step. “I know I almost loved you. But really now,” he shakes his head, slowly at first, then more vigorously, until a vicious crown of dirty whitish blondish hair is falling around him. As he sets the mask on his face, his cheeks ungrow their stubble and lose a bit of fat along the bones. His appearance is changed, and so he finishes his sentence. “… who but a woman could keep space between her breasts. I know if I was a girlie, I’d hide my trans-dimensional pockets there.” He grins cheekily, then adds, “Give us a kiss?”
Her hand fits perfectly across his face, slapping the mask from his fingers and drawing a line of orange-red blood across the bridge of his nose.
A grin and groan from the Doctor, who by now is on the floor. He picks up the mask, preparing himself for the effort of speech. “Will you two say I Do already? We still have to send her back in time to get the Hand from you!”
The Master blinks. “What? What are you on about? What the hell did you…” He looks at the mask. Then he looks at Flamina. “You shit! I could have killed her!”
“But you didn’t. Oh, Master, really…” Throwing off the ruse of weakness, the Doctor squints one eye, then pushes himself to his feet. With his free hand, he takes out some sort of scanner from his famous pockets and waves it over her chest until it beeps. “Oh yep, it’s there! I’d suggest drawing straws, but…” He motions to the pile of dust in a baggie sitting on the console room floor. “I’ve already had a go. Help me hold her, would you?”
Her eyes snap wide as she follows his finger. Surely he can’t mean… but then she is writhing in the Master’s grip. Soon, her arms are tied before she can level the big shard more than an arm’s length. It drops to the floor.
To his infinite surprise, the Master still finds her quite the prettiest frying chicken he’s ever seen.
The Doctor breathes a muffled sorry as he stuffs a sock puppet in her mouth. Her eyes are full and on him, dilate saucers brimming with the promise of pain.
“Blinovitch is a bore,” says the Master thoughtfully as he produces a pair of tongs and stuffs them down her bodice. “If I win the next election, can we abolish it?”
“No. Unless you particularly want to be reincarnated as a chronovore.”
“I see your point. Or worse, an Eternal. Gods they’re annoying. No sense of humour.”
“I agree completely.”
“…?... you have a tone. Have you met them more than once?”
“Do not. Have not. Bleahh!”
Their hold on her arms does not slacken, though, no matter how much they gabble on.
Has it really only been an hour? It’s so hard to tell with TARDISES.
Regardless, Flamina does not like this notion of theirs; and, being fervently against it, she continues to squirm, writhing like an eel in a petticoat. Her eyes pop like rotten cantaloupe, nice and purple and gooey. Well, forget the gooey, the Doctor thinks to himself, cringing every time the Master delves deeper into the woman’s oddly-situated private trans-dimensional storage… place. He just can’t watch. He can’t. It’s not decent. He knows River would though, so he does.
And the Master persists. He ruffles and scrunches and squeezes and twists, digging about between her breasts. With a pair of cold metal kitchen tongs. Serves her right for being such a… Her endowments jiggle two and fro for a few moments, then…his hand retreats. The cheap metal tongs hold in their grasp an egg-shaped stone, set in a torque. The torque and stone are placed in a special box containment, far away from her.
Her face turns white immediately; it’s as if her blood has turned to chalk-water. Her veins stand up in blue lines like reverse riverbeds across a map of dead fish skin.
“Look at her, Kos’,” the Doctor murmurs, reaching to gently brush away a strand of her white hair. “She’s fighting it. But it’s had her a long, long time. I may have to go in.”
“Do it.” the Master says softly.
In the empty air, the only sound the Doctor can hear is the grinding of teeth. And they’re not his. He looks down at Flamina. His body can feel, instinctively, the tremor in her systems. They’re shutting down.
Her fingers are quivering, trembling with palsy like feathers in a cyclone.
“Are you certain, Koschei? It will be the rest of her, next. Be absolutely cert-…”
“DO IT! Just don’t either of you bloody die! I can’t take this! It’s bollocks, all of it!”
The Master’s fist slams against the base of the console, leaving a dent. And far above that dent, where the Master’s eyes aren’t looking yet, there is a hidden screen with a very important date.
“Mustn’t be late for that one…” the Doctor mutters under his breath. Then he blows out his cheeks and risks a glance at the Master. But Koschei’s eyes are elsewhere.
The Doctor’s smile as he touches Flamina’s forehead is the same tired mask of pain and regret. He knows the shape of that mask, knows it in his bones. To the quarks. But the Master’s face, reflected in the glass of that hidden screen as he stares down at the only two people he’s ever loved?
He never thought to see himself there.
So before he leans over her, he settles his own weight first, sinking down beneath so he can pull her into his lap.
“If I don’t come round when she does, don’t come in and get me. Just… tell her I’m not a morning person or something. Miles to go, and what. We need to find that Myrtlegull. He needs to be close when Flamina’s future self retrieves the box for us. I’m dying to know why we have to send her back to do it… But anyway, the Bird, the Myrtlegull. I sort of need him.”
The quality of mercy seems strained, in that each quick, precise movement is somehow so horrifically slow, but eventually the Doctor removes his coat and tosses it aside. Then his suspenders. Then his bowtie and shirt. With delicate fingers, now he slides Flamina’s silk gown down over her torso, revealing her bare shoulders, her neck, the curve of her ribs. Finally, he takes her in his arms and gentles her body against his chest.
The Master understands this; they need to be in as much physical contact as possible. The Doctor is good at what he does. Still, he worries they might not…
“Breathe with me, Flamina,” the Doctor says, touching her face. “There’s a girl! Can I come in?”