A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 24

Clara had taken several precautions when laying out the cheeseboard, ensuring that there were a wide range of items for Vastra to enjoy, including a small pile of curried fillets of lamb, a pot of jellied eels, a wide selection of oregano-free chutneys, along with a selection of cheeses, ranging from imported brie to west country hard cheeses, all of strengths that would leave most humans a little alarmed, but like sweets to Vastra, particularly the one that included candied pineapples. She had provided a selection of less potent cheeses as well, along with an ample supply of crackers.

She had also pointedly provided a cheese knife, on the basis that Vastra was not going to be using her claws to cut the cheese, a policy she was prepared to enforce with a rolling pin.

There was also a selection of brandies and other after meal drinks, such as port and sherry.

Vastra, much to Clara's surprise, seemed adept in the employment of cutlery, at least after it had been made very clear to her, with the aid of a rolling pin, that she was going to be using it. She quickly began layering several different cheeses and chutneys on top of some oatcakes, flavoured with cinnamon, before engulfing each construction with a great deal of enjoyment.

"Ma'am?" Clara asked, slightly nervous, after Vastra had ingested the best part of two-thousand calories worth of cheeses, oatcakes and chutney. "Will you be requiring my body-heat tonight?"

"Is it available, despite everything today?" Vastra asked.

"Only if you promise to behave." Clara told her, grinning.

"I think I can manage to behave however you want." Vastra said, with a wink.

"If you even try..." Clara said, watching another mound of cheese and chutney vanish.

"Clara, I'm many things, some of them not very pleasant. But one of the things I am not and will never be is a rapist. If you'd wanted to, I would have accepted the comfort. But I would never force myself upon you."

"I would hope not." Clara said, watching the Silurian entwine herself around the bolster in her chair, almost like a kitten.

"Clara, if you were going to kill someone on top of a train, where would you do it?" Vastra asked, after a few minutes of silence, which Clara passed by staring into the fire.

"On an open stretch of track, without viaducts or tunnels, and with a very long train." Clara replied.

"So not the underground?"

"Definitely not." Clara said before asking after a few moments of thought. "You said there was a big pool of blood. Are you sure that it was human blood?"

"Why?" Vastra asked, before an extremely complex series of calculations seemed to flicker behind her eyes. "I didn't taste it." She explained. "There was no reason to. There was a body with its head smashed in, and it was lying in a pool of blood..."

"How long would you say it would have taken him to die?"

"A few... moments..." Vastra said, ponderingly, before breaking off again.

"How much would he have bled in that time?" Clara asked.

"Not that much..." Vastra replied, her eyes seemingly flicking through files stored in her mind.

Getting ready for bed was less of a trial the second night for Clara.

She was pottering around the kitchen, wearing a pair of Vastra's slippers to protect her feet from the stone floor, chilled almost to freezing by the low temperatures.

The milk was heating for the Silurian’s cocoa, and she was carefully looking through the cupboards.

Inside what appeared to be a packet of Victorian breakfast cereal, she was not entirely surprised to find what looked suspiciously like Special K, complete with clusters and freeze dried berries. There was also a carefully concealed pump-action shotgun in the base of the cupboard, along with a box of modern cartridges, covered with an oiled rag.

When she heard the kitchen door open very quietly, she immediately left the pantry, to confront and extremely sooty Vastra, who seemed to be in possession of what looked suspiciously like a large jar of oregano.

"Hoi!" She yelled

"Clara..." Vastra said, nervously.

"You know full well that you're banned from the spice rack, on pain of being served a beef burger without any accompaniment." She said, not quite yelling.

"Jenny would never..."

"I'm not Jenny." Clara said, grinning.

Then they both broke out laughing.

"You wouldn't... really..." Vastra gasped.

"Only in extremis." Clara replied, before pulling something out of the pocket of the cook's apron she was wearing and tossing it at the Silurian, who neatly fielded it with her tongue, which retracted rapidly, taking the bone-meal and honey dog treat with it, and producing an almost subsonic purr, along with a shiver as she swallowed the treat.

"That was unexpected." Vastra grinned. "I don't suppose that there are any more?"

"Not yet." Clara said, before the tongue peeked out of the Silurian’s mouth, just in the corner. "That thing had better stay away from my pockets." Clara instructed Vastra. "If it even attempts to pickpocket me, it will find I have mousetraps as well."

Vastra just shot her an 'I can't believe that you would do that to an innocent Silurian' look.

She grinned back, before slipping her hand into her pocket and producing a mousetrap, which she showed Vastra for a moment, before slipping it back inside.

After a few moments of exchanging grins, she turned around, before scooping several spoonfuls of cocoa essence into the milk, and pouring a cup for each of them.

The Silurian scooped up her cup quickly, noticing that the total dosage she'd be consuming was about two spoonfuls, before heading upstairs.

In the bedroom, Clara had provided a nightdress for her.

"Clara, where is my nightdress?" Vastra asked, confused by the jungle green garment laid out on the bed, which seemed to lack anyone's scent.

"In the back of a dogcart." Clara replied from the doorway, having already drunk her own hot chocolate. "The ragman came around at about half five."

"Why?" Vastra asked, looking almost distraught.

"Because it was entirely the wrong colour, and made out of a material that doesn't retain heat. This one is made of finely woven wool, with a mixture of threads including dog hair."

Vastra just looked at her for a moment. If Clara's sense of smell had been more sensitive, she'd have been able to detect the aroma of 'My favourite nightdress has been binned' along with 'sad and unhappy', both of which the silurian was radiating.

"This one will be nice and warm." Clara reassured her, before ducking behind the privacy screen and changing into her own nightdress. "Where's Strax?"

"He's on holiday." Vastra replied.

"Him, on holiday?" Clara asked, incredulous. "Where?"

"I believe he is taking a tour of the bar-fighting areas of Glasgow." Vastra replied, clambering into her new dress, and squirming slightly to find out how it felt against her skin. "It keeps him from getting bored." The dress felt smooth and warm, and surprisingly easy to snuggle into. Gingerly, she clambered into bed, before snuggling against Clara as soon as the human girl joined her, luxuriating in the presence of the extra heat that Clara was able to provide.

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