Title: Don't Stop the Dance
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/The Master
Fandom: Doctor Who
Prompt: 40, Dance
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.
***One foot in front of the others. Always moving, though not always forward. Always in motion, feinting, swaying, back and forth. Dancing.
That was his relationship with the Master. Well, if it could be called a relationship, the Doctor mused, leaning on the console of the Tardis and propping his chin in his hands. It certainly wasn't a friendship, and he couldn't think of any other way to describe what was between them.
They'd been friends, many, many years ago. Centuries in the past. Of course, he hadn't known then that the Master was completely mad, that the tests of becoming a Time Lord had robbed him of his sanity. He'd managed to hide that from everyone, it seemed.
Or had he? There had always been whispered rumors, things that he'd tried to close his mind to. At the time, he hadn't wanted to hear them, hadn't wanted to admit to himself that someone who he'd considered a friend in his youth had gone so far over the edge.
He'd had to accept the fact, though, especially after the Time Wars. He'd accepted it in his rational mind long before that, but there had always been that wistful little voice in the back of his mind that had wanted to push the knowledge of the Master's madness aside.
That hadn't been possible, not really. Every time he thought there was some possible way of redeeming the other man, all of the things the Master had done would come crowding into his mind.
There was no way of banishing those thoughts, not even if he'd wanted to. As much as he hadn't wanted to condemn another Gallifreyan, he had to admit that there was no choice. He'd felt as though he was being unfaithful to a friend, but his greater responsibility was to the universe.
And he'd failed in that responsibility so many times, hadn't he? The Doctor leaned forward, closing his eyes and swallowing hard to get rid of the sudden lump in his throat. He'd failed his own planet, his own people, when they'd most needed him.
No. He wasn't going to think like that. Yes, he'd been the one to destroy Gallifrey. But they'd understood. Hadn't they? No one had blamed him. There had been no choice. One world -- versus the universe. It had been his decision to make, and he'd done the only thing he could.
It hadn't been entirely his fault. But regardless of that knowledge, he would carry the guilt with him for the rest of his lives. He was sure of that.
But that was his fate, wasn't it? To carry the weight of not just one world, but several, on his shoulders. It was something he'd accepted when he'd become a Time Lord. It was only one of the responsibilities he'd taken on, only one of the things that had driven the Master mad.
Would he have gone that way if he'd had less fortitude, been less strong? There was no telling if he would or not, really. He couldn't go back and change the past; that testing had happened centuries ago, and he'd come through it. Some did, some didn't. That was just the way of it.
It had been a source of great sadness to him that some -- in particular one -- who'd been his friends hadn't made it. But he couldn't let that keep him from becoming what he was.
He'd known that at the time, and his friends -- particularly the one who called himself the Master -- hadn't taken it well. Not at all. Most of them had merely shunned him, turning away from him as completely as they'd once accepted him.
But not the Master. Oh, no. He'd drawn a line and dared the Doctor to cross it, time and time again.
And thus had begun that dance of theirs, the dance that never seemed to end, that followed him through all the centuries and wouldn't stop moving. He hadn't been able to catch his breath, hadn't been able to remove himself from the proverbial dance floor.
He'd never be able to. This would keep going, on and on, until the Master tired of it. Every time the Doctor thought he was in control, the other man managed to turn the tables on him -- and there had been several times when he'd barely escaped with his life.
Why couldn't he stop it? Why couldn't he simply walk away, refuse to let the Master waltz him around in an ever-increasing spiral that seemed to make him more and more dizzy each time they met? It shouldn't be that hard for him to just turn his back on it all.
The Doctor's lips quirked in a wry smile, and he couldn't keep from shaking his head at his own question. He knew the answer to that one very well.
The moment that the dance stopped would be the moment that he accepted defeat and let the Master win. And he would never, never do that. Even if he had to spend all of his lives protecting the universe from that misguided madman, he would never cease doing so.
It was his responsibility. He might not have signed on for it, and he might bitterly regret what he'd become because of the weight of worlds that he felt resigned to carry. But it was a direct consequence of who and what he was, and he wouldn't turn his back on it.
The Doctor sighed, closing his eyes and gripping the console. This was what he'd made of his life -- this never-ending dance with the Master, neither of them ever completely winning the battle they waged. It would go one way, then the other, with no definite end in sight.
Was there a way for him to somehow make it end? None that he could find -- short of killing the Master. And that he wouldn't do. Not unless it was impossible to avoid.
He'd already been responsible for the death of his planet, his people. He wasn't going to add the murder of the only other Gallifreyan in existence to rest on his conscience. That was too much to ask of him -- too much for him to bear.
He already had too many deaths weighing down his soul. He wouldn't add another to that list. Fate couldn't be so cruel as to expect that of him.
But how much longer could he endure this? The Master leading, him following and desperately trying to keep up. Once in a while, he would manage to take the lead -- but somehow, the Master could always wrest that advantage away from him.
That was always how it was. The Master hatching some grand plan, and the Doctor struggling to defeat whatever it was. It would never stop -- not as long as the Master was around. They would always be caught in this dance, the two of them circling each other forever.
Or until one of them finally gave in to the inevitable and admitted defeat.
The Doctor's lips tightened at the thought, settling into a grim line. It wouldn't be him. He refused to allow the Master to win. No matter what the cost might be to himself. He'd made that promise to himself centuries ago, and he wasn't going to renege on it now.
No matter what the outcome, he was locked in this dance for the rest of his days. With no way of knowing if he would be the one to eventually lead the way away from the dance floor -- or if he would be left lying there, exhausted and broken.
He had no way of knowing what turn the future would take. The only choice he had was to keep moving -- keep dancing. Whether he was an unwilling partner or not.
The Master never gave him any indication of what their next battlefield would be -- and he had no idea of when the other Time Lord would come out of hiding. But he had to be prepared, be ready when it happened. This time, he didn't intend to be caught by surprise.
The Doctor lifted his head, sighing and looking down at the console. Whatever the next dance step was, he could count on the Master to unveil it to him soon. That was always an inevitability.
He only hoped that he'd be able to come up with a few moves of his own.