Thanks again for all the comments/reviews/follows. It's been a pleasure writing this. I'm just about to go away for a week and a half so I busted a gut to get the final chapter out for you all!
This last one is mainly the form of a conversation between the two of them after Trenzalore - in the present time (as in no longer recollecting). I wanted this fic to be a nice little mix-up.
This one is done for now, but hopefully we will see more of these two in the future :)
I speak, more to myself, as I trace a finger down her sternum, wondering the exact location where that fallible heart of hers lies, beating rhythmically.
She stirs, half in slumber, half attending to me.
"What you 'arping on about now?" she grumbles, in a fashion that tells me I have woken her up, but in a manner that means she does not particularly begrudge me for it.
"Just the mechanism by which you were almost eradicated…" I spread my palm fully to lie across her bare chest, "Thankfully a relatively simple thing to reverse"
She smiles knowingly, picks up my hand, and kisses the back of it firmly.
"You think too much" she declares, correctly. Jenny opens her eyes slightly to peer at me suspiciously, "How long have you bin watchin' me?"
I can feel my scales flush a darker green at being caught out; clearly the Great Detective did not make much of a criminal. She sighs, my silence being a more damning confession than anything I could have audibly uttered.
"I know you ain't right love, even if you pretend you are"
She was right, again. Since the ordeal at Trenzalore two weeks ago we had talked almost endlessly about it: in the dead of night when she woke with a start, in the middle of the day when she would break down crying without cause, even walking down the street when I could feel her tremble through the arm that linked through mine.
But it had always been about her.
I knew more about all the awful things that had happened to her than I ever cared to know, and the more she told me, the worse I felt. "Somewhere between an echo and complete death" is a phrase that sticks rather persistently in my mind; that is how she described the feeling of her disappearance after the Doctor's timeline was tampered with. It is so confusing to her that she struggles to adequately describe it beyond that, in fact, over the past couple of days, she has more or less given up trying to. Consequently, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that it may have been me who held her in this strange existential purgatory through my refusal to bend to the whim of reality. It is a thought which terrifies me.
Because of this, in the first few days I had ended up defaulting to a rather unhealthy pattern of behaviour whereby I would wait till she was out of the house, or engaged in some house task, or once where I even crept out in the middle of the night, and I would scream, raging at my own weakness and my own insecurity. The problem was I could barely look at her anymore. If I did, all I could see was every little danger that surrounded her daily. At first it had been so bad that I hadn't wanted to leave her side, but I knew instinctively that Jenny would never abide this, so for a while I had inadvertently started avoiding her. This had only convinced her that I was being angry at her for something, which was the opposite effect of what I had intended, so now I had compromised and taken to watching her in agonising silence. I still am too frightened to turn my back on her in case she isn't there when I turn back.
How to explain this all to her without sounding overprotective and weak, and like I wanted to cage her like some vulnerable animal, however, was another challenge.
"It was all dealt with…" I swallow, just about maintaining my composure on a knife edge, "Easy, really, medically explained," (my voice is unnaturally jovial) "No need to have panicked, no need to even think about it anymore, foolish reptile that I am!"
I am now talking far quicker than usual and accelerating with every word.
"You're right; thinking too much, that was it! I mean for goodness' sake it was just a heartbeat! I-"
She removes her hand from mine and places one finger over my lips.
"I could believe that," she speaks, deliberately, "If that is all that 'appened"
Her gaze bores through me stronger than any tunnelling shield could have, and I have to turn away as tears begin to well tellingly.
"My 'eart didn't just stop beating Vastra. That's just the only part you can understand."
I shiver as the first tear runs a chilled track down the side of my face.
"You can't control everything love-"
"I can!" I retaliate, too defensively. I'd make an atrocious poker player. I feel a hand gently outline my chin and coax it back round so I am facing her again. She is smiling sadly; no threat of retribution for me lashing out to be found anywhere in her expression.
"Talk to me." She commands quietly, kindly, "What happened when…" her voice breaks temporarily and I feel the shards of the statement she is about to say prickle my skin, "When our history…changed"
That was the savoury way of putting it, I suppose.
"You mean when you were erased from time." I whisper, matter-of-factually. Until this point I had been too terrified to say it for fear that the act of voicing it would cement its place as a reality. After all, when it had actually happened I had refused to accept it.
Jenny flinches, and almost instantly I can taste her sympathetic nervous engaging reactively at the mention of what had happened. Her eyes dilate, wide-eyed as a stalked animal. I feel a pang of guilt for being so blunt, but there was no other way for me to face this (if I was going to at all) except straightforward honesty.
"I…" she shifts subtly closer as I speak, which calms me, I continue, "I started to have trouble remembering things."
"But you told me, on the day, that you didn't forget me." She frowns, confused.
"I didn't." I correct myself hastily, "I fought it – the change in my past. I refused to accept it."
"What?!" she breathes, in horrified fascination.
I eye her frantically, as my pulse rate speeds up at the recollection.
"It was like a chisel…" my voice breaks, the speech becomes patchy, "Like a chisel on stone…chipping pieces away." I realise just how distant I sound and clear my throat, "Jenny..." I place a hand over hers, almost to check if she is still there, "You didn't exist." I baulk, and then regain my composure, "Nothing we ever did together had happened."
"What do you mean?" she returns the pressure on my hand, her voice is still remarkably patient and soft, "Vastra 'ow could we 'ave even b'in there if those things didn't 'appen?"
"It was a paradox…" I start.
"Exactly!" she grabs my hand with her other as well and turns to face me head on, "If it was so clear-cut, so inevitable, then how were you able to defy it?!"
"But I may have caused you more suffering by aggravating the contradiction!"
"I don't care." She says, firmer now, "I'm proud of you."
I shouldn't be so surprised to hear her say that, but I had still expected at least a remnant of resentment from her.
"But, in that reality…Jenny I never saved you!" I almost shake her slightly, so fervent my speech becomes, "I walked on by!"
"And you know that 'ow?!" Jenny shoots back, "Vastra, for all you know I might have run away from you, or never come within a mile of you, or maybe you never even came across me!"
"But what are the chances of that?! Maybe I attacked you Jenny, for all we know!"
"Maybe!" she grips my hand tighter, "For God's sake we could spend all day thinking up different endings and not one of them may be correct!"
She lets go of my hand and puts her own to my face. My heart flutters at how gentle her touch is despite the heat of our conversation.
"The truth is…I don't remember what happened. Unlike you, when I came back….I let myself forget it."
I digest the implications of this statement from her, for a moment.
"You mean when you came back… you knew-"
"It was like a dream" she speaks, "I knew what 'appened just as I came back, but then I felt it deliberately fading…and I just let it go. Some things aren't with saving."
So I would never know. Perhaps it made her stronger that she had the will to drop the incident and move on rather than ruminate endlessly like myself.
I think back to the quote from C. S. Lewis's book, and all the futility of rooting through a past which existed only in my imagination. Jenny was correct (for the third time today), the possibilities were endless. It had been my own paranoia which had assumed her death was somehow directly linked to my own history, but what had my history been? Who knows where I may have been that night in that alternative life?
"Vastra, dear," she kisses me on the forehead, "You didn't abandon me when I didn't exist. I don't know what more you think you could have done."
Despite myself, I feel my eyes well up. I hate crying, even in front of her.
"I didn't like who I was before I met you." I state, somewhat meekly.
"Then let's be glad you did." She subtly wipes an escaped tear with the corner of her thumb, "Even when technically you didn't." She smiles at the preposterous nature of the sentence, but still, it is a salient point; the old Vastra would never have got so emotional over the absence of a human, so in order for me to feel like that when she was taken back in Trenzalore, she still had to have been part of my life. It was so painfully contrary to reason that just trying to unravel it was too much, even for me.
"If anything happened to you again Jenny, it would break me."
"Well then…" her smile had turned mischievous, "Best keep a very close eye on me then…" she winks and wraps her arms around me, the warmth of her mammal body is almost overwhelmingly pleasurable against my scales.
"I love you" I whisper, laying my arms over the top of hers.
"I love you too…soft old thing" I feel the muscles of her face smirk against my neck.
We lie there, and part of my wishes it could stay like this; just the two of us, safe, together. But the other, overriding part of me knows that the main reason we are so well-suited to each other is that, deep down, neither us would be happy settling for a mundane, protected life. I would have to accept that she would be in danger, because the reason I adore her is that she gravitates towards it as much as I do. God knows she isn't made of porcelain, and after Trenzalore I know that it as much that I want to protect her, that I need her to protect me from myself. If anything, when you strip down the physical side, I am the more vulnerable one. But I'll be damned if I ever admit that to her.
I close my eyes, and hold on.
Jenny Flint. You are anything but simple to me.
She is nothing special, I said.
But yet she has the power
To do all these things to me.
She is only a product of her history,
Even as she sleeps.