Missy stared hard at the cracked stone of the cell with glassy eyes. She had been in this single room for longer than the lifespan of most creatures in the galaxy. With every passing day, she appreciated the Doctor’s mercy in visiting her in the vault he had kept her in more. He had provided her with books and a piano and conversation.
She was certain she had long since gone mad. She couldn’t be bothered to check, she couldn’t be bothered to move. To what purpose stride around her tiny box as though she were a caged animal.
There was a noise outside, boot on floor, but she didn’t bother to glance up. It was simply a guard checking the prisoners. She heard the slow tread stop outside each door until it finally stopped at hers, the face peered in at her, checking she was present and accounted for.
After all these years, she was past acknowledging this moment with commentary or questions or flirtatious waves. She instead said nothing, and continued to look into the cracked stone. And this time, it was the guard who broke the silence between them, a shocked voice she hadn’t heard in eons.
“It’s Missy now,” she didn’t look at him. Perhaps this was a sign of her madness, perhaps she was having this conversation with nobody.
“What are you doing here?”
And of all things, it was that which made her believe that he must be the Doctor. Surely, her own mind would conjure the most recent version of him, long face looking tragically at her as he told her how she had failed to become the person he had hoped that she would. She rose from the low pallet, all the furniture she had been given, and walked towards the door. It was a version of the Doctor she hadn’t seen for eons, diminutive in size with a ridiculous shaggy haircut and yellow checked trousers.
“Really, Doctor. Are you colour blind in every regeneration?”
He scowled. “You’re in prison and insulting my dress sense. You never did have any sense of priority.”
She shrugged. “Yes, well. I may have committed terrible acts, but your dress sense is truly criminal.”
Missy reached through the bars and took hold of his cloak, rubbing it between thumb and forefinger. “Robes of the Imperial guard in Pyrdonian colours. I’ve never seen you wear this.”
“Well...I grew up. Got a real job.” He put his hand in his pocket, feeling the device he’d been ordered to use on the prisoner. A command he had no intent of following, but wasn’t quite sure how to get out of either.
Her smile was almost fond. “Oh, Doctor. You never grow up.”
She saw the flicker of something like hope in his eyes and reminded herself when (if) she got out of this, to track the Doctor down and ask about this little escapade. The Doctor working for the Imperial Guard? It sounded impossible.
“Why are you here?” he asked again. “I’m sure it was dreadful, you’re locked in the highest security vault, changing times randomly to prevent you from effecting escape or any of your jailors from feeling sorry for you. That’s always been a talent of yours, after all.”
“I...may have gotten myself into a pickle, Doctor.”
He looked at her, unimpressed, and she continued.
“One day, you and I will stand, side by side, to face Mondassian Cybermen, and I fall.”
She could see him watching but, since it was (more or less) true, he detected no hint of a lie on her face. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, you are. It’s terribly sad. There are many tears and recriminations and much beating of the breast, but there are humans to be saved and Cybermen to be stopped and I tell you to leave me and, hero that you are, you do.”
“But you’re not dead. I didn’t wait for you to regenerate?”
Ah- A careless detail to have forgotten. “You believe it to be my last regeneration. And, due to the nature of the wound, the process is having trouble getting started. Regeneration is...well. You have only had the experience once, Doctor. They get worse. They get more difficult and dangerous and painful and I believed I was going to die.”
“Now you’re just being dramatic.”
“I am not! I lay there on the ground, looking up at the sky and waited for my final moments. And he came to me.”
“Missy! If you please!”
“And what did he want? What was his price?”
“A Time Lord life.”
There was a long, considering silence. The Doctor was still watching her, eyes still fixed on her face. So young, those eyes, she hadn’t seen him this young in...in forever. Civilisations had fallen since the Doctor last looked like this. Her civilisation had fallen since the Doctor had looked like this.
Missy picked up the thread of her narrative. “I came here. Not to now here, to the Gallifrey of my time. Time Lords, as you will learn, are capable of corruption. There are those who are truly rotten amongst us. I planned to choose one who deserved it and offer them up.”
To be fair, the General was little more than a military dictator, she wouldn’t be missed. The fact that Missy could have taken her place, nothing more than a bonus.
“And you were caught.”
Missy gestured around herself. “Obviously. And any day now, my grace period will be up and the Trickster will come to take what he is owed from me.”
Dark eyes regarded her for a second longer. “Do you have a plan?”
“I assure you, Doctor, if I had a plan, I wouldn’t still be here. Bigger on the inside technology and Gallifrey still keeps its prisoners in boxes. Hardly a civilised way to treat offenders, is it?”
“Well.” He put a hand to his throat and undid the clasp of the cloak. “I have a plan.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“You bargained the Trickster a Time Lord life. If you’re having trouble regenerating, we can’t risk it being yours, but I’m right at the start of mine, I can part with one lifetime.”
The other eyebrow rose to match. “You...will give up your own regeneration. You have no idea what the Trickster will make you do.”
The Doctor gave her his best impression of a rakish smile. It didn’t quite fit this face.
“I volunteer as tribute,” Missy mocked and then, immediately, “Doctor. Don’t?”
He reached through the bars and patted her hand. “One of us has to.”
“But why is it always you!?”
“It seems it’s my turn. You gave yourself up to the Cybermen. I’m returning the favour.”
She didn’t know how to dissuade him; she didn’t have any other way out if she did.
“Trickster!” the Doctor called out, and turned, opening her cell door. A figure appeared behind him, eyeless and imposing, robed in black. The Doctor didn’t look at him, still unlocking the cell. “The bargain is fulfilled. I offer you a Time Lord consciousness.”
“Are you certain? You must consent.”
Missy’s hand rose as though she was going to tug him back, but her courage faltered. She touched the Doctor’s arm briefly, carefully. “Thank you,” then in a whisk of skirts, she was gone into the labyrinth of the prison block.
“I consent.” The Doctor turned, finally, to the Trickster. He took a step forward.
“Very well. One Time Lord lifetime that belongs to me.” The Trickster put a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder and he yelped short and sharp, spasming and crashing to his knees. There was a flare of orange behind the eyes and the world exploded in fire.
Some moments later, the Doctor climbed to her feet: the yellow trousers were ridiculously short and her dark skin was grey with the regeneration trauma, but she stood confidently in the corridor, ready to live her life the way she was commanded to. “What do we do first?” she asked the Trickster.