“More tea, please, my dear,” Vastra called to Jenny from the library. She was reviewing the notes she’d taken earlier in the day from an interview she’d conducted, pertaining to the mysterious appearance of a blue carbuncle in the commissionaire’s Christmas goose. While it had so far proven to be an engaging bit of detective work, it lacked the…vim and vigor thus far of some of her more usual cases. Vastra spared a look at her katana, laid out upon the center table to be thoroughly reviewed for rust nicks and polished by her dear Jenny. The humans’ winter holiday tended to hold so little in the way of bloodsport. Her patience bore the test of it.
“Here you are, ma’am,” Jenny said, as careful and prim as if a dozen watching eyes were upon them. Vastra quashed a smile, choosing instead to take a sip of her tea. Lady Grey, with the dash of arsenic that gave it such a pleasant spice to the tongue. Jenny was so terribly good to her.
As the girl made to leave, Vastra called her back. “No, my dear, why don’t you sit with me for a time? There is nothing pressing that Marcello cannot see to, and we haven’t guests scheduled until the morrow.”
“But, ma’am, the washing needs doing, and I was to see about the upstairs dusting. You know how it gets when you go on those excursions of yours,” Jenny protested, trying for accusing but failing as the shadow of a smile crested her face.
Vastra tutted. “Oh, none of that, my dear girl. There’s time enough for dusting another day. I would instead care to hear your thoughts on this most intriguing little case I’ve begun; you see, it starts with a goose…”
They whiled away the hour in the engaging, rapid pace Vastra had so rarely found in her human cohorts. When her sisters had died, she believed in truth that she might perish just to be gone with them; never had she imagined that she might find the joy of life in a young, eager girl-maid from Brixton.
As they dissected the finer points of the detection thus far accomplished, Vastra noted with pleasure how animated Jenny became, how she shed the pretense of her employment as more their conversation drew her interest. It wasn’t that Vastra didn’t comprehend social hierarchy; of course she did. Silurians knew who their leader was, after all. It was that she found this one to be entirely superficial and rather silly. Vastra employed Jenny as much for her company as for her attention to detail. She was an excellent hand with a rifle, as well. All these were qualities Vastra valued, and the familiarity between them should not disappear once they were at home and Jenny brought the tea and cleaned the swords.
Try as she might, she could not convince Jenny of this. And so instead she employed a much more subtle game, drawing Jenny away from her duties for such a space of time that she forgot whatever mannerism she’d had ingrained to her and instead addressed Vastra as the equal she of course was.
Of course, whenever Jenny realized the game she immediately retreated into her “yes ma’am,” “no ma’am,” “so very sorry ma’am, shall I stoke this fire rather balefully until you let me return to the dusting, ma’am.”
Really, humans. As infuriating as they were intriguing.
For the moment, however, Vastra had succeeded in drawing her into the thought-work that they both found so very rewarding. Vastra sat down upon her chaise, gesturing for Jenny to join her; to her pleasure, Jenny did with little fuss. A year ago, she couldn’t have convinced Jenny to sit in her presence.
Slowly, as they examined and discarded a dozen separate theories about the discovery of the Countess of Morcar’s stolen jewel in a rather common animal destined for the table, Jenny drew closer, waving her hands before her face as she explained her rather plausible idea.
“And so you should go to Covent Garden, Vastra! You will surely find the purveyor of the poultry there, if you’ll pardon my alliteration,” Jenny said with a fond light in her eye, her formality gone with the pleasure of their discourse.
“Oh, very good, my dear,” Vastra said, taking one of Jenny’s hands into her own. “That is quite exactly what we shall do, tomorrow in the early morning, I think, to take advantage of the bustle. Well done; you are gaining a greater analytical mind with every detection.”
Jenny blushed. “It’s only because of you, ma’am,” she said quietly. “No one ever bothered to ask much of my mind before, except as whether I’d like my tea sweet or not.”
She was pretty when she demurred, but Vastra thought she liked better the streaks of willfulness she saw there, the much-protected spirit Jenny kept beneath pleasantries and obeisance. Clearly she would need to foster it if she were ever to see Jenny grow beyond the bounds of her duties.
Vastra drew Jenny’s hand up to her lips, pressing a kiss to the back of her hand. Such warm skin; Vastra always forgot, as most humans shied away from coming into contact with her apart from her gloved hand. Jenny had no such fear, however; her mouth was slightly open and her heart was beating faster, the slight heave of her chest every indication that Vastra’s display of familiarity affected her.
“I do not mean to offend,” Vastra said carefully, letting their conjoined hands lie between them on the chaise. “I only mean to tell you–I have come to value your service greatly, Jenny, and I would see that you be happy enough to remain with me for as long as we both see fit.”
There was a tense pause, and Vastra hoped she had not judged the situation wrongly; some dozen years in the public company of humans and there were still things she had no hope of understanding.
Then Jenny’s hand tightened on her own, and with a firm voice Jenny said, “No, ma’am. You don’t offend. I just was of the like thought, and I hadn’t thought to hear it from your own lips first.” And there was Jenny’s smile again, small and keen and a well-earned prize.
Vastra felt her own mouth turn in the same fashion, and brought Jenny’s hand up for another chaste kiss, this time lingering but a moment longer. “Excellent, my dear,” she said. “Now, tell me what you know of water fowl.”