Word Count: 3152
Author's Summary: “It's mating season for Traken males. The Doctor saves the Master's life.”
Characters: The Doctor (5th), The Master (Ainley)
Warnings: Explicit Sex
So this is some In Heat/Pon Farr fic—honestly, I wish Who fic played more with classic fanfic tropes? Not exclusively, obviously. I’m glad for the variety and the particularly of a lot of Who fic, but I still wish that we got our quota of the classics and new standards. Where you at, Cave Fic? Et tu, ridiculous A/B/O? I sort of feel owed these things, even where I don't particularly like the trope in question!
Anyway, this set up is perfectly logical, as far as these things go. How like the Master to miss and then get owned by the quirky biology of his stolen body. There’s some really nice chiaroscuro imagery in here that compliments the moral ambivalence of the piece without banging you over the head with it—I can’t recall another fic that uses the Zero Room so well as a set. And of course it’s well-written—I thought about giving several snippets, but it’s a short fic, so I didn’t want to strip-mine it.
Bagheera’s never just writing smut fic, she’s always trying to do something with it and push herself. This fic’s interested in pity and grief and selfishness and the titular quality of mercy, and in trying to work out the boundaries between these. I feel like a lot of the time when a fic draws attention to itself as an investigation of a moral question, it actually doesn’t pay off for me, or the treatment feels stagey and facile? This fic doesn’t make a production of it, but in amongst the porn it slips in some stuff that makes these characters feel like ethical adults making decisions, and makes you a bit aware of the difference in experience and outlook between them and younger human companion characters, whose backgrounds are indeed really different. Which is sort of—the only way to do Time Lord interiority, really, and what the program can’t offer by virtue of its medium.
“"All you need to do is say no," the Doctor finds himself saying. His own ultimatum shocks him, because it feels like standing at a precipice and not knowing which way the abyss lies. Does he want the Master to choose his own death? It would absolve him of so much responsibility. It would lend the Master's death a dignity that the Doctor could respect. It would allow him to mourn, and that might be far less painful than having the Master wander the world of the living, stealing and murdering, neither dead nor alive. But what if he only rejects the Doctor's help out of spite, out of stupid pride and sheer contrariness? The Doctor suspects that that is what he would do in the Master's place. If you let an irrational person kill themselves, you still carry responsibility. Maybe he has spent too much time around people who are like children, but he doesn't trust the Master's ability to make informed choices any longer.”
The close is very good—I haven’t thought of it before, but perhaps Bagheera is particularly good at writing endings that, without being obvious, clarify and solidify the project of her whole fic.