The day after Lady Nassington's ball, Mary Morstan was in the small salon of their house, with the curtains drawn. She was laid out on the chaise, a cool cloth across her forehead and a shawl over her feet, while a viniagrette was clutched in one hand. The household staff tiptoed past the closed door, careful not to disturb the occupant.
The reason for this lay in the contretemps she had had over the morning teacups with her grandfather, while her mother looked on in distress. General Morstan was very irate over Mrs. Morstan's report of the previous evening's events, ripping up at Mary for her behaviour. The way she had swung between staring is obvious distress at the Earl of Saughton and his husband, and then flirting outrageously with her bevy of admirers, was certain to draw attention from the scandal-mongers, he had pointed out. He had thundered at her, pointing out the folly of such acts, particularly being seen to moon over a man who was no longer free. Mary, who had spent a short but sleepless night thinking about John Watson and shedding tears into her pillow, was in no mood to be scolded. She was also of the same strong fibre of her grandfather, so she fired back at him just as fiercely, while her mother cowered in her chair, hands over her ears.
The upshot of this confrontation was that the General stormed out of the house for his club while Mrs Morstan - convinced that Mary must be on the edge of hysterical collapse - saw her established in the small salon before taking to her bed with a dose of laudanum. Mary was not hysterical, however. She was angry and impotently raging at the lack of a proper target for that anger.
There was, therefore, none of the family for the maid to appeal to when a tall and handsome young gentleman turned up on the doorstep and presented his card, asking to be shown into the young lady's presence. The maid had recognized the name on the card, of course - the Viscount Saughton, Consort to the Earl of Saughton, had been the subject of part of that morning's scene. She hesitated, and while she did Sherlock thrust his hat at her.
"Don't bother, I'll show myself in. The small salon?" Sherlock strode across the foyer towards the one closed door and opened it, then closed it behind him.
"We must talk," he said without waiting for Mary to speak first.
Mary sat up so abruptly that the cloth fell into her lap and she gaped at Sherlock in disbelief. "You! I told the maid to tell you that I wasn't at home!"
"A stupid thing to do as it was obvious that you were home," Sherlock said, unperturbed. "Your cloak is hanging on the peg."
"It's meant to be a polite fiction," she snapped. "Anyone with a bit of sensibility or manners would understand the meaning!"
"Well, I have neither, as John could tell you," Sherlock said, tossing his coat onto a chair before taking the seat nearest the sofa. "He quite despairs of me at times."
Mary stared at him and then, quite unexpectedly, the humour of the situation struck her. She began to laugh, helplessly and infectiously, until Sherlock's lips were twitching, too.
"I like you," Mary said to Sherlock, drying her mirthful tears with her handkerchief. "God knows why, for you are possibly the most irritating man I've ever met. And you stole John from me."
"You know that is not true," Sherlock said, leaning back in his chair as he crossed his legs. "My brother made the match, long after your tentative betrothal was broken."
"You could have refused!"
"Why?" Sherlock asked, point-blank. "You could not marry him since you could not give him a fortune or an heir."
Mary went crimson. "Lord Sherlock!"
"What's the point in tying the truth up in clean linen? I have a fortune that I don't want, and John was going to have to sell everything."
"Better that than sell himself," Mary said bitterly.
Sherlock frowned at that. "You don't think very highly of him if you can say that."
"There was a time when he would have scorned a fortune, when he was content to live on love."
"There was a time when he didn't have a hundred dependents, counting on him for their livelihood. Would you have him abandon them?" Sherlock asked. "You don't know him very well if you think he could do that."
Mary was silent for a long moment, shredding the handkerchief in her hand. "I would have made him happy," she said lowly. "I know that I would have. It's me he loves, not you."
"Quite possibly," Sherlock said with no sign of distress. "However, I can give him an heir. Love wasn't part of the bargain."
"A bargain!" she scoffed. "You are the mercenary one, then, selling yourself for a title!"
"I have no desire for a title," Sherlock said frankly. "I find all this Society nonsense boring, and it interferes with the Work. I do need an assistant, and John serves admirably in that capacity. I can make him happy, in a different way."
"Your cases," she said scathingly.
"Yes. He didn't choose between you and me, Miss Morstan. He chose between me and ruin. Now it is up to both of us to make certain he doesn't regret it."
Mary stared at him in disbelief. "Both of us?"
"Well, it won't serve if everyone knows he's happy solving cases with me while you're looking miserable in public. Everyone will think that he treated you shabbily, and that he doesn't care about anyone but himself."
"Well, you won't have to worry about that," Mary said bitterly. "Grandfather said he's going to send me back to Scotland."
"And what will he do when we return to Scotland in the fall?" Sherlock asked impatiently. "He can't keep moving you all over the globe, just to keep you from seeing John! That won't serve at all. Really, is all the world made of idiots?"
"Then what do you suggest?" she asked, throwing her hands up in exasperation.
"Confound all the gossips. Behave as if you couldn't care less if John was at the same assembly as you or not. Or, better still, come to dinner at our house."
"Dinner? You are mad."
"No, it's the perfect solution. If it is known that you and your mother have been to dine with us, and then we are seen to attend an event together, such as the theatre, that will put the tabbies on their ears. Oh, and if you could manage to faint at an event where John isn't in attendance, that will quiet the ones who started talking at Lady Dalmahoy's party."
"You are horrible," protested Mary, between disbelief and laughter. "I couldn't possibly."
"I think you could do anything if you set your mind to it," Sherlock said, rising from the chair and taking up his coat. He showed himself out of the room with as little ceremony as he entered, leaving Mary to ponder over his words in private.
"You, Lord Sherlock, are not what I expected," she said softly. "But I think that I could like you, in time."
Sherlock confronts Mary regarding their agreement. Mary is not pleased.
This takes place following Chapter 38 of Watson's Folly.
Mary Morstan sat down at a little table in her favourite tea shop off of Bond Street, stowing her various parcels on one of the spare chairs, and sighed in relief. It was her last day in London before her grandfather removed the family to Bath for the winter, so that he could take the waters, and she had spent the day carrying out the various errands necessary before their departure. Relieved as she was not to be spending the chill winter months in Scotland at the house they'd leased the previous year, Mary was reluctant to leave London society for the milder amusements of Bath. The only bright spot was that she wouldn't be forced to watch Lord Sherlock being paraded about on the arm of his husband, John Watson, or to hear all of her friends and acquaintances exclaiming over the stories of their adventures. At least in Bath she'd be far, far away from them both.
"What did you say to John?"
Startled, Mary looked up just as the source of her current displeasure settled into the chair across from her. Lord Sherlock was wearing a stylishly tailored great coat against the November chill, open to display a sapphire-blue coat of superfine and black trousers. He had abandoned the customary buttoned waistcoat for the kind favoured by pregnant Omegas, ones that loosely laced up the side, fairly flaunting his condition. Her lips tightened.
"I don't recall inviting you to sit down."
"I don't recall asking," Sherlock replied. He glanced up as the waitress arrived. "Two hot chocolates and an assortment of marzipan." Once the girl had left, he turned his attention back to Mary, saying in a quick, low tone of voice, "John was fine yesterday until you two were left alone, and then he was not fine. He was unhappy. You said something to him, something that upset him." He paused and added, "I thought we had an agreement."
Mary wondered if she was imagining the hint of betrayal in his voice, and her own hurt feelings flared up. "I wasn't expecting that," she said, gesturing towards the swell of his abdomen.
"Either was I," Sherlock retorted. "Well, at least not yet."
Somehow this admission caught Mary off-guard and she stared at him, open-mouthed.
"You had to expect it some time, though," Sherlock continued. "It is, after all, one of the two reasons for John's marriage to me instead of you."
Her temper flared. "I asked him to run away with me. You are quite probably carrying his heir, securing his line and his estate. I don't care about either, and neither did John, before."
"He refused. You've won," she said bitterly.
Sherlock frowned at her. "Did you really expect that he'd do otherwise? Do you have no idea how honourable he is?"
Mary looked down at her hands, clenched in her lap. "There are more important things than honour."
"Not to men like John Watson."
They were both silent for a long moment, during which the waitress returned with their chocolate and sweets.
Mary watched Sherlock hunt among the marzipan, selecting one and eating it with small,quick bites. "Is John still upset?"
"I managed to distract him," Sherlock said. Mary coloured up at this and he scowled at her. "Not like that. However, there must be no more upsetting of John in this fashion."
"You have nothing more to fear on that account," Mary said, bitterness again in her voice. "We are leaving for Bath in the morning, to remain there until next Spring."
Sherlock nodded. "That is undoubtedly for the best. Perhaps when you return it will be possible for the two of you to take up your friendship again. You must not spoil it, however, with romantic overtures that John will feel obligated to rebuff, for both your sakes."
Sherlock finished his chocolate and, after devouring another piece of marzipan, left a coin in payment and rose from the table. Mary watched him make his way out of the shop, his coat swinging dramatically about him.
"Unless you're no longer in the picture," she said softly, then collected her parcels and left the shop.
Later that evening, Mary took her writing-case out of her open trunk and sat down at the little desk in her room. Carefully, she dipped the pen into the inkwell and put the point to paper.
In regard to the Matter that you mentioned briefly at our last Meeting,
I would be interested to discuss it further.
You will find me in residence at Sydney Place, Bath, all this Winter.
After Magnussen and Moriarty, Mary wonders what kind of future she has. Fortunately for her, Mycroft has an interesting proposition to make
This follows the events of Chapter 54 of Watson's Folly. It contains spoilers, so don't read this if you haven't read that one first.
Mary Morstan let herself out the front door of 221B Baker Street. She paused on the doorstep to search the pocket of her jacket for a handkerchief, cursing herself for her decision to not bring a reticule to Magnussen's house.
"Please, take mine."
Mary looked up, startled, and recognized the man standing before her. She cursed herself again for not taking the back door instead.
"It would have been to no avail; my assistant is at the back door."
Defiantly, Mary took the handkerchief and wiped her eyes, then blew her nose. "I suppose I should have expected you."
"It does seem careless of you to not consider that possibility," Mycroft agreed. "You are without transport. Allow me to escort you home."
He waved his hand and a carriage appeared from around the corner. A footman jumped down to unfold the stairs and open the door for them.
Mary looked at Mycroft suspiciously. "Why?"
"I wish to speak to you about a unique opportunity, and I would prefer not to do so on my brother's doorstep."
"If I say 'no', will I disappear without a trace?"
"Not at my hands, I assure you. I would not give you the same assurance in regard to your current employer, however." He paused. "Although if he were to take you, it is more than likely that your body would appear, eventually, as a lesson to others."
Acknowledging the truth of this, Mary accepted assistance to step up into the carriage. Mycroft settled beside her and rapped his umbrella against the roof of the carriage.
"However, if you had shot my brother earlier, no place on earth would have been a safe haven for you," he added. "May I see the document?"
Mary silently withdrew the family register from her sleeve and handed it to him. He unfolded it and read it, then raised an eyebrow.
"Interesting. It was a possibility that my people had not considered. Lord Moriarty is more cunning than we had thought."
"You would do well not to underestimate him," Mary said quietly. She leaned her head back against the cushioned seat, suddenly weary, and closed her eyes. "So what happens to me now?"
Mycroft folded the document and tucked it into his pocket. "Miss Morstan, I would like to offer you a position as a foreign agent in His Majesty's service."
Her eyes flew open and she stared at him, open-mouthed in surprise. "What?"
"You are clever and resourceful, you remained cool in a fraught situation, and you are a remarkably skilled marksman," he replied. "The Home Office could use someone with your skills. Europe is at a fragile state presently. France, Portugal, Greece - we are keeping an eye on events in those areas, as well as the German states and Russia. We have sent Alphas in the past, but there is a certain aggressiveness that we cannot entirely help, and which is detrimental to diplomacy. You would be paid well, provided with a suitable wardrobe, as well as an assistant who has experience with a variety of cultures."
"Why should I take your offer?" she asked bluntly.
"As I have said, you have unique skills that are being wasted here - unless you plan to spend the rest of your life circulating at Society parties until you finally accept the hand of a man who will never have your heart?"
She glared sideways at him.
"Consider it, Miss Morstan. A life of independence and challenge, of travel and purpose."
She had to admit that it was tempting but was it too good to be true? "And what conditions are there? Don't try to tell me that there aren't any, because I won't believe you."
"Only two," Mycroft said in return. "You never return to England, and you never attempt to communicate with John Watson."
She closed her eyes again, resting her head against the cushions again. "You have nothing to fear from me, Mr. Holmes. John made his choice tonight, and your brother has his whole heart." The words were just as bitter being uttered as they were in her thoughts, but somehow the voicing of them helped lance the poison a bit.
And perhaps that's what she should have done at the start: left England, convinced her mother to take a house in Italy or Switzerland with the other expatriates instead of remaining in England where she had to watch John as he learned to be happy with someone else. And he was happy - that was so blindingly clear now. So all that could be done was to leave him to it and attempt to find some happiness for herself.
"Very well," she said. "I accept." She opened her eyes and turned her head to look at Mycroft. "Moriarty will go after my mother."
"Already being relocated to the same house where I am escorting you," Mycroft replied. "Arrangements are being made for new identities and a base of operations in southern Europe, and by the end of the week you will be safely out of England."
Never to return - the words were in both of their minds, as clear as if they'd been spoken.
Two months later, Mary pushed wide the French doors and stepped out onto the verandah, breathing in the sweet perfume of the flowers in her garden and looking out over the sparkling waters of Lake Geneva. In her hand was correspondence from Mr. Holmes, news from England that set her mind at ease and made her anticipate the future.
Behind her, the butler cleared his throat. "Lady Norton to see you, m'lady," he announced.
Mary turned to greet her visitor, her eyes widening in unconscious admiration. Before her stood a Vision, dark hair swept up elegantly although a few curls had been allowed to escape. Her lips were painted a startlingly scarlet, drawing Mary's attention to her mouth which was sweet and inviting as it drew up into a smile. She was dressed as an Alpha, although Mary had the feeling that she was an Omega. The way that her coat and trousers fit told Mary that they'd been tailored for Lady Norton, not casually donned for this visit. Her eyes were bright and there was something a little wicked about the way they swept over Mary. It made Mary feel as if Lady Norton could see through to her unmentionables - and liked what she saw. Mary flushed, feeling a delicious sort of heat in her core.
She stepped forward, her hand outstretched. "Lady Norton? I don't believe we've met."
"No, and the loss is entirely mine," Irene Adler replied, her voice throaty and lush, the voice of a singer. She took Mary's hand and, daringly, raised it to her lips and pressed a kiss to the palm. "I am to accompany you on your first mission," she said. "And we are going to have an absolutely brilliant time together!"