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Tea Time

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After her encounter with Madame Vastra, Clara looks a little shakey – Jenny takes her into the hall, and watches Strax assist her with her coat.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” She offers, as Clara fidgets distractedly with her collar.

Clara hesitates, bites her lip – then nods. She looks very much like a woman in need of a good sit down.

“Earl Grey alright?” Jenny carefully lifts the pot from the stove, having explained to Strax that the human scum would be staying an hour or so longer, and that no, it would not be necessary to set up a perimeter guard in the meantime.

“Yes – yes, fine,” there is not much of less concern to Clara, for the moment, than what variety of tea it is that she is served.

“There you go then, dear,” Jenny pours, “you let it sit for a minute.”

She smiles, kindly and Clara finds herself smiling back. The woman seems so… ordinary. Though she is clearly much like the mysterious Doctor – quite like everyone else until you see where she lives.

Clara glances back, through the open kitchen door, to where that strange, deformed butler is sat in the pantry, reading a newspaper and humming tunelessly. Just beyond she can still hear the sounds of the conservatory, and see the edge of Madame Vastra’s skirts.

“Is she…” she glances back at Jenny, wondering how much she can get away with asking. “Who – what is she?”

“Silurian,” Jenny replies, practically, as if this is a word in common usage. When Clara raises her eyebrows to suggest her confusion, Jenny shrugs. “An intelligent bipedal reptile from a civilisation that long predates our own.”

“Oh,” says Clara, who now has far more questions than she did before her last one was answered. “…how…?”

“They mostly hibernate now, deep beneath the earth’s crust,” Jenny speaks as if she has rehersed the words – perhaps she has. Clara cannot be the first person she has had to explain the situation to; certainly Vastra gives the impression of having performed such an interview as she did on Clara many times before. “But sometimes, we wake a few up, accidentally. Madame was woken by an extension to the London underground.”

“How – unfortunate.”

“It was for the workers that roused her.”

“Huh,” Jenny considers this. It oughtn’t to be in the least bit plausible, but then neither is a man who lives on a cloud, and she has just looked the woman in the face and seen exactly how reptilian she is. It’s no skin condition or – singular mutation. The woman’s tongue is green, for goodness sake! “Was that really – blood, she was drinking?”

“Oh yes,” Jenny has seated herself at the opposite corner of the table with her own cup of tea, stirring it contentedly. “Pig’s blood, mind, but still. She will drink human, if given half a chance. She eats humans too – she likes us. She says vegetarians taste the best. Fat vegetarians, who don’t smoke.”

If Clara’s eyebrows could disappear off her forehead and into the stratosphere, they most likely would – as it is she only stares at Jenny, trying to decide whether to take her seriously or not. But there’s neither amusement nor alarm to the woman’s tone. Only a cheerful calm, a matter-of-fact bluntness that Clara recognises as being entirely like her own when having to deal with a particularly difficult drunkard.

“Oh – don’t worry,” Jenny waves a hand, “she only eats criminals. She made the Doctor a promise.”

“Well that’s reassuring, I suppose,” Clara replies, trying to affect Jenny’s air of nonchalance.

“Makes cooking for her relatively straight forward, at least,” Jenny tells her, still sipping contentedly, “Silurians are carnivores, you see. The vast majority of their diet must be made up of meat, the fresher the better. A nice rare steak is easy enough – I could never be doing with the fancy sorts they eat in most of the big houses round here.”

“You are her – housekeeper, then?” Clara ventures.

“Wife,” Jenny replies, with a smile.

Clara takes a hasty mouthful of tea, burns her tongue in the process, tries not to swear.

“Does that shock you?” Jenny leans forward, sounding genuinely curious. “It shocks a lot of people, more than Madame not being human, even. You should have seen the look one of the inspectors at Scotland yard gave us when he worked it out – his little face!”

She giggles, shaking her head.

“Well, of all the unconventional aspects of this household, I don’t see why that should be the most shocking,” Clara replies, after a moment’s consideration. “Is such a thing… legal?”

“Does that matter?”

“I suppose not.”

Jenny smiles, satisfied with this answer, and sits back in her chair again, idly propping one foot up on the table corner. She looks so utterly at home here, so content in her surroundings.

“And – are you….” She looks harder at Jenny, trying to detect anything alien about her countenance.

Jenny meets her gaze with a quick, impish grin. “’Fraid not. I’m just Jenny Flint, native of Finchley, former match girl. I only married into the chaos. Step up in the world, though, if you ask me. How many matchgirls you know have ever set foot on another planet, eh?”

Clara hesitates, then nods, slowly. “Done well for yourself.”

“I like to think so.”

“Have you really been to another planet?”

“I’ve been to three – and a space station.” Jenny is quite clearly enjoying herself, “you’ll go to more than that, if you can get the Doctor to help you. He’s an alien, you know. He looks like us but he comes from another world entirely.”

Clara should not believe any of this, of course, but she does. Something about Jenny, her pride and her contentment, is utterly, unquestionably truthful.

“The Doctor sounds like a good friend to have,” Clara offers, after a moment.

“He is, when he’s himself,” Jenny sits back, “he’s been out of sorts for a bit but… Madame and I always reckon, it’ll just take the right sort of friend. He has them, you see, particular friends he travels with, all the time, just…”

“He’s suffered losses.”

“He has,” Jenny chews her lip, “goodness knows what it’d take for me to – pick up again, if I lost…” she glances uneasily towards Vastra’s conservatory, and then shudders, as if the very suggestion frightens her.

“Still, the Doctor’s much older than me,” she adds, after a moment, “hundreds and hundreds of years old, as it happens. He’ll be alright, eventually – if he can just find someone.”

“Or maybe someone should find him,” Clara folds her arms, determinedly, and that earns her another of Jenny’s impish grins.