Between Canons: The Year That Never Was. Part 2.
Disclaimer: Joss owns BtVS/AtS and RTD & the BBC own Doctor Who. Nothing is mine, I just like to make their worlds fit together.
Illyria watches as the Master meticulously and mercilessly plans his onslaught against the universe, turning all of Earth into a rocket-ship factory - hundreds of thousands of warships being built. A fleet - an army - the like of which she has never seen.
She once told Spike that to conquer all, and to never die, that was winning.
He had not understood.
But the Master’s eyes are fixed on this goal, his ambition stretching to the farthest reaches of the stars and the end of time.
When she looks into his eyes, she can see herself, her own dreams and goals reflected back perfectly in this Time Lord - a man re-creating himself as God.
There are no words for the feelings he inspires in her. ~~~Sometimes, he thinks he could spend forever watching her - his Lyria.
She has not objected to the nickname, a fact which pleases him: Lyria, from the Greek ‘Lyris’, suits her perfectly. She is so deceptively slender and fragile looking - much like a lyre; and he wishes he could thank who ever chose her shell.
Glorious, graceful and unearthly - divine, in matter of fact - she, with her very being, speaks of a time when worlds were forged and life itself first was set alight. It’s intoxicating.
Being part of another duet was not something he’d ever thought would happen, but the whole world dances to the music they make - drums and lyre together in perfect harmony.
He is Master of everything, except her - yet she defers to him. And even though he knows that she is just waiting for her chance, he can’t let go; because when he looks into her eyes he sees Godhood reflected back.
He speaks five billion languages, and yet he has no words for the feelings she inspires in him.~~~
Every person on board the Valiant is on deck.
Far, far below on Earth a once-great Empire burns - and come tomorrow Japan will no longer exist.
The Jones family - Martha’s father, mother and sister - look like they’re going to be sick. The Immortal tries his best to suppress his emotions, but Illyria can smell the tears. The Doctor has retreated so far into his silent shell that she wonders if she will ever hear his voice. Lucy looks cold and pale in a blood-red dress as she stands stiffly by the Master’s side - today there will be no dancing.
The rest of the humans - guards, servants and consorts - huddle together in a nondescript mass, radiating nothing but fear.
The images are being beamed around the world live, so everyone can see the scar the Master is creating on the planet; a far more vivid and gruesome reminder of his rule than the statues he has erected.
Illyria, as always standing alone, is torn between observing the destruction below, and watching the Master’s face. When he decimated the human race on that first, fateful, day she was stuck down on Earth, only hearing second-hand tales. This time her view is unrestricted and magnificent; and she wishes that it was her
hands only wreaking this ruination - she who was once the immaculate embodiment of rule...
But her army turned to dust while she slept, and then she was stripped of her power - her shell too weak to contain her.
And she hadn’t known how to walk in the world of humans - thinking that maybe her time truly had passed, like Drogyn said. That being so reduced, she could no longer grasp that which had once been hers.
Then came the drums.
Illyria listens carefully to the music the Master plays - watching, learning, planning. The shell had an aptitude for the kind of power he uses, and he is often only too happy to talk at length about concepts he thinks she does not grasp.
But if she is to make his empire hers, she needs to know everything, anticipate everything, control everything, and destroy every threat.
Not an easy task, and today’s devastation has provided a welcome distraction.
Long after the Master has dismissed the assembly, Illyria still stands at the circular window, gazing at the fires below. Night is falling, and the blaze glows like an unholy jewel in the darkness.
He comes up behind her, and she smiles even though he can’t see her face.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” he asks when he is by her side, and she inclines her head in agreement.
“It is glorious indeed.”
“Did you hear that Doctor?” he calls out, but the Doctor doesn’t answer. His obdurate silence brings Illyria out of her reverie, and she decides to broach a subject she has long pondered.
“The Doctor - he plots against you. He can undo you. He is a danger.”
She turns her head, observes the proud, half-hidden smile in the corner of the Master’s mouth.
“Then why do you not kill him?”
“The cosmos without the Doctor is unthinkable,” the Master replies, voice distant, and Illyria cannot plumb the depths of the emotions behind the words.
Then he snaps out of his thoughts and turns to her, eyes dark.
“And he needs to pay
, ‘Lyria; pay forever for what he did. This-”
He indicates Earth below and the universe beyond; the fires beneath them only a small shadow of the blaze he plans to unleash across galaxies.
“-is all for him
For a long moment they stand in silence, then the Master walks away, humming a doleful, unknown tune that unaccountably makes him laugh and pat the Doctor’s back as he passes.
Much later, she discovers that the name of the song is ‘You Always Hurt the One You Love’
The only warning is a faint crackle in the air.
Then Willow appears, magic like a shimmering cloak around her. Illyria peeks out from behind the main console where she is studying star maps, and sees the Master look up from his work at the table, his face splitting in a wide grin.
“The witch! You survived!”
Willow wastes no time, but raises her hands, invoking powers older and darker than any Illyria has ever heard her call upon before. The Master studies her with polite interest for a moment, then holds a hand aloft.
The spell comes to an abrupt halt, and the Master gets up and slowly walks up to her. Lucy - as usual close by - looks ready to faint.
“Little lady, don’t think you can come here with your borrowed powers and use them against me
. But thank you for dropping in - life is
a little dull at the moment. A devil worshipper certainly lightens the mood!”
Willow looks stunned and insulted in equal measures.
“I don’t worship the devil!”
The Master nods solemnly.
“Good. Because he isn’t real.”
Then a voice speaks that Illyria has never heard before.
“I met the devil once.”
The Master pivots, his attention abruptly on the man in the wheelchair.
Willow - seeing her opportunity - lets her eyes go black, but without even looking, the Master with a perfectly aimed punch sends her sprawling to the floor.
Then he falls to his knees beside the wheelchair, and the aged Time Lord looks upon his counterpart with inscrutable eyes.
“He was a clever chap - very, very
clever - although not what I’d call a looker. The whole red skin plus horns combo was a little much, you know? He was tall though. About the size of... Big Ben, say? Oh - but don’t worry, you haven’t got competition.”
Eyes narrowing, uncertain, the Master tilts his head, and the Doctor smiles for the briefest of seconds, as if recalling some private joke.
“The Bad Wolf ate him all up.”
This is obviously as obscure to the Master as it is to Illyria.
“The Bad Wolf?”
“You know what you lack, Master? Faith. Faith in humankind... the one thing I’ve learned is that when they stand united, when they fight
, there is no finer species in the universe. They have bravery and strength that you can only dream of...”
Illyria notices the tiniest of movements out of the corner of her eye. Willow, her head raised a fraction, is softly weaving magic, binding the Master with invisible bonds - as fragile and deadly as a spider’s web.
For a moment she is frozen. But she knows that she is not ready yet, and besides she does not feel like battling Willow and the Doctor by herself - she is sure he, at least, would have no qualms about killing her.
On soundless feet she walks over to the railing, then leaps down onto the floor, her hand around Willow’s neck a second later.
“Desist your foolish games. You should not have come here.”
“Illyria?” Willow gasps, and the Master turns from the Doctor, in an instant grasping the situation.
“Oh, I see
He turns back to the Doctor, pure scorn dripping off his voice.
wonder at the sudden talkativeness... Well, Doctor, that little pep talk is going to have some rather unpleasant consequences.”
“Master - listen-” the Doctor tries, but the Master interrupts.
“Oh no, I’m not
going to listen. Especially not if you’re going to sprout more human-loving nonsense... ‘Lyria dearest, remind me - what was it you used to call humans back in your day?”
“They did not merit a Name. Humankind was nothing but the muck at our feet, of no more consequence than the leaves on the trees or the stones on the ground.”
He beams, and Illyria smiles back as she gracefully stands up, pulling a speechless Willow with her.
“Doesn’t she just have the most wonderful way of putting things in perspective, Doctor? You just keep on putting your faith in the muck - I
, however, believe in God, and so far she has answered all my prayers!”
Willow starts fighting then, doing her best to escape Illyria’s grip.
“I can’t believe
you!” she splutters, trying to twist her head to look at Ilyria. “We trusted
you! And you’re helping
him? You might as well have killed Buffy yourself, you disgusting, backstabbing, murderous-”
The Master in two steps closes the distance between them, before putting a finger under Willow’s chin, turning her head towards him, and Illyria cautiously lets go.
“Now, now, no need for that. We’re all murderers here.” He stops and tilts his head, eyes so keen they burn.
“Aren’t we, Miss Rosenberg?”
Willow swallows, and the Master’s eyes are coolly smug.
“I did my homework. So... let’s see if we can’t make things a little more interesting.”
Grabbing hold of her wrist, his eyes narrow.
“Now I can
trust you to stop trying your little spells, yes? Unless you enjoy being gagged? Actually I might gag you anyway... Hmm, tie you up in a pretty parcel; all fire and sorcery. Oh I think I shall enjoy you very much indeed.”
Willow recoils, revulsion warring with dread on her face as the Master, eyes radiant, looks ready to eat her up.
He is clearly delighted at his new toy, and Illyria watches with fascination as she sees Willow begin to understand that the Master does not see her as a threat at all - thinks her powers only a pleasant frisson for him to get a kick out of.
Willow starts struggling again - anger sparking in the air - and the Master frowns, tightening his grip and bringing out his screwdriver.
“Yes, obviously as fire-y as the hair would indicate. However, you need to understand that if you don’t behave, others
will pay. Remember Japan?”
Then, half-turning, he addresses his wife, eyes not leaving Willow who is beginning to pale.
“Lucy, get the handcuffs. You know, the special
Lucy runs off - oh so biddable still, even though the Master is anything but faithful - and returns moments later with two metallic hoops held loosely in her hand.
“Thank you, darling,” he says, then snaps one on his own wrist and the other on Willow’s, letting go of her in the process.
“Well then gorgeous. You move more than ten feet away from me, you get zapped by ten thousand volts. Understood? Now please follow me - I think it’s time for a little reunion.”
?” Willow asks hopefully, and the Master’s laughter rises like a bubble.
“Goodness me no, she’s long since gone. Such
pretty green energy, put to much better use than a feisty girl could ever dream of.”
The news leave Willow silent and sick-looking, and Illyria wonders if she should tell her that it had been quick and painless. She knows that this is what you are supposed to say, and it would even be true in this instance.
On the other hand, she can’t help noticing that the news have made Willow suddenly more acquiescent, and this is certainly a state to be encouraged.
As they leave the room, the Master turns in the doorway, taking a long look at the Doctor.
“I’d love to bring you too, but I don’t want any more meddling. She
will pay for it this time round, although I’m tempted to get in some Morris dancers just
He sends the Doctor a wicked grin, then turns to the guards by the door.
“If he moves so much as a millimeter - or tries to talk to anyone - call me.”
Then they make their way down to the engine room, where the lights - crass yellows and pinks - discolour faces and walls, and Willow seems increasingly uneasy, scanning the shadows. Walking forward, the Master claps, and Illyria can see The Immortal flinch.
“Jack! You’ll never guess who decided to come and pay us a visit!”
The Immortal raises his head, trying to flex muscles under constant strain from the chains that hold his arms outstretched, and then stares at Willow with undiluted astonishment.
“Willow?” he whispers, and she walks forwards, the Master momentarily forgotten.
He keeps staring, as if not believing his eyes, then looks over her shoulder at the Master and Illyria, before abruptly refocussing on Willow.
“Get out,” he implores. “Get out!
Teleport away, you should never have come!”
Then his eyes fasten on the metal bracelet, and he swears vehemently.
The Master has followed the exchange attentively, and his eyes narrow.
“Ah, they were yours
. Always thought them a little hard-core for the Doctor’s tastes. I ought to thank you really - they’ve come in very handy on a number of occasions.”
The Immortal shoots him a murderous glance.
“Fuck off Saxon!”
Willow ignores the exchange and takes a step forward.
“Immortal... What happened? We saw you on the TV...”
He sighs, that bone-deep weariness taking over that has nothing to do with being chained up 24/7.
“We tried. I swear
we tried, but we were too late. Too slow. Too...” he shakes his head, and the Master cuts in, smirking.
“I’m too good
, is what he’s trying to say, right Jack?”
The Immortal’s jaw tightens in anger.
“Let me out of these chains for 30 seconds and we’ll see how ‘good’ you are.”
His eyes are on the Master, but even Illyria can understand the concealed message, casting Willow a suspicious glance.
“Jack, Jack, Jack,” the Master counters, smiling sweetly, “I believe you are trying to be very naughty. You honestly
think that she can help you?”
“Any port in a storm,” The Immortal replies, attempting a shrug. “Even magic - I would love
to see you turned into a toad.”
The Master chuckles.
“Don’t be silly, magic’s not real.”
“But...” Jack’s eyes dart to Willow, and the Master smiles, laying his hands on her shoulders and not taking his eyes off The Immortal.
“Please repeat after me: There’s no such thing as magic.”
“There’s no such thing as magic,” The Immortal says promptly, and the Master’s eyebrows rise.
“Well that’s new. Or are you trying to impress the lady?”
The Immortal shakes his head, impatient.
“I never liked it, and I think it’s dangerous. If magic isn’t magical, what exactly is it?”
The Master slowly exhales, expression turning speculative.
“Are you sitting comfortably?”
He grins. “Of course you’re not. Well then children, let’s have a little history lesson.”
Even Willow has gone quiet, and The Immortal looks uncommonly attentive. Illyria wonders if his question stems from genuine curiosity or if he’s just trying to delay the inevitable. It is a good strategy though - the Master loves the sound of his own voice.
“To begin at the beginning: Around a hundred thousand years ago a very old and powerful species called Daemons - from the planet Daemos - arrived on Earth. They liked to run experiments on lesser species, help them evolve etcetera.”
“Like... 2001?” Willow asks, and the Master shrugs.
“A bit - most art reflects an underlying truth - but the Daemons were a lot more hands-on... think ancient Greece, the Renaissance and so forth. Anyway - all human magical traditions are nothing more than remnants of their advanced science.”
Willow looks at the Master with undiluted astonishment.
“You’re saying that magic is... science
He nods, and she seems to momentarily have forgotten where she is, or whom she is talking with, the conversation having engrossed her. Illyria decides to stay silent.
“OK, that actually makes sense,” Willow says slowly, “cause it works off basic physics principles what with energy transfers and all that, but...”
The Master cuts in.
“Your race, as a whole, decided on maths and physics as your preferred way of using and controlling power, but words are perfectly usable too. Trickier, but in many ways simpler - right words, right time, you could destroy the world... But I believe I’m preaching to the choir on that one?”
Whatever Willow was about to say is lost as the words hit home.
The Immortal however uses the opportunity to speak.
“But where does the power come from? They seem to pull it out of the thin air...”
“Emotions,” the Master replies, and they both look at him with surprise. Illyria smiles.
“The emotions of a group of ordinary humans generate a tremendous amount of psycho kinetic energy. As I said, the rituals are needed for harnessing and controlling the psionic forces - and the Daemon itself too, once upon a time.”
“So what happened to these... daemons
?” Willow asks, her equilibrium regained.
The Master rubs the back of his head.
“Well, the experiment came to its end, and the Daemons deemed the experiment a failure - something I had rather foreseen, given the state of humanity - and I put myself forward as a worthy ruler to take over, if they’d give me
their powers. Teach the planet how to grow up and so forth. And it would have worked if not for the Doctor and his penchant for idiot blondes.”
“Rose?” The Immortal whispers - fragile, painful hope in his eyes - and the Master sneers.
“Goodness no. Girl called Jo, who decided that if the Daemon wanted to kill the Doctor, he would have to go through her. Turned out that the moron couldn’t cope with such an illogical action, and self-destructed. Very disappointing. Thwarted by something as simple as love.
is a subject you know all about,” The Immortal says coldly, and the Master stiffens.
“Love is pain
, Jack - everyone
For a moment the two lock eyes, emotions weighing down the air; but then the Master turns to Willow, all business.
“Moving on. Let’s have a little taste of what’s actually inside that pretty head of yours. Oh, and this might hurt a bit - it’s more fun that way.”
He reaches out, laying his fingertips on Willow’s temples, but she abruptly grabs his arms and wrenches his hands away, radiating pure terror. Illyria wonders if she should intervene.“Don’t!”
Willow says - no begs - and the Master seems genuinely thrown.
“Now you’re just making me curious. What could you have in there that’s so precious?”
She tries to run, but he catches her hand, swearing as magic bursts from her like electricity.
, by Rassilon!”
Finally getting both hands to her temples again he immediately paralyses her, before he closes his eyes, smiling softly and maliciously as he makes his way through her mind.
“Oh - but you were such a bad
girl, little Willow mine. Such
a bad girl.”
He opens his eyes, looking deep into hers as he gives her back control over her body again. She sways, taking a deep, gasping breath, and tries to control her body’s shaking.
“And I’m a Time Lord
you ninny, not a brain-sucking Hell God.”
He turns to Illyria.
“None taken,” she replies. “Please continue.”
She can tell by the barely contained glee in his eyes that something has inspired him, and she is curious.
Willow opens her mouth - probably to say something insulting - but the Master lays a finger against her lips.
“But never mind that. Whoever wrote the reports on you left out a lot
of juicy details... Such as, say, flaying a man alive in an instant?”
He slowly turns his head, smiling cruelly at The Immortal.
“And I know just
the person for an encore of that
Illyria nods to herself softly. Of course. Like the Death Zone from ancient times - champion against champion...
But Willow shakes her head vehemently, defiance writ large on her face.
“I won’t. You can’t make me.”
The Master lets his hand slide down so it encloses her throat, and Illyria knows him well enough to see how he has to forcibly stop himself from breaking her neck with a single twist.
But she also knows that he has all the patience in the world when there is something he really desires. And he clearly has special plans for Willow.
“Oh you misunderstand me. I’m going to give you a choice: Flay him, and you earn yourself a swift and painless death. Or refuse, and-”
He stops, lets his eyes trail over her.
“Well, I was
going to say that you’d die slowly, in pieces, but I don’t think that physical pain is such a great fear of yours, what with magic being so unpleasantly physical...”
He wrinkles his nose in distaste.
“No. I shall propose something much more interesting. Refuse to do as I say, and I’ll take your mind
apart, bit by bit, until...”
His eyes narrow, watching her the way a cat views its prey. “Until you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room... and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad... little pinching things that go in your ears... and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know... that if the noise and the crawling would stop... that you could remember how to get out. But you never, ever will.”
Willow looks so freaked out that Illyria almost catches her breath; this is like watching the Nightmares of old...
The Master smiles, slowly and triumphantly.
“Mmm, very glad you took care of this Glorificus - since otherwise there wouldn’t have been
a world for me to conquer, obviously - but I have to say that I do
like her style. I’m surprised that she survived on that diet though. Human brains really are so very small - how do you get around in those things?”
“Willow - don’t listen. You can’t trust him!” The Immortal implores, and the Master laughs.
“Jack, give the child some
credit. I’m pretty sure she knows she can’t trust me. That’s the fun. It’ll be like... russian roulette in reverse. If you’re lucky, you die!”
The glee in his eyes makes Illyria smile - there is something too wonderful for words in his delight. Then he holds up his hand.
“Before you make up your mind, I thought you might like to know that he?” he points to The Immortal, “-is not a hero. Oh, if you knew the things he’s done... What do you say Jack, should we start digging around in your
past? Tell her a little about who you really
Illyria looks from one face to another, knowing that all that’s in store for them is perfectly executed pain and destruction. The Master truly excels at this - this peeling away of masks, exposing people’s deepest fears and playing them against each other...
It is torment for torment’s sake, and it makes Illyria feel... bothered. And even though she tells herself that Willow must
have known that what she undertook was a suicide mission, she can’t stop the discomfort.
Willow’s pain should be of no more consequence to her than a mote of dust caught in the wind; the fate of a human being weigh less than air in her mind.
Yet it feels like Buffy’s execution again... although this time Illyria is not obliged to watch.
She walks off wordlessly, wondering if she’ll ever be able to get rid of the taint of humanity that seems to cling to her still, and hoping that the Master can’t tell her true motivation - she can afford to show no weakness.
Also Willow ought to keep him entertained - and distracted - for a long while, something entirely to Illyria’s advantage...
But for once the Master’s plans do not work out.
He returns to the main room not long after Illyria, furious and covered in (human) blood. Through clenched teeth he orders the Jones’s to ‘go clean up’ - then kicks the Doctor’s wheelchair so hard it falls over, before playing ‘dodge the laser’ with the guards, killing one and maiming two. When his wife tries to attend to him, he beats her.
Illyria, fascinated, wonders just how close Willow came to killing him.~~~
Meanwhile, down on Earth, Martha Jones meets with the leader of the resistance, a young man known only as Connor.
He is not at all what she expects.~~~
The Master’s bad mood and casual destruction lasts for nearly a week. Illyria wonders if the tantrums are part of his nature, or the result of spending so much time with humans that their less savoury traits have rubbed off. Whichever way, she disapproves.
She wishes that she knew what
Willow did, though, since it would be a great help to her own plans. Unfortunately she can’t uncover any details since The Immortal can’t be persuaded to speak - something especially galling to her, because in the grim defiance of his smile she can see that he knows things that would most definitely be of benefit.
Even the Jones’s appear almost cheered, despite the increased peril.
Fed up Illyria returns to working out a way of winning the Toclafane’s loyalty, something a great deal trickier than murder, and Willow’s unfortunate visit recedes in her mind.
It helps that the Master’s mood turns from manic to broody, something she is far more comfortable with, although she notices that he seems to watch her with increased concentration...
She shrugs it off as paranoia (a human term she has grown to appreciate), until one day - two weeks after Willow’s stunt - she walks into the main room and finds the Master sitting on the large black table perfectly alone.
This unprecedented fact stops her in her tracks, but, before she can fight or flee, he tosses a flat, seashell-shaped object down by her feet.
To her bewilderment it causes something like a huge, vertical tunnel to be created, trapping her inside.
“What is this?” she asks, and he jumps off the table, walking up to the tunnel and studying her through the hazy barrier.
“A portable, inflatable holding cell,” he answers. “Very practical, don’t you agree?”
“It will not hold me long,” she retorts, and he nods.
“I know. I just wanted to say goodbye without your hands around my throat.”
“Why now?” she asks, and he sighs.
“In one word: Willow.”
She nods. Clearly the attempt on his life affected him a great deal more than she thought. She wishes she’d killed the witch herself when she first had her in her grasp.
The Master turns and retrieves the Scythe, which has been hidden from view under the table.
“I really wish I didn’t have to do this, but I think we’ve both known the truth of the situation since we first met: The universe is just not big enough for the both of us.”
He smiles lightly, shadows dancing in his eyes.
“I’ve found your sarcophagus, by the way - a task which was far from easy given the state of LA in general and the ruin of W&H in particular. But it’s a tough bit of hardware you got, so I’ll make sure you go back in the Deeper Well with all the others. Seems the least I can do.”
He reaches out, almost touching the barrier.
“It truly has been an honour, your Highness. But I have a universe to conquer, and am getting tired of people looking to stab me in the back - however divine, or worthy, they may be.”
She raises her own hand, mirroring his pose, simultaneously letting her appearance return to blue - there should be no lies at this moment.
“To die at your hand, is not a dishonourable fate. May the worlds fall to their knees and tremble when they meet you, as they once did for me.”
At her words he takes a deep breath, briefly closing his eyes and swallowing.
, ‘Lyria. I promised myself I wouldn’t get emotional. Well, not in that sense. After all, how many people have killed a God?”
Hefting the Scythe he pauses for a second - wiping away an errant tear - but a second is all she needs.
Belatedly she realises that he’d anticipated this.
The moment her hand rends the barrier it transforms into a slow-release time-field, giving her adversary more than ample time to take perfect aim.
In his eyes, she sees regret and vainglory warring with bloodlust; and she smiles, because she knows that this is love.~~~
At two minutes past eight on a clear June morning in 2007, the world doesn’t end.
There are no signs or heavenly spectacles to tell the world that disaster has been undone. Only suddenly-gone-blank TV-screens, leaving people to wonder at what they just saw. Did the British Prime Minister really just assassinate the American President?
But Buffy and her friends encounter one more puzzling occurrence: Illyria’s behaviour. She rails against the snowstorm on the TV - insisting that things are wrong
; that time has come unstuck; that the drums are lost. And when it is shortly afterwards announced that Harold Saxon has been killed, she weeps.
She never tells them why.~End~Notes and extra fic-snippet!