Title: Unnecessary Risks
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/Ross Jenkins
Fandom: Doctor Who
Table: Buffet 2, fc_smorgasbord
Prompt: 94, Lunatic
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 Ross Jenkins, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.
***"How could anyone do some of the things he's done?" Ross asked, sighing and shaking his head as the Doctor fell silent. "I've heard of some nutcases before, but I think the Master beats them all. He's really a raving lunatic, isn't he?"
"He wasn't always like that," the Doctor sighed, reaching for Ross' hand and twining their fingers together. "But even when we were friends -- when we were children, and then at the Academy -- he was always a little .... well, unbalanced."
"Unbalanced?" Ross asked, his tone sarcastic. "I'd say he's a lot more than that, judging from what you've told me. And all the things he's done to you ...." His voice trailed off, his fingers tightening around the Doctor's and a shudder going through his body.
"Well, all right, maybe 'unbalanced' isn't the word," the Time Lord admitted with another sigh. "But he wasn't always what he is now. Going through the tests to become what we are pushed him over the edge -- but he was already much closer to it than he should have been."
"What I don't understand is why the teachers at your Academy didn't realise that he was so crazy and not let him go through the testing," Ross said, a frown marring his brow. "They had to know that he'd be driven completely barmy at that point."
The Doctor shook his head, his frown matching the younger man's. "No, unfortunately, they didn't. Or if they did, they tried to overlook it and look on the more positive side -- thinking that it could settle his mind instead of twisting and warping it beyond repair."
"Do you think he would have eventually gotten past his problems and been a decent person if those tests hadn't sent him over the edge?" Ross asked, his tone curious. "I personally don't, but I'd like to know what you think. After all, I don't know him. You do."
The Doctor hesitated for a moment, his brow furrowed in thought. He wasn't quite sure how to answer his young companion's question; he knew what he wanted to say, but in his hearts, he also knew that it wouldn't be the complete and unvarnished truth.
His relationship with the Master had always been complicated; it would be impossible to sit here and be able to describe it to Ross in black and white. And Ross didn't know him well enough yet to understand all the layers in that relationship.
He didn't want to jeopardize what he could have with this young man by making Ross feel that there was something in him that still reached out to the Master and that dark side of himself. If he phrased his feelings badly, that could make Ross turn away from him.
They hadn't even become lovers yet -- though that hadn't been for lack of either of them wanting to. They were simply taking their time, getting to know each other before they took what the Doctor considered to be the most important step in their relatinship.
He didn't want Ross to feel that he would be second to anyone -- and he'd taken care to explain that his relationship with Jack Harkness was over, and far in the past. But the history between himself and the Master was much longer, and much more complicated.
"Doctor?" Ross' voice held a hint of hesitation, as though he didn't want to speak but couldn't stop himself from doing so. "If you don't want to talk about the Master, you don't have to. I was just curious about your opinion."
"I'm sorry, Ross. I was just thinking about your question." The Doctor squeezed the young man's hand, giving him what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'm not sure that I know how to answer it. I'd like to say that my answer is a definite yes, but it wouldn't be completely truthful."
"So you don't think he would change?" Ross asked, raising an eyebrow. "I'm kind of surprised at that. Not because I don't think you're a good judge of character," he hastened to say, raising a hand. "But because I figured you'd be sort of loyal to a friend."
"The Master hasn't been a friend of mine for a very long time," the Doctor said, his voice regretful. "It's sad that our friendship had to fall by the wayside, but he's become so twisted that there's no way we could ever be anything but enemies now."
"It's always sad when a friendship ends," Ross said softly, his voice sympathetic. "But if he was always on the verge of slipping into madness, then it's better that you distanced yourself from him. Even though it sounds like he keeps coming after you."
"He does," the Doctor said wearily, letting out another heavy sigh. "I'd prefer to stay away from him -- that is, if he would simply go his own way and not come up with all these mad plans to destroy some part of the universe or other -- usually Earth."
"Why does he always focus on Earth?" Ross asked, another frown settling onto his features. "It's not like he has any particular fondness for it, I know, but he doesn't really like any other planets either, from what you've said. Why such a fixation with Earth in particular?"
"Because I love it," the Doctor said softly, looking down at their clasped hands. "Because there are so many people there who I care for, and because it's a planet that I've always fought to save, more so than any other. It's his way of getting back at me for not giving him control."
"You mean control over you in general -- or in a more specific way?" Ross asked, his voice trembling slightly. He meant in a sexual way, of course, but he didn't want to ask that question out loud; he was afraid that he wouldn't like the answer.
"In general most of the time -- but you know that he's always felt I 'belong' to him," the Doctor said quietly, looking over at Ross. "He's going to turn his enmity on you sooner or later, Ross, when he finds out that you're with me. And when he knows how I feel about you."
Ross swallowed hard, the Doctor's words bringing tears to his eyes and a lump to his throat. He knew how hard it was for the Time Lord to admit his softer feelings -- and he was moved that the Doctor could say such a thing about him already, before they'd even slept together.
"He can be as jealous of me as he wants to," he said, trying to keep his voice strong and firm. "He's a lunatic, and he doesn't control you in any way. It's about time he figured that out, and backed away from you. If I have to confront him on the subject, then I will."
"Lunatics can be dangerous people," the Doctor cautioned him, worry in his voice. "Don't be quick to jump into a confrontation with him, Ross. He's not the kind of person who plays by the rules -- and I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you because of me."
"And I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you because of that lunatic," Ross answered, taking a deep breath. I'm sure we'll meet up with him at some point, Doctor. And I'm telling you now -- I'll take any risk to keep him from hurting you."
"No unnecessary risks, Ross," the Doctor said, his tone holding a warning. He had already saved this young man from death once, by daring to change the past and whisking him away in the Tardis. He wasn't going to let him die by the Master's hand.
Ross only nodded, but the look in his eyes told the Doctor that he agreed. Looking down at their hands, the Time Lord hoped fervently that there wouldn't be any need for either of them to contemplate taking those risks -- but he was also sure that it would be a vain hope.
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