“What hath night to do with sleep?”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Eerie notes of a piano drifted through the tunnel down to the vault. The Doctor thought it sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
He set the paper bags, along with the satchel containing some essays he was supposedly grading — really he was just going to skim them and draw little smiley faces by the bits he liked — on the ground as he started the complicated process of opening the vault.
The piano drifted off as he came in, the vault door swinging shut behind him. Missy’s back was to him, and she was sitting very still.
“I thought it was nice,” he said as he crossed the room to the low table and deposited his armfuls there. “What was it?”
“Some popular song,” she said. “Fireflies, or something like that.”
“Hm. Didn’t know you listened to music.”
“Well what else am I going to do, locked away in here?” She descended the short steps towards the sitting area, skirts hiked up. “I’ve read all the books, twice, and you won’t even do me the kindness of bringing me a particle accelerator.” She stuck her lips out in a pout. “Did you bring me a singularity spike, at least?”
He looked up at her as he pulled takeaway boxes from the bags. “You know I’m not going to do that.”
She sat down with a puff, arms crossed. “You never let me have any fun.”
“Fun for you involves dissolving living matter.”
“I got spring rolls.”
“Oh, I have such a merciful jailer.”
He rolled his eyes, though they were mostly swallowed up by his eyebrows. “Do you want the food or not?”
Not responding, she took up a plate and started filling it with food.
He leaned back with a small plate balanced on one knee, an essay on the other.
“What’s this week’s prompt?”
“I asked them to write about their imaginary friends.”
“Don’t you wish we had teachers like me back home?”
She hums. “Maybe if we did you would have passed.”
He pursed his lips and continued reading.
As Missy finished her food, she picked up a few bags of groceries, snacks, and clothes, and started putting them away, humming a song as she went.
“Nardole tells me you don’t seem to be sleeping,” he said after a few minutes.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw her turn around to look at him. “Hm,” she said primly. “Isn’t it rather perverted of him to be watching me all hours? A girl needs her privacy.”
“The vault senses life signs, to make sure you’re still here and not trying to kill yourself. He’s noticed a lack of deep-breathing and no periods of REM brain activity.”
“Why does it matter if I’m sleeping?”
“You need to sleep.”
Her heels clicked along the concrete as she crossed the room. She rested a hand on the back of the chair, the other on her hip. “Do you sleep?”
He smiled. “‘Course I do.”
“Then why do you look so tired?”
He glanced up at her, out of the corner of his eye.
She smiled, knowing the truth; but her eyes were sad. The Doctor told himself not to let that make him too hopeful.
He set the essay down and stood, facing her. “Someone once told me. ‘With all the things a Time Lord has seen, everything he's lost, he must surely have bad dreams.’ I’m sure you can figure out the rest.”
He bent, picked up his satchel, and started towards the door.
Missy’s voice followed him. “Then you understand why I don’t sleep either.”
He paused in place, considering whether he should turn around or not. “Good night, Missy.”
He avoided the vault after that. He sent Nardole to bring Missy things he got for her, and pointedly avoided questions on the subject.
One day, while they were having tea, Nardole said, “Missy wants to know why you haven’t gone to see her.”
“And what did you tell her?”
“I said that’s probably because she’s evil and that she’s finally getting what she deserves.”
“And she said?”
“That she’s your best friend and she didn’t do anything wrong. And she suggested I start slipping sleep pills into your tea.”
The Doctor looked down into his cup and set it on the desk. “And did you?”
“No, why would I ever do something Missy suggested?”
“Hm. Smart move.”
“ Why haven’t you gone to see her, sir?”
“Exactly why you said.”
Nardole raised his eyebrows — well, he would have, if he had any eyebrows. “You were bringing her takeaway not three weeks ago.”
“I got busy.”
“You did not.”
He stood up and went for the TARDIS doors. “I don’t have to tell you, do I? Last I checked, you were working for me!”
“Sir, I’m simply expressing the necessary concern— and you know if Professor Song were here—”
He pointed a dangerous finger at him. “ Don’t bring her up. You think I don’t know what she would say, if she were here?”
With that, the TARDIS doors slammed shut.
The Doctor fiddled with something for a few hours, loud rock music playing to drive away the thoughts.
Eventually, he tossed the device to the ground and went down to the vault.
Missy was lounging on the fainting couch, a book in her hands. She raised her eyebrows when he came in. “What are you doing here? Isn’t it awfully late?”
His fingers found one another and he laughed nervously. “Ah, well, you see— I was just thinking. It is late, but I figured you wouldn't be sleeping.”
“No, I’m trudging through this .” She tossed the book aside. She stood up, smoothing her skirt. “But why would you want to come see me? You seemed very keen on ignoring me.”
“Well, I’m—” He really should have thought about an excuse before coming down. He smiled sheepishly, a look that was entirely innocent. A look he had only shown to a handful of people in his life. “I’m having trouble sleeping.”
“And… what do you want me to do about it?”
“Nothing. Maybe keep me company.”
She watched him for a moment, warily, before sitting down. “Well then. Since you asked so nicely.”
The Doctor soon began wandering down into the vault a few nights a week, to the point where Missy would always be expecting him with a tray of coffee. At first it would only be a few hours, but one night the Doctor realized that he could hear birds outside the window and pale gray light was drowning out the dim lamplight from the side table. He left very quickly after that, making the excuse that he had a class to teach. Both of them knew it was Saturday, but for the sake of appearances, neither of them mentioned it.
One night, the Doctor came into the vault and saw Missy in a nightdress — distinctly Victorian, like all her clothes, but deep midnight blue instead of the usual white or pink.
She was sitting on the couch staring into the distance, sipping a cup of tea.
“Oh, were you— going to bed?” the Doctor asked, taken aback by her state.
She snapped out of her trance and looked up at him.
“No, not necessarily,” she said. “I spilled something on my dress.”
“Ah. Of course.”
She stood up, looking at the floor in a way that — were it at all possible for someone as fierce-looking and dangerous as Missy — would almost be demure. “Actually. I was wondering. Since you’ve been spending the nights here so often. Perhaps we ought to have a sleepover, for once.”
He blinked. “A— a sleepover?” He thought back to the nights spent curled together in childhood, passing out drunk in one or the other’s bed at the Academy, holding each other when it felt like the rest of the world was set against them.
Had they touched in a way that didn’t mean violence since then?
“You know, like we used to.” Her voice was quiet, afraid; she thought she had overstepped. She felt guilty .
“I don’t know, Missy, I—”
“You don’t have to.” She reached out, like she might take his hands, if she were just a few feet closer.
“I know I don’t,” he said. “The problem is, I don’t know if I want to.”
“Might help you sleep.”
“Might help us both sleep.”
He watched her for a moment. Surely it was some kind of trick— Missy would never be so vulnerable to him. “How do I know I can trust you?”
“The vault measures life signs, remember? That means it responds to you too. If I were to try and hurt you, Nardole would be alerted and I’d probably be paralyzed by whatever security system you have in here.”
“Right. Of course.”
“You don’t have to take my word for it.”
He yearned for the safety of the other side of that door, away from her, away from their past, but his feet remained firmly planted where he stood.
He swallowed, trying to regain his voice. “I know I don’t. But I will. I’ll let you prove yourself.”
“So you’ll stay?” She started to step forward, but stopped abruptly, remembering herself.
They both had facades to maintain.
Instead of speaking, he just nodded.
Her eyes flitted to the bed against the side of the room. More than big enough for each of them to lay a comfortable distance apart. He doubted that would be a concern.
Following her to the bed felt awkward, and the thought of being touched made that flight response return.
She crawled into bed and let out a long breath, as though she was finally relaxing. Her dark hair haloed her head against the eggshell white pillow. Here she looked almost peaceful, like she could finally exhale.
“I’m not going to bite you,” she said after a moment of him awkwardly standing there. “Well, unless you want me to.”
“Ah, no, thanks. I’ll pass on the biting.”
Unable to put it off anymore, he pulled his jacket off and let it drop to the floor. He sat on the edge of the bed and unlaced his boots, setting them beside one another.
He laid down, teetering on the edge and facing away from Missy. She clapped and the lights turned off.
Then, because she knew him — because she knew him better than anyone in any universe — she said quietly, as if whispering would make it less real, “We don’t have to be close. I know how you are. But it might help. If you wanted to try.”
She shifted, turning — presumably onto her side. He turned over and found himself staring into her eyes. There was no wild glee in them now, no desperate anger, no evil; they were genuine, and open. I’m here now , they said. Come home .
He found himself exhaling now too, and he reached out, across an expanse that had seemed impassible before, and cupped her face in his hand.
Her breath shuddered, just for a moment, at the touch, and her eyes shut.
He pulled her close, and she curled into him, their hearts beating in time. She fit her face into the crook of his neck. “Good night, sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
He hummed and ran his hand across her shoulders, feeling them loosen beneath his touch. “I’m sure you will.”