A/N: This is a T rated version of my story "The Ruination of Miss Molly Hooper". Do enjoy some Regency romantic shenanigans! Oh, one quick note: although Janine's name is mentioned, this story was written before Sherlock's parents were introduced in S3, so they are...not the same. At all. I just substituted Janine's name for another character.
"Sherlock, your mother and I have decided it is time for you to take a wife."
The younger son of the fourth Earl of Ashatery opened his mouth to offer up a protest, but a quick look from his mother, Lady Iris Holmes, was sufficient to cause him to close it. He stood, hands behind his back, and waited for his father to finish. Mycroft smirked at him from his seat slightly behind both parents, but Sherlock ignored his infuriating elder sibling, electing to concentrate on the immediate threat to his personal well-being.
Tarquin Holmes was not a dangerous looking man, a fact which he had used to ruthless advantage over the years, both in the House of Lords and in his own household. How his wife had endured thirty years of marriage to the man, Sherlock had never been able to fathom. He was demanding, dictatorial, unyielding, bullheaded to a fault – all things, Sherlock was well aware, that both he and his brother had been accused of being as well – and worst of all, he treated his family more like possessions than living human beings with minds and wills of their own.
Therefore it came as no surprise to Sherlock when his father's next words were: "And we've selected Miss Janine Hawkins as your bride. Negotiations are currently underway with her family regarding dowry."
He knew it was useless to protest, but could not stop the words from pouring forth. "Father, I'm still at University; surely this can wait until I've completed my studies..."
"Completed your studies in what, exactly?" his father demanded, glaring at his youngest son while his wife laid a restraining hand on his arm, which he shook off irritably without even looking at her. "You've been sent down twice, Sherlock, and only your mother's influence has caused me to allow you to return! First you read law, then medicine, and now it's chemistry you've chosen to 'study'!" he sneered. "It's high time you settled down, and nothing settles a man down like a wife. Just look at your brother!"
Mycroft looked distinctly uncomfortable at suddenly being drawn into his father's rant, but schooled his expression into one of bland indifference as Sherlock shot him a venomous glance.
Their mother was whispering into her husband's ear, no doubt alarmed by the redness of his face as his voice raised itself into a shout – and all without Sherlock so much as making a single cutting remark in response. He was rather proud of his self-restraint, although it was certainly costing him; his stomach was churning and it was a battle not to fist his hands and hurl certain accusations about both Mycroft and their father right back at the family patriarch.
Instead, he chose to wait until the older man had finally wound down, then gave a stiff bow and asked to be excused, if that was all. Tarquin waved him away and demanded brandy, his wife hurrying to pour the required ablution for him even though it was barely noon.
It was no surprise to hear Mycroft's measured steps following him as he left the library and headed down the hall toward the main staircase. "If you've worried I'll fall back into drug use, Mycroft, don't," he snarled without bothering to look around. "I've quite learned my lesson there, as you well know. Two errors in judgment on my part are the most I'll ever allow myself, no matter what the provocation."
"I do not worry that you'll ever make such an error again, brother," Mycroft replied, sounding somewhat out of breath as he hurried to match his brother's longer strides. Good, Sherlock found himself thinking viciously, perhaps it would help him to remember that cake was meant to be a treat and not a staple food.
"Then why, pray tell, are you following me?" Sherlock turned around to snap out, his irritation at their father spilling over onto his equally obnoxious sibling. "Do you think I'll run away to the sea as I threatened to do when we were children, find a pirate ship and vanish into the Spanish Main?" Even in the civilized Year of Our Lord 1804 there were still those whose practiced the ancient art of piracy, which had fascinated the younger Holmes brother while still in short pants.
"Sherlock." Mycroft's quiet admonishment silenced his brother, who finally stopped moving and simply waited to hear what the older man had to say. "You knew this day was inevitable; what's more, you knew it was coming sooner rather than later. Why act so outraged?"
Sherlock's hands finally curled into the fists he'd been resisting for the past several minutes. "Because it's ridiculous and unnecessary," he snapped. "You've already married and produced two sons to carry on the family name; you're the heir, you'll inherit the estate and titles and all the tedious responsibilities that go along with both. Why can't he simply continue to ignore me as he did when I was a child? I've already given my word that I'll not be sent down from Oxford a third time and that I'll never fall back into drug use! Why can't that be enough?"
Mycroft was good enough not to point out the fact that Sherlock had only been coerced into giving his word in order to avoid having his allowance cut off. It wasn't his only source of income, of course, but it was the only one he could be seen to have. His work with Inspector Lestrade of London's Bow Street Runners might pay only a pittance, but it was a pittance his father's shrewd eyes would surely note, no matter how well Sherlock attempted to hide it. At least with his annual allowance at his disposal it could be more easily concealed.
Until he'd established himself as the indispensable resource he knew himself more than capable of becoming, he wouldn't be able to branch out and begin taking private clients. He wouldn't have the independence he craved – and the path to that independence certainly did not include a wife. Especially not a spoiled society belle such as the Miss Janine Hawkins, or 'Ginny' as she was known among her close cronies. Sherlock had never been part of the fashionable 'set' and had no desire to find himself trapped there, as he would be if this marriage was forced upon him.
Mycroft, who was as adept at reading people as his younger brother, deciphered most of this on his face, and finally came to the point, the reason he'd bothered to follow Sherlock in the first place. "Sherlock," he said with a sigh, "do try to understand that our parents are actually looking out for you. Arranged marriages are not always the nightmares you seem to believe them to be."
"Oh?" Sherlock shot a significant glance toward the door of the room the two brothers had just vacated. "And is your marriage so agreeable, your wife so amenable to your desires, that she wishes you to maintain a mistress in Town?"
Mycroft's lips tightened in annoyance. "The arrangement between myself and Lady Anthea is of no concern to you, Sherlock. And before you attempt to blackmail me with your knowledge, yes, my wife is aware of that arrangement. She encourages it, as a matter of fact, as she no longer wishes to share the marital bed since the birth of our last son. Produce at least one offspring with Miss Hawkins and she'll no doubt encourage you to do much the same. As long as you don't flaunt your indiscretions, you'll find that a society wife will tolerate a great deal."
With that 'brotherly' advice, Mycroft turned and lumbered back down the hall, no doubt to inform their father that he'd convinced Sherlock not to resist their matrimonial plans for him.
As Sherlock made his way up the stairs to his own suite of rooms, all he could think was that Mycroft had, indeed, convinced him of something – but it wasn't to marry the wife that had been selected for him.
He had quite a different candidate in mind.