Because she had materialised her TARDIS silently, the small group in the graveyard didn't initially notice the Rani's presence as she approached them. The Doctor's short human was crying in front of a nearly converted Cyberman, and the two were talking quietly between them.
Just when she thought she was going to have to announce herself, the Doctor turned on his heel to look her dead in the eye. "Rani, Kate, she-"
"I know," the Rani said simply, her voice devoid of anything but cold fact, "And Koschei is going to pay for that. This time she dies too."
"Rani - Clara!" Whatever argument he had been about to make disappeared when he realised that his human pet had run back to and embraced the Cyberman. The Rani didn't know what was going on, nor did she care enough to take half a minute of her time to work it out. Something about the cybermen and what was going to happen to the planet. Nothing important.
That was when the Master teleported in with her ridiculous umbrella. Within a second the Rani was at full attention and ready to take the nearest chance to strangle or vaporise that insufferable smirk off her face.
"Oh, that was brilliant!" The lunatic remarked with delight. "Oh, I love the telly here, but did you see that? Oh, Clara, you poor thing. You must feel like death. Let me pop away the pain." She started to tap on her device only to have it snatched by the Doctor and thrown into the grass some distance away.
"Don't you dare! Don't you think about it!"
"Oh, sorry, hon, I'm just getting a bit carried away. It's your friends, they're so more-ish." That was when Missy noticed the Rani standing nearby and her entire face lit up. "Rani! You've joined us! Good, good. Bad news about your girlfriend, my sincere condolences." She did a tiny curtsy and the Rani just stared at her stonily and did not grace the comment with an answer. Missy shook her head with disappointment. "Dear dear, you kill one human and its like all manners go out the window, honestly, Rani, you used to be better than this. Not much better, but still." It was all the Rani could do to not march over there, wrap her hands around that pale neck, and squeeze the life from her like an animal. But the Rani was not an animal.
She was, however, observant. As the Master and the Doctor began their typical lover's spat, which as always involved him trying to work out her plan and dissuade her from it, the Doctor's little human had quietly moved to take the Master's silver device from the grass only to go back to hugging her cyberman and pretend as though nothing had happened.
This one is a little less useless, the Rani thought for a moment, because humans did not interest her, but this one could be helpful. Especially when she was no doubt under the impression she had gone unobserved. Ridiculous, but to be expected of idiotic and arrogant humans. It seemed lifetimes ago that she and the human had been in the kitchen of her TARDIS arguing with the baby faced Doctor about Kate. To look at where they had all ended up, the Rani could only think, pathetic. And pointless. All of it.
After tuning out of the Doctor and Master's conversation, she glanced back to them and listened to the Master announce that it was all for his birthday present.
"Tiny bit pleased?" She was asking, with that aloofness that had disguised her obsession with the Doctor's approval for centuries. "Oh, go on, crack a smile. I want to see if your eyebrows drop off."
"All of this. All of it, just to give me an army?" The Doctor's face was the personification of horror, which was ridiculous in the Rani's opinion. He was always such a hypocrite, acting like a pacifist until the last second.
The idea that it had all been for the Doctor, this entire mess, just a sickening attempt from the Master to create an empathic link...it was unsurprising to the Rani but that did nothing to dilute the fury simmering in her bones. Kate Stewart, the one person in the universe she had been coming close to being able to stand, had died in this futile wooing between two people she couldn't despise more if she tried.
At her sides, her hands clenched into fists, but she willed herself to wait. Wait until they were done, if only to see the Master get rejected by her great love. Any pain that came before the death the Rani planned to inflict was worth a measure of patience.
So she watched while the morons yelled at each other in the climax of their standoff. The only thing she could think about in the meantime was the fact that Kate, in the Natural History Museum, had been right. The Rani should have told the Doctor about the Master. But in her own arrogance in her ability to deal with the intergalactic pest, she'd shrugged it off, even laughed about it.
To think what would have been different if she had stopped being superior long enough to listen to the woman who had indirectly prophesied her own death.
The Rani tuned back in just in time to see them on their knees and the Doctor kissing the Master just for a second before getting back up.
"I really didn't know," he said to her, a look of epiphany on his face, "I wasn't sure. You lose sight sometimes. Thank you! I am not a good man! I am not a bad man. I am not a hero. And I'm definitely not a president. And no, I'm not an officer. Do you know what I am? I am an idiot, with a box and a screwdriver. Just passing through, helping out, learning."
It was a description the Rani could hardly argue with. She was doubtful she'd ever have such a realisation about herself. She was a scientist. There was nothing more to it.
"I don't need an army. I never have, because I've got them. Always them," the Doctor continued, looking to his human and her cyberman, who were still embracing despite the Master having forced a show of her control of the cybermen earlier. The Rani hadn't been paying enough attention to realise it at the time but saw it now, even if she could quite believe it. "Because love, it's not an emotion," he said, and his eyes flicked to each of the people present in turn, just for a moment, "Love is a promise. And he will never hurt her. PE, catch!"
The Doctor pointed out what the Master hadn't noticed, while the arrogant idiot tried to deny its plausibility despite the evidence being right in front of her. The cyberman, meanwhile, stepped away from his human and approached the two conflicting Time Lords. He spoke to his cyber-counterparts in what was probably an inspiring speech to the pudding brains present, but to the Rani was just noise.
She dispassionately observed all the cybermen take off into the sky, igniting into an inferno above their heads that left the sky a clear blue when it faded.
"Well, the clouds have all gone."
"Yes, burnt up. Totally burnt. Burnt to nothing." The Doctor glanced at his human sympathetically after a moment of self-awareness. "Sorry."
"Ten zero eleven, zero zero by zero two," the Master rattled off suddenly. They all turned to look at her with incredulous expressions.
"What did you say?"
"The current coordinates of Gallifrey. It's returned to its original location, didn't you think to look?" Her voice was soft in defeat. This was her last resort, her offering to him.
"You are lying!" He spat, and then snapped to look at the Rani. "Rani, you must know, tell me if she's lying."
The Rani didn't know. She'd escaped Gallifrey while it had still been in the alternative dimension, and the Master had left a reasonable length of time after that. It would be so easy to just say so, but the anger sitting in her gut left her with few words, and silence conveyed her disdain for them all so much better. So she just met his eye and said absolutely nothing.
He stared at her for a moment before cursing.
"We can - we can go together," the Master said to the Doctor with a small, desperate smile, "Just you and me. Just like the old days."
"You'd be clapped in irons."
"If you like."
That was when the human took her chance and grasped the device she'd been concealing behind her but that the Rani had been able to see the entire time.
"Doctor, I'm assuming you'll remember those coordinates?" She asked as she held the device up to point at the Master.
The Doctor's eyes widened. "No. No, don't you dare. I won't let you."
"Old friend, is she? If you have ever let this creature live, everything that happened today, is on you. All of it, on you. And you're not going to let her live again."
"It's not up to him," the Rani said.
In a picture of defeat, he sighed. "Clara, all I'm doing is not letting you kill her. I never said I was letting her live."
"If that's the only thing that will stop you, yes."
He went to take the device from her, only for the Rani to snatch it first.
"You killed Kate Stewart," she told the Master, to be sure she knew exactly why she was about to die, "All to try and win your indifferent boyfriend back. I am not the Doctor, I don't allow pests to live out of weakness and sentimentality."
When the Doctor made no move to stop her and only watched the exchange with a solemn gaze, the Master looked vaguely impressed.
"Seriously?" She asked. "Oh, Doctor. You would have killed me to save wee Clara's soul. What about poor Rani's?"
"He wouldn't bloody his hands for something he knows doesn't exist," the Rani snapped. For a reason she could not fathom, her hands had started shaking, just a little. Couldn't this have waited until after I've killed her? All she wanted was to kill the one who had killed Kate and be done with it.
"On the contrary, Rani," the Doctor said quietly, staring at her an odd curiosity in his eyes, "I think for the first time, I'm starting to see it."
"Don't pretend to understand me, you can go to hell," the Rani spat at him.
"Say something nice, Rani," the Master said as she raced to position herself between two gravestones like the drama queen she was, "Please?"
When the Rani remained silent and just steadied herself and her aim, the Doctor spoke in her stead.
Missy smiled at them both. "I know."
Just before the Rani could press the button, Missy's form disappeared from in front of their eyes in a flash of blue light that resembled a cyberman blast but had looked suspiciously more like a teleport. All the same, the three remaining humanoids whirled around to see a lone cyberman with its arm several rows away. Its other arm then shifted towards a spot to their right.
While Clara moved to investigate, the Rani and the Doctor remained frozen, the former still clutching the device she had been about to use to kill their old friend. Had the cyberman gotten there first? Or had the Master slipped away once again?
After glancing at each other, the two of them rushed to see why Clara was calling them. And there, lying on the grass about ten metres away, was Kate Lethbridge Stewart. The Rani didn't even registered the Master's device falling from her hands as her hearts skipped several beats in their inability to take in what her mind already had.
"Stewart," she exhaled, before sprinting even faster than the Doctor to Kate's side, "Stewart!"
"Kate," the Doctor said similarly, coming to a stop next to Kate's still figure and checking for a pulse. "She's breathing! She's alive! She can't be here."
The Rani dropped to her knees by Kate's head and pressed her hand against the blonde's neck, not daring to believe it until she felt the evidence herself. There, the singular pulse beat which she had always regarded with such disdain served as proof of a near miracle.
There weren't words. The Rani just stayed completely still, letting Kate's pulse thrum against her two fingertips again and again and again. Never again would she disregard that single heartbeat.
"She fell out of a plane. The cyberman must have caught her," the Doctor muttered.
"Dad...thank you," Kate murmured, not yet anywhere near full consciousness of coherency.
"Doctor, she's talking about her dad," Clara said.
The Doctor sprinted off to take another look at the cyberman who had pointed them in Kate's direction. "Of course. The Earth's darkest hour and mine," the Rani heard him say, and after a moment's deliberation she got up and made over to him, "Where else would you be?"
Even though the desire to stay by Kate's side was overwhelming, the fact of the matter was that not only her continued existence but her existence in general was owed to the man that the cyberman had been - Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
The Doctor saluted his oldest friend, and the Rani found herself giving the smallest of nods, in the closest thing she could give to an expression of gratitude. The cyberman lowered his head in a nod of recognition, possibly only of the Doctor's gesture, because the Rani was a stranger to him, but that was unimportant.
While the Doctor breathed a thank you to his old friend, the Rani returned to Kate, who was starting to stir properly.
"I can take it from here," she said to Clara, who had been holding Kate's hand.
The problem was that when the girl nodded, she offered Kate's hand to the Rani, who could only stare at it. Handholding was so human, so disgustingly sappy that it was like nothing she had ever even considered before. But something between Clara's expectant face and Kate's tiny sigh possessed her to take Kate's hand from Clara, though she didn't hold it so much as let her hand rest in it passively.
"Rani?" Kate asked, her voice feeble.
"I tried to tell you not to go down into that cargo bay, you utter idiot," the Rani told her stiffly, and Kate, eyes still shut, choked out a laugh.
"Yes, definitely you."
"Can you move?"
"I don't know. Everything hurts."
"Extreme air pressure will do that to an inferior anatomical system."
Kate's eyes finally opened for the sole purpose of rolling exasperatedly at the Time Lady. "Shut up."
"You fell out of a plane because you didn't listen to my completely founded advice, that's very unlikely to happen any time soon."
Beside them, a previously silent Clara laughed a little, even though tears were still sitting in her eyes. "You two are the only proof right now that the universe has a sense of humour."
"If this is the universe's sense of humour, I don't think I care for it," the Rani said, and Kate chuckled weakly. "What?"
"I was about to say the same thing."
"Is she going to be okay?" The Doctor asked as he came to join the three women. "Even getting caught by a cyberman, you still fell out of a plane, Kate."
Kate's eyes flicked up to him, and she gave him an ironic smile. "Are you asking me if I need a Doctor?"
The two Time Lords smirked, while the Rani just said, "Shut up, Stewart, you're delirious."
The Rani glanced at the Doctor. "She'll be fine if I have anything to say about it. Don't fret."
"I think I'm in for a lot of aeroplane safety lectures," Kate groaned as she sat up, "Oh my head. Is falling from a plane always like this?"
"Can you walk?"
"Come on, then, Stewart," the Rani said, her arms coming to rest behind her back and under knees so that she could lift the blonde, bridal style.
"Do you need-" The Doctor trailed off under the withering glare he was sent.
With one arm around the Rani's shoulders, Kate surveyed the situation with her head as high as she could hold it and sighed as an expression of embarrassment came to rest on her face. Disheartened, she said, "Well, this is undignified."
"Almost dying often is, welcome to the club," the Doctor said to her wryly, "It's better than the alternative."
"I'm only allowing this because I don't think I can stand," Kate firmly told the Rani, who rolled her eyes.
"This is your punishment for being stubborn when I was trying to save your life."
Clara chuckled again, but this time it was twinged with heartbreak. "Doctor, could you take me home now? I think these two can manage on their own."
"I'm still not sure about this," the Doctor said, his eyebrows taking his entire face into an indecisive frown. "But-"
"It's still none of your business," the Rani said, with Kate saying something along the same lines in near unison. They smirked at each other before the former said, "Go and look for Gallifrey."
He nodded curtly and began to walk away with Clara before hesitating. "If it's there-"
"Then I'll see it for myself when and if I ever decide I care about the wretched place."
"...right. Goodbye, Kate. Rani."
"Goodbye, Doctor. Thank you," Kate said with a smile. He smiled back and then turned to put his arm around Clara and head for the police box nearby.
The Rani's TARDIS, which had turned into a tiny mausoleum, wasn't too far off. The Rani adjusted Kate's position in her arms and began walking towards it, strong enough that she was only slowed a little from her usual pace. Kate, meanwhile, had shut her eyes in a sudden exhausted nap against her shoulder.
When they came through the doors, a silently tearful Osgood sitting against the wall opposite them looked up only to freeze completely.
"Just follow," the Rani said before the girl could speak up and get emotional before Kate was somewhere where she could rest. Osgood, who was all eyes and gaping mouth, just wordlessly did as she was told.
They came into the sterile and basic kitchen that the Rani had never any inclination to personalise. There was a plain lounge seat as stark white as the rest of the room that ran around the two walls that weren't cupboards and counters, and the Rani set Kate down on it so that her head was pillowed by her hands and she could nap comfortably.
Then, and only then, with the two of them in the kitchen and a safe distance from Kate, was Osgood given the signal to speak.
"She's breathing," the girl exhaled, "For a second I thought she was dead and you'd found the body but then I remembered that was impossible because she'd fallen from a plane and if she'd hit the ground then-"
Osgood and the Rani spun to see Kate pushing herself up to a sitting position. The blonde smiled at them minutely and leant against the back of seat. Osgood's entire face lit up and she ran to her boss's side and leant down to hug her forcefully.
"Kate! Oh, Kate, we thought you were dead," Osgood said, her tears starting up again.
"So did I, for a moment," Kate replied, laughing a little as she hugged her assistant back just as tightly. "But it takes a lot to kill a Lethbridge-Stewart."
"Especially when they look out for one another," the Rani said. Kate's dark eyes shone with love for her father as she nodded, but Osgood pulled away from Kate to look between them curiously.
"How do you mean?"
"All the dead came back to life as cybermen," Kate reminded her, "The reason I'm alive is because one of them saved me after I was sucked out. The person who loved me enough for it to override the cyber control."
Osgood's hand flew to her mouth. "Ohmigod, Kate."
Kate just smiled through a set of brimming tears. "He always said he'd watch over me until the end. The end just wasn't where I thought it was."
Osgood gripped her hand and the two humans sat together while the Rani made herself a drink and just watched them as she stirred it. Finally, it occurred to her to say, "Your father pointed us in your direction, once he brought you to the ground. The Doctor even saluted him."
"Really?" Kate's smile widened. "He finally got his wish."
"He also may have been the one to finally succeed in putting the Master down."
"Well, I never assume the Master is dead," the Rani said, "Purely from past experience. But if she is, then we have your father to thank."
"She was going to kill me," Osgood murmured, as if she was only just remembering, "I didn't quite believe it at the time, but I can see her face in my head and you were right, Rani, she was planning my murder even as we were talking."
"You really saved her." Kate's flat surprise brought about that conflict within the Rani on whether she should be insulted at the lack of faith or pleased that she wasn't being thought of as soft or good.
"She really did," Osgood said, looking the Rani in the eye and standing up to do so. "I owe you my life."
"Then it's a good thing I don't want it," the Rani replied, and the girl's mouth twitched, but not in a way that was entirely lighthearted.
"Don't worry, you made that perfectly clear five minutes later," she muttered.
"I imagine I did. If you want to be helpful, make Stewart a cup of tea, she's still pale."
Osgood moved to do just that, though she eyed the Time Lady sceptically. "Genius alien chemist can't make a cup of tea?"
"The mundane nature of it would see me die of boredom."
The two of them passed each other and the Rani came to join Kate on the long couch while Osgood took up in the kitchen. After their small exchange, the blonde was eyeing them with suspicion.
"What exactly did that mean? The five minutes later?"
"It's not important now. You were dead. She was angry. Went into the second stage of grief and stayed there, I think. Probably didn't even mean it."
Kate was a great many things, but slow wasn't one of them by a long shot. Her gaze immediately narrowed in on the Rani. "What did you do? What did you say? It was something horrible, wasn't it?"
"In case you haven't worked it out already, Stewart, I am horrible," the Rani snapped, "And as for you, Bowtie, when I told you that I shouldn't have bothered saving you so that I could have saved Kate, I meant it. It's no longer relevant, but I meant it at the time because I'm not nice and I'm not somebody who saves people."
Kate, now looking at her lover with disgust, jerked her head away. "No, you save your experiments."
The Rani stared at her and pursed her lips before grabbing Kate's chin and pulling it back around so that they were eye to eye. "Yes, I do. They're the only thing I kill for."
"And Kate, she was going to kill the Master," Osgood blurted. "The moment we thought you were dead, it was her only thought. She was going to kill for you."
That did the opposite of pacify Kate. "Is that supposed to please me? You know, after all this time I thought I'd had some affect on you," she spat at the Rani, "But you make me sick. I'm not anybody's little experiment. You can go to hell."
The Rani held Kate's gaze, even though the Lethbridge-Stewart tried to wrench her chin from her grip. "All my life, I have dedicated my life to learning. To using my extensive knowledge to obtain more knowledge, no matter the cost to me or anyone else. My experiments, my work, that's what I live for, and they are the only thing in this universe that I care about. If I say you are an experiment, Stewart, it is the highest expression of worth I'm capable of giving."
Osgood adjusted her glasses and smiled at them. "Just because you aren't a boiling tube doesn't mean you haven't taught her things, Kate."
"You can zip it," the Rani told her sharply.
Kate's face was so full of conflicting emotions it was a wonder her head didn't explode. Her hand touched a strand of the Rani's unbound hair while her impassive face gained a spark of mischief. "Did I give the infallible Rani a fright when I was dead?"
Their lips met then, with the force that had gotten them started months before. Fueled by near loss and ridiculous misunderstanding, it was all the more important to make up for it with something much simpler. The Rani's held Kate's body steady in case it decided to give up on them unexpectedly, while Kate's hands wound in the Rani's mane of hair and kept her mouth against hers.
When they broke apart so that Kate could replenish her oxygen supply with several shallow breaths, they became aware of Osgood watching them intently with her mug paused halfway to her mouth. Watching a little too intently. The girl hurriedly sipped at her tea when she realised she'd been caught.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare, I just-" Her fingers tapped against the mug. "I...really need a boyfriend. Or something."
Kate laughed softly. "Maybe the Rani would permit you to take a look around a few of her labs?"
Osgood's eyes popped out of her head. "Would you, Rani?"
The Rani glowered. At both of them. Internally, she weighed up the merits of being left alone to snog Kate Stewart brainless (or more brainless, given today's events) and the dangers of a pudding brain unsupervised amongst her precious equipment.
"...fine," she growled. "But if you touch anything-"
"You'd kill me or remove my fingers or something, yeah," Osgood said, grinning with a breathless excitement. "Thank you so much, it's a real honour and-"
Kate had enough time to laugh before the Rani's hands slid under her thighs and shifted her so that her knees were on the couch either side of the Rani's hips. Now with the human comfortably in her lap, the Rani could reach up to lose her fingers in Kate's astray golden hair. But before she could kiss her again, Kate placed her hands on her shoulders to keep distance between their faces.
"When you thought I was dead...what did you-"
"I immediately made plans to kill the person responsible for shaping the universe to no longer include you."
Kate nodded slowly, looking as though she wanted to ask more but knew better than to do so. "I suppose that's something."
"There's always something, Kate," the Rani said, and yanked her down into a kiss without another word. This time, thankfully, Kate gave up on words and allowed the Rani to answer her unspoken question with a method where she was significantly more eloquent.
Ah, the Rani trying to act as though she wasn't having a mild emotion. :')
I'm a bit worried about the characterisation of this chapter for rather obvious reasons, though, so feedback on that in particularly would be amazing because I do tend to fret.
I'm in the process of working out a playlist for an 8tracks mix for Kate and the Rani, so if you have any title ideas or song suggestions feel free to let me know!
Thanks a bunch, and love you all,