Outside of the office, Vastra suddenly began to grin slightly.
"What's funny?" Clara asked her.
"I do not think the person in charge of property is in a very comfortable position." Vastra replied, smirking. "My suspicion is that he has tried to steal items of value from Jenny's possessions, and that my little dragon has taken action."
When she strained her own hearing, Clara could hear a slightly gurgling noise.
"Serves him right." She commented.
"You know; if you ever need somewhere to stay, where no one else knows who you are and you can rediscover yourself..." Vastra said to Clara. "You would be very welcome to come and stay at the Row for as long as you wanted."
"Thanks." Clara replied. "It wouldn't be a problem for Jenny?"
"Compared to keeping an eye on Strax?" Vastra asked, her tone joking. "No, I think having another human who takes things as she finds them would be good for her."
Clara gave Vastra a look. "And when exactly," she asked. "Would you be proposing a threesome?"
"I wouldn't." Vastra replied.
Vastra did her best to look like her behaviour was being taken out of context.
When Jenny came out of the property store, Vastra was still looking innocent. It was about as convincing as a dragon pretending to be a fine art collector at a Sotheby’s auction.
"What's she done?" Jenny asked, with a voice suggesting that she felt that whatever it was would most likely be more amusing than malicious.
"She's been being herself, mostly." Clara replied.
"None that the nine inch skillet couldn't sort."
"You only used the nine inch pan?" Jenny asked. Vastra made a sissing noise. Being hit with frying pans was not her favourite activity.
"I didn't want to crack her skull."
"Why not?" Jenny asked, her expression appearing confused. "It wouldn't be the first time she's had her skull cracked for offences against table manners."
A few seconds later, Vastra fell off of the bench.
"Git up, you miserable ole lizard." Jenny snapped, not going within six feet of her wife. "You're not fooling anybody."
Vastra clambered to her feet, and wasted no time in "capturing" her wife, who made a great show of struggling without attempting any of her repertoire of throws, jabs and kicks that would normally have been employed to disable an attacker.
It was an almost bizarre sight, but, as the two twisted into a more affectionate embrace, Clara just watched them with a smile. It wasn't the oddest thing she'd seen anyone doing, by a long chalk.
As she stepped out of the prison gates, once again wearing her royal blue wooden tunic, sensible collared shirt, tie and ankle-length skirt, Jenny felt an immense sense of relief. Vastra, next to her, and whose arm she was more or less dangling from, was in a good mood.
Strax was waiting outside on the coupe, glaring at the armed sentries overlooking the prison yard.
“Boy.” He greeted Jenny. “I’m glad to see that you’ve escaped from enemy custody uninjured.”
Jenny replied by dotting a kiss on the top of his dome. “Good to see you too, Strax.” She replied.
With a secret smile, Jenny held open the door for Vastra and the Doctor, gesturing to Clara to stand next to her, until the others had boarded. Then she signalled for Clara to swing herself inside, following a few moments later and pulling the door closed herself. The two “servants” took seats at the front of the carriage, facing the Doctor and Vastra.
There was little conversation. Vastra was doing her very best to look utterly innocent, once again, which warned Jenny in advance that she was saving up to be trouble at a later date. That was very much business as usual.
The carriage yard at the back of the Row was as warm as usual, on a February morning, when Vastra clambered out of the carriage. Jenny, following immediately behind her cold blooded wife, saw her wobble slightly. The Silurian recovered quickly, though, and, at a somewhat greater speed than she preferred to demonstrate, headed straight for the kitchen.
Inside, she was already pouring water all over the floor, and the occasional dribble into the kettle, when Jenny caught up with her.
“Give that ‘ere, you.” She said, firmly taking possession of the kettle from her wife. Typically, Vastra had been trying to pour the water into the spout. Jenny showed her, without too much ‘So there’ how to open the top of the kettle and fill it from the mains. Vastra looked slightly grumpy, but simply resorted to pecking her maid on top of the head.
Then, rather than allowing the Silurian anywhere near the actual stove, she put on the tea, sending Vastra and the Doctor through to the drawing room. One of her next jobs would be to reinstate the consulting room’s supply of tropical plants.
“So.” She asked Clara, once the door was safely shut. “How was she?”
“Er…” Clara replied. “Well, she usually more or less behaved herself.”
“What did she do?” Jenny asked, in a long suffering tone of voice.
“She decided it would be funny to lock me in some sort of leather contraption that pinned my elbows together behind my back.” Clara said. “The muscles involved are still sore.”
“She didn’t!” Jenny muttered. Words were going to be had.
“Then, when I fainted as a result, I came around to find her looking…” She gestured at her chest.
Jenny just gave her a horrified look. “What did you do?” She asked.
“I spiked her tea with curry powder.” Clara replied, with a grin. “Then I threw a bucket of water over her.”
Jenny gave her a grin back. “She backed off afterwards, I suspect.”
“Until she tried to get me wearing a bloody chemise that would be illegal in a harem. Then she tried to put a collar on me.”
“Tell me the rest of the story.” Jenny said, holding a mug of tea out to Clara. “I need to know what to serve her tonight, and how rotten it should be.”
Once they were in the drawing room, both Vastra and the Doctor slipped into Silurian.
“How has it been?” The Doctor asked.
“Well enough, Doctor.” Vastra replied. “She even helped me solve a crime.”
“A man had stolen the design for an underwater hunting boat, and killed someone who tried to prevent him from selling them on to the person who made the largest bid. Clara helped me hunt him down, and hand him over to the law enforcers to face punishment, along with the man who brought the designs.”
“Was she injured?”
“No. She did very well, during the hunt.”
“I am pleased. How was her food preparation?”
“Very passable.” Vastra replied. “Her tagine,” she dropped back into English for a word that had no translation. “Was every bit as pleasant as anything my mate has ever produced.”
“I am relieved.” The Doctor replied.
“I fear, however, that I have performed actions against her to which she rightly took offence. I made mistakes by assuming that she would be as tolerant of me as my mate is, and would share most of her physical abilities.”
“I see.” He growled. “I trust that you have made your apologies to her?”
“I have done so, Star Lord.” Vastra replied, using the Silurian name for the Time Lords.
“Were they accepted?”
“It is my belief that they were.” Vastra replied. “At the very least, she did not object to continuing to share her warmth with me that night, although not as my mate does.”
Then conversation turned to other matters, Vastra’s laugh rising several times as the Doctor related a particular adventure to her.
Once they had finished discussing matters related to Vastra, the two ‘servants’ got on with the cooking. With the two of them splitting the workload, it made enough of a difference that they were able to prepare a more complex meal than the usual fare. Clara, following the careful instructions given to her by Jenny, began slicing vegetables that went well together, and dropping them into a pot.
A few minutes into the preparations, Strax stuck his head around the door.
“Is there anything that you need me to do?” He asked. “I understand that unit catering is most efficient when the maximum number of personnel are involved.”
“Yes.” Jenny replied. “I need you to go and get eight of the little items of baked goods known as rolls from the bakery. I will be inspecting them when you return, which I would expect to be in less than ten minutes, and without having attracted the attention of the authorities in any way.”
“I will carry out my instructions.” Strax said, briefly saluting, before turning on his heel, and heading for the bakery.
Clara gave Jenny a bit of a google-eyed look, as she dropped three sliced parsnips into the vegetable soup, before picking up a pair of leeks delivered by the grocer the previous day, and slicing them.
“If I wasn’t that specific, he could come back with just about anything, and end up causing all sorts of mayhem.” She explained. Jenny was standing at the stove, with her eighteen inch skillet, frying close to a dozen rashers of bacon.
“Ah.” Was Clara’s only response, as she tipped the first leek into the soup, carefully sliced.
Just after the various components of a bacon and winter vegetable soup began the process of simmering on the stove, Strax returned from the bakers, bearing eight crusty white bread rolls, along with a bag of what appeared to be berliner doughnuts.
“I have returned.” He announced, sticking his head around the door.
“Show me.” Jenny said, moving over to him.
In response, he laid out the two brown bags, one of which, when investigated, contained the rolls he’d been sent for. The berliners, though, were a surprise.
“Strax?” Jenny asked. “Why did you get a packet of berliners?”
“I thought that they would be a pleasant gift, to celebrate your escape from captivity.” He replied.
Jenny dotted a kiss onto his dome in reply.
The main course of the meal, it was decided, would be a joint of cured ham. Jenny, bustling slightly in the heat of the kitchen, showed Clara how to mix a honey and cinnamon glaze for the joint, before disappearing into the vegetable store, and firmly pushing the other girl out of the way, when she attempted to return to the slicing board.
“You did all the veg for the soup.” She stated, gently turning Clara toward the joint and the basting brush. Without pausing, she began bringing down the large cleaver she’d selected from the knife rack, forged, like all of the knives in her kitchen, from the same metal as their katanas, as a reward for their services to the Japanese Emperor. It easily passed through her vegetables, allowing her to quarter the last of her potatoes with ease. She made a mental note that she would need to refill the root cellar at the next opportunity.
Once the potatoes were diced, she dropped them into her frying pan, frying them for about two minutes in goose fat, before dropping them into a baking tin and then placing them into the oven, along with some more parsnips and a couple of onions.
Clara, while Jenny had been taking care of the vegetables, had been painting the meat with the glaze, and had just about finished doing so when the last of the vegetables went in the oven. Jenny fetched out a roasting tin, into which the meat was dropped, before both of them washed their hands.
“Vastra isn’t getting any desert.” Jenny explained. “Unfortunately, she can’t be relied on to sit with her hands on her lap, so everyone else isn’t going to have anything either.” Jenny quietly tapped the doughnuts, as she spoke. “These will stay in the kitchen.”
About an hour after the soup had been put on, Jenny rang the gong for dinner. Vastra, showing her usual level of interest, darted straight through to the dining room, catching Clara in the act of laying the last of the tableware. The sterling silver cutlery and elegantly painted earthenware were supplemented by what appeared to be simple goblets, rather than the mug Vastra had previously used to drink out of. The Silurian’s napkin ring was in front of her usual seat, into which she dived, shortly before Jenny hauled through the cauldron containing the soup course.
Vastra visibly perked up at the smell of bacon. Clara, at a signal from Jenny, headed back through to the kitchen, and extracted the rolls from the bread-oven, decanting them into an ornate wicker basket, lined with an embroidered cloth showing London landmarks.
The soup, she decided, watching the way that Vastra actually used her cutlery, and savoured each spoonful, was clearly a success. When she tried it herself, she fully agreed with Vastra that it was delicious. Jenny, sitting next to Clara, grinned slightly, before nodding.
The soup course lasted about ten minutes.
Then it was onto the main course. Vastra once again perked up at the smell of honey and cinnamon glazed drifting from the pan, and was very willing to help serve the meat, being warded off with a small ladle, as she approached with the carving fork.
Clara helped serve the meal, equally spreading the vegetables between the four plates, and enjoying the flavours that rose from the dishes containing the vegetables.
Again, Vastra actually used her cutlery, making what sounded like cooing noises as she slowly worked her way through the meal.
Once they had finished eating, Jenny firmly dispatched Clara away from the kitchen.
“I’ll do the washin’ up later.” She said. “You’ve been doin’ everythin’ for me all week.” Clara merely nodded, noting the mutability of the girl’s accent whenever she spoke.
It was that time, finally, she realised.
Clara looked around the house that had almost become home over the last week with a wistful expression. The ornaments on the mantelpiece had become familiar friends, a sign that the world was normal and safe, or at least as safe as a house where the letterbox had a built-in scorpion trap ever was.
Vastra was standing behind her, with a small, elegantly filigreed leather box.
“I know you… consider items like this demeaning.” Vastra said, her expression as nervous as she’d seen from the Silurian, during their acquaintance. “But I’d still like to offer it to you as a gift, and a thank-you for tolerating my foibles for the last week.”
Clara was faintly reminded of an autistic child in her English class for a few moments, the sheer earnestness of the offer almost making up for the slightly unusual gift Vastra was offering her.
“I may not wear it,” she told the Silurian. “But I will value it regardless.” She accepted the box, opening it briefly to confirm that the extremely expensive collar and pet tag were inside.
Vastra’s smile would have very much disoriented her, when she was first around the Silurian. There were too many teeth for it to seem anything other than a threatening gesture, something you’d expect from an animal, not a person. Now, she paid more attention to her eyes when the Silurian tried facial expressions.
The Silurian drifted away to pester Jenny for food as Clara continued her circuit. The over-night bag provided by the TARDIS had been neatly packed the night before. Her nightdress was folded on top of it, and she unfastened the catches of the carpetbag, before slotting in her nightdress.
Vastra clambered up the stairs, with what appeared to be a baguette ‘concealed’ under her veil. Behind her, Clara could hear yells. It wasn’t long before Jenny was in hot pursuit of her wife, armed with a skillet pan once again.
Clara just smiled, before stepping out of the back door, where the Doctor was waiting with the TARDIS. She just hugged him, before stepping inside.
“Where to?” He asked.
“Home.” She replied. “If I don’t make that English class, you are in so much trouble.”
He just smiled, before she headed into the back of the TARDIS, and recovered her clothes. Teaching a class, after all of this, would be a relaxing experience.
From the rear steps, Vastra and Jenny stood, arms around the other, and watched as the blue box dematerialised.
A few moments later, they turned away together, and headed inside. They had some catching up to do.
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