Saving the environment wasn’t a battle easily won, to be quite honest, more than once Jo Jones had the impression that it was utterly pointless to fight a battle when the war was long, long lost.
But if she had learned one thing, then it was to never give up, no matter how hopeless the situation and how dark the times.
It was just, that sometimes she could do with a little reminder. A break, if you will, with familiar faces and a place that had once meant home to her. All the traveling, the ever-calling duties, the time on the road, it was fun and it was exactly what she wanted to do, but sitting in the UNIT headquarters, sipping tea with the Brigadier and reminiscing of the Doctor never failed to remind her that she always had a home to return to.
This time though, the Brigadier didn’t seem to be in a mood for tea. To be quite honest, he seemed to be raging.
“This is an awful idea!” he was shouting after Jo had entered with a little wave.
Jo froze for a second, then sullenly put a hand on her hip.
“Now, what a way to greet a lady.”
“Oh, Mrs. Jones!” the Brigadier thundered and for a few seconds his face got darker before it lighted up a bit. “It’s good you’re here! Tell them what a rubbish idea this is!”
For a few seconds, Jo just stood in the door frame smiling. The Brigadier’s hair had grown silver, he had put on weight and his face had sunken in, but never, not in a million years, would this man’s voice lose the power and authority it had always maintained. Seeing this man run around yelling orders was the closest she ever got to “home”.
“You know I would, if you told me what all of this is about first?”
The Brigadier sighed, told her to wait for a minute and disappeared to have an intense talk with someone who looked like he had a lot to say. Jo watched them for a while, still not getting used to the idea of the Brigadier acting more like an advisor than the actual leader these days. They had learned so much just by being around the Doctor, sometimes it worried her to just watch a new generation of people taking over. They’d better listen to the Brigadier, not matter what this mess was about.
She looked around.
Several soldiers were standing with raised guns in the middle of the large room. With a frown, Jo registered that they were holding a woman at gun-point. She stood in the middle of the little circle, all dressed in elegant purple dresses, which almost looked Victorian. Utterly unimpressed, she was powdering her nose with a slight little smile on her face. All the trouble in this room seemed to radiate from her.
When she noticed Jo’s eyes on her, she winked to her with a predatory grin.
Jo noticed that her ice blue eyes were sharp and cold, it seemed like one glance was enough to see right through her. Quickly, she adverted her eyes back to the Brigadier, who was just coming back to her with a sigh and a frown so deeply furrowed into his forehead, she feared it would never fully disappear again.
“Apparently,” he finally started explaining, “there’s a disease of some kind going around. Dozens of patients are currently evacuated in a hospital, all in a deep coma. There are symptoms, they seem to… mutate. It’s definitely alien, but nothing we have ever seen.” He rubbed his forehead, but the frown stuck. Jo looked up to him with a sympathetic little smile.
“So what is their rubbish plan to stop this?”
The Brigadier’s brown eyes bored into hers and she could see all his worries reflected in them.
“They can’t reach the Doctor, so they said… they said…” He threw a dark glance to the woman in purple, who gracefully blew him a kiss. Her grin showed all her teeth and she shuddered.
“That,” the Brigadier replied darkly. “Is the Master. Or, Missy, how she calls herself today.”
For quite a while, Jo said nothing, just stared at him in disbelief, trying to process the information she had just received.
She could feel eyes boring into her back and turned around, where she still stood, watching her carefully. The creepy grin had faded from her face. Right now, Missy looked utterly serious and for a few seconds Jo felt her heartbeat quicken because she could see it. The intelligent, calculating eyes, the face that was so beautiful that it glowed, in a way that was enticing and yet radiated danger, the graceful posture and style, everything about her seemed to scream “I’m the Master!”.
“They want to ask her to help,” the Brigadier ended very quietly.
Jo threw another glance to him, nodded, then stepped towards Missy with careful, hesitant steps. The soldiers around her didn’t take their eyes off the Time Lady but stepped aside to let her through. Jo thought she’d feel uncomfortable under so many eyes, but as soon as she looked into Missy’s, she had forgotten all the people around them.
Still had her hypnotic touch, she thought. She considered being extra careful for a second, but something inside that woman’s eyes told her that if she wanted to bring them trouble, she had already done so.
Jo tried a shaky smile. “Well, you’ve changed,” she greeted Missy, who snorted.
“And you haven’t. Look at you, dear old Miss Grant, still acting on the Brigadier’s whims.”
Against her will, Jo relaxed a bit, when she heard the familiar endearment. She had always thought of the Master as a dangerous opponent. She used to feel terrified and thrilled at the same time when fighting his malicious plans. But this time, her heart raced for entirely different reasons. This was the closest she had gotten to the Doctor in a very long time. This was like meeting an old friend again. This was one of the rare moments when all that she had experienced in her youth felt real again.
“Actually,” she replied with a bright smile. “It’s Mrs. Jones now.”
“Aw, come on. Jo Jones? Seriously?”
Jo smirked. “So you do know my first name.”
And to her surprise, Missy threw her head back and laughed loudly and intensely. Jo couldn’t help but grin, mostly, because even this woman’s laugh, in some extraordinary way, sounded Scottish.
“I do, my dear. Do feel honoured, I don’t bother to remember all of the Doctor’s pets names.”
Jo considered mentioning that she sure as hell wasn’t a pet, but then just shrugged it off. This seemed to be the Master’s way of telling her she liked her.
“So,” Jo brought up with a little smile. “You’re here to help?”
Missy shrugged. “Might as well.”
With raised eyebrows, Jo gestured towards all the guards surrounding then, their raised guns now accompanied by little frowns. The Brigadier watched them with his arms crossed in front of his chest and a dark look on his face.
“I don’t know if you noticed,” Jo concluded. “But I don’t think people here have much trust in you.”
Missy covered her mouth with a hand in faked surprise. “Oh, but haven’t you heard, dear? I’m a changed woman now!”
“Well,” Jo replied dryly. “You’re sure as hell a woman.”
As dramatic as Missy’s mad little chuckle was, it seemed to be genuine. The Time Lady glanced at her with an amused look in her eyes.
“Want to know a neat little secret?”
Jo shrugged. “Why do I have the feeling you’re going to tell me whether I want to or not?”
Missy leaned over to her dramatically, trying to whisper into her ear, but when she moved, they could hear three guns clicking at the same time.
She rolled her eyes and whispered from afar instead.
“I don’t need to help.”
“And why’s that?” Jo wanted to know with a sinking feeling in her stomach. She was already expecting answers like “The world’s going to end anyway”, “Because they’re all dead” or something similar.
What she wasn’t expecting though, was Missy giving her a secretive wink and breathing the words “Because the Doctor will”.
The Brigadier was stepping closer to them, giving Jo a little nod. “So?”
Jo looked back to Missy with puzzlement. She thought back to all the times she had fought the Master, to all the times he had made the craziest and most detailed plans to get to the Doctor and to how the Doctor had jumped head-in into all of them, almost glad to escape the boredom of his exile. And she figured that her opinion on the matter really didn’t matter, because Missy was right. No matter whether she would actually help or make the problem worse – The Doctor was going to be here to fix it.
It took the Doctor half a day to respond to UNITs desperate call and make an appearance. They had actually allowed Missy into the UNIT’s laboratories and she had buried herself into the problem with a deep frown. Nobody was allowed to talk to her and nobody could break her concentration while she was trying to find a solution to their problem – Or any other problem, really, nobody could tell for sure what she was working on.
Jo had suggested to stay and help, while keeping an eye on her, which had been accepted with a little nod by Missy and a lot of relief from UNIT, who seemed to be quite uncomfortable around the Time Lady.
She had always known the Master was a vastly intelligent person, probably even more intelligent than the Doctor (she had come to that impression mostly because the Doctor had always vehemently denied that). But right now, if she was really trying to figure out the antidote for whatever disease had befallen these poor people, she seemed to be in over her head.
“Can you do it?” Jo dared to ask after a long while of silence, in which Missy had just stood, staring at her work sunken into thoughts.
The Time Lady’s eyes flickered up dangerously and for a second, Jo thought she’d jump at her for speaking like the Doctor used to, but then the expression faded, and Missy just shrugged.
“I most probably can. But I don’t know if I can find a solution in time. Very limited resources, if you allow me to say so.”
“Do you know what they have, though? Is it dangerous, will it spread?”
Missy waved her hands in dismissal, seemingly bored with her questions and turned her focus back to the chemicals in front of her.
“Yes, yes, dear,” she muttered. “Simple case of Hytas Perilities. It’s like a bug bite. The Hytas dies after biting and as long as these individuals are isolated, it should be all fine. Now let me work, will you?”
“Well, might not be dangerous, but a little bit disgusting,” a voice behind them proclaimed.
Jo turned around with a start, looking right into the face of a woman with a huge, bright grin. It was funny – She instantly felt like looking at the direct opposite to Missy. The woman in front of her radiated happiness and warmth, her smile was ridiculously contagious, and her clothes were jumbled together in a mess. It didn’t exactly look bad – The long coat, the rainbow shirt, the suspenders holding the blue trousers – it looked like something that shouldn’t work but for some reason, it just did.
Jo knew this was the Doctor the second she had entered.
And apparently, so did Missy.
“Didn’t your parents ever teach you that being a copy-cat is a really, really impolite habit?” she remarked with a little smirk.
The instant the Doctor had appeared, she had forgotten her work and Jo noticed that she seemed drawn to the Doctor, no matter the playful complaint.
And the Doctor grinned so warmly, it was as if someone had lit up a bonfire.
“My parents have taught me all sort of things, but most of them involved me being a bad influence, not the other way around,” she replied with a wink.
Then she whirled around to face Jo, spreading her arms with an inviting smile on her face.
“Jo Grant!” she called, then frowned.
“No. Wait. It’s Jones now! I will never get used to that. It’s a silly name, that one, isn’t it? Jo Jones! Hah! Silly. I love it!”
Behind her back, Missy grinned.
Mostly to shut her up, Jo jumped into the offered hug, pulling the Doctor close with a tight squeeze.
“It’s good to see you, you know!” she muttered into her chest.
“Now, that’s just plain rude. Where’s my hug?” Missy remarked sulking a little.
The Doctor laid both hands on Jo’s shoulders, giving her a little kiss on her forehead, then turned around more seriously.
“You’re gonna have to earn yours,” she replied earnestly. “Let me see what you have so far. Two exceptionally sharp brains are better than one. Plus, the Brigadier was very eager to mention that I might want to check up on your work.” She grinned. “Sounded almost like an order.”
“Ah, I really don’t know why he trusts me so little,” Missy wondered with playfulness in her voice.
“I have one or two examples,” Jo muttered grumpily, which bought her a smile from both women.
The Doctor meanwhile leaned over the different chemicals Missy had worked on and studied it all within a few short minutes.
“Looks… good,” she finally concluded suspiciously, causing Missy to roll her eyes.
“Really, one might believe after all the work you put into reforming me, you’d have a little bit more faith in me.”
“So you were serious?” Jo blurted out before she could stop herself. “You actually have changed?”
The Doctor smirked. “I wouldn’t bet my life on it. She’s still the Master.”
“Oh, I sure am,” Missy sneered. “But let’s just say I’m open to help old friends, how’s that.”
The Doctor smiled, then turned around nodding towards a flask with a shimmering blue chemical in it. “You know this one’s the way to go, yes?” She lifted it up, ready to give it into the mix Missy had already started, muttering something that sounded a lot like “I always knew you liked her”.
Missy caught her hand and gently took away the flask.
“It’d sure finish the antidote faster, but it’s toxic to humans, honey.”
“Oh,” the Doctor replied and sheepishly stroked back her blonde hair. “Yeah. Knew that. ‘Course I did.” She turned to Jo and smiled apologetically in a way that seemed to say, “Sorry for almost poisoning your race, happens to me twice a week.”
“’Course you did,” Missy encouraged her with a little smirk and carefully put back the flask.
Jo simply shook her hand in affectionate amusement. Never had she thought that two people who had changed so incredibly much could still be the exact same person. She might have miscalculated on seeing “familiar faces” when coming here, but other than that, everything seemed to be the same, no matter how many changes time had brought.
It was the most comforting feeling in the universe. And she would know. She had seen quite a bit of the universe and every single time the most comforting part of it had been the Doctor.
And from the looks she caught Missy giving the Doctor whenever she was concentrated on the task at hand, she quickly realized she was not the only one feeling this way.
“Well, this should be it,” the Doctor concluded after a while of Missy and her working on the antidote.
She was holding the flask with the finished fluid against the light of the lamp and shaking it a bit.
“All they need to do now is bring it to the hospital and give everyone a syringe full, it should make them go back to normal in no time.”
She gave Jo a smile.
“Just like old times, huh?”
Jo laughed. “If you mean by old times that I sit next to you quietly and bored to death, then yes, quite like old times.”
“Oh, she means so much more,” Missy gave back grinning. “For example, she means that you’re going to be the idiot to bring this to the Brigadier and tell them it’s done while she disappears before he needs her advice in five entirely different matters.”
Jo, who had already taken the flask and was ready to leave, stopped dead. “You’re gonna leave?” she asked stunned.
The Doctor rubbed her neck sheepishly. “She has a point, you know. UNIT has the tendency of trying to keep me tied to the ground. It’s not really my lifestyle.”
Jo carefully put the flask back to the table and jumped into the Doctor’s arms, suddenly scared she’d simply disappear if she waited for too long.
“I’ve missed you, you know! It’s not like I can just invite you over for tea!”
The Doctor laughed. “It’s not like you had anything to ever invite me to, really. Quite a busy woman you’ve become.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Missy added with a grin. “She was pretty long in Nairobi, must’ve been at least two years.”
Jo stepped back from the Doctor, throwing Missy the most baffled look. “I’m not surprised with her, but you checked up on me?”
But Missy just shrugged. “I did always like you.”
Before Missy could stop her, Jo had drawn her into a tight embrace.
“Ouh,” she said, awkwardly patting Jo’s back. “Eh. Don’t. Don’t do that.”
With a grin, Jo let go of her, gave the Doctor one last wave, then grabbed the flask with the antidote and made her way to the door. Before she left, she looked back one more time.
“Come over for tea when you can,” she said. “And this is an order!”
Missy and the Doctor exchanged an amused glance.
“Which one was she talking to, you think?” Missy asked, putting a hand around the other Time Lady’s hip.
The Doctor snorted. “Both of us, I think. Smart woman, this one.”
“She sure is,” Missy retorted, planting a short kiss on the Doctor’s temple. “So, blond huh?”
“I know!” the Doctor proclaimed, while they sneaked their way back to her TARDIS. “Blonde and still not ginger!”
“Oh, but a woman,” Missy grinned back as they shut the door behind him. “Which, really - is a definite upgrade.”