When Mary Poppins Strikes
THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FINALE/DEATH IN HEAVEN
If you haven't watched it/don't want to be spoiled, don't read yet.
When Kate thought of the very important question that should have occurred to her back in June when the Doctor had turned up, she and the Rani were on their third visit to the Natural History Museum.
"Rani," she asked, thinking that in three months she should have clarified this point, "Did you actually tell the Doctor that the Master's alive?"
The Rani tore her eyes away from the dinosaur skeleton, looking very much as though she didn't think this was a question worthy of interrupting her viewing of it. "No."
"No, of course not, that would only be helpful," Kate muttered, almost to herself. She put her hands on her hips. "Did it occur to you that perhaps the Master isn't doing what he told you he was going to, and that it might be best to let the Doctor know of him so that he could take care of it?"
"Because the Doctor has done a superb job of vanquishing the Master in the past," the Rani said with a snort, "They're practically dating. The Master will turn up again when he wants the Doctor's attention."
"Exactly! Isn't it likely that he'll bring whatever he's cooked up to gain that attention to Earth?"
The Rani's mouth quirked. "I suppose so. It's not something I'd given much thought."
"Not something...for the love of sanity, Rani, are you even capable of seeing past the end of your boiling tube?!"
"There's certainly a difference between capable and inclined to-"
"We are not arguing semantics!" Kate snapped, striding away from her. "There is a very real chance, which we have stupidly overlooked, that the Master will come here to wreck havoc."
"And if he does, we'll stop the maniac!"
That had the blonde halting. "We? You'd help us against him?"
"No, I thought I'd find a perch and watch," the Rani said sarcastically, "Yes, I'd help. Bursting that pest's bubble is one of the only enjoyable things left in the world. And I'm certainly not entrusting the Doctor to clean whatever mess he could cook up."
"You and the Doctor would have to play nicely," Kate pointed out, narrowing her eyes. She wasn't sure if she should believe it.
"It'll be a pain, but just bearable. The enemy of my enemy is...a necessary annoyance."
Kate at that moment lurched forward to kiss the Rani then and there in the middle of the museum. Surrounded by curious but only mildly interested spectators, Kate had no other way to convey the complete gratitude that was bursting out of her chest. The Rani's hands grasped the sleeves of her jacket as the brunette woman kissed her back after a moment's surprise. It was over in an instant and when a few people wolf-whistled and the Rani lifted an eyebrow at her, Kate felt herself go red but decided not to care for once.
"Right then," she said mildly, turning for the gallery's door, "We done?"
"You know, I think I'm rather flattered that you think so little of me," the Rani called as she made to follow, "I've felt I've been getting too soft, but if you're still thinking like this then I must be alright."
Kate laughed a bit at that, even if she knew that she really shouldn't.
Kate spent September and October alone. The Rani had claimed that the "stench of human idiocy" was taking up permanent residence in her nostrils and that only an extended leave of absence would cleanse her. Kate knew it had more to do with the alien brain fluid UNIT's team of scientists had found the week before. Kate had given the Rani permission to take charge of it, much to the rest of the team's horror, and the Rani had been off planet within an hour.
The dig at humanity was hardly necessary to justify wanting to analyse the sample in lengthy solitude - the Time Lady had enslaved entire planets just for her experiments in the past and worked on them alone for years at a time, Kate hardly expected her to be content with the combined effort of UNIT's lab and her TARDIS's. Frankly, it was impressive she had lasted as long as she had.
Still, after four consistent months of having the Rani around, it was odd to have her suddenly absent. Sure, the Rani had taken a day or two at a time to herself before, but after four days Kate couldn't help the peculiar boredom that crept into her chest. It only festered as the days turned into weeks, and by the end of October, a tiny part of Kate's mind began to wonder if she was coming back.
After all, it was hardly outlandish to consider that the Rani had realised she had no good reason return. Why would someone as snobbish and intelligent as her want to re-submerge herself into the world of apes? Someone who wasn't the Rani (a certain bow-tied Time Lord, for instance) might get an ego-burst from being ten times cleverer than anyone else in the room, but she just found it stilting.
Alright, maybe she liked it a little, Kate knew that much, but the satisfaction was small and secondary compared to the annoyance generated from the frustrating humans.
But damn if she didn't want that pain in the arse back. Preferably as soon as possible.
That was why, when Osgood's hand landed on her shoulder on the first of November, while Kate had been stirring her tea in the break room and letting her mind wander, Kate jumped a mile and nearly split her tea all over herself. With the Rani absent the personal physical contact in Kate's life had been at a low.
"Ohmigosh, Kate, I'm so sorry!" Osgood said immediately, eyes wide. "I didn't mean to give you a fright."
Kate, after checking she hadn't in fact spilled tea on her pantsuit, shook her head. "No, Osgood, it's fine, really."
"She's still not back, is she?" Osgood's face was sympathetic. A little too sympathetic for Kate's taste. The blonde fixed the appropriate 'I am your boss and I am tough and I most certainly don't need your sympathy' face on the girl.
"No," Kate said simply. "And don't look at me like that."
"Your unpredictable girlfriend has literally disappeared off the face of the planet," Osgood pointed out, "And since I'm the only one who knows about you two, I'm the only one who knows why, as the others are putting it, 'she looks like her favourite cat has run away and is never coming back'."
The blonde lifted a singular, dangerous eyebrow. "And who was saying that?"
"Doesn't matter. Point is, they're not wrong."
"She's not my girlfriend," Kate said, not for the first time and almost definitely not for the last, "Which is why she's likely not coming back."
Osgood was clearly unsure of whether to believe her, but was worried either way. "Oh, Kate. She's really shaken you up, hasn't she?"
Kate took a sip of her tea and ignored the slight shaking in her hands. "I think she rather has."
Osgood's eyes had fixed on something behind her, but Kate found herself not caring what it was. At least until a familiar low voice said, "Really, Stewart, the lack of faith is both astounding and strangely satisfying all at once."
Kate immediately put her mug down and spun on the spot. The Rani was leaning on the break room door frame, all leather and smirk and everything that put a dull ache in Kate's stomach.
"Weren't expecting me back?" The Rani looked amused by the prospect more than anything else. Her grey eyes didn't deviate from Kate's.
"I came back when I was needed."
"I'll explain soon enough. First I thought we could...what do you call it? Catch up?"
Kate laughed at the idea of something so trivial, but then realised that the Rani's version of catching up might not be as chatty as most human catching up was. "Alright then." She approached the doorway.
The Rani chuckled, and the sound was low and a downright innuendo in itself. "My TARDIS is in the corridor."
Only a few inches away from her, Kate breathed in to steady herself and smiled wryly. "You say that to all the girls?"
The brunette smirked again and ran her fingers across Kate's lapel. "Only the ones who have the courtesy to miss me and then deny it later."
They both laughed and Kate had to add, "Well, I certainly didn't miss you-" The Rani's kiss, so fleeting that any passing UNIT worker would have missed it, shut her up quickly enough. Kate managed a quick goodbye to an amused Osgood before she followed the Rani down the corridor and into the cupboard that was her TARDIS.
"How was UNIT in my absence?" The Rani asked from where she was standing at the console.
"Boring," Kate said, and it felt so good to admit it, "We had two near invasions of the planet and I was still bored. Just another Tuesday."
When the Rani laughed this time, it was her full and throaty one that Kate suspected most beings in the universe had never heard. "Excellent. I've rubbed off on you. You're starting to see how dull humanity can be."
"I'm not so sure excellent is the word."
"Hardly important right now."
With that, the Rani beckoned Kate with a single finger, and when she was in reach, tugged on her jacket to pull her in. Their lips met with that instinctive urge that tied them together when all else seemed doomed to pull them apart, that feeling of just work despite it going against all rationality. Against all they knew and believed in.
Kate stretched her limbs, the cold floor of the Rani's console room chilling her bare legs. Next to her, the Rani was unabashedly nude but getting redressed quickly, a new focus in her eyes.
"You might want to get dressed, Stewart," the Time Lady said, glancing her way, "I've got news and we haven't got long to act on it."
"Of course you didn't want to tell me the urgent news before this." It should have alarmed her, but Kate could only feel exasperated.
"If you'd needed to know sooner, I'd have told you sooner." The Rani tugged on her tight leather trousers and slipped her boots on with an ease that should have been physically impossible. "You mentioned the possibility of the Master showing up. Well, I've found readings that suggest he's actually on Earth now. Readings coming from St Paul's Cathedral, to be specific. That 3W business you've been investigating may be involved."
Kate blinked, ignored the speck of panic that threatened to surface with a calm she hadn't been entirely sure she still possessed, and nodded. "Alright, we'll get on it." She also went about getting her trousers and shoes back on, before finding a reflective surface on the console to be sure she'd tamed her hair so that no one in UNIT suspected what really went on between the two of them inside the Rani's TARDIS.
They emerged and Kate was quick to inform her team of what was needed for the operation, with the Rani filling in the blanks when more information was needed, though unfortunately the Rani still lacked proper information, which no one found more irritating than the Time Lady herself.
A minute from departure from HQ, news reports came rolling in of cybermen all over the city, and then all over the globe. Everyone in the UNIT vans just met eyes and kept their professional air.
A radio scout informed Kate of a man and a woman emerging from Saint Paul's, both dressed not quite in standard attire, and in the middle of one of the biggest clumps of cybermen.
"A woman? Is she young, short, brunette?" Kate asked quickly. The scout replied in the negative. "Then have we found the Doctor, or the Master? Either of them could have regenerated and be that man, we won't have a clue!"
"I'll know which one it is immediately," the Rani told her, and Kate was surprised but too relieved to question it, "How else could have our society functioned?"
"Fair point. Osgood, tell you what, we might send you on ahead, sort of undercover. The element of surprise is always good."
Kate, Osgood and the Rani kept themselves strategically hidden behind pedestrians while their disguised UNIT soldiers filtered into the area. In Kate's hand she held a damage Cyberhead, just so that she could show the cybermen who they were dealing with.
"Can you see?" Kate asked the Rani. "Which one is it? Makes a hell of a difference."
The man was tall and wiry with short grey hair and aggressive eyebrows, his clothing somewhat minimalist but hinting at hidden flair. The woman looked like an older, more demented Mary Poppins.
The Rani observed them both with narrowed eyes. Kate could practically hear the cogs in her head whirring and see in her eyes the inquiry her mind was making. Then, of all the damned things, the woman started laughing.
"It's both of them," the Rani said, looking far too amused than was sensible, "She's the Master, and he's the Doctor."
"You can change biological sex?"
"Why not?" Osgood and the Rani spoke at the same time to their blonde counterpart, and then had the sense to look unnerved by their synchronicity.
"Are the humans photographing themselves with the cybermen?" The Rani then asked, with complete disgust. "Just when I thought your race couldn't get any less intelligent, Kate."
"I think she wants to take a photo with him," Kate observed, watching the odd new Time Lord couple, "Osgood, get over there now."
The girl departed, and to her credit did a marvellous job of snatching the potentially deadly device in the Master's hands. "Now!" She yelled.
The UNIT soldiers drew their weapons while Kate and the Rani emerged from their seclusion.
"Afternoon!" Kate greeted the Doctor cheerfully. "You've picked a lovely day for it. My, don't you look shiny. Haircut?"
The Doctor, obviously surprised, just said, "Bit of a trim."
"Might want to do your roots. The woman," she told the soldiers, gesturing for the Master to be seized before introducing herself properly, "Kate Stewart. Divorcee, mother of two, keen gardener, outstanding bridge player. Also, Chief Scientific Officer of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, who currently have you surrounded."
"Your weaponry is not effective against cybermen technology."
"Sorry, you left this behind on one of your previous attempts," Kate said nonchalantly as she dropped the broken cyberman head on the concrete. "So now that I have your attention...welcome to the only planet in the universe where we get to say this," she gestured for the Doctor to step forward, and looked at the Rani, "He's on the payroll. And so is she."
"Am I?" The Doctor asked.
"Shush. Any questions?"
The cybermen, instead of answering, took off into the sky. Everyone stumbled back, but the Master, obviously not too interested, was more focused on the Rani's presence.
"Well I've got a question!" She exclaimed. "What are you doing with this rabble, Rani? Don't tell me you've gone soft."
"Hardly," the Rani said, snorting, "But I have my own reasons for being in the area and disrupting your plans is a favourite pastime of mine, given how many times you've done the same to me."
When the Time Ladies turned back to the cyberman spectacle, the top of St Paul's had opened and the three people actually concerned with the future of Earth were discussing it.
"...everyone in London can see that!" Kate was saying. That was when cybermen began flying out of the dome, and the Doctor's attention was stolen by them, his eyes locking on.
"Everyone in London just clapped and went whee. Hush, I'm trying to count."
Osgood, from behind him, said, "Eighty seven, I think-"
"Ninety," the Rani said over her.
"Ninety one," the Master confirmed, giving a little curtsy. "Queen of Evil."
Kate couldn't disguise her horror. "How could Saint Paul's be full of ninety one Cybermen and nobody noticed?"
"Your planet could have a minor Dalek invasion and no one would notice," the Rani snarked, earning a shush from the blonde who didn't currently have time for petty insults.
"Dimensional engineering. One space folded inside another. Bigger on the inside. Easy if you're a Time Lord," the Doctor muttered.
"Mostly deploying south, a smaller number east," Osgood informed them.
"Yep, but one straight up."
"So ninety one isn't a coincidence?"
"Of course it isn't."
While the Doctor snatched the Master's 'phone', Kate turned to her spectacled assistant. "Osgood? Ninety one. Explain."
"Ninety one areas of significant population density in the British Isles."
"That's one Cyberman for every city and major town. It's happening everywhere, all over the world, right now," the Doctor said, his eyes to the sky.
"Sweet planet, this," the Master cooed, "I think I might keep it."
"One Cyberman per city. What could they hope to accomplish?" Kate asked the Doctor, who didn't get a chance to answer before Osgood cried his name and alerted them to the fact that the cyberman above their heads had burst. "Has it exploded? "
The Master smirked. "More than that. Cybermen don't just blow themselves up for no good reason, dear. They're not human."
The Doctor looked at her with a powerful frown on his new face. "If it's not exploding, what's it doing?"
"Pollinating. Falling like rain into the cracks of the Earth. The dead are coming home, Doctor. All shiny and new. In twenty four hours the human race as you know it will cease to exist."
The Doctor demanded for her to tell him what she was doing, but the sedative dart from the UNIT soldier got the madwoman before she could answer. The Rani grasped another one in her hand and visibly took far too much enjoyment in ramming it into the Doctor's neck herself.
While the Doctor groaned and fell to his knees, Kate glared at the only Time Lord left standing. "You didn't have to have so much fun doing that."
The Rani just smirked at her. "I strongly disagree."
With the two most troublesome Time Lords sedated, it was simple enough to move the operation to the hangar that contained Boat One. The Rani had pointed out that it never hurt to have another TARDIS around, so had taken one of the cars back to UNIT to fetch her TARDIS and land it on the plane.
Kate, meanwhile, got the job of being there when the Doctor woke up and introducing him to the idea of Boat One. Despite him trying to point the blame of him being sedated and restrained at the Rani, and Kate having to be firm in assuring him that it was entirely her own idea, it went as well as she had hoped it would.
After assuring him that the TARDIS was being secured on board, she finally got him on board. Inside the cabin, around the long conference table, were Osgood and Colonel Ahmed.
"Where are we going? Cloudbase?" The Doctor asked sceptically.
Kate glanced at him. "You mean the Valiant?"
"Cloudbase was Thunderbirds," Osgood put in as she went past.
"Too conspicuous," Kate told the Doctor, "We need your location concealed, not advertised. From now on you're a moving target. The Scotsman's attention had shifted to the portrait of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart that sat on the bulkhead.
"Ah, I see you're bringing Daddy along, too. That's very sweet," he commented, and Kate frowned internally at the near cruelty of the comment. Ahmed introduced himself to the Doctor, and while they exchanged words, Kate finally saw the Rani enter the room.
"My TARDIS is just in the corridor," the Rani told Kate immediately, though why she deemed the information necessary to share, Kate wasn't sure. Unless she thought they were going to be needing it?
Meanwhile, Ahmed and Osgood were discussing Captain Scarlet.
"My confidence is growing every minute," the Doctor said as he poured himself a hot drink in the corner.
Kate lifted her hand to her ear. "The President is on board."
"Mind you, me and Sylvia Anderson, you've never seen a foxtrot like it. Hang on a second," he straightened, looking at her suspiciously. "The President? We don't want Americans bobbing around the place. They'll only start praying."
"Not the President of America, sir. The President of Earth," Ahmed told the Doctor as the Time Lord sat down at the head of the conference table, stirring a downright disgusting amount of sugar into his drink.
"There isn't one," he said while doing it.
"There is now."
Kate turned to the Doctor, surprised and amused he hadn't worked it out yet. But, as her father had always told her, for a genius he was incredibly thick sometimes. "The incursion protocols have been agreed internationally. In the event of full-scale invasion, an Earth President is inducted immediately, with complete authority over every nation state. There was only one practical candidate."
"That's your answer for everything, isn't it? Vote for an idiot."
The Rani sniggered from where she was standing by Osgood. Kate had to smirk a little too.
"If you say so, Mister President. So long as you're on this plane, you're the Commander in Chief of every army on Earth. Every world leader is currently awaiting your instructions. You are the Chief Executive Officer of the human race. Any questions?"
The Doctor, after several moment's pensive silence, flicked his eyes towards the Rani. "What do you think of all this?"
"A central world authority is practical for a planet as attention-seeking as Earth," the brunette said, shrugging, "But you're right, they could only vote for idiots because they don't have other options. It's not my planet, I don't care enough to help organise this sort of thing. Still, you're a margin better than anyone they could come up with, arguably." Her eyes came to rest on Kate with enough weight that had Kate wondering if the Time Lady believed that Kate herself would make a better President of Earth than the Doctor. But that was a frightening thought, and an absurd one, so Kate shook her head and chose to ignore it.
"And you're a margin better than another pudding brain, Rani, but that doesn't mean either of us actually think the other is going to do any good here," the Doctor said to the Rani, who just smiled tightly. As usual, it didn't reach her eyes.
Kate could only hope that they would be able to refrain from requiring the babysitting her father had always said Time Lords needed. With a cyberman invasion on her plate, she really didn't have the time to stop her two most useful allies from tearing each other's heads off.
Now, what will the Rani's presence do here? Will anything important change? You'll just have to wait and see!
This whole storyline came as a great surprise but I couldn't pass it up, my Master/Rani shipper is too strong. Writing them together, especially like this, couldn't be passed up.
Feedback is fantastic and always much appreciated!
Love you all and thanks for reading,
p.s. feel free to PM me for chats about the finale or anything like that! I love chatting!