Summary: He’d said, honestly, that he didn’t know who he would be without the ever-drumming. It remained true.
A/N: Major hugs to anybody who can figure out why I titled this as I did. And be sure to look in the comments for a cracky epilogue. It was too cracky to fit it in with the actual fic, but I had to share it, so... :D
Disclaimer: I do not own, etc.
Beta: thanks, celuthea ! :D Get well soon!
Clarity, sanity, was so much busier than he had imagined. All these thoughts and brilliances, which had once mingled together and strummed and danced in a mockery of a tune, separated out. He could think. Beyond just numbers and plots and anger, he could think and process like never before. Sanity gave him not knowledge, which for so long had been his only crutch, but understanding, which was deeper and more profound than he could have ever realized before.
They locked him up. Of course they locked him up. They had every right to lock him up. He was a monster, bereft of soul and committed only to the destruction of life, in pursuit of extending his own.
He wasn’t considering escape plans, not yet. He had things to sort through first. Most importantly, his identity.
Back when the universe was dim, he remembered words with just as much – more – clarity. He’d said, honestly, that he didn’t know who he would be without the ever-drumming. It remained true. The drums had been the key, he realized. Without them, I could have been this – this being of such understanding, connection… The Doctor told me I could be great.
It was hard to think about him, because with the Doctor, he was forced to confront his sins. So many lives. He’d bent time to his will; he’d heard time’s scream, but had ignored it. He had rationalized that if he could just control this realm, perhaps he could finally find peace. Naturally, peace had come by other means. He had saved the Earth. He had thrown himself into the condemning Time Lock, fully aware that it was only a matter of time, once he was in there, before the Doctor pulled the switch and set the world afire. Metaphorically. Perhaps.
He was a man doomed to die, unless he could find a way out – escape the time lock. It should be possible; after all, he had crossed his own timeline, if marginally. There was perhaps enough of a connection to reel him back in, if he could construct the right device. But the right device required the right tools, and tools - he had none. His bonds had been forged at a point nearing the singularity of a black hole. Nearly the strongest in the universe. Luckily, they’d made the mistake of also forging a key.
It would require planning. Perhaps before, he might have failed, too trapped and enraptured by the drumming to wrap his mind around the problem. But now he knew he could solve it. And he had time. He had so, so much time.
But did he want to leave?
He’d taken enough life from this world. He’d stolen bodies. He’d once assassinated the President – politics! – in order to give himself new life. He’d come back in a resurrection worthy of a bad Rowling novel, and had come back as a shell, a skeleton. Being pulled through time had somehow stabilized his body, and that, with the drumming, had also given acuity to his mental faculties. He was in the prime of life. He felt that he had a number of regenerations within him – no more than eight, maybe ten if he was lucky, but enough.
It was a rebirth on the grandest, most devastating order. The price of stability and mental freedom was this prison. Well, it worked.
But if he could be free? What then?
He could only come to terms with his sins so long as he assured himself he was no longer that person. The Master, he thought, and he shuddered. It didn’t feel like his name any longer. It felt like drumming and horrors, like nightmares, nightshade, the darkness that lies in the heart of any soul perturbed beyond its limits. Is that feeling enough to merit a change in identity? A new name, a new person? Is he or is he not the same man who had done such terrible deeds? And shouldn’t he, a Time Lord, a brilliant, genius man, know?
He paused for a moment, chastising himself. Philosophy was enlightening and important, yes, but Time Lords did that enough as it was. If all else had changed, this hadn’t: he, like the Doctor, was still a man of actions, not words. He had ideas and thoughts that begged to be implemented, somehow. The direction of those thoughts had changed, guided now by morality and conscience, but the existence of this constant stream of thought remained.
If not the Master, then who was he? Something or somebody new. This new person required a name and an identity. Locked up like this, it was difficult for him to consider. The Inventor, perhaps. No, even that was just on the edge of too preposterous, and aside from that, it assumed he wanted to be a Time Lord, still.
He did not. The Time Lords had stagnated, and were bringing about their own demise with every second. He could never stop being a Time Lord, but he could be an individual. He could carve a life for himself on another planet, masquerading as a human of some sort, on the move. He would find a purpose, somewhere. He needed a purpose.
A TARDIS, he thought. And not one to be used as a toy. He would not defile a ship the way he did the Doctor’s. If the Doctor’s TARDIS never forgave him, well, he could hardly blame her.
The man who was not the Master required a TARDIS, and a place where he could safely sequester himself. A name. This body, this new body, it would do fine.
And the Doctor? What would he do about the Doctor?
The man paused, and sighed.
He didn’t want to see the Doctor. He would hide right under the Doctor’s nose for as long as possible. Oh, it was inevitable that someday their paths would once again cross, but until that time, there was nothing for it but to wait. When he next saw his… whatever the Doctor was, he would be ready. He would be a new man, and prepared to fight for his new identity as somebody who was sane, as somebody who understood and loved to understand. Oh, traces of insanity remained – but time. All he needed was time. And one day, he would stand before the Doctor, proud and humble at once.
It was a dream to work for.
The man rattled his chains, and laughed – not maniacally. Just with amusement.
He broke free.
(View the comments for the crossover!crack!Epilogue.)
( Originally posted at http://lizzledpink.dreamwidth.org/15211.h