For some reason I always love the bad guys and Fosco was by far my favourite character. I'm a MarianxFosco fan because I'm sure he loves her on some level -just maybe not as much as he loves himself. Anyway, this is a MarianxFosco fic. Disclaimer: 'Woman in White' is not mine. This follows 'Peace' and 'Lake of Teardrops' but it isn't neccessary to read them.
Someday the past will catch you up
Fosco lay on the sofa, one arm flung carelessly over his eyes, the other sitting quietly on his ample stomach. His mind was running over what had happened the night before, replaying the same section of time over and over again.
It was unbelievable.
It was highly improbable.
Yet it was undeniably true.
He'd had no idea that she'd be there, that she was in fact sleeping in the very same hotel he was. Ah, la belle France. Paris. Maybe it was not such a strange coincidence after all. It was the fashion capital of the world but he still had not suspected she would be there, and not just her but the whole family, including the sister. Fosco shuddered. The sister he'd had incarcerated in order to fulfil Glyde's wishes. The sister she had seduced him for in order to find her whereabouts. That still stung.
The shock had been equal on the part of both sides when they'd locked eyes across the room. She must've spotted him first because it was the staring eyes focused on him that had gotten his attention. He'd glanced at the owner and the wine glass had frozen halfway to his lips. Her face had gotten his attention. Her face had gone white, her eyes wide, her lips thin with shock…and despite everything he'd still managed to take into account that she looked otherwise well and eyed her tempting frame scandalously. She must have noticed because her pale face had gone red with a blush.
The odds had been insane. They were in the lounge of the hotel. It was full of people and she'd still spotted him. It appeared though that the Drawing Master and sister had not because her next move was to promptly guide them subtly as far away from him as possible, procuring the effect that neither had glanced in his direction. Fosco smiled to himself and wondered if the little blonde, rosy cheeked girl of no more than five years had had anything to do with her excuse for the rapid departure.
Fosco removed his arm and cast his eyes over the luxuriously furnished morning room, draped in reds and golds. The room was all tables and soft chairs, perfect for socialising, but it was still too early an hour for there to be other occupants. Even he would not have been there if not for…his fist tightened on the sheet of paper, crumpling it further. She wanted a meeting so he'd give her one, though why he hadn't a clue. Truth was he'd accepted because he wanted to see her again. Though he had not pined for her as he had left the country there had always remained the residue pang of regret that she'd refused to accompany him. Usually it was well buried. He was the same jovial Fosco as always. Nor did he spend whole days thinking about her. In the last five or six years he had gone for months on end without her image ever entering his head…but then it would materialise, in a dream, a resemblance, a name, and with it would come such bitter sweetness that he'd suppress it and throw himself into flamboyance and frivolity till she'd long been replaced.
Occasionally, though only occasionally, he'd allowed himself to think on her a couple of hours before putting her aside.
It would be nice to see her again.
Back in reality the door of the room creaked open after being preceded by a tentative knock. Fosco sat up and focused his eyes on the door as Miss Marian Halcombe, former love interest and skilled verbal duellist, as well as traitorous seductress, entered the room.
Marian stood hesitantly in the doorway, half in, half out, unsure as to whether she should advance or retreat - though she was the one who had requested this meeting.
"Fosco?" she enquired quietly.
He gave the traitor a fake, yet nonetheless beaming, smile.
"Ah! The beautiful Miss Halcombe. How are you my de-ar?"
Marian blushed but scowled at him and stepped into the room. She clicked the door shut behind her, casting him a worried, slightly furtive glance.
"So we're not overheard," she clarified.
Fosco allowed himself a small smirk and tilted his head.
"Of course, what else?"
The last word uttered so innocently but with such an ambiguous undertone that Marian found herself blushing again.
Irritated with herself she strolled over to one of the chairs opposite and sat down primly, back poker straight, oozing tension…and perhaps fear.
"I have something I need to discuss with you Fosco."
"By all means," the Count smiled silkily. "I know you didn't come here for anything of a different nature."
For a moment Marian looked pained and opened her mouth as if to protest but some sort of internal decision was made and instead she shut it again before continuing on the original topic.
"It's concerning my sister…"
"But of course. When does it not?" Genially said but a bitter undertone vibrated through the words and again Marian looked upset as the memories of that night were stirred up and dragged onto the table. For a moment Fosco thought she'd leave it and continue on but Marian surprised him.
"I won't say that I don't regret it," she stated, eyes on her hands folded in her lap, "because some part of me always will." She paused. "But," now she lifted her head to meet his stare, eyes flashing, "I would not have needed to had you not done what you did."
Again he saw the fiery young woman that he'd known before.
"That is your excuse?" he queried.
"Yes. What's yours?"
Fosco let a small smile slip onto his face and waved one hand airily.
Marian frowned and both parties fell into an uncomfortable silence until Fosco saw fit to break it again – satisfied with having given her a thorough look over whilst her eyes were cast demurely down as she thought deeply. Again he puzzled over the quirks in her character that he so greatly admired. That she was so prudent yet cast it aside in order to avenge her sister and see justice done all those years ago. Now, here she was again, so proper, whilst having a clandestine meeting with the man who had incarcerated her sister.
She was a walking paradox.
"You came here to talk about your sister?"
Marian stirred from her reverie with a puzzled look on her face. It was only a few seconds, though, before it cleared and she returned to the topic at hand.
"Yes. My sister." She took a deep breath. "As you are already aware, from what you saw last night, my sister is here with her husband and daughter." Marian hesitated. "My sister…she's still very…it was only Anne's birth that helped her to start getting better."
Fosco didn't like the feeling he was getting. It felt too suspiciously like guilt – so he broke through it with a question.
"She named her daughter after Anne Cathrick?"
"Yes," Marian replied quietly, suddenly remembering that Fosco probably didn't know. They had kept it from the papers in order to prevent a scandal. "Anne was Laura's half sister."
Fosco was silent.
"It was very like Laura to name her child after…" Marian stopped. "Sorry. I stray from the point. What I came here to say was that Laura is still very delicate and I fear that if she sees you then…it will bring everything back and she'll deteriorate again." Marian had paled. Her gaze was locked firmly onto Fosco's. "I will do anything to prevent her suffering like that again."
Fosco leaned back against the sofa and spread his hands, "So what would you have me do Miss Halcombe?"
Marian breathed an audible sigh of relief.
"We're leaving tomorrow…I would just ask that you stay out of sight for the couple of days that we're here…please?"
Her eyes were pleading, desperate.
Fosco gave her a dazzling smile, "Of course Miss Harkum." He was intrigued as to what she would have done if he had refused. "Just one thing…"
The relief drained from Marian's face and it became cold as stone.
"I was aware that you would not do this without some sort of…compensation," she stated icily.
Fosco tilted his head and gave an unconcerned shrug, "Ah, you know me too well. It is a disadvantage that I find you so much harder to predict than you do me."
Confusion seeped into Marian's eyes but her face remained stern.
"What do you want?"
"What I want can only be freely given - Miss Halcombe."
He watched as the implication to his words sunk in and a blush spread over her cheeks as she took in a sharp breath.
"I see." Marian rose to her feet, "Then it seems that I'm in your debt Count Fosco."
Fosco rose to his feet as well and followed her to the door.
"It seems you are," he replied quietly.
Marian opened the door marginally and turned back to him.
"Thank you again." She blushed and looked down. "If you ever wish to settle the debt, in some other way, just inform me."
Fosco nodded his assent and then, to Marian's surprise took her hand and placed a kiss on the back of it.
"It will be my pleasure Miss Halcombe."
Flustered Marian locked eyes with him for a brief moment and then left the room hurriedly, shutting the door behind her.
Fosco was left staring at the panelled wood in bewilderment. He could hardly believe that he had lived his life acquiring everything that he wanted and now he was presented with the one thing that he couldn't just take. It was not a very satisfying thought.
"I think…I will go back to bed," he muttered to himself decidedly and promptly followed Marian out of the room.