I've had this written for maybe half a year now and just never got around to putting it up. I kind of figure that Mary Poppins wouldn't always deal with families as lovely as the Banks.
I own nothing.
The trick, she thinks, isn't to forget about the pain or to send it away from yourself. Sending the pain away will only make it rebound and come back at another time when your mind isn't focused on keeping it away. The trick is to embrace the pain, to welcome it, because the sooner your body stops focusing on how much pain you are in, the quicker it will set to healing it.
She sits delicately on a random rooftop in London. She doesn't have a physical home and staying up in the clouds requires far too much effort and concentration for this sort of work.
Hesitantly, she takes a deep breath, wincing as she does so. Then she sinks into the pain and does her best to not cry out as she hits the first wall. Start with the smallest injury and work your way up, she plans. As she does, she focuses intently on the capillaries under her left eye. They begin the slow process of righting themselves.
The quiet voice interrupts her concentration and she sighs, knowing that those blood vessels hadn't completely healed, that though it may be lighter, the skin of her cheek will still be an unsettling blue. That, in conjunction with a swollen and split lip would be enough to make anyone worry, let alone the owner of that voice.
"Hello, Bert," she says, keeping her tone light and her face directed away from him. She doesn't question how he's found her—Bert has always seemed to have an almost magical sense guiding him to her.
"Mary, are you alright?"
"Perfectly fine." She tries to keep her tone as even as possible. To anybody else, that would be enough to convince them. But Bert isn't just anybody.
"What are you doing here anyway?" she snaps. She tries to concentrate on the pain again, but his presence is just too strong for her to give herself fully over to the task.
"Some sweeps were sayin' there was some unpleasantness in a 'ouse up over in this part of town. An' I knew you were over 'ere, so I thought better safe than sorry. You are alright, aren't you, Mary Poppins?"
"Like I said, Bert, I'm fine," she assures him, willing him to leave her be.
She hears him shift around, but keeps her face staunchly towards the horizon. "Mary, why don't you look at me?" he asks suspiciously.
"Oh, really, Bert, I might think that we're capable of having a conversation without looking at one another," she huffs, knowing this argument is a flimsy one. "Besides, I'm looking at the view."
"Mary." This time, his voice holds no request. This is an order and the concern in his voice is evident.
Slowly she stands and turns her face to him, annoyed that she hadn't the time to heal, at the very least, her face more thoroughly.
She expects outrage or anger. So she's surprised and a little frightened when he shows no outward trace of fury. "'oo did it to you?" he asks calmly. Too calmly.
She shakes her head. "It doesn't matter."
"It does matter!" His voice shakes when he says it. "Now, I'll ask you one more time, Mary, an' I want a truthful answer. 'oo 'urt you?"
"Bert, what's done is done," she tries again.
"It was 'im, wasn't it? The father? Mary, I told you, there are some families you can't fix!"
"It isn't about fixing them, Bert. But I am making a difference."
"No, Mary! I don't want you there! Whatever good you're doing, it isn't worth it! Not when you come away from it looking like this!"
"Better me than the children!"
Bert freezes and she's never seen such a look of hatred pass anywhere near his face. "I'll kill 'im," he says simply.
"No. 'e's scum, Mary. 'e doesn't deserve to breathe, let alone 'ave those kids."
He starts to leave but Mary grabs his hand. "Maybe so, Bert. But I've taken care of it."
"Taken care of it, Mary? You're black an' blue!"
"He won't touch his family again. This was the last straw for his wife. I've seen that she's taken the children someplace safe. She won't return to him."
She gasps in pain when she shifts. Her injuries are more extensive than she cares to let on to Bert, but they're becoming more painful. He reaches out to steady her when she stumbles, unknowingly aggravating the worst of her wounds. She cries out and nearly faints.
"Mary!" he cries and helps her sit. "'ere, take it easy." He grimly surveys her face and asks, "'ow bad is it?"
She stays quiet, not wanting to upset him any more than she has already.
"I just need a few moments to collect myself."
"Mary, just 'ow badly did 'e 'urt you?"
She stares at the ground sullenly.
"Mary." Again, his tone makes it very clear that this isn't a request.
"I seem to have a fractured rib. But that's the worst of it."
Bert's face suddenly reddens. Mary's brow furrows as she tries to understand why. "An' 'e didn't… 'e didn't… try to… 'e didn't try… to do… anything… dishonorable…"
Mary's eyes spring open and her cheeks color as she realizes what he's asking. "Goodness, no! Bert, he just knocked me about a bit. Really. I'm alright. Soon only my pride will be bruised."
"'ow did 'e… 'ow did 'e manage it?" he asks.
Mary swallows, knowing exactly what he's asking and that her answer is sure to shake his faith in her. "Well, he caught me by surprise…" she lies.
It doesn't work. He's always known when she's lying. "Mary."
"He was going after the children!" she exclaims. "I couldn't very well just stand by and watch! And he did catch me by surprise. I wasn't quite ready for him to come up swinging when I knocked him to the ground…"
"You're going t' get yourself killed," he says quietly.
She shakes her head and smiles gently. "This isn't the first time I've been hurt, Bert. I manage just fine."
"I don't call this fine!" he snaps, gesturing at her eye.
"Not every assignment can be easy," she says. "That man is not the worst I've ever faced, nor will he be the worst of the future."
His face is still set in that same grim line. And his sentiments haven't changed either. "I'll kill him. I will."
"Th' bastard dared lay 'and on you, Mary! 'e 'as to pay for what 'e did!"
Mary sighs. "And losing his family isn't enough? He's not a good man, Bert. We both know that. But you are! And I won't have you ruined by him!"
She cups his cheek in her hand, trying to forget the pain it causes in her torso.
He swallows and Mary sees him struggling not to cry. It breaks her heart. "Mary, don't do this to yourself," he pleads. "Don't put yourself in 'arm's way. If not for you, for me. It kills me that I can't protect you."
"I don't need protection," she protests.
"That shiner says otherwise."
"Bert, thank you, but I really am fine."
"No, you're not," he insists. "Listen, you ever need any 'elp, you just whistle. I'll be there quick as I can."
She smiles. "Thank you."
"I'd do anything for you, Mary. You know that, don't you?"
They stare at each other in silence. Mary feels a shift; whether that's in the wind or in their relationship, she's unsure.
She's not quite sure what possesses her, but instead of pulling away as she should she leans forward. He meets her halfway.
The minute his lips touch hers, the world melts away and she forgets herself. In that moment, this kiss is the only thing that ever has or ever will exist.
Pain flows out of her. The capillaries in her face repair themselves and her lip rights itself against his. Bone knits itself back together.
She pulls away with a gasp.
"Mary!" he exclaims. "Your face!"
She pulls out her compact mirror. Her face is unblemished and there's not a trace of pain in her body.
She laughs. "Well, I didn't do that. It seems you quite literally take my pain away."
She doesn't wait for him to stammer out whatever he might have to say. Instead, she kisses him again, astounded by just how right it feels.