Chapter 1: Karra
Tear the Sky Apart
Do you bleed? she had said. I can hurt you if you bleed.
She hadn’t known then, neither of them had known the answer to that question, she remembers the light in that girl’s eyes, remembers the intent in it, as murderous as she was.
“She ran on to my knife,” she says, but it sickens her and she tastes the blood in her mouth herself. She wonders at herself for even bothering to make excuses; there was a time she would have been proud of each kill. Do you bleed? she said, and they had just laughed, but after all she does, she does bleed, she would never have guessed it could take so long to find out.
It was just a scratch, not even, a pinprick perhaps. She is not even sure how it happened but she steps out of the shower and sees red on the towel, sees the blood welling on her finger in a bright beautiful bead. After the music, somewhere after the last set of tears, going to the shower in the first place to wash them away, pretend they never were, thinking, I can go back from here, I can, I don’t have to go on – somehow it’s become harder and harder to lie to herself. So there she is, crying in the shower, thinking make it stop make it stop I don’t want to remember, I don’t want to care. She’s laughing at the same time, wanting him to hear her, not wanting him to hear her, wondering if he can hear her laugh, hear her cry inside his head, they’ve been more open in these past few weeks and days than ever and it’s harder, now they’ve started, to hold anything back. She thinks this must be the closest to crazy I’ve ever been – isn’t there a song like that? She hears herself giggle and it frightens her.
She had just got herself silent and somewhere towards calm when she got out of the shower and the blood stained the towel from a prick she never even felt – something sharp on this stupid ship no doubt, there’s not a room of it works properly or, more the point, likes her or wants her on board. Do you bleed?
She hears the question as she looks at that bright red spot and she remembers the voice, the moment, the death – her name was Karra, she remembers now. I can hunt in the dark she said –and the smell of the blood on the wind she said, oh yes, she remembers. How superior she had been, how infernally arrogant, she remembers like it was yesterday; you can’t kill me, she had said and nobody could, not then. Oh the blood is so red, so bright, so pretty! She watches it run down her finger to rust in her palm. No wonder she - Karra - could hunt in the dark, with the smell so strong and the senses so fine – she remembers, she remembers having those senses herself, feeling so frightfully superior, so controlled, so damned masterful - because she could control it so well, she could hold it back, because her will was stronger than all these mere peasants, her mind so sharp. So sharp she never even thought she could cut herself.
But it was still there – the smell of the blood on the wind, on the knife, the thrill and the call of the hunt and – she did! She attacked me first! The defense rises in her with a wild surge, almost jubilant but it dies back down hopeless and hollow like a falcon cut down in mid dive (does it have to still hurt if she attacked me first?) She remembers; feeling the drumbeat of the earth, the call to the hunt, the cry in her own blood, she remembers smelling the girl’s tears, the one Karra called Sister, remembers her fury, how it tasted, how she savored it. Tears and rage from one of the Doctor’s own pets. The control slipping because it was so strong, this will to hunt and kill, she could have been next, that girl- she was full of tasty fire; she could have torn her to bloody pieces and played in the flame. How she held out so long she really cannot tell, killing was an instinct, a way of life for her already , back then she had thought that made her better than the feline savages but she knows differently now. We could have been friends, she thinks, all those feelings we shared we could, we really could, and it’s this thought that topples her, no less because friendship and could-have-beens have been on her mind so much lately and she’s doing it again and hating it, crying in the bathroom until it shakes her.
Run with me sister – and it was never her, she was never anyone’s sister; there’s only been one constant companion, the shadow running beside her all these years, the one she imagines, the green girl she sees out of the corner of her eye. But she can imagine another way, by all the stars she never saw she can imagine it. She had a friend she ran with once, after all, and in the jumble of her mind she hears herself think I need you, help me, I need you now and she’s crying from deep down now, gut wrenching sobs that twist her insides until she feels like she’s going to be sick and she can hear her own blood rushing in her ears, remember the wind on her face and the wild feverish thrill of the hunt, remembers it overtaking her in the end, burning up from it, thinking she didn’t deserve it and she want to close her ears to the sound of the wind and stop her nose from the smell of the blood and she barely hears the knock on the door it seems so far away and then he’s there, he is there, enfolding her in his limbs like he always could, holding her close but not too tight because she cannot stop moving. She can hear his voice and though the words don’t really matter I’m here, Missy, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here – they get louder with repetition, calling her back to the here and now and he’s stroking her- no she realizes – drying her when she’s still damp from the shower and she can see herself now as the mess that he must always see and she’s angry suddenly that he can see her like this and she wrenches away- but not all the way away because she doesn’t want to be far from him and she’s disgusted with herself for her neediness but at the same time she wants him to stroke her like that again. She’s staring at her hand curled out and tense in front of her and when she can speak it’s only anger that lets her-
“What about this?” she says, her voice dragging and rough – “Is this still good? Is this what you want?”
For a moment she feels like she hates him and she can see in his eyes that he knows it and accepts it, feels sorry even, as though any of it was his fault. She wishes it was, wishes she could blame him. He can’t answer, she realizes she does not expect him to and it shocks her when he does, when he gives her her own words back, the echo he could not quite give her before –
“I just want my friend back.”
She turns her head, stares at him, eyes full and seeing and she thinks so loud - I heard it, I heard the music under the barrow, the music of the universe and hearing is seeing is feeling is remembering and oh god, this is why I shut it all out, because I couldn’t take it all at once, not without you.
I know. He thinks, reaching to her mind with his mind because it’s easier, has become easier over this past millennia than speaking – I’m sorry.
“Tell me,” he says, and he stands and he helps her to her feet and she’s knows he’s saying it out loud because she needs to, and she can and will and she pushes her hair back from her face, her hands steadying, her heartbeats calming and the sickness subsiding; and she nods.
“Her name was Karra,” she says.
Chapter 2: The Room
Later, when she’s dressed, they sit facing each other in one of the many rooms on the TARDIS – this one is perhaps the most comfortable, the softest, where they’ve often come to occupy the two soft armchairs and drink tea.
“Kassia,” she says – “Galleia. Vanessa – you knew her, I think.”
The Doctor frowns. She cannot help but be interested to feel that he is guilty himself that he does not remember.
“She was somebody’s Aunt I think,” Missy shrugs. “TCE in a broken down car.”
“Ohhhh,” he remembers. “No, I didn’t know her. I had a friend who did. Loud. Australian.”
“I remember – tried to kill me once. Ohhh – guess that was why.”
“No, not really, you were trying to kill me at the time.”
“I was not. That was just for fun.”
“Going fantastically off – topic.”
Yeah” she shrugs – “Why did you come?”
“Before – in the shower.” She looks down, already retreating from the memory, from her weakness, from her need, putting it away as something someone else did. She’s good at this – “How did you know?”
“You called me,” he says; he does not say you asked me to help you because he knows better. She remembers, remembers how hard her brain had screamed, forgetting for a moment that he would always hear her. She swallows down hard on the foul taste of neediness.
“Oh,” she says, hands twisting – “Yeah – but –” I needed you before, she thinks, but thinks just as quickly that just because she had done did not mean she had allowed herself to think it.
“I just want to help.”
“Yes.” She glares at him – “It’s really all you’ve ever wanted isn’t it? To fix me.” Her lips curl in a sneer around the words that he does not dare rise to. He looks at her for a long moment, mind closed to her, and she does not know how he got so good at doing that but she hates it.
“I’m sorry,” he says and she feels it, a wave of sorry flooding from him and she wonders for the first time if he only ever closed his thoughts to her so she would not be dragged under by these waves of guilt, and god, she thinks, does he feel this all the time?
“Yes,” he says – “Here, how about this? You give me these names, good, and I’ll tell you the names of all the ones I failed to save.” He looks appallingly vulnerable as he meets her eye and she’s shocked by the look in his eyes, his own neediness.
“You’d do that?”
She pulls back a sniff, afraid she might cry again, and nods rapidly, tensely –
He nods –
“Adric,” he says. “Gwyneth, Harriet Jones, Adelaide Brook, Lynda with a Y –”
“Alright, calm down there,” Missy smiles just a little, surprised to feel the corners of her lips turn up. “It’s not a competition, you know”. He stares at her a beat and then smiles back widely, something very like relief spreading through both of them. She can suddenly feel him wanting to kiss her and this is a relief too because he hasn’t, not since the attic, and she had been fretting it around in her head more than she wanted to have been.
“Really,” she arches an eyebrow and pretends to disapprove – “I’m not sure now is the moment, are you?” but she smiles, and he – quite impulsively this time – takes her hand in his where it lies in her lap and it delights her with almost timorous happiness.
The attic. It flashes between them when he looks at her now, and she finds herself nodding because yes, It’s alright, now that she’s had time to think about it. There’s only one thing that still troubles her and that’s the carving, the jade Hecate carving; it had rolled from her hand when he pushed her up against the table –she can picture it now, lying in some dark shadowy corner of that terrible room, that nightmare-scape of shadows and corners and things. She had enjoyed horrors, atrocities, nightmares, all manner of terrible things before she found that room.
She remembers she had been walking round the TARDIS, just exploring, really, whilst he was off on some tiresome little adventure with his shiny new friend, (and yes he’d old her now a hundred times that word didn’t mean on Earth what it meant to them, didn’t matter, she still hated it – she was trying not to). And it was strange, but actually she really had been quite enjoying herself simply exploring, looking at things, indulging her curiosity in this ship she had never got on with and which, after all, she supposed, did have reason enough to hate her. Still, there was all the nostalgia of the bits she remembered – the cloister room, the kitchen – re-vamped but still essentially what it had always been, the room they were sat in now with those same ancient armchairs, the main bedroom – she knew them all with a curious fondness and had found herself content, surprisingly so, in simply revisiting, looking, smelling and gently touching things without changing them. It was different – it was – pleasant.
Then she had started on the ship’s stranger and more frightening areas. All the strange hidden spaces behind the controls, all the smelly oily corners she’d been wriggling herself into recently to work on maintenance (they’d fucked in at least one of those whilst she was still covered with oil and grease from ship parts, which frankly on a TARDIS should never have contained rank old fashioned engine grease of all things to begin with.) She had found the winding labyrinthine corridor behind a door that never used to have been there, and followed it down to the ship’s basements. There were still the five of them; she went down a couple of levels on the horse she found wandering around down there. In the very lowest was a lake. She rolled her eyes and headed back up. This time she had decided to see how far in an upwards direction she could travel, going through increasingly darker and dustier wardrobe and supply rooms until a door in a bedroom covered in dust sheets had led her into the attic.
She heard what was in there before she saw it, reaching in the dark for the cord to the one swinging overhead bulb. In the dark she heard the screaming, the whispering, the whimpering and pleading. She heard scratching and scrabbling and thumping, the sounds of things scraping against glass and wood and metal, things desperate for ways out of their prisons. She almost hadn’t wanted to pull the switch; her hand had tugged on the cord anyway.
The light sent hundreds of scuttling things running for the corners, but the spiders were the most pleasant thing in the place. A babble of muted voices assailed her ears and mind from all the dusty boxes and urns, balls and chests all placed quite clearly with terrible care around the shelves and tables that filled the attic, until a far wall she could only barely see. Let us out! They screamed the loudest – so small and so dark – it’s so dark – it so – hate it – trapped – so squashed – centuries it’s been centuries – let us out – crushed – gasping – help us help us help us somebody – Doctor please, we’re sorry – let us out Doctor – we won’t – we’re sorry – we never- small – it’s so small – been so long – why? I don’t remember what I did – let us out Doctor please let us out – all the voices weeping and shrieking and howling through their prisons; there was a part of her that could not bear it. There was a part of her that thrilled to the screaming, that propelled her feet forward and she walked between them, touching the lid of a gold and ebony inlaid box, a plain wooden casket with the sound of frantic wings beating inside, statues and icons that look cursed- all of these objects looked cursed, things that should never be touched – something that might once have been a Fabergé egg, with a scratching sound like tiny claws inside. She ran her fingers over the surface of a smooth crystal ball, peering at the faces cramming the glass –
“Huh” she said, out loud – “Carrionites.”
She picked up a delicate blue musical box on the next table and for half a second she had thought about opening it – just to see. Oh she thought – the time I could have had, the things I could have let out here! For far too long a moment it tickled her as a simply irrepressible possibility – one she would never have passed up a thousand years ago, or a hundred, or a year. She had walked on through the disturbingly organized jumble of things - a chair, a shelf full of dolls, a wedding dress, a stack of books, a jewelry box, with lockets, rings and amulets all spilling out – oooh, she thought, running her fingers lightly through the gemstones- pretty. On another table, covered with statues and carvings, she picked up the small carved head of Hecate and turned it around between her fingers. A jade talisman, about two thousand years old by the standards of where they are now in time and place, It disturbed her somehow, and she frowned at it, trying to work out why. It’s the colour she supposed; she had always hated green, especially that shade. She was still holding it lightly when she saw the mirror, straight ahead of her in front of a collection of stacked wrapped paintings. A corner of the heavy fabric had fallen away enough for her to see something – someone? Flickering behind the glass. She reached to pull back the drape when –
She had turned round quickly, guiltily, ashamed of herself for being afraid, not of the mirror, not that, but of how close he was behind her, so close she cannot help but step away. She supposed she shouldn’t be ashamed; after all, what could be more terrifying than the thing that had trapped all these things, assembled all these horrors? But there he was, quiet, looking like he was trying very hard to stay calm but looking at her like she’s a bomb that might go off. It occurred to her to wonder- and it’s not for the first time why he would ever be afraid of her.
“Why not?” she kept her voice light; so proud of herself, she kept it very light.
“You’ll encourage her.”
“Who’s in there?”
“Last of the Family of Blood. Missy I’m serious, do not touch anything, do not open anything, do not try anything on, hold the dolls, listen to the music box – just don’t –”
“Oh I wasn’t going to,” she shrugged, but then grinned from ear to ear – “Except, of course, now you’ve said that, I really, really want to.”
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“You said I was free to go around the whole ship. What’s the matter, Doctor? Dare I say it, but I think you look scared.”
“Not here. I’d forgotten about here. And – Missy?”
“Hmm?” she smiled sweetly, it died in an instant –
“So do you.”
She was, she couldn’t lie, she could hear her own heartbeats and she was sure he must hear it too. She had rarely been more afraid of him than now, knowing what she knows, seeing what she had just seen, and she was not sure what was stronger- the tight pull of terror in her chest or the pulsing ache between her legs. She stared at him unblinking, until he finally looked away.
“So,” she said. “I’m surprised you never tried to lock me up in here. I’d think I’d be a worthy addition to your little – collection.”
“Oh -’ he said, and his eyes were alight with that terrible flame that showed her just how he managed to do all of this, showed her who he is, who he could be, and he grinned and for a moment she saw herself caught between those teeth, savaged and locked up here with all the screaming things forever – “You would be. My very greatest conquest.”
Her nostrils flared, his lips thin, their eyes narrowed and neither backed down. He was terrified of her being there, of everything she could do, she was terrified the place existed, and of everything he has done. She wanted to run, but she wanted him to catch her; he wanted her to try, he wants to pin her down. Her lips pulled back from her teeth and she heard a growl, a soft real growl start to build in his throat before he was on her and she never even tried to run, never really wanted to. Half a step, half a push backwards and she was up against the table. It shouldn’t have been so shocking; they’ve done this everywhere, all over the vault, all over the ship, but her chest was racing this time, more than usual, carried on the crest of fear, her blood rushing with the voices all around them, their energy agitating the things seething in this place and making the shadows boil. For the first time she got, if only for a second, a flash of an idea that this is wrong, just enough to make her weak at the knees, so weak she actually slipped, and he caught her, lifting her up onto the table, pushing her skirts impatiently around her waist and never ever losing eye contact as though he was afraid she’d kill him if he did and maybe she would, before he killed her. That’s the point – or perhaps a moment later, when he shoved roughly into her - that the talisman fell from her hand and she saw it, out of the corner of her eye, roll across the dusty wooden floor.
It was quick and savage; her screaming, him snarling, and there are a thousand screaming, growling things in here shrieking along with them, but those were muffled and these screams were new and she found herself thinking about the mirrors and the glass balls shattering from their screams and their combined ecstasies sending enough force ripping through this room to set it all loose and destroy the whole universe. She came a second time from that thought, and he looked up from her throat and saw the thought in her eyes and was with her again and again, the third time gentle, shaking, subsiding; clinging to each other in their fear of each other, of what they could do, capable, she thought, of such wonder and such horror.
“You’ve thought about this,” she said as she brushed down her skirts, sliding off the table and getting to her feet – “You’ve come up here and thought about this a lot”.
He knew better than to lie to her, at least for this time.
“We need to get out of here,” he said. He did not need to tell her twice; she didn’t turn her back on him as they went, but then they still neither of them turn their back on the other whenever they can help it.
“You can trust me,” he says now, the memory of it all passing between them again and leaving them here.
“What? Trust me I’m a Doctor? No sorry dear, don’t buy it.”
“Bruce,” she says, glaring at him. “Tremas. Lucy. Ailla –”
“Astrid,” he replies – “Jenny. Katarina. Peri –” There is one that always hovers on the tip of his tongue; it’s not quite the same as the others and now, more and more, he’s not sure if it counts – he wants to say it anyway, wants to offer it up and see if she accepts it for the apology it is. He’s on the verge of saying it – of daring – but she has one too, one that scratches oddly at the side of her memory and she intercepts him –
“Torvic,” she says.
He stares at her for a long time and the Koschei he was about to utter never escapes him.
Yeah....have basically been designing the Doctor's attic-of-horrors in my head ever since "The Shakespeare Code" first aired.... (that "nice little room on the TARDIS" line) just been waiting for something to do with it. This is what i done with it - but I did not mean for them to have sex in it - they did that themselves :-P
“What?” She stares back, frowning, unable to understand the way he stares at her; the wide eyed horror and naked fear, not of what she said but of what – she reads it from him before he can lock it back – of what he has to tell her. In the glimpse before he snaps back, she catches a lot more than that, too –
Oh god he thinks, and she hears it all at once in a second’s outpouring, a great messy flood – how do I tell her? Can I tell her at all? How will she take it? Will she take it? Should she? Everything we’ve built, how far we’ve come, I stand more chance now than ever, with her because she could – this Master – she could hear me – but I can’t I can’t - even she won’t she shouldn’t even – but I can’t – I can’t keep doing this, I’ve made her carry this so long when it was never theirs to carry – but she’ll never speak to me again – well why should she? What if it was the other way round? Well, hasn’t that always been the question –
- And she hears the cold, cruel voice that still rings around the vault of his head, and she never really believed he was trapped, a prisoner like he said, just as much as he was, until this moment, hearing he echo of that icy scornful voice –
You should have been the Master and the Master should have been you –
And it frightens her all the more because she’s sure she recognizes it – like a voice she might have heard in a dream, something that has whispered in her ear on and off since she can remember -
“Rassilon’s rod! What is that?”
“I can’t.” He stares at her despairingly, as though even now she might let him off, as though he could still find an easy way out.
“I’m getting that. Tell me.”
He puts his head in his hands; she can almost feel how heavy it feels to him, rubs his fingers down his face, pulls his flying thoughts inwards, tightens them into one arrowhead aimed wildly either at her or on himself, he does not seem to know – if not now, then when?
“You didn’t kill Torvic,” he says, before he can think his way out of it, the confession rushing out like a dam breaking – “It never happened.”
She stares at him like he has gone mad.
“Yeah,” she nods. “Yeah I did. I mean, true, I don’t feel as bad about it as some of the others, god knows – I had reason for that one, but who knows, it was the first, wasn’t it? - maybe if I hadn’t started there I never would have carried on the way I –”
“Don’t,” he shudders – “Don’t.”
“Well, excuse me, but I thought this was honesty hour. You can’t just go changing the rules, you know.”
“It is,” he groans. Oh gods, it really is – “That’s why I’m telling you this now.”
“Look. Doctor. Really – I don’t know quite what you’re doing here but it’s alright – I’m working on this, coming to terms, all that jazz. It happened, that’s all. I remember. I bashed the kid’s head in with a rock. I remember how it felt. I remember how good the day before had been, I remember the cool of the water and the feel of the suns, I remember how furious I felt that he was hurting you, how done I was with that little shit, I couldn’t just sit by any more- so I killed the bastard. I remember you helping me drag him out the river, I remember watching him burn, your hand was in mine and frankly it was sweaty. It happened.” She shrugs. “It’s done. It’s okay.”
“It’s not,” he shakes his head. “Yes, it happened, almost like you said. But you didn’t kill Torvic because I did.”
She squints at him hard, too confused for words, and he sighs and looks down at his hands in his lap the entire time as he tells her. Tells her that she remembers it the wrong way round, tells her what happened that night, when he lay in bed, a frightened boy witnessing death for the first time. How she had tormented him and terrorized him and finally offered him that damned choice. He tells her what he chose and he does not once meet her eye though he can feel her watching him closely.
She reacts too quickly when he stops speaking, though they both know there’s more. She reacts, she thinks later, like a stupid human might –
“No,” she says, shaking her head, drawing back, leaning away from him as much as she can in her chair, stiff and defensive, wishing for armour –
“No, you wouldn’t do that.”
She hates the feel of the words coming from her, realising only when she voices disbelief that she does not feel it.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and it would be hard to judge who felt the stupidity of it the harder. She laughs, almost a giggle, clapping her hand over her mouth against the horrible sound of it.
“I don’t think –” she rises slowly, with every appearance of calm – “That you get to be. Do you?”
“I know I –” he looks up to see her moving steadily backwards, putting the armchair between her body and his.
“How long –” she swallows, her throat feels like it’s filled with fuzz – “How long have you known – ah –” she remembers suddenly that strange random moment, years and years ago no in the early centuries of incarceration when she had caught him looking at her with the most profound guilt and she had heard him thinking, though it had made no sense at the time –
“ - ever since Perfugium –” she nods - “Of course.”
Just at this moment, this seems worse to her than all the rest –
“Five regenerations,” she says. “Five regenerations – maybe six - over a thousand years you knew, you remembered and you –” she does not need to continue, she can see how sorry he is, feel it radiating out of him in waves, crunching down inside of him with teeth, she can feel how much it hurts him and is glad. She can see the way she smiles in his eyes, see the vicious malice of it, the pleasure she takes now in his suffering – it’s been so long since she felt that.
“You gave me that life,” she realizes – “On Perfugium. What did you do, make another deal with Death? Another cosy chat – you did what – offer to kill me yourself when it was over?”
She feels him wince at how easily she hits on it – knows me too well, he thinks.
“No,” she shakes her head, her lip twitching, hating him. “No I don’t know you. I know Death. I know how that little bitch works; don’t you think I should by now? I don’t know you at all.”
“I was never going to –”
“Kill me? Sure of that, are you? Wasn’t that much later you nearly smashed my head in with a skull. How little they change.”
“That’s not fair –”
“Not fair?” she can feel her insides churning, hates it, can feel her control land sliding away from her, shrieking without meaning to – “Not fair? Do you want to hear a world of not fair? Do you? Not fair is letting me is here all this time reeling off a list of names you should be taking the blame for. Not fair is letting me feel it, this hurt – all this time – for things that you should be suffering for. I’ll give you not fair sitting there all his time, stewing in your moral superiority at all the things you made me do, congratulating yourself on how you’ve finally made me better. Don’t you dare accuse me of unfairness when I –” she sways a little as it threatens to overwhelm her, knuckles gripping the armchair back for support – “I never got given a choice.” She can feel the tears rise and forces them down, walking backwards towards the door – “You made us both what we are then spent our whole life congratulating yourself on being better than me. So don’t you dare cry unfair to me.”
She stares at him, eyes burning; she thinks she’d bore holes through him if she could and the tears are streaming down his face and the satisfaction she feels is black as pitch. She takes a deep breath, thins her lips watching him cry.
“I’m sorry,” she says, almost spits, in bitterness. “But this is good.”
She closes the door quietly behind her.
For a moment she thinks, maybe, if she can stand very still indeed; if she can make certain that no part of her is in motion, even a twitch or a shake of a finger, she could maybe, just maybe, still the shaking fury inside her. She can hear her hearts beat as though they would like to smash together, thunder in her chest like they want to explode her ribs apart. She can taste bile in her throat and feel a churning sickness beneath the chest and in her head a screaming worse than all the shrieks that fill that nice little attic combined. For a moment, too long a moment, it almost feels as though the drums have returned, her head pounding with them, but it’s just her heartbeat, just the blood rushing in her ears. Just now she feels she might just kill anyone who came within stabbing distance.
Stillness does not work. There’s no real stillness to be had, not in the wake of this. Her head clatters with anger, hurt, betrayal – though isn’t that silly in a way when the betrayal was centuries ago? But then again, isn’t that worse? She can’t think about it now, not properly; she can’t seem to settle on any one thing to think about at once. For the briefest second she does not know where to go or what to do and then she does and it is so obvious. She starts to walk slowly and carefully with all the calm she does not feel. She has never, not in centuries of perfecting the art, held her head so high while feeling so low.
She should not have waited so long. She has not gone ten steps when the door opens behind her and the Doctor comes out. She does not turn or pause.
She does not speed up and she does not stop.
There’s panic in his voice, as though he knows where she’s going, knows what she intends, though she can hear that he doesn’t because for once his mind is thrown wide open and hers is the tightly locked room. How the tables have turned. How she would have loved the transformation not half an hour ago. But it’s changed now, everything she supposes must have changed and the state of everything she felt and thought about him before he made her his confession seems a world away, a length of time longer than the near millennia she spent in the vault.
She can hear from his voice that he’s begging, not ordering, and this at least gives her the faintest glimmer of satisfaction, just not enough for her to care, not enough for her to want – even to be able – to have anything to do with him just now. (Cut him off, throw him aside, remove him like a gangrenous limb, cut him out of the heart like a cancer – you can’t – I can – you can’t, can’t cut out a part of you that big, can’t ever untangle him without destroying yourself, you know it – shut up, watch me!)
She refuses to speed up and he overtakes her quickly, standing in her way to stop her, looking at her with desperate eyes that she stares straight through, grinding to a halt.
“Where are you going?”
“Get out of the way.”
She sees him visibly flinch at the knives in her voice at the difference in all she means by the order to how she meant it last time. He moves aside as though she has pushed him. She walks past without acknowledging him, out of the TARDIS, out of his office and into a daylight she has barely seen for a thousand years. There were times when she cared, more than cared; she has railed screamed and sobbed over the loss of elements, desperate for the feel of sun and wind and rain. It’s a warm day now with a light breeze. She does not feel the slightest sensation of any of it. He follows her helplessly, not even for a moment thinking of arguing her having left the TARDIS in the first place, trailing behind her all the way until he realizes where she’s going, and with this what she intends. But he does not make a move or try to stop her until she stops at the door to the vault.
“Don’t –” he says, reaching quickly for her arm; she moves so fast it’s a blur but he’s just as quick and the blow fails to connect by a hair’s breadth.
“Reach for my hand again –” she says calmly – “And I’ll cut yours off.” (Oh but it hurts, hurts her hurting him and she can feel it hurt him and that part is good but no it hurts her because she’s wanted this for so long, she’s been so desperate; pathetically, despicably desperate for him to hold her hand. She’s remembered, dreamed, imagined every flex and twitch of it, his palm in her palm, their fingers tangled, the pulse in his wrist against the pulse in her wrist, she will always, always think of the power in their joined hands, the flow of energy crackling in their steps as they ran together like this -) It’s not an idle threat and he flinches to feel how completely she means it.
He watches helplessly as her fingers work nimbly away at the controls, wondering how she knew, how long she had known, if she really had been telling the truth when she said she could have worked her way out of there any time she really wanted to.
“Oh a long time,” she says, almost but not quite pleasantly, adding very pleasantly – “You see. I really did want to be good. For you. Tell me something Theta.”
He intimacy of the name drop hurts him exactly as she means it to, and she rushes on before she can make herself stop because the question clamors too loudly at her hearts and through her head, threatening to spill in tears from her eyes or retch itself up from her guts – “Did you ever love me? Even at all?”
For a moment they stare at each other, her in terror that she’s finally dared to ask it at all and he in horror that she has forced it out into the open when he has nowhere to run and hide.
“No!” she snaps and she’s furious because her eyes are stinging and not quite dry either – “No you don’t. Run and hide. It’s all you’ve ever done. I was a fool to let you. I was a fool not to kill you every time I tried it, and I was the biggest fool of all to let you keep me like a pet in a room you got to leave every time you wanted to run away again. But you’ve never told me, never said it, not since – ” her chest feels like it might break for straining and she can’t. She takes a deep breath. “You see, what I’m wondering, Doctor, is how you possibly could even have cared, even thought of me to have made the choice you did.”
It’ a question, he can hear it, and one he cannot avoid answering.
“You know –” he pleads and she shakes her head and does not look at him and he knows with sinking hearts that he’s failed again, that she had given him this as a final chance and by deflecting instantly rather than answering he has lost it.
“I thought I did,” she says, wishing it had come out cuttingly rather than simply sadly, but she feels him wither beneath the reproach in her eyes and it is some miserable satisfaction at least before she turns away and locks the door behind her.
For a long time she stands, just a little inside the door, still as a statue, afraid he will try to follow. He can’t, not now; she’s re- configured the locking mechanism, locked herself well and truly in. Even when it was the other way round he never came in without asking – not that her answer necessarily mattered, he usually came in anyway – but at least he had always asked. She wonders how long he will wait there, just outside the door, and does not know if she wishes he would stay or go. She does not know how long it is but she finds herself relieved when he does go, feeling him retreat and then pulling her mind back so that he cannot reach out to her.
She moves slowly over to her bed for fear her knees will give out now that she cannot be seen to be weak. He is not watching her, feeling for her, she would know – so she sits down, head reeling, not sure what to think or feel. Fury yes, above all, rage and hurt and betrayal. But also understanding; final clarity of a kind she supposes she has never had. There’s a strange sharp glittering and steel feeling in her that she recognizes tentatively as moral superiority. It tastes strange to her and she is not sure she likes it or wants it; she wonders if this is a feeling he lives with, a weapon or a shield he could always wield, especially against her. She wonders how he dared. Most of all, she finds her own unanswered question eats away at her with cracked and gnawing teeth – did he ever love her, could he possibly, really, even for one moment? So many ideas and memories press at her that she cannot stay upright for the wave that crashes against her. She shakes against the force of it for a moment, and promptly falls asleep. It’s a skill she’s been honing ever since her near – execution, telling herself just to sleep and almost hypnotizing herself into doing it. It’s good. She needs it now.
When she sleeps the dream comes. She has been having it since she can remember, since the first regeneration - she’s sure of it. Anyway she was sure of it, once, when she thought she could trust her memories. It’s always the same; she’ll be dreaming of something else, something innocuous, she may not even be anywhere near the water, but all of a sudden she’s drowning. She falling through the water and it’s heavy and closing in on her and she’s panicking, her limbs flailing, kicking out but she’s pressed down and she can’t seem to squirm away from whatever it is keeping her under. Not even that far under, because she can see the sunbeams through the water and it looks more beautiful the more she cannot breathe and it seems to go on for a long time because it’s hard for a Time Lord to die like this and she can feel the river weeds reaching up to curl around her ankles like snakes and she can see the bubbles from her own gasping breaths rushing up above her and she’s panicking and thrashing and her chest hurts and she’s dying, she knows she’s dying and that thought panics her all the more and it’s at this point that she always wakes herself up, rather than dream of dying. It’s at this point that she surfaces, gasping, choking for breath she does not need, hearts racing as though the panic were real. Seconds of that dreadful sickening panic before she calms, scolds herself for being ridiculous and becomes herself again each time, dismissing the dream and the fear and the death as ridiculous.
This time it does not work. This time she drags at herself to wake and cannot save herself. This time she’s left a few seconds longer knowing, knowing for sure that any moment now is the moment when she dies and she feels heavy with the death and then to her utter shock it does not come. She is dragged up, the weight against her now pulling her out rather than pushing her down and there’s blood in her eyes, in her nose, in the water and it’s not hers and that’s wonderful – just for a moment it’s wonderful to know, to splutter and gulp the air and feel herself alive, chest on fire and so alive and she’s blinking in the sun and there’s blood in her eyes, splashing in the water and swearing in her ears – Kosch, Kosch help me, I think -I think I killed him –
She wakes up, no longer panicking. She knows the rest, just like she told it to him earlier. She is not sure she will ever panic like that again now that she remembers. She finds that she is honestly not sure if it is better or worse this way.
She gets up, gets out for the crumpled clothes she slept in, washes, dresses, all of it slowly, trying to clear her mind completely as she does, the better to put everything back in in a way that makes an order, in an order she can work through. She even makes herself eat something; after all the vault’s fridge is stocked for another hundred years. She should do that, she thinks; make him wait another hundred years, she wonders if he would. She knows he would – well not quite, she’s not sure what she knows anymore, but the suspects very much that he would, even if not just outside the door – he’s not, she can tell. She knows very well where he is, where he has taken himself to wallow in self-loathing, probably. Good, she thinks, he should- he belongs there; knowing that he knows it does not soften her heart in the slightest, not this time.
Item one. She begins to go through the files in her mind. What I asked him just before I walked away. Did he? Does he? Can you love someone and do that to them? She can’t answer that with any kind of ease so she puts it away. Great, she thinks, fantastic, that’s a great start, fab.
Item two. What I said. I never had a choice. It stings her, twists at her, the unfairness of it, of just being used without any say in the mater. But then again, has she hated the life she’s led? No. Not most of the time, not up until recently anyway. But oh, to have always assumed free will but never to have entirely had it. Then again who has? They were not brought up to any concept of it, always trapped, always their paths decided for them by their elders, always the eternal rebellion bursting in both those chests, that very factor which had brought them crashing together, hurtling across those fields hand in hand screaming at all and falling into each other at the end.
And then, after all, what if she had been given the choice, like he was. She can see he has hardly enjoyed having been given it and regretted the choice he made more than she ever regretted her own life. Would she really have had that over having the choice made for her? She suspects not. And then of course, the real question – what would she have done under the circumstances? She has to come back to that one because that brings her to –
Item three. The circumstances. He had killed a boy. A hateful boy, a boy who had done all he could to damage their lives, all he could to get between the tight circle of the two of them, the perfection they had managed to find in each other despite everything that had tried to stifle them. He had, she realized now, from her dreams, really been going to kill her. Perhaps he hadn’t meant to go that far – in fact she’s almost sure of it – but the fact was she would have died. What’s more, she suspects he had known it too, he would have felt it, the weakening and letting go of their mind as she sank. And he may not have meant to kill Torvic – again she’s fairly sure he did not, not as such, but whether or not he did had still been second in his mind at that point to saving him. Because he could not have me die, she thinks, because he loved me. Shit. Which brings me back to –
Item one – did he ever? Of course he did. Irrelevant whether or not it was forefront of that child’s mind at the point of choosing – of course it was not – fear can trump anything, even love -and if she’s being honest, and unfortunately she has to be – she cannot honestly say she would not have made the same decision.
It’s a start.
She thinks about how it was right from the start. Like something running through her – mind to chest to guts – had seen that boy in class that day and recognized him, like both hearts at once had sighed and said oh it’s you. And even now she cannot find it in her to believe that he had not felt it back. She thinks about the years together, how good they were – she wishes for a better word but good is the one that comes. It cannot be helped. They were, so much of the time – and this frightens her almost more than anything – happy. She is not sure she remembers that feeling from any time before or since, not such pure, boundless, energetic happiness as they had then. She thinks about all the times since that their minds have met and it’s been there, dancing like a flame they could neither of them quite grasp, felt but never spoken because in the end, when it really came down to it, love seemed small and silly for a feeling so bright. Not all of her disgust at hearing that girl say it had been an act; it really had seemed quite disgusting to relegate all they had had to a human concept of the word. Friendship, as she had told Clara, really did seem to cover it better, because it was a start if not everything; even if it did mean more than the human mind could understand.
It occurs to her that the “chance” she had given him in trying to make him say it might have been just a tad unfair, just a smidgen – it was not something she would have said either.
She wonders how long to give it before coming back out. A part of her would like to go to him straight away, have the rest of it out for whatever end they will find. But. So many buts. She does not know what the end will be, what and how much they will be able to scavenge from the mess. A part of her argues things were going so well! Another part scoffs that it was all lies, everything they were building, all the work she had put into herself, to being good, it was all based on bullshit. He was the one who should have been locked up here all the time! But then again – didn’t she bring herself back here? What did that mean anyway? Putting herself back in her prison? That she’d grown to like it? To depend on it? That she had some kind of silly Stockholm syndrome? That she felt safe here? Maybe that was it, more than anything – that she did, that she had come to feel some sort of safety here, some sort of almost pleasing domesticity.
No that wasn’t quite it. It was, she realized, more than anything, that for the first time she had been able to be the one walking away. That she had been able to leave him, take herself to a place he could not follow and this, in her heart, had felt, yesterday, like the perfect revenge.
Revenge. She thinks about it a lot in the days that follow. Yes, a part of her does want it, a part that entertains herself imagining his death at her hands in so many amusing and unpleasant ways. But the truth is she knows what she intends already, had known it almost from the first and it is so simple. Almost painfully so.
She finds herself in no hurry to leave, even with her mind made up on what to do, knows that he is still waiting, still agonizing about whether or not she will ever speak to him again, and honestly she would have that right, wouldn’t she? She had really thought, after that first initial shock, that she might not. That she might never come out of this vault again just to spite him, or at least for a hundred years. She cannot say she is not glad to know he is suffering – when she gently pushes her mind out to him she can feel that he is – before she snatches herself away quickly as he senses her. She comes to suspect that she is waiting and so, finding herself in a patient mood, she waits.
It comes in the end one morning, if it is a morning, on waking from a dreamless sleep. She blinks and slowly smiles at the figure perched on the end of her bed.
“Missy,” it says, smiling a wide, sharp grin – “You know they say Sleep is the brother of Death. I’d say my brother’s been rude to keep you from me all this while, wouldn’t you?”
Missy smiles back, propping herself up on her elbows. “You took your time,” she says to the girl in green – “I was wondering when you’d show up.”
After initial appearances, maybe girl was not the right word, even with her head cocked curiously to one side and her feet swinging off the side of the bed. The teeth, when she grins at Missy in a horrible parody of friendliness, are not quite right either, though it vanishes quickly and she blinks twice, disconcertingly –
“You were – expecting me?”
“It can’t be a first. You’ve been expected before.”
“Usually people are more unhappy to see me. Or relieved – at any rate some reaction is generally to be expected, yes. I am not quite used to this – dare I say, lack of interest?”
“My heart bleeds,” Missy yawns – “Oh no, wait, I might just be hungry. Now honestly dear, where were you going with that look? Not quite the usual is it? Were you – I mean that’s sweet, it really is – but were you trying to scare me?”
“Trying? What? But I – you mean I’m not –” Death stands up defensively, drawing herself up as she does so; Missy supposes this is intended to intimidate her –
“Oh bless you, you were.” She gets out of bed and moves over to the fridge, brushing past Death in her green taffeta as though she were positively human – “Sorry dear, it needs work.”
“It –” she sounds positively strangled – “Needs – work?”
“Well yes. You’re trying to scare me aren’t you? With the hair and the dress and the trying to look like – oh I don’t know – just a little bit like me? Sorry dearie, I’m not scared of me. Not any more.” She mutters the last defiantly – “Also the hair and the face – they could use some work. Teeth too. They’re looking a little sharkey.”
“Which isn’t helpful if you’re attempting a humanoid look? Trust me. Oh and your eyes. They could use some work too.”
“The – eyes?”
“Yes dear, they‘re a little bit – absent.”
“Really absent. In fact – they’re gone. Did you know? You have holes. In your face - you big silly.”
“But I! I’m Death! The Grim reaper! The swallower of souls! I am what waits in the outer darkness, the shadow at the end of the day! I am what all fear and what heroes run from! I am the scourge of men –”
“Oh, blah blah blah are you finished? Besides, not a man, and you can’t get me with titles like that, my best friend’s the vessel of the final darkness, the oncoming bloody storm- and that’s just for starters, so try harder you sorry excuse for an anthropomorphic personification!”
“”Your… friend” Death starts to smile again, her voice smooth and slow – “Ah yes, shall we talk about your friend? After all, that’s why I’m here.”
“Yes I suspected it might be. Didn’t want him to tell me, did you? You thought – and quite rightly, I daresay, that if I knew I’d be more able to kick your whiny green arse. So you’ve what? Come with a final deal for me have you?”
“You want to be rid of me.”
“Well give the ghoul a medal.”
“Then yes, I have a deal for you. After all, you’ve served me well for a good Millennia, but I confess you’ve become dull of late, so I’ll be willing to let you go for one more Death.”
“Yes, I thought you might, and also? I don’t serve anyone but myself, thank you very much. Go on -” she staged a yawn – “Hit me with it.”
“Very well. Just kill the Doctor and I’ll let you go. Stop that! Wait! Stop that! Why are you laughing?” Something red and dull flashes in the center of those ragged black eyes – “This is serious! Stop! This isn’t funny!”
“Oh but it is,” Missy smirks one last time and stops laughing. Stops as though she has run up against a wall, and turns on Death with ice cold, hissing rage – “It’s funny how predictable you are and It’s really funny that you think I would kill my best friend just because the likes of you thinks you can tell me to. Haven’t you learned anything? He’d never have killed me either and he’s the good one, so he tells me, and I’m not a scared kid hiding under a blanket. You don’t scare me.”
“I’m giving you this offer as a favour,” she snaps back – “You’ve wanted to kill him for centuries, you’ve always said so. Why, I’m giving you what you want for doing what you want to do!”
“You’re ridiculous. Oh no, you're right- I mean I have always said that, but have you ever actually seen me kill the Doctor? You think I didn’t have a hundred thousand chances? You think I couldn’t have finished him off rather than leaving him to regenerate? I never had to restart his heart, or weren’t you watching then? Did you never see all the missiles I didn’t fire, all the times I missed accidentally on purpose? All the times I let him go swearing there would be a next time? I mean, did you really think it wasn’t at least eighty percent for fun? Really? You missed the whole cosmos without the Doctor speech? Honestly I’m ashamed of you.”
“But he -!” she seethes – “He has left you to die a thousand times! He has betrayed you over and over again. Besides –” her voice slipped into a slither insinuating coil – “You should have seen how quick he was to offer you in his place. He hardly had to think about it and you think what now? That you’re better than that?”
“Oh no” Missy shook her head smiling mildly – “No I’m not better than that, that’s the thing – I would have done exactly the same and in the end it doesn’t matter –” her eyes widen as she says it, realizing that she believes it only as the words come out – “We always were inseparable, indistinguishable almost one from the other – what does it really matter who championed you and who championed time? We’re more than pieces on your chessboard he and I, we always have been. You see –” she remembers her own words, so flippant back then but ringing true to her now – “He’s my boyfriend, and he loves me so much.”
“You’re insane!” the fire in Death’s eyes is green and awful – “The Doctor doesn’t love you! He never could have! You thought it to yourself not so long ago.”
“Yeah s’right – I did didn’t I?” Missy looks at her curiously – “But you’ve come a bit late dear if you think I didn’t think it away –” and she knows now, with golden certainty, that she thought right. She thinks about the early days, about the days in between, about the fights and the running away and the always coming back to each other. She thinks of their days down here, the screaming raging awful ones and the days of quiet companionship. She thinks about eating together, sleeping together, quibbling over all the minutiae of daily life; she thinks if that’s not love I don’t see the point of it. She thinks about how fiercely, how tenderly, how frequently they have come together in urgent need and desperation to be closer, the look in his eyes when he wants her, when he needs her, how her hearts still hammer like they did when she was so young and stupid. She thinks of the peace in his head, that peace that always quietened her head, even used to muffle the drums for a while, she thinks of that bliss and of how much love she could feel even when they would neither of them name what it was. She thinks lastly of all the movies they watched together, curled up in each other’s arms with snacks and time and lessons to be learned. She thinks of those lessons and draws them to her like a quiver full of arrows.
“You see” she says – “I’m glad you came. Because I knew what you would offer, and I knew I didn’t need it. I can make you go away because –” My will, she thinks, and she remembers thinking it before, my will is so much stronger than the others;fighting back yellow eyes when everyone around him had fallen to the virus. She thinks of their strength – she thinks of Karra, Vanessa, Galleia – thinks of the power they had and how it felt to snuff it out, thinks of the mistake that was, how they could have been friends, thinks about how hard they all fought to live but she took that power and it’s hers now and it would be rude to them not to use it.
“Because you played wrong when you tried to get between Theta and me. You see he and I are held by the bonds of love, and you cannot track that not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords, and when I say you are a coward it is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Death stares at her but there is – there is and they both know it – fear flickering behind her eyes.
“Princess Bride,” she snaps, voice cold through her smile, lance tipped – “It’s a movie.”
“Movies,” Death sneers – “You think what? That you can defeat me with stories?”
No weapons, she thinks – just words, and she almost falters, remembering who she used to be. We’re more than the sum of our memories, she thinks, though it’s a line she does not give out loud – “Stories yes – stories are wild creatures. When you let them loose who knows what havoc they might wreak? Stories stay with you, they mean something – even when they’re full of darkness and danger and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But I know now too I know that there’s good in the world and that it’s worth fighting for –”
Death shudders and the force of it shivers through the foundations below them –
“You –” she fumes, raging – “Tiny, insignificant – entity! Who are you to try and take me down?”
“Oh darling I am the last of my kind! I am the sword in the darkness, the fire that burns against the cold, I do not shoot with my hand I shoot with my heart, my word speaks only truth and my wrath undoes the wicked, and I’ll live as a Narnian even if there isn’t any Narnia and I –” she takes a deep breath, she’s shaking but it doesn’t matter, Death is cowering, a small ball almost on the floor, and she knows her parting shot will be the killing blow without needing to explain to her opponent that of course this is how you defeat Death, by stories, by remembering, by speaking their names, telling them to the crows, and she is surprised to find sharp tears sparking in her eyes –
“I –I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city, to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours –”
Death whimpers, her voice in the middle of the cry making an inarticulate plea for Missy to stop but her eyes are bright and hard and hot as stars and she persists mercilessly –
“- and my kingdom is as great.” She smiles, Death stares at her one last time beseechingly -
“You have no power over me”.
There is a moment, a bright poised moment in which she can almost hear Death shriek and fly up from the ground as an owl. She doesn’t. She simply flickers like a light bulb and winks out. Gone. And she knows, really knows that she is, more gone than she has ever been since Missy can remember and she feels for a moment like she could fly for the freedom of it, staring up at the ceiling and with a feeling of enormity, like all of the universe is hers and she just wants to look at it. Really look at it all.
“Movie nights from the vaults,” she mutters to herself with a grin before collapsing to her knees shaking, hands reaching at the spot where Death stood, needing to feel the reality of her absence. She is shaking so hard she has to wrap her arms around herself to stop because she had been scared the whole time, whatever she may have said, and she cannot believe she really pulled it off.
“Take back the child that you have stolen,” she whispers to herself one more time, and she cries but not for long because there is still that universe to see and only one person she wants to show her it.
Okay so movie references! In order we have obviously Princess Bride , then the line she didn’t say out loud was from Dark City , stories are wild creatures…. is from Monster Calls and the rest of that paragraph of course is Sam’s speech from Lord of the rings: Two Towers. The absolute montage of quotes that come next are Dracula, Game of Thrones, The Dark Tower, Dragonheart and The Silver Chair . Last but not least – no really if you don’t know that one then SHAME ON YOU! An earlier and sillier version that I had in my head did include “Stay away from her you bitch” and Missy yelling “THIS IS SPARTA!” but that was a bit too crack so they hit the chopping room floor! I’m curious to know who got the most of those!
I've lost her, he thinks, and it is the thought his mind keeps returning to, pulling on him like a weight that is desperate to drown him. He dreams her dream of drowning, but in his dream he drowns – I've lost her, I've lost her, I've lost her. Worst of all is the knowledge that he deserves this; he deserves to have lost everything, and losing her has always been to lose everything. He's lost again and again and every time it has felt like the end of the world. He supposes he should take from this that he can survive, but he's done, he's done, he's so tired and he does no even dare sleep.
He thinks of everything he has put her through; the tears, the guilt, his own self righteousness- I'm sorry but this is good – he cringes internally at the memory of himself. He's been everything she has accused him of being, vain, arrogant and sentimental – he is not sure he wants to be himself any more than she would want to be like him. He's not sure now how he could ever have had the audacity to think that he should be the one encouraging her redemption, but hasn't he always wanted to save her? Oh, but who my dear will save yours? Did she know? Was there a part of her that had always known? He has lost track of the time he must have spent up here brooding but it's not long enough; he deserves to be locked in here forever; it is after all the perfect place for the Vessel of the Final Darkness.
He convinces himself so completely that he has lost, that he can afford to indulge in the the most gratuitous self pity, to feel ice between his hearts in the space they always occupied, because didn't they fill that space from day one? Didn't he see them and recognize them and absorb them instantly into the space between heartbeats? More a part of him than a limb or organ or thought and far less easy to remove, and after all what a villain he has been for trying. He remembers a lifetime – all of his lifetimes defined by their togetherness, hands held together that crackled a promise to never let go between their fingers, running step in step in a wildness that should never have worked in unison. He remembers all the promises he ever broke, such childish promises so fervently meant, and he wonders if it's too late to try and make amends. He remembers season after season of perfection, of the smell and sound and breath of the other, each boy giving the other his own life to hold in his hands. He remembers dropping that gift, he remembers them breaking. He remembers life after life, regeneration upon regeneration of fighting, scheming, crashing and breaking, drawing away and smashing together and never quite coming whole again, the years rushing up on him like a tsunami, continually dragged down by their imperfection, their failure to be what they ought to be again.
He thinks of how far they had come, these last few hundred years, memory upon memory stacking into place, building the structure of Them back into something beautiful. He thinks of the eloquence in her eyes, of all the things she has confided without ever saying a word, he thinks how closed off he has been in return, punishing her for something she could never have helped and which after all, he forced upon her in the first place. Her closure against him now is what he deserves and he almost basks in the hurt of it. But there, in among all the wrong, he gets glimpses of them mending – or at least that was what it seemed like if he could recognize it after all this time -
She's in the bath and he's removing pins from her hair, combing it out through his fingers, laughing at her and worshipping her all at once.
She's curled against him on the sofa on one of their many movie watching nights, silently (nervously?) tucking herself up against him, testing to see if she might belong there and he so idly ends up stroking her shoulder, playing with her hair, loving her in silence and hoping that neither of them notice.
She rages, tearing the vault and everything in it apart for the thousandth time, screaming at the place, screaming at him, screaming at herself; she wants sunlight, she wants air, she wants seasons and running and his hand in hers. She wants him dead, she wants to be alive herself, she wants and wants and wants and he can never give her enough. He adores her when she gets this angry, even as he fears her; she looks gorgeous in rage.
She screams when he's inside her, she sighs and moans and all but weeps; she scratches and bites and holds onto him like she'll never let go and she won't and he'd break if she did and she knows what she wants because he's in her body and soul and at least at these times it's what he wants too and for minutes at a time they can be almost close enough and he wants and wants and wants and can never take enough.
She lies against him cooling and shuddering and when he dares glance at her face he can see flashes of unguarded love and happiness in her eyes and he retreats from her in fear.
She smiles and sniffs and sighs at him when he installs windows for virtual sunlight, brings in 3 – dimensional wall screens that change to bring her sunsets and snow and forests. He brings in sand and builds her a beach. She kicks it in his face happily and laughs at him and builds sand castles.
She is him, is what he wants, what he wants to be, who he should have been, who he should always keep, who he should not have to keep. She is his third heart and the space inside his chest and he'll die without her, he just knows it, die a living death trapped screaming and scrabbling forever inside his attic prison with all the rest of the horrors.
He hears a knock at the edge of his brain before he hears the knock on the other side of the attic floor below the trap door. He is startled almost to the point of being appalled that someone would dare to interrupt misery like this; so it is still unexpected when the hatch slides back, a head pops up, stares at him for a brief intense second, rolls its eyes and says -
“Oi! Stop your brooding and get down here!”
He blinks owlishly and does not move for a moment.
“You heard me misery boy, I haven't got all day, you know!”
The head disappears again and because it's her, because he owes her this, he owes her everything – he gets up meekly and follows her down.
“Oh,” she says down her nose - “You. What do you want?”
She had been half prepared to find the Doctor still waiting when she stepped out of the vault and with the other half she had been prepared for nobody to be there. This did not leave her any room to be prepared for the human female he tagged around with to be waiting instead.
“Er -” it says first, blinking at her in the way she has become used to humans doing when they're afraid and trying not to show it. She looks at it with what she judges to be extreme tolerance and patience; it's the closest she can get to kindness towards these things. She wonders if the Doctor would be proud (still care about that do you? No I don't – yes you do – after everything I really think I don't – but you do!)
“So – um -” it says again. Missy smiles encouragingly. The girl – Bill, it was called – swallows. Missy wonders if there's a problem with her throat, if she should offer her into the vault for a drink. She can hear the poor thing's heart beat accelerate in what she guesses is an adrenaline induced, and not romantic, manner. Really, psi-nulls are impossible to communicate with.
“So we've sort of like – lost – the Doctor,” Bill eventually gets out.
Missy smirks -
“Did you check behind the settee? Because you know, I found Jesus down there once. It was quite an afternoon, let me tell you.”
“Uff,” Bill says. Missy thinks this is a sort of groan. “Nardole told me not to bother asking you.”
“No, no, wait, don't go- this is fun! Hide and seek – is it hide and seek? I like games. Do you know tag? The one where you run and I kill you?”
Bill takes a few steps back, looking around her, Missy suspects, for something to grab – she's noticed this human is at least resourceful where survival is concerned.
“Kidding!” she laughs brightly - “There's a kissing version if you prefer – oh no wait – human – female – petty – I forget -”
“Actually...” Bill shakes her head. “Yeah, you know what – no. Just no. No. Look can you help or not?”
“Thaaaaaaat depeeeeeends,” Missy makes it as long as she could.
“Okay. On what?”
“Well, one – what do you want the Doctor for, eh? More to the point, why don't you think I could help instead? What's he got that I haven't?”
“Umm – empathy? Understanding? And, um, that thing where he talks to you like you're not kinda – food.”
“Blaaaah,” Missy rolls her eyes exorbitantly.
“Look, I don't need him for anything, not really – only he disappeared – what, three weeks ago? Neither me or Nardole have seen or can find him, and then we realised you'd disappeared too-”
“Oh, ta very much, dear.”
“- and we figured, maybe some sort of uh, quarrel, like – lover's tiff, I don't know, is that the right -?”
Missy snorts long and hard. Bill ignores it -
“Anyway, yeah because we figured you'd both disappeared around the same time and were maybe off in different corners of somewhere sulking with each other -”
“Darling, I was not sulking – your tiny human mind could not even perceive what I was -”
“Yeah well – but he might be, though? I mean he is quite -”
“Idiotic? Petty? A terrible example of the species?”
“I was going to say childish for an old guy but -”
“Oh you said it, sister.”
“You know -” Bill seemed to have just worked something out - “I just noticed you didn't correct me about the lover's tiff thing. Ha. I knew it, I just knew it! You don't lock a woman in a vault -”
“Unless you love her? I can see why he picked you. Alright, I'm going.”
“To. Get. The Doctor. Of course. Isn't that what you said?”
“Is he – in there?” Bill waves an arm at the vault.
“Of course not, silly. But I know where he'll be. He's terribly obvious and melodramatic; tedious too. Alright, I'm going!”
She thinks about it as she heads back to the TARDIS – about where he's been, what he's been doing, what he thinks of himself – what he must think of himself to be where he is now. Now for the first time, she finds herself able to pity him, at least a little. At the same time, though – Gods but he's predictable! Predictable, melodramatic and self pitying. She finds herself feeling suddenly warmly and exorbitantly fond of the idiot. Doesn't mean she doesn't mean to give him a hard time. She turns round suddenly; it is, it's still there.
“Thing,” she addresses it - “Why are you following me?”
“Well we kinda already searched the TARDIS – every inch of it – it took weeks.”
“Trust me dear, you haven't. Oh, balls.”
“You didn't look in his bedroom closet did you?”
The traumatised look on Bill's face tells her they did.
“We never speak of this,” Missy says.
“Please,” Bill nods.
“Right then. Stay, puppy!”
She leaves Bill in the Doctor's office and goes in.
“I love you.” He blurts it out the second they drop down into the corridor underneath the attic door. It feels rather like being sick; difficult and awful and immensely relieving, something that just has to come out before he went another step. He stares at her, his life in her hands. She smiles curiously and shakes her head tolerantly -
“Give a girl a moment to sit down will you – come on!”
She grabs his hand and all but drags him into the room this whole conversation started in weeks ago, betraying her nervousness only in clutching that hand perhaps a little too tightly and all but pulling him down the corridor. He cannot help but be aware of this change in his usual approach – it is almost always him who holds hands first, dragging the other along with him, ever since he found her and lost her the first time, he has clung on palm to palm with just about the first person he has met in every regeneration, desperate to recapture the feeling of connectedness he had become used to loving between them. This time it's different – she does not give him the choice whether or not to resurrect the feeling and it hits him powerfully how close they are to something he has not dared hope for in centuries. She pushes him lightly down into his favourite armchair and turns to put the kettle on. He watches her warily, unsure what her manner and the golden softness in her eyes can mean but does not dare ask.
“I love you,” he says again.
“I heard you.” She does not turn round, for a moment the only sound in the room is the bubbling in the kettle and the hiss of steam - “It doesn't matter.”
“What do you mean it doesn't matter?” He feels his hearts stutter with terror – he misread her softness after all, what he thought was tolerance; she's furious, of course she is, she has every right to be.
“I shouldn't have asked,” she shrugs. “It's ridiculous, trivial and inaccurate, and to be honest – oh no I know you mean it – but it's a bit silly, isn't it? For us. Have some tea.”
She plonks a cup and saucer on the arm of his chair; he ignores it. She sits down opposite him, perhaps a metre away.
“Silly,” he echoes.
“Did I stutter? You know – we're beyond that, aren't we? It's the wrong word; I realise that, too small, too human, why it hardly scratches the surface of the sentiment I was after. Still, I love you too, for what it's worth.”
“You – you do?”
“Oh well,” she smiles. “If it matters to you, it matters. Yes of course I do. I always have.”
“Me too. I always have too.” He feels like he's crying on the inside in relief and joy and the enormity of the feeling, which, she's right – cannot be summed up in that one word, but he thinks they might know what each other means. “Ever since that first day you annoyed me in class,” he smiles.
“That was you. It was you annoying me. You were sat in the back row flicking time pellets at the back of my head. I was trying so hard to make a good impression.”
“I – well I fancied you.”
“You got me in trouble.”
“You shouldn't have kept reacting.”
“I could see you doing it. Besides you were -”
“I punched you after class.”
“I punched you back.”
“No-one had ever dared do that before. It was -”
“Brilliant!” they both finish together.
They smile, wide glittering childish grins, both unable to look the other in the eye to see how much those smiles mirror, part embarrassed, part shy.
“So you've been....?” he trails off with half a question, not a clue really as to what he wants to say to her, terrified that she's still going to cut him off completely, making himself even more terrified of this than he needs to be to try and distract himself from one even worse alternative.
“Busy.” She flicks a little smile; she can feel how scared he is and does not entirely care because she knows that alternative he fears all to well, she remembers it, and she has no intention of letting him escape it. She knows what she has to do and is not sure, feeling his fear, if it is a kindness or a cruelty, though it doesn't matter since it has to be done.
“Been having a nice little chat with an old friend of yours – a wee girl in green – maybe I should say enemy, though I suppose there's not much difference for you.”
“A girl in -” he swallows hard - “Are you al- you are -” he can feel it, looking at her all of a sudden he can see it plain, the shadow she always carried gone; he stares at her in wonder, in awe of her brilliance as though he was a child again.
“Yes,” she smiles, holding her victory to her chest tenderly, to proud of it to share it too entirely but too proud not to tell him just a little - “It was easy really. If you'd only told me sooner, I could have done it any time”. She suspects this might not be quite true but she wishes it was enough to enjoy saying so.
“I'm sorry,” he says. He could say it a million times and it would not be enough for him and only irritate her - “I'm so -”
“Oh please,” she rolls her eyes - “Believe it or not, I'm not actually here to make you grovel. For once. You know. You know what I'm going to say to you.”
The echo shocks her; hearing the words come out of her mouth in such a familiar order. She sees his eyes widen, sees him want to run, but he's frozen to his chair in fear of it. She knows what he's feeling, knows how close he is to bolting and running, hiding, going to the ends of the universe to avoid hearing what she has to say. Because if he hears it – when he hears it – he might have to accept it, and it might mean him not being the better person for once. When she had known she was going to do this it had felt at first like the height of kindness, an act of purity that would wash her clean – to be honest she had not been sure how she felt about that – now, realising how afraid he is she understands that it is as much- perhaps more- a punishment than a benediction and she is not quite sure how she feels about that either.
Looking at him she can feel her own chest tighten, partly feeling what he feels, because they've always done that, but also from remembering, from the dreadful cornered feeling when she knew it had to happen and that it would happen and the awfulness of not deserving this. Suddenly it feels cruel to be on the other end of this; it feels like revenge and that is not how she means it. She hopes he understands.
“I dreamed about drowning for so long,” she says suddenly, and she thinks of it because drowning is how he feels now; she can almost see the bubbles. “I hardly knew what to do the last time I had the dream and swam to shore – when I knew I'd got rid of our little friend I almost thought for a moment that I wouldn't know who to be – like before the drums went – a lot like that but the thing is – the thing is -” she takes a deep breath and he take sit with her, watching her carefully - “The thing is I never did drown. I was never going to. Because you never would have allowed it. That's why this is easy for me, that's why I won't let you go under either.”
He shakes his head, still afraid, and his whisper when it comes is the child's who hid from Death, the coward -
“I do -” he croaks - “In all my dreams I drown.”
“I know.” She does. She knows now that he spared her that final gasp for breath, not just the day he killed Torvic but over and over again in their dreams, knows that he has been working every lifetime to make up for the choice he made.
“Doctor,” she says. He looks at her with wide dark eyes, caught in her headlights -
“Missy, please -”
She closes her eyes, no idea she would feel so cruel when it came to it; she wonders if he once felt the same, now all she can do is pity him, he can see the sympathy, the feeling in every angle of her face and cannot bear it -
“I forgive you.”
She feels it hit him more awful than she expected, but as awful as she remembers and he's falling, she should have seen it coming, should have known it would go like this – legs gone to water, half rising to flee and she catches him before he falls and cradles him, gathered in her arm and rocking him, held close against her chest and here it is then just the two of them clinging together in a storm as always and she never felt pity like this and perhaps after all she is washed clean by it after all. Perhaps.
Sorry updates have been a bit sporadic but - penultimate chapter! We're nearly there :-)