She was falling, falling -
No; she was running. Her head whipped around, blonde hair flying, and the Doctor looked with wide, startled eyes at surroundings entirely unfamiliar.
She had lost time, somewhere. Or had she?
Lost time. Lost time. That rang a bell. Cloister bell. Oh! The TARDIS; she'd lost the TARDIS. Hadn't she?
She was running. Presumably she had a reason, but she couldn't see it now. She stopped, hesitant, ready to sprint away the moment something untoward happened.
Nothing did. She looked around a night-time city street, almost deserted. The streetlights seemed to be late 21st century Earth.
What was she doing here? Why had she been she running?
She'd regenerated; she remembered that now. She'd fallen. She'd been falling from the TARDIS, last she remembered, before the running began. Had she landed, then? Been caught? Was that what she'd been running from - a captor?
She turned around, and around again. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Her head started spinning on its own, on the inside. Or was it the world that was spinning around her? The planet was spinning, of course, with her on it - spinning on its axis, spinning around its star. No wonder she was dizzy. Right?
The Doctor swayed, unsteady. A moment later her knees gave out, and she fell to the pavement, already sound asleep.
"That was exciting, wasn't it?" said a familiar voice.
- and the Doctor's back hit, not the hard ground, but the softness of a mattress.
The Doctor blinked her eyes open, sat up abruptly. She dug her fingers into the sheets for balance, but the dizziness she had expected - why? why had she expected it? - wasn't there. She rubbed grit from her eyes as she cleared her throat, and then hunched over, coughing out residual regeneration energy.
Right. Regeneration. She had a new body, again. The Doctor shrugged, then shrugged again, several times, testing the feel of it. Feels like a body. Mine.
When she finally looked up, Missy was still standing there watching, hands on her hips, amused. She looked almost exactly as she had the last time the Doctor had seen her, on a Mondasian colony ship, side by side with her past self.
The Doctor had fallen, and she'd been caught by the Master. Was that why she'd been running?
No ropes, though, this time. No handcuffs. No other restraints. And Missy wasn't holding a weapon, or her umbrella, or any other device. Of course, that didn't mean much.
Let's start slowly. "How'd I get here?"
"You fell," Missy said blandly.
"What, right into your arms?" Sarcastically.
Missy's lips stretched into a smile, and her eyes were gleaming. "You did."
The Doctor blinked. "How?" Sceptically. Just a bit worried about what Missy might have done. "Too much coincidence, Missy. How'd you do it?"
Missy laughed into her face. "Like this," she said, and with a flourish, pulled something from a pocket, waving it in front of the Doctor's face.
The Doctor closed her hand around Missy's wrist to get a decent look. Psychic paper; it was a message on psychic paper, and it read:
She squinted in confusion, tilted her head, and the message rearranged itself into Gallifreyan script. The meaningless random string of symbols turned into a set of space-time coordinates.
Oh. The TARDIS's last coordinates, before the Doctor had fallen out of her doors.
"You clearly needed my help," Missy said drily. "I came for you. What, no thanks for your saviour?"
"I didn't send this," the Doctor denied, something belligerent creeping into her voice.
She hadn't called Missy when she fell - she hadn't had time. And she wouldn't have called Missy, anyway. Last the Doctor had seen her, Missy had left him behind - left him to die on that Mondasian colony ship.
Besides, as if the Doctor would ever call the Master for help. There were other people she could call, if she needed to. For a stunt like this, River or Jack were the obvious candidates. Not Missy.
"Yet," Missy snapped, eyes narrowing. She snatched her wrist from the Doctor's hand and stuffed the psychic paper back into a pocket in her skirts, looking righteously offended.
No. No, no, no - a causality loop, with the Master? That didn't sound like a good thing at all.
"How'd you get here?" the Doctor demanded, pushing the possibility aside. "Where's other-you - left him behind, too?"
But rather than taking the bait, Missy's mouth curved itself into a sharp-edged smirk. "Can't tell you," she said, then amended, "Won't."
Typical. "I don't suppose you want to tell me where the TARDIS is, either?"
"Haven't the foggiest."
"So, what's the plan?" Diffidently.
Missy actually threw her hands in the air. "Not everything has to be a cunning plan. You're the one who called, Doctor."
The Doctor knew better than to contemplate the possibility, had always known better. Yet all the same, hope had insinuated itself into her hearts, and she couldn't help it.
Missy had turned her back on her. Could it be that she'd come back, after all? Even if only to score a point against the Doctor, answering a call not yet made.
"How long did you wait?" It was a challenge, but also a genuine question. For a time traveller, there was always later and rarely too late, and the Doctor knew that better than most. Missy might have changed her mind a dozen times before she actually decided to come.
Missy mimed an exaggerated pout. "Who says I waited at all?" She sat down on the mattress next to the Doctor, staring into her face in returned challenge. "Not sure it was worth it, though. You were out like a light, and then you woke up and started running. You do your regenerations very oddly, Doctor."
The Doctor snorted a laugh. "I've been told that before." But her thoughts were racing. Racing, racing ... Right; yes, she'd been running. Missy had confirmed it, even. How did that fit together? She'd woken up being dumped onto this mattress - "Wait, did you carry me in here?"
Missy snorted. "Well, you did run out, Doctor. And then fell over in the middle of a street. What was I supposed to do, let you lie there?"
Yes. You're the Master - yes, of course, at the very least.
Let her lie there, or worse. It would have been worse, for most of the Master's regenerations.
With trepidation, the Doctor realised that while she'd been busy not thinking about it, something in her subconscious had apparently decided to contemplate the possibility that this was only what it seemed, after all.
Of course, the opposite possibility was always there, with the Master. But this - the Master helping her, with no ulterior motive ... The last time something like this might have seemed plausible, they'd still been friends and lovers and only that, with no bad blood, no malice in the mix.
A very long time ago. The Doctor's hearts ached.
Meanwhile, Missy was looking at her haughtily. "Nothing to say? I suppose you're still all addled from your regeneration. Shouldn't have held it off so long, dear."
The Doctor grimaced. Admit it, or not? "I wasn't holding it off."
Missy's eyebrows rose high, and higher. "Weren't you?"
The Doctor found herself hunching. She aimed a glare in Missy's general direction. "Don't you dare say a thing."
Missy's mouth, already opening out of sheer contrariness, fell shut as she caught on. The Doctor might not have meant to regenerate, but it was the Master who actually had refused to, once. Clearly she remembered. But then Missy's eyes turned shrewd. "I had a plan, you know."
"So did I," the Doctor snapped. "I was planning on dying." Missy's look said it all. The Doctor scowled. "Yes, well, clearly I changed my mind."
"And fell out of your TARDIS." Drily.
"You caught me." You came for me. The thought had too much doubt in it still, but an undertone of something akin to wonder had crept in anyway, despite the Doctor's best defences. She was glad it hadn't yet crept into her voice. "Thank you," she said out loud, steadily, and impulsively reached out, pulling Missy into a hug.
Oh. A new impulse for a new body. Apparently she was a hugger now. Or maybe only with Missy; who knew? No doubt she'd find out soon enough.
Missy, unsurprisingly, disentangled herself immediately. She examined the Doctor's face with a very dubious expression, a gleam growing in her eye. She leaned forward, all challenge, and planted a kiss on the Doctor's mouth.
The Doctor might have expected that: invasion of personal space against invasion; one dangerous intimacy traded for another; one more familiar move in the endless duel between them.
Might have, had it just been lips on lips. But Missy's mouth was hard against her, lips and teeth pulling on lips, Missy's tongue pushing into the Doctor's mouth for a quick, possessive sweep. And then, a second later, Missy was already sitting back again, hands primly in her lap, a cat-swallowing-the-canary smile on her face, metaphorical feathers dangling from her mouth.
Inadvertently, the Doctor's tongue swept over her lips, chasing Missy's taste. Missy's smile grew as she saw it.
"You liked that, did you?" Missy said, every inch of her exuding danger as she leaned forward, peering into the Doctor's face. "So did I, Doctor. Should I take advantage of you in all your post-regeneration confusion?"
The Doctor managed a scowl. "Not that confused." Actually, she wasn't confused at all, right now. Which was itself a bit disconcerting, truth be told.
But this, too, was suddenly possible, as something other than a move in a duel. Or perhaps - this being them, after all - as a move in a different, less lethal duel instead.
Just for fun. What a thought.
"You were a minute ago."
"Nice of you to take notice," the Doctor said drily. "Back to the kissing now, please. I think you were on to something there. Rare for you, you know? You should work on that."
Missy's eyes widened in surprise - clearly she hadn't expected the Doctor to take her challenge, not like this. Her upper lip pulled up just a bit. "Should I now," she breathed, and her hand snaked back around the Doctor's neck.
"You did say something about coming for me."
Missy's snort was a puff of air against the Doctor's face.
"Puns, Doctor?" Missy moved to straddle her legs, hands holding the Doctor's face in place, inches from hers. The Doctor's arms went around her back, almost entirely on reflex. "I might have come, but you? You fell for me, dear."
The Doctor squeezed her eyes shut. Something was rushing in her ears, her chest was constricting, and her throat was threatening to close up. "Yes," she managed. "A long time ago."
In her arms, Missy stilled. Not the response she'd expected, again. The Doctor found a smile growing out of the aching tightness in her chest.
"Yes?" There was a definite edge in Missy's voice. Her breath whispered against the Doctor's skin as she spoke. "I like it when you fall."
In all senses of the word, no doubt. The Doctor forced down a shiver. He'd died from a fall, once. In a different sense, he'd fallen to the Cybermen on the Mondasian Ship. The Master had caused one, and walked away from the other.
If the Master, now, had found her falling and had caught her, not to keep her captive, but to keep her safe - that didn't, couldn't, negate everything else.
And yet, in turn, everything else made this no less real, if it was. No less a possibility, now - one the Doctor had given up on so long ago, it must have been during her very first incarnation. Something very old, regained.
So, what to do with this now? She couldn't know how much Missy had truly changed. But Missy had heard her call, had caught her, and hadn't tried anything nefarious. Yet.
For a moment, she almost panicked. What if this was real? What then? She had no idea - she'd never had any idea.
The Doctor had called, and the Master had come. The Doctor had asked for help, and the Master had given it. Which of those circumstances was more unlikely? And which of the two of them should refuse what might come of it?
In for a penny, in for a pound -
"I like it when you come for me," the Doctor retorted, with her best blithe unconcern. Also in every sense of the word.
A brief twitch ran through Missy's body, a shudder. She said nothing, but neither did she move away. Nor did she offer the threat that was no doubt hovering on her tongue, just as it was hovering at the back of the Doctor's head. Inevitably so, after all this time.
But if there was any possibility of more -
What to do? She didn't know. One step at a time. What next? Oh, of course.
"I need to find the TARDIS," the Doctor whispered against Missy's lips. "Help me find her?"
Missy said nothing for several long seconds, but the Doctor could feel tension slowly bleed out of her body. "If you insist, Doctor."
"I do," she said, and tilted her head a little, moving in to kiss Missy again.