Title: Trouble in the Deep
Character(s)/Ship(s): Eleven, Jenny/Vastra, Amy/Rory, Strax, River
Summary: Something wicked is afoot under London and Vastra can't stop dreaming. Jenny calls in the Doctor, River calls in Amy and Rory, and the problem turns out to be much bigger than anyone imagined.
Content Notes: None.
Author's notes: jjpor, I didn't quite manage swords, but I hope you enjoy this little adventure I came up with for Jenny, Vastra, Eleven and the others! One thing: I am not familiar with the original series, or any of the books, so please forgive any narrative inconsistencies that arise from this (although feel free to point them out). I have also taken the liberty of leaving Vastra's sisters alive, at least for the moment.
The pool is endless, fanned with the ferns of her infancy, from the time before everything. before she became a warrior. She allows the water to hold her safe, ignoring Jenny's Ma'am!' and the soft human skin against her scales.
The water is deep and dark and infinite.
This she has missed. This she has yearned for. This she needs.
Alone. No kin. No sisters, no one to protect. You are alone.
Vastra floats away.
"Oh, sir!" she cries. "Oh, Doctor! I'm so glad you've come. I can't wake her."
She leads him into the mansion, serves him tea from a silver teapot, but she is talking all the while.
"In the beginning she was just a bit sleepier than usual, I had trouble waking her in the mornings, but she had such dreams, seemed as if she was still half in 'em, sometimes, and now I can't wake her at all, and oh, Doctor, won't you see what you can do?"
"Do?" He sips the tea; surprisingly refreshing, as always. "Well, of course! What I'm going to do, Jenny, is wake her up right now and find out what all the fuss is about. Now, where's Strax?"
"It's his day off," Jenny says. "He ain't had one yet this year."
"Never mind." He jumps to his feet and the cups rattle in their saucers. "Let us go and wake Vastra. I haven't had a good cup of tea and a natter for ages."
Upstairs, his confident smile falters, although he covers it quickly.
Vastra's bed is plain, more of a stand than a resting place. Nor is she at rest; rather she is muttering in her own tongue, so quickly and quietly that he only catches a word here and there, not enough to make any sense. But her mood is clear; he has not seen her this agitated since the day she awoke.
Jenny's gaze flits from Vastra's face to his. At his raised eyebrows, she says, "Since this morning. But..." Her lips compress. "I think it's been coming on for three days, p'raps four." She takes Vastra's hand and lays it against her cheek. "Oh, Ma'am."
He's about to send her to the Tardis -- the Tardis always knows what's needed -- when Vastra takes a glug of air, more a groan than a breath, and lurches upright. For an instant, she stares at Jenny, green thumb brushing pearly lips. Then she turns to the Doctor.
"They are dying," she says. "My sisters are dying."
She waits with her bag outside the dark, empty house, and tries not to think about the crack in the wall, or the shadows gathering at her back. But the Raggedy Man never returns, however many nightmares she weathers. Someone seizes her shoulder, her arm, and she can't shake them off however hard she struggles. But no, the Doctor did come back, which means she's asleep; she is, she is...
She opens her eyes and draws breath.
The woman tugging at her arm is shrouded in darkness, but Amy would know her anywhere. She glances left: yes, there's Rory, so they're safe.
For now. She looks back at River. "What is it?"
"He needs us." River's voice is soft, but Amy is already sitting up, already reaching for Rory. "He needs you."
To know of a sleeping civilisation is one thing; to witness it quite another, but Jenny tries not to stare. They look so like Vastra, and yet unlike, because she knows Vastra down to her soul.
The Doctor halts. "These are still sleeping," he says, almost a question.
Vastra shakes her head. "Look closer."
He does, and then draws away with a quick breath. If he were human, Jenny would say he was frowning in puzzlement, but she's learned not to trust her human instincts when it comes to the Doctor.
"That's...not nice," he says, and bends over the Silurian again, tracing his device over the contours of her body. The device pauses above a long, green tube, something between a root and a rope, which rises from the earthen floor and enters the cabinet.
"Can you heal her?" Vastra's voice is sharp.
He shakes his head. "Not until I find out what's wrong."
"Then we must hurry. It has started in the deeps." She strides down the passage, leaving the Doctor and Jenny to scurry in her wake.
Jenny has spent time in the sewers, alleys and river tunnels of London, but they are nothing to this endless labyrinth of passageways, all lined with silent sleepers. She is breathing deeply but can't seem to take in enough air. It's too moist, too hot, too unlike the smoky London chill.
When she catches up to the others, they are investigating another of the sleepers, and Vastra is shivering. "They are worse," she says.
"Ye-es." The Doctor pulls out his device again, and when he looks up his expression is sombre. "Her vital processes are shutting down. Her organs will be next."
"The life support is still working." Vastra strokes the vines that hang limply from the cabinet; it is impossible to believe she must have inhabited one herself not so long ago. "My sister should still be sleeping."
Again, the Doctor's device hovers over the vines. "It certainly seems to be working -- water, oxygen, nutrients. But something else is poisoning it all, somehow." He shakes the device.
Vastra grabs Jenny's arm, and Jenny braces to hold her upright. "My sisters." Her words are choked. "Without them I am alone. Nothing."
"You've got me," Jenny says, timidly, because it feels like cold comfort.
Vastra looks down and the tension in her face eases. "Yes," she says, "that's true." They walk on together, and Jenny feels a little warmer.
"So why is this happening?" she demands next time the Doctor pauses to check on a Silurian. "And who's doing it?" She is thinking of Vastra tossing in the bed, muttering words that were mostly incomprehensible. Is she going to get ill like the others? Is that what she was dreaming?
The Doctor stares at her and then at Vastra. "Well, there's an interesting question. Vastra, how does the support system work?"
Vastra is swallowing, her tongue darting in and out. "It's maintained by our scientists, but they would never...a Silurian would never do this to their fellows, even supposing one of us had woken."
"Of course not," the Doctor says soothingly. "But someone has. This hasn't simply happened." He glances at Jenny. "Someone made it happen."
"Right," says Rory, who seems inordinately calm to Amy. "Where is he, then?"
"Underground," says River and points toward the dark staircase beneath the Underground sign.
"So what's going on?" Amy asks as they descend toward the tracks. She's keeping a weather eye out for the Underground staff, always liable to turn up at a tiresome moment. Although knowing River she's got that covered. "When are we? And what's going on with the Doctor?"
"I'm not certain, but I think it's 1899."
Amy thinks about what she knows about 1899. Jack the Ripper, Victorians, smog -- basically nothing. It's just Victorian London.
"It is still Victoria, isn't it?" she muses. "Not George or whoever came afterward? Edward?"
"Queen Victoria lived until 1901," Rory says behind her. She shoots him a look but refrains from asking how on earth he remembers a detail like that. Too often, the answer is, 'I was there.'
"So," she resumes, "what was the message?"
"I'm not certain," says River as they turn onto the platform, "because he hasn't sent it yet."
Amy stops dead. "You know, River, if you want to spend time with us you can just come round. We can have coffee or go feed the ducks, or something -- you don't have to invent excuses to see us, like, 'Oh, the Doctor's got a problem and we have to fix it.' We want to see you, too."
"I'm not inventing anything," River says impatiently. "I'm just not sure exactly how some things work, and I couldn't tell you even if I knew. All I know is that someone wants to hurt the Doctor."
"Yes." River looks left and right, then pushes on what appears to be part of the stone wall. It opens onto even denser darkness. Amy stares down into nothing.
"Right, then." Her voice sounds thin. "Better get this sorted, hadn't we?"
As they parade down the long passage, Jenny is reminded of a rudderless boat on the Thames. When Vastra stumbles, Jenny catches her, but she can't catch the Doctor, as well. He looks back at them, eyes briefly bewildered, before trudging on down the damp path. Jenny pats her own hand on top of Vastra's and leads her on, although her mind is screaming to turn back.
"Don't!" calls Amy and he freezes. "Do you not remember," she says, trying to shut out her own memories by forcing anger into her voice, "what happened last time we surprised a load of sleeping Silurians?"
"It's all right," River says, "or rather, it's all wrong. They're Vastra's kin, and you're too late to help them, Rory. They'll be dead very soon."
"If they're not dead yet," Rory says through tight lips, "then I'm not too late."
River shakes her head. "I'm sorry. I know it goes against your instinct. The only way to help them is to go to the source."
He turns; his face looks oddly blurred, or perhaps it's just the light down here. "We're nearly there."
"Yeah, and we're nearly finished!"
"We must keep going," Vastra gasps. Is it the air? But she was fine earlier, while Jenny's lungs struggled to adapt. She grew up down here; surely that's not it. "I can feel it, the centre of it all. We must stop it."
They emerge into a broad cave, although to Jenny it looks more like St Paul's Cathedral, with its vast dome and many crevices. There are lights burning (how did they manage it? When they get back up to the surface, she has a heap of questions for Vastra), and still more cabinets, like the others, although the figures inside are different. Some are unmistakably male, others more ambiguous.
Vastra stumbles toward a row of Silurians along the far curve of the cave, but turns away quickly and shakes her head. "Still alive," she says, "but barely. The scientists are...through there." She points into one of the crevices, from which a low, thrumming noise is emanating. "Oh, I am so lonely."
"Yes," murmurs the Doctor, almost too quietly for Jenny to hear. "The loneliness of living. Without a people, without a world. What a life."
Vastra stands straighter by dint of resting even more of her weight against Jenny, and allows herself to be helped across the threshold of the...well, Jenny supposes it's some kind of engine room. Before she's had time to take in anything beyond an impression of a vast, low tree in the centre, Vastra slumps against her, eyes closed. Her fingers finally loosen their grip on Jenny's arm, but Jenny'd give anything to have that pressure back. Lowering her to the ground as gently as she can, she calls, "Doctor!" frantically tugging at Vastra's arm and patting her cheek. "Doctor, help me!"
When she looks around, the Doctor is on the ground and his eyes are closed.
"What d'you mean?" The passage is widening slightly and the light ahead is stronger. Amy turns on River. "What's happening down here? Where's the Doctor?"
"In there." River points, and screws up her face. "Can't you feel it? That awful sensation of loneliness?" Her eyes rake over them and her shoulders sag. "No, you can't. Maybe it's because you have each other. Keep it that way -- keep together."
"River," Rory says, as if he were ever able to tell her what to do, "if the Doctor's in trouble down here, we need you."
She shakes her head. "I can't. I shouldn't be here, but I had to come. Believe me, if I walked into that chamber where the Doctor is, I would be worse than useless to you."
"But you always..." Amy's words run out, stemmed by the familiar confusion of emotions that River's presence always evokes. My baby. My daughter. This beautiful, strong woman. The Doctor's lover, maybe, sometime, somewhere. The great mystery, the great power. River. "OK," she says, and River folds them both into a hug.
"He's through there." She swallows, looks up. "I can feel it. You need to hurry."
Without another word, Amy grabs Rory's hand and pulls him on down the passageway.
"Remember each other," River calls after them. "Remember me. Remember the Doctor."
The next time Amy looks back, she is gone.
The chamber ahead looks horribly like the one in which Amy was almost killed. Funny, she's been almost killed a lot of times since she met the Doctor, but this one seems to have stuck with her more than most. Something about these people, another civilisation beneath the earth, before humans; it makes her skin crawl.
But she remembers, too, that the Silurians were civilised; their leaders ready to reason, reluctant to let the warriors loose if there was another solution. So she hurries past the cabinets as quietly as she can, holding tight to Rory's hand, toward the sound of the woman calling.
The noise, a quiet hum that nevertheless seems impossibly loud, sounds a little like the chanting of a medium -- full of gibberish that occasionally resolves into words.
Alone, it seems to say. No family, no friends, no love. No purpose. You are alone.
She shakes off those thoughts. "Vastra? You hear me? Because I'm here, and I ain't going anywhere, even if I have to carry you out on me own." But she'd have to leave the Doctor, and damn, where is Strax? The Doctor's supposed to be a help, not a burden!
Vastra's head lolls against Jenny's shoulder. Jenny puts her arms around her, almost as if they're in bed, lying side by side. "I ain't leaving you," she says, raising her voice to drown out the noise. "You're my mistress and my wife, and I ain't leaving you."
"Did she bring you here?" she calls (what's that noise? she didn't even notice it at first), and Jenny's head spins around, her eyes large in the semi-darkness. Amy gestures. "Did Vastra bring you down here? You and the Doctor?"
Jenny nods. "Yes, but she ain't been well for days, I should've known something was up." She shakes Vastra's shoulders hopelessly. "Ma'am! Come on, my darlin'. I did know something was up, I just thought if I called for the Doctor he'd help her."
"And you came dashing in, as always, without a care in the world," Amy tells the Doctor, although she knows that's unfair. In some ways, she's never known anyone who takes more care, or who bears more of a burden.
Rory covers her hand, which is resting over one of the Doctor's hearts. "We've got to get them out of here."
She shakes her head to free herself of the noise, which seems to be permeating her skull. "OK. If you take Vastra, me and Jenny can manage the Doctor."
"No!" cries Jenny.
"What are you talking about?" Amy demands. "We need to get them back up to ground level. To safety."
"They wanted to come," Jenny says stubbornly. "It was hurting 'em but they came anyway. It's coming from here, that's why all those Silurians are dying out there. We've got to 'eal it." Jenny nods at Rory. "You're a doctor, ain't you?"
Rory shrugs. "No, but..."
"But you're as good as they come round these parts," says Jenny. She's probably right, given what Amy knows of medical care in Victorian times. "So you can tell us what's wrong."
"Did the Doctor say anything?" asks Rory. "You said they were hurting, so he must have known something was happening to him. Did he say anything?"
Jenny shakes her head. "He said something about loneliness." She shivers and clutches Vastra closer. "They both did."
Rory frowns. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"He said their vital processes were shutting down," Jenny says, parrotlike, and gestures back the way they've come. "But there was no reason for it. They were all just dy- sick."
"OK." Rory leans over the Doctor again. "So no trauma, at least, not the way we understand it. It's something different -- a different kind of illness."
"It's in those vines!" Jenny says. She's still cradling Vastra, tears sliding down her cheeks. "They're all wrong."
"Of course it is," Amy puts in, and waits for him to look up. "Well, we haven't got it, have we?"
"No, but the Doctor has," Rory says grimly. "And Vastra."
"Yeah, but she's--" Amy hesitates. "Well, it would make sense for her to catch it, wouldn't it? If it was going to, to mutate, or whatever."
"You mean, you think it's coming through the vines, but now we're here, it's changing so it can infect us, as well?"
Amy shrugs. "Listen."
Alone. So lonely. Alone and nothing, forever.
Rory frowns and shakes his head. "What the hell is that noise?"
"It's awful," Jenny sniffs. "Makes you feel so alone."
Amy reaches out without quite letting go of the Doctor. "How long've you been here?"
"I don't know." She shakes her head. "Not long, I don't think. I wish Strax was here."
"Where is he?" asks Rory sharply, but Jenny only shrugs.
"Dunno. It's his day off. Gawd, I feel so...so lonely."
"Me too," Rory says quietly, and Amy gazes from one to the other. They look bereft, both of them, as if everyone they had ever loved was gone, or had never even lived. She feels it, too, a desperate loneliness spreading out from her very core.
"Wait." They look at her with dull eyes, and she waves her hands in impatience. "We're here together," she says. "We've got each other. Whatever we're...feeling, or thinking, it's not real. We're fine." She glares at Rory until his eyes widen in comprehension. "We've got each other," she repeats, and he nods, hand descending onto hers over the Doctor's chest.
"And Jenny..." She pats the hem of Jenny's dress, the only part of her she can reach. "You've got Vastra, right? I mean, you two love each other, don't you?"
Jenny crimsons, but does not let go of Vastra. "Yes," she says defiantly.
"Good." River's final words to them. Remember each other. Remember me. Remember the Doctor. "We've got to keep remembering that." She glances down; the Doctor's chest is still rising and falling, but who knows what damage is happening inside him? Their vital processes are shutting down. "And we've got to keep reminding them of it, too, while we fix this."
Was this why River couldn't come any further? But River's as brave and strong as they come; she would face anything to help the Doctor. No, it must be something to do with all that continuity stuff that the Doctor and River keep going on about, and which Amy doesn't have time for. There's too much living to be done to worry about things you can't see.
Unless whatever you can't see is killing the Doctor.
Amy and Rory have dragged the Doctor to the centre of the room and are eyeing the mechanism, if that's the right word for an item that is so clearly organic. Now Jenny knows where the voice is coming from, it's harder to block it out, and also scarier. How can a thing, a creeper, a bit of grass, articulate words that make her want to lie down and die?
No. Vastra is here and in trouble. There's going to be no lying down and dying from Jenny.
Up close, the noise is louder, the words more resonant. You are alone. I am alone. Nobody loves me. No one to love. No one to hear you. Alone.
She takes a deep breath and looks at Rory. "Remember?"
Rory nods. "I love you."
"Me too. I mean, I love you, too." That isn't the half of it, really, but it's still the essence. She takes his hand, leaving the other folded around the Doctor's. I love you. Her thoughts are no longer directed at Rory, or at the Doctor, but at the atmosphere itself, in defiance against the awful feeling, the terrible words enunciating and demanding doom all around her.
I love you. Love. I love.
Alone. This close, she can feel the pain behind the words, and she thinks of the Doctor, who is always alone although she's tried so hard to change that. Love, she thinks, and pictures Rory the Centurion, and her Raggedy Man dancing at their wedding. So much love.
Squeezing the Doctor's arm tight, fixing her eyes on Rory, she guides their hands toward the mass of vines. Love.
Alone. Alone in eternity, in darkness, in nothing. Alone, alone, ALONE, ALONE.
Rory's fingers move beneath hers and his face tightens, although he doesn't blink. Love, she thinks again. Not loneliness, love. Love, always.
The vines are sticky to the touch and fibrous as ropes. Rory's hand strokes one, and then another. Love, thinks Amy, and Alone. She is a little girl, waiting for her Raggedy Man to return and save the world, as the stars blink out and the night draws in. Eternal night, eternal loneliness, eternal nothing.
ALONE, ALONE, ALONE!
Far off, Jenny is calling for Vastra, her voice breaking but always resuming. "I love you, my darlin'!" It sounds like a plea, but then Amy is alone once more, sitting in the dark garden outside the house with a crack in the wall.
Something nudges her and she opens her eyes. It's Rory, still watching her, still there. As the voice retreats, just for an instant, he smiles and seizes one of the vines near the centre of the morass.
ALONE, ALONE, ALONE!
For an instant, Amy's mind fills with images and emotions: row upon row of Silurians, and greater despair and loneliness than she thought possible. Her own experiences are nothing, nothing, beside this. Then there is a tug at her hand and she opens her eyes onto Rory, still there, watching her still.
She smiles shakily. The vines are thrumming with energy, but the awful feeling has gone and there are no more despairing words in the air. Rory pulls her toward him for the best hug she's had in weeks.
Between them, the Doctor stirs; his hand twitches in hers, and she blinks away tears of relief.
"How did you know what to do?" she asks Rory. "Which vine to pull out?"
He shrugs. "I understood how it felt. Being alone like that."
She squeezes his hand hard.
"And just what is going on here?" demands a stentorian voice from the doorway. Jenny looks up.
"Fat lot of help you are! People've been dying down 'ere."
Strax hurries to her side. "What treachery is this?" He lays a hand on Vastra's stomach, and then on her forehead. "Her life is ebbing away. She will be healthy in approximately three minutes."
"What d'you mean, she's dying but she's healthy?" demands Jenny.
Strax looks at her impassively. "Her life signs were negligible. Now they are not, and she is merely sleeping."
"Oh." Jenny strokes her mistress's hand, still as limp as the rest of her. "Well, that's just fabulous, that is."
The Doctor re-enters the room, flanked by Amy and Rory. "The Silurians are all getting better. Their systems were running so slowly, I think it affected them less than it did us, although it would've done for them eventually." He squats and feels for Vastra's pulse. "Oh, yes, she'll be up and about in no time."
"That's what he said." Jenny scowls at Strax. "So why's she still asleep?"
The Doctor pats her shoulder. "It was a tough thing she did, coming down here. She must have been feeling it all the way -- she could dream it even up in London, remember? She'll be fine." He springs to his feet. "Everyone's fine! We're all fine and nobody died!" He laughs as if it's the greatest joke in the world, but Jenny isn't ready to join him.
"In fact," says Strax, "there was one death." He points at the morass of vines, and Rory darts behind them.
"He's right." With some effort, he and the Doctor pull out the body of a Silurian.
Amy touches his forehead and withdraws with a gasp.
"What is it?" asks the Doctor.
She shakes her head, screwing up her eyes. "I...I thought I saw what he saw. All those Silurians, asleep forever. That horrible, desolate feeling of loneliness. Could it have been him?"
"He awoke," the Doctor says sombrely. "Or was left to tend the rest. But we aren't made for too much solitude. A little peace and quiet, yes, but an eternity alone?" His expression is bleak. "Nobody can live with that."
Amy takes his arm, exchanging glances with Rory.
"He must've gone mad," Jenny says, remembering the pain that filled the room so recently. "What an awful life."
"Yes, and he put all that into the support system." The Doctor kneels by the body, his face in shadow as he squeezes the Silurian's hand. When he looks up, he is smiling. "I think it's time for that cuppa tea and a natter, don't you?"
Jenny gathers Vastra close again, thankful that all she has to do is wait.
A soft human body snuggles next to her, bringing a memory of cool sheets in a dark room.
Vastra holds Jenny close, and opens her eyes.