“Mistress,” the Doctor declared as he entered the Vault. In his right hand, he grasped a handful of papers and with his left hand he tugged at his scarf. Missy counted three and a half tugs before the scarf was finally pulled free and discarded over the back of the chair. “We’re having a chat.”
Sat in the far corner of the room and reading by candlelight, Missy glanced over at the Doctor. Her gaze drifted from his pinched eyebrows to the papers he was waving in his hands. She tutted at the line of dirt that she spied under his finger nails and gently pushed her glasses up to rest atop her head, assuring that she’d no longer have to be offended by his careless manicure. Placing the book face down, Missy pursed her lips and wondered what had got the Doctor so riled up.
It was probably her.
“Mistress?” The Time Lady echoed. “It must be serious if you’re using my full title. Who’s died? Although, if you must know, death isn’t really all that serious. It’s actually rather funny. There are a million and one other things that are far more serious- nuclear explosions, tsunamis, earth quakes. Of course, all of those things often do result in death, but its far more serious for the survivors. They could be plagued by cancers, homelessness and the loss of their entire family. Now, that would warrant a serious face.”
The Doctor let out an exasperated sigh as soon as Missy stopped for air. He dragged the chair out, cringing as it squeaked across the tiled flooring of the Vault and sat down, crossing one leg over the other.
“Come and sit down, Missy,” the Doctor stated firmly. “Now.”
Missy followed the Doctor’s orders, padding across the floor in five measured steps- more because whatever had got the Doctor’s knickers in this much of a twist promised to be a highly amusing way to pass an otherwise boring Wednesday afternoon than because of any authority he held in his voice.
Spread across the table were several A4 print outs that contained lists and times and dates. Each bit of information was highlighted with a specially selected colour- either red, yellow or green. Red was the most widely used highlighter while green was used the least.
Missy glanced at the papers and then back at the Doctor. Her sarcastic quip died on her tongue when she caught sight of his still serious expression.
“You know what these are?” The Doctor questioned.
His voice sounded so tired and Missy almost felt sorry for him. Almost but not quite.
“Yes, I do.”
“What are they then?” The Doctor pressed.
His voice sounded even more tired.
“It’s my internet search history,” Missy replied nonchalantly. She leaned in closer and read the latest date, giggling as a fond memory crossed her mind. “From around the last three months.”
“When and how did you get internet access in here?”
Missy pursed her lips, it took all her effort not to smirk.
“Why have you coloured in my internet search history? Could your salary not stretch to a colouring book? How terrible for you. If you ask nicely, I’ll share mine with you.”
“I’m asking the questions here, Missy. You’re intelligent, I’m sure you can figure out what the red, yellow and green markings mean,” the Doctor said tiredly. “Now, answer my question, when and how did you get internet access in here?”
“Boring. Very dreadfully, horribly boring,” Missy trilled waving her hand around in an excitable flutter. Her tongue skimmed across her front teeth and she bit back a giggle. “You ask all the boring questions. Do your human students find these questions exciting. Honestly, I once got caught up with some horrid business at Guantanamo Bay- don’t ask, you really don’t want to know. Anyway, even the Americans had more interesting questions than you. Ponder that for a moment, even the American humans had more interesting questions than you.”
The Doctor scowled, grounding his teeth together. Did Missy just say she had had dealings at Guantanamo Bay? It was probably another one of her senseless ramblings but if it wasn’t, he’d deal with that another time; first, he had to show no visual sign of being annoyed by her words.
“I am asking you a question Missy,” the Doctor said. “Would you like me to break it down for you?”
Missy snorted, rolling her eyes and examining her nails. She tutted at her chipped thumbnail as though it was the biggest inconvenience she had ever faced. It was certainly the biggest inconvenience of the last half an hour of her existence.
“If you must,” Missy granted. Her eyes shot up and she glared intensely at the Doctor. It was the stare that sent shivers down his spine and made Missy feel as though she had regained some of her power. “I know you so love the sound of your own voice. Is that why you decided to become a lecturer during our time on earth this time around. You know you don’t have the right credentials at all, don’t you? I’d make a much better lecturer than you. Although, I suppose you might just be qualified enough to teach the human embryos…”
The Doctor glanced up at Missy, briefly wondering if she was too excitable. He hadn’t sensed it from her when he’d entered the Vault earlier, but it wouldn’t be the first time he’d missed it. The Time Lord’s eyes traced over Missy’s form- looking for any sign of impending mania. Her hair was tied back relatively neatly, frizzy curls somewhat tamed while her eyes were bright with mirth and not tiredness or adrenaline.
This was not the Mistress on the edge of an adrenaline rush.
This was the Mistress at the height of her game- luring the Doctor in to one of her beloved games of cat and mouse.
This was the Mistress- master puppeteer and trickster.
Taking a well-practiced deep breath, the Doctor momentarily closed his eyes and counted to three. Upon opening his eyes, he shot a tight smile Missy’s way.
“When did you get internet access in the Vault?” The Doctor repeated as calmly as possible.
“Eighty years ago, dear,” Missy answered with a shrug.
Standing up, she strolled towards her bed on the raised podium of the containment field. The Doctor and Nardole had recently moved the bed to within the perimeters of the containment field after Missy had had a spate of fitful nights full of sleepwalking and night terrors. Eyeing the soft toys on the end of her bed, Missy tapped each one on the head.
“Duck, duck, goose,” she declared brightly as she settled on her current favourite lilac teddy bear. The Doctor had given it to her for her most recent milestone- using a sharp object without causing harm to herself or him. The teddy had was a washable one with matching coloured pens that let Missy draw and write all over the toy. It had gone down a treat. “Come on Mr. Pumpkin, let’s go and see what daddy bear wants to have a go at mummy bear about.”
As the Doctor watched Missy, he wondered if he was infantilising her too much.
“How have you had the internet in here for eighty years? You’ve only been here for seventy and you spent an entire decade nearly catatonic.”
“I was not nearly catatonic,” Missy hissed in response.
“Missy, I helped you do everything. Bathing, dressing, eating and other stuff,” the Doctor sighed. “If you weren’t catatonic, what were you?”
“I’ve done the same for you on an untold number of occasions,” Missy said defensively.
“I know you have,” the Doctor nodded. “We owe each other that much. Anyway, no more deflection. How have you had internet in the Vault for eighty years?”
“You were the one who distracted us,” Missy reminded sternly. “Oh, I don’t know, a girl scout is always prepared. Before my dashing Knight in Shining Armour rode to my rescue- that’s your stage direction, by the way- I was in that horrid prison for rather a long time. I knew you’d pop along eventually, and I knew I’d have to pimp out my crypt.”
The Doctor scowled, unimpressed with Missy.
“Did you ever for a second doubt that I would rescue you?” The Doctor asked.
“No,” Missy replied instantly. “Well, maybe on some very long and dark nights, but mainly no.”
The Doctor didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult.
He decided to take it as a compliment.
“Do you want to know how I did it?” Missy asked, leaning forward intently.
“No,” the Doctor said abruptly. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Why not? You wanted to know before,” Missy pointed out.
“Because I remembered that you rather like bragging about your achievements.”
Missy tilted her head to the side in acknowledgement.
“Fair enough,” she said. “So, is one about to get a bollocking regarding her internet search history?”
“One is,” the Doctor said sternly.
“I’m not going to go through the entirety of your search history, but I do want to discuss the five most concerning google searches.”
Missy sighed and rolled her eyes. If she had access to chewing gum, she would have looked every inch the petulant teenager she was trying to emulate.
“That sounds like a BuzzFeed article,” Missy smirked.
“Number one,” the Doctor started, deliberately ignoring her comments. “Can human death ever really be instantaneous?”
“Oh yes, that was a good one, wasn’t it? I’m pretty chuffed with it.”
“Do you want to hazard a guess at why that search was problematic?” The Doctor asked tiredly.
“Well, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it was because I was cheating a wee bit. I actually know the answer to that.”
“No, Missy!” The Doctor shouted in annoyance. “That’s not it at all. Okay, look, I’m going to leave you with this list for half an hour and I want you to write me a list of why each of these is problematic. Understand?”
“Yes sir,” Missy trilled giving the Doctor a mock salute. “I’ll get my homework done right away.”
“Half an hour,” the Doctor said sternly before disappearing out of the Vault.”
Half an hour later, the Doctor re-entered the Vault. He watched as Missy looked up, a smug smirk still lining her features.
“Honey, you returned,” Missy hummed. “Well, I completed my homework for you.”
As she spoke, Missy motioned to pieces of papers covered in her neat penmanship. The Doctor sat down and reached for the paper as he began to read all her answers. He nodded in something akin to approval, pausing when he came across her answer to number five.
“Why the question mark for number five, Missy?” He asked, wondering if she was deliberately trying to wind him up.
“Oh, I wasn’t sure why that one was a bad thing. You told me to always tell you when I didn’t understand anything.”
“Yes,” the Doctor stated with a nod. “Yes, you’re right I do say that. Okay, good. That’s really good, Missy. Well done. Can you tell me why you don’t understand what’s wrong with that question?”
His praise was probably a bit over enthusiastic, but he couldn’t help it- he wanted to encourage, not discourage Missy.
“Am I going to burn in hell for eternity?” Missy read out. “Why is it bad to ask that?”
“Because you’re making light of a human religion, Missy,” the Doctor corrected.
“No, I’m not,” Missy said seriously. “I want to know what’s going to happen to me when I die.”
The Doctor frowned, looking at Missy in concern.
“You don’t believe in hell though,” the Doctor said, stammering slightly.
“You have no idea what I believe in, dear,” Missy corrected. “I believe in something and I’m worried about what’s going to happen to me when I finally die for real.”
“You’re never going to die for real,” the Doctor laughed- more out of nerves than anything else. He then caught sight of Missy’s face and realised she was deadly serious. “Missy the questions you’re looking for would require more of a soul search than a google search.”
“I know,” Missy conceded. “I just…Look, it was a long night and I couldn’t sleep. Can we forget this one?”
“No, Missy, I really don’t want to leave this. I’d like us to talk about this please?” The Doctor pressed.
“I want to leave it,” Missy said sternly. “It was stupid.”
“It’s not stupid to believe in something. I just think there are more constructive ways you can explore these ideas. “ The Doctor reassured. “It’s very natural to believe in things. I… Do you remember out Gallifreyan theology lessons at the Academy?”
“Please, Doctor,” Missy sighed. “I’ve said I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
“Fine,” the Doctor eventually agreed. “We’ll leave it for now. I can bring some of our ancient scriptures by tomorrow if you like?”
Missy glared at the Doctor, refusing to acknowledge his suggestion one way or the other.
“I’ll bring them around tomorrow afternoon,” he decided.
“Very well,” Missy nodded, deliberately hiding her relief. “Have you finished lecturing me now?”
“I wasn’t—” the Doctor began. “Yes, yes I’ve finished.”