He’s been sitting outside for a long time. He’s been quiet for a while. Missy likes it, lying on the floor of the vault, staring at the gloomy depths of the ceiling and just knowing he’s there. Memories are always worse in the dark, he said. That’s true, that’s something she told him, but her darkness doesn’t have anything to do with ambient light.
He gets to his feet and she thinks he might be leaving but he doesn’t walk away. He’s talking again, not to her, to his student, Bill of many stories and absolutely no encounters. Not that she wants to meet her, latest in a very long line, but the fact that she hasn’t speaks volumes. She’s a danger Bill has to be protected from and some days she’s proud of that. Others, she wants to be trusted, considered worthy, so much it hurts.
“It means I'm a scary, handsome genius from space and I'm telling you no, she's not out of your league.”
At least he likes her words. Missy wonders how many times he’s given that self-description to humans since she first dubbed him so, semi-affectionately, semi-mockingly.
“Something's coming, Bill. Something very big, and something possibly very, very bad. And I have the feeling that we're going to be very busy. Call her tonight.”
He hangs up. Turns his attention back to her.
“Listen. If it comes down to it, if you're all I've got left and I need your help, you said you were my friend.”
They are always all each other have left. He’s just better at ignoring that.
“Something's coming, Missy, and I'm blind. How can I save them when I'm lost to the dark?”
The silence stretches between them, heavy and ominous. She breaks it.
Turn on the light, drama queen.
Silence again, then reluctant amusement. I’m in good company.
I don’t know where you got that idea from. Now stop lurking outside: either come in or leave me alone.
She’s sure of the answer but the lack of hesitation on his part still gratifies her.
Missy gets to her feet to greet him with outstretched hands, takes his and regards him quizzically, her head tipped to one side.
“So you’re literally as blind as a bat?”
His lips quirk in a smile. He doesn’t reply directly, instead quipping “It’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
“Hit it,” she responds and leads him over to his favourite armchair, settling on his lap before he can protest. “Honestly”—she leans in to examine the glasses closely; he doesn’t flinch at all—“is this really the best you can do?” She curls her fingers around his wrist, feeling his pulses thrum steady beneath her fingertips. “You don’t need them here.”
A brief moment of connection. What he sees flashes across her mind. His face, through her eyes, but he’s focusing on the reflection of her in his sunglasses and that swell of emotion between her hearts isn’t hers.
He pulls away. “Don’t do that.”
“Why not?” she says and reaches for him again.
He pulls away again. “I said, don’t. Don’t promise me... this is what I have to live with. Leave it alone.”
That hurts. “I’m not trying to be cruel.”
Missy isn’t sure she believes him. She gets up and starts pacing the vault.
“So what is it? What’s the big bad that’s going to huff and puff and blow our house down?”
“I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t know.” Frustration colours his voice. “I really am in the dark. Which”—his hands grasp the arms of the chair—“is a problem because they know almost everything about me.”
“They don’t know about you. They don’t know what’s inside this vault. Missy... if you’re my friend, I want you to promise me something.”
“Yes, yes.” She waves a hand. “I’ll only kill the bad things.”
“No?” She stops, turns to look at him, cocks an eyebrow. It is, of course, completely wasted on him, which is a shame because she does a very good eyebrow. “Even if I let you and your morality define the category?”
“That’s not funny, Missy.”
“It’s not trying to be. Do you want to save them or not?”
He leans forward, intensity in every line of his body. “You said you were my friend. I want you to promise to stay here.”
She’s genuinely taken aback. “And let you go gallivanting off into who-knows-what and get yourself killed? Given that I have a rather vested interest in your survival right now, guess what my answer’s going to be?”
“Go on, guess.” She smiles tightly. “Or don’t you trust me, friend? Afraid I’ll sell Earth for my freedom? Afraid I’ll slaughter indiscriminately?
His answer is written all over his face: like you did before.
Go on! she screams in her head, not broadcasting but not caring if he hears. Say it!
He doesn’t. Maybe that’s part of their problem. Their past binds them together but it also keeps them apart. Six, seven, eight decades and there’s still centuries worth between them undiscussed, unforgiven.
“It’s a stupid waste of your resources,” she says, when it’s clear he’s not going to respond. “The two of us together could beat anything like that.” She snaps her fingers. “I thought you fought a better war than that.”
“It’s a strategic withholding of my resources until I have further intelligence,” he retorts. Then, quieter, “They could be coming for you.” His words are accompanied by a brief spark of connection, a wash of emotions that leave tracks.
She bats it away. “They don’t know I’m here but they’re coming for me. Really, Doctor, such a failure of basic logic is breathtaking.”
“Maybe this is a genuine blind spot. Or maybe a blank in normal time and space is as good as a target to them.”
“And you want me to sit here.”
“If they don’t know you’re here, we retain the element of surprise. If they do know you’re here, you just confirm it and you’d be far more vulnerable outside.”
“Snug as a bug in a rug,” she sing-songs. “Meanwhile, you’d let your precious squishy human do battle at your side?”
He sits there, seemingly impassive. She misses his eyes.
“You said you were my friend,” he says simply.
“I am!” Oh, she is tired of this. She has said those words over and over. Shouted, screamed, sung, even sussurated if she wants to carry on the alliteration. Sometimes it feels like every syllable has fallen into a void, never reaching him.
“Then trust me. Let me trust you. I need every advantage I can get. I need your help.”
What he’s asking for is an absence of action. Just like the last few decades. Until he wants her help. That’s a short-term goal, for sure. She can work towards that. His plans disintegrate like wet tissue paper on encountering the first inconvenienced human but he somehow muddles through and usually survives, just through dumb luck. He won’t need luck if he’s got her and, after all, Missy does value the element of surprise.
She doesn’t want to agree too readily, though. She stands still, lets the silence stretch thin.
He takes his sunglasses off, looking in her general direction. She takes a step to the left; he stays looking at the same point. Step back, step to the right: his gaze never wavers. In, out, in, out and shake it all about. She giggles.
She sighs theatrically, crosses to him and drapes herself over the back of his chair, arms crossed on his chest.
“If you get yourself killed,” she says into his ear, “I’m leaving and I’m not clearing up your mess.”
“In that scenario, I can hardly stop you.”
“I still think it’s idiotic.” She presses a kiss behind his ear. “Idiot.”