Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.

- Ed Cunningham

She found him only a few minutes away, leaning on a wall. He looked horrible, in an aged beyond his years way. The look that graced his eyes were empty.

There was something in his hand but she couldn't tell what it was, exactly.

She decided it didn't matter at the moment, because the moment he spotted her, he shoved in his his pocket and faced her, his eyes becoming animated and his slumped posture straightening out.

"Why are you following me?" he asked sullenly, crossing his arms.

"I have two very important questions, that I don't think I can ask in front of Jenny and Strax, seeing as you won't let them think anything other than what you want them to," she replied curtly, closing in the distance between them.

The Doctor frowned, and stepped forward to her. "I'm not going to answer them. I have legitimate reasons for trying to keep you three away."

"You don't have to answer," she said, wondering just exactly how he was going to avoid them. "That will not prevent me from asking, though."

"It wouldn't," he agreed, slouching in place, his hands shoved in his pockets.

"The first is relating to when you knocked me down," she said, her eyes narrowing from when he froze, the guilt on his expression for a moment. "If you wanted to avoid us, you wouldn't have stepped out of the TARDIS at all. So where did you go?"

She was careful to phrase that in a way that he wouldn't be able to be vague without giving her some sort of an answer. (Somewhere would admit that he had indeed been somewhere, obviously, and nowhere would be such and obvious lie he wouldn't pass it off.)

"I went to a pharmacy," he claimed, his voice calm. She was surprised by the fact that he seemed to be telling the truth to her. That was never something that one expected from him (who was free to admit that he was a liar, even proud of the fact).

She accepted this answer though, and stepped closer to him again.

"How is your physical well-being?"

He took a step back and muttered, "Fine." Then he glanced at his pocket, where he had hidden his earlier object. So Vastra (noticing such signs of distress and deception) took a step forward, while he was forced to continue to back away like a frightened animal. When he was pressed against the wall (cornered, unable to escape), Vastra reached into his pocket.

"Oi!" he protested as she began fishing in his pocket, "Two things! The first is the phrase 'personal space'. The second is what are you doing in my pocket?"

Vastra ignored him and pulled out a handful of things. The first was his sonic screwdriver, which allowed her to be relieved for a second (for if he did not have it, she would be more concerned than ever before), the second some coins.

The third was some hard candies, which she would have chuckled at (it was so like him to have candy with him), had the last object not been so concerning.

It was a knife, common in the time-period. However, the Doctor didn't like weapons; so why did he have a knife?

She took a step back, not giving him back anything (for he might have left if she returned to him his screwdriver), and stared at the knife. Then she looked at him and tried to read his emotions and thoughts. He was glancing down, in shame, and slightly to the side. He didn't want to meet her eyes, and was avoiding even facing her.

So something was important about the knife.

She remembered when he glanced at his pocket (cluing to her that he was lying when he said he was "fine"), and suddenly she felt a wave of pure fear.

Then she held out her hands, offering his objects back. He glanced at her hands, and took them back, only to find her thumb firmly over the knife.

She pulled her hands back to her sides, and dropped the knife. Then she grabbed his arms.

"Madame!" he said, trying to pull his arms back, "Let me go! What are you doing?"

Vastra then pulled up his sleeve. When his arm was revealed, she gasped in horror.

His arm was full of half-healed cuts and scars (but his kind didn't scar permanently, he had claimed).

"What have you done to yourself?" she demanded. He flinched at her sharp tone, and stopped trying to pull his arm back. Then he regained his wit and challenged her.

"I did exactly what it looks like I did."

She regarded him for a second, looking into his eyes with a form of accusation. "Is that what you were about to do?" she asked.

"It's none of your business," he snapped, pulling back on his arm again. Stubbornly, she refused to let go. "So yes, then?"

He said nothing, and she shook her head. Her friend, the man who had saved her from ignorant tunnel workers and herself and society, the man she owed everything to, had turned something onto himself. Whether it was stress or anger or frustration or sorrow, it didn't matter. "This is unacceptable," she stated, "This is by far the stupidest thing I've ever seen you do."

"And isn't that a reason you should let me go?" he challenged. "I'm acting like an idiot, and since I'm not, I'll come to my 'senses' eventually."

She said nothing, feeling some sort of disappointment flood her veins instead of the anger she felt at first. She turned away from him, her hand still firmly holding his arm, and started walking, dragging a stumbling alien with her.

"Where are you taking me?" he protested. "Back to Paternoster Row."

"What? No!" he yelled, pulling back. However, she tightened her grip on his arm and yanked him forward. "You don't have a choice," she said coldly, while she kept the fast pace of her walk.

He stopped struggling then, and sighed. "I suppose I don't. Can I at least roll my sleeve down?"

"I won't fall for that, Doctor," she claimed, while she squeezed his arm a bit tighter.

"Fall for what? It's bad enough that you and River know. I'm not going to show it to everybody that we pass," he sputtered. She sighed and stopped. He had a point. What sort of dignity or self image must he have had to commit such an atrocity to himself, and what would public humiliation do for him?

So she turned and pulled down his sleeve.

"There. Now it's down," she said, the annoyance in her voice not silent.

Then, she started walking again, going faster than she did.

After a while of walking, Vastra asked, "What did you go into the pharmacy for?"

His step faltered, but then regained its regular pace. He did not answer.

"Most human medication is dangerous for you," she remembered.

"Most can make me sick, but few can kill me," he said.

"Aspirin can kill you," Vastra said, "But aspirin isn't on the markets yet."

"I know. Not until 1898."

"That's nine years from now. So what were you looking for?"

"I was just looking," he claimed.

"I don't believe you," Vastra countered. "If you found something that would kill you, would have bought it?"

"There was nothing there!" he said in annoyance.

"So yes then," she decided. "You were planning on committing suicide."

"Suicide," he said, "is the most utmost and candid apology to the ones I've hurt most."

Her grip on him tightened. "You really believe that, don't you? You believe that you deserve to die."

"What I've been doing to you three is proof enough of that," he muttered.

"You said that you 'inconvenienced' us. You think that's reason enough to kill yourself?" she said in disbelief.

He was silent. Then he said, "I know. It's twisted. I'm sorry."

They were silent until they had nearly arrived to 13 Paternoster Row.

Then the Doctor asked, "Are you going to tell them?"

Vastra chuckled nefariously, "Of course."

"Can you not?"

She then stopped at turned to him. "Why would I?"

He looked her in the eye, and shifted on his feet, "I'll do anything you want. I'll be cooperative, for anything."

"What if I told you not to even consider doing things like self-harm or suicide again?" she asked.

He faltered. "I- I can try."

She looked at him, a flash of sympathy breaking through her face. "You'll come into the house with me, but we won't tell them, ever. Unless you break this agreement. Do we have a deal?"

He nodded, and looked down. "I can try."

She released her grip on his arm, and went behind him, gently nudging him forward. "I understand."