Title: Ancient Scars
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/The Master
Fandom: Doctor Who
Table: Buffet 2, fc_smorgasbord
Prompt: 81, Rivalry
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the Tenth Doctor or the Master. Please do not sue.
***The Doctor took a deep breath, his gaze moving towards the door of the Tardis. Soon, he would have to go out of that door in pursuit of the Master, and he had no idea when or even if he would be coming back. That he might not was a distinct possibility.
Of course, he could come back as a completely different man -- but that was something he'd rather not think about. He'd had this body for such a short time, and he loved it. He wanted to keep it for as long as he possibly could, even grow old in it.
But for him, regeneration was always a risk, especially when he was battling the man who had been his greatest enemy for so many centuries. He couldn't discount the possibility of it happening, even though he hoped with all his might that it wouldn't take place.
This time, he felt that there was much more of a danger to him than another regeneration -- the Master seemed intent on destroying him.
Their rivalry had only become more bitter over the centuries that had passed since they'd both become Time Lords, he reflected. It was sad, really; the two of them had been good friends at one time, but that friendship had eroded as more and more time went by.
There was still a small hope that the Master would turn away from the darkness that consumed him, the Doctor told himself, trying to ignore the voice in the back of his mind that scoffed at such an idea. It wasn't impossible to hope that it would happen.
Who was he trying to fool? the Doctor asked himself, snorting aloud. The Master would never change. He'd been swallowed up by the dark side of his soul for so long that there was no longer any hope that the darkness would ever relinquish him.
Besides, the Master wouldn't want that. He'd made it clear many times over that he was comfortable with who he'd become, and that he didn't want to change.
Their friendship had been uneasy, even in the early days, the Doctor reflected, leaning against the console of his ship and losing himself in memories. Even when they'd been young, the Master had evinced some of the qualities that were now front and center.
Was he the only person who had known that man in his early life and hadn't realized that he harbored a natural instinct for evil? Probably so, the Doctor thought with a sigh. But then, he'd always been one to look for the good side of every person.
He was still convinced that the Master did have something of a good side left, buried under all of the rubble of his psyche. There was still a decent person under the layers of animosity -- and there was still some spark of friendship left.
If there wasn't, then he truly was a deluded fool. But he was fairly good at gauging people, and he was absolutely positive that he wasn't wrong.
Still, whatever the Master's good points were, they were well-hidden. Their friendship had never been the same since they had both become Time Lords, at a young age. And even before that, things had soured between them even before they'd gone through the testing.
He could still remember the day that his fragile friendship with the Master had fallen apart for good, and the lifelong rivalry had started. Perhaps they'd been rivals even before that, the friendship only a mask for what was really taking place beneath the surface.
The Doctor winced as his mind went back over the centuries, taking him back to a time when he'd been much younger and more innocent -- and the Master had preyed upon that innocence and ripped it away from him forever.
He didn't want to think about that time; it had not only signaled the end of his innocence, but the end of his childhood as well. And the end of a friendship.
Maybe that had been fated to happen, he thought with a sigh. His closest friend turned into his greatest enemy. Perhaps it had always been written in the stars that the two of them would be at loggerheads, never able to reconcile the enmity between them.
Was his own drive to stop the Master born of that first betrayal, rather than of the knowledge that this man would try to destroy the world that the Doctor was pledged to keep safe? Was it a desire for his own personal revenge that drove him onwards?
No. The Doctor shook his head, pushing the thought away. There was a bit of vengefulness in his need to stop the Master and confine him to a place where he could do no more harm, but he thought more of the safety of the universe than of his own need for retaliation.
After all, that had taken place centuries ago. He was literally a different man now, and the wounds had healed a long time ago.
Or had they? Those ancient scars were still there, really; they were only scabbed over, only waiting for an opportunity to bleed out at any time. Maybe that was why the rivalry between the two of them had existed for so long; there was a driving need to cauterize those wounds.
The Master would never stop trying to tear into him, exactly the way that he had done when they were young and their friendship had still existed. He would never be the one to stop this rivalry, to hold out his hand in a gesture of goodwill.
And the Doctor would never be able to accept that hand without doubting its sincerity. There was too much mistrust between them; they'd been enemies for too long. The clock couldn't be turned back to a simpler time, not for either of them.
The Time Lord squared his shoulders as he turned towards the door of his ship, his steps resolute. It was time to face whatever might be ahead of him, time to begin another chapter in the centuries-long rivalry that was nowhere close to a resolution.