The first time Vastra encounters Jenny crying, she is worried that there is something horribly wrong with her.
In hindsight, Jenny realises that it must look awful, to a Silurian (who can express deep grief and pain as well, but not at all in the way that humans do). Especially as Jenny is in the habit of hyperventilating uncontrollably when she cries. She can pass through fits of heaving in short, sharp, shallow hitches, given over to trembling and sobbing and dribbling snot enough to soak her pillow worse than the tears do.
Anyway, when Vastra finds Jenny in her room, curled up on the bed, making a series of high pitched little animal noises, expelling inordinate amounts of liquid from her face and totally unable to breathe regularly, she immediately concludes that her maid is dying, and calls the Doctor.
Vastra is under the impression that Jenny is having some kind of severe allergic reaction. Jenny had said earlier, after all, when Vastra had enquired as to her swollen, red-rimmed eyes and runny nose that morning, that she was ‘allergic’ (although to what, she hadn’t explained).
The Doctor, finding Vastra’s panicked message on his psychic paper, came at once, of course – after dropping the Ponds off at home. He is very much in the line of encouraging Vastra to save humans rather than eat them.
Jenny, however, is not dying.
“That’s not an allergy, Vastra, you poor daft lizard!” The Doctor says, although he is scanning Jenny with his sonic screw driver just to be certain (Jenny certainly doesn’t look well, even if she’s clearly not as close to death as Vastra had at first suggested). “She’s crying!”
“Yes! It’s what humans do – with the snot and the tears and the – that – there – what she’s doing. That’s crying.” The Doctor has another look, just to make absolutely certain.
“Would you two stop gawking!” Jenny sits up long enough to hurl a pillow at the pair of them, “leave me alone!”
She collapses back onto the bed, muffling her sobs in the mattress.
“Yup,” the Doctor hastily shuts Jenny’s bedroom door to give the girl some privacy. “Definitely crying.”
“But – why?” Vastra looks thoroughly bemused. “What is the meaning of such behaviour?”
“You could try asking her why she’s so upset,” the Doctor offers, after a moment.
“Yes – that’s generally what crying means. That or she’s very, very happy. Do you think she’s happy?”
“Well then,” the Doctor nods. “Best ask her what’s wrong.”
Jenny has, as far as the Doctor can tell, been crying on and off for at least a day. She will not, initially, tell either of them what the matter is.
“But who has upset you?” Vastra demands, leaning over Jenny’s bed – the maid, perched on its edge, has regained some control of herself with the aid of the Doctor’s second best handkerchief.
“Nothing – no one.” Jenny stubbornly chews the corner of the handkerchief – the Doctor wishes she wouldn’t, as it’s actually Rory’s handkerchief and Rory will definitely shout at him if he returns it frayed.
“But you must tell me, Jenny! So that I can eat him!”
Jenny manages a faint hiccup of laughter. “It’s no one you can eat.”
“And no eating people who aren’t criminals!” The Doctor adds, wagging a finger, “you promised, Vastra!”
“Anyone who upsets Jenny is perfectly criminal in my book!” Vastra puts a proprietorial arm around her maid, who perks up considerably at the gesture.
“Yes, well, even so…” The Doctor gives her a stern look. But it’s probably good that the Silurian has got so attached to the nice young chambermaid from Finchley – it’s always good, to have a friend when you’re very old and very alone in a world that isn’t really yours anymore.
“It really might help to talk about it,” he suggests to Jenny, “I find that, you know.”
“I can’t,” Jenny mumbles. She has tired herself out with crying and is resting her temple against Vastra’s shoulder, still chewing the handkerchief. “It’s silly. I’m being daft.”
“It can’t be that daft, for you to get so worked up, can it?” The Doctor suggests, “tell uncle Doctor, go on.”
“All my uncles are dead, sir.”
“Right. Well. Tell me,” the Doctor leans closer, “so Vastra knows who to eat.”
Jenny smiles, nervously, and glances away from her mistress – and it is then that the Doctor starts to suspect that he understands what has happened (or at least, to grasp the threads of it).
“Jenny,” he addresses her gently, “might – your employer here – have inadvertently… been a little… insensitive, recently?”
It takes a very long time and much reassurance from Vastra that she will not be angry with her maid, to wheedle the inciting incident from Jenny.
“It’s just – I thought you liked me.”
“But I do like you, very much, Jenny.”
“No but – I thought you… I thought you – thought I was pretty, like…”
“But I do – didn’t I say so?”
“Yes – I mean – just… but yesterday, there was that police officer and you and him were so…”
The Doctor suspects that he really ought to be leaving the two of them alone to have this particular conversation. But Jenny still has most of Rory’s handkerchief in her mouth.
“That police officer was a man?”
“Yes! Police officers are always men! How can you not tell by now – I mean really – ”
“I’m not used to mammal physiology, Jenny!”
“That doesn’t make it any better!” Jenny is on the verge of tears again. “How can you know I’m pretty if you can’t even tell the difference between me and a man! What if you’re just saying those things to be nice? To keep me happy and make me go away so you can get on with being all – swishy and detective-ish – ”
The Doctor is increasingly certain that he’s in the middle of a conversation he ought not to be.
“Might I suggest,” he turns to Vastra – but no, he might not suggest, because Vastra and Jenny are entirely wrapped up in whatever burgeoning (if clearly rather fraught) love story they are embarking upon and how on earth is he going to get that handkerchief back?
“My dear, you have no cause to be jealous of anyone!”
“No!” Vastra grasps her maid’s hand, “not in the least – not even a little – there is no one on this planet whose company I would prefer over yours.”
“Oh.” Jenny is blushing, her gaze downcast.
“Now please, please stop crying – it’s highly alarming.”
“I can’t help it! You make me cry all the time!”
“Every day for weeks! You’re so – stupidly – ”
Jenny cannot quite find the word for exactly what Vastra is, so kisses her instead – a deep, sweet, somewhat frantic gesture.
The Doctor quietly extracts Rory’s handkerchief from Jenny’s hand, and leaves the room.
If there is to be a wedding, then naturally, the Doctor must be somebody’s best man (neither of them are sure whose).
He turns up in his best coat and tails, looking entirely too smug for Vastra’s liking.
“Well, you’d never have met without me,” he says, swaggering past them. “You might even have tried to eat her instead.”
Jenny and Vastra exchange a glance.
“It’d be inappropriate to make jokes about eating, wouldn’t it?” Rory asks Amy – they are sat in the back, being quiet.
“Yes,” Amy replies.
It was Amy who suggested Scotland – the first country in the UK to make marriages of Jenny and Vastra’s sort legal (even if actually Scotland will not be remaining a part of the UK for much longer), and it is very pretty and quiet and remote, by a lake, in the year 2016. Jenny has insisted on an actual Vicar, not just the Doctor in a dog collar (he did offer), so they’ve imported one from some centuries later, when Silurians are not unusual and interspecies marriage an eccentricity but not an abomination.
Both the Doctor and Strax cry throughout (that Strax is even physically capable of producing tears is as much a shock to the Sontaran as it is to anyone else). Jenny, much to Vastra’s relief, does not.
On a cold January morning not long after the new year, someone leaves an infant on Jenny and Vastra’s doorstep.
Vastra is more inclined to eat it than care for it (at least that would stop the infernal racket it’s insisting upon making), but Jenny rather hastily intervenes, and suggests that perhaps finding the little thing’s mother might be a more stimulating venture.
In the meantime, of course, its care falls to them.
Strax, thankfully, is an excellent wet nurse. Jenny and Vastra have absolutely no idea what to do with a baby. Jenny ran away from her childhood home in order to avoid caring for the endless multitude of siblings her mother was producing and Vastra simply frightens it, at least at first.
“Perhaps it senses you wanted to turn it into sausages,” Jenny suggests, swaying it awkwardly from side to side in an attempt to get it to cease screaming upon Vastra’s entrance into the room.
“Sausages?” Vastra looks faintly appalled, “really, Jenny – it would make better fillet mignon.”
“You can be really disturbing sometimes, do you know that?” Jenny pats the baby’s back, “alright, dear, calm down, there there, the lizard will only eat you if you’re really, really badly behaved.”
This does not calm the infant.
“Have you tried turning it upside down?” Vastra suggests, “the young of my people are most soothed by being hung by their feet and swung from left to right, vigorously.”
“Fairly sure that’d kill it,” Jenny replies – although she’s not above trying it after the third day in which the little thing has not ceased to scream.
“It is afflicted with colic,” Strax informs them, somewhat unnecessarily (not that Jenny can actually hear him over the din the child is making).
They call the Doctor, because surely he’ll have seen or heard something in his 1000 odd years of existence that will make the crying stop.
But when the Doctor arrives, he is very distinctly Not In The Mood. He has not been in the mood for anything whatsoever in some months – he has lost the Ponds, and is in the bleakest stage of his mourning for them. Still, he never could resist a crying child.
The baby seems to sooth him, and he takes up stoic residence in a rocking chair in front of the kitchen stove and pats and rocks it absently, as Jenny makes him tea and the baby’s yowling dwindles. It is the first time that the Doctor has come into the house in a while, and this may well be the first thing he has had to drink in days – who knows how long Time Lords can go without sustenance? But certainly the tea does him good, and he hums quietly to the baby as it dozes in his arms.
“Thank the Lord,” Jenny sighs, resting her forehead against Vastra’s chest, ears ringing with the blessed silence.
“You’d never want one of those, would you?” Vastra asks, a little anxiously.
“A baby? Goodness no!” Jenny shudders, “I got out of mother and father’s house precisely to get away from all that – noise and the smell, Lord alive the smell! If I never smell another nappy in my life it’ll be too soon.”
“Ah, good,” Vastra relaxes.
Jenny has consumption.
Her chest has never been strong – she was born a little early, probably would not have survived infancy at all if not for her stubbornness, even then, and growing up in dwellings almost perpetually infected with mould has not helped either. Even at her healthiest, too much physical exertion or too much cold or damp can bring on a coughing fit, enough to alarm Vastra into having the Doctor check her, every now and again, for anything more sinister than weak lungs.
When a particularly harsh winter brings a particularly virulent outbreak of the disease to London’s shores, it seems almost inevitable. Jenny catches a cold, then influenza, then pneumonia, and even after, against all the odds, she recovers, and the wheezing subsides, a terrible, rattling cough remains. A sharp tightening occurs across her chest, so that she cannot wield a sword with any efficiency anymore without doubling over to relieve the pressure in her lungs. At night she cannot lie flat, but spends half the dark hours sat up, coughing up phlegm flecked with blood.
Her entire body shakes when she coughs like this. It sounds as if her bones are ready to fly out from under her skin: the flesh creaks and moans with the effort of holding its shape against the jarring force of her choking.
“It hurts,” Jenny admits, after perhaps a week of this, “I can’t stand it – I can’t stand – ” she cannot finish the sentence.
And it is growing worse.
Vastra lays her ear to Jenny’s naked back and listens to her breathing, to her cough. The girl is shivering, her sickly pale skin the texture of goose flesh, the ribs far too prominent.
She calls the Doctor. By the time he arrives, another two weeks later, Jenny cannot get out of bed.
“She needs antibiotics!” Vastra insists, “she will die – the disease will consume her lungs within a month at the rate things are progressing! We have to help her!”
The Doctor nods. He is tired, he is apathetic, but he will not stand by and let Vastra lose as much as he has.
They leave Strax behind the guard the house, and Vastra carries her wife from their bedroom to the Tardis in the drawing room.
It is not immediately apparent why the Doctor picks the hospital he does, until it becomes clear that one of his former travelling companions is a physician on their staff. They are still in London, but in the early 21st century, and the hospital, though still primitive by Silurian standards, is big and clean and far better equipped than anything that exists one hundred and twenty years earlier.
“You have got to be kidding me,” says the physician who comes to greet them, in a secluded spot in the hospital’s car park, “she’s got TB? You brought someone with TB to a hospital full of other really sick people? She’s infectious! Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”
“Yes, Martha,” the Doctor says, “that’s rather the point.”
Martha sighs. She looks to be a practical, pretty woman, quick witted and highly intelligent, with the eyes of someone who has seen what only those who travel with the Doctor have. Nonetheless Vastra watches her with impatience and a growing prickle of anger – for anyone who would refuse to help Jenny, and condemn her wife to death, is an enemy.
“TB can take months to recover from,” the Doctor points out, “she needs a hospital, Martha, and she needs someone to watch over her whilst she’s treated. You’re the only person I can trust. Have I mentioned that she’s married?”
“To a Silurian,” Martha glances curiously at Vastra, “yes. Look, I’ll help – not for you, for them – but I can’t just drop everything to babysit one of your other friends, Doctor, alright? I can get her medicine and make sure she recovers, but you’ll need to find other people to watch her. Come on. I’ll get us inside.”
For all her lip-service to resentment, Martha Jones in fact turns out to be kindly, gentle and patient – an excellent doctor and a far more reassuring presence that the Time Lord himself. She installs Jenny in an isolated room on the hospital’s top floor, attaches her to a drip full of antibiotics and perches on the edge of her bed to falsify the paperwork as she asks, attentively, about Jenny’s life at home, how she and Vastra met and how long they have known the Doctor.
“You’ll be fine,” she tells Jenny, with equal parts firmness and good cheer.
But Vastra cannot stay with her. There is simply no way to hide a Silurian in a hospital of this size, so full of people. Martha promises that she and her husband (who was also, apparently, once a companion of the Doctor’s) and various trusted UNIT representatives will stay with Jenny, but Vastra must go home.
It is the first time since they met that they have spent any real time apart. Jenny, sick and frightened and alone, spends that night weeping bitterly into her pillow, homesick and exhausted. Martha is very kind to her, and brings her books and teaches her how to do something called Sudoku and explains television to her, but really, truly, all she wants is her wife and her own bed again. There is no fun at all to be had in being out of her own time if she cannot have Vastra with her.
Still, the medicine slowly takes effect. When Jenny can properly sit up by herself, after the first week, Martha brings her a series of books about a boy wizard called Harry Potter, which will not be written for nearly a hundred years after Jenny’s own time, and these prove absorbing enough that she feels less miserable.
“There are films of them,” Martha tells her, “I’ll bring you my iPad to watch them on if you want.”
Jenny has no idea what an iPad is, but enjoys playing with it immensely when Martha produces it. By the following week she has beaten all of Martha’s Angry Birds high scores and is taking full advantage of the kindle app.
“It’s like a Tardis!” She tells Vastra, excitedly, when she comes to visit, “all these books on the inside of this little thing – look!”
Vastra is far more relieved to see Jenny so much herself again than she is amused by how easily impressed Jenny is (Silurians have had such technology for hundreds of thousands of years), but still finds herself charmed by her wife’s enthusiasm.
“And I can read everything Mr Dickens has every written or will ever write for free. And there are films of those too – the lady who plays Estelle in this one is very pretty.”
“As she should be.”
After a month, Jenny can go home, although she does so with six months’ worth of antibiotics in a bag, and all of the Harry Potter books.
Jenny and Vastra are fighting. They have been fighting for days. It’s not uncommon for them to snap and bicker at one another, especially if Vastra is cold or hungry or Jenny is menstruating. All of this, Strax knows, and generally he puts up with it quietly, because a pair of puny pathetic creatures having puny pathetic disagreements in his general vicinity is none of his concern, unless one of them decides to declare glorious war upon the other’s people. Strax looks forward to this day immensely.
Still, the current argument, though unusually protracted, does not appear to leading toward an armed conflict. Instead it only causes Jenny to spend her nights in a separate room to Vastra, crying when she thinks no one else can hear her, and Vastra spending a lot of time out of the house or breaking the crockery. This, Strax does not appreciate – he spends a lot of time cleaning and dusting that crockery and would prefer Vastra not smash it in an attempt to vent her frustration. Surely declaring war on Jenny’s home planet might simply be more productive?
Vastra does not appear to appreciate this suggestion, however.
“It is also my home planet,” she points out, somewhat acidly, flinging another cup at the nearest hard surface.
Strax flinches. That was the last of the rose china he spent most of yesterday arranging into a perfect formal display on the hall table.
In part out of concern for the rest of the house’s china, he calls the Doctor for help.
“I believe Jenny may be about to commit a murder,” he tells the Doctor, “with a spade.”
This is untrue, but he sort of hopes that it might happen, and also that this will make the situation seem dire enough that the Doctor will come quickly and make everything normal again.
The Doctor arrives the following morning, with a bucket and a kite and a plate of scones, all of which he deposits in the drawing room, whilst treading inordinate amounts of mud into the carpet.
“Please remove your shoes before I incinerate you with acid, Sir,” Strax requests, politely.
“Sorry, Straxy,” the Doctor removes his shoes. He is in much better spirits than normal. Perhaps he has defeated a great enemy in battle. “Now what’s that noise upstairs?”
“Jenny and Vastra and shouting at each other. It’s very exciting.” This is not quite the right thing to say, Strax is sure. It is exciting, certainly, but it is also something else. Something less pleasant.
“Shouting at each other? Why?”
“I do not know, sir. I thought perhaps you could make them stop.”
“Ah,” the Doctor nods, “not easy when mum and mummy fight, is it, Strax?”
“I do not have parents, Sir.” Strax considers for a moment. “But no. It is not easy when they fight. I do not like it.”
“Right, well, let’s see what we can do.”
The Doctor rolls up his sleeves and goes upstairs.
Strax is not sure what the Doctor does, exactly, but within half an hour it appears that both Jenny and Vastra are too busy shouting at him to shout at each other anymore, and that seems a perfectly sensible solution to Strax.
Eventually, however, the Doctor makes them both sit down in the kitchen, and talk about lots of things Strax neither knows nor cares about, to do with bed sheets and snoring and children and Vastra’s eating habits. Half way through, Jenny starts crying, and Strax does not like this one bit, and attempts to offer her a scone in the hope that this will make her stop, but it doesn’t.
She only calms down when Vastra puts a hand on her shoulder, and says that she has been a stubborn lizard and will try to do better in future. Then Jenny takes a deep, snuffling sort of breath and accepts Strax’s offer of a handkerchief.
She spends that evening in Vastra’s lap in the drawing room, reading the third Harry Potter book for the fifth time, whilst Vastra does the crossword in the Evening Times. Whilst altogether less exciting than yesterday evening, Strax must admit to much preferring this state of affairs, and busies himself arranging the blue rose china on the hall table.