A Series of Short Stories On Madame Vastra and Miss Jenny Flint
Jenny is running, but what use is it? The two men are upon her in an instant, pulling her arms and skirts and bonnet backward until she topples over, landing heavily on her side in the filthy alleyway. She shouts and curses the men as they attempt to rip her apart—reaching for anything of value—and she is kicking at their shins and ankles, furious. Suddenly—at the sound of a whip—the flurry of motion around her ceases. The men stop grabbing and pulling, and in a moment, they fall over themselves, unconscious.
Leaping up, Jenny looks around her wildly, terrified on the cool, autumn night in Eastern London. She does not need to wait long, as the most bizarre creature she has ever seen runs up towards her: a hissing, wailing, green woman in what appeared to be some kind of military uniform. The apparition is so shocking that Jenny does not think to run when the creature approaches. In an instant, the creature has pinned her against the brick wall, rage etched across its face.
“No! Don’t hurt her!” Jenny looks behind the creature, which pulls up short and changes direction down another alleyway. A man runs out of the dark and, seeing Jenny, stops to catch a breath. “Are you all right?” he asks.
“That creature,” Jenny said, still shocked, “Did it have scales? Real scales for skin?”
“I’ll explain later, which way did she go?”
“Are you from the North?” Jenny asked, observing the rather oddly-dressed man’s accent.
“Lots of planets have a North,” he mutters. “Now which way did she go?”
Jenny turns and points with a shaking hand into the dark. The man, observing the unconscious ruffians at his feet, becomes distracted. “What’s your name? Did she sting you?”
“I’m – I’m Jenny Flint, sir. Did you say sting?”
“Thanks, Jenny Flint. I’m the Doctor.” He takes her hand. “Come with me.”
They’re running now, and Jenny is absolutely lost for words as the doctor tries to explain between breaths. Something about the London Underground construction, a collapse and a fire, a ship, and reptile-people, a great civilization, from before humans walked the Earth. It’s all too fast for Jenny to follow, so she just asks the first question that comes to mind. “Why am I following you?”
“Because you’re important. This way!” They turn, following the sounds of vicious wailing.
Me? Important? Jenny thinks this is perhaps the most confusing bit of the evening.
They reach a crossroad, a small plaza really, that Jenny recognizes. Normally it would be full of people until the witching hour, but now it is all but deserted, save for the strange creature, hissing at the running bystanders. No, hissing at everything: the people, the walls, the streets, the sky.
“Vastra!” the Doctor shouts. The creature turns immediately, and Jenny can’t help but think of predators at the London zoo. The hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, and on a visceral level she knows this creature is a very real threat, unlike any human being on the streets of London.
“Doctor!” the creature shouts back. “You promised me!” Jenny gasps. She was right, it is a woman of some kind.
“I know, and I’m sorry!”
“You promised me you would save us all! They are all dead, all of my sisters are dead!”
“What’s going on?” Jenny asks, although really she is not sure she wants to know.
“You apes!” the creature wails, not at Jenny or anyone in particular. “You filthy apes have turned into monsters!”
“Vastra, it was an accident,” the Doctor insists, stepping closer.
“Time Lord, don’t you patronize me, you saw! You saw what those creatures did, burning us all to ash!” The memory seems to overpower her as she takes disoriented steps to the side. She wails, more quietly now.
“But you, Vastra! You are alive. And that might not make up for the others—and I am sorry!—but that is still a gift! Listen to me Vastra, these people are not monsters, and neither are you. You have to hear me out, the humans are not what you think they are. They’re very good on the whole.”
Jenny realizes that this doctor is speaking as though he isn’t a human himself. This entire evening is turning into something wholly absurd. Still, she follows just a step behind the doctor as he approaches the creature called Vastra.
“Anger,” the doctor says, only a few steps away now, reaching out a hand, “is always the shortest distance to a mistake.” Jenny can see the creature more clearly now than before. Its eyes, focused on the odd doctor, are blue. That’s a surprise!
Hesitantly, it reaches out and takes the doctor’s hand. “There,” he says. “Vastra, I’d like you to meet someone.” He turns to Jenny, looking her right in the eye. With his free hand he took one of Jenny’s. “This is Jenny Flint. You saved her life.” It hisses. “And Jenny, this,“ he turned back, “is Lady Vastra. She saved your life tonight. I think it’s been a rough night for you both, so make a new friend.”
Jenny looked into those intensely blue eyes. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am. Y-You have a very pretty name.” Vastra made no response beyond staring right through the human.
The next day, Jenny suddenly finds herself with a new job on the other side of town. Somehow, the Doctor (capital “D”) has convinced Vastra and Jenny that they are now, in a way, responsible for each other. He has offered to take Vastra somewhere else in some ship he owns (perhaps to America, Jenny wondered), but the lizard-woman refuses to leave the place of her birth, “Defiled though it is,” she says. So they procure an apartment above a butcher shop for Vastra, and Jenny is to be the housekeeper, the maid. She busies herself making the apartment suitable for the Lady, excited to tell her family about her change in fortune during her first day off, how she will help pay for her niece’s medicine. Although, Jenny thinks, better leave off the bit about a lizard.
For weeks, Lady Vastra does not leave her room. Jenny brings her meals, fresh from the butcher shop, and always she is huddled by the fire, little moans of anguish escaping her. Jenny both fears her and sympathizes, having lost young sisters herself.
Vastra has moved into a larger apartment, having found a preoccupation among the apes that suits her: finding and capturing wanted men. The Silurian still frightens Jenny, in a way, but working for her mistress is also rather exciting. It’s certainly more interesting than anything she’s done before.
She does not talk much to Jenny, but far more than before. Mostly about how cold it is. Jenny can ask her about how she wants her meals, and Jenny can tell her about the darker places on London’s streets. These early months are full of explanations. One particular morning, Jenny stands in the kitchen, slumping over a bit, preparing breakfast.
“You smell of blood,” Vastra says from the doorway.
Jenny jumps at the sound, a small squeak escaping her mouth. “Ma’am, you frightened me!”
“Is that unusual?” Vastra asks rhetorically. Bitterly. She repeats herself. “You smell of blood.” For a moment, Jenny seems perplexed. Then Vastra sees the ape’s eyes grow large, her face turns red, and her hands seem to flap about of their own will as she tries to explain “cycles” of human females in as Victorian a manner as she can muster.
On another occasion, Jenny attempts to describe Christmas to her mistress, but finds she cannot adequately answer her questions of why religious events led to certain rituals. By the end of the conversation, Jenny decides to just skip even thinking about presents this year. She takes herself to church services with her own family, of course, but it all seems a little trite compared to a living thing that proves the planet is millions of years old at least.
One late afternoon, Jenny comes into the main room looking for Vastra, who is sitting as close to the fireplace as possible. “I’ve brought you your tea, ma’am,” she says, placing the tray down beside her mistress. Tea is the one human thing Vastra has taken a liking to, presumably because it’s warm. Jenny turns to leave.
Jenny pauses, turns back. Vastra continues to stare into the flames. “Ma’am? Did you say something?”
For a moment, only silence. Then Vastra lifts something from her lap. “I discovered your kind possess libraries,” she says, still staring away. “Read to me.”
Jenny takes a cautious step forward. “I… I am not very good at my letters, ma’am… I’m afraid.”
“Then you should practice.” It almost sounds like a threat.
Jenny takes the book from the Lady, careful not to touch her gloved hand. She finds herself a seat, opens the book, and starts to read aloud. Vastra winces—the ape-girl was not being falsely modest about her skills—but says nothing.
In time, this becomes part of their daily ritual. Jenny’s reading improves, and Vastra learns about these humans: Their histories, their wars, their philosophies and religions, their many tribes, their environments. Eventually, the library will not satisfy Vastra’s will to learn, and Jenny is sent to buy copies, so many that soon the room is full to the ceiling with books.
“What shall we be reading today, ma’am?” Jenny asks, carrying a tray of tea things to the usual place. She is feeling rather cheerful tonight, being the first warm day of the new year (not very dry, but warm). Vastra turns in her chair, just enough to watch Jenny move about the room, just enough to freeze Jenny in her place because Vastra never ever looks at her.
Jenny cautiously reaches for the new book that the Lady is holding up and quickly examines it. “Poetry… Shakespeare!” she exclaims. “You want to hear Shakespeare’s sonnets, ma’am?”
“I do,” Vastra replies, still watching Jenny with those fierce eyes. Jenny shivers, inexplicably embarrassed, and quickly settles in to read. She hopes the Lady hasn’t found something new to stare at.
“You daft old bloody lizard-breath!”
“Yes, insult me, ape. That is helping,” Vastra hisses as she falls onto Jenny, who only just opened the front door.
Vastra has learned sarcasm. Jenny has learned how not to collapse under the weight of something bigger than herself.
Cold is not the issue; the summers heat fills the large apartment. As she struggles to keep from either falling over or dropping her mistress, Jenny realizes that Vastra is covered in something wet and sticky.
“Ma’am, this is your blood!”
“Yes.” The response seems to take a great deal of effort.
Jenny wastes little time. She is the smaller of the two, but she quickly carries Vastra into the kitchen, laying her gently on the floor. She sets a pot on to boil and rummages in the pantry for bandages, alcohol, and a small box. In a flash, she is next to her mistress, kneeling. “Ma’am, tell me exactly what’s damaged.” Vastra lifts an arm and points toward her opposite shoulder, then her thigh. Her eyes are droopy, her breathing shallow.
“I think… the leg is worse.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Jenny reaches for the hem of Vastra’s black dress and yanks it up. She lays the skirts over the invalid’s torso to keep her warm. Jenny sees the blood—God, so much blood—everywhere. She makes quick work of cleaning off most of the blood, searching for the wound. “There, just above the knee. Lift your leg for me.” For a moment, Vastra seems to come to herself, glaring at Jenny peculiarly. Jenny pulls a chair over. “Lift the leg!” she says impatiently. “We need to slow the bleeding.” Vastra complies. Jenny glances underneath the leg.
“Girl, what are you doing?”
“There’s an exit wound. So you got shot then?” Jenny asks, rapidly cleaning the wound and preparing bandages.
“Yes,” Vastra hisses. “By a real ape.”
“Oi, I can let you bleed to death,” Jenny snaps without looking away from her work. She places Vastra’s bandaged leg back on the floor and gingerly applies pressure to the wound with her knee, leaving her hands free to assess that shoulder injury. Vastra grins at that, even chuckles. “Is there something funny about this situation?” Jenny barks.
“Jenny, I’m surprised, you are truly unhappy with my current state. I shall explain the joke later.”
“I might have to stitch up that shoulder, ma’am.” Jenny is indeed upset. She has nursed her mistress’s injuries from her adventures before. This is really quite serious, though. Madame Vastra has lost a good deal of blood. Shot! What would be next? Skinned?
When Jenny’s mistress had first started these escapades, she had seemed to Jenny so strong and powerful. She seemed invincible. But more and more often, her mistress came home with injuries. She is vulnerable. What if Jenny was away one day, perhaps visiting her mother and niece, and she was not here to tend to this foolish creature? Ten months have passed since they first met, and Jenny has become rather fond of the lizard. Still, it is not her place to voice her frustrations, much less her fondness, toward Vastra. She holds her tongue.
“I think that should suffice, ma’am.”
“Thank you. Will you help me to my bedroom, please?”
“Of course, ma’am,” Jenny breathes. Her mistress said please. Then it hits her: her mistress called her by her name!
The movement is grueling. Jenny manages to get her out of the bloodied dress (wishing for the first time her mistress had not adapted the local clothing) and into a nightgown. Finally, with a great deal of effort, she manages to pick Vastra up and lay her on the bed. Panting, Jenny turns.
Vastra’s order is barely louder than a whisper.
“Yes, ma’am.” Jenny pulls a chair in the corner up to the four-poster bed and takes her seat for the night.
“Jenny,” Vastra says with some tentativeness. Jenny looks up from her morning paper. It has been three weeks since Vastra was shot, and she is recovering well. It did not take long for them to return to their regular schedule: Jenny woke early in the morning to prepare breakfast, over which they would discuss the news in the morning paper; Vastra would go for a walk, following up on leads related to her most recent case or meet with the police while Jenny ran errands or practiced writing; Vastra would return for tea, during which Jenny would read aloud; Then it would be time for dinner, and Vastra might then head out into the night, ready for the hunt.
“Jenny, I have come to two decisions. First, I have decided to move to a house on Paternoster Row. I have reason to suspect that Scotland Yard intends to hire me as a consultant and detective, and I believe this change of residence would be more suitable.”
“Very good, ma’am!” Jenny exclaims. “Have you already chosen the house?”
“Yes I have. Number 13. However, I am leaving all other arrangements in your hands.” Vastra paused, seeing Jenny’s surprise. “Which brings me to my second decision. I will be going on a trip… Until late December.” The maid’s face falls, no longer enthusiastic.
“Oh… If you do not mind my asking, ma’am, where will you be going?” And why, she thinks, are you going?
“I am unable to elaborate, unfortunately. But I have every confidence in your ability to handle the business of arranging the move in my absence.” Jenny nodded absently. She could tell her mistress was not interested in discussing the trip, and really, she was not obligated to tell her maid anything. Nonetheless, Jenny felt disappointed. She served loyally, never faltering in her dedication to her work and employer. A part of her felt that she had earned her mistress’s trust.
Vastra leaves very shortly thereafter. Jenny preoccupies herself with preparing the new house, visiting her family, and keeping tabs on certain questionable characters. Summer in London draws to a close. Jenny is beside herself with worry and loneliness and plain boredom.
One morning, as she ties her bonnet to her head on her way out the door, the postman delivers a letter addressed to Miss Jenny Flint. “How unusual,” she mutters to herself. She reenters the apartment, finds an envelope opener, and retrieves the parchment within. “My God…” It’s not astonishing news, really. It’s just that she had not expected to receive any word from Madame Vastra until her return, and here in her hands is a letter from Madame Vastra! In English, true and proper! Jenny reads it over and over again. While her mistress does not specify where she is going, there is more than enough to compensate. Perhaps most precious is a small paragraph hidden in the pages of the letter. Vastra has listed the names of her sisters who died that night she and Jenny met.
More letters arrive in due time. In each one there is another little treasure, buried among the instructions for curtains and descriptions for proper haggling over furniture (like Jenny doesn’t know how to haggle, please). There’s a description of how London Underground construction caused a collapse and fire where she had been hibernating for millions of years. Also, an ode to the majesty of the dinosaurs. Then, a detailed description of her tribe’s capital city at its height. With each letter, the Silurian people become increasingly real to Jenny. With each letter, Madame Vastra seemed a little closer.
Vastra returns to London late at night, utterly exhausted. Part of her exhaustion is from all the travel. Part of her exhaustion is the chill of London in December slowing her heart rate. However, she expects most of her exhaustion stems from a long-anticipated return.
Had she received her letters? Had she received them well? Vastra had no idea how the ape-girl…. No, not an ape, and certainly not a girl… would react to her letters. In retrospect, it seemed unfair that she had not provided her maid with a way to reply, but the possibility of rejection from her…
In the cab on the way to the new house, Vastra worries at her gloves. She thinks back to that horridly bloody incident a few months prior. It touches her heart—cold-blooded though it might be—how concerned Jenny had been for her well-being. It still amazes her how strong the little human had been, stronger than she could have possibly known otherwise. It amuses Vastra how oblivious Jenny had been to how, in another context, her actions while trying to help could have been interpreted… differently, to say the least. However, based on what Vastra has learned of Victorian England in the last 14 months, she was not surprised by Jenny’s innocence in that regard. How she hoped her journey would prove to be a gift to the human.
The cab stops right where it ought. Number 13. Vastra pays the driver, gathers her luggage, and takes a deep breath. Do not be a filthy coward, she reprimands herself. She steps inside.
“Ma’am? Is that you, Madame Vastra?”
“Jenny? Yes, I am here.” Vastra looks about her in wonder. The house is not simply settled; it is decorated. Covered with pine cones and candles and—
“Merry Christmas, ma’am!” Jenny’s smile is wide and bright as she hurries down the stairs and toward her mistress. “Welcome home!”
“Is that today?” Vastra asks.
“Right close enough, I would reckon ma’am,” Jenny says, reaching down to grab a piece of luggage. “Another hour or so until it’s official. May I take your things to your room, ma’am? And then show you the house?”
“Yes, Jenny, that will do nicely.” Vastra cannot believe her timing. For a few minutes, she stands stupidly in the hallway. Jenny returns, still beaming, and leads the way through the dining room, the kitchen, the drawing room, and the library. Every room is decorated, but none more than the drawing room with a happy little fir tree nestled in the corner. The maid leads the Silurian upstairs to see her own room, the guest room, bathrooms, a small study. She peeks into a cozy little room that Jenny seems to have claimed for her own.
“Now, ma’am, there is one more room to show you,” Jenny says excitedly, heading back toward the stairs.
“Are you sure, Jenny? I believe I have witnessed everything I instructed you to see to, and I must say, you’ve done a superb…” Vastra pauses, watching Jenny open a door on the first floor. Despite the thickness of the pine scent in the house, there is another smell she had missed before. The door opens into a little tiny hallway with two doors. Jenny motions to one, saying, “The cellar,” while she opens the other. It is dark within, but Vastra sees it all and gasps.
“Do you like it, ma’am?” Jenny asks, still smiling, although she is more subdued now.
“Oh Jenny…” Vastra has to reach out and place a hand on Jenny’s shoulder to steady herself.
“It’s a conservatory, ma’am. A greenhouse. A room that is always warm, always full of plants. I found a bit of spare funds in your records, and I took the liberty of adding a little bit to the house. I hope I have not overstepped, ma’am.”
Vastra can see in the dark the bold, tropical plants that looked so like her forests of old. Where there is nothing to see, she can smell fledgling life, and Jenny’s scent lingers near the seeds from the time she’s taken to care for them.
“Jenny, my dear… Thank you very much.”
The maid bowed her head. “You’re very welcome, ma’am. Merry Christmas!”
“Yes. Merry Christmas, Jenny. Believe it or not, I actually have something for you as well.” Jenny tilts her head in cautious curiosity. “Come with me.” The particular parcel Vastra needs is still in the front hall, carefully wrapped. Jenny watches patiently as she removes the rice paper, removing her gloves to do so.
“Japan,” Vastra states matter-of-factly, “That is where I went. To procure these.” From the package emerges a stand, on which perches three long, polished branches of black wood. No, Jenny realizes as Vastra places the stand on the hall table and picks up one of the three, They are swords. “This one is yours.”
Jenny stares blankly at the sheathed sword Vastra holds out for her. She looks from the sword to Vastra and back to the sword. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“Jenny,” Vastra says, “The reason I left for Japan is because of the injuries I sustained this summer. Hunting mammal criminals bare-handed is possible, but had I means to defend myself, perhaps the incident would not have occurred. So I researched and discovered that the humans of Japan produce a sword much like those my people once carried into battle. Granted, by my time they were a little outdated, but my… well, that doesn’t matter. Furthermore, I will need an assistant in my work now that I will be a consultant.”
“You mean-“ Jenny is catching up. “You want me to go with you… When you’re out about fighting criminals and murderers… Using swords.”
“I don’t know how, ma’am,” Jenny said, gesturing to the sword she had yet to receive.
“You will learn.”
“I will teach you.”
“You- you will?”
Vastra pauses, looking Jenny squarely in the eye. Behind those dark eyes, behind the thin layer of doubt there, Vastra sees strength in the human. “Did you receive my letters these past months?”
Jenny is taken aback by the change of topic. Her hands start to move about randomly, the rest of her paralyzed by those blue eyes. “Yes, yes, I did.”
“Jenny,” Vastra says breathlessly. She places the palm of her hand lightly on Jenny’s check. “You have the makings of a fine warrior. I trust you.” Unable to speak, Jenny just nods. She takes the sword.
Training is hard. Jenny really has no idea how Vastra can manage spending so much time and energy teaching Jenny (and turning her muscles into jelly) and still manage to take jobs from Scotland Yard. For seven weeks straight, Jenny is trained before Vastra will allow her to accompany her. Which is just fine as far as Jenny’s concerned; she would much rather sleep. But then there are house chores.
When she does finally join Vastra on a mission, though, she enjoys every last second of it. Stalking, listening, hiding, running, chasing, fighting, moving! The rush of air in her lungs, the touch of the night air, the taste of justice. God, Vastra has found the perfect way to live. And God, is she magnificent. Her twin katanas only add to Vastra’s grace. Watching her mistress chase down a man twice her size, her swords singing, her poison-laden tongue flickering towards him, Jenny realizes she is not frightened of Vastra anymore. If anything, working with her mistress makes Jenny feel free.
Of course, it isn’t perfect. They banter well at work, but sometimes they devolve into bickering. Sometimes they forget each other’s limitations. Jenny trains hard, but surely she will never match Vastra’s speed and strength. For Vastra, the bitter chill of winter is as much a threat as any adversary. In March, however, it is not Vastra the cold affects but Jenny.
Vastra finds her curtains still closed one morning. It is an odd thing for Jenny to forget. She dresses herself and heads downstairs to the conservatory, where she likes to have her breakfast of liver, toast, and pig’s blood. But there is no breakfast in the greenhouse and no movement in the kitchen. “Jenny?” she calls. No answer. Her first instinct takes her to Jenny’s bedroom door. She knocks.
“Jenny, are you all right?” Opening the door, Vastra finds her answer. Frightfully pale, Jenny’s breathing is shallow. Vastra cries out, kneeling at the side of her companion’s bed. “Jenny!” She reaches out to feel the mammal’s forehead and retracts immediately, shocked by the heat. She realizes sweat soaks the whole bed. Vastra is no expert on sweat, but she has a sense that too much is a bad thing. “Oh Jenny, I don’t know what to do. We need a doctor!” Perhaps millions of years in the past, Vastra’s own people would be able to quickly disperse this illness. But Vastra was a soldier, not a physician.
She hurries out of the room, shouting “Stay!” over her shoulder, goes down the stairs, thinking she will go out and fetch a doctor immediately, devil-may-care what she looked like to the Londoners. Just as she reaches the door, a strange sound emanates from just outside. There, not five steps from her house, is that blue box. Out of it comes a man, a man with a different face—less nose and more hair and a brown overcoat and a grin—a man who smells just like that Doctor. “You didn’t think I’d forgotten you, eh, Vastra?”
Jenny sleeps in Vastra’s bed now, the Doctor having examined her. “Plenty of rest, lots of water, that’s all you can do now,” he says quietly.
“Your face has changed, Doctor.”
“Ah well… Yeah. That happens, I suppose. Time Lord and all. Same ol’ me though. I just regenerate from time to time. Happens when your people are exposed to the raw Time Vortex for eons. But I’ll tell that story later. You seem to have changed a bit yourself, eh Vastra? I’ll admit it, I’m surprised I wasn’t called earlier to keep you from trying to turn our invalid into a pie.”
Vastra hisses, offended, and in no mood to be teased. “How were you… called here?”
“Psychic paper,” the Doctor says, showing her a little note: I don’t know what to do, we need a Doctor! It’s her handwriting. “Best way to reach me, that. Never did mind a house call. It’s a lovely house, by the way!”
“I know,” Vastra says quietly.
“So I hear you’re being called the Great Detective! Excellent title I might say. Right up there with Doctor. Not eating too many people, I hope?”
“Doctor, you are trying my patience,” Vastra threatens. “And no… Only those who deserve it.”
“And who decides that then?” the Doctor asks, suddenly serious.
Vastra simply watches Jenny.
“Humans have weaker immune systems,” the Doctor says, changing the subject. “Best to keep them out of the rain.”
“She likes rain.”
“Oh?” The Doctor watches Vastra watching Jenny, a contemplative look in his eye.
Vastra hesitates, fearing she is about to reveal a bit too much. “To help the flowers grow.”
They continue talking like old friends. They are friends and they are old after all. Eventually the Doctor sees himself out, promising to return soon, leaving Vastra to her thoughts.
All night she stays by Jenny’s side, hardly daring to breathe. Whenever Jenny strays close to consciousness, Vastra is there, giving her water, dabbing the sweat from her brow. A little part of her is sickened by how terrified she is, but most of her is simply terrified of how little Jenny moves. She finds herself checking the human’s pulse frequently, perhaps more than necessary. But it is so reassuring to feel that little drum, full of hot-blooded life, pounding away. The next day is the same, as is the day after that, and another day after that. Vastra does not sleep. Somewhere in the hours of stillness, it hits her that although she now knows many humans, all detestable and loveable in their own ways, this one is special. This one is important. Vastra fills with a sense of tenderness, and despite herself she strokes Jenny’s long hair. Weird stuff, hair.
Five hours later, Jenny opens her eyes. Vastra quickly lifts her hand from the bed. The movement attracts Jenny’s attention.
“Yes, Jenny, here I am.”
“…I’m in your room…?”
Vastra tries; she really does try. The whole next day she attempts to cook proper human food and brews tea and brings Jenny a flower from the conservatory. If Jenny did not feel so utterly spent, she would laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. At her request, Vastra sends one of the street boys to inform Jenny’s family that she has been ill.
Jenny’s brother-in-law shows up at Vastra’s doorstep. This is the first time any member of Jenny’s family has visited her place of work. Vastra is not entirely sure how to greet him, and the young man is aghast at the sight of her, making the whole household feel clumsy and awkward. As quickly as possible, she leads the man to Jenny’s bedside, then leaves, closing the door behind her. She settles in the conservatory with some files she knows she will not actually read. In short time, though, she hears the young man pounding down the stairs, say a gruff good-bye, and leave the house entirely.
Vastra goes to the door, watching him slump his way down the street. Concerned, she hurries back to her bedroom. Jenny is still sitting up. It’s not as though she fell asleep while the poor lad was speaking. She looks as though she is contemplating murder. Her mistress makes a quick decision not to press her for information.
“Tea, Jenny?” Vastra asks instead.
“No ma’am. Just a bit tired.” Jenny works her face into something resembling a smile, daring herself not to repeat what had been said.
“Jenny, you are my best friend.” Vastra says it matter-of-factly, almost bluntly. She means it to be comforting, somehow. Jenny looks at Vastra—the whole of her—framed by the doorway. She smiles a little. “Aye, ma’am. And you are mine.” Very soon, the maid is back on her feet, antsy to train again, finding she missed her fine sword and their work together. Time for an adventure.
Two summers later, London is intensely hot. Vastra loves it. Even in her Victorian dresses, in her hats and cloaks and veils, Vastra soaks up the heat like one of her beloved plants in the conservatory, adding a cheery spring to her step. Jenny is less inclined, but enjoys seeing her mistress so joyful. Not that Madame Vastra is displaying her delight for all to see.
On the hunt, she is ever the Silurian. Jenny shivers to see her, thrilled by the way her mistress moves with grace and power, a predator through and through. In dealings with Scotland Yard, with the police, and most every human they know, she restrains herself. Vastra stands upright, moves stiffly, the picture of Victorian dignity. Far better than herself, Jenny fears, thinking of how very excited she gets watching football matches.
But once in a while, they hire Mr. Parker, the cabbie, to take them just outside the city for a walk, and oh how the lady does shine. So bright does she shine, Jenny must look away lest her mistress catch her basking in that light. Jenny fears her mistress again, in a completely different manner than when they first met years ago. It’s difficult to understand.
On one of these hikes, they follow a trail lined on either side by thick trees. Suddenly, Vastra stops.
“Ma’am?” Jenny asks, watching her mistress and knowing she is scenting something.
“Jenny, come this way!” Vastra says, plunging into the brush next to her. A little surprised, Jenny laughs and follows suit. Their dresses are not very suitable for this unexpected excursion, but Vastra will let nothing slow her down. Several minutes pass. Up ahead of Jenny there is a laugh.
“A lake,” Jenny observes once she comes up beside her mistress. Vastra is beaming, thoroughly satisfied with her discovery. In a moment, Jenny learns why.
“Come, Jenny, help me out of this dress,” Vastra says, already wriggling her way out.
“I-I-I beg your pardon, ma’am?” Jenny squeaks.
Vastra does not wait for Jenny’s ascension to her plan. “I have not done this in a very long time, not since I was quite young indeed.” Already she has removed almost everything (How did she manage that?) and poor Jenny is quite the most flummoxed she has ever been since the very first time she met this very confusing Madame. She sputters and stammers, attempting to form a coherent statement as to why her mistress must stop whatever it is she is planning immediately.
For a brief moment, Vastra stands there in her undergarments, sniffing, perhaps reconsidering. Jenny can’t breathe.
Then it’s all off; Vastra is running.
“Bloody Hell, she’s in!” Jenny says, mortified, watching the space above the water where her mistress just dived in stark naked. She trots up to the edge of the lake. “Madame!”
Not a second later does Vastra’s head push out of the water, splashing and laughing and vibrant. Jenny squeals as Vastra’s enthusiasm proceeds to soak the bystander.
“What – are – you – doing?!” The question is moot, Jenny can see quite clearly that her mistress is swimming under the surface of the lake, only to surface and splash and giggle more than a hundred meters away. “Madame!”
“Hello, Jenny!” Vastra calls. She laughs. “Care for a swim?”
“No, thank you, ma’am. I do not have the talent,” Jenny calls back. She sits, suddenly dizzy. “What the devil’s got into you, ma’am?”
“Ah, well, that’s precisely it, isn’t it?” Vastra says, mostly for her own amusement. She submerges again, and with one easy breath, she returns to the bit of earth where she had left her companion.
Jenny thought she had been mortified before. But no, she knows for a fact she cannot be saved from this fresh offense. For now that Vastra is walking out of the water, Jenny can see far more of her mistress than she ever thought possible. Bright, green scales with highlights of silver running down her arms. No belly button, no nipples. And of course that crown on her head. All of it shimmering with water. Being human, Jenny’s face flushes with hot blood, blushing from ear to ear.
Vastra giggles at the sight of her friend’s red face. She knows no shame over her body, fit and fierce as it is; poor Jenny is simply reacting the way her Victorian-human upbringing has taught her to react. As she walks onto the shore, she must admire Jenny’s determination not to look. “Did you know,” she offers, and Jenny’s big brown eyes shoot up, “There were whole tribes of Silurians that made their homes in the water? A fascinating people, really. As youth, we would all swim and pretend we were those sea devils. For as long as we dared, at least, before any real monsters showed up.”
Jenny flinches at the word monster. She recognizes that Vastra is indirectly calling herself a monster. This woman, reptilian though she might be, is beautiful. Jenny glances downward again, trying to think of a response she can make, but her eye catches on a perfectly round scar in Vastra’s left leg, just above the knee.
“Jenny, won’t you swim?” Vastra taunts, completely devoid of propriety. “Come now, do not be timid; there is not that much here that you have not seen before.”
“Only in bits and pieces, ma’am,” Jenny mumbles, transfixed by the old bullet hole.
The Silurian smiles. Only she knows that, back when she was very much a youth, she was never so forward as she is being towards Jenny right now. She bends over at the waist, hands on her knees, her face suddenly just centimeters from her companion.
“My dear, live a little.” With that, Vastra gently bumps her green, scale-y forehead against Jenny’s blushing one, and goes back to the water. Her swimming continues, followed by lying out on a sunny rock. Jenny stays, although she does not speak. In due time, Vastra is dry enough that they put her back in her dress, hat, and veil. They return from whence they came without a word.
That night following dinner, Jenny is quite lost to the world. She absently holds a Jane Austen novel while nearby her mistress rereads a favorite tome of poetry (the one art form her tribe did not have that the humans do). No work tonight. While Vastra has returned to her normal state of sanity, Jenny fidgets, unable to think about much of anything besides the look of water falling off of her mistress’s body and that little, round mark that could have killed its victim and how it was she, Jenny Flint, who tended that wound and pressed her own weight against it to stop the bleeding.
Vastra smells Jenny’s agitation, but does nothing. She has enjoyed herself today and has no inclination to regret her impact on others. That being the case, she also sees little point in increasing her friend’s anxiety with any more behavior that is decidedly unusual. Nonetheless, Jenny does fidget more and more, her heart beating right out of her chest, her whole body flushing with hot blood. Jenny stands up abruptly. She turns toward Vastra, who is watching her, and walks across the room toward her. Stopping just in front of the mistress of this house where she has worked and lived now for nearly four years, Jenny looks down at her elder.
Vastra slowly closes her book. She puts it aside. Then she looks up at Jenny. Now, Vastra knows the facial expressions of humans to be difficult to interpret, but from what she does understand, she seems safe in concluding that Jenny is trying very hard to decide something and therefore do something. Finally, she speaks, seeking to help the poor creature.
“Yes, my dear?”
That does it. Jenny crouches down, her shaking hands landing on Vastra’s thighs for support, and before her courage fails her, she tilts her head and gently kisses Vastra’s lips.
The moment Jenny’s lips pull away, Vastra shoots up, her speed forcing Jenny upwards with a yelp. Jenny finds herself looking into those blue eyes, full of fire, and oh, she thinks she has made a very serious mistake, so she takes a few steps backward, trying to put some distance between her flesh and those hunting eyes. She can’t breathe, she can’t speak, she can’t apologize or explain; she feels her heart, threatening rebellion in her chest.
Vastra steps forward.
Once, twice, and the third time Jenny manages to take another half-step back, only to find she’s reached the wall. She knows she cannot possibly escape, as skilled as she has become. Her whole body shakes, utterly terrified. As Vastra takes one last step forward, her face—those eyes!—so close now, Jenny braces for the worst, shutting her eyes.
Jenny snaps her eyes back open, discovering that her hand has been brought up to Vastra’s cheek. Quite of its own accord, her thumb is stroking her mistress’s cheekbone. Still those blue eyes burn and hunt and stab, yet those hands lift her other arm to the other cheek. Next she feels pressure at her waist, hands grasping each side. Then, ever so slowly, Vastra leans into her trembling body, and kisses her.
There are little gasps from them both. Vastra kisses Jenny again, reeling at the touch of something so warm and soft. Now Jenny kisses Vastra back, enticed by those cool, beaded lips. Arms pull her torso closer, so she moves her hands from those beaded cheeks, wraps her arms around the back of her partner’s neck and head, cradling that magnificent crown. Without really knowing how she has done it, Jenny is off the wall, and instead is leaning into Vastra’s body, pinning her instead.
Tree leaves are changing colors outside. The warm sun is retreating a little more every day. Scotland Yard are leaning heavily on Madame Vastra and her assistant as a string of murders follow in the wake of a rich, young diplomat; What they cannot discover is whether the man is causing the murders or is being pursued. So since that hot summer night weeks ago, the two ladies of Paternoster Row have not kissed. Not in that way. Little pecks, stolen here and there, are almost all that they exchange over the weeks. Tailing a young man, his gaggle of friends, and tracking down possible motivations for the various murders takes them all over London, rarely returning to the house except to check on the plants and maybe take a brief nap.
Vastra becomes irritable, a little more blunt than her usual. She wants this case solved, closed, and filed away quickly, before her one day. Jenny knows what is at stake and quietly tolerates her darling Vastra’s outbursts, directing her energy toward getting Scotland Yard’s agents to at least try. That one day is ever so important.
One day each autumn will Madame Vastra refuse to work, Jenny knows. Instead, her mistress locks herself away, wailing with grief. It is the anniversary of the deaths of her sisters.
They manage to make an arrest of the young diplomat’s right-hand man, followed shortly by an arrest of the diplomat himself, the day before. Jenny exhausts all her persuasive powers to convince Vastra not to kill and maim the two on the spot. She promises the Great Detective that she, Jenny, will see to all the final work tomorrow.
Jenny’s day is quiet. She breakfasts alone. She sees to very few chores—although many need doing—knowing that this particular case would require a great deal of paper work to report, not to mention charge, to Scotland Yard. She spreads her papers out at the little kitchen table and sets to work. She is very careful not to tread too close to the door of the conservatory.
Nonetheless, once in a while throughout the day, Jenny hears it. Madame Vastra wails away at her loneliness and despair. Jenny’s heart breaks every time she hears the sound. Oh, how she would give all her soul to undo her darling Vastra’s pain.
As for herself, she has been ostracized from her family. The reason is unclear. Certainly the exact nature of her relationship with her mistress is thoroughly unknown. Ever since her brother-in-law had visited, however, the family had grown suspicious of something. They sent back her contributions to the family’s well-being, even for her little niece’s health. None of her letters or messages received replies. If she took the time to visit the abode of her childhood, somehow word of her traveling the relatively short distance would arrive before she could physically. All the doors locked, windows shuttered. Nothing. Abandoned.
It was not death, nor extermination, nor complete solitude as a species, but suffering is suffering as far as Jenny can tell. And that her family chose to abandon her is a unique pain.
Understanding human-made bureaucracies a little better than her mistress, Jenny manages to complete all the paperwork in a little less time than Vastra had estimated it would take. Now what?
Jenny tries to read or sew or clean, but it is all pointless compared to the agony of her darling Vastra.
The sun sets, and Vastra sits alone in the dark greenhouse for a good while, unable to move yet unable to stay. Finally, the desire to be in the company of another becomes too much.
“Jenny, my dear?” Vastra calls hoarsely as she enters the hallway. She is briefly confused by a thumping sound below her, followed by more thumping up the cellar stairs. Jenny bursts through the door, covered in sweat and carrying one of her practice swords. Her dear human looks a little surprised to see her.
“Ma’am? May I…?” Jenny pants and is unable to finish her sentence.
To Vastra, this human being, this sweet companion, is so beautiful. Her old standard of beauty has faded and in its place stands this vision: sparkling with sweat, warm blood bringing color to her skin, her ebony hair falling out of its bun, that swordplay uniform displaying her most prominent features better than any dress.
“Jenny… Hold me.”
“I’m here,” she replies quietly, embracing her mournful darling. “I’m right here.” They stand in the hallway, swaying gently. “May I help you to your bedroom, ma’am?”
Vastra considers telling Jenny to desist with calling her ma’am, but she just nods, accepting the offer to help, too tired to bicker now. They slowly walk up the stairs together. Jenny mumbles the whole way, “You’re fine, you’re fine, you will be all right…” Odd, but strangely soothing. Vastra has Jenny help her out of her blackest dress. She feels a gentle kiss on the back of her shoulder as the buttons along her spine are unfastened. Oh but to make that last longer.
Jenny even pulls back the covers for Vastra, normally not so dependent, and sits on the edge of the bed for a while, holding her mistress’s hand. Slowly, she stands to leave the room and let her lady rest. But Vastra holds fast to that warm hand.
Jenny turns back, her face inscrutable in the lone candle’s light. Vastra hopes, prays even, that her dear, dear Jenny will not deny her company now that she is asking.
“Yes. I will.” Jenny sits back on the edge of the bed.
Vastra reaches her arms around her Jenny, afraid to let go, but also afraid of holding on. She has never wanted the love of anyone so fiercely, and that is frightening indeed. Jenny, unable to remain properly seated with a powerful lizard-woman clinging to her, leans back against the pillows and headboard, stroking Vastra’s crown gently. Little by little, Jenny slides into the bed, not out of exhaustion but out of an insatiable, unnamable desire. They both pull off her boots, and Vastra pulls her dear one close under the sheets.
They start slowly with small, tender kisses to each other’s faces, necks and shoulders. Nothing more will happen tonight, it seems. But then their lips find each other, and bit by bit, they feed off each other’s energies. Vastra feels warm Jenny’s body shift as they kiss. Without even thinking about it, she finds herself pulling Jenny closer, her scaled hands reaching tentatively for the hem of that uniform’s shirt. Before long, they are kneeling on the bed together, and Vastra is ripping off her Jenny’s shirt (Oops) and pulling off her own nightgown. Tonight, they need each other desperately and nothing else will satisfy. Jenny gasps at the cool air touching her bare skin. Vastra separates herself a little from Jenny, just enough to look. Vastra’s looking, gathering information with those eyes, gives Jenny a moment of self-consciousness. Her heart flutters as her nipples harden in the cool air, but then Vastra reaches out. Jenny reaches, too, and when she can she steals glances at the muscular, shimmering body before her.
Vastra is nibbling at an ear, Jenny gently cups a breast. With one hand in that long, black hair, and another grabbing tight to her thin waist, Vastra’s curiosity gets the better of her. She licks at that dark, shapely patch of skin on Jenny’s breast, inducing a shuddering gasp. Still more curious, she sucks it into her mouth. Her rough tongue and textured lips are making Jenny shiver all over, little sounds escaping her mouth. Vastra has found something she wants, and she will not give it up easily.
Jenny clings tightly to her darling, finally throwing a leg around her partner’s hips. Vastra remembers then that those trousers are still on her Jenny. She bends her head back to look at Jenny, into those tender brown eyes, right as she rips off every last shred of clothing she can find on her. Quite intentionally this time.
The sudden press of their nude bodies against each other gives them each pause. Vastra is struck by the distribution of heat throughout her lover’s body, the soft malleability of her flesh. Strangely, there is soft, curly hair at the meeting of Jenny’s thighs. This might require exploration, she thinks. Meanwhile, Jenny is thinking a million kilometers a minute. Vastra’s core temperature must be rising and quickly, too. As Jenny explores every inch of her with nimble hands, leaving no scale untouched, she stumbles upon little spikes at the small of her back. Her Vastra arches, gasping, before she is able to study Jenny. Her thigh jerks, only to collide with Jenny’s soft curls.
“You have my attention.” They stare at each other briefly, perhaps both surprised to find themselves here. Jenny wonders that this might be the first time she has used Vastra’s name. But then Vastra has swooped up Jenny and lain her on her back, determined to explore the ball of heat between those pale legs (and intending to have that second nipple in due time). Jenny shakes at the rough motion, her hair suddenly everywhere. Before she can react—sit up and find those spikes again—Vastra’s hands are holding her inner thighs, blissfully cool against her hot skin. Jenny looks, feeling confused about what has happened, and is very much shocked to see Vastra’s face peering curiously at her vulva.
“What are you – ?”
Vastra sniffs, licks. Jenny bucks, thunderstruck. Surprised and elated with her find, Vastra licks again, taking her time now, and Jenny moans, seizing the bed sheets with her hands. Vastra hums with happiness, watching her Jenny, when she discovers something else just below that little button of heat and nerves. She licks here. Much to her surprise, her tongue goes inside. There’s an inside on humans, too! And oh, Jenny tastes of honey, and she is so warm and so wet that Vastra cannot simply leave this heaven she has found. She licks again and again, filling her mouth with Jenny’s sweet elixir.
When Jenny’s legs are thrashing about uncontrollably, Vastra finally stops. She tells herself she can come back for more in due time, and so Vastra plants one last sucking kiss upon that sweet little button. Jenny’s body shakes uncontrollably in response, this time moaning deeply, “Vastraaaaaa!”
She rises, crawls up to hold her Jenny, utterly pleased with herself, when pure heat in the form of a lover’s hand seizes one of her spikes. Vastra goes rigid while Jenny pants below. Jenny, dear sweet honeysuckle Jenny, pulls Vastra into a kiss so soaked in fire and heat that for a brief moment Vastra fears she might actually burst into flame. Suddenly she feels it.
Even as Jenny’s body vibrates with orgasm, those vibrations are passing right into Vastra. The hand on her spikes and the lips at her lips and the hand cupping her breast are all so full of heat and vibration that Vastra can barely stand it. She hadn’t known you could do that. Perhaps, among her own species, you couldn’t. She collapses on top of Jenny, who seems to understand what is happening.
“Tell me,” Jenny whispers. There’s no fear in her eyes, only need.
“Yes?” Vastra can barely breathe, yet below her pressing weight, Jenny calmly inhales.
“Tell me you love me,” she says, using her spare hand to move Vastra’s downward, back to the curls. Understanding, although terrified of what this little human could do to her, Vastra begins to rub that little button.
“I do, I do love you.” Vastra rubs and laps at those hard nipples with her long tongue.
“Tell me,” Jenny whispers, “Vastra.” That grip tightens on her spikes even as Jenny’s hand returns to her breasts.
“Jenny,” Vastra gasps. Rubbing at the little button harder, she pushes two fingers inside the hot sanctuary between Jenny’s thighs. “I love you, my dear. So very much.” Jenny begins to tremble again, her toes curling, her back arching. Still she refuses to let go of Vastra’s spikes. Those vibrations are rising again.
“And I love you,” Jenny whimpers. Vastra presses harder still, the vibrations rising still in power. “I’ll be with you-“
“Jennyyyy!” Vastra cannot take it anymore. Jenny’s vibrations turn into tidal waves that carry them both—together—far beyond their own bodies to the shores of their very souls.
The Silurian wakes with Jenny in her arms, her green face buried in a curtain of black hair. She gently removes herself from her lover and her bed, eager to face the new day. Only on one day in autumn would Vastra consider not working, so she must get up. Jenny groans, looking back through groggy eyes, then slumps back to her pillow.
Curious, Vastra thinks. Jenny, normally such a morning person, refuses to leave the safety of the covers, and indeed, she continues to doze most of the morning as Vastra checks on her. As it happens, Vastra has enough energy to attend to Jenny’s chores (well, she makes a valiant effort) as well as going out and about to deliver their paperwork and follow up with their contact at the Yard, Inspector Abberline. She leaves Jenny to herself most of the day, suspecting the little mammal needs some time to reconcile last night with her Victorian upbringing. In all honesty, Vastra needs a little time to comprehend it.
Finally, Jenny manages to put herself together, pausing frequently to stare off into space and the occasional mirror. By the time her mistress returns, however, Jenny has put together tea in the drawing room. As Vastra enters, Jenny stands.
“Welcome home, ma’am,” she says, a peaceful smile crossing her face.
Vastra hums, pleased. Yesterday, she realizes, was not only the anniversary of her sisters’ deaths. Last night was the anniversary of Vastra’s first meeting with Jenny Flint.
“What’s this, then?” Jenny shouts sarcastically over her shoulder. “Needing your little pet monkey,” she spits, “to keep you warm at night? But can’t stand me anywhere else?”
Vastra hisses in frustration, following Jenny up the poorly lit street. “I did not say that.”
“But you did call me an ape!”
Since their relationship changed, Vastra and Jenny have stopped bickering. Now, they fight. Jenny is less forgiving of Vastra’s off-hand comments.
“A helpless ape, you called me!”
“Jenny, calm down.”
“Like Hell I will! I’ve had enough of being insulted and shuttered in—“
“Really, I do not understand the problem here, Jenny,” Vastra shouts back, grabbing Jenny’s shoulder and pulling, forcing her to look back. Oh my, she is angry. “You are a mammal. You are descended from ancient apes. You’ve read Darwin!”
“That doesn’t give you the right to call me that!”
“This is ridiculous!” Vastra hisses. She is becoming properly cross on this freezing night. Really, it is too early in the year to be this cold out. “And beside the point.”
“Yeah it is, isn’t it?” Jenny taunts. “The point is you don’t want me working with you anymore!”
“You are more vulnerable than I am, Jenny, because you are a mammal. I can’t have you endangering yourself on this case. You are slower, weaker, and less experienced. And I will not tolerate this insubordinate behavior from you, really!”
Vastra suspects she has just said something newly offensive.
“Ha! What a laugh!” Jenny exclaims, nodding like she could have expected as much. She won’t even look at Vastra now. Let her be cold! “Now I get it. Jenny Flint, the maid and plaything, here to serve the Great Detective. I am a pet! Well too bad, ma’am, I am done with bowing and scraping after others—“
“Jenny, really! You are an ape!”
“And you’re a lizard-woman from the dawn of time!” Jenny throws back at her, using every ounce of expression she could muster to be certain Madame Vastra understood this was an insult.
The women spin as one to face the dark alleyway across the street, swords drawn for whoever might be approaching. A man steps into the light, wearing a brown suit and overcoat, his hair sticking up like only his could.
“Doctor!” Vastra gasps, relieved.
He keeps speaking to Jenny. “The dawn of time isn’t strictly accurate, only the Time Lords could say that. Silurians, though, they were pretty early to the party, relatively speaking, but even so it was a billions of years before Earth supported any life at all, let alone intelligence like this beauty,” he says, motioning to Vastra, “eh? Now, are you two having a spat, then? What’s all this about?”
Neither Jenny nor Vastra answers. Jenny is blushing, embarrassed by the Doctor’s friendliness, him being closer to Vastra between the two of them, and embarrassed at being overheard fighting with the woman who did save her life, after all. Vastra cannot meet the Doctor’s gaze, darting glances at Jenny instead. But she is puzzled by something, a smell she cannot quite place. Always when the Doctor visits she smells loneliness on him, as though he has just left the side of someone precious, like an assistant or companion. But this is different.
The Doctor’s face softens in wonder. “No, not a spat,” he says, “This is a lover’s quarrel.” He pauses. Vastra’s storm-blue eyes glare at him, and Jenny fidgets. He grins like an idiot at them, ignoring their irritation. “Oh a lover’s quarrel! Oh but that’s brilliant! You two? Haha!”
“Doctor, please,” Vastra hisses menacingly. He just ignores her.
“That there, that is beautiful! I mean, not a quarrel, those are bad, but nothing like it still. And between two Earthlings! You two must be the first, the very first sentient interspecies couple on this planet, and you are both from Earth! Do you know that is incredibly rare, that is—“
“You are dying,” Vastra realizes, unable to keep from speaking. The smell is acidic burning, coming from every molecule of his body. Jenny looks back and forth between the two of them, concerned. The Doctor stands there, his mouth hanging open like an idiot.
“Oi, Jenny,” he says, “Looks like you’ve got a nasty cut on your neck, how’d that happen?”
“It’s nothing, Doctor. Don’t change the subject.”
“I’ll do what I like. Now how’d that happen? Jenny, you haven’t even wiped the blood off yet! Look at that!”
Vastra and Jenny exchange a charged look. Jenny replies, “It really is nothing. I’ll be fine, just a little mistake during work tonight.”
“There have been murders,” Vastra interrupts, “of young women around Whitechapel. Most gruesome murders, even I must say. We believe they are related.”
“Oooohhh,” the Doctor nods, “yes, I believe so. The Ripper.” He looks down the street, the way the women had come. “Yes. That’s one of those things I can’t change. Most of humanity will never know exactly what happens, but you two… you’re part of a fixed point there…”
“Doctor, are you really dying?” Jenny asks quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder. Although she does not know the Doctor nearly as well as her mistress—she still hasn’t seen this ship of his—a rush of affection rolls through her.
“Yes,” he whispers.
“Well why are you not regenerating?” Vastra shouts at him, full of venom in her voice. “Damn you, Doctor, you stubborn old fossil!”
“Oh come now, Madame! Don’t be cross! I just have a few things to do, that’s all.”
“And they can’t wait?”
“No.” He takes a deep breath. “Let me walk with you two? Just a bit.”
They stroll back to Paternoster Row, speaking quietly. As they reach the threshold, the Doctor hangs back a moment, then grabs one of each of their hands. “Don’t let go,” he says simply, putting the hands together. “For me?” Vastra grabs tight, crushing Jenny’s hand. With her other hand, she grabs the Doctor’s lapel.
“Doctor,” she says. Jenny feels her trembling. “I owe you a great debt.”
“Don’t mention it. I save people. It’s what I do.”
“No! I do appreciate that, Doctor, but no…”
Vastra needs to be understood but can’t say it outright.
“Ah,” the Doctor says with a grin. “Well,” he glances at Jenny, “You’re right, you do owe me for that.” He whirls around and runs away into the darkness.
The pair decides to hang the tea tonight; they need something stronger. Jenny pulls out the brandy while Vastra downs three glasses of pig’s blood mixed with rum. They sit at the table in contemplative silence.
Jenny quietly takes the glasses to the kitchen. Vastra follows her.
“I am an insensitive lizard-woman from the dawn of time, to be specific.”
“What, ma’am?” Jenny looks over from her washing.
“I am going to try to do something,” Vastra says, “Something I admit I am not very good at, nor have I ever been. Jenny…” Vastra squirms and sniffs, mildly irritated that such an impossibly young creature could make a century-and-a-half-old woman like herself tongue-tied. She takes a few tentative steps toward the human, but can’t look at her more than a few seconds at a time.
“These murders,” she begins, “They are unlike anything I have seen a human do before. I am… concerned. The victims thus far have been ‘women of the night,’ as your people call them, but that could change perhaps. Tonight—“ Vastra stares at the clean strike across the side of Jenny’s neck, just under the jaw, “was much too close.”
Her guard is up, but Jenny watches her mistress carefully. Certainly, Vastra has opened up to her before, but she exclusively discusses the past.
“I… think you are quite strong and intelligent.” She refrains from adding ‘for a mammal.’ After all, this devil that escaped their grasp tonight, oh Vastra did fear that he might be able to outsmart her. “We can both agree that I am stronger, more experienced, and have the benefit of having lived in a very advanced civilization. But being weaker does not make you weak.” Jenny listens patiently; no point in arguing semantics. “But I do feel a certain responsibility for you. Yes, you have saved my life now and again, as I have saved yours, but I am a Silurian, warrior class. I have been trained to protect others since… well never mind. The point I am trying to explain is I do not see you as beneath me in any way, but I do need you to trust my judgment as a detective and huntress. This devil of a man, he is a proper monster, and… I need to know that you are safe from him, because this time, I am not certain I can promise your safety.” She nods to herself, satisfied with her attempt at transparency.
Jenny does not agree with her mistress right away. She sits and thinks about what Vastra has said, what she is asking. Vastra sits by the fireplace in the drawing room, awaiting her companion’s choice. Halfway through the night, she wakes at a warm touch. There is her dear one, kneeling next Vastra’s chair, a hand on her knee. The wound is cleaned, but alas not bandaged yet.
“I will trust you, provided you trust me, too.”
Vastra considers this compromise. Keeping Jenny out of every aspect of the case would perhaps be illogical. Jenny knows the East End of London far better than Vastra, knows the characters there, knows the secret places. She could still contribute to the capture of this devil, in the relative safety of daylight. Vastra nods.
Jenny grasps the back of her mistress’s neck and kisses the scales adorning her forehead. They retire for the evening, sharing a room and bed for the first time in several nights. Vastra cedes all control to her loving companion, and Jenny takes great pleasure in treating her darling partner to her own tongue, thick and wet, inside those scale-y loins not so very foreign from her own.
“Crawl! You disgusting, groveling little rat!”
Vastra is not interested in being merciful to this man. Not that she ever felt inclined toward mercy in her line of work, but sometimes her assistant could talk her into it. But not tonight; Jenny was safe at home.
“You freak!” he cries, dragging his mutilated legs behind him. “I am not—“
“You are Jack the Ripper!” Vastra hisses, taking her time descending the stairs. “I am not one to be easily fooled.” She sniffs, still cautious as she approaches the mutilator. He is not talented with weapons, but that is not his danger. He is erratic, destructive, unrestrained, insatiable, violent, and utterly insane. He is, in short, the embodiment of the qualities Vastra mistakenly saw in all humans when she first awoke from hibernation.
“Burn in Hell,” he spits.
“Ah, but that is your home. You are ‘From Hell,’ in your own words,” Vastra taunts, keeping her katana pointed at him. The man giggles as the tip of the blade comes closer.
“Do you know what is going to happen?” Vastra asks.
“You are going to kill me for my (hehehe) sins!”
“Oh so much more than that. You are right, you have ‘sinned.’ Your murders were not simply murders. They were grotesque eviscerations, violations against humanity. And you will die for them. But more than that, you have encouraged murderers, inspired copycats…”
“Yes, indeed!” He sways from elbow to elbow, giddy.
“But you know why I am going to eat you?”
He freezes instantly. “What?”
“You met me once before…”
“No! No no no! You cannot do to me what I did to them, no!”
“And you met a young lady with black hair…”
“You can’t! Just kill me! Filth! Whore!”
“Do you know what you did?” Vastra snarls, pressing the edge of her blade, little by little, into the devil’s shoulder. He thrashes about like a fish pulled out of water. “You scarred her,” Vastra hisses. “You threatened her life. And no one puts Jenny Flint in danger but me!”
And that is why she eats Jack the Ripper.
“I shan’t be needing dinner,” Vastra tells Jenny with a smile.
“Congratulations, ma’am!” Jenny replies warmly. She fidgets though, and Vastra’s smile falters. “However, a matter has arisen in the drawing room.” They go into the room, Jenny beside herself. “It just appeared! What does it mean?”
The blue box. The Doctor’s blue box. The ship Jenny has never seen, glowing like the very first time she saw it. Sitting right here in her drawing room! It could only mean one thing if their dear Doctor has abandoned parking in the shadows of London. And so soon after his last visit!
“It means a very old debt is to be repaid!” the Great Detective says as she floats toward the TARDIS, eager to see Jenny’s face when she walks inside for the first time. “Pack up the cases, Jenny. We are going to need the swords.”
Jenny smiles. After weeks of feeling cooped up, restrained from her proper place at her mistress’s side and only able to practice swordplay by her lonesome in the cellar, she knows a grand adventure is about to begin.
“Finally! They’re both home!”
Jenny looks at the box, surprised to hear a voice in the distance… yet inside…?
The doors burst open, and a tall man with a bowtie and elbow pads steps into the drawing room. “Vastra! Jenny! Fancy a day-trip?”
“Is that him, ma’am?”
“Grand to see you two again! It’s been quite a while, I should say.”
“But we only just saw you,” Jenny insists, “The old you, I mean.” He isn’t paying attention, instead bestowing an awkward cheek-kiss-greeting on them both. “A few months ago at most, sir!”
“Ah well, timey wimey, I give up.”
“What are you doing here, Doctor?” Vastra asks.
“A friend of mine has been taken,” he states. His voice is even, but his eyes are suddenly full of ice. “I want her back.”
“Doctor, are we—?” A young man comes running out the doors of the box. He freezes at the sight of Madame Vastra.
“How is there room for two of you in there?” Jenny asks.
“Doctor, that’s a Silarian thing, right?”
“Silurian, Rory. Come on now, pay attention!”
“You’ve seen one of my kind?” Vastra gasps.
The man named Rory stammers. “Uh, yeah. Sort of. They sort of… shot me.”
“Oh dear,” Jenny sighs.
“Long story, Vastra, I’ll explain it all in a jippy,” the Doctor says.
“But Doctor, can I trust her?”
“Shush, Rory. For now, let us all help Jenny pack the swords, eh? Come on, Rory!” He throws an awkward limb over Rory’s shoulder, and he gestures for Jenny to lead them onward.
“Well, all right.” Jenny gives the Doctor instructions. “But I’m sorry, are you from Ancient Rome?”
“I, uh, well, no, not exactly.”
“Doctor,” Vastra hisses. “You must explain—“
“I will… I will, Vastra, I will. But we are in a bit of a rush, you two are our first pick up.”
“What makes you think I will come with you?”
Jenny and Rory keep packing, ears prickling.
“Vastra, I will show you if you just listen.”
She sniffs, twitching with anger, ready to throw out her old friend by the seat of his ridiculous pants. But she remembers her debt.
Packing takes less than an hour. The men carry in the luggage while the ladies change—Vastra into her old Silurian uniform, Jenny into her most efficient fighting outfit—and together they return to the drawing room. Vastra is clearly agitated, returning to her reptilian manner of movement as she does. But she turns to her companion and tells her with a bit of enjoyment, “Careful now, my dear. You are in for a shock.”
Jenny is enchanted by the bigger-on-the-inside box. They work hard over the next few weeks as they help the Doctor track down battle savvy friends for their mission. It’s all strangely whimsical.
She is sitting next to her mistress as Rory and the Doctor tell the story of a whole tribe of Silurians combating a human drill in 2020. Of Alaya and Restac, names Vastra recognizes from a tribe closely related to her own. Of course, they talk a great deal about an alternative timeline (perhaps the meeting with the Silurians was erased). And the missing companion known as Amy. The Silence. A woman with an eye patch.
Vastra is all business throughout, but in the privacy of their own Tardis bedroom (“Wait,” Rory asks the Doctor, “Are they-? But they couldn’t possibly-!”), she wails quietly into Jenny’s chest. Therefore their final stop proves most whimsical of all, for when the Doctor steps out of the Tardis—Vastra and Jenny right behind him—they gasp at the sight of it. Deep underground, a whole Silurian city rises, very much from their Golden Age. Two humans greet them. Well, one human woman and a man that seems to be reacting uniquely to Silurian venom (“Ah, it wasn’t erased!” the Doctor croons).
They wake a contingent of Silurian warriors, volunteers to the Doctor’s cause, sisters all. Aboard the Tardis, heading into battle, the Silurian warriors are the most formidable of the Doctor’s army, yet they are ever so excited to be with one of their own who is living on the surface. Madame Vastra keeps Jenny close, however. Although the Silurians relish the Madame’s company, disapproving whispers and sniffs persist. Vastra is not of their tribe, powerful though she is. In a way, she remains the last of her kind, making her the perfect Second-In-Command to the Doctor as they arrive at Demon’s Run.
The addition of Strax, the Sontaran, to Paternoster Row following Demon’s Run changes the dynamic at home to say the least. On one hand, Jenny is relieved of some of her less welcome duties when they “promote” Strax from Nurse to Butler. His tools and gadgets add to their capacity to take on new types of cases, certainly. He is an excellent, if loud, sparring partner. Nothing is predictable at home anymore with Strax always threatening some neighbor with obliteration or proposing new fortifications. He adapts to his new environment at a glacial pace, and observing his utter lack of decorum forces Vastra to reassess her own behavior and attitude toward humanity.
The Doctor does continue to visit with some frequency in 1889. Sometimes he is alone, assuring the trio that Amy and Rory are safe at home just before he sweeps them off to some other place and time. Other times River Song, the Doctor’s wife, joins in the adventure.
One day is different, though. The Doctor is sitting in the drawing room late one night when Vastra and Jenny return from investigations regarding disappearing children. Strax keeps offering him tea and grenades. He is inconsolable. “I’ve lost them,” he keeps repeating to them, over and over.
“But who, Doctor?” Jenny asks.
“Amy and Rory. They’re lost. Too many paradoxes all in New York in the 1930s and I can’t fly my Tardis into it. Lost forever.”
“Old friend, I am so sorry,” Vastra says. “You may stay here with us as long as you like.”
“We can make grenades!” Strax pipes up.
“Strax, shut it,” Jenny whispers.
The Doctor does stay for a while. Occasionally he vanishes into his Tardis, only to return with a little story about River and he going out on a date. Soon, though, even those stop.
It’s Strax’s weekend off, and Jenny finds the Time Lord whimpering on their front steps as she returns from the butcher shop. Wearing a tux of all things.
“Doctor! What’s happened to you?”
“She’s gone. Gone to the Library with a sonic I made just for her!” he cries. Jenny doesn’t wait for him to explain; she takes his hand and pulls him up into the house. That night he tells Jenny and Vastra about how he met River, how she died, how on this day in some impossible year, she is at this very moment on her way to her death. He goes into mourning, heeding the last warning of his best friend, Amy Pond, not to travel alone. Hiding his Tardis among the clouds, he becomes a shadow of his former self.
“I can’t help but think we might be able to do something to cheer him up, is all,” Jenny says, walking a step behind her darling mistress on their way back home from the founding meeting of the Rhymers’ Club at ‘Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese’ Pub.
“The Christmas party last month did him some good,” Vastra comments.
“He is very fond of that word.”
“Yes, merry. He couldn’t stop saying it all night. But then I think he had a little too much sherry.”
“That cannot be debated,” Vastra agrees.
“1890,” Jenny muses. “Where has the time gone?”
Strax threatens to obliterate them both if they do not prove whom they really are when they return. Vastra, exasperated, threatens to sting him if he continues to refuse to be sensible.
“Well that shut him up. We should have thought of that a long time ago,” Jenny says as they retire for the night.
Vastra hisses. “I would rather not resort to threats, but really he is impossible sometimes. But then, I suppose I am, too.”
“Oh you aren’t that bad, ma’am,” Jenny giggles. “You’re not threatening to tear us all to pieces, eh?”
“Let me help you out of that dress,” Vastra offers. Jenny smiles, a bit curious.
“Well… if you insist, ma’am.”
Vastra has finished unbuttoning the seam along the back and is about to tackle the bustle when she looks up.
Jenny’s back is bare. She holds up the front of the dress to her chest, as though chilled. Her head is turned to the side. From this angle, Vastra can see the shimmer of the long scar just below her jaw.
“Do you hear something, my dear?”
“Just the bells, ma’am. The church bells.”
Jenny has not been to church in years, not since her family began to shun her. In all honesty, Vastra suspects if her family had not ruined that weekly ritual, Demon’s Run would have. Besides, her companion seems capable of more astute interpretation of the holy book than any of those stuffy ministers. But there was something about the bells that always brought a wistful look to Jenny’s eyes.
“Anyway, let’s get me out of this thing, we’ve still got you to do.”
As they lay together, Vastra pressing against Jenny’s sizzling back, a question forms in her mind.
“Did you ever plan to have offspring?”
Jenny turns herself over to look at Vastra, her brow furrowed. “What’s this then? What do you mean?”
“Your people seem to emphasize the importance of offspring a great deal. I merely wondered what you thought of the topic.”
Jenny is thinking. Her mistress is speaking nonchalantly, but she is suspicious that this might be the first time those blue eyes have looked hunted. “There might have been a time when I was very young that I thought about children.”
“You are still very young,” Vastra insists, although actually, she is not sure she knows Jenny’s age exactly.
“And you are interrupting.” Jenny bites Vastra’s nose. “I have not thought of having children a good long while now.”
“What about your niece?”
“That’s different. Besides, she’s no child by now…” If she survived. Jenny wonders if she has other nieces and nephews, unintroduced to their deviant aunt. “Why do you ask?”
Vastra ponders the inquiry. “I suppose I wanted to be considerate. Offspring are treated very differently here than among the homo reptilia. If you had or have a strong desire to produce cubs–”
“—then logic follows that I would not wish to restrain you in any way from seeking necessary companionship, whether I would release you or…”
Jenny does not look impressed.
“Am I being insensitive again?”
“No,” Jenny says, rolling her eyes. “You’re just a lizard-woman from the dawn of time. Really I can’t expect much better out of you.”
“Well if ape culture used a little more sense and a little less sentimentality, I wouldn’t have to ask,” Vastra replies sarcastically.
“Oi now, don’t poke fun.”
Banter turns into flirting. Flirting turns into foreplay. Neither partner is ever bored, only surprised. Especially tonight.
“Darling?” Jenny mumbles much later, her eyes already shut tight with pleasure and fatigue. “Did you ever want children?”
“We were bred, my dear. At least by the time I hatched.”
“Hmm… And your people ever have marriages?”
“You know, weddings and such.”
“Yes… not quite like your kind’s concept, of course, but indeed. We did. Why?”
Jenny yawns. “Oh… just them church bells…”
As tired as she is, Vastra cannot sleep at all that night.
“Why are you here, Vastra?” The Doctor is clearly in a foul mood.
“Well I didn’t know your Tardis would be…”
“She likes a change of wardrobe once in a while. I would think you could understand that,” he says.
She hisses something Silurian in response. He is being defensive and grouchy, reminding Vastra how very old this Time Lord actually is. To be fair, she is feeling irritated and old herself. Coming to the Doctor’s abode was always a challenge, now only to arrive to find her friend locked out by his own ship, moping in the freezing cold. She had hoped to see those cheerful, warm lights in the Tardis again. How they did remind her of her childhood home.
“ ‘She’ just decides then? You receive no notice?”
Proud though she is, Vastra is also cold. Dangerously so. (Jenny would fuss for hours if she knew Vastra was standing out in the cold of the clouds this time of night.) Abruptly and with an air of annoyance, she sits shoulder to shoulder next to the Doctor, her back leaning on the Police Box. “I did not come up here to be berated.”
The Doctor uncrosses his arms and looks guiltily down at his hands. “I know.” He throws an awkward limb around Vastra’s shoulder. “I apologize. What brings you here?”
“We are very old friends, aren’t we?”
“Ah yes, we are. I do enjoy your company, Vastra, you understand this whole last-of-our-kind thing.”
“Yes…” Vastra’s mind wanders to the massacre. Demons Run. So few of the sister warriors survived the turn of fortune. It was not the Doctor’s fault, nor was it her own, she reminds herself. There is promise yet of a return of the Silurian race, if events transpired favorably… but too far off in the future for her to ever witness.
“You have told me much of your people, the Time Lords.”
“Yes, more than most.”
“Their ideals of companionship were rather different from that of humans, and yet you were married to a human, multiple times.”
“Marilyn Monroe was an accident!”
“That is not the point.”
“Yeah, what is the point?” the Doctor asks, his face anxious and bracing as he watches Vastra out of the corner of his eye.
Now that she’s at the point of asking the question, Vastra doubts whether she should have come here at all. An indelicate phrasing could reduce the man to tears or elicit rage. Vastra was not bred to be a diplomat, and learning how to handle mammalian emotions has very much been an education by trial and error.
“Well spit it out!”
“I– That is, Jenny and I…” She snarls, frustrated. “Ape society has certain expectations, teachings. About m… many things.” This is hopeless. Vastra thinks this variation of the Doctor has always been a little slow on the uptake. She could be out here in the cold for hours.
“Oh hang it all! Doctor. I wish to propose a– “
“Oh my goodness!” His face shifts dramatically from a grimace to an open-mouthed smile. By some miracle, he’s guessed it. “Mmhm! Haheheh! Oh Vastra that is just– hehe! Oh! But why now? You’ve both been very… merry.”
“There is some question, however, of propriety.”
“You are lesbian interspecies crime fighting samurai women in Victorian London! Since when do you care about propriety?”
“Jenny has suffered enough on account of me,” Vastra hisses. “I think it’s time I… made an effort to… express my appreciation and affection in a public manner to which her species is accustomed.”
“Oh you are in such luck! Engagement rings have just come back into style, the Victorians are stuffy, yes, but they make up for it with Romanticism. Marrying for love, everybody’s doing it again! Ooo, and what will you two wear?” The Doctor jumps up suddenly, knocking on the Tardis doors behind him. “Honey! Do you hear that? We need to plan a wedding! Oh, and I know just the place for any wedding you want. Traditional, Outdoors, Backyard Barbecue, even Geeky!”
“Doctor, you are getting a little carried away.”
“Nonsense! Oh! … Are you wanting Silurian wedding? I’ve heard those were rare, and very, eh… bloody.”
“Are you being judgmental, Doctor?”
“Me? No! No, not at all, just… there aren’t very many dinosaurs around here for hunting.”
“Old friend, as much as I appreciate your enthusiasm in explicating how an ape wedding is performed, I came here today to ask you…” Vastra’s face squirms. “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
Warmth and compassion flow from the Doctor’s face. He crouches down in front of Vastra, looking into her eyes with supreme fondness. “Oh Vastra, you are positively human.” Vastra sniffs at that, a little insulted. He places a warm hand on her cheek. “You think she’ll say no? My old friend, you insensitive, protective, flesh-eating, cold-blooded, deducing beauty. That Victorian assassin of yours, she would do anything for you, just as you would do for her.”
Jenny reads the note again and again while her mistress is away. While she is happy, truly, that the Doctor is traveling a bit again, she does wish he had taken someone else for his little errand. Or that they had thought to bring her along instead of leaving her to clean up Strax’s messes. Just after she found the rather ambiguous note, Strax had announced that he had put his excess energies into making a vault (What do we need a vault for?) below the cellar… by hand. His new suit ruined, Jenny had to go find a new tailor to fix something up for Strax, as the previous fellow refused to see them.
Five days have passed now. Jenny reads Vastra’s note again. A little bubble of jealousy and suspicion wells up in her, and she crumples the note in her hand. Could Vastra be abandoning her? Leaving to pursue someone more sophisticated, or going back to the age of the dinosaurs? Or perhaps the Doctor has invited her to be his new companion? Instantly regretting the thought, Jenny tenderly flattens the note out again. Whatever flaws her darling mistress possesses, she is honorable; Vastra would not leave Paternoster Row with so little ceremony.
At dawn, there’s a knock on the front door. Jenny jerks awake; she has fallen asleep on her mistress’s chair in the drawing room again. The sound of elephants tramping down the stairs follows: Strax. Get up, she tells herself, pulling herself out of the chair and straightening her maid uniform a bit.
“Ah Strax! Just who I wanted to see.” The Doctor’s voice! “Let’s say you and I take a little walk. MISS FLINT, I’M TAKING THE POTATO OUT FOR A WALK!” Jenny runs to the door.
“Doctor wait!” Jenny yells, wrenching the door open. “Ma’am!”
Vastra is standing on the doorstep, watching as the Doctor and Strax turn the corner. “Good morning, Jenny.”
“Where the HELL have you been?!”
“Jenny!” Vastra admonishes, taken aback.
“What is this supposed to be?” Jenny yells, holding the note up. “Vague, uninformative dribble!”
“Goodness, you are in a state. How long have we been gone?”
“Almost a week! What’s the matter with you two? Didn’t even bring your swords, what if you had been in danger?” Jenny thunders, never mind the early hour. She must look a wreck with her wrinkled dress and hair coming loose from her bun, but Jenny doesn’t care. Let all of London know she is dangerous and cross!
“May I come in to my own home?” Vastra’s tone is polite. For her.
Jenny makes a motion like she could strangle the lizard, but she obediently does an about-face, marching into the hallway. Vastra follows her, fire in her blue eyes. Before Jenny can shout again, though, Vastra takes her hand. “Come with me.” Her hand moves, wrapping around Jenny’s waist such that the young lady from the East End must walk alongside her mistress.
Well that’s a bit new. Their physical contact and displays of affection usually stayed in Vastra’s bedroom.
Vastra walks them into the conservatory, back to a sheltered corner with a view of the Eastern sky. She stands there, Jenny’s warm, beautiful body beside her, watching the sky lighten into sweet lavender. Among the jungle plants hiding a good deal of the view of the city, Vastra can almost imagine it’s an ordinary day millions of years ago.
“What is it?” Jenny whispers. She is still cross, but her gut tells her something more important is about to happen.
“Jenny Flint… How long have we known each other?”
Oh no, Jenny thinks. Emotion rises in her throat and she tries to swallow. Barely able to speak, she replies, “We met in 1884, so almost six years. I was seventeen.” Their meeting flashes before Jenny’s mind, yet she cannot remember the terror she felt so clearly anymore. A part of her knows—always knows—that her mistress could kill her in any number of ways at the slightest whim. But that memory of when Jenny first knew how dangerous Vastra could be is suffused with such a range of emotion and tenderness now.
“Have you been happy with me?”
“Yes,” Jenny breathes. God, she thinks, please don’t leave me now.
Vastra, still facing the sunrise, hums peacefully. Slowly, she turns, positioning herself just in front of Jenny, holding both of her delicate hands in her own. “Jenny, I too have been very happy with you.”
Jenny finds she needs to take deep breaths. The lump in her throat demands attention, rising, pushing moisture into her eyes. “I am glad.”
“I have a question for you.”
But Vastra does not ask Jenny to depart, for privacy, for forgiveness, nothing akin to the horrible images that flashed before Jenny’s eyes. No, she kneels on both knees, her gloved hands pressing on Jenny’s back and down to her hips, pulling her dear human close as she presses her forehead against Jenny’s abdomen. She’s trembling.
“Jenny Flint.” Looking up at Jenny’s face, Vastra asks the question. “Please, will you marry me?”
“Will you stay, Jenny? Will you always stay with me? Please, will you marry me?”
“Oh my God.”
“Jenny, don’t make me beg.”
“I need to sit down,” Jenny says, her eyebrows stuck halfway up her forehead. In an instant she finds herself seated in one of the wicker chairs. How she got there, Jenny isn’t sure, but Vastra is kneeling again, clinging to one of her hands, those blue eyes full of need. Hunting. Jenny feels tears on her cheek. “Wh- What did you ask me?”
“Jenny… please. Be my wife?” Vastra looks afraid—afraid of Jenny!—and presses her face into the maid’s apron, unable to look at those shocked brown eyes another second.
“Vastra, I… I will.”
“Oh God.” Jenny melts to the floor, practically sitting in her mistress’s lap. She pulls Vastra’s face to her own. She cries, kissing Vastra’s firm lips. “Yes!” she breathes, again and again between their kisses.
Jenny fiddles with the ring on her fourth finger during a quiet moment amidst the general gaiety. It is a peculiar little thing. The Doctor and Vastra had indeed traveled millions of years back in time, just for this. Rings, Jenny understands, were not generally common—much less given as tokens of affection—during the Silurians’ time. But this little thing—a band of bronze, perhaps, with a green gem embedded in it—was apparently an heirloom of Vastra’s ancestors. They searched so very hard for it.
The Doctor saw to it that Jenny had a ring for Vastra, too. He wouldn’t say where it was from when Jenny chose it from a small mahogany box in his library, only that he knew she’d pick that one and it’s important to Earth’s history. She looks at it now on the hand of the woman sitting next to her; The ring is a band of polished lapis lazuli, etched with fern leaves and orchid flowers. The myriad colors shine next to Vastra’s scales, which are polished to perfection for the occasion.
While the wedding itself is small—the Doctor married them, being the “captain” of a ship, in a room of the Tardis that looked like a French cathedral had been shrunk, with Strax attending as an onerous witness—the after party is surprisingly well-attended. Granted, many of the attendees are from other times and planets—all grateful beneficiaries of Vastra’s and Jenny’s deeds while traveling with the Doctor—Jenny is nonetheless thoroughly enjoying herself. The guests, all dressed “in costume,” find their Victorian home delightful (except for Dorium Maldovar’s head, who has a fair excuse to be crabby). Champagne and cake are consumed with gusto. Two humans from the present do attend, however: a very confused but genial man from Japan recognizes Vastra and spends the night admiring their collection of swords; and Jenny is called to the door for a very young lady—not older than fifteen, with black hair and hazel eyes—who offers her a flower, “For your ‘Easter’ party, ma’am,” and leaves.
Finally, everyone leaves for the Tardis, no one particularly concerned about being inconspicuous. The Doctor even herds Strax out, promising to let him stay with the Time Lord in the Tardis for a week.
“We are married!” Jenny beams as the pair locks the front door behind the departing company.
“Yes, my dear,” Vastra hums. “Indeed we are.” She wraps an arm around Jenny’s waist.
“What now?” Jenny asks excitedly, sensing the world is full of new possibilities.
“I believe it is traditional among humans for spouses to seal their companionships physically,” Vastra seductively replies.
“To the bedroom, then?” Jenny asks coyly. She turns toward the stairs when Vastra gruffly seizes her arm.
“No time for that, my love. I intend to hear your screams in every room of this house.”
Quickly, before it’s too late, Jenny warns her wife: “Don’tyoudareripthisdressthelacewasexpensive!”
Vastra already has her wife pinned to the wall. She lifts the hem of Jenny’s wedding dress to her waist. The white linen bloomers are yanked off without ceremony.
“Well if you had to rip something.”
Vastra stands up again slowly, watching Jenny’s eyes.
Jenny gasps at the touch of Vastra’s hand, placing her own hands on Vastra’s shoulders. That’s not enough; Vastra presses closer until they’re cheek-to-cheek, Jenny’s arms wrapped around her neck. Her wife closes her eyes and rubs her beautiful face against Vastra’s neck. Jenny is tensing, pulling, aching. Vaguely aware that Vastra’s free hand is working it’s way down her back, unfastening the wedding dress, Jenny coos, “My darling…”
Vastra feels her own temperature rising, soaking in Jenny’s trembling veins. But suddenly, there’s the sound of ripping fabric, and Vastra is pushed off. She’s stunned; Jenny has torn the back of her dress, so much so it literally falls off of her. She looks up, exposed. (Vastra, nor Jenny for that matter, wear corsets, being fit enough that the annoying contraptions serve no purpose.) Jenny does look quite pleased with herself. And hungry. “Jenny! You just said-”
“My turn. Every room, you said. Now you march yourself to the drawing room, and you had better be wearing none of that when I get in there. One…”
Vastra darts away, throwing clothes everywhere, smiling devilishly at the brilliance of it. Hunted!
“Two-three!” Jenny rushes after her, picking up the folds of her dress. She pulls and shimmies and extracts herself from her lacey wedding dress in the drawing room, but where has Vastra gone? Forgetting to remove the garters, stockings, and heels, Jenny turns about the room, eyes searching. She walks around the plush sofa to find Vastra lying in front of the roaring fire, stretching like a cat. The way the light dances across her scales is just breathtaking.
“Down you come,” Vastra says.
“I thought I was in charge now,” challenges Jenny, standing with her hands on her hips and one eyebrow raised.
“Oh, you are,” Vastra nods slowly. Her tongue lashes out, wrapping up one of Jenny’s legs and around her hips.
Vastra’s tongue pulls Jenny down to all fours, face to face. “A kiss please?” Jenny complies with a long, tongue-infused kiss. “Good girl.” In one fluid motion Vastra scoots away and pulls down on Jenny’s hips, bringing the dripping folds between the humans thighs to her waiting tongue.
Jenny yelps, tries to see, but all she can see are Vastra’s eyes. She can’t be sure what that tongue is doing exactly, but it is so good and firm and rough that her hips move of their own accord and her hands tug at Vastra, trying to pull her in closer. It isn’t long until she climaxes, arching her back and screaming bloody Mary, but Vastra won’t stop. More and more she gives. “It’s too much,” Jenny cries, “So much.”
“Bear with me, my love,” Vastra mumbles.
“Vastra!” In a moment of desperation, Jenny pivots violently. She can’t pull away, but she can turn round. Not for another second can she stay vertical, and now she falls onto Vastra’s shimmering frame. Her pleasuring partner pauses, and Jenny gets an idea.
“Oh my!” Vastra gasps. “That is stimulating.”
Jenny might be trembling too much to sit and let Vastra feast on her, but she has a tongue of her own and knows how to use it. Rocking forwards and back, Jenny treats her wife to fullness, wet and hot, interspersed with tiny kisses. Little by little, she wedges her hands between Vastra’s blazing back and the rug, seeking those sensitive little ridges.
Inspired, Vastra sucks on Jenny’s clit as though she would die without it. For good measure, she thrusts two fingers inside Jenny, faster and faster, trying to keep up with her wife’s tongue. “We must do this more often.”
“Mmm,” Jenny moans. She smiles pluckily at one of Vastra’s gasps, knowing full well why. Her fingers have found those spikes. “Hold on tight, my darling.”
The Silurian complies, crossing her burning legs behind Jenny’s neck, pulling her closer. Heat from the mammal’s tongue races through her. Nipples dance atop her abdomen. And shortly, the very vibrations she herself is causing throughout Jenny’s body are being wrought through her own via her empathic spikes.
Vastra caresses Jenny’s tight ass with her hands. “More of what, my dear? Anything.”
“Fingers,” Jenny moans, barely coming up for breath as she plunges her tongue again and again.
Vastra thrusts her fingers within, three now, rubbing against Jenny’s wet, pulsating walls.
“More!” her wife demands. Vastra tightens her legs around Jenny, pulling her back down to Vastra’s rocking hips. She delights to find she can fit four fingers into Jenny, then five! Restraint is forgotten. Vastra pulls and strikes and sucks on Jenny’s clit even as she rams fingers into her. Jenny rocks in rhythm, bounding off Vastra’s hand. She must cling to Jenny’s hips with her spare arm all the more. As the electricity in Jenny rises, so does Vastra’s.
Jenny throws her head back, holding tight to Vastra’s back, yelping. “Go!”
“My wife, my love—“
“Do you love me?”
“Always?” Jenny begs.
“Take me, I’m yours, your wife!”
“Stay with me! Stay, Jenny! Please, Jenny, please!”
The waves hit them again and again by the fireplace at 13 Paternoster Row.
Time marches forward. Vastra is publicly affectionate with Jenny after the wedding, taking her arm or holding her hand or caressing her cheek. She has had enough of that maid’s uniform and insists Jenny have proper dresses befitting a happy wife. (Of course, Vastra’s wife, being far superior to anyone else, is much more excited about receiving a new combat suit, all black and able to be worn under a dress if necessary.) She abandons all pretenses, introducing herself exactly as she is: “I am a lizard woman from the dawn of time,” she’ll say, relishing each reaction. “And this is my wife.”
For a Silurian—especially one of the sisterhood of warriors—to fall in love, to have that love reciprocated, to find a mate at all, was extremely rare in her own time. Respected and treasured in her breeding-program society, certainly, but rare. To think that she of all people would find someone to love is simply a miracle.
They are happy.
Jenny is in her physical prime (thus far). Her swordsmanship excels, but she comes to shine in hand-to-hand combat. She is just as powerful as her companion now. Meanwhile, Vastra continues to improve her insensitivity, presumably for work but really only for the sake of her wife. Despite the wretched pollution, the lack of reptilian company, and the rather baseless bigotry of the English people on all accounts, Vastra feels right at home.
Strax, too, becomes more domesticated, although he takes frequent trips to Glasgow during his weekends off to let off steam. Nonetheless, he has proven to be a loyal friend and thus earns his place alongside the women on their missions. Jenny teases him, which they think Strax appreciates as camaraderie.
On the other hand, their friend the Doctor’s depression deepens. They had all hoped the wedding party would inspire him to find a companion and travel again, but if anything, it appears to have been his last bit of cheerfulness before the dark. They are all kind (even Strax, in his way). None more so than Vastra. They do not judge him, no matter how he lashes out or snarls like a wounded animal.
Still, life goes on. Suddenly it’s Christmas Eve of 1892. A young governess passes the Doctor’s one word test. Snowmen come alive. The Great Intelligence fails. But tragically, Clara Oswin Oswald dies despite Strax’s best nursing efforts. The poor clone hides in his room for a week because of his sense of failure. But by some miracle, the woman’s gravestone inspires Vastra’s old friend to travel again.
1893 is a very eventful year. The three will never forget that year. Clarence Demarco captured and convicted for the murders of fourteen women. Sweetsville.
And of course… The Unexpected Journey Across The Universe. Jenny’s Fall. The Most Dangerous Place In The Universe. The Tomb. The Secret. These are the names they will use for the rest of their lives to allude to their most desperate hour.
Jenny tries to help Strax attend to unconscious Clara—the real Clara—in the Tardis, but her hands keep shaking. Strax tells her to sit, and she obeys, mindlessly stroking the poor girl’s hair.
Vastra stays with the Doctor in the console room.
“I am… so sorry, Vastra.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, yes it does. You are my friend. You are all my friends. You saved me from the dark.”
“And so you have rescued us.”
“I think that was Clara, actually.”
“It was right, you know. The Great Intelligence. I have done many terrible things. It’s all I could think about not so long ago.”
“You have saved a million times more lives than you have harmed, Doctor. Yes, you have caused pain, as have we all. But is it a doctor’s duty to be kind to infectious diseases, plagues, or cancers?”
“What is a doctor’s duty, then, is to protect what he can. A doctor cannot save every life. Your job is to keep trying.”
With a little whimper, the Doctor hugs Vastra tightly. “Old friend!” He steps back to look at her.
The Doctor clutches his face. “Ow! You slapped me! Vastra!”
“That,” Vastra hisses, putting her glove back on, “is for kissing my wife.”
London is warm and bright when they arrive back at Number 13 Paternoster Row. Clara is left to rest in the guest room, the Doctor collapses on the sofa downstairs, and Strax receives Vastra’s disinterested permission to fortify the defenses (on the condition that the greenhouse plants are left untouched). Vastra sends a telegram to the Yard: Under absolutely no conditions are they, the residents of Paternoster Row, to be contacted until further notice. Wrapping an arm around her wife’s waist, she helps Jenny up the stairs to their bedroom.
Morning light streams through the white summer curtains. Vastra holds Jenny, caressing her tenderly, until the shaking stops. Neither speaks.
It took so little time, Vastra muses. Seeing Jenny’s limp body, feeling neither pulse nor heat, Vastra devolved into the woman she had been all those years ago, all rage and pain and venom. She even threatened to kill Strax, cut him to pieces. She does say that every other week or so, but this time she knows she meant it. What would she become the day when Strax, that lovable brute, could not revive her?
But worse still was Jenny’s disappearance. She didn’t simply forget who Vastra was (and thank the gods that Vastra did not have to experience such a pain as that), but died nine years earlier. The muggers would have killed her dear Jenny, she told herself… but deep down, a sick feeling forced her to wonder if that was indeed the case.
“What would I do without you?” Vastra whispers, watching Jenny’s eyes flutter awake.
“Oh,” Vastra embraces her. “Utterly lost, I’m afraid.”
“No! Don’t say that. No…”
“I was, Jenny. I was so afraid.”
Jenny shudders, tucks her face into the crook of her wife’s neck and shoulder. “I am so sorry. I didn’t want to leave you alone. So sorry, so sorry.” Little sniffles and hiccups escape her.
“Shh, my love, it’s all right now.”
Jenny’s tears fall, seeping into the spaces between Vastra’s scales, and it feels like rain and fire, living and dying, loving and raging all at once. Jenny can’t stop now. She’s gasping for air, overwhelmed. Vastra pulls her wife closer, needing to know she’s there, needing her to know she—Vastra—is there. She breathes Jenny in: her hair, her neck, her blood just under the surface of her pale skin. Vastra stifles a wail of her own—the closest she can get to human tears—and kisses her wife. Her face, her neck, her collarbone, her shoulders; gently, then forcefully, then softly again.
Vastra’s kisses are soothing. Jenny smiles a little. So scared, so full of love, her entire body might burst apart. Vastra wipes the tears away with her beaded fingertips.
Live, wake up. Wake up, and let the cloak of life cling to your bones. – Merry Gejehl, played by Emilia Jones, s7e7: The Rings of Akhaten