It’s the night of John and Sherlock’s wedding party that it happens.
Martha nearly cannot believe it.
From across the room, she sees her. Or she thinks she does. She stares hard—her eyes aren’t getting better with age—and her throat tightens. The curve of those shoulders; the colour of that hair. Naturally aged, a brighter, lighter blonde once, but still long. A jaw much softer than she remembers, but those shoulders…
She shakes her head and glares down at the glass in her hand. It’s her third of the night. Not too much yet, usually she can take more, but then again she never has those… vivid daydreams, or whatever is going on right now. She frowns at herself, frustrated with her sentimentality—another thing not getting better with age—and turns to avert her gaze and find a table she can put the glass on. It’s her last for tonight, she decides.
Just in that moment, Sherlock rushes past her, towards his brother. He spares her a glance, a quick flick of his eyes up and down, lingering on her glass. Then he says with a smirk, “Not the alcohol,” and has the audacity to wink at her before he dashes off. Martha has a sudden compulsion to throw the glass after him.
She swallows. Her mouth is suddenly dry. Her fingers tighten around the glass.
And then she straightens her back and walks towards her. If there ever was something Martha Hudson was not, it was a coward.
Margaret is as lovely as she remembers. Older, of course, but she aged with dignity. Her face is still composed of that subtle majesty that had captivated Martha so utterly, once.
Martha’s chest clenches. Maybe not once, then.
She waits, stomach roiling, chest tight, until Margaret finishes her conversation with whom Martha knows as Mike Stamford. Margaret, sensing another person nearby, turns half towards her and inclines her head. Her eyes sweep over Martha, once, and get stuck on her face. Her mouth opens, but she doesn’t speak, just frowns.
She doesn’t seem to recognise Martha, or whatever she recognises is not enough to fill the picture.
It’s almost enough to make Martha turn around and really throw that glass at Sherlock—wedding party or not—but she doesn’t want this situation to turn awkward. She gives Margaret a vague smile and turns to Mike Stamford instead. “Lovely to have you here, Mr Stamford,” she says, “I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to try the cake, it’s quite good.”
If Margaret hadn’t been there she would have added, I made it, but she’s too nervous as it is. So she just tips her head politely in a goodbye and makes to leave—
but Stamford stops her. “Don’t you leave already!” He pulls her back gently by the forearm and smiles widely at her. “You can’t leave this lady alone when I’m off to have cake.”
Martha clears her throat, gesturing to Margaret. “Oh, I’m sure—”
“Nonsense,” Stamford cuts her off, kindly. “Can’t let a recommendation go to waste. Not one so tasty! Lady Smallwood.” He smiles at Margaret now, eyes twinkling oddly behind his glasses. “I’ve the pleasure to introduce Mr Holmes and Mr Watson’s landlady to you. She’s put up with them all those years. This is Mrs Martha Hudson.”
With that, he leaves in search of the cake.
Martha is frozen to the spot, staring down at her glass. Her fingers are trembling around it, her hold tight, white-knuckled. There is a silence. She can’t find it in herself to break it.
“… It’s Elizabeth,” Mar—Elizabeth says eventually. “I’m Lady Elizabeth Smallwood.”
“I know,” Martha says to her glass. There isn’t more to say, really. She can’t seem to form thoughts right now.
At the following silence, Martha chances a glance upward. Elizabeth has her head bowed and is staring down as well—at Martha’s glass. If possible, Martha freezes even more. She flushes all over.
“You… like margaritas?” Elizabeth says quietly.
Martha moves her head in an abortive nod.
Elizabeth stares at her face, and Martha cannot help but stare back. Their eyes lock, and the silence that follows now is comfortable, thick, like honey, wrapping them up. They’re the only ones in the room. Everything else fades away.
God, and Martha once believed she’d never feel like that again in her life.
When Elizabeth says, “… still?” her mouth almost trips over itself in her haste to get the word out. “Always,” she rushes to say, heart pounding in her throat. “I.” She clears her throat. “I never stopped.”
She says this all while looking into Elizabeth’s eyes.
Very slowly, Elizabeth’s face transforms. The corners of her mouth pull up, making the crinkles on the sides of her eyes stand out more. It’s like the sun peeking out from behind a cloud.
Just as slowly, she reaches out with her hand. The tips of her fingers brush the back of Martha’s hand.
And when she says, “Me too,” she is Margaret again.
Neither of them leaves the wedding alone.