Ok, ok, bear with me.
One of my Shalka headcanons is that it wasn’t the Shalka Doctor who built the body to the Master, but Eight. And then one day something happens and he comes back to the TARDIS already dying, and regenerates in the Master’s arms. Cue the Master sulking/being annoyed by/having to get used to the Doctor’s new face/personality.
I’ve been dying to draw that, I can’t believe I finally did it! And then I had to make a little gif.
I’ll post them separately in another post :)
The post with the both of them separately can be found here, ftr. ;)
I do rather love this shalka!headcanon; I only wish there was more fic to go with it.
This headcanon has never occured to me before, and it’s perfect. Gorgeous gorgeous artwork oh my god. Is…is there any fic to go with this at all? Because I want it. I want it so bad.
The itch starts when his body is wearing thin. He’s worn the face for a long time, now, it seems. Companions have come and gone, he’s hurt over every one of them, loved some, and seen too many torn away. He’d started this life so bright and hopeful, and had found in himself such darkness, as time and agonies went on.
Alone in the TARDIS, he thinks one day, maybe it isn’t my fault. Gods, he had to grow dark and strong to survive, but it could have been preference imprinting. Growing dark, even mean, to survive—if that doesn’t sound like someone he knows.
Even in the depths of this lonely leviathan, he stills as though having said aloud something shocking.
He stands and takes himself to bed without another thought to the matter.
Another day, some time later, he is feeling softer, and lonely. And he thinks, there are two who have never left him, who he could always count on never to lose. His TARDIS, of course, the ol’ girl, and…
The Doctor looks at the blue glow of the time rotor. It’ll be time for new decor, soon. Spiral staircases, circles in the walls. Black. Sharp lighting. He thinks of the change in scenery and the change in flesh as his body thins, and thins.
And then he gets to work.
It takes him weeks of sleepless nights, but he is happier doing it than he’d have been if idle. He calculates the point down to the event horizon, he builds up the skeleton from metal, he puts synthetics in for the muscles, a frame for the mind. He sculpts the face to the man’s preference. Even makes him a little taller, just like he knows the man would want.
Waking the Master is a terrifying moment, and it occurs to the Doctor so suddenly that the Master could kill him, now, if he wanted.
He’d be stuck in the TARDIS either way. The Doctor couldn’t do anything about that. It’s not much freedom but he has to hope the Master won’t kill off his best chance of company.
He ought to be afraid. But the truth is, when the Master opens his eyes, the Doctor wants to sigh, and laugh, and dance with happy relief.
"What is it you hoped to gain?"
"Company, I suppose. And I couldn’t… I wouldn’t leave you there. Not forever. I missed you."
"How devastatingly sentimental of you."
The Master uses dry tones to incredible effect. The Doctor almost takes a defensive posture but, the thing is, the Master’s eyes are still considering. He’s not angry, anymore, like he was in the first weeks, when he did not speak. Breaking the silence was like all Christmasses come at once. The Master is curious now, and willing to listen, and the Doctor is optimistic.
"Why did you do it?"
"I told you. I missed you."
"Not afraid I’ll poison your tea, Doctor?"
The Doctor smiles. “It wouldn’t be you, or me, if I wasn’t a little worried about it. Why—will you?”
"I suppose we shall see," the Master says. He is almost smiling, and the Doctor feels in his weary bones that things are going to be okay.
The Master never liked it when the Doctor went off on his own, but it’s not as though he can follow, and the Doctor would go mad cooped up on his own, without a universe to meddle in. But all the trouble in the world catches up, and begets trouble back.
The Doctor stumbles into the TARDIS with shaking hands and a golden glow around his fingertips, and the Master knows instantly what’s happened.
"You damn fool," he tells him, catching the Doctor as he starts to fall. "You mindless, reckless fool, what have you done.”
It isn’t a question, really; the Doctor collapses into the Master’s lap, fitting together as they twine and hold. He laughs, and the blood shows in the corner of his mouth.
"Old bones," he says. "And a spot of trouble with an implosion. Impact trauma and—radiation poisoning, probably," he admits. "Sorry. I’d—hold on longer, but—"
"Quiet," the Master says. It is a command, but a gentle one. He may as well have told the Doctor to sleep.
It’s just as well. The Doctor is rapidly losing lucidity, and his vision is going black with unconsciousness at the same moment that his mind’s eye goes bright with light.
He aches, and then explodes.
Regeneration at close quarters could be the death of a man. Luckily, the Doctor built the Master stronger than flesh could withstand. He holds him as the glow filters over his flesh, tingles at his cheekbones, pulls his bones into new shapes.
He lengthens in the Master’s arms, his eyes grow sunken, his cheekbones sharp. His hairline recedes and his shoulders jut out into harsh points. His nose forms a round knob at the end and turns up; his lips grow round and soft-looking.
When the glow fades the Master is left with the hollow sadness of a friend you remember but do not recognize. The man in his arms is not beautiful, but is, at least, the Doctor.
He kisses his forehead in the quiet half an hour following, and does not let himself hope that he will still be his Doctor.
The Doctor can hear it in his own ears: he is grating, not soft even in his good moods, much less in his threatening tempers, which are not so dark and simmering but are sharper, now.
It frustrates the Master. He can tell. The Master has skulked around like a wronged cat for upwards of a fortnight, now, and the Doctor has gone from feeling badly, to embarrassed, to angry, and now, finally, to… to something like sheepishness. Like making amends.
Not that it’s his fault, but the first night he touched his own bony shoulders and felt as though he were made of corners and blades. He’s a little desperate to know he can still touch the world. It would even be good to know he can still touch at all.
(He misses the Master in his bed.)
He tries to be gentle. He tries to make a show of his open door. He changes the decor and keeps much of the TARDIS in black and white in the hopes that it will please him (and his new muted tastes).
Then, one day, when the Doctor is grumbling about a feisty part of the old girl, the Master says, “Perhaps if you would just reduce the pressure upon the coils before you went about tampering in the console’s gears?”
The Doctor shoots the Master a look, but does as he suggests. “Did someone pass on and make you the expert in TARDIS mechanics while I wasn’t looking?”
"Yes. I did. Funny thing about falling into a TARDIS, you become quite familiar with the inner workings.”
"Ah, yes, the good ol pop in and have a look-see, is that it.”
"Quite," the Master says, dryly.
And just like that, things are… better. Their conversations take on a bite palatable to the look between them. Look at them, black-clad and pale, tidy and over-dressed, sturdy and bony, each, respective. Too sharp of them, both, for this world. And now, they act it.
"Did you plan it," the Master says coolly when they lie together that night, "such that you would purposefully taunt me with my advantage in height, only to dash my hopes upon regeneration."
The Doctor kisses his forehead. “Not at all,” he promises.
"Just the universe out to spite me again, then," the Master murmurs. He sounds sweet, somehow, in saying it. Grateful, even. "Do sleep well," he says.
"And you," the Doctor says, knowing that the Master never sleeps, these days, and knowing as well that that isn’t the point at all.
Asleep or not, they lie there together, and wait.