MOMENT OF TRUTH

 

Materialisation began a great deal sooner than the Doctor had expected, and he crossed the room to the console with an expression of consternation on his face which transmitted itself without delay to his two companions. The Time Rotor slowed to an almost imperceptible movement, Tegan and Turlough exchanging shrugs and heavily tolerant glances behind the Doctor's back as he examined the Tardis's controls.

"We're lost again - aren't we?" Turlough asked, with mild sarcasm.

The Doctor glanced up briefly from a puzzled examination of gauges and screens. "Not so much lost ... ," he amended, "as ... misplaced. I know where we are, but it's quite a long way from the galactic co-ordinates I set ... and I don't know how we got here. Or, for that matter, why."

Tegan sighed. "Another one of your mystery tours, Doctor?"

The Time Lord's response was a startlingly youthful grin. "Aren't they all? It's the spice of life, Tegan - unpredicability; never knowing where or when you'll end up, or - " he faltered, unexpectedly, " - with whom."

Tegan hauled herself out of the lounger in which she had been relaxing since they left Rassilon's Tomb, and crossed to stand by the console.

"Well, okay," she said, benevolently, "where, and when, and with whom are we now?"

"Yes," rejoined Turlough, "I'd quite like to know as well." Leaning on the console, he was studying a small readout screen as if he understood the information it was displaying. The Doctor reached past him and flipped the switch that operated the viewscreen.

"Earth," he said. "Definitely Earth. Date ... well, B.C. something, presumably; two or three thousand perhaps, it's difficult to be sure without artefacts to date. You see, the Tardis's sensors work on a similar principal to Isotope Carbon 14 dating, only of course it's not universally applicable - I mean in silicon-based systems, and so forth." He paused, realising that Tegan was staring at him as if he had started spouting Venusian, and Turlough's glazed expression indicated that he had heard it all before. "I suppose it's not really relevant," he conceded. "Very roughly, we're at 0° 50' south, 89° 30' west, almost on the equator - an uninhabited island called San Cristobal in the Archipelago de Colon."

"The Galapagos Islands?" Turlough asked, lifting his head to study the viewscreen.

"Ah ... in fact, yes."

Tegan took a step nearer the screen. "Doctor," she said, querulously,

"I thought you said this island was uninhabited?"

He wandered over to look over her shoulder. "Mankind won't reach here for another three thousand years, at least. Why?" Her finger lifted towards the screen; between the palm trees against their backdrop of azure sky and sapphire sea, a small, man-made shape was just discernible - the shape of a neatly-constructed palm-leaf hut.

"I'd say we'd got company," Tegan pointed out unnecessarily.

"Someone's here ahead of us. Do you suppose the natives are friendly, Doc?"

The Doctor studied the picture for a long moment with an expression of dumbfounded confusion, then shook his head. "I should know," he said, irresolutely, "but I don't. The memory goes so far, and then it stops - almost as if there was a barrier across it. I suppose that was my regeneration crisis on Castrovalva - I lost large sections of my past then. I seem to remember something about ... 'When the world is quiet, I'll call you and you'll come to me'. Would you say the world was quiet, Tegan?"

The girl was watching him in utter mystification. "Quiet? It couldn't be a lot quieter! Look at it; blue sky, blue sea, birds, palm trees - no sign of human life at all except for our friend there."

"Friend? Yes, I suppose it could be a friend. But that hut certainly shouldn't be there; this island is quite definitely not inhabited." Tegan whirled away from him and grabbed the control for the main door.

"Oh, come on, this is just paranoia!" she told him, sharply. "Those instruments have been wrong before, you know - why should this time be any different? There's nothing out there but sand and sea, and I want to go swimming!"

"No!" The Doctor's cry of alarm was more sudden and violent than the situation seemed to warrant. Both companions turned towards him in some startlement, Turlough's raised eyebrows clearly indicating that he thought the Doctor had finally lost control of his senses. "Look, I can't explain," the Time Lord went on, in a more conciliatory tone, "but I don't think either of you should leave the Tardis until we know exactly what's out there. I think ... whatever it is ... I should go alone. I don't understand why, but I have this ... compulsion to go alone."

"Oh, fine!" Turlough told him acidly, hands on hips. "And if indulging in your cheap heroics should happen to kill you, how do you suggest we get home?"

The Doctor squared his shoulders. "Isn't that just a little bit selfish, Turlough? I thought better of you, you know. As a matter of fact the Time Lords have co-ordinate over-ride on the Tardis; if my life-force is extinguished, the Tardis automatically returns to Gallifrey. The High Council will make sure you get home."

"High Council?" Turlough's tone was derisory. "The last we heard, there was only you and Chancellor Flavia left - and you weren't too keen to face up to your responsibilities."

"Yes ... yes, well, that's my business," the Doctor insisted, "and so is whatever is out there. Now, please - both of you - for my sake as well as your own, stay in the Tardis until I get back." Turlough shrugged. "Oh, very well."

"Tegan?"

"If you say so, Doctor - but be careful."

Once again he flashed her his most charming, most schoolboyish grin. "Promise," he said, operating the door control and stepping out of the Tardis.

'I'll call you and you'll come to me'," Turlough repeated, softly, as the Doctor's figure appeared on the viewscreen, weaving in and out among some trees. "What calls a Time Lord, Tegan? What has that power?"

"Only another Time Lord," the girl said, absently, resting both hands on the console and looking up at him across the now stationary Time Rotor.

"That's what I thought. He seemed very anxious about it. Perhaps it's something to do with him not wanting to be President. Whatever it is, he didn't seem to be afraid of it."

"That's what worries me," Tegan told him glumly.

 

An almost suffocating heat struck the Doctor as soon as he felt the island's sandy soil under his feet. He paused long enough to discard his anachronistic pale knee-length coat and drape it over his arm, pushing back his shirtsleeves and loosening the next button of his shirt at the same time. By the time he had accomplished this, several strands of fair hair were pasted across his forehead.

"Ah well," he muttered to himself, resolutely turning his back on the solid blue shape of his time machine, "no point procrastinating; procrastination is the thief of time."

Without too much idea of where he was going, he strolled comfortably down between the trees in the direction of the sea-shore, carefully avoiding the mysterious palm-frond hut. He had a very good idea what he could expect to find if he troubled to go over and look inside it, and it hardly seemed to be his first priority. Although there was undoubtedly a frisson of the dangerous about what he was doing, there scarcely seemed to be any urgency involved - as if whatever he was going towards had been waiting a very long time, and would wait still longer if he wished.

The island group comprised several inhospitable chunks of volcanic rock extruded from the ocean bed millenia before, mellowed by the passage of time and the arrival of various migrant species into a myriad tangle of vegetation and wildlife that, some centuries from now, would inspire a young naturalist named Charles Darwin to formulate his theories about evolution. The human beings who would flee the South American mainland to colonise these tiny specks of land would find it difficult, but not impossible, to establish a foothold here; however, it was not the future fate of primitive humans that concerned him at the moment. Rounding a clump of low vegetation he was less startled that he should have been to behold the figure of a man dressed entirely in black, comfortably seated in a patch of shade some yards ahead and gazing out over the endless ocean. The Doctor crossed the sand towards him and paused, aware of the tentative telepathic trace reaching out to him from his fellow Time Lord.

"Man Friday, I presume?" he said, striving to keep the sudden edge of nervousness from his voice.

The Master turned to look at him, lips curved in a smile of satisfaction. "I knew you would come," he said softly.

"Oh? I didn't think I was so predictable."

"You always have been, although there is the odd occasion ... "

They looked at each other, remembering.

"I like to keep people on their toes. How did you know?"

"I called you. 'When the world is quiet, I'll call you and you'll come to me, wherever I am.' Do you remember the circumstances in which I spoke those words to you, Doctor?"

A pause, while the fair-haired man searched his memory. "No. I didn't even remember it was you who had said them, just the words themselves. But I suppose I should hasve realised it would be you. I must say you picked a beautiful setting."

"Beauty is a temporal thing, soon destroyed. Power lasts."

"Perhaps. But the men who wield it generally don't. That's your Tardis, I take it, fetchingly disguised as a grass hut?"

The Master bowed his head. "Indeed. Won't you sit down?"

"No, thank you. I don't want to get sandy."

"Very well. I find it most comfortable."

"How can you be comfortable in that outfit?"

A natural, unforced laugh escaped the Master as he raised a pale hand to his collar, and the Doctor's eyes followed the movement in time to notice a bead of sweat roll down the man's neck. He couldn't remember when the Master had last seemed so ... human.

"There are more practical ensembles for this climate in my wardrobe," the dark-haired Time Lord conceded. "Perhaps I'll search for something a little later. However, Doctor, you're hardly suitably dressed yourself. Always the eccentric, aren't you? Although I was quite fond of the dandy in all his velvet and lace."

Caught up in the sudden spirit of good humour, the Doctor abandoned his misgivings about the beach, threw down his coat, and dropped into a sitting position at the edge of the Master's patch of shade. "That same dandy also saw fit to criticise my dress sense quite recently," he recalled, wryly. "It's a very strange feeling, being admonished by your own former self. Odd what it does to the memory, to meet them all like that. By rights, I should have had four sets of recollections of that encounter, but it was as if it was happening to me for the first time."

"It was. Borusa was using the Time Scoop. He brought me from a most interesting study of the Spanish Inquisition; primitive, of course, but very effective."

"You always were bloodthirsty," smiled the Doctor. "Naturally you'd feel at home there. I'm sure even if they couldn't teach you anything, you had plenty of advice for them."

The Master's hand lifted to his throat again, and this time one of the fastenings of the clinging black velvet tunic was opened and a sliver of pallid damp skin revealed to view. A strand of his immaculate dark hair had broken free from his control and was being stirred by an idle catspaw of breeze from the sea.

"Why did you bring me here?" the Doctor asked, softly.

"It's as good a place as any to talk."

"I wasn't aware we had anything to talk about."

"Oh, come, Doctor - we have centuries to speak of."

Blue eyes studied the other man closely. One hand rearranged a straggling length of fair hair. "My memory's not that good."

"I know. Wasn't it Rassilon himself who used to say 'A Time Lord is the sum of his memories'?"

"Probably. I don't recall."

"Doctor, there is a great deal you don't recall. I could help you fill in those gaps in your memory, if you would permit it. Of course, you would have to allow me to touch you - and even when the safety of Logopolis depended on it you were scarcely able to do that. I realise you have been trying to avoid any telepathic contact between us, but I believe on this occasion you might find it ... beneficial."

"Oh, no doubt. But what could you possibly have to gain by restoring my memory? Schemes for world domination and the subjugation of alien races I might expect from you, but this concern for my welfare ... it seems a little out of character, if you'll forgive my saying so."

The Master's smile faded fractionally, his lips tightening into a thin line. "You have no reason to trust me," he conceded.

"Quite." With a child's sudden change of direction he had unfastened his shoes and kicked them off, and now he removed his socks and burrowed his toes into the hot, fine sand. "Seems a pity to waste all this on a conversation we've had a hundred times in the past," he said mildly. "I think I'll go for a swim. Well, a paddle, anyway."

"But, Doctor ... "

The fair-haired man was on his feet and half-way to the water before the Master had realised what he intended.

"Oh, damn you, Doctor," he muttered, bending to remove his own footwear, "are you so determined to leave me no dignity? Why do you make me suffer over such a small matter?"

The Doctor had reached the water's edge. "Did you say something?" he called back, absently.

Three more buttons on the black velvet tunic were opened as the Master made his way down cautiously to the sea.

"Only that I wish you would listen to me for once."

"Don't you think I've done enough listening, over the years?" The Doctor was standing with his hands in his pockets, the sea-breeze tugging at his collar and wisps of his fair hair. "I wonder if one could swim to South America from here? How far do you think it is?"

"Not more than seven hundred and fifty miles; I shouldn't think that would present you with too much difficulty. What must I do to get your attention, my friend? Threaten you?"

"I don't suppose that would work," the Doctor said, turning towards him.

"No. I don't suppose it would."

The Doctor regarded his fellow Time Lord for a long moment; hair awry, clothing neglected and sand-encrusted, pale skin exposed to a fierce sun, blue eyes devoid of their usual fanaticism, the Master stirred in him a chord of the most elusive memory. "You remind me of someone," he said at last, straining towards a mental image that would not quite form. "It must have been a long time ago."

"It was. One of your previous selves is the guardian of all your memories of that time. If you could just accept my touch ... "

"Why? Why should you know my past when I don't?"

"Because of the bargain I made with the High Council," was the Master's unexpected response. "In exchange for my agreeing to go into the Death Zone and help you, they offered me a new set of regenerations."

"You can't have regenerated already!" protested the Doctor. "That's still Tremas's body, isn't it?"

"Yes; but as a matter of fact, they have kept their promise. You must know that I was unconscious during your last conflict with Borusa; surely you didn't think Lethbridge-Stewart capable of knocking me out for such a long time?"

A light-hearted chuckle escaped the Doctor, and he stared down at the clear, brilliant seawater. "I didn't realise he had it in him to hit you quite that hard, I must admit," he conceded.

A warm, friendly smile crossed the Master's face. "I was under Rassilon's power from the moment the Brigadier hit me," he said, ruefully rubbing his chin. "Rassilon has been observing our Time Lord race from that Tomb of his for centuries. He had observed Borusa's early rise to power, and how that rise was achieved; observed, too, the way Borusa dealt with the only possible threat to his existence. It's a fascinating story, Doctor; perhaps you would like to hear it?"

"Go on."

"Very well. It seems that there were two young men - sons of great families, we shall suppose - who were both brilliant scholars. They were students together, and in the course of time - as young men sometimes will - they fell in love. As they had both already done their dynastic duty as required by law, they were free to declare their union before the High Council and share their lives for as long as they chose. Unfortunately for Borusa, although each separately presented a formidable threat to his plans, together they were virtually invincible. His only chance of defeating them lay in the fact that they were so preoccupied with one another they had not yet noticed his scheming.

"Obviously it was necessary to part them, and to do so he misused the power of Rassilon. He gained control of the mind of the weaker of the pair, altered his personality, turned him against his lover - although at first Borusa's hold was less than certain, and the change appeared as a natural progression."

The Master's narrative halted, and for a long time neither man spoke.

"Borusa engineered the laboratory accident," he went on at length. "He also sponsored the scheme to award my regenerations when I was close to death afterwards. If he had let me die, you would have learned of his plot hundreds of years ago. By keeping me alive and turning me against you he distracted your attention from what he was doing. Borusa has been playing the Game of Rassilon with us all our lives; we have been his puppets, Doctor. All that we ever had of our lives that was our own was what we shared - a long time ago, at the Academy. That union we declared, and which you were so ashamed of afterwards."

The Doctor shrugged, unwilling to accept either the meaning or the tone of the Master's words. "I have no recollection of any of this," he said.

"Your previous personality has retained all these memories. They were taken from you when you regenerated into your fourth body, but the third ... the dandy ... has them all. Did you and he touch when you met?"

The Doctor's eyes closed, and briefly he seemed to sway. Concerned, the Master stepped closer, preparing to catch him if he should fall.

"'So this is what I've become ... a dandy and a clown.' I remember fighting Omega; I have three separate memories of that."

"Did he touch you?" the Master insisted, his voice close and soft now.

"The dandy? Did he touch you?"

A shudder ran through the Doctor's body. "They all did. All three of them; the old man, the clown ... and the dandy."

"Then, my dear Doctor, you have only to access the memory he left you. I will not insist on sharing my mind with you; you will trust him, no doubt, since he is a part of you. Cast your mind back to the beginning. Think of your youth."

"A lot of things began then," the Doctor told him, shakily. "Our rivalry. Our enmity."

"I don't hate you. I never have."

"Nor I you, although I tried."

"No. Once you loved me - as much as I loved you. As much, perhaps, as I do now."

"I won't listen to you! I've heard your lies before, damn you! I can't take any more of your silver-tongued promises, your declarations of eternal devotion - you've proved yourself a liar so many times, a villain of the deepest dye ... What you've said means nothing to me; I can't let myself believe it!"

The Master stepped away, turning his back towards the Doctor. Whatever emotions he was experiencing, he was determined to keep them concealed from his former friend.

"Very well, Doctor, it shall be as you wish. Once before I promised you your freedom; I do so again now, without reservation. I will make no further attempt to persuade you to my way of thinking. Please ... accept my apologies ..."

"You ... promised me my freedom?" The stunned, distant tone of the Doctor's voice caused the Master to whirl towards him again, a sudden uncontrollable hope beginning. "On some other island, in Earth's future? You were a prisoner!" The cornflower blue eyes snapped open suddenly and a dawning realisation met the Master's gaze.

The dark-haired Time Lord bowed slightly. "I never really stopped needing you," he said, wistfully. "Borusa's mind games turned me into something I despised, but in moments of clarity I knew what we had been to one another and I wanted you back. That was what tempted me to look into my own future; what I saw there was this island. I knew it was the only chance I would ever have of recovering what I had lost."

"And you turned me loose, so that you could bring me back when you chose? 'When the world is quiet, I'll call you'? Is that kind of emotional blackmail your idea of love?"

The Master closed the distance between them. "No. I don't want you under duress, Doctor; freely, or not at all. Love must be entirely honest with itself, or it scarcely deserves the name."

The Doctor's jaw dropped, and he stared open-mouthed at the Master.

"You mean it!" he gasped. "You really mean it!"

"Certainly."

"You're telling me that after all we've been through ... you still love me?"

A light, teasing laugh filled the warm air between them. "My very dear Doctor, your perspicacity amazes me. Yes, you fool, I do continue to love you - astonishing as we may both find it. Do you think I would put myself to this ... this indignity for anything less?" he asked, waving a rueful hand at his tousled, sandy condition, his wet feet, his general state of dilapidation.

"You do look a little ... dishevelled."

"And you ... if I may say so without giving offence, Doctor ... look quite, quite perfect."

The Doctor caught back a gasp of astonishment, feeling his mental shields beginning to buckle under the weight of the Master's indulgent, openly affectionate gaze.

"We were lovers," he whispered, mostly to himself. "And you say it was Borusa who parted us? How could you have learned that?"

"Rassilon himself restored my memory, Doctor - he was the only one who could, since it was his power that Borusa used against me. If you will speak to the High Council, you will find it confirmed that my regenerations are restored and I have been pardoned. It's the strangest sensation," he added, whimsically. "I'd forgotten what it was like to be welcomed ... but my role in defeating Borusa and knowledge of his treachery towards us is enough, it seems, to cancel out all my past misdeeds. Do you believe me?"

"Do ... I ... ? Yes, of course. Lies would be a waste of time when I can check so easily. I do believe you ... I do remember ... "

"It can be that way again, my friend," the Master told him, reaching out with his mind, probing at the last shield of consciousness that divided them. Time slowed, hovered about them; the warmth of the Master's presence invaded nerves and cells and synapses, drawing his mind into an embrace closer and more binding than any physical clutching. He shivered, feeling the old longing - or was it the Master's? He was no longer sure. Within their brains emotions chased and danced, melted and capitulated in willing climax. "Even in the passage of centuries ... some things never change."

Muscles untensed; relief rippled through the Doctor's body. "I knew it all along," he whispered, "but I never admitted it."

"Then do so now. We have both waited far too long."

"I know."

A step closer, neither certain which had moved. They considered each other for a moment, but only for the briefest of moments.

"You will ... permit me to touch you?"

The Doctor swallowed abruptly, a strange anxiety closing his throat.

"I positively insist on it," he whispered, holding out his arms and allowing the Master to step into an embrace of the most exquisite tenderness. He bent his head forward, contemplating in that last moment of separateness the absolute rightness of the way the Master's mouth lifted towards his. Their lips met tentatively, then with growing strength as sensations tingled through mind and body, a kaleidoscope of memories dancing before their joined consciousness.

It's the truth; all of it is the truth. The realisation was pleasure and pain, delight and despair. In Rassilon's name, what have I done to you? An unbearable anguish flowed through linked minds.

Nothing. A deep, solid reassurance. None of it was your doing. You were Borusa's dupe as much as I, my dear friend. How could I blame you for that?

After all that's happened over the years ... you can still forgive me?

Why not? You have forgiven me. We were blinded by our feelings; there's no shame in loving ... as we did.

As we ... do? From somewhere, a wellspring of hope; a hope he still could not dare to name. Could we say that again, now?

The response was immediate, overwhelming, satisfying. As we do, Doctor. As we do.

It was the Master who initiated the next kiss, his arms twining around the Doctor and holding him so closely that their four heartbeats thudded in perilous proximity, almost crushing the breath from the other man's body in his desperation to turn back the years that had parted them. His right hand tangled in the silk-fine strands of fair hair that curled at the back of the Doctor's neck, afforded him the long-desired sensations of touching, stroking, gently caressing the face and neck of his beloved fellow Time Lord. Moving lower, the hand tugged at the bedraggled remnants of the Doctor's shirt and had found its way to the scalding skin beneath before the Doctor broke the kiss.

"You're in a hurry," he remarked, bashfully, drawing back to arm's length but making no effort to detach the hand from his chest, instead covering it with his own. "You always were, as I remember it. I know it's a compliment, but ... it's too soon. I'm still a little stunned by what has happened."

A laugh from his lover. "Perhaps this is not the best time - or the best place. Perhaps at our somewhat advanced age we should make the attempt to find a bed, don't you think? I have several suitable apartments in my Tardis; no doubt you do, too."

The Doctor took his hand and drew him to a secluded alcove between rocks, sitting on the sand and bringing the Master down with him into a loose embrace that was affectionate rather than passionate. "As a matter of fact I jettisoned a lot of my Tardis's spare capacity. I no longer have the cloister or even the Zero Room. I believe I do still have some of the original sleeping quarters, though. We must explore, see what's left."

"It will be a pleasure - but I think you may have difficulty explaining me to your two companions, don't you?"

The Doctor's expression was one of concern. "I suppose so. The sooner it's done, though, the better. We should tell them immediately. Today."

"It should be an interesting encounter," the Master mused, his hand beginning anew its exploration of the Doctor's chest. The Doctor relaxed into the offered kiss, letting the other man press him back against the almost white sand and twining both arms around his neck in self-indulgent surrender. His mouth opened to accept the probing tongue, his mind also widening to welcome the invading consciousness that filled it in dual possession, his body arching to meet the black clad heat thrust against it.

You know I could never resist you, a weakened shred of himself whispered against the overwhelming sensations that beset him. Whenever you wanted me, I was always ready.

I know. Remind me never to take unfair advantage of that delightful fact.

Within their shared minds, a ripple of outraged amusement. Take all the advantage you want; I shall never have enough of you!

It's hardly appropriate in a President of the High Council, Doctor, was the affectionately mocking response. And certainly not with one who was so recently considered an enemy of the race you have been chosen to lead.

"You knew?" Tearing himself away and sitting up, the Doctor managed to ignore the pangs of unsatisfied lust that nagged brutally at his groin; the Master's free hand slipped down between their bodies and his strong fingers began to stroke at the fabric shrouding the overheated flesh, soothing and arousing in the same distracting movement.

"Yes." Warm breath and the flicker of a tongue close to his ear, lips descending on the side of his neck and teeth nipping sharply as the hand tightened on him. "Flavia told me the High Council had reiterated their invitation to you; I presume you incline to accept?"

"Accept ... what ... ?"

"The Presidency."

The tongue dipping into his ear and the press of the Master's groin against his thigh were sending the Doctor's thoughts scurrying in a thousand disparate directions. "Why? Do you want me to name you as consort?" Despite himself, he began to tear at the remaining fastenings of the black velvet tunic, exposing the Master's skin to the harsh glare of the equatorial sun, bending his head to touch one fair nipple with uncertain lips.

"I have no ambition beyond the next hour," the Master told him, firmly, responding as questing fingers stroked across his thigh and captured, through cloth, his swollen manhood. "Politics and sex are incompatible bedfellows; I want you, not Gallifrey."

"And if you must have both?"

"The role of Presidential consort would suit me well enough, if you insist." Busy fingers found the fastenings of the Doctor's trousers, loosed buttons, dipped inside to close around ardent flesh.

"Then ... oh! .... " The Doctor's reply almost lost itself in the sudden intimacy of the Master's touch. "Then ... it's settled; but I refuse to go on calling you 'Master'. You need a new name."

"Choose one and I'll wear it. I'm remade, my friend; a new name would be appropriate. Shall I take a different body, also? You have only to ask."

"No!" A grip of panic communicated itself through the Master's body, bring him to the edge of control. "I like ... this body. Dark ... mysterious ... beautiful ... just like you always were. I love you, you know. You guessed it long before I did, even ... back then, before ... "

"Yes. It was in your eyes, even in those days. Love. Lust. Now, will you please stop talking and allow me to make love to you?"

A slight embarrassment flickered across the Doctor's expression, chased away by a gentle fluttering of laughter. Determined to put from his mind all considerations of friends and future he let himself be drawn down again into another kiss, more intimate and demanding than any yet, yielding his body up to the Master's sure and searching touch, abandoning himself in the complete certainty of his lover's care, giving and receiving pleasure in direct ratio to the years of frustrated longing, the centuries of separation, the aeons of need. The Master's body covered his and enwrapped him in strands of fantasy; the forest burst with life, and above them the unfettered sun cast its light to the heavens.

 

"I don't like this," Tegan said, bitterly, looking at her watch for the umteenth time.

"I would never have guessed." Turlough's reply was acid with intolerance.

"He's been gone more than an hour. He was only going to walk down to the shore; he's had time to do that a dozen times over. Something's happened to him."

"Nothing," Turlough told her sharply, "has happened. The Time Lords would have taken us straight back to Gallifrey, wouldn't they? And we're still here? Ergo, the Doctor is perfectly all right."

"Of course I am. Why shouldn't I be?"

"Doctor!" Both companions turned immediately, to behold an extremely bedraggled figure stepping through the main doorway into the console room. The Doctor looked flushed, his eyes brighter than usual, his hair a sandy tangle, his feet bare, his shoes in his hand, his coat missing altogether.

Tegan shot him an accusing glare. "You've been in the sea!" she complained. "Dammit, Doc, that's not fair; you wouldn't let us go out there, but you've been in the water."

He dropped the sandy shoes down onto the shining white floor. "True," he acknowledged. "I'm sorry, Tegan, of course you can go swimming if you want ... a little later, though; I have to move the Tardis." Leaning on the console, he ignored her protests as he punched in a set of co-ordinates.

"That should do it - but not just yet, I think. I want to change my clothes first."

Crossing the room without looking in the direction of his companions, he had almost reached the doorway that led into the heart of the Tardis when Turlough's voice stopped him.

"Did you meet anyone, Doctor?"

He paused awkwardly, his hand already on the door, and did not turn to face Turlough. "Yes, I did."

"Friend or foe?"

"A friend. An old friend." Then, with an abrupt movement, he shoved his way through the door and was gone.

"Ah," Turlough said, shortly, and with the air of one who has received a revelation.

"'Ah'? What's that supposed to mean?"

Turlough turned a semi-belligerent expression towards her. "It means," he said slowly, "that judging by the symptoms our dear Doctor is in love - but not, I'm afraid, with either of us."

"Either of us? You mean ... you ... ?" Although stunned at his perception of her own motives, Tegan was still able to recognise that he had revealed a quite astonishing facet of his own character - one she had never even suspected.

The young man shrugged, as though he thought the matter utterly irrelevant. "Why not? Surely that happens on your planet, too? It certainly happens among Time Lords; their laws are very liberal, on that point, at least."

Tegan's jaw dropped. "I don't believe it," she said, bewilderedly. "You don't imagine the Doctor ... No, he couldn't be ... " Catching Turlough's warning glance, she thought it wisest not to complete the sentence.

"I think you ought to start getting used to the idea," Turlough said, softly. "Otherwise I'm afraid you could be in for a terrible shock."

"You really mean it?"

"I really mean it, Tegan," Turlough told her.

The Doctor's return several minutes later was sufficient of a shock in itself. Some of the heightened colour had left his face, and his hair - although still wet - was now firmly disciplined; combed back off his face, it gave him an air of seriousness and purpose which made him seem still younger. He had certainly changed his clothes; raiding his wardrobe had produced an ivory silk ruffled shirt, negligently buttoned, and plain cotton trousers the colour of bleached bone which were topped off by a lavender brocade waistcoat embroidered in purple, worn open.

"Changed your image again, Doctor?" Turlough asked, sarcastically. "This is a bit extravagant for you, isn't it?"

"Not entirely," was the almost sheepish answer. "I used to be something of a dandy, I suppose. This outfit probably belongs to those days. Did I come back without my coat?"

"Yes." Tegan's reply was sharp, but the Doctor seemed not to notice.

"Oh, well, no harm done. Perhaps you could look for it when you go for your swim, Tegan." He was punching buttons on the console again, and then bent low over the communications panel. "I'm calling Gallifrey; I need to speak to Chancellor Flavia. I'm afraid there are going to be some changes after all. Doctor to the Capitol; Doctor to the Capitol; Flavia, are you there?"

For a moment the image on the viewscreen swam and refocussed, and then it solidified into a picture of Chancellor Flavia, Deputy President of Gallifrey. Her expression was tolerant, almost amused, and certainly welcoming.

"Why, Doctor; how nice of you to contact us again."

The Doctor swallowed convulsively, his face betraying a nervous excitement. "Chancellor Flavia, in the past hour I've heard the most extraordinary story. I want to believe it, but ... well, it seems too good to be true. It's not that I don't trust ... "

Flavia's quiet assurance stopped him in mid-stammer. "Doctor, I know what you have been told, and by whom. Your trust is not misplaced; there is adequate documentary evidence of Borusa's villainies dating back several centuries - and you must not think we were all blind to what was happening at the time. I was more junior than yourself, I had no Time Lord status, but I was aware of Borusa's manoeuvring to separate you from your life partner. If this situation has now been remedied, as I hope, you have no need to be apprehensive. Borusa's destruction has freed the whole Time Lord race - you and your partner are not excluded."

"Can it really be as simple as that?"

Flavia smiled. "Given a sympathetic High Council with a full understanding of Borusa's treachery, I see no reason why not. You are still President, Doctor, and I am still Chancellor - two facts which in themselves guarantee a sympathetic High Council. There is, however, a vacancy for the post of Castellan; perhaps you can nominate someone with a suitable background to fill it. I think I may say," she added, lightly, "that any nominee of yours would be elected virtually unopposed in Full Council, Lord President."

"Good lord - I hadn't thought of that! Are you seriously suggesting....."

Chancellor Flavia sighed with heavy tolerance, as though rebuking a wayward child. "Doctor, I know your stubbornness only too well; you were preparing an ultimatum for me - both, or neither. Very well, then; Gallifrey will wecome you both to the new High Council. Will you be returning immediately?"

The Doctor smiled, a broad, brilliant grin. "In a few hours, I suppose. One of my companions wishes to go swimming," he said, glancing briefly at Tegan. "And there are other matters to be dealt with - I'm sure you understand."

"Of course. I will be ready to welcome you when you return. Goodbye for now, Doctor."

"Goodbye, Flavia."

 

"Actually," Turlough said calmly, "both of your companions wish to go swimming. You didn't think I'd pass up an opportunity like this, did you?"

"I'm sorry?" The Doctor seemed lost in thought. "Oh, no, Turlough, of course not."

"I don't think it's right to blame me for the delay, though, do you? You just don't want to go back yet, and you're making me the excuse!" Tegan was understandably indignant, her expression a reproach.

"I don't need an excuse, Tegan; I'm President, remember?"

"You're on the run, remember?" Turlough reminded him.

"Not any more. Nothing to run from any more. It's time to go home. Off you go, Tegan, get your swimming things; I'll move the Tardis, and then we can all relax for a little while before we return to Gallifrey."

"Well, pardon me, but didn't you say you weren't going back?" Tegan asked, pausing in the doorway.

"I did say that, didn't I?" He looked up at her, his teeth digging into his lower lip. "You know, Tegan, sometimes the past catches up with us and changes our plans without warning. I've got promises to keep - promises I made a long time ago. That more or less means I have to go back to Gallifrey now. I know I owe you an explanation - both of you. Please just bear with me a little longer and I promise I'll tell you everything."

"Maybe you won't have to," Turlough said, coolly.

"Aw, Jeez, now you're both talking in riddles!" Tegan declared, huffily. "I can't take a lot more of this. I reckon I'd rather take my chances with the sharks and the jellyfish! Let me know when the pair of you decide to return to the human race."

With this parting shot, the girl headed off into the inner reaches of the Tardis.

Turlough quirked an eyebrow in the Doctor's direction. "I don't know about you," he said, mildly, "but I think I've just been insulted."

The Doctor shrugged. "It's not going to get any easier, either," he said. "I think I'm going to have Tegan on my conscience for a long time. I let her get too close, you see."

"And she doesn't understand about Time Lords not having relationships outside their own kind? I did try to prepare her for it, but I still think it's going to be a terrible shock."

The Time Rotor started to move slowly, gathering speed, and the ear-splitting cacophony of sound indicated that the dematerialisation circuits had started to operate.

"How do you know so much about it?" the Doctor asked, uneasily.

"My people travelled very widely at one time," Turlough informed him. "I know a little bit about your planet's history. Tegan doesn't have more than the most basic notion; she can't imagine a life that can be several thousand years long - nor the choices involved in sharing it. You are getting married, I take it?"

"No. Not really. In a matter of speaking, we were married already. The union can be revoked or reinstated periodically, but it never really ends. That's what makes things so complicated, you see."

"I see. But I don't imagine Tegan will."

"She's just a child," the Doctor said, sadly. "She'll think I've betrayed everything I always stood for."

"Yes," Turlough nodded. "She probably will."

 

Materialisation began again, the Tardis coming to rest on the self-same seashore it had just left, several metres closer to the ocean. Tegan appeared from the direction of the sleeping quarters wearing a multi-coloured bikini, sarong and sandals.

"Hey, Turlough, I thought you were going in the water as well?" she asked, brightly, her irritation set aside.

"I'll join you in a moment," he replied, smiling. "I must have some suitable clothing somewhere."

"Well, I hope so. Where exactly have we moved to, Doctor?"

"Uh ... " Vaguely, he indicated the viewscreen. "Over here."

"Oh, yeah? And where were we before, then?"

"Well ... over there, actually."

"No kidding, Doc? Hey, your scientific education wasn't wasted, was it?"

"Tegan, we've materialised around the other Tardis," Turlough told her, softly. "You see ... it isn't there any more?"

The girl stepped over to the screen and stared at it in open-mouthed amazement. "You mean that grass hut? That was another Tardis?"

A quiet movement behind her was followed by soft words that froze her in position. "I'm afraid so, Miss Jovanka. As a matter of fact, it was mine."

Tegan turned slowly to face the figure that had just emerged from the direction of the Tardis's labyrinthine inner passages. Hair in undisciplined chestnut waves, eyes a startling clear blue, the Master stood just inside the doorway. He wore a very plain high-collared tunic in a pleasant grey-blue shade, and looked so unthreatening, so friendly, that for a moment Tegan was more terrified of him than she had ever been.

"You! What the hell are you doing here?"

He stepped over to the console, holding out towards the Doctor a small, clear-plastic box packed with arcane wiring and circuitry.

"I've brought a gift," he said, in a matter-of-fact tone. "I thought you might have a use for a chameleon circuit. I don't suppose I'll have any further need of it."

"Thank you - although I've rather got used to the Tardis as it is. Uh, Tegan..."

The girl was still shrinking away, her eyes widening in fear. "I don't believe this; you must be mad!" she accused, sounding quite on the edge of insanity herself. "How can you make polite conversation with him?"

"Oh, Tegan, it really isn't difficult." Turlough stepped towards the Master, his right hand held out confidently. "Congratulations," he said, blithely. "I understand you're to be the new Castellan of Gallifrey."

The Master accepted the handshake in some bewilderment. "Am I?" he asked, his eyes turning towards the Doctor.

"Well - er, yes, as a matter of fact, you are. I wasn't sure if they'd accept you, but Flavia promises me there'll be no difficulty - that is, if you want the job?"

The Master dropped Turlough's hand and moved closer to the console, where the Doctor stood turning the chameleon circuit over and over in his hands.

"Do I wish to be Castellan of Gallifrey? My dear Doctor, you haven't forgotten what our families intended for us, all those years ago? That you would be President ... "

"And you would be Castellan. I had forgotten, you know. Does that mean you'll do it?"

The Master chuckled softly, a pleasant sound. "If the Lord President wills it, who am I to disobey?"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Tegan put in urgently, an expression of deep anxiety on her face, "I'm missing something here. One moment you guys hate one another's guts, the next you're forming a mutual admiration society - and Chancellor Flavia mentioned something about you being reunited with you life partner. Are you telling me Turlough's right after all?"

The sheepish expression that passed across the Doctor's face was very nearly a blush. "Um, Tegan, I realise things are done differently on your world, but on Gallifrey the gender of one's partner isn't really important - we marry for love, not for, well, procreation."

"Whoa, hold on, that's not it! I'm not a prude, Doc; we have gays in Australia, too, you know! Just - did it have to be him? You know what he's done!"

The Doctor's head lifted. "Yes, I know. And I also know why. I've learned to forgive him, Tegan. If you understood why it happened in the first place, maybe you could, too."

"Nothing is permanent, Miss Jovanka," the Master put in, smoothly, his tone warm and comforting. "Whatever has been done can be undone. Time is Rassilon's playground, and we are his toys."

"But ... you murdered my Aunt Vanessa ... and you stole that body you're wearing. How're you gonna put that right? You couldn't bring Adric back, Doctor, could you? So how can you change what he's done?"

"Tegan," the Doctor said firmly, "I could bring Adric back, but the price is too high. I'm not pretending that everything the ... the Castellan's done can be changed, but you could be returned to your own time-line at any point, with no memory of what's happened since. You could return to a time before any of us entered your life - and then we never would. Only don't make the decision in a hurry, please; you're still in shock. I am myself, you know, so I do sympathise. I hadn't realised my memory had corroded so far that I had forgotten ... something so important to me."

His eyes swivelled in the direction of the Castellan, and for a moment the smile they shared illuminated the console room and embraced the two companions with its warmth, and Tegan's resolve began to waver.

"Come back to Gallifrey with us," the Castellan suggested. "Talk to Chancellor Flavia. Take your time over the decision. Trust us that far."

"Trust ... you?" Tegan's tone was incredulous. "Besides I can't stay on Gallifrey forever, can I?"

"Why not?" Turlough asked, rejoining the conversation suddenly. "There are worse places, especially if you happen to know someone in authority. I don't suppose I could study at the Academy, could I?"

"Well ... " the Doctor hesitated, "we don't normally accept non-Gallifreyans, but I suppose an exception could be made. Your people have a wide scientific background; you'd make an excellent student. We could always put it to the High Council - what do you think, Castellan?"

One dark eyebrow climbed slightly, but the Castellan accepted his new designation without question. "The thought of Turlough eventually becoming a Time Lord is enough to send a chill down the spine," he remarked, "but perhaps the Academy will mellow him."

"And what about me?" Tegan demanded shrilly. "You three get happy endings; what do I get? There's nothing for me on Gallifrey, and not a whole lot more on Earth. Where do I fit in to your little plans?"

"My dear Miss Jovanka - or may I call you Tegan? - when you have the whole of space and time to choose from, whyever should you be unhappy? Come," he added, holding out his arm to her in a most courtly gesture, "walk on the beach with me for a little while; I'm sure I can convince you."

Startled, the girl glanced towards the Doctor for guidance, but received only a reassuring smile.

"Go on, Tegan; at least listen to what he has to say. You'll find him very persuasive."

"I'll bet," she acknowledged, cautiously threading her arm through the Castellan's and allowing him to lead her towards the exit. "I'll just bet."

 

Turlough laughed out loud at the bemused expression on the Doctor's face as he watched the two departing figures.

"He's charming," he said, delightedly. "He'll have no difficulty convincing her to come to Gallifrey. Within five minutes she'll have forgotten her own name - within ten, everything he's ever done to make her fear him. I can understand why you always loved him so much."

"Thank you." The Doctor's smile was somewhat preoccupied. "I'm sure he'll be able to reassure her - but I don't really understand your acceptance of all this, Turlough."

The young man shrugged. "You forget," he said. "I was a pawn of the Black Guardian; I know how minds can be manipulated. Besides, my people don't have the taboos humans do."

The Doctor nodded. "I'd forgotten," he said. "It's amazing how much I'd forgotten. I should hate Borusa for what he did to us, but I don't. I only pity him. We've gained so much; he lost everything."

"And your wanderings are over at last," Turlough added. "After all the years of exile and all the battles you fought, you're together again - forever, this time. I don't need to be a Time Lord to know that."

"No."

"So tell me ... does this 'union' of yours make up for it all?"

The Doctor stepped over to the main door and leaned on the jamb, his hands in his pockets, watching the blue-clad figure of his life-partner strolling arm-in-arm on the beach with the scantily-dressed companion who only minutes before had hated him with all her being. He reflected on the young man he had loved long ago, back in his student days; on the Master, whose insane genius he had thwarted at every turn; on the newly-created persona of the Castellan, free of Borusa's shackles at last, memory and personality restored; on his lover, loving him.

"Yes, Turlough," he said, at length. "Believe it or not it does."

* * *

Set immediately after Season Twenty, Story Seven: 'The Five Doctors'

 

Expanded, with permission, from 'Island in Time' by 'Julia'

UNCHARTED WATERS 1, 1988