Title: Step Into Darkness
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/The Master
Fandom: Doctor Who
Prompt: 2, Dark Path
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.
***He wasn't going to become what the Master was. No matter how that monster tried to push him towards it. Never. He'd die first.
The Doctor's small fists clenched at his sides, his teeth sinking viciously into his lower lip. This wasn't a situation he'd ever thought he would be in; he'd thought he was safe from the Master, managing to hide himself fairly well in the reaches of space and time.
But apparently not. As the Master had said so often, there weren't many places to hide, not from a Time Lord. He should have known that it would be impossible, no matter how hard he tried. He'd let himself get complacent, thinking that he was safe.
He had a choice, so he'd been told. Though it wasn't really a choice at all. The Earth, or another planet. One of them would perish. The same way that Gallifrey had. In a shower of flame, an explosion that would light up the universe. And demolish a world.
And he would take the first step down a long, dark path that there would be no turning back from.
Damn him. The Doctor's fists clenched again, his nails digging into his palms hard enough to leave small crescent-shaped red marks on his skin. The Master was forcing him into an intolerable position. Forcing him to make a choice that he would never consider outside of this situation.
No matter which world he chose to let come to an end, it would be on his conscience. He would never be able to forgive himself. And he would never trust himself again.
He hadn't had a choice with Gallifrey. It had been different. The only way to end the Time Wars had been to sacrifice everything he loved, everything he held dear. He had been willing to take the responsibility for that, to let the guilt rest on his slender shoulders forever.
But this .... this was something he wasn't willing to do. There had to be some way to avoid it, some way to save both worlds and keep himself from stumbling into a darkness that he knew he would never be able to emerge from. There had to be.
The way he saw it, he only had two choices. He could grovel at the Master's feet, beg him not to do this, which would be useless and wouldn't do a damn bit of good. The Master would only laugh and enjoy seeing him debase himself.
Or he could give in, become what the Master wanted him to be. Another part of the darkness that had always surrounded the other man, another bit of that corruption in the Master's soul. He'd always hated that the Doctor wouldn't join him; well, now he seemed to have a way to force that to happen.
No. No, no, and again no, the Doctor told himself fiercely. He wasn't going to give in, even if he had to destroy himself to save both worlds that were in jeopardy.
He had that option open to him, of course. The Master had made sure of that, had even taunted him with the possibility. But it was a last resort. He was going to hold on to his life as long as he could -- because if he didn't, there would be no one to stop the Master from doing whatever he wanted.
It was his responsibility to protect the world from madmen like the renegade Time Lord, not to cower behind his own fear. If he wasn't willing to sacrifice himself, then he had no right to call himself a Time Lord, or to have taken on the responsibilities he had when he'd become one.
Yet, if he took that road .... then there would be no one to stop the Master. He would destroy the world, simply to feed his own megalomania. He would be the king of an empty world, a world devoid of any kind of life that wasn't ruled by his own evil.
The Doctor couldn't let that happen. It was his choice to make; weigh the advantages of the destruction of one world over another. But everything in him shrank from making that choice.
He couldn't do it. He couldn't let himself become what the Master was. Of course, there was always the chance that he wouldn't sink into those depths, that he would simply let this rest on his soul in the same way that the desturction of Gallifrey did, until the end of his days.
That was something else that he didn't want to live with. What had happened to his home planet was his responsibility, his doing, and he would always carry that guilt. He didn't need more to add to it, yet another weight to lay upon himself for however many lives he might have left yet to struggle through.
The other possibility was even less inviting. He didn't want to become like the Master, sinking deeper and deeper into a darkness that would eventually take over his soul. He didn't want to become the dark, twisted, sinister being that the Master was. He would die first.
Which was very likely just what the Master wanted, he thought to himself. He would be more than happy to witness the destruction of his greatest enemy, and know that he was the cause of it.
With the Doctor out of the way, the Master would be able to wreak havoc in the universe, do whatever he chose. The world would be helpless against him -- and even if there were people who would stand against him, like Jack and the rest of the Torchwood team, they would eventually fall.
Just as he would, at some point, unless he could destroy the Master first. But did he have that in him? Could he do away with someone who had once been his friend, closer to him than a brother? He wasn't sure that he could, unless he had no other choice.
That was his greatest weakness. His inability to break bonds that should have dissolved long ago, his belief that there was still some good to be salvaged in the madman who faced him with this decision now. He should have come to the realization a long time ago that there was nothing left for him to save.
He couldn't let the Master turn him into something he'd never been meant to be, no matter what the cost. He couldn't take a step down the path that the Master had given himself up to centuries ago. If he did, then he would become no better than his enemy, mirroring him in every way.
No. He wouldn't do that. He'd destroy himself before he'd become that sort of a monster, that cold and uncaring and solely focused on himself. He wouldn't let the Master have the satisfaction of annihilating everything he was or had ever been.
Thinking of those things was all very well and good -- but it wasn't helping his situation at the moment. How was he going to get out of this?
There was no way out. It was either Earth, or another world full of living, breathing beings that would cease to exist in a heartbeat. In just a few seconds -- less than that, even -- his decision would wipe out a world that would never exist again.
What was he going to do?
There was only one thing he could do. No matter what sort of guilt he'd have to add to the burden that he already carried, he couldn't let the Earth die. No, his ties there were too strong; there were too many people there he cared about. He couldn't destroy a second planet he loved.
He closed his eyes, feeling tears well up behind his lids but refusing to let them fall. He wasn't going to cry, wasn't going to let the Master see that this was destroying a part of who he was along with the planet that would dissipate into nothingness.
He didn't want to do this. But he couldn't let Earth become a casualty of the centuries-old vendetta between himself and that Master. He couldn't let yet another planet pay the price; even though the guilt would press down on him for the rest of his days, he was willing to subject himself to that.
The Doctor reached out a trembling hand in the direction of the other planet, the realization that he was condeming millions of souls to their deaths stabbing at his mind and his hearts.
At least he wouldn't have to watch it. He could close his eyes, let the destruction take place without being a witness to it. That was one thing that the Master couldn't force him to do, though he knew that he would always picture it within the confines of his own mind.
He could feel the darkness around him growing, enveloping him. Beckoning, tempting him with a strange kind of seduction. It would be so easy to let himself fall into that darkness, to surrender everything he was without looking back. So easy.
No. He wouldn't. He hadn't sunk that low yet, no matter what the Master might think and what that monster might try to tempt him to do in the future. He'd fight against that until he drew his last breath.
Even as that thought stood firm in his mind, he could feel himself inexorably stepping onto that dark path, all of his senses poised to follow wherever it might lead.