A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 22

Vastra crawled into the small cavity next to the chimney she'd converted into a nest. It contained everything essential for her: one of Jenny's best bolsters, a warm hollow she could curl up in, and a small stone box she'd made from marble slabs, which contained a stash of beef jerky, along with several 'just add water' cups of tea. It was where she went to think, and occasionally sulk.

This was one of those occasions.

Somehow, she'd upset Clara. She should have known better, but there had been something about her that made Vastra want to take a look, and possibly another. Jenny had accepted the way Vastra acted, and even joined in on occasion, although she'd always refused to prepare or sample Vastra's dishes of criminal. Why didn't Clara do the same? It just wasn't logical.

One of the features silurians lacked, due to evolutionary differences, compared to humans, was the tear duct. Humans seemed to express certain emotions through the production of water from the corners of their eye. Strangely, these weren't even consistent emotions. Sometimes, crying meant "I'm in severe pain." Other times, it means "I've been laughing for ages." And then it could mean "My four legged companion animal is dead." Or it could mean "My son's just come back alive and well from the Boer war." Silurians just had a scent for each emotion, and they never used the same scent for different things. Humans seemed to be the opposite.

Grumpily, Vastra pulled the top off of her cool compartment, before reaching inside and fishing out a strip of jerky. To her, it was almost like toffee was for humans. Really tasty, a bit chewy, and it always got stuck in her teeth. It took ages, even with a prehensile tongue, to work out all of the scraps of meat that seemed to insist on working themselves into the most awkward gaps and cavities, and never doing so with her knowledge. It gave her time to think, though.

She knew, on some level, that she was unusual in some ways. Silurian society didn't see anything wrong with females who liked other females. It kept the balance, in the same way that males who liked other males did. There were always enough to go around, whoever wanted what. It might have been a source of discomfort on occasion, but there was nothing actually wrong with it. Humans, meanwhile, seemed to view it differently. They seemed to think that five percent of their entire population were somehow different, or less human, simply because they liked people the same gender as them. It was wrong. She knew that by Clara's time, it would be different, at least officially, although those who didn't share that view would still be out there.

Without thinking, she grabbed a second piece of jerky, and chewed one end of it. It tasted slightly different, but only in a way that added flavour, seeming to have been soaked for longer than the previous stick. The room was full of the scent of another emotion humans expressed with tears; "I've been jilted." There was also an element of "I am lonely."

Resignedly, she curled up in the warm hollow, positioned directly above the corner of the main chimney stack where it joined with the drawing room and the kitchen flues. There was an element of "I'm sad and alone" in the air as she snared another piece of jerky with her tongue.

Clara was unsurprised to find a large sack of chickpeas in the vegetable larder, along with a sack of what were definitely dried apricots, one of the main ingredients of tagine. She also found a tin of dates, which she took back into the kitchen along with the rest of the vegetable ingredients, as the recipe called for them as an addition. She'd already put the mutton in the sauce, along with most of the herbs and seasonings, and it was now a matter of carefully adding the rest of the ingredients, before putting the top on the special dish, and leaving it to cook for around five hours. She couldn't help adding just a touch of chocolate, although she doubted that even Vastra would notice the amount she added.

Then she fulfilled another of her rules. She extracted her phone from the pocket she'd placed it in when she started cooking, and dialled the second number on the list.

"Hello, you." Danny said, after a moment. "Off with him again?"

"I'm actually dropped off at the moment." She replied. "I've been having an interesting day, though. Woke up locked in some sort of leather arm trap, and I was only let out because my host can't make tea without setting fire to the teapot. And then I came around from a faint to find a lizard woman from the dawn of time looking at my breasts."

"She must have good taste, then." Danny said, jokingly. "I can think of few things I'd rather look at."

"It isn't funny." Clara hissed. "I swear she's got a crush on me."

"And when are you?" He asked. Normally, you'd ask where, but he knew enough about her travels to know that when was more informative.

"Victorian England." Clara replied. "I haven't found a newspaper yet, but I'm guessing eighteen-nineties."

"So she'd be in trouble if it came out?" Danny asked.

"She's married to her maid." Clara said. "The ceremony wasn't held in in this time period, obviously, but still married."

"Have you told the wife?" Danny asked.

"That's why I'm here. The wife is in prison for punching someone, and my host needs someone who can operate the kitchen."

"Just when is your host from?" Danny asked, knowing that the chances of a normal answer were almost non-existent.

"The end of the cretaceous." Clara said.

"The cretaceous?"

"Yep. Time of the dinosaurs, and as it turns out, lizard people."

"And one of them is living in Victorian London."

"In the house I'm standing in." Clara replied. "She works as a detective."

"So, you're in Victorian England, working with a lesbian lizard person who was born in the cretaceous and now works as a detective and has a crush on you."

"That about sums it up." Clara said. "She also really likes tea."

"Everybody likes tea." Danny said.

"True." Clara said, grinning. "I'll see you at lunchtime."

"How long are you there for?"

"Until the wife is released from prison." Clara said. "Another four days."

"Man with a blue box." Danny just said, after a pause for a few moments. "Useful to know."

"At times like this, I'm not so sure." Clara said.

"See you soon. Make sure to call me."

"I love you." Clara said, before hanging up.

The smell of the tagine quickly infiltrated most of the building, and even found its way into the little compartment Vastra was curled up in, mostly asleep, and wrapped around a half-eaten stick of jerky in a foetal position. She wasn't sobbing physically, but the wall of scents that surrounded her were the Silurian equivalent of shaking shoulders and muffled sobs hidden underneath the covers. Admittedly, she was also curled around one of Jenny's best bolsters, which she carefully substituted at regular intervals to maintain the scent of her wife.

Tagine. She thought, uncurling from the ball, and absently sticking the remaining piece of jerky behind one ear. Jenny only does tagine once a month, and we had it last week. Which means that Clara is trying to make amends? Grinning, she clambered out of the padded cavity, before clambering through the small tunnel that connected her little cave with the disused fireplace in her room, exiting into the dressing room that doubled as her subsidiary armoury, holding an assortment of body armour, varying from chainmail vests acquired in the fifteenth century to magnoceramic suits of thirty-seventh century body armour that weighed little more than clothes, but would stop nearly anything. They were a little obvious, though, having arrived in their factory white, and being too bulky to wear underneath clothing. Vastra kept them for the purpose of repelling anything that needed protection she couldn't conceal while moving, which meant largely cybermen and an all-out alien invasion. Her leather cat suit was made with several layers of material, using layers of ferrocermatic weave underneath the outer skin to allow it to stop bullets and most shot fired by even late nineteenth century weapons. There was also a rack with two pairs of bulletproof vests, one larger than the other. They had been made in the twenty-first century, and used layers of Kevlar and ceramic plates to stop bullets. They were also just about concealable under Victorian clothing.

Once she was out of the comforting tunnel, she briefly considered climbing back inside or into bed, before plucking up her courage, and accepting that she'd have to face Clara sooner or later.

When she got downstairs, Clara was sitting in the kitchen, with a cup of tea in her hands, and other to one side.

"Clara, I'm so sorry." Vastra blurted, looking the human in the eyes, a gesture which was trust building among humans, rather than the challenge to a fight it was perceived as among silurians. "I was being stupid, and I know it."

"We all make mistakes." Clara said, before Vastra darted past her towards one of the many cupboards, before producing a bowl, and performing an action that was possibly the closest Clara had ever seen to a humanoid version of a dog sitting next to its bowl.

"How soon will it be ready?" Vastra asked.

"About another four hours." Clara replied, grinning at the look of frustration on Vastra's face, before gesturing to the poured cup next to her. "That's ready now." She said, unsurprised at the swooping rush that almost emptied the cup in one long swallow.

A few moments later there was a strangled gasp, before Vastra darted outside and stuck her head under the pump.

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