Fic Tennis: Gallifrey Records - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony.
This is the final section of the Five Times The Doctor and The Master Play Music Together (and One Time They Don’t.) fic and we’ll be playing it as fic tennis, which means you should savior that phrase if you don’t want to stay for the encore.
(It also brings us up to the present, as it were, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. This means there’s Rose Tyler, so if you weren’t necessarily in to Rock Star Boyfriends, well, it’s not going to disappear entirely, but it’s probably all right for you to jump back in. If you’d like to catch up on Doctor/Master backstory: Part 1 and Part 2.)
Prompt/photo credit to Nili/winterinthetardis because there was a guy there and he’s gone now.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle over the penthouse at the Ritz. There are other swank hotels in Cleveland, to be sure, but the Ritz is the crème-de-la-crème. The Doctor couldn’t care less about the whole thing – even Rose seems indifferent – but Donna has turned into Don Quixote on a quest, determined to secure the nicest room at the nicest hotel.
“This is your year, Doctor! Your nomination! I have never, in all my years as your manager, had a hotel turn me down flat! You’re at the top of the list of nominees, and not just because it’s in alphabetical order!” She reaches across the table for the bread basket, snatching a roll and ripping it in half. She crams a bite into her mouth and chews viciously.
“Won’t do you any good, no matter how much you call and cajole. He’s paid them off,” the Doctor replies with an air of nonchalance – at least, what he hopes is an air of nonchalance. “It’s what the Master does, when he sees a problem: manipulates and bribes his way through. Just save yourself the trouble, Donna, and find us all another hotel.” His voice might be pitched a touch high, but it isn’t noticeable, it’s fine, everything’s fine.
Rose’s hand finds his knee under the table and squeezes with gentle reassurance.
He takes her hand and squeezes right back. “There’s bound to be another penthouse at another hotel.”
Donna sighs and uses the rest of her roll to point at him emphatically. “All right. But this is your year, Doctor, no matter who else the nomination committee chose – all the trade papers say so!”
As it turns out, the Doctor is wrong. There isn’t another hotel, because the Master has booked every penthouse in the entire city of Cleveland.
And while Donna frets over the lodging and logistical details of the weekend, what she isn’t talking about is the real issue at hand. The elephant in the room, the one none of them wants to discuss because the Doctor keeps giving it such wide berth: the performance. The fact that he’s supposed to share a stage with the Master at the induction ceremony, one that’ll be broadcast on television.
Donna’s been keeping the papers away from him, or at least trying to, but he’s still seen the headlines screaming REUNION!
Even though he hasn’t told Rose exactly what’s on his mind – even though she doesn’t know the full extent of his history with the Master – she’s noticed he’s on edge (she’s perceptive, his Rose), and is doing her best to distract him.
When he and Rose walk into the lush executive suite at the Ritz in Cleveland, the Doctor still isn’t bothered by the fact that this isn’t the penthouse.
He is, however, bothered by exactly how bothered he is about seeing the Master face-to-face within a matter of hours.
The Doctor tips the bellhop and closes the door of the suite. When he turns, he finds Rose reclining in the middle of the king-sized bed, shaking her head so her golden hair spills across the plush white duvet. Her arms stretch above her head and she arches her back, hips and torso wiggling hypnotically. “Ohhhh, this isn’t bad!”
He’s learned nothing from music if not how to hit his cues and this is it — his cue to join Rose on the bed, his cue to bury himself and whatever’s troubling him somewhere in the vicinity of her thighs.
But something about it feels wrong, the weight of the Master is heavy, right in the front of his mind, and clearly not keen to go anywhere anytime soon. The idea that, on some level, he’d be thinking about the Master while he’s with Rose like that — it’s more than he can stomach right now.
“See? What do we need the penthouse for anyway?” he says with a laugh, but he’s keeping his distance, ostensibly checking the luggage and hoping Rose doesn’t notice.
She flops around a few more times, burying her head back into the pillow with a contented groan before pushing up off the bed to join him near the door.
“That’s —” she breaks off as his eyes widen, because he’s just spotted it, too.
“That’s not my guitar,” he says, and the floor drops out.
The case is too sleek, not nearly battered and loved enough, and he knows what he’s going to find when he opens it — a black adler Tyler.
Rose watches him, holding her breath as he drops to his knees and unsnaps the case, hoping, hoping, hoping.
It’s a black adler Tyler.
He lifts the lid and just the smell of it, rolling out through the air with the movement, takes him back to 16. He runs a finger across a string and up the neck to find the knob that used to be broken, loosening at the most inopportune moments.
“Oh, that’s gorgeous,” Rose says and he nearly flinches. He’d almost forgotten she was there, so caught up in the memory, the gently faded ache of who he used to be, and who he used to know.
“Yeah,” he says, blinking away the haze. “I, uh, I know whose guitar this is.” He scratches at the back of his head before refastening the case and standing.
Rose reaches out, running a hand down his arm, “Do you want to return her yourself?”
And the way she says it, it’s like she knows, not the specifics, of course, but like she’s circling around them, getting nearer and nearer until he’s just going to have to tell her. Sit down and hash out the whole messy thing.
“I have a feeling her owner will be down here soon enough,” he takes a deep breath after the words, trying to decide if this is better or worse than any other way they could’ve run into each other.
“Do you — do you want me to leave?” Rose says, and the careful consideration of her tone, the way she’s keeping it neutral and even, feels like a hand wrapping around his throat.
What is he doing? Why hadn’t he told her all of this months ago? Why isn’t he telling her now? He’s a different man, and it feels like he’s been several different men since.
“Doctor?” Rose’s voice is slightly more hesitant this time. “Should I go?”
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