Author: Memory Dragon
Word count: 16429
Characters: Delgado!master, Three, Simm!master
Summary: Running for his life with the Master, the Doctor finds someone he just can't leave behind.
Warnings: This fic is part of a well balanced diet of angst and cuteness. The Master gets a bit beaten up (off screen abuse of the insane on backwater planets) and there is a small bit of violence towards the Doctor, but I don't think it's anything major. Just a bit of choking, really.
Recced because: Self-Preservation features two incarnations of the Master, and Memory Dragon writes them both splendidly (though of course, anything Memory Dragon writes with the Master is guaranteed goodness). This fic shows the trust between the 3rd doctor and his master, something that has been lost in their later regenerations, and the mercurial nature of simm!master, and offers a believable explanation for how Delgado becomes who he will be. The story is very much one of contrasts, a moment of truce in a conflict that almost feels like a farce because it's obvious in this fic that Three and his master don't hate each other - rather the opposite. The concern the 3rd doctor and Delgado!master show for each other only underscores how bitter their battles will become. The conversation between the two Masters was also well done, with Delgado characteristically dismissive of his older self's melodrama. And the ending is excellent.
I could go on about it all day -- go ahead and read it!
"Why are you stopping?" the Master asked, hissing as his voice betrayed his lack of breath. The Doctor himself was more than a little winded considering how long they'd been running, and his side was beginning to ache from the effort. Next time, he was going to remember to park his TARDIS a little closer. The Master continued berating, since the Doctor appeared lost in thought, "We don't have time to stop."
The Doctor shook his head, the unmistakable feeling of recognition piqued by the figure. Whoever that person was on the ground, it was someone the Doctor knew and someone he knew well. "He's not Gaspridian," the Doctor said, "and the way we left old King Larenti, aliens won't be welcome here for some time."
Walking further into the alley, he kneeled down next to the man. As his eyes adjusted to the poor light, the Doctor was momentarily confused. He was quite certain he'd never seen this fellow before in his life, despite the intense feeling of recognition earlier. The bleached-blond man was wearing a black hoodie and jeans that were far from clean, and the stubble around his face further proved his disregard for personal hygiene. From the style of the clothes, the Doctor would say he was from early 21st century Earth; but how he'd gotten here, rocking and murmuring to himself with a half-crazed look in his eyes, the Doctor couldn't imagine. His eyes widened when he saw the nasty bruises that covered almost every bit of the man's visible skin. "There now, old chap," he said gently, reaching out to touch the man's shoulder. "You'll be alright, but we should get out of here. Can you walk or-"
The stranger hadn't acted like he even knew the Doctor was there, but the moment the Doctor's hand touched his shoulder, he looked up as if the Doctor had shocked him. "You!" he spat, curling up further in on himself. "It would be you. Velvet and frills and gagging chummy expressions and your constant smug superiority. Well, the latter never changes. I don't need your sympathy, so-" The man paused, a terrified expression on his face. "No. Stop. Keep away! They won't stop."
For his part, the Doctor rocked back on his heels, the small touch telling him everything he needed to know about the man's identity. He looked over at the Master, then back to the crumpled man, almost at a complete loss of what to do as shock numbed his senses.
The Master made no motion of having recognized the curled-up figure and looked more than a little exasperated at the Doctor's willingness to linger. "My dear Doctor," he said amiably despite the tension of the chase. "I should remind you the guards weren't that far behind us."
"I'm not leaving him here." Though how he was going to move the half-crazed man would be a problem he hadn't quite planned for yet.
To his surprise, the blond man looked up at that, anger in his eyes. "That's a change, Doctor. Not leaving me this time? No fires to burn me in? Or am I really that pitiful?" He laughed, a rough bark that didn't suit him, and it frightened the Doctor just a little. "Burning, roasting, scalding, searing-"
"Your sympathy is commendable," the Master said, cutting over the lunatic's raving. "But he's clearly insane and making quite a bit of noise. Leave him. I won't wait around for you to get both of us killed."
A shudder passed through the Doctor as the blond man rambled on about fire, memories of the alternate Earth burning still fresh in his memory despite the length of time that had passed since then. "You go," he said, reaching into his jacket pocket for the TARDIS key and tossing it to the shocked Master. "Go on. Collect your TARDIS from the palace. I'd appreciate it if you returned mine back to where you found it so I can get away as well."
"You're trusting me alone in your TARDIS?"
The Doctor didn't answer, instead reaching out to pull the aggressive blond man to his feet. He was surprised at how much strength the fragile-looking man had as he fought against the Doctor’s grasp, but the Doctor managed to grab hold of both his arms securely. It wasn't until he was sure of his grip that the Doctor looked up, surprised to still see the Master there. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he snapped, wishing the Master wasn't so stubborn all the time. It'd be better if he didn't see this. "I'll take too long dragging him along, so just go."
The Master's eyes narrowed, this time carefully looking over the babbling man in the Doctor's arms. "Who is that?" he asked, fingering the TARDIS key absently.
"I hardly see how that matters," the Doctor retorted, desperate to push the Master away. The Master couldn't be allowed to recognize this fellow, not at any cost. No one should have to know this was in their future. Unfortunately, the anger only served to make the Master more curious. He raised an eyebrow and didn't move from the mouth of the alley. "Look, just go. It's better you don't-"
The blond man's knees buckled, diverting the Doctor's attention to supporting his full weight. "Doctor," the man gasped, managing to rip his hands out of the Doctor's grip only to clutch at the velvet of his jacket helplessly. "Doctor, they won't stop. They're useless now. I won't let them control me. They're still here. Doctor, the drums won't stop!"
The Master stilled at the mention of the drums, going pale under his usually dark complexion as the Doctor attempted to soothe his future self. "We'll get you fixed up, old chap," he said quietly, absently rubbing the future Master's arm. "Come along to the TARDIS now, there's a good fellow. We'll see what can be done."
Silently, the current Master slipped around to the side of his future self, helping the Doctor support the lunatic. "I'll take care of him," the Doctor said, forcing a bit of cheer into his voice before speaking more gently. "You don't have to see this. In fact, you shouldn't. Let me take care of things."
Shaking his head, the Master smiled grimly. "Self-preservation, Doctor," he said, his voice not giving away how shaken the Doctor knew him to be. "This will go quicker with two of us."