London, 1919

Her perfectly gloved hand had just barely grasped the neatly polished doorknob of Number 25 Petal Lane, her swift escape into the night so very close, before she heard a soft voice behind her in the dark.

"I've never known you to abandon a post," he said quietly, almost sadly she thought. She held onto the doorknob just a moment more before releasing it from her grasp and turning to address him.

"I never had a reason to," she answered honestly. Her blue eyes twinkled in the dark with an expression he couldn't read. It upset him somehow that he'd lost the ability to read her like an open book. He had his hands in his trouser pockets and he was leaning against the parlor entryway into the hall where she was at the front door of the house. His eyes never left hers.

"You have a reason to leave then? Without giving me a word of warning?" he asked, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He was clearly uncomfortable, but as always he attempted to exude an air of aloofness.

"Don't I?"

"You tell me, you're the one in charge, are you not? The one who's practically perfect. The one who's supposed to put my family back in order. Patch us up, right?"

There was no malice in his voice, and yet she flinched at his words. They weren't untrue, it was her duty and she had taken on the responsibilities knowing full well what she was getting into. Or so she thought. No, this particular task was proving to be much too difficult for her.

"I take it by your lack of an answer that I'm right," he sighed. "If my family is so far skewed that you were called upon, then you wouldn't just up and leave for no reason." She made no move, she had no answer for him. "So what is it then? What has you running out in the dead of night, presumably to never be heard from again? You do realize the children would be incredibly upset."

"They'd move on. They all do."

He closed his eyes, knowing she didn't just mean the children and she knew she'd hit a nerve. It was harsh and she wished she hadn't been so blunt, but she wasn't really thinking straight in this moment. It was honest at least.

"That's just it Mary," he said, his voice just a whisper. "You only think that everyone moves on, but you're wrong."

"It's why I'm leaving Bert, I can't fix your family because I'm the reason it's broken in the first place," she nearly sobbed.

He moved from his post in the doorway and moved closer to her in the dark. The house was quiet, and his footfalls made no sound as he came to stand before her. Slowly he placed a hand on her cheek, and she closed her eyes at the contact.

"There's still time to fix everything darling," he whsipered. Mary felt his warm breath on her face and she could feel her knees turn to jelly. She hadn't been this close to him in years. "Don't leave me, stay and make this right," he said, and his lips met hers with a chaste and honest kiss.