The Gallifreyan language has eight billion six hundred and twenty-two words. It is a very difficult language to learn if one is not a native, but more so for the words that Gallifreyan is missing that one might find in other cultures.
There is no Gallifreyan word for "dream". Because, while Time Lords meditate, they do not dream. Dreaming is a dumping of processed information, mixed with a little imagination, and such a concept is foreign to Time Lord minds. All information is processed perfectly in the Gallifreyan brain and therefore none of it is wasted or lost.
And imagination is simply a silly concept for lower beings.
He feels nothing.
Which is ironic, considering the form he's in right now. Considering how this has always been the brave form. How this has always been the form that fought off the hardest of monsters, how this has always been the form his weaker selves have hidden behind in battle. It's a brave incarnation. The James-Bond incarnation. The strongest of the strong.
But not right now.
Right now he just feels defeated. It's easy to feel that way in a place like this, he figures. In a bus station on a blastedly sunny day in the middle of nowhere.
He hates bus stations.
He hates the way they smell, like car fumes and spilled coffee and urine and stale cigarettes and misplaced luggage. He hates how he can't find a place to stand or sit in a bus station that doesn't seem to reek with all of the waste left behind.
He stands from the bench and moves to the edge of the stop, his boots clicking against the mottled concrete.
The concrete on the walls, on the pillars that hold the segments of road above this station up, is cracking. No one's bothered to fill in the holes, no matter how wide and ominous they are, no matter how many dangerous wires start to poke through. It's not as if they're not working on the bus station, he can see repairs all over the place, but it's never quite done. Like a sinkful of dishes that never empties no matter how many times one fills the washer.
"It's very like Earth, don't you think?"
He doesn't pay attention to the man at his side. The small man, the overpoweringly sinister man who stands just out of the coattails of his velvet frock coat. A black suit with a tight vest, the bright afternoon sunlight shining off of the streaks of silver in his beard and hair.
"I haven't the faintest idea what you mean," he replies.
He's an irritable man in this form, too. He pointedly looks away from the small man (his great enemy) and towards the road where the buses should come down.
"A waste heap of what used to be. The past."
"Still a symbol of what could be. The possible."
The small man laughs. "Oh, you would say that."
A blast of exhaust whips his coat up around the velvet-clad man's shoulders. The small man moves aside swiftly, standing to the side of his great enemy. Despite his stature, they still stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
His oldest friend.
"Do you even know what you're waiting for?" the small man asks.
"A bus, presumably," the velvet-frocked man says, putting a leather-gloved hand up to cover his eyes. He can't see far from the light, but even if he could there's nothing to see. There's no bus coming. There's the occasional roar of the traffic nearby, but nothing turns into the station. The roar sounds like the ocean, lapping at the edge of the road.
This feels wrong.
He shouldn't be waiting for a bus.
Shouldn't be waiting at all.
The whole situation strikes him as rather absurd.
"It's because you're dreaming," the small man says. But, to be fair, he's probably lying.
"What are you waiting for?" Ever the challenge. Ever the returned question. The velvet-frocked man keeps his eyes forward, never addressing his enemy face-to-face.
He can hear the small man shift where he stands. "You've got a world of waiting to do. You should consider where you're waiting."
"I suppose I should be waiting where you are, then?"
The velvet-frocked man turns his head and raises an eyebrow. "You're standing in my shadow," he says.
"I am indeed. But at least I am out of that terrible glare."
He wants to ask where the glare comes from and why nothing comes down that road, not even in the middle of the day.
But he's not brave enough.
He has never been an ordinary Gallifreyan child. His thoughts are too scattered, his mind is too reckless. And while he does not dream every time he goes to sleep, sometimes he feels as if he's remembered something that could not possibly have happened.
His father tells him he should be concerned. His mother tells him this is absolutely normal. This is where he will stay for his entire life, somewhere between what is normal and what makes others nervous.
He feels nothing.
Which is ironic, considering the form he is in right now. Perhaps the sanest of all his incarnations. The blond boy with an old man's pair of eyes. The voice of reason when his youngers (and olders) are acting like children. He knows how to stand his ground without pushing too far and he knows how important appearances can be. All the gentlemanly conversation in the universe can't erase a harlequin mask. So he knows how to stay strong. To be sane.
Just, not right now.
Right now, all he can think is how much he hates standing still. It's eating at the back of his mind in the same way the bright glare is eating at his retinal structure.
He hops from foot to foot, his trainers bouncing off of the mottled concrete so thick with discarded chewing gum it's practically a trampoline. He feels constricted, like a tight coil poised at the end of a trapdoor. His hands are stuffed in the pockets of his trousers to keep out from the cold.
He hates this weather. It's not quite cold enough for his beige jacket. It's just cold enough for the wind to burn his hands without it, but too hot for the rest of him when he puts it back on. So his knuckles burn and he hops about to keep himself from going mad with cold.
"Oh, but you always were the naive sort, especially in this form." There's a melodramatic laugh from the broken wooden bench. The other man, now the velvet-clad one with a twisted smile, doesn't bother standing. He's far too comfortable taking up the only seat that isn't somewhat sticky with old soda. As calm and content as a cat.
In fact, he is a cat. He's a half-cat. The man in the trainers earns a stiff back and a question-mark umbrella when the velvet-clad man changes. They change back. They shift. Nothing is truly different. One man still despises waiting and the other basks in his unhappiness.
"Time is very fluid in your dreams." The cat-man says. He cracks his neck with a slight twist and he's young again. They both are very young and still very old all at the same time.
It makes a broken sort of sense.
"Nothing dream-like about this place. Just cold," the trainers-clad man says, looking out into the empty road again.
The man with the twisted smile laughs. "Have you convinced yourself that's why you're standing there, in the blaring sunlight, dancing like a monkey? Because you're cold?"
The trainers-clad man knows that's not the reason, and he hates that he's been called out on it. It's verging on maddening, all this standing around. All this waiting. He hates that he doesn't know when the bus is arriving. He hates that he can't seem to find a schedule or a person or anything that might move this along.
"And if the schedule says it won't be for another six weeks? Could you possibly withstand the agony of waiting?"
He was always fond of mockery in this incarnation.
"But then I would know when it would be here." He gives a half-smirk to the man with the twisted smile, then crosses to the bench and picks up his coat from where it was tossed to the ground. It's in a puddle littered with stale cigarettes, two of which have stuck to the wet sploch on the cuff of his coat.
Water from the puddle soaks through his trainer and makes his socks uncomfortably wet. It's a bitter sort of cold. It soaks through his skin and bruises his bones.
"It's your decision to continue to wait, you know. I did offer to walk away with you once."
"It's better to wait."
"But, my dear, we both know you hate waiting."
My dear---it doesn't sound quite right. The trainers-clad man turns and looks at the man with the twisted smile scrutinizingly. It's a man he once called the most evil force in the universe, and now he's simply trying to figure out what it is he's missing about him. The water seems to shift with the wind and he looks down at his feet, soaked and miserable.
There's a slight rustling and when he looks up, the man with the twisted smile is no longer smiling. He stands close, practically nose-to-nose with his enemy. He can smell the man with a twisted smile's breath, like old calcium blocks eaten by those trapped deep in space for decades without food sources. He's so close he can taste the blocks on the back of his tongue.
His oldest friend.
His dearest friend.
"You can't convince me to go," the trainer-clad man says. He sits back down on the bench, sturdier than the wood beneath him.
"Just as you could never convince me to stay. And soon, my dear, I will leave this wretched place as well." He grins again, splitting his goatee with perfectly-shaped white teeth. "Sooner than you."
That should make sense, but it doesn't. He can't leave, not when there's no bus coming. Perhaps the logic is there but he can't grasp it.
He isn't sane enough.
There are secrets you share and there are those you don't. When he has his first nightmare at the Academy, he wakes the boy meditating in the bed next to him. In the years that pass, he wants to tell him what he dreams of, but there aren't any words in their language to explain it.
It eventually settles between them as an understanding. Something that is different about one boy that is not shared in the other. As they grow, many things become part of this understanding.
He feels nothing.
Ironic, considering the lifetime of pain this form will soon (has yet to) (already has) face(d). The youthful vigor's returned to his skin and he's got long not-quite-ginger-but-at-least-we're-movi
Just not right now.
Right now, all he can focus on is how much he hates cold tea.
It's perhaps absurd that he's sitting in the bus station, watching as the leather-clad EMT worker next to him pours them both steaming cups from fine china. Perhaps even more absurd because the glasses sit perfectly still on the squeaky, wobbly bus station benches. But it is the most absurd because no matter how steaming the cup may look, the tea inside is ice cold. Flake leaf, too, so it sits at the bottom of the cup, threatening to be that nasty, bitter final sip.
"All I'd need is a bit of burned toast to go with this and this would be the most rubbish tea break I've ever had." The bitter wind knocks a lock of his reddish hair into his eyes.
The EMT worker laughs. "Tea isn't enough for you?" His voice is thickly American, ringing with an accent earned from years in New York, years the man behind the voice never spent.
"Have you even got taste buds that work? Those hands don't look strong enough. Nerve damage?" He takes a pointed sip of his cold and unpleasant tea.
The EMT worker points in the red-haired man's direction. "Don't tell me what's strong about this body." He coughs and it sounds hollow and thick all at the same time. He's falling apart, this half-man. The red-haired man isn't sure how to tell him that. Or even if he should.
But he hates watching it happen.
"There's a lot of things you hate, but you already knew that." The EMT worker takes a sip of the tea, then stands, tossing the teacup over the edge of the sidewalk, skittering into pieces along the road where no buses seem to want to turn.
He was always more aggressive in this incarnation.
The clang from the broken china echoes throughout the darkening bus station before landing like seashells on the edge of the other bus stops.
"You're not the only one waiting, you know. If you noticed," the EMT worker says. The way his voice breaks at the words, the red-haired man knows they're meant to wound somehow.
But he feels no pain.
Things change. What was once a very strong trust becomes less and less. On his own, he learns the word oneirology and keeps track of the things he sees when he sleeps, but he does not share them.
He feels nothing.
Ironic, considering the fear this form inflicted into the hearts of so many. The lines on his face are severe. The line of his leather jacket is long and tight. He's closed off completely.
His companion, on the other end of the bench, is old and wisened, in a red vest with a dark ascot and a fob watch dangling from his fingers. Neither of them say anything. The roar of the traffic is their only soundtrack.
Two men in between, caught just after the War and just before they grow old. The two who fled, sitting there, pretending that the silence between them is companionable.
He hates the silence.
He isn't afraid of breaking the silence, he just doesn't want to.
And when things are gone and it is only him, he finds that he only dreams of what things were like when he was home. Home in a world that is so much more welcoming in his dreams.
He feels nothing.
He feels nothing.
He feels nothing.
He hates feeling nothing.
He hates it when his bright white trainers get scuffed up. He reaches down and rubs the side of one of them, clearing off a dark mark right next to the Converse logo. Not a second passes since he's sat up that a shiny shoe kicks from the other side of the bench, creating a dark scuff right where the last one was.
"You're so vain," the manic man with the shiny shoes sings. "I bet you think those shoes even matter."
"I like looking good," the other man, the one in the pinstripe suit, replies.
"Clearly. And I like ruining the things you like. So please, lean down and clean them yet again. It's hours of amusement for both of us."
"You wound me." The tone of the manic man's voice says that he's more amused than anything else.
And they wait a while longer. The two of them, sitting in a bus stop. Watching the universe pass by slowly---and it's always moving so slowly---together. That's the worst part of all, the other man thinks. They're always together, but always apart.
"You haven't said my name," he says, turning to the manic man. It's the thing that's been missing between them. Their names.
"Nope," the manic man says playfully. As swift and sharp as a laser's edge, his grin drops and becomes a calculating stare. Deciding what he can and can't tell him. He's always one thing or the other, never a man in the middle.
The other man crosses his arms. He doesn't like games. Well, he does. But not the games the manic man likes to play.
"You like it when I say your name." The manic man says, finally. Triumphantly.
And he does. It's one of those things he'll never admit to liking, but he loves it when his enemy says his name. It's not for the same reason that his enemy likes to hear him say it (whatever egoism is held in that particular fetish of his), but his enemy doesn't just say his name. He understands it. He speaks his name and knows him. It's more than just a name, it's something else. Something between them.
Something that's missing right here.
"So say it," the other man says.
The manic man grins. It's a smile of a dead man, a twisted grin, a sinister grin. He's all of those men in one and he's so close it hurts to look at him.
"You don't get the things you want in a nightmare."
There's a honk, and a roar of engines and a bus pulls towards the stop. The manic man hops to his feet and rushes to the door. He's been acting calm and collected this whole time (thorough every face), but he's been ready to run since they started here.
The other man's feet feel glued to the concrete. He can't run after. He can't get away.
"This isn't your stop anyway," the manic man says over his shoulder. "You've got a while to wait now. Buuut! This time you get to wait alone. Did try to warn you."
"You can't just leave!" His voice is pathetic, begging. He thinks he begged like this once before, but he can't quite remember when.
But the manic man isn't stopping. He keeps walking away, going up the stairs, into the empty bus. The other man can't stop him. He doesn't know how to stop him from leaving. Leaving again.
The Master stops his ascent into the bus. He takes in a shuddering breath, relishing the name as it's called to him. For all that the other man wanted to hear his name, he never bothered to say it, too. And they both experienced the same miserable wait, the same terrible bus station.
Maybe this nightmare was shared.
The Master turns and looks back at the other man, his expression something like pity. As close as the Master could come to understanding pity.
"Doctor," he replies, and his voice is smooth like cold velvet. And there it is. That understanding, that knowing. That thing between them that is almost but not quite shared. It hangs there in the way they say each other's names.
Feeling seems to run back into the Doctor's veins. Fear, pain, sanity, bravery. He's the Doctor again, if only for being told he is.
"Doctor," the Master speaks again, more firmly. "Wake up."
And when they were very young and the boy would have nightmares, the other boy in the bed next to his would climb into bed with him, wrap his arms around his shoulders, and hold him while he slept. He would tell the boy that he was only dreaming, he would tell him that all he had to do was just wake up.
More often than not, the dreaming boy would not be able to wake up, but the nightmare would pass as he was no longer alone.
And there was nothing the boy hated more than being alone.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 3,305
Special thanks to savagestime for help with the Master-voices!