He Came For Her
Fandom: Mulberry (1992) Rating: K+ (PG)
Somehow, she wasn't surprised.
She felt she should be, because she could recall each and every time the young man who stood before her—the boy who had blown into her life like a whirlwind, shaking the entire foundation of everything she had come to know with a smile and a bright-colored vest—had looked so somber. It wasn't just his rare 'serious' face, but it was a depressed, slumped expression that did not fit the Mulberry she knew at all.
When she had speculated about this particular instance, she had thought it would come as a shock, or that she would feel resentful (as she often had in the years before Mulberry), maybe even hateful. Seeing him stand before her with a sort of resigned shame—that somehow scared her more than her recent realizations ever could—stopped any words from leaving her mouth and she only stared at him. Normally he would crack under the pressure and break into a smile—she'd seen him pull off both real and fake happiness in similar situations—and come up with something utterly ridiculous to say.
He didn't this time.
He also couldn't seem to meet her eyes.
She couldn't help but run over the recent events in her mind. She remembered getting sick and feeling that it would simply be a cold she would endure and overcome in a few days. Then it had gotten worse. Despite it becoming more and more difficult to endure the pain in her chest that the Doctor had said there was no cure for, she had little trouble remembering the look on each and every face that had entered her room these last few days.
Alice had wrung her hands and tittered about in worry. The lady of the house had found that to be rather endearing and touching. Despite everything, Alice had genuinely worried for her employer and childhood friend.
Bert hadn't come often. He tended to try and escape from what worried him. That was why she had been so surprised when he'd come in with a fresh batch of flowers. She had no idea where he'd gotten them, but the thought counted. He hadn't stayed long, muttering something about how he just thought she might like them to look at and to give her something to look forward to when she got better.
He always had been good at lying to himself.
Jocelyn had stayed over for almost a week. The only one of her family to come and see her, not that she particularly minded. Even in her weakened state it hadn't been difficult to see the worry had gotten to her lovely niece. She'd had bags under her eyes and they had puffed up quite a bit.
A few of her other, newer acquaintances had actually come by to wish her well, but she could tell from the way they moved that they knew the prospect wasn't good. While she had come to be able to appreciate their intentions recently, she still hated the sense of gloom each and every person left in their wake.
The worst had been Mulberry. He'd just watched her with a silent, resigned expression when he thought she wasn't looking. He had actually done that from the moment she'd gotten sick…almost like he'd known…
Then, this morning, she'd woken feeling…different. Better definitely, but in a strange, vague kind of sense that she couldn't really define. Almost in a haze, she'd walked down through the all too silent house and out into the garden. She hadn't known why then. She wasn't sure she knew why now. But then she had simply seen him sitting on the railing to the bridge over the small brook she'd always been so fond of, as if he was waiting for her, and she'd known.
Which was a strange thought because she had no clue what she really knew or how to put a voice to any of the thoughts running around her head.
It took her far too long to realize that she needed answers and she needed them now.
"Mulberry," she said slowly, making sure to not emphasize any part of his name while ensuring that he heard her no-nonsense tone that brooked no argument.
He stiffened under her stare but he still didn't meet her eyes. She left his name hanging in the air between them, willing (reluctantly) to wait for him to either answer her unspoken question or find his guts and look up at her. It was funny, he didn't look any different. Or did he? She wasn't quite sure.
When he did finally speak, his voice was low and soft and carried more pain than she would have thought possible. "Miss Farnaby."
He didn't say anything else, but she didn't back down. If he wanted to play such a ridiculous game then she could oblige. She would get her answers and if anyone thought they could do so much as make her move a muscle before she wanted to than they—even if 'they' was Mulberry—had another thing coming. So she stood calmly on the path outside of the manor she'd lived in her whole life, hands folded neatly in front of her. She didn't take her gaze off of him, partly because it would help get her point across, partly because she did not want to consider any of the other implications at the moment and he gave her something to focus on.
It took far longer than she would have guessed before he finally opened his mouth again, still not looking at her.
"I wish I could say I was sorry."
"Are you?" she asked, tone as hard as stone.
She frowned. "No it isn't. It requires a simple answer and some honesty."
And the look he shot her was well worth antagonizing him. The expression of fond exasperation as he met her gaze square on did more to reassure her than anything else he could have said or done. Despite herself, she relaxed.
Finally he sighed, and she could tell that he wanted to roll his eyes (but she knew he would not do that to her in this situation—at least not openly).
"I'm not supposed to feel sorry."
At that her expression softened. "Since when has being told what you're "supposed" to do stopped you from doing the exact opposite?"
He chuckled and grinned at her. "I may have to give you that."
She sniffed haughtily. "Your intellect could benefit from conceding to me more often."
And there was the spark in his eyes as he stood to protest. "I'll have you know my IQ is plenty high."
"Says the man who wears yellow duck slippers and likes to force puzzle pieces into places they don't fit."
"Genius is never appreciated."
"More like your own special brand of insanity." She mentally congratulated herself for saying it with a straight face. That had become harder and harder to do recently and was especially so now.
He grinned openly at her. "Genius, insanity, I don't see a difference."
"Which is why you would be classified as the latter."
Mulberry let out a laugh, now far more relaxed than he had been. Good. Maybe now she could get her answers.
"Always have to get in the last word."
At that her mirth faded. "But not this time," she didn't say it as a question.
His own smile dimmed and he looked away again. "No."
"You're not dead, are you," she said, again not asking anything but making an observation.
He seemed to think about that for a minute. "I'm not sure I can die. Not like normal people in any case."
"Mulberry, you have never been normal," she pointed out.
Her butler (former butler?) sent her an appreciative if watery smile. "No, I haven't."
She didn't answer for a few minutes, and this time it was her turn to look away. "I see. Is this why you came to after you died?"
The young man seemed to deflate ever so slightly before she saw him nod out of the corner of her eye. She almost felt betrayed that he hadn't told her something like this…but then, what exactly was this? She still wasn't completely sure. Was he? Was that why he hadn't even hinted? Would she have believed anything he'd said? Doubtful, but still…
They sat in a tense silence for several seconds before she gave in and walked over to sit next to him on the edge of the stone bridge. She tried not to notice how the wind didn't seem to touch her while it ruffled his clothing and hair; how nothing moved when she brushed past (definitely not through, no matter what he eyes told her) it. Was she even touching the ground? Could she touch anything in this state?
"Who are you?" she asked finally, unable to raise her voice.
"Well," he said in the tone she knew all too well, one that practically screamed that he would do anything he could to lighten the mood. She didn't want that right now, so she cut him off.
"No," she said earnestly, looking up at him. "Please, just tell me the truth. No jokes, no lies, no misdirections…just this once."
He studied her with an unreadable expression for several seconds before he nodded and sighed again.
"You won't believe me."
She wanted to snort. "Under the circumstances I believe my mind may be a little more open than you think."
The small smile that touched his lips held only sadness. She didn't realize he had so many different smiles.
"Would you believe I'm the son of Death and Springtime?"
She blinked at him for several seconds. Death and Springtime? Like Hades and Persephone? Was he some sort of god or demi-god? She'd never been particularly religious, and she had never given the Greek myths to have any sort of credibility. They were just that: myths.
So she shot a glance at him, hoping she didn't look as perplexed and unhinged as she felt and said: "No."
"See," he said, more triumphantly than anyone should. "I told you you wouldn't believe me."
"Are you really?" The fact that she was actually giving him a chance to continue along this line probably showed just how shaken she was.
"Yes," he said, a note of gratefulness in his voice. "I'm learning to take over from my dad."
She hesitated. "You don't sound too happy about that."
He shrugged. "Don't have much of a choice."
"So you were sent to kill me?"
"No!" he said immediately, on guard and defensive suddenly. "Taking someone is not the same as killing them."
It took her a minute to mull that over, but she supposed she could see that. Besides, she hadn't meant to offend him. He mistook her quiet for rejection because he explained quickly.
"I'm still a little new at this," he said defensively.
"I couldn't tell," she couldn't help but snark.
He shot her a dry look. "I was sent to prepare you for death. I'm not a hit man…or so my father keeps telling me." He sounded entirely too bitter for her liking. It was the first time she'd ever heard him speak with that tone. He had always seemed so understanding before, no matter what anyone else had said. Even Adele to some extent.
"I was assigned to take you."
And that hurt more than it probably should.
"Oh, I see. So I am just an assignment."
He actually rolled his eyes at her! Why the little scamp! How dare he?!
"If I didn't care, I wouldn't have gotten you three extra months to live. I had to beg my father for that, you know."
She blinked, her irritation softening (as it always did around him…how did he do that?!).
He looked away, this time out of embarrassment. "Of course."
She blinked again several times, shocked. "Why?" she finally asked, her voice soft and confused. The expression he had when he looked at her next had a great deal of both pride and pity in it.
"You were so unhappy. I…guess I couldn't stand to see someone like you die before you'd lived."
It was her turn to be exasperated. "Mulberry, I am 64* years old. That is quite a respectable life."
He shook his head. "The first time I walked into Farnaby Manor, I saw you cooped in your own reclusive corner of England so angry at the world. I hated seeing someone as strong as you reduced to that. That wasn't living," he said quietly. Part of her was offended, but most of her knew him well enough to take the compliment for what it was.
"I'm not strong," she said finally.
"Yes, you are."
She frowned and shot a glare in his direction. "No, I'm not. If I were I wouldn't have gotten into that state to begin with."
"You wouldn't have gotten out of it in less than three months if you weren't."
And for once, she had nothing to say to that, because he had a point. She didn't feel strong, not like Adele or confident like Elizabeth, but perhaps…
Finally she said the only thing she could have.
He seemed surprised, but a warm smile crossed his face when he looked over at her again.
The silence they shared after that was far more comfortable and companionable than their previous breaks in conversation. After a few moments, he took a deep breath and clapped his hands once, rubbing them together to hide his nervousness as he spoke.
"Well, it's time to get going, I think."
And that was the first time the situation really struck home. She was leaving…for good. She wouldn't see anything from her life again. A jolt of fear shot through her and she looked around for the first time since 'waking up' like this.
It really was such a lovely garden.
"Mulberry, what about Bert and Alice?"
He looked torn between exasperation and a warm fondness. "They'll be fine."
"And my sisters? What about them?"
This time, he frowned. "They'll both live for a while yet." He didn't sound too happy about that, but then again he and Adele had never really gotten along. She feared that that animosity had translated to her younger sister as well. Poor Elizabeth.
"Good," was all she could say as she nodded. She may not have gotten along with her sisters, but she still loved them and wished them the best.
"And me?" She hadn't realized she'd asked anything until it slipped out.
When he answered, his voice was so warm and welcoming that she couldn't help but let it allay her fears somewhat, no matter how she wanted to hold onto them. They were all she had left, after all.
"You will move on. Someone who cares for you came for you. The stable boy who wanted to move up from mucking out horses."
She snickered despite herself. "You mucked out my stable rather thoroughly," she commented with a fond shake of her head.
"No," he replied almost immediately. "You did that on your own."
"What happens now?" she asked, returning to her original question. She'd never really allowed him to side track her before and she wasn't about to start letting him now.
"Now you find happiness," he said in the most confident, peaceful voice she thought she'd ever heard from anyone.
"Happiness?" she found herself repeating.
He raised an eyebrow. "It's not exactly a foreign concept, you know." And how did he say that without a touch of sarcasm?
"Perhaps not to you," she retorted, mostly out of habit.
The look on his face resembled that of a kicked puppy. "Not even after I came?"
She shot him a dry glare. "Mulberry, my happiness is not dependent upon your presence."
And in true Mulberry fashion, he grinned. "Good," he said and turned to face her like a proper gentleman, holding his hand out for her and bowing ever so slightly at the waist.
"Miss Farnaby," he said in that terribly theatrical voice of his, "would you do me the honor of allowing me to accompany you on your next journey?"
She looked at his hand for a few moments, realizing just what taking the proffered appendage would entail. Then after a moment, she felt a smile come to her face.
"Of course, Mulberry. I wouldn't want it any other way."
He seemed to close his eyes at her words, and she didn't mention the single tear trailing down his cheek.
"Thank you," she whispered.
And then, Miss Rose Farnaby, the late lady of Farnaby Manor, took his hand and allowed him to lead her to…well, she didn't know, but she was alright with that. He had never given her a real reason to not trust him.
Jocelyn knocked on the door to her aunt's room and entered with a soft call only to see Mulberry standing over her bed and looking down at the figure lying on it with far more peace than she'd seen on his face since she'd arrived.
It was a little out of the ordinary, and as such, it unnerved her.
"Mulberry?" she asked slowly, taking a hesitant step forward.
He turned to look at her and her heart stopped. He had tears running down his face. And yet, the smile he shot her was nothing short of genuine. She felt tears come to her own eyes and turned to gaze at the still form on the bed.
"It's happened, hasn't it," she said, her voice choked.
Mulberry nodded. "Just barely."
The young woman couldn't help it. She broke down, sobbing. Her aunt, who had always been so kind and accepting of her, who had always enjoyed her company for the sake of enjoying company, was dead.
Jocelyn expected her Aunt's favorite servant to give some sort of consoling words about how Aunt Rose was at peace now, and how she was out of pain or some other such platitude, but he didn't. To her surprise, she felt his arms come around her, and while it still felt awkward, she took what comfort she could get and cried into his chest.
They stood there for what felt like years and moments at the same time. She had no idea how long she just leaned on him, but eventually her sobs slowed and she felt strong enough to take a step back.
"Aunt Rose," she said softly, "I hope you find happiness."
"She has," Mulberry said, his voice so full of certainty that it almost didn't even cross her mind to question him. When that little voice in the back of her mind did speak up, she brushed it aside almost immediately and only nodded.
"I'll go tell Bert and Alice," he said after a few moments, his words soft and respectful of her loss.
She nodded and watched him go. When he left, she turned to the bed and felt her eyes well up again. Her aunt really did look so peaceful, just lying there, like she really could find happiness or had already. It was a minor miracle, in all actuality. She remembered how the woman had gone from being somewhat wary of the world to being an outright cynic who couldn't seem to look at anything without the distrust in her eyes.
But that had changed recently…after Mulberry.
She walked over and lowered herself into the chair by the bed as she reached over and took the still warm hand into her own and held it. She'd never been particularly religious, but she couldn't help but say a prayer for her favorite family member. It was a heart-felt wish of gratitude that someone had been there for her Aunt Rose during the end of her life—that someone had been sent to help her before she died.
It was a minor miracle, and she couldn't be more thankful for it.
She sat there until the medics came to take the body away. Losing her aunt hurt, but she didn't feel the drowning despair she'd thought would take her. No, she felt like she could come to grips with this and that she would eventually heal.
And that was a minor miracle too.
AN: I don't know if I'm completely happy with this. There were parts that I really felt came out well, but I never could quite grasp the interaction between Mulberry and Miss Farnaby.
For those of you who have no idea what this is about, there was a short British Comedy called Mulberry they did in 1992. It was never really finished, and so I thought I would finish it. Don't think I did as good of a job as they would have, but eh.
I will say that this is probably my favorite British series, or at least one of them. :)