She hadn't intended to pick up Cleo as they'd run for their lives from the Grignorns rampaging across Cleo's farm, and she did intend to put the dear girl back where she'd found her as soon as she could. Of her many prior companions, Cleo was among those over-given to screaming. The Doctor liked her, but she was getting a headache.
Just one more thing, and she would pop the TARDIS right back to what she was almost sure was 1953 or thereabouts, in possibly Kansas or Oklahoma. Somewhere flat, certainly. Right now, they were in possession of the item the Grignorns had been hunting. The Doctor could think of only one place to take it.
"You're sure about this?" Cleo asked, fingering the pretty stone she'd dug up with her plough. "We can't just keep it?"
"No. That's one of the most powerful artefacts of the ancient Dostrani culture, and worse, it's cursed. Now that you've found it, everyone will be coming to find you."
"And we can't throw it away?"
"No. If we chuck it into the nearest star, it will only get cross. We have to store it in the safest vault in this part of the galaxy."
The Doctor was less clear about this. She couldn't merely make a deposit. Were the bank to know the item was there, they would keep a record, and the invaders would come. There was no other choice but to break into the vault and place it secretly within the safe walls themselves.
Cleo asked, "Have you ever robbed a bank before?"
"We're not robbing it. And yes," the Doctor admitted. She was still processing her memories of her time with Clara.
They arrived without fanfare, and the psychic paper bought them quick entrance as inspectors from an insurance firm. ("Really? Space insurance? Do you have space insurance on your box?" "They won't let me insure the TARDIS. Something about not including a 'rewriting the universe' rider on the original policy.") They were led through the corridors without so much as a glance. The Doctor enjoyed Cleo's observations of the bank, watching her nod politely at the many aliens surrounding them.
Perhaps she'd keep this one around for a while. Another trip wouldn't hurt.
The Doctor reached into her pocket and activated her screwdriver. An alarm sounded. "Oh dear," said their escort. "If you'll excuse me, I need you to wait right here."
"There's not something wrong, is there?" the Doctor asked in her most imperious voice, just like the insurers had asked her about violating the 'no visiting yourself in the past or future' clause on her policy.
"No, no," said the escort quickly. "There's something I … Look, just wait here, please!" He scuttled away past Cleo.
"Come on," said the Doctor. They hurried towards the inner vaults. They were going to get away with this. Easy. She hurried to the door holding the inner locked vaults, and pulled out her screwdriver to open it, when she heard voices inside.
"You're not doing it right," said an exasperated voice she knew too well. She'd kept this same voice locked in a vault of her own, visiting her, taking care of her for decades, trying to rehabilitate her. The Doctor would know that voice in a thousand years, ten thousand years. Her old adversary was here robbing the bank, which meant they hadn't reconciled yet. Her hearts fell.
Another voice said, "I've robbed more banks than you have. Trust me."
Cleo whispered loudly, "What's going on, Doctor?"
She could turn and walk away. She could risk the curse and drop the stone into the nearest black hole, or pop it at the end of time with Me for safe keeping. Or she could open this door.
"Cleo, stay out here."
"Do you want the rock?"
"No, keep it in your pocket." She zapped the door lock, and opened it. Missy glared at her. River didn't bother to look before pointing her gun at the Doctor's head while she kept her own focus on the lock.
"You have two seconds to leave," River said. "Or my friend here will kill you."
The Doctor held up her hands, and waggled her screwdriver. "I should have expected the two of you to meet, and thinking back, it shouldn't surprise me to find you robbing a bank together, but it didn't occur to me at all before now. Silly, I suppose."
Missy clapped her hands together. "Oh, you got the upgrade package, too!"
River turned her head from the lock and took in the Doctor's half-smile. "You changed your hair. I like it. Now bring that over here. We dropped my sonic trowel at the last job."
The Doctor dropped her hands and came closer. Missy immediately sidled up next to her, poking at her shoulders and picking at her hair, nodding to herself. "Blonde. I do like blonde."
The Doctor asked River, "When is this for you? I didn't bring my diary."
"Good," said Missy. "It's boring."
"I had Nardole fetch it for me once. I was bored and wanted something to read."
"So you've already been in the vault?"
She jerked her thumb at the Doctor. "I told you this one locked me up for fifty years, didn't I?"
River said, "You still haven't told me if you ever got out the handcuffs."
"Boring," Missy said again.
River said, "This is after the Singing Towers for you, then? Do you recall my slipping out to visit to the powder room?"
"Several times. I thought dinner was disagreeing with you."
River grinned. "Excellent. Then this is the first time." The Doctor had been taller than River in her previous forms. Now as River turned back to her work, curly hair was in her nose. Fascinating. She ought to argue about this more, and not merely hand over her sonic screwdriver to one of the two most maddening, intoxicating women she'd ever known. The other had turned her attention to the Doctor's clothing, clucking her tongue in disapproval.
"You ought to go back to the suits and trainers with this body. I could see you in a bowtie. Don't bring back the celery or that ridiculous rainbow get-up, mind you." She walked around the Doctor, deep in thought. "That black jacket you had, now that would look marvelous."
"Thank you, Goth Mary Poppins. I'll take your advice under consideration."
"Excuse me?" The three of them turned to see Cleo in the doorway. "You were taking a while, and I think the guards are coming back."
Missy rolled her eyes. "You've picked up another one? A hoarder is what you are. They'll find you one day, dead as a post, with dozens of humans just roaming around the TARDIS waiting to be fed."
Cleo said, "Sorry, what?"
"It's fine, Cleo." The Doctor gestured to River. "This is Professor River Song. She's … " She hesitated. Cleo was from possibly 1953 possibly Kansas. She might not be ready for the intricacies of regeneration marital logistics.
"The wife," River said, extending her hand warmly.
"Oh. And you are?" she asked Missy.
"The Mistress." She said it with a glint of the old Master, delighting in the Doctor's discomfort.
"Right," Cleo said without blinking. "Are they helping us get into the vault?"
"Sort of," said the Doctor. She sighed. "Why are the two of you here? I've been afraid to ask."
River finished adjusting the screwdriver. With a spark, the lock to the vault popped open. She threw open the vault door dramatically. "To take this!"
The Doctor stared inside. So did Missy and Cleo. River frowned. She kicked the vault door. "It should be here."
"What should?" the Doctor asked.
Missy said, "The Jade Heartstone of the Dostrani. The texts are very clear that it's in this bank at this vault at this time. At least according to River."
Oh. Of course. The Doctor was still new with this face. She hoped she was keeping it still.
River said, "I researched this thoroughly. The Heartstone was here, and it was stolen." She smiled widely.
The headache was coming back. "You think you're the ones to steal it?"
"It makes perfect sense, sweetie. It's never seen again, therefore it was stolen by parties who didn't use it for anything terrible. The bank vault wasn't secure enough. Logic suggests the Heartstone will be stolen by us."
There was an argument to be made against River's use of the word 'logic,' but it charmed her to consider that the pair were attempting to commit this particular crime out of altruism.
"What records?" Cleo asked, craning her neck to see the empty vault.
Missy said, "The bank has an automated tracking system. The moment something goes in, it's logged in the system."
Cleo frowned. "Oh. Doctor, does that mean we can't use it then?"
"Use it for what?" Missy asked. Cleo wasn't blonde, the Doctor thought quickly, but that didn't mean the growing curiosity in her oldest friend's eyes wouldn't make her the center of Missy's mercurial attention very soon.
"Nothing," the Doctor said, but Cleo had already pulled the Heartstone from her pocket.
River's eyes lit up. "Perfect! Toss it into the vault, will you? It can register with the bank, then we can all be on our way."
The Doctor said, "We came here to stow it securely away."
River said, "And it won't work. The bank will know it's here. We do. Go on. What did you say your name was, dear?"
"Pop it in, Cleo."
"Don't," the Doctor said, but she'd already given the artefact a rather good toss square into the middle of the vault. The box hummed, documenting the new acquisition.
"See?" said River. "Simple."
Missy said, "Now we take it and get away from this place. I'm thinking somewhere with a beach and those funny little drinks with umbrellas." She reached in and snatched up the Heartstone. The Doctor's hearts lurched, wondering if she was about to seize power, but no, she simply dropped it into a pocket of her skirt before taking the Doctor's arm. "Come on."
Then the alarm sounded. Cleo looked out the door, which she'd left ajar behind her. "There are those guards."
The Doctor saw them pounding towards them, and saw another stretch of corridor running the other way. With Missy still on her arm, she grabbed River's hand. "Time to run."
It wasn't much of a beach, and their drinks lacked umbrellas. Still, the Doctor thought, watching Cleo swim in the shallow end of the lake by her farm, things weren't all bad. The TARDIS had provided them with swimwear appropriate to the time. Well, the Doctor's suit was appropriate, and Missy's suit was more or less appropriate. River had talked the TARDIS into a string bikini instead, which was very distracting.
"You're sure it's safe?" Missy asked, taking a sip of her drink. Cleo had made them tea, but she'd served it to them cold. The Doctor had been too polite to complain, of course.
"As safe as houses," River said, leaning back to let the sun warm her face and the expanse of her bosom not covered by her bikini.
"Where did you put it?"
"Yes, but where?"
The Doctor shared a glance with River. She was almost certain River had popped the Heartstone into a pocket dimension inside the TARDIS right next to her liquor cabinet. She was almost certain that, if they did tell Missy, in a century or two the Master would steal it and try to take over some planet or another. She'd changed, but she was hardly a different person. River would have researched her, too.
"Away," River repeated, closing her eyes. After a moment, her breath deepened as she took a nap.
"I can't believe you actually married her. You almost never marry them."
"It was a strange situation," the Doctor said, watching her wife sleep. "Existence was ending. Again."
Missy lay back and closed her own eyes. "We could have got married, you know."
"I thought we did that one time. There were Daleks. You were a skeleton. No, wait, that was a different time."
"Mmm," she said, a smile crinkling her mouth. "Those were two different times, and I don't think we did. How long are we staying here, then?"
"Not long. I just came back to drop off Cleo."
"That was yesterday. We're still here, not that I'm complaining."
Cleo had invited them to stay for supper, and then it was late and she'd set up her spare room for her three guests without even a word. The Doctor wasn't always the best with human faces. Nevertheless she was sure Cleo would be offended if they declined.
The bed had been springy, and the Doctor had had a moment of doubt or three. It had taken her ages to figure out things with River back in the day, and she had mostly figured out things with Missy by the end of their last time together. Both of them at the same time while in her new body? That had been a challenge, although not a unique situation for River. She'd happily taken charge and told them both what to do with which bit for the most fun, demonstrating when necessary.
Come to that, it was no wonder River needed a nap now. Missy was nodding off. The Doctor yawned. After a rest, they ought to board the TARDIS and see about getting River back to her dinner date. Eventually. After they tried that one fun thing again, oh, and that other fun thing. Thinking back, everything River had suggested had been fun, and they'd improvised a bit from there, which had been even more fun. Repeating the experiment was worth taking some time to explore. They might have to delay their return to the Singing Towers by several days. Possibly weeks. Good thing they had a time machine.
She yawned again.
"We'll go soon," she said, but Missy was already asleep.