Rainbow Colours


In the stretched out, dark moments of time during that long year, the Doctor thinks.

What if, he thinks.

What if he'd noticed the watch? What if Martha hadn't? What if Yana had noticed the watch subjective years ago, subjective decades?

He should have, he often thinks, noticed the watch.

It's something he tries not to let himself think too much, or too loudly, but at one point he thinks it when the Master is near, heads close together, arms wrapped around him, and he can feel the other Time Lord smile.

"Yes, you really should have," the Master says, almost conversationally. "Did it just now occur to you, or have you been dwelling on it? Should-have-seen-it," he chants softly, to the rhythm of the drums. "Is it like that, Doctor?"

The Doctor is silent in reply, and the Master rather abruptly tips him out of his chair. Things get unpleasant for a little while, but the Doctor can shorten his own time as easily as he can lengthen it, and fortunately, the Master seems to only find it funny.

When the Master flits off, and the Doctor is left on his own once more, he wonders.

What would be different, if he'd noticed the watch?

Would he have realised whose essence it was lay inside?

He likes to think that he would have; likes to think that he would have noticed the one person--

The Doctor cuts that thought off before he lets himself think it, cuts off the entire train of thought, when he feels the Master coming up behind him, crouching down in front him.

He's well-aware that his mental defences are not all they could be right now.

He looks up at the Master, aching; desperately sad, and desperately happy, all at once. The Master's face is surprisingly calm as he looks back, something that, in another man, might have been called compassion reflected everywhere but his eyes, which roil and burn in a way that would be less utterly terrifying if he hadn't seen it in a mirror.

"You know," the Master says conversationally, after looking at the Doctor for a time period he doesn't allow his conscious mind to measure. "Lately, whenever I'm around, you just seem to close off. And since it obviously couldn't be me, I've been wondering what it is you did."

The Doctor is silent, just looking at him; he doesn't know what to say.

"Speak to me, Doctor," the Master says softly. His fingers are drumming softly, and the Doctor thinks that this time at least, it's not deliberate.

For a few seconds of objective time, the Doctor waits for the caveat, for the or else.

Speak to me, Doctor. Or I shall so something oh-so-terrible. Like, oh, say... You remember Japan, of course? Perhaps I should do that to Sri Lanka - turn all those sapphires that roll down the hills in the floods a rainbow of colours.

"Oh, that's a delightful idea," he hears the Master murmur out loud, much to his horror, and it takes him long, painful seconds of subjective time to feel the Master's hand on the side of his head, fingers pressing with incongruous gentleness at his temples; to feel the Master in his mind, with an even lighter, defter touch.

He was always good at getting into other people's heads, he recalls. Never thought it'd happen to his own this way. The Master smiles.

"Of course," the other Time Lord continues, as if he hadn't heard the thought; pulling away, hand and mind, leaving the Doctor feeling terribly alone for a moment. "I already have plans for tomorrow. Perhaps we can visit Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

"On the other hand," he continues, not giving the Doctor a chance to reply, evidently not wanting him to reply yet, if at all. "I'm sure Beijing can wait. We've already been there, after all. Would you rather I reschedule our trip there, so we can go to Sri Lanka tomorrow? What am I saying? Of course you would--"

"Please," the Doctor says finally. The Master looks at him as if taken aback, and again its his eyes that give him away, betray the emotion as an affectation only, and the Doctor can't quite read what's really there.

"Master," the Doctor says, because he knows the other likes to hear it. (And because even though he knows he shouldn't, not with everything as it is, he likes the way it makes the Master smile, an expression that reaches his eyes, and makes him, for a few seconds, genuinely beautiful.) "Please," he says again. "Don't."

The Master looks at him, still with that faint smile, and the Doctor can't help himself; he stretches that moment as long as he can in his own mind, seconds and seconds and minutes, even though objectively it's less than a breath.

"But Doctor," the Master says softly, almost wonderingly. "It's your idea."

And that about settles it. The Master flits off again after a little while, leaving the Doctor with the haunting memory of the other Time Lord just in his mind, and his slight smile, all colored over with the horrible anticipation, like a clenching fist in his gut, of tomorrow.

The next day, like Japan, Sri Lanka burns. The Master watches it with his chin on the Doctor's shoulder, a charming, boyish smile on his face.

The flames haven't quite finished yet, when they go down, the Master, and Lucy Saxon, and the Joneses, and the guards, of course. The Master drags the Doctor along himself, an arm wrapped just a touch too tightly around his shoulder, providing the support that the Doctor needs, not so much from physical frailty, as from the pain and anguish that isn't physical at all, but keeps from from standing on his own all the same.

"Look," the Master says, just to him. "Such a lovely day. Does it remind you of anything?"

The Doctor knows what the Master's getting at; with the smoke and debris in the air, and Earth's lonely sun low on the horizon, scattering the light in shades of red and orange.

"That's okay," the Master says, after a few moments of his silence. "You don't have to say anything. I know it does. Don't you think the Doctor had a wonderful idea?" he asks, turning to the Joneses.

"You mean you didn't know?" he asks, as horror starts to spread over their faces. "Oh yes," he continues. "This lovely little trip was all his idea."

From there, it gets bad again, with the Master dragging the Doctor - and everyone else, if in a less literal fashion - around. And the Doctor can't meet anyones eyes, except the Master's.

It makes the Master smile again, and it's almost genuine, even in his eyes. He drags them all along, the Doctor on one arm, and Lucy on the other, like it's some spring walk.

He stops at one point, and sifts through the ashes at the side of the road - what was the road - and spills a pair of rough gems, glittering faintly in the dimming light, under the cover of ashes.

"You were right, Doctor," he murmurs. "They're beautiful."