River Song was dead. She was dead and not exactly buried, but since this had never stopped time-travellers from meeting each other the Doctor was fairly sure he knew who the note was from.
It had appeared on the psychic paper in a familiar scrawl, brief and to-the-point:
The Doctor shoved the note back into his coat pocket and glanced up to where Jupiter dominated the sky. Ganymede was currently enjoying a brief spell as the most fashionable of the Galilean moons, but fortunately parking was rarely a problem when you owned a TARDIS, even if said TARDIS refused to materialise as anything plausible.
River had always had a taste for luxury, and who could blame her, really, given that childhood? The Ganymede Hilton still employed people to open the doors long after everyone else had switched to doors that opened themselves. It was the sort of detail that had helped the brand survive and which made the Doctor despise owners and guests alike.
Not that he despised River, of course. She could claim a place in his hearts even now, and he was prepared to put up with place for her sake. Unless it was someone else who had summoned him here, in which case he was prepared to be rude and unhelpful. He introduced himself at the front desk, politely and without insulting anyone's employers.
“Your wife checked in this morning,” said the receptionist as she handed him the key. “Room 101.”
“My wife?” Well, that certainly backed up his assumptions about the note. “Oh, yes, my wife. Of course.”
He made his way up to the first floor, belatedly wondering if River would mind that he'd regenerated. Maybe he shouldn't... but surely she'd worked out that the bowtie-wearing idiot with the chin wasn't going to be around forever? But then, she'd never had the best temporal aim when it came to sending these notes, and he really wasn't — literally wasn't — the man she had married.
Oh well, bit late to worry about that now, here he was at the door with the key in the lock and anticipation making his hearts beat that bit faster. Might as well find out how she felt about this version of him.
The suite was tastefully decorated with plants and artworks, elegant drapes and expensive furniture. A small sitting-room opened onto a bedroom and a door that presumably hid the en-suite. Even the artificial fireplace didn't look too bad, considering.
The woman on the chaise lounge smiled at him. “Hello, Sweetie,” she drawled.
The Doctor stared at her. Eventually he said “No,” and turned to leave.
She was on her feet instantly, tugging him back into the room. “I have something terribly important to tell you. It's a matter of life or death for a large number of people.”
He stopped and waited as she placed herself between him and the door. “Well?”
She held up a hand “Give me a moment, I need to invent a convincing lie.”
His hands fisted at his sides. “Missy,” he said tightly, “You're supposed to be dead.”
She shrugged carelessly. “I got better.” She took a step towards him and the Doctor instinctively moved back from her. “Don't be silly,” she said, “I won't hurt you. Not unless you ask me to.”
“You sent the note.”
Something else occurred to him. “You told the receptionist that you're my wife.”
“I didn't want people to talk. You don't know how people judge loose women.” She tilted her chin upwards. “Did you really think I was your pet reformed psychopath? Were you expecting a dirty weekend from beyond the grave?”
He put his hands on her upper arms to move her out of his way and found that she was stronger than she looked. “Get out of my way, I'm leaving.”
“Don't you want to know where the bomb is?” she asked with an innocent expression.
He paused, a chill down his spine. “What bomb?”
“The one that I'll detonate if you try to run off before I'm done with you.”
He stared at her. “You're insane.”
“Yes, quite,” she agreed. “I want to spend some time with my old friend, and I expect you want to avoid too many casualties. These goals intersect nicely.” She brushed some imaginary dust from his lapel. “Think of it as a holiday.”
The Doctor slapped her hand away and looked at her carefully. “What are you up to?”
She met his gaze easily. “Nothing sinister, I just felt the need for some Time Lord company. The threats of violence are mostly so you don't spoil it all with your tedious morality.”
“Yes, really!” Missy sighed rather dramatically. “I don't know why you always have to doubt me.”
“Because you're evil and insane,” he replied promptly.
“Which you insist on holding against me for some reason.” She stepped aside. “If you want to leave, you can. A lot of people will die but I suppose that just gives you something to mope about for a few days.”
He looked from her to the door and then back again. He sighed. “One day.”
“Deal,” she said, rather triumphantly. “Oh, this is going to be such fun!”
The Doctor sat awkwardly on a white plastic chair by the side of the hotel swimming-pool. He was too hot, thirsty, and — worst of all — Missy was showing no signs of being bored yet. She had changed into a (quite flattering, he admitted) black swimsuit and was resting on a lounger beside him wearing a pair of large sunglasses and rubbing sunblock onto her arms.
“What's the point,” he asked irritably, of coming all this way just to sit under an artificial sun and burn yourself?”
“Shut up,” she said pleasantly.
“I thought part of spending time together was actually talking to each other?”
“Yes, but if you're just going to complain I'd rather you just sat there looking pretty.”
“I'm not pretty,” he protested. “I've been pretty, I know how people react to it.”
Missy looked at him, expression half-hidden by her sunglasses. “You know how humans react to it, you probably don't remember but our own species isn't so limited by appearance.” Something seemed to occur to her. “Speaking of humanity, where's your precious Clara Oswald? Have you abandoned her already?”
“No, I haven't,” he snapped. He took a calming breath and added, “She went home for a few days, I assume she's watching television or shopping for clothes or...” he gestured vaguely, “whatever it is that young people do these days.”
“I can see you've given the matter some thought,” said Missy. “Now, she's pretty — which I expect you've noticed — and it certainly doesn't make her any less annoying.”
He ignored that. “I don't need to spend every waking moment in her presence. I'm not needy.”
Missy nodded. “When she goes home for the week, do you skip forwards and pick her up immediately? Or do you ration your visits in a doomed attempt to extend her life? Really, I'm interested.”
“It's none of your business,” he said, aware that he was being defensive when he crossed his arms but doing it anyway.
“I wonder what she'll die of.”
“Or what? You'll run away crying and I'll have to start killing people until you come back?” She didn't seem especially bothered by the notion. “Remember when I died in your arms on the Valiant? All that crying and screaming you did? That was hilarious, it really was.”
“You could have just regenerated,” he said, glad to leave the topic of Clara's mortality.
“I wanted to win,” she said simply. She held up her bottle of sunblock. “Be a dear and do my back for me?”
“Please?” She took her sunglasses off to flutter her eyelashes at him. “I promise I'll stop talking about your little mayflies if you do. Cross my hearts.”
“Fine,” he said, quite eager to steer the conversation into safer waters.
Missy handed him the bottle and turned her back to him. He knelt behind her on the lounger and squirted some of the lotion into his hand. Unsure where to start, he stared at her shoulders blankly until she prompted him. “Go on, then.”
He started at her shoulder-blades and worked from there.
“Oh, that's nice,” said Missy with a quiet little sigh. “You're very good with your hands.”
“I should have known you'd make it into something that it's not,” he said harshly, aiming to finish the task as quickly as possible.
“When is it ever not?” she asked. “There's an undeniable attraction between us, don't pretend you don't know that.”
He finished and wiped his hands on a towel. “I don't find evil people attractive.”
He returned to his uncomfortable plastic chair. “If there was any sort of chemistry here — which there isn't — I'm sure it would just be that we're the same species. I doubt it would be anything personal.”
“I'll take that as an admission,” said Missy with a smile.
“Take it as whatever you like, there's nothing between us.” He stood. “I'm going to get something to drink.”
“I'll have a banana daiquiri.”
“I didn't ask,” he said, turning away from her and heading to the bar.
This wasn't going at all well, which was only to be expected. He was being blackmailed into a holiday and it wasn't even a good one. He found a barstool and a drinks list and waited for the barman to notice him. He half wished he'd changed into something cooler, but he knew Missy would have taken that to mean he was prepared to enjoy himself.
“What will it be?”
“Water, with ice, and a banana daiquiri for my... “ Arch-nemesis? Best enemy? Former friend? “Annoying woman in black.”
He took the drinks back to the pool and handed Missy hers as though he hadn't done her bidding.
“This is boring,” she said after she finished her drink in one go.
“Let's hit the karaoke bar.”
“I don't sing.”
“Well,” she corrected. “You don't sing well.”
“I don't sing at all,” he insisted.
“Tokyo, 1998, about a week after Martha Jones left you.” Missy spread her arms and sang, apparently drunkenly. “Maybe I didn't treat you, quite as good as I should...”
“How could you possibly... that never happened!”
“You were always on my miiiiiiind...,” she continued.
“I have no memory of that,” he lied.
“No wonder, you were blind drunk and crying. St Martha abandoning you was a good one. Not as funny as when Miss Grant left you for a younger man, but -”
“I thought we weren't going to talk about my friends.”
“Sorry,” she said with a complete lack of sincerity, “I forgot. Anyway,” she went on, “I know how much you love karaoke and don't lie to me.”
Missy was still singing as they headed back to her suite. “...aaaaaand when you get the chance, you are the dancing queeeeeeeen...”
“Shh,” said the Doctor, catching her as she staggered to one side “It's 2am, people are asleep.”
“I don't care!” she retorted loudly. “Do you have the key?”
“I thought you had it?”
She shook her head. “No, I left it in my other dress.”
Sighing he reached into her pocket, ignoring her giggles as he groped around for the key. “Here it is,” he said, retrieving it. It only took him three attempts to get it into the lock, which was pretty good going all things considered.
“I hope that wasn't symbolic,” said Missy, tumbling into the room after him.
The Doctor dropped into an overstuffed armchair and closed his eyes. He was already half-asleep when he felt Missy poking at him. He opened one eye to look at her. “What?”
“Time Lords don't sleep in chairs when there's a perfectly good bed available.”
The Doctor looked through the doorway into the bedroom. “But...” he said, “there's only one bed. And there's two of us.”
“We can share,” said Missy. “It wouldn't be the first time.”
The Doctor was dimly aware that this was possibly a bad idea. “You might go after my virtue,” he said, articulating his concerns.
Missy shook her head. “I won't. Scout's honour.”
“You were never in the Scouts.”
“Don't be so fixated on details,” she complained. She turned and gestured for him to follow. “I won't do anything you wouldn't do.”
“Oh,” said the Doctor, trying to weigh up the possibilities. “I suppose it's okay for us to share then.”
He followed her into the bedroom and steadied himself with a hand on the wall as he tried to kick his boots off without untying the laces.
Missy stood at the dressing table and stared at herself in the mirror. “Do you think I should take my face off?”
“No, leave it on, I like it.” The Doctor admitted defeat and bent to untie his shoelaces.
“I don't mean my face,” she corrected herself. “I mean... that stuff. Make-up.”
“Are you supposed to?” asked the Doctor, who had never bothered to find out.
She shrugged. “What's the worst that could happen?” She stepped out of her heels and half-fell onto the bed. “I think I might be drunk,” she added.
“Time Lords don't get drunk,” said the Doctor, pulling back the covers on his side of the bed. “Possibly we could be slightly tipsy, but no more than that.” He got into bed and sighed contentedly as he closed his eyes once more.
“I didn't go after your virtue,” said Missy as he woke.
“Good,” he said, trying to summon a clearer memory of the previous night. Then he tried to sit up, which didn't go as well as he had expected. “Missy,” he said as calmly as he could, “why am I handcuffed to the bed?”
“Well,” she began, “your hands were wandering a bit during the night, and I knew you'd never forgive yourself if you took advantage of me in some way.”
He turned the idea over in his head, examining from several angles. “Why am I still handcuffed to the bed?”
“Because it suits you,” she said. “And because I want us to have a nice little chat about our feelings, and that's always easier with you in bondage.”
He stared at her. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
She ignored that. “Why do always pretend that you're not madly in love with me?”
“Please, just kill me.”
Missy shook her head, her hair half around her shoulders and half still piled messily on top of her head. “Later, if you insist.”
The Doctor started quietly trying to free himself.
“Are you still mourning your archaeologist?”
“Yes,” he said, “that's the only thing that could ever stand between us. Clearly there are no other obstacles to us having a pleasant and fulfilling relationship.”
“Don't be sarcastic,” she reprimanded.
“Are you jealous?” he asked, aiming low. “I didn't marry you when you were threatening to destroy the universe. Does that annoy you?”
“Don't insult me. Really, marrying a human? That's perverted even for you. I forgive you, though.” She examined her red-painted fingernails. “I suppose we're lucky you never got the bitch in pup. I draw the line at looking after children.”
“River,” he said, emphasising the name through gritted teeth, “didn't want any children and neither did I.”
“Are you sure? Humans do so love to spawn brats.”
He nodded. “Absolutely certain.”
“I suppose we'll never know now, what with her being so completely dead. If only she hadn't wasted her regenerations saving your sorry self.”
“I'm not going to talk about this,” he said, trying to appear unmoved. “Why don't we talk about you and your failure to ever actually succeed at anything?”
“Don't provoke me,” she warned. “I still haven't told you where the bomb is.”
“Assuming it actually works.”
“Shut up,” she snapped.
“You shut up,” he countered, pleased to have upset her.
“Jealous old cow.”
Missy put a hand on her chest and gasped. “Did you kiss your human mother with that mouth?”
“I haven't even begun to insult you,” he replied.
She leaned across the bed towards him, smiling. “Enough foreplay, let's get to the good stuff.”
“I wasn't -” he began, and she cut him off with a kiss.
He tried to stay unresponsive, but she knew what he liked and for all his denials he liked that she knew. She moved, settling herself above him and straddling his hips.
“This is a very bad idea,” he said when she pulled her mouth from his.
“And aren't those the best kind?” she asked with a smile.
Missy hummed quietly as she read over the menu in the restaurant. He recognised the tune as an aria from one of her favourite operas. She was pleased with herself and she didn't mind if he knew it.
He rubbed his left wrist absently and watched her across the table. He was trying very hard not to wonder if he could actually change her this time. He picked up a complimentary bread-stick and chewed on it thoughtfully.
“No,” she said without looking up.
“No, you can't change me.” She turned the menu over and started reading the wine list. “Besides, it's not usually me you have to worry about.”
He frowned at her. “I don't follow.”
Missy set the menu down on the table. “Do you remember when we were boys, in our first year at the Academy? You used to climb into my bed during the winter storms, so that you wouldn't be alone.”
“I was a child,” he said, sure where this was going.
“A frightened child. And do you remember what I told you?”
“No,” he said, which wasn't remotely true.
“I'm sure you do. I told you that you didn't have to be afraid of thunder, only of the lightening.”
“What are you getting at?”
“My dear Doctor, isn't it obvious? I'm thunder, you're lightening. Why do you think I wanted to give you an army?”
He tried to spin it against her. “So you're saying you're just a loud noise rather than an actual threat?”
“I'm saying that you can't have one without the other. We need each other.” She smiled. “I'll have the fish.”
He hadn't noticed the waiter arriving at their table. He blinked and chose from the menu at random. “I'd like lasagne, please.”
Missy ordered the most expensive wine available and handed over the menus to the departing waiter.
“I thought you didn't like fish,” said the Doctor, hoping to lead the conversation to safer territory.
“Well, it's very good for you.” she said, “And I am eating for two now.” She blinked innocently at his shocked expression and added “I could be, it's not as if we were careful.” Missy allowed him another moment of blind panic before she began to laugh. “Oh, you should see your face! Don't worry, I'm taking all the necessary precautions.”
He shook his head to clear it. “Look,” he said quietly, “just tell me where you put the...” he glanced around to see if anyone might overhear, “...the... thing.”
“The bomb?” she asked at normal volume. “There isn't one.”
He stared at her. “What?”
She waved a dismissive hand. “I thought you knew I was lying about that. I assumed you were just playing along for appearances' sake.”
The Doctor sat back in his chair. “I went through all this for nothing?”
“Hardly nothing,” said Missy. “Don't pretend you didn't enjoy yourself as much as I did.”
“You... you're an appalling person,” he said, feeling his anger build.
She shrugged. “But you knew that already.”
The Doctor stood. “I'm leaving.”
Missy didn't seem at all disturbed by this. “Feel free. You're not endlessly amusing company, whatever you might like to think. I'll see you around,” she added.
“Don't bet on it.”
She smiled up at him. “Please, you're not fooling anyone.”
He scowled at her and left the table. He felt her watching him until he left the restaurant, however much he tried to ignore her presence at the edge of his mind. When he reached the TARDIS the doors flew open as if afraid of his temper, and he struggled to calm down if only because he knew how much Missy enjoyed getting under his skin. He slammed the dematerialisation lever home and let the ship select her own destination. He didn't really care where he went as long as it was away from Missy and her mind games.
Without really thinking about it he pulled the psychic paper from his coat pocket and let it fall to the floor. He could feel the parting shot written on it, but he was determined not to read it. It didn't matter what she had to say at this point, it would just be yet another entry on the list of things he hated about her. And if she thought there was going to be a next time...
And at that he had to sigh. There would always be a next time, no matter what she did. It was how they worked, thunder and lightening just like she'd said. It was all so depressingly predictable.
The worst part was that he was already looking forward to it.