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"The Master barely recognises this man. He doesn't look out of place here, amid the scorching sand and prowling predators." [Fifth Doctor/Master]
He doesn't look out of place here, amid the scorching sand and prowling predators. His blond hair has gone wild in the wind, and his soft features are set and cold, and eyes are those that could stare impassively as an old friend burns.
Oh, yes, the Master remembers. He almost didn't survive; without interference…but no matter. The Doctor is here, now, and so is he, and the Doctor will pay.
His voice is as smooth, as quiet as ever, but it sounds hollow. His stride is sure, no shred of the insecurity the Master had once found…amusing, almost endearing.
"Doctor. Have you murdered me yet?"
No response. Of course. The Doctor doesn't deal with anything if he doesn't have to.
He pauses only inches away.
The Doctor barely recognises this man.
It isn't the cut of his teeth, the gold of his eyes, though both were shocking enough; no, it's the weariness there, the fatigue that mirrors his own. The Master is older, now, older than he is, but the Doctor can feel his own time coming to an end.
He felt it before, and the Master obliged. He expected him to do so again.
"Doctor. Have you murdered me yet?"
Except it went the other way, and he can say all he likes that is was only the cremation of a walking corpse, the execution of a mass murderer, but it was also the agonizing death of his oldest friend and best enemy.
He doesn't say a word, continuing to close the distance between them, a distance of Death and Time and Pain.
The Master is still as only a predator can be still, constantly analysing the world around him, ready to act in an instant – and yet he is nervous.
It was always he who crossed the borders, who stalked and stole and shadowed. Now the Doctor is intimately close, by choice, by will, and he doesn't feel like prey. There is no fear to smell, no tremor to spy, no weakness to exploit.
"I've missed you."
A searing whisper carried on the wind that caresses his lips, and the Master does nothing when the Doctor grabs his lapels, jerks him closer still.
Their first kiss is gentle, their second fevered, their third bloodied; it is a natural progression, the path they've followed for centuries, and it makes his hearts pound and his nostrils flare.
His blood stains the Master's fangs, and the sight is intoxicating; the pain is clarity, and the taste is home.
He could pull away now, leave it at this, a kiss before dying; but the Master's arms are tight around his waist, and the Master's body is warm against his, warmer than it should be.
He wants to ask what happened, but it isn't his to know; he wants to make a difference, but it never matters in the end.
So his hands smooth down the Master's chest, his fingers work at the heavy belt, and his stained lips press against the Master's pulse.
The Master knows that he must regain control of the situation, must persuade, demand, order – but he cannot find the words. He cannot grasp the desire.
His clothes fall away, with all of their pretence and protection, and soon he removes the Doctor's as well. His hands are bare, and gentle; it is startling, perplexing, and it makes him smile.
For the first time in entirely too long the Doctor is quiet, cooperative, and it isn't out of terror or bargains or anything but simple need and aching loneliness and fleeting trust.
He doesn't ponder his own motives; instead, he traces the Doctor's chest with blunt claws, making him shiver and tense, but his wrist is caught before it travels too low.
The Master's wrist is thick and strong in his grip, but the Doctor never wavers.
The Doctor pulls him closer, so that their bodies are pressed together once more, pulsing in time, aching in rhythm; the Master's hands run down his back, the Doctor's fist in his hair – and with a sudden, swift movement, they're on the ground.
The Master hisses beneath him, but the Doctor slides against his body and it becomes a moan; they're both slick with sweat, trembling with desire, desperate to feel anything at all, and though the Master bites and scratches and bruises him, he remains.
The Doctor remembers where to bite, where to lick, where to kiss; how to move, how to tease, how to torture, how to make the Master writhe and growl beneath him, and he loses himself in it.
Shifting sand sears his back as a cool tongue teases his thighs and firm hands hold them down.
The Master is a contained beast at the mercy of a man's memories, chained by longing and loathing and lethargy.
He never pleads, but curses and whimpers and cries are torn from his throat, and his hips thrust towards pain and pleasure; the Doctor shares them both, and they savour it, this primal stolen time.
For the first time in too long, they have purpose, and they are content.
It will not last, and they will not say goodbye, but they will remember.