Despite herself, Mary couldn’t help but think of the winter holiday she had spent at the Holmes manor, where she had unknowingly started her lifelong connection to the family. The scene replaying in her head like old film took place after dinner, after she had first met the head of the clan. She and Sherrinford were seated together in a near identical window, speaking of father figures and hugging for the first time.
The situation at hand, while close, had an entirely different feeling. The two of them were free now. From what she understood, Mr. Holmes had passed away. With Magnussen dead, she too no longer had strings tying her to such a life.
Free perhaps was too strong a word, but life, by this point, had been far kinder as of late.
Mary almost chuckled at the normality of her response to the question. “School, actually.” All the same, her lips parted into a smile, and she shrugged. “We were assigned to work together on a project, weren’t we?”
Sherrinford narrowed his eyes at his husband who knew perfectly well how he and Mary met. There had not been a single year where the doctor did not mention Mary -it was usually around Christmas when he did. When Mary laughed, he inwardly shrugged and let it go. It was, after all, nice to reminisce about the lighter parts of their past. Although…he often thought about her comforting him all those years ago in New York. It was the by-product of marrying the man one supposedly assassinated. And, though riddled with guilt and drunken anger, it was a good memory.
"Yes, as cliché as it sounds. We received a ninety-eight for our efforts." He hid his smile behind his glass, "It was Christmas break when we truly became friends. The family was oh-so surprised by your presence."
While John most definitely didn’t watch the rather bombastic host with the same precision as a Holmes, one could argue that he watched the Italian hold his child with an equal intensity. He calmed quite quickly, though. This Giovanni had an almost instant effect on Margot. In just that quick transfer to the man’s arms, the baby’s whole expression was touched with delight. She gurgled and reached up with fleshy fingers, legs kicking.
Mary noticing this, both Watsons beamed with scrunched up their noses at the exact same time. The good doctor had picked up the habit within the first year he knew her. The child was their miracle.
Her mother looked to Sherrinford before nodding to Giovanni, Simon, and then finally bowed to Her Excellency, holding back a snicker. “It’s a pleasure to meet all of you at last.” John hummed in agreement, establishing eye contact with the children, and Mary’s friend especially. “The lounge sounds just fine, I think.”
"Dealing with an international crisis, hmm?" Doctor Watson, with the utmost care, brought Margot back into his arms, and passed his wife her nappy bag.
She, in turn, began following behind Sherrinford with a cheerful lilt to her voice, “It’s usually not his department, no.”
Dinner was a casual affair, prepared by none other than Giovanni, and lacked the normal Homesian stuffiness. The presence of children might have helped with that -Mycroft never allowed them at the, ah, ‘adult table’.
Real conversation took place after dinner when the wine was brought out. The group retreated to the poppy-filled conservatory while the children stared, entranced, at the telly. Simon dutifully watched the sleeping Margot, determined to earn the approval of his father’s best (only?) friend.
Sherrinford seated himself next to Mary in a softly cushioned, grey windowseat -notoriously known as his seat. Giovanni took his red arm chair next to John’s and across from Mary. A light rain pattered against the glass.
"Now," Giovanni began, interrupting Sherri and Mary’s private whispering, "How did you two meet?" He glanced at John who apparently wished to know as well, given the expression on his face.
"I — uh, yeah." Mary could practically hear the bewilderment running through John’s mind, questioning whether or not he was speaking to a Holmes or not. A noticeable pause helped with that. His attempt to break it was rather shaky, and his wife couldn’t help but smirk at his response; "After all the trouble it took to bring her into the world, I should hope so."
She turned to face him, breaking into a real, true smile at the contact, and then pulling him into a legitimate hug. Sherrinford would be cross at her for it, but he also knew it had been too long. He always seemed to her as an elder brother, after all. It was her job to pester him.
Once the two parted, John rubbed the back of his neck and offered to shake hands once more. His posture loosened, marginally, “Pleasure to meet you too. It’s about time we’ve spoken, I should think.”
Giovanni, distracted with the baby (Sherrinford just knew he’d be hearing “But I-ah want another one, Sher!” for weeks after this), gave them all a needed respite from the man’s seemingly incessant chatter. The chatter could be forgiven almost as a reaction to nerves if Sherrinford did not know this was his way of intimidation. It was subconsciously done, of course. Ah well, Margot appeared far more comfortable in his capable arms than in the carrier so perhaps his husband had a use.
Sherrinford prided himself in only slightly tensing when Mary hugged him. He instantly rectified it by wrapping his arms around her in return, briefly, before gracefully de-tangling himself. It’d been a while since anyone beyond Giovanni hugged him. The amusement in her eyes was not lost. He frowned at her, feigning irritation. But he was truly happy.
He shook John’s hand with a gloved one of his own in a perfectly timed shake. “Yes, I agree.” Sherrinford scanned his sharp eyes over John, noticing the carefully ordered suit and pains taken to cloak his insecurities -the obvious effect of being under the gaze of Mycroft. “This is my husband, Giovanni Aldemaro di Compito. Our son, Simon,” He gestured to the previously unseen seven year old who stood at rigid attention with indifferent, but curious, eyes. “And our daughter-“
"Queen Viola Rosa Aldemaro di Compito-Holmes!" The little girl, age three, ran out from behind the corner where she’d been eavesdropping and curtsied. "You may address me as Your Excellency."
"Indeed." Sherrinford said, dryly, "And I am Dr Sherrinford Holmes, at your liberty. Shall we proceed to the lounge? Dinner will be served at seven." He locked eyes with Mary, "And we have much to discuss."
Another Holmes. That’s all Mary’s husband could say when she told him about the man who had always held a constant, reassuring presence throughout her life. After having met all of Sherrinford’s brothers and gotten to know them fairly well (save for Mycroft,) she could understand the response. His meticulous precision in preparing himself for the evening was also understandable. He, of all people, knew of their so-called superpowers. Their x-ray vision wouldn’t make him feel embarrassed this time.
She, on the other hand, didn’t make an effort to hide the new lines upon her face or the grey in her hair. It had been quite awhile since she had seen her friend, and thus wanted to catch him up.
The door opened. The baby watched her world expand from her car seat carrier, half-dosing and half ready to start crying again.
The Watsons hardly had a clue what to expect when the door opened. They could only respond to their host’s enthusiastic ushering with chuckles, thanks, and wide smiles, complying while simultaneously taking in the fine home. That was when Mary finally made eye-contact with Sherrinford.
"Margot’s the little one," John interjected. He lifted the carrier a bit before holding out his hand to the noticeably taller fellow. His smile failed a bit, and his shoulders seemed to tense into an old, military readiness. "John. John Watson."
Giovanni shook his hand with a wry smile on his face, “What regiment? Don’t look surprised! You breathe military, my friend! Ah, well, that is all good and fine, indeed.” He dropped John’s hand in exchange for the little peach’s tiny fingers in the carrier. “Then again, you-ah, have the feel of a doctor. You have a very beautiful daughter, John.”
Sherrinford, eclipsed by the Italian’s ever present exuberance, merely pulled Mary’s attention to him with a small shift of the head. The corners of his lips turned up in seeing his friend, complete with more lines and shadows but nonetheless still resplendent in every way. He himself was going grey around the edges and his glasses held a stronger prescription.
He silently moved closer, placing a hand on her arm in lieu of an embrace. “Mrs Watson,” He said in his flat tone. A hint of amusement tinted his voice but only she would notice. “Dr Watson. It is a pleasure to have you here -and to finally be acquainted with the family of my friend.”
The doctor delivered the invitation with a curt nod. His carefully constructed aloofness perhaps revealed more than had he shown the true flutter of nervousness he held in his chest. He knew she had seen the ring on his finger -the one item he refused to remove no matter what persona he adapted, and therefore must have known he was married.
That he had a family.
Just as he knew she had one. Although, that came about through various conversations and casual observances and what have you. Now, their families would mingle and, not for the first time, the two would further bind themselves as friends.
Outwardly, he was the same monolith of serenity and indifference. Inside…He was nervous for his husband was-
"Ah! You must be the love-a-ly Miss Mary!" The capitals could be heard. He greeted Mary as an old friend, kissing both of her cheeks and taking her coat. Then he gave, what he assumed to be her husband, the same treatment. Giovanni pushed the door wide open with an ambivalent smile. It was somewhere between amused and genuinely pleased. “Come in, come in! Yes, do remove your shoes, si, si good. You understand my husband well. Miss Mary, how are you and-?” He looked towards the shorter man and child beside Mary, his smile ever growing wider.
-loud. Sherrinford sighed.