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11 March 2008 @ 03:56 pm
Survival Take Two: Short Time Horizons  
Title: Survival Take Two: Short Time Horizons

Author: x_los

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Seven/Ainley!Master

Summary: Serious response to Survival. "A man is the sum of his memories, you know. A Time Lord even more so." A bitter-sweet peace for the Doctor and the Master.

Beta: Again bagheera_san , who made this better thought through.

A/N: While bagheera_san  joked that "the serious!fic could be the sequel to this (Failure Rate)! Which would be both comic and tragic," which was actually pretty awesome, they're written as detached, non-linear perspectives.


Short Time Horizons



Survival Take Two







The Doctor sat up at night thinking, listening to something that was not a sound. Something was artfully trying to catch his attention, without alerting the sleeping man beside him.



Midnight pondering was so familiar to the Doctor—the mental exertion and the subtle, gnawing worry. He knew the ache at his temples of a grand design that would not coalesce. He was intimate with the patient weariness in his body from seeing through a plan that would come together, but only slowly, eventually. The Doctor had worn his legs to the point of collapse just pacing, though the floor of his vessel did not wear smooth under his steps as that of a lesser ship would have, and she never slept. Not even now.



He recalled such nights only dimly. Lately his thoughts mostly slipped around the edges of his control into a muddle of physical wants. But some days he almost had it. The answer. Why they were here. What they were. What else there was, all the things that some instinct, in opposition to the savage demands of his body, clamored to remind him of.



It was hard to remember the number of times their tribe had switched planets. He thought maybe four. The composition of the group appeared to shift a great deal, though the Doctor was never very good at remembering the missing names and faces once they’d gone. He and his mate seemed to outlive everyone, to be innately better at surviving.



He and his mate looked different from the others too, and they dressed differently. They resembled the prey, and wore clothes like those of some among them did, although everyone in the tribe had been made to understand they were nothing of the kind at the edge of his cunning mate’s clever knives. That had been so long ago that their authority was now as immutable and unquestioned as the power sunrise and nightfall and hunger held over them all. He and his mate were such creatures as lesser hunters worshipped. That, at least, felt natural.


A swipe of his mate’s hand, heavy with some old, strange stone ring with a cryptic symbol, brought the Doctor back down to the pile of furs.


“Thinking again.” It was an admonishment. The Doctor should be untroubled—mated to the pack leader, an esteemed hunter in his own right, still sated with meat in his belly and pleasant soreness in his limbs from running and fucking, sleeping in the tribe’s most opulent tent, with a door of teeth and bones strung across to form a sort of bead curtain, but what was a ‘bead curtain,’ where was that from, where had he been, that he knew such strange words and carried in his mind such impossible concepts and pictures, who were they-- always they, his mate was like him, knew him, they were—


“Still running. Always busy,” his mate tisked, repositioning the Doctor’s anxiously shifting body with lazy prerogative, pulling him tight against his skin. Tucked into the shorter man like this, the Doctor could hear a syncopated rhythm beating beneath his ears. “Listen.” His mate only had to whisper to be heard. “The rhythm of things. You hear it. This is how it should be.”


What was his mate’s name? The Doctor was confused because there seemed to be some division in his mind on the topic. But accepting that there might be more than one way to address him, what were his mate’s names? What had the Doctor called him? Oh he knew his mate, everything about him, but it was like he couldn’t quite touch any of it but the essential awareness of who his mate was—all of the details that should have added up to form that picture simply weren’t.



There were important things to remember, things like those hidden names and a place with strange tents made of glass and a worried young girl with one heart who loved the Doctor as a pack-leader, who needed his care, there was something he had to get back to—


“Do you remember when we were born? When we met? Your mother’s face? Home?” the Doctor asked his mate, breaking from his embrace to look at his expression, asking all the wrong questions and scrying at his mate’s eyes for answers the Doctor couldn’t imagine.



He’d lost the ability to conceive of a world in which they weren’t strictly born, and had no birth mothers. They didn’t ‘meet’ per se, either. Koschei must once have been introduced to Theta, but it was so early on neither of them could now recall the incident, and it would be trite to reduce something so omnipresent as their history with each other to dependency on a chance causal event like meeting—or it would seem so, if either of them still thought like that. The Doctor just felt a vague buzz of internal displeasure with what he’d said and didn’t know why.



The Doctor couldn’t form a picture in his mind’s eye of the home in which neither of them were welcome, neither particularly wanted.


His mate rolled his eyes, and the Doctor thought he could remember that gesture in different bones and it pained him because he dreamed such incomprehensible impossibilities.


“You’re still so stubborn,” his mate sounded like someone else, like more than the leader of their fierce, indomitable band of hunters (though what was more than that?). “We’re happier like this. I remember that much.” The man stroked a scrap of a leaf from his well-groomed hair with irritable cat-like fastidiousness. “I remember being so tired.”



“How long have we been here?” the Doctor asked. For some reason it seemed absolutely sick that he couldn’t answer this. It was as if more than anything else, this knowledge was his by right. Why ask how long? There was no way of telling. It was always the same. Tomorrow was yesterday, and time did not exist in his world in quite the sense he knew it should.



But the Doctor reached for time and got only the scent of blood in his nostrils, the accustomed weight of his mate bearing down on him and the heady sweat-fur smell of the fear of his prey.



The Doctor always slew with a quick mercy that would have brought down the mockery of the others on him if he hadn't hunted with such practiced skill. A natural killer, his mate would say with silky approval and something like amusement, before biting into the Doctor’s fresh kills, laid before him as an offering, as tokens. He’d rip at the flesh and grin up at his mate, the warm blood painting his smile, and he kissed the Doctor with that crimson-stained mouth and the Doctor shivered and didn’t know why.


“Go back.” His mate’s flashing green eyes narrowed into slits and his fangs glittered with a menace that turned the offer of freedom into a threat. The Doctor had the same cat-eyed night vision. His mate’s pale chest with its dark hair, so close to his own, was strong from the exertions of their life here. His mate’s posture was threatening enough to carry out every nuance of the violence lining his words. Like silk in a cape, the thought swam up into the Doctor’s mind, and was gone again.



“Climb out of my bed and go back to the life you keep dreaming of.” His mate’s tone rumbled like a hungry thing, crouched low like a cat about to strike.



And I will hunt you down and drag you back here to our furs, and slit your throat, and when your body burns away, I’ll see if the new one, that I can just remember that you’ll have, will be content here. If you so much as dare run from me I’ll kill you until you can produce a body that knows the sound of your master’s voice and obeys.



The Doctor’s head hurt, as if someone had shoved words through his flesh. He must have imagined speech to accompany his mate’s flinty glare, as the other man said nothing. Sometimes the Doctor was half convinced that his mate could tell him things without using his voice. But that was impossible, and so the Doctor was wrong.



“There’s a magic box that follows us, from world to world. It never comes too close.” His mate’s tone turned sweet and confiding, and the Doctor could tell he was so, so angry. He seized the Doctor’s head and whispered in his ear like he had a secret, like when they were just boys. “I think it’s your box.”



“No,” the Doctor denied, because that unnerving otherness was nothing of his, nothing to him. He burrowed tighter into the simple safety of their bed. “I don’t know anything about it.”



His mate examined him for some flicker of recognition of the magic box, and, finding none, made a satisfied little noise.



“It’s afraid of this place,” his mate explained, “Of being corrupted. Running wild. Sometimes I hear it singing, calling you away from here. That’s why you remember your name, you know. You hear it in the wind-that-isn’t like I do. The wind that screams through everything.” The Doctor heard no screaming, but he didn’t like to correct his mate on such a matter. He did hear a sort of humming, like a song from far away, that he could only just catch a hint of. He liked it. His mate nipped his ear bitterly, as if to punish him for being aware of the sound. Still. Even now they weren’t free.


“Doc-tor.” He nearly moaned, flipping the word around his mouth like a struggling little animal, whose neck just wouldn’t snap. He gathered the Doctor’s hands in his, slid his own hands up to the Doctor’s wrists and pressed in beat with his syllables. “Doctor, Doctor, Dooooc-tor.”


A word without any meaning. Was it a title of some kind, like his mate was the Pack Leader? What’s a ‘doctor'? The man in question shivered, both under the force squeezing the bones of his wrist into each other and the echoes of hate and memory.


“Go back,” his mate hissed, straddling him. “But I remember things too, some nights, in threads and tatters. You’re alone back there. You’re miserable.


“You wouldn’t come with me?” the Doctor was shocked. “If I went back you would leave?” He couldn’t see his mate well above him, swaying in the dark, shadowed recesses of a tent pitched under a thick forest canopy in a dense, lightless night. But he could see a smile made of too many teeth flashing above him like a warning.


“You would be the one leaving,” his mate reminded him caustically.


“But we could--”


“I’m not with you back there.” The Doctor blinked at this. The absolutely sure way his mate stated it. It didn’t seem likely. It felt incorrect.


“I don’t remember that.”


“No,” his mate cocked his head to the side, considering. “You wouldn’t. It’s not the kind of thing you’re very good at remembering.”


Perhaps this was a conversation they’d had before. Would the Doctor even recall that? If they’d gone over this a thousand different nights? Would his mate remember? Did the Doctor always reach the same conclusion? He clutched his mate to him as if he were cold.



It was a puzzle, and he loved puzzles, once. The magic box and the accusations and the unfamiliar terror he felt, faced with the desperate, hateful expression in his mate’s eyes all added up to the type of mystery that used to have him pacing the night away. It was strange to be afraid, because the Doctor was a skilled hunter and needed fear nothing, especially not his mate, who never looked at him with anything but languid contentment and pride in the daylight. The Doctor was as fond of that expression as he was of the rich, informative, scented air. He was fonder of it than of mysteries by far, now, when he felt so old. The Doctor would do anything to keep it.


“Do you think the box will go away?” He was taunted, harassed by its presence, its frightening, insinuating song that stirred up corpses to walk through his nights. The Doctor? He was no one. He was--is a dead thing best forgotten.


“Eventually,” his mate offers, nuzzling him. “I think so. It will give up. It will tire or come to accept the inevitable.”


The hunter rubs his cheek back, absently planning to bring down something with a sumptuous coat of fur, as their bedding could be better outfitted for the coming winter, mild though it is.


“Tomorrow we will let the young ones go out on a hunt and spend the day in the valley by the waterfall.” his mate decides.



This kind of planning, this ability to conceive of tomorrow, and what should be done in preparation for it, marks the two of them as different from everyone else in the tribe as effectively as their appearances. It marks his mate as leader as much as the viciousness of his blades and teeth, and the casual dominance of his bearing. He is old, but strong. The hunter is proud of him.



The valley is a favorite of the hunter’s. It has strong trees with leafy silver boughs, which make him softly nostalgic in a way that doesn’t hurt. The hunter smiles at his mate’s indulgence. A day there is a gift to him for having made the right choice—an indolent day of eating the valley’s fruits, fucking and generally rewarding themselves for being very, very secure in their positions.



The hunter cannot remember the words for what he wants to say in gratitude, or for an emotion as old and profound as he knows he is, even if he can’t touch that now, and so he offers his body and his throat to his mate in their stead. He knows that he is understood. His mate is in him, and his fangs scrape at the hunter’s neck, retracing old bites. And there is no tomorrow to trouble them.

 
 
 
GRITS in Misery: Beardy Masters appreciation societygritsinmisery on March 11th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Wow. That is so right.
x_losficx_losfic on March 11th, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
Well I'm glad you think so, I was kind of pawing awkwardly about it trying to make it happen for a while in the editing stage.

My ultra-sweet beta said this about the end paragraphs though, "Loss of language in exchange for the ability to admit to the feelings they can no longer articulate – poignant." and I was suddenly SO MUCH HAPPIER with it.

Even though it made me realize I'm obsessed with language/inability to articulate emotion/communication and signification in everything I write, and thus I'm doing the same thing 4eva. x_x Ah well. I love my dead horse Shetland pony. ;p
metztlimoonmetztlimoon on March 11th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
Wows, I think I love you right now :) That is great...
x_losficx_losfic on March 11th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks! *curtsies* Glad you enjoyed it!
Deborah: Cassandra by Thatlldopigdeborah_judge on March 12th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
This was really touching and affecting. Thought-provoking, too.
x_losficx_losfic on March 12th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks! I'm glad it went somewhere good for you, despite starting with an admittedly kinda cheesy premise. :) Oh, Survival, you have so much crack and so much potential alike to give...
Chaos: Masterorder_of_chaos on March 12th, 2008 08:07 am (UTC)
They're happy and I'm glad they're happy, and this is all kinds of heartbreaking. Wonderful fic. *rereads*

I know it's not a sequel to the other one, because its title is not, actually, Ace Has Two Daddies. But it's very, very cool that it could be. *grins*
x_losfic: Four De-Lurkingx_losfic on March 12th, 2008 08:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm always extra-glad when you like it. I need to write them uncomplicated!happy soonish, as per some request on the Admittedly Dramatacular Anon-Meme. Can I do blissy them? o_0 That'll be interesting.

Lord, bagheera_san actually wanted "Ace Has Two Daddies" to exist. *boggles* But then imagine that explanatory conversation and the wonderful things that would happen to Ace's facial expression.
Chaos: Gallifreyorder_of_chaos on March 12th, 2008 09:46 am (UTC)
Can I do blissy them? Yep - just drug them :P

And I want Ace Has Two Daddies to exist, too. It would be so, so wrong, and brilliantly hilarious.
x_losficx_losfic on March 12th, 2008 09:51 am (UTC)
Yep - just drug them :P

*rolls eyes* I'm already writing Third/Master with laudanum, I need a new game. If it were all drugs enabling sex I'd be writing Gossip Girl fic or something. I'm sure an idea that doesn't involve 'no, for serious, actual crack' will crop up eventually.

You two are baaaaad influences.
Evilawyerevilawyer on March 12th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC)
Quite haunting. And the Doctor without all that loathing toward and about the Master is very nice.
x_losficx_losfic on March 12th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
And the Doctor without all that loathing toward and about the Master is very nice.

Seven didn't seem as 'eugh, I loathe him!' as, say, Six, to me. He was just more, 'oh, it's you' resigned, which after a few centuries of these schenannigans he probably should be just as a coping mechanism.
Evilawyerevilawyer on March 12th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
I agree. 7 was "He's and evil genius. What a pain!" but nothing more. And witness his willingness to roll around on the ground with him. 6 was much more "You evil bastard, I can't believe I wasted all that time with something like you. I hate you. I wish you were dead. Or paying me more alimony."
x_losficx_losfic on March 13th, 2008 12:35 am (UTC)
Does it ever seem to you like that's what Delgado!Master shows up for?

"I want the TARDIS and the property in East Egg, and by the by, where's our granddaughter? You what? You left our little pumpkin where? With a human? This was NOT in our custody arrangement."
Evilawyerevilawyer on March 13th, 2008 01:09 am (UTC)
Most definitely. Delgado!Master has it down so cold that he insists that the Doctor pay for the Master's attorneys fees when the Master tries to get the court to modify the custody agreement and give Little Suze back to him. Even if he loses.
x_losficx_losfic on March 13th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
You know, with your law!skillz? You should totally write this court case with Deeply Embarrassed!Third and Savvy!Bitter!Master who would totally take him back but just isn't talking about it. Except to Susan, to whom he bitches ad nasuem.

'Susan, tell Your Grandfather that he had better show up on time to your 75th birthday, not looking like a street person and with no so much as a hint of a human woman hanging about or there'll be hell to pay.'

'*sigh* Yes, grandpappa. ...Couldn't you just call him yourself?'

'OH HE'D LIKE THAT, WOULDN'T HE?!'
Evilawyerevilawyer on March 13th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Hah! I can just see this! And Delgado!Master would be doing things like patting down and fussing with Susan's collar all the time because he really wants to be doing that "fix your husband's clothes 'cause he's a reflection on you" thing to the Doctor.
rusty_halo on March 13th, 2008 06:34 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this a lot. The characterization feels just right.
x_los: Disconcertingly Hot Survival Ainley!Mastx_los on March 13th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Esp. in a piece this inherently weird for them, that's good to know. I mean use the word 'mate' and you're practically writing Spuffy fic right there...
aralias: not awash with ambiguityaralias on June 28th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
i also read this one. and loved this one though it is just as bittersweet as promised. particularly the whole section about the tardis following them, which is heartbreaking in the way that the tardis interior we saw in 'turn left' was heartbreaking.

you use the master's name once which is a bit distracting, but only on re-read and i would have re-read it so much if it wasn't very good. not really sure what else to say. feel the deep appreciation implied if not explicated stated ;)

x_losfic: Sevenx_losfic on June 29th, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
you use the master's name once which is a bit distracting

Oh shit! I totally intended not to, and specifically too! *grumps* Well, I've fixed it now.

Hey, so the entire thing with the tense switch in this having some semantic weight? Came from you making fun of my waheeey-crazy tense-changes. So be proud or something? Might as well exploit the fault to good effect?

And thanks! This isn't one of my faves (I'm self-consciousness about the Buffy-fic-osity of exploiting a Return to the Animalistic? But whatevs), but apparently you and Deborah like it, so ymmv?
aralias: tea in otparalias on June 29th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
there's nothing wrong with being a bit buffy. new who is a lot buffy and there's nothing really wrong, even, with that. not sure what 'ymmv' means... but i think this is maybe one of your best. it's defintely strange and unusual and very good, so- that's something ;)

also, wahey for tense changes. stupid english language. i don't know why we put up with it sometimes.
x_losficx_losfic on June 29th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
ymmv is 'your mileage may vary,' as in 'what one gets out of this given thing is variable and entirely dependent on the person in question': someone pulled it on me the other day, and so I ran to urban dictionary to look it up and henceforth assumed everyone BUT me must have known all about it?

i don't know why we put up with it sometimes.

Because at least it's not German noun cases. x_x
aralias: claude is the doctoraralias on June 29th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
no. no, really not. but it's good - i like it.

on the subject of german - additioanlly i suppose at least we haven't had a spelling reform. that really would mess with my head.
x_losficx_losfic on June 29th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
Eugh. I hate the whole idea of a spelling reform. It's so inorganic and weird. Like the 'rational spelling movement,' which is artificial, regionalist, ahistorical and infuriating. Sorry, I'll stop, but man do I despise the whole idea.
(Anonymous) on September 22nd, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
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x_losficx_losfic on September 22nd, 2011 11:58 am (UTC)
Re: Marquise Diamond Engagement Rings
Thanks for shipping it, spambot!