Story: No Exit (Everybody Lives)
Rating: All Ages
Word count: 3,453
Author's summary: "No, this is a very exclusive establishment. Our own private ever after."
Characters/pairings: The Doctor (Tenth)/the Master (Simm)
Recced because: This fic is a bit like one of those pictures they used to show us in elementary school, where depending on how you looked at it you saw either a pretty maiden or a crone. It could be fluff, if you like. Like the pictures, though, once you see its darker possibilities, it's hard to unsee them. For me, this quick, condensed little fic subtly plays on everything that makes the concept of "happily ever after" both disturbing and intoxicating. But whatever you take from it, it's a stunning piece of work.
He's sitting in a small, precariously balanced boat drifting in a body of water: either a very calm sea, or a lake, or a very slow river. The clouds hang so low they might as well be mist. The water is grey, leaded, sluggish, like dull quicksilver. The Doctor licks his lips, considering. They taste salty, as if the insistent wind has been whipping against his face for a long time, carrying with it the taste of the sea. A bitter saltiness, like tears. The Doctor's tears have the exact percentage of salt in them as once the oceans of Gallifrey had.
Very odd, he thinks, and decides that whatever strange thing has happened, the hooded and solemn stranger sitting opposite him in the bark is probably either better informed or is responsible for it.
"I seem to be somewhat at a disadvantage here," the Doctor says cheerfully to the stranger. It always helps to be friendly and upbeat to strangers. It shows them that you're not afraid of them, and they have no reason to be afraid of you. Not that this stranger looks as if he's likely to be scared by the Doctor. "Where are we again?"