It is a Bad Day, the first Bad Day in a long time, and the first Bad Day out of the Vault.
The TARDIS bristles at her presence, actively shuts her out, buzzes when Missy goes within a hundred feet of the engine rooms or the navigation cells. The water comes out of the taps at the temperature of spit and tastes of metal.
So, she sits. Floor hard under her bottom, spine pressing into the floor, thumbing through a tattered old omnibus of Lawson's works, over and over and over again. The occasional sentence pops out - ragged, well-washed print shirt, and the stars and the loom of the hills were hidden by smoke and drought haze, and there are tally lies; and lies about getting tucker by trickery; and long-tramp-with-heavy-swag-and-no-water lies; and lies about getting the best of squatters and bosses-over-the-board; and driving, fighting, racing, gambling and drinking lies. The book's red cloth covers crumble in her hands, and she sets it aside carefully, tastes old-dirt and recycled air on her fingertips.
Shaking, Missy swipes the heels of her hands over her damp cheeks, sucks in a few deep breaths. In, out. In, in, out, out. Relax. Slow. Breathe. One two three four in, one two three four out, perhaps counting to four isn't the right way, she hears the Doctor murmur to her, and she laughs. It comes out as a hysterical giggle, and then more sobs, shoulder-shaking, head-hurting, hearts-breaking sobs.
There had been a city made of glass, a planet with an atmosphere full of clouds. To live in the glasshouses had made life easier, warmer, pleasant; the inside became freeing. Each pane had patterns carved into the edge, telling the story of the land one could see outside, and she had read each and every single one, and then had them destroyed. For what? Flight paths and gravity and control of a star that could lead to the control of a system, which would control a quadrant, which would -
There had been so many people, all with the shimmering red hair and gloss-green skin, all shiny and pretty in the hazy light and the bright gleam of the laser-fire -
She picks up the book again. Stares blearily at a page (ninety-seven) of The Drover's Wife. She is hurt now, and tears spring to her eyes as she sits down again by the table. She takes up a handkerchief to wipe the tears away, but pokes her eyes with her bare fingers instead.
Missy's handkerchiefs are back in the Vault, still full of her things and knick-knacks and clothes and the little presents the Doctor would bring her as if one object could replace all the stars and all the planets in the sky, and they're all still there in case Nardole decides to check and they need to rush her back inside because the Doctor is the only one in the universe who seems to believe she can get better, not even his TARDIS, not his human of the month who knows less than 0.1% of what she's seen, definitely not that little fuckwitted Oompa Loompa playing sneering manservant and inheritance.
Missy holds her hands over her mouth and stifles a scream, rocks, the book in a pile beside her. Baring her teeth, curling up, she slides her hands into her hair and pulls, and makes a noise like an animal caught in a trap, and pulls.
There's Nardole in the distance - "What's that noise?" and Missy opens her mouth, sinks her teeth into the fabric of her sleeve, and they slip through the material and meet skin, flesh, but at least that's quiet, and -
"I left the blue gramophone on," and that's the Doctor. "It sort of cries when the record is finished."
"Yes, but the sound quality is unparalleled," doors opening and closing, the TARDIS is either warning her, or letting the Doctor find her, or helping Nardole locate her, and Missy curls up tighter, tighter, bites harder, remembers the days when she could burn cities and sleep that night like a canary-eating cat, "Actually, Nardole, I told Bill I'd meet her for a coffee down in the cafeteria but I want to shave first."
"You don't look prickly."
Doors open and close. Closer footsteps.
"Well, you're a walking talking egg, so of course you can't tell. Head down there ahead of me? I'll catch up once I've sorted the music - "
Footsteps stop, right outside. Missy bites harder, tastes blood. A second passes, crystal clear, and then footsteps retreat, one set, and Missy wants to hide behind smoke and drought haze. She stays still, feels the ache in her jaw and the throbbing in her brain and sees the humans of Utopia screaming and fleeing the furnaces she had brought them to -
A knock at the door. A low voice.
She must make a noise.
"I'm coming in, okay? Okay."
Slow creaking as the door opens, and Missy waits until there's footsteps, turning, the door closes, she senses the Doctor sitting beside her. The door knocks against the frame as the Doctor leans against it, his thigh brushing her side.
"You want to talk?"
She shakes her head.
A tentative hand on her shoulder, which she unthinkingly leans into. "Okay. You want - closer?"
This time she makes a noise of assent, and the Doctor reaches across and tugs her into his lap, settling her between his legs, wrapping his arms around her, bringing his legs up so she's sort of - surrounded.
"Stop biting your arm, you'll give yourself an infection," he murmurs, running his hand over her head. "Missy? That's all you need to do."
Her jaw clicks, and Missy relents, presses her damp face into his neck instead.
"That's good," says the Doctor. "Bad day?"
"Not good, not good, I'm thinking about - I'm thinking about - " Missy clicks her tongue, and the Doctor rubs her back. "Did you ever go to Helana-Eight?"
"No," says Missy. "I forgot - you know, I - " she sniffles. "Yes. I don't want to talk."
His hand - the heel of his hand, really - pressing into her back, across her shoulders, down her ribs, up and down her spine, small circles. His other arm rests along her leg, fingers pressing lightly into her hip.
"We're all tangled up," he murmurs. "Has the TARDIS been treating you alright?"
Missy shakes her head.
"Okay. I'll have another word with her. Unless you'd like to go back into the - I thought not," the Doctor says, as Missy shakes her head again. He keeps rubbing her back, holds her tighter. "Is this comfortable?"
"Mmhmm. What about Bill and Nardole?"
"What about them?"
Missy shifts so her forehead and eyes are against his neck, eyes closed tight, and she speaks up. He smells good, and familiar, and warm. She focuses.
"They'll wonder why it's taking you so long to shave. If you shave at all."
"Oh, they'll just think I got distracted. It happens. Don't worry about it."
Silence, for a few moments, the Doctor's hearts and breathing and guts and humming, and her hearts and breathing and guts and the buzzing of her brain, so fast it's practically white noise.
"I destroyed the castles of Helana first," she mumbles. "Just for - all that crystal, lying with the fires and the fighting above it. Beautiful."
"Cruel," says the Doctor, and gives her a squeeze. "Try, hey?"
Missy sets her jaw, tastes a little bit of her own blood on her lip. "Wasteful. Petty."
"Yes," he says. "What's this you're reading?"
"Book. I'm not reading it. It was on the floor. What did you do today?"
"Why do you want to know?"
The Doctor trails his hand up from her back to the nape of her neck, and he rubs the skin there. Missy moves closer to him, imagines their physical forms melding together. The limitations of three-dimensional bodies within a fourth-dimensional machine and a knowledge of another six-dimensions beyond perceptions.
"I want to hear. I want to be distracted. I want to hear."
She feels heavy, but steadied as the Doctor starts to speak again.
"Okay. Well, I woke up, and I left you sleeping because it's been a while since you got your head down, but I left you that cup of tea."
"It was cold when I woke up."
"That's too bad. And then I went to my office and I finished the marking for my physics class, which was terrible, personally I blame social media - "
"I had a few meetings, and a lecture, and then Bill asked for an extra tutoring session, but she can wait for that, that's where I'm meant to be in a few minutes - " the Doctor shifts. "How about we sit on that couch over there, that might be more comfortable."
It takes Missy a few painful minutes to stand, her joints aching from the cold floor, and she helps the Doctor up. He holds onto her hands, guides her over to the battered, patchworked sofa that should have been tossed into a sun decades go. He sits first, and Missy tries to sit in his lap without making it look like she wants to sit in his lap.
"Let me just see your arm first," the Doctor says. "Could you take your jacket off?"
Missy tuts, and begins to pick at the brown buttons. As she does, the Doctor's phone begins to ring.
"Speak of the devil," he says, and puts it on speaker, rubbing Missy's knee. "Hello?"
"Hi, Doctor, Nardole and I are wondering where you've gotten to," says Bill. "He said you were fixing a record player?"
"I was, I was," says the Doctor. "But I thought Missy might enjoy working on it for me, so I'm in the Vault now with her. We'll have to postpone till tomorrow, I hope that's alright with you. Nardole should be able to help with any questions - "
On the other end of the line, a scuffling, a click. Nardole's voice takes over. "You said Missy needed to be left alone in the Vault."
"Actually, my specific instructions were that you needed to leave her alone in the Vault," says the Doctor. "She's making progress and it doesn't help when you're constantly insulting her. Help Bill, would you?"
Unbidden, Missy's eyes fill with tears again and she begins to shake. The Doctor catches her hand in his, tightens it. "I've got to go, she's going to steal the screwdriver if I'm not careful."
The Doctor hangs up, and sets his mobile on the floor. "So."
"So," says Missy, and her voice cracks. "Oh, Doctor."
He must give up, or come to some kind of decision, because he lies down on the couch, and pulls her on top of him, brackets her between his legs. His right arm winds around her waist, while his left stays free and combs through her hair. Missy presses her cheek against his sternum.
"Clearly something's reminded you of Helana-Eight, and it's going to keep setting you off until we discuss it," he says, and in this position, Missy can feel his voice in her chest. It makes her own hearts slow down. "You destroyed the cities. Why?"
"They were - going to be destroyed anyway."
Missy bites his lapel, panic and a scream suddenly building inside her. She squeezes her eyes shut.
She shakes her head.
"You can't, or you won't?"
"You can't remember? Missy, you can't remember why you destroyed that planet?"
Missy sucks in a deep breath, lifts her head, looks him in the old, tired, beautiful eyes. "I can't," she says, and bursts into fresh tears, the sobs she's been holding back all day, and the Doctor just sighs, gathers her to him, strokes her hair, waits it out. "I can't - I remember taking joy, and I remember the glass glittering and the people fleeing and the fields burning, and I can't for the life of me remember why I chose that quadrant, that system, that planet, those people. Those people - " again, Missy can see shimmering red and fire reflected in glass. "I don't know why I did it. I destroyed a third of the universe but this one city - that is, that's today's - "
Warm and solid below her, the Doctor keeps stroking her hair, listening, waiting. Forgiving.
"I took such pleasure in destruction, and there is already so much within the universe," Missy says, and then can't talk anymore.
Again, she tucks her face into the Doctor's neck. Everything is dark and quiet and warm and smells like home for a few minutes as she cries, and cries, and cries, and then her head aches so much she has to stop.
"A third of the universe is so much," the Doctor says. "Billions upon billions of - of well, everything."
Everything is quiet inside her. "And?"
"It's too much to envisage, to grieve for. But one city, one of those beautiful crystal cities - do you see where I'm going?"
He rests his warm, calloused palm on the back of her neck. "Could you finish the thought for me please?"
Is everything a teachable moment, now? Does it have to be? Her eyes and her head hurt.
"I can see the destruction of one city, of one people. I can own that, and conceptualise it. But what I did - to that vast swathe of space, it is simply impossible to conceive everything that has been lost. The city could be just a city, or it could stand in for everything within that third."
Silence. The Doctor breathes beneath her.
"Yes? Yes. You're right. This is progress, even if it doesn't feel like it. Now, shall we sit up?"
"I think I'll get you a drink of water, and then I do want to look at your arm."
Missy presses her bicep against him, feels a bright flare of pain, that focuses her. She sits up, and her head aches and her mouth is dry, and shrugs off the rest of her jacket. Yes. She bit so hard, the cloth is torn and scarlet blood spots the white material. The Doctor sits up too, sees the red, makes a low noise. He cups her elbow.
"I don't want you doing this," he says, covering the bloody marks up with his hand. "I thought you stopped."
"I thought I had too," says Missy, and expects herself to cry, but she doesn't.
The Doctor leans across, presses their foreheads together. "I'm getting you a drink, and the little first-aid kit. Would you like to come with me, or shall I bring them to you?"
She imagines herself, sees herself again, alone in this little dusty room with nothing but short stories and memories for company.
"I'll come with you."
It's a short walk to the infirmary - the TARDIS wants to make the Doctor's life easier, after all, and the Doctor pours her a glass of cold, cold water while Missy unbuttons and peels off her shirt.
They swap - he tosses the shirt down the laundry chute, while Missy sips, then gulps the water down. The Doctor fills the glass again, and as she drinks, more slowly, he dabs at her bite with an antiseptic swab, slaps a bright blue bandaid over the top.
"Matches my eyes," Missy says, and he chuckles, giving her a dressing gown to wear.
"Are you hungry?"
He stands in front of her for a moment, as Missy is perched on the infirmary bed, and brushes some of her hair out of her eyes.
"Are you tired of me?" she asks.
"No," the Doctor says. "No." He stops playing with her hair, cups her cheek. "Never. Alright, we'll wash your face, and we'll go sit in the library."
"Why the library?"
"Because we both like the library, and that's where A Wrinkle in Time is."
"You have a wrinkle in time in your TARDIS library?"
"Not a literal wrinkle, the book," the Doctor begins, and then realises she's messing with him. "You must be feeling better, if you're using that old joke."
He gets her a damp, warm cloth, and Missy dabs at her face, wiping away the sticky remnants of her tears and snot. The Doctor helps her into a dressing gown, and they make their way to the library, stopping along the way for a tea-tray, with a green patterned teapot and cups.
"Could you get the book? It's under M for Madeline," says the Doctor, setting the tray down on one of the low tables.
Missy meanders through the high shelves of spines and statues and knick-knacks, high and silent and old around her. It's like being in the depths of a remnant of a forest, dark and quiet. Missy takes a moment, reading the back of a book called Madeline and the Bad Hat, and then an author biography about Madeline Sheehan. She takes down a battered copy of Nicholas Nickelby, and then finally selects a slim yellow edition of A Wrinkle in Time with a sphere on the front cover. When she returns to the Doctor, she grins. He's built them a sort of nest on the couch, piled up blankets and pillows. The Doctor's boots are neatly lined up under the table, and he's poured the tea.
"Comfy enough?" he asks, gesturing, and Missy takes a seat.
She wriggles. "Yes."
"Perfect, then," the Doctor says.
He drags the coffee table closer to the couch, sits beside Missy, and pats her knee again. While the tea cools on the table, Missy reads the blurb.
"Why this one?" she asks.
"Well, I like it, even if the science is…terrible," he admits. "But you know, it's about the destruction of some planets and the saving of others, and big good acts, and little good acts. I thought it might be good for you to hear it."
"Okay. Oh, are you reading to me?"
"I thought we could take it in turns. Would you like to go first?"
Missy stirs the sugar into their teas. "And you're okay with us being all - huddled up? I know sometimes it makes you uncomfortable."
"You being that upset is worse. But look at that," says the Doctor, winding his arm around her waist. "What a little good act."
Missy smiles at him, even if it feels odd for her mouth to do it. She takes a scalding sip of tea, coughs. "I'll start then," she says, setting the cup on the table.
The Doctor rests his head on her shoulder, leans into her, heavy and grounding. Missy opens the book and holds it in her lap.
"It was a dark and stormy night," she begins. "This opening does not fill me with hope, my dear."
The Doctor makes an annoyed noise, and unbidden, tears prickle at her eyes again. She stiffens, and the Doctor sits, turns, pulls her into his lap again. He rubs the bite on her arm.
"I guess you're just extra sensitive today," he says into her hair. "It's okay."
"I don't want to start crying again," says Missy. "I don't need to be coddled."
"You know, it's alright for you to feel bad. Like I said. This is good," the Doctor says, and she can feel his voice in her chest and hearts. He tightens his arms around her. "This is probably going to keep happening, for a long time. We need to figure out a way for you to channel it and work through it without hurting yourself."
That's almost enough to set her off again. Almost. Missy sets her jaw, imagines stars behind a haze of drought and smoke. She wiggles her arm free, grabs her cup of tea, takes another sip.
"It's good," Missy says. "Let's try again. But can we - could we just talk?"
She settles back in the Doctor's lap, leans against the arm of the couch. He leans over her, gets his own cup of tea.
"About what? What you've done, or what you'd like to do? I'm open to either and all."
Missy pauses, and the Doctor rests his tea against her knee, smiles across at her. "Let's talk about tomorrow," she says. "Would you spend the day with me?"
"It would be my pleasure," the Doctor says. "And I will. What shall we do?"