“Hearts,” Strax says slowly as Jenny tries to explain the holiday; she yelps “Not real ones!” as fast as she can, and the Sontaran's brief interest in romance is gone.
They have no chance of fighting these creatures with their lantern lit; the intruders' species is intensely pyrophobic and they will never reveal themselves. “Make a wish, my dear,” Vastra says dryly before blowing out the light.
Thirty seconds later, Jenny makes a point to inform her wife loudly that a swarm of flesh-eating spider aliens in a pitch-black underground bunker is an even worse birthday present than last year.
Jenny chews on her lip as she tucks Vastra's veil into place. “Don't be too hard on her, my darling,” she says finally; Clara is frightened and tired and out of her time, and as necessary as it may be to force her to confront the shields she's thrown up that are hurting her and the Doctor both, they are her only friends in the world here.
Jenny has been staring at her wife half-waltzing and half-fencing solo around the room for at least five minutes before Vastra notices her; “Dance with me, my dear?” the Silurian offers absently, and Jenny shakes her head before taking the offered hand and letting herself be led in erratic circles to music only Vastra can hear.
Neither of them is surprised when Vastra's instruments begin picking up signs of an erratic signal from some sort of advanced technology—equal at least to that of her own people, she says wistfully. They are alarmed but not shocked when their investigation finally leads to an underground bunker to find a stasis pod on the brink of meltdown, some poor creature struggling feebly inside; what neither of them is prepared for is the moment they manage to open it, and Jenny meets the panicked yellow eyes of a strange Silurian.
“Well,” Vastra says finally as they observe the pile groaning drug smugglers littered around the ruin of an old barn, mumbling to themselves about potatoes and falling rafters. “That is... certainly one way to do it, Strax. Though not quite what I meant by the phrase... oh, never mind.”
Jenny's not one for alcohol, really, outside of Strax-induced occasions that it would be entirely unfair to expect her to face sober; but lying half-asleep on the sofa with her head in her wife's lap there's nothing she adores more than the taste of red wine as she kisses it from Vastra's fingertips.
Jenny is nothing but gentle and sweet, a much more comforting presence than her wife; “We'll find 'im, Clara,” she says warmly, pressing a cup of warm tea into her hands, and after this evening Clara doesn't have the heart to say that she's not sure if her Doctor is anywhere to be found anymore.
The tabby kitten that finds its way into their garden is scrawny and covered in dirt but no less friendly for it; Jenny scoops it up to give it some milk in the kitchen, and Strax demands to know why she has brought a member of a competing carnivorous species past their defenses without proper military clearance.
She rolls her eyes and places the purring kitten in his hands while she warms its dinner up; Strax stares at it for several seconds before stroking it carefully and immediately determining that it must be a mighty psychic warrior with telepathic abilities, as it has managed to overcome his natural Sontaran bloodlust and replace his core programming with a desire to make strange cooing noises.
“Ma'am,” Jenny finally manages to breathe against her wife's throat; Vastra grumbles that she has told Jenny not to call her that but finally pulls back with a sigh, forced to acknowledge the human's reluctant reminder that their client really will be here any moment.
Yes, ma'am, it's cold and rainy and miserable and you've been griping about it for three days already, none of us like it but I keep offering to build the fires up so if you don't stop telling me not to go to the trouble and tell me what you suggest I do I'm liable to... to... oh.
Jenny wakes up to a searing pain in her side; she barely has time to cry out before Vastra jolts awake beside her and the pain intensifies as the deadly talons already close to drawing blood just below Jenny's ribs tighten compulsively, daring the universe to tear her away again.
Their Silurian guest speaks to Vastra as if Jenny isn't even there, not even in the way most people ignore servants but like a cold man ignores a pet dog; never sparing her a glance except sometimes to show a vague irritation that this shaved ape is still making its noises, like Vastra hasn't trained her properly. She tries to ignore it for her wife's sake, but Vastra's eyes narrow in irritation at every brush-off, and the fact that she still tries to bring Jenny into their conversations is comfort enough for now.
Jenny is not going to laugh, no matter how long Vastra sits there with her nose practically touching Jenny's cheek staring at her and smirking; she is going to sit in the garden and enjoy the sunshine and if Vastra behaves, she may let the old lizard join her.
No, she means it; she didn't break for the flowers braided into her hair, or the overdramatic and sarcastic reading of the worst poetry that could possibly be found, and no matter how much her wife blowing into her ear tickles, she is not going to laugh.
Jenny's never been a very good liar, and she does eventually dissolve into a fit of giggling while Vastra gives a triumphant “Ha!” and tackles her off her chair to kiss her against the grass.
“No,” says Jenny, without opening her eyes, and Strax pouts and stomps off to find some way to amuse himself that doesn't involve grenades.
“I wouldn't want to keep the poor Inspector waiting any longer, my dear,” Vastra purrs; her talons run lazily up Jenny's sides before she pulls away. “He did offer to buy us lunch and I am terribly hungry...”
Jenny is having approximately none of that; her short nails dig into the back of Vastra's crest as she drags her wife flush against her with a growl that is very nearly Silurian, and Vastra's predatory hiss is all the encouragement Jenny needs to turn them both and pin her against the wall.
Jenny clings to Vastra's collar as they carefully make their way back to ground level while a building facade burns behind them.
“There were so many more of them, when I was a girl,” says Vastra one night as she looks out the window, and she sounds so lost and lonely it breaks Jenny's heart.
Jenny has no idea why Strax's mission to rearrange the kitchen involves quite so much maniacal laughter or quite so many loud bangs, but after hesitating outside the kitchen door she decides it's probably better not to know.
With the threat of Sweetville eliminated, Vastra cheerfully pours them both champagne and turns to toast her wife; Jenny ignores the gesture, as she's already kicked off her shoes and fallen fast asleep on the couch.
Just because Vastra's cold-blooded and probably needs it more doesn't mean Jenny has to put up with her hogging all the covers. It's January.
Strax is confused and mildly suspicious of the cake at first, then informs them that as a Sontaran clone he has no “birth day” and does not understand the purpose of this ceremony or what role the consumption of nutritionally-inferior foodstuffs plays in it; but Jenny insists.
All those long years ago when the Doctor wore a very different face (and a stick of celery, for some reason) he and his gentle young companion had found her half-feral, crouched in a sewer and lashing out at any who came near; only after goading her repeatedly, cruelly even, did they finally provoke her into shrieking her pain and loneliness and fear and somehow break down sobbing in his arms, and begin to heal. It is with no small sense of deja vu that Vastra prepares to repeat for Clara the service that was done her at the very beginning of it all.
It is the worst excuse Jenny has ever heard.
After a long day, even or especially if they have been arguing, Jenny will rest her hands on Vastra's chest and bury her face in her wife's shoulder with a tired sigh, and they will simply stand there and take strength from the fact that neither of them is alone any longer.
The other Silurian is looking her in the eye when she realizes the nature of Vastra's feelings toward her human 'pet'; Jenny will never forget the moment her look shifts from dismissal to a manic hatred and she feels a rush of terror as she realizes that this is no longer about disdain for mammals, this is not about ideals anymore, and there will be no peace between them. She is competition, now, the proof that a mere ape can have of Vastra what this proud Silurian warrior never could, and she knows without a doubt that one of them is going to die.
Jenny lets herself into Clara's room later that night to make sure she's all right; the girl rolls over fitfully in her sleep and Jenny smiles and brushes her hair away from her face before quietly setting a pitcher of water on her nightstand and slipping back out.
In one of her rants about the failings of humanity Vastra snaps that in a civilized culture a warrior of her prowess, let alone a detective with her success rate, would never be ostracized from society as a tragic case doomed to be alone forever; even if they really did have a physical deformity, she rants, their skills and accomplishments would make them highly desirable. They would have their pick of all the best and brightest willing breeding partners in the area—no end of eager young things vying to entertain them and their mate for a night, simply for the bragging rights afterward and—Jenny, my love, why on earth have you turned that color?
The aliens from the Tau Ceti system contact Vastra to let her know that after centuries of lost and lonely wandering they have finally found a new homeland and have named the planet Strax after their savior—the great Sontaran healer who was the first to see their plight and without whom their torment would have gone on for eternity. Jenny refuses to speak to him for a week.
“Careful!” Jenny admonishes after she stabs a criminal mastermind casually through the heart, yanking Vastra back from the breach; the rushing water has made their footing slippery, and her wife had very nearly overbalanced.
“Can't very well have you going over a waterfall in Switzerland after all this time, eh?” she says when her heart stops racing; and Vastra, who still appears rather dumbstruck at her wife's sudden appearance, finally beams and agrees that yes, this would be a terrible place for their story to end.
To say that Vastra is not a morning person would be the most dramatic understatement of 65 million years; her rivalry with the sun is almost as dramatic as Strax's war on the moon.
Vastra dodges her counterpart's poison barb with ease, uses the opening to place a sword at her throat; she is momentarily wary at how easy it was, how the vicious killer who had outwitted her at every turn could possibly have made such an elementary mistake. Then her old lieutenant smirks and glances behind them—to where the woman she loves is clutching her throat, shaking as the venom begins to work through her system.
Jenny wakes up six hours later strapped into a Silurian stasis pod, disoriented and afraid with no memory of how she got there; for a moment she fears the worst, until Vastra appears to murmur comfort into her ear.
Strax is distrustful of autumn; the trees, he explains patiently to them, are clearly participating in a larger conspiracy by providing additional ground cover and obscuring the tracks of a larger invasion force. Vastra, with equal patience, denies his request to retaliate by burning them down.
With her pulse thudding sluggishly at her temples and the world turning dark around the edges, Jenny knows exactly what her wife is trying to do and the only thought in the world that she can hang onto outside of how much her lungs hurt is that Vastra might, just possibly, be able to hold her breath long enough to escape but not if she stays, not if she tries to save them both, and Vastra can't die because of her.
For all that Strax likes to pretend he considers all humans equally his enemy and would cheerfully kill them if it weren't for his debt to the Doctor, he has never so much as threatened a child and is appalled by the very suggestion that he would hurt one; his affable nature disappears sharply when cases come to their attention of the kind of men who do.
“You look lovely, darling,” Jenny calls lightly over the newspaper as Vastra, in an ill-advised attempt to recreate the scene of an apparently unsolved crime from the Roman Empire, stumbles about with a bedsheet, curtain rod, and somehow half her case notes and string wrapped around her like a cocoon.
“Come now, Nyssa, there's nothing to be frightened of... Ah. Yes, well, I see. Strictly speaking, then... still. Fortune favors the bold, and all that... quiet. Listen carefully. Yes, over there—yes, so do I. Now let's see... Ah. Carefully, Nyssa, she's frightened. It's quite all right, you know.... what is your name, actually?”
Jenny thinks she's finally figured out the pattern to this distracted half-dance; naturally, she's just found her rhythm when Vastra stops dead with an excited “Of course!” and turns sharply to her pinboard, sending her unfortunate partner spinning into an ottoman and toppling out of sight.
The last time Vastra faces off against the only other Silurian she is ever likely to see again she exchanges no words, does not respond to the verbal digs, indulges in none of her usual dangerous banter; they are well-matched, the two of them, but Vastra is the better. There is no remorse on her face when she strikes the killing blow, but there is no triumph either, and any victory they might have had rings hollow in the senseless waste of it all.
Vastra sighs impatiently as Jenny takes her time lacing her into a dress; she grumbles about how impractical human fashions are and how much more comfortable they would be in Silurian-style robes. Jenny agrees with her and kisses her neck, and Vastra admits that there are some benefits to the era.
Awestruck and flushed with victory, Jenny sticks close to her mistress' side after the victory at Demon's Run to watch as the soldiers file out; she turns to grin up at her and squeaks with pleased surprise when Vastra, icy eyes burning, grips the back of her neck and pulls her close for the kind of hungry, public kiss they never get to have in their own time.
They say that bravery isn't when you're not afraid, it's when you're scared to death but do the right thing anyway; but Jenny wonders if 'they' know how it feels not to be able to wear her wedding ring in public, to hide a flood of terror behind a smile every time they hint at their relationship to a new person, to shiver in fear of discovery every time a man shows interest because after all she's a single woman so what excuse can she possibly make, and thinks that she would much rather be fearless than brave.
Their lives are busy and hectic and often dangerous, but every so often there's a day like this where absolutely nothing is required of them; Jenny hums sleepily and rolls over to bury her face in her wife's shoulder, and Vastra gives a half-conscious purr of contentment, and it is everything she could possibly want.