Written for the MM AU Fest challenge coordinated by Patsan on tumblr. This idea came from the fact I wanted to write a "one-shot" story for this event. And so this bit of fluff is what I came up with. It somewhat continues in the same universe from my other drabbles, "Saved by the Gong" and "Age of Innocence."
Mary closed the door that separated their infant daughter from their toddler son. Felicity had recently been colicky and hence they had put the children into different spaces, temporarily. However, now that she was reassured that her daughter was sleeping peacefully she proceeded with quiet steps to peek into the nursery wing that contained her son. Mary was curious to see if a new nightly ritual would be reoccurring. How it had started, she didn't know. She couldn't ask as it was a moment between her husband and her son, and they were unaware of her observation.
They were a charming pair to lovingly spy on. Mary smiled at the vision of their four-year old son George as he sat in his bed.
"No, Papa," he interrupted his father with impatience as Matthew had started reading from, The Wind in the Willows.
"I want to hear more about One-Shot."
Matthew looked up from the book and stared, momentarily lost in this request.
"Please Papa," George begged cheerfully, "Please, Please," he cried with emphasis.
Mary knew Matthew was a proficient storyteller, but the identity of one-shot was shielded from her. During her eavesdropping she had heard he was an excellent marksman at archery, he was known for his nimble fingers, and he always enjoyed a spot of mischief.
Matthew described him as mythical and legendary; a man who fought the good fight. He was a proper boy's tale, sprung from her husband's imagination it would seem. To Mary he sounded a bit like Robin Hood, and yet there were far too many creative additions. She wondered if Matthew wasn't simply grandstanding a bit, perhaps he was describing himself as a solider. Could it be, that Captain Crawley was the unnamed hero with the catchy name, One-Shot?
The first description she had heard was rather incriminating, "One-Shot had a little boy, whom he loved very much."
And then last night she had heard him described as, "A warrior who carried no weapon. Some saw him as a hero, but he was simply a good man."
Mary thought of her husband dressed in his military regalia to commemorate the recent anniversary of Armistice Day. The entire family had been in London and while her father did not wish to visit Westminster, Matthew did. And so they had made excuses and gone on their own to visit the tomb of the unknown solider. She had pushed Felicity in the pram while Matthew held George's hand. Mary had seen how her husband was moved by this stone symbol. Matthew removed his gloves and placed his bare hands on the cold marble, his head bowed; his lips whispering in prayer. Mary had also seen their son's unusual quiet, as he stared at his father.
So, this bedtime story could be wrapped up in Matthew's memories of war. Mary had to learn more. She took another several steps into the nursery, flinching when the wooden floorboards slightly creaked. Mary watched for any reaction, but it seemed her husband was too occupied at the moment to have noticed the small sound in the large and spacious room.
"Okay George," Matthew conceded as though he was whispering to a co-conspirator. He set the book he was holding onto a nearby table, and moved from where he was sitting in the rocking chair to perch on his son's bedside.
Mary watched as their son almost bounced with excitement, his little fists grasping the edge of his blankets. Matthew placed a soothing hand atop his sons.
"How about if I tell you One-Shot's real name?" He asked.
George stared his mouth falling open with surprise.
"Like many a hero," Matthew said with a broad grin. "He has more than one name, such as a mythological god which can have a Greek or Roman name for example."
George slowly nodded at this information. He held up his small stuffed dog, "Perseus," he said proudly.
Matthew brushed his fingers gently through his son's blond hair. Mary watched as he paused, his mouth hanging open almost exactly as their son's had a moment ago.
"One-Shot, always relied upon his eyes and ears since he had taken an oath to help people in need; this is how he got his nickname. He often only had One-Shot, one chance to make a difference."
"Well," Matthew said quietly and he took a deep breath. "One-Shot was also known as Reginald," he concluded.
"That's a funny name," George said with curiosity. "It's also grandpa's name."
"Yes, it is," Matthew agreed. "It's was your grandpa's name. I was once his little chap, just as you are mine."
George smiled proudly, "My grandpa was a hero?"
"I'd very much like you to believe that, to know him as I did," Matthew returned gently.
"Grandma Isobel has pictures of your grandpa. He had a moustache that made him look like he was always smiling."
Mary couldn't contain the gasp at this new insight, she had never thought of this obvious solution. She shuffled her weight between her feet, placing slightly; and then the floorboards creaked again. Mary watched as this time Matthew looked over his shoulder. However, he then turned back to their son. She sighed with relief once again.
"Little chap," Matthew said affectionately, "Do you think we should invite your mother to join us?"
"Mummy?" George asked with glee. "Oh yes! She would love One-Shot."
With drool humor in his voice, Matthew turned around once again towards the nursery doorway.
"Like magic George, I shall produce your mother at the count of three."
With an invitation to count along, Matthew found George ready for the countdown.
"One, two, three," they said together in harmony.
And Mary obligated playing along; she stepped forward into the nursery. As she did, Mary glared at her husband with a look of bemusement. This exposure was her comeuppance for she now understood it had been silly to have hidden to begin with.
"Mummy!" George exclaimed his wide eyes were impressed with his father's promised magic.
Mary sat in the rocking chair staring at this pair before her.
"Hello darling," he said with affection to their son.
"Mummy, when something is important," George said his speech almost tripping over the words he spoke with so much excitement. "You only get One-shot. Just like papa just now."
Knowing that Matthew had been telling George about his own father, she felt the tender moment was all the more pronounced.
"Your papa is indeed wise," Mary said with affection. "Shall we let him continue with this story telling?"
George's little head nodded, his blond hair fanning across his forehead.
Matthew cleared his throat.
"Lay back George," he instructed and tucked in the child as he complied.
"Now as I was saying, One-Shot," Matthew started but he was once again interrupted.
"Reginald," George said as he yawned.
"Right," Matthew continued, "Reginald was kind and brave and he believed in love. He was old-fashioned and lived by a code of chivalry…"
Thanks for reading!