|The Loves of Matthew Crawley
Author: jadeandlilac PM
Done for the 7 Loves challenge on the Downton forums.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Matthew C. & Mary C. - Words: 2,378 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 24 - Follows: 3 - Published: 12-13-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7635384
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: Done for a challenge on the DA forums. I took on Matthew mostly because nobody had written for him yet, but this definitely got away from me a bit, especially towards the end. I suppose Matthew is more fun to write than I'd thought, possibly because the angst potential is so high. Also because the writing-about-Mary potential is astronomical, and I obviously can't resist that :)
Do let me know what you think in a review if you have the time, they're always wonderful and much appreciated!
His father dies when he is six years old, and he learns to place meaning on the word "loss." Because the loss is so great - because every day there is the empty chair at the breakfast table, the bare white cloth where once there was a plate and silver. Because every evening there is still a heaviness about the moment in which he pauses, having bid his mother goodnight, in which he had used to say, "Goodnight, Papa," and his father had used to reply, "Goodnight, my boy." Because of these things, Matthew knows the greatness of the loss and, by extension, the greatness of the love that must have been there before.
As he grows older, he doesn't love his father less, it is only that his memories are the memories of a child, his devotion - the reverence with which he esteems this man he can hardly recall - the devotion of a child. And when his mother says, "You know," pausing in the midst of the move from Manchester, her gloves cast aside and her hands full of odds and ends, "You are so very like him. Like your father, I mean. Remember that, Matthew." When she says that, he loves her more than he can say. Not because she is perfect, but because she has always known just what to say. Because it's her, after all, who has taught him to be the way he is.
The first time he sees them, the whole household arranged in formation (looking just as much like an advancing army as he'd imagined they might), he knows that these people are not - will never be - his family. It isn't just the coldness about them, but the falseness too, as if they are only waiting for him to leave to discuss him amongst themselves. He imagines them scorning his abominable table manners, belittling his profession, mocking even his choice of cuff links. He might learn to pass for family, that at least is expected of him, but he will certainly never love them.
But then one day there is hopeful Edith, proffering companionship and a tour of the churches, a sweet quaver in her voice and an earnest, shy smile all over her face. There is Sybil like a breath of fresh air, asking clever questions about his work and listening - the greatest miracle of all - to his answers. There is Violet, whose barbed tongue makes him wary until one night in the drawing room when she makes some remark about a comment of Robert's, and Matthew is astonished to see her sharp eyes flick directly to him. In them, there is a look of complicity, as if to say, "What nonsense, don't you agree my dear boy?"
And there is Robert, more open than Matthew ever imagined he would be, nearly too good to be true. For all the afternoons they spend together, walking the grounds or sitting in the library in companionable silence, Matthew does not see the bond forming between them. In the end, it is Mary who tells him. She spits it at him like a curse one day - "Well it's obvious - you're like the son he never had! How perfect for you both." He is so surprised at her outburst, stunned and stupidly open-mouthed as she turns and almost runs from him. This is the day he learns to love them both.
At first when Cousin Edith asks to show him the churches, his sheer, simple happiness at her offer of friendship prevents him from thinking any more about it. How wonderful, he thinks, to have a friend at Downton - especially one who is not also his mother. Edith seems nice enough: not so engaging as Sybil and lacking Mary's natural charm, but very decent. A good girl, he thinks. Uncomplicated.
He is wrong, of course, as he so often is when it comes to this family - his family, as he is learning to call them. In the church's dim interior he suddenly sees, out of the corner of his eye, the colored light shining full on her face. Her eyes are fixed on him. He takes refuge in an adopted air of innocence, pretends as hard as he can not to see what she is doing. And though he knows he ought to feel sorry at how much it obviously wounds her, he cannot be anything but relieved as they step outside into the sunlight. She is a sweet girl but she is not for him, nor he for her.
He has finally managed to rescue a princess, Matthew thinks as he and Branson lay her down on the chaise. She is paler than usual, her dark hair disheveled and falling about her face. Her mouth is slightly open and her large eyes, not now marked by their usual brightness, are regretful. The sadness in her face makes Matthew want to go straight back to Ripon and finish what those men had started - he'd like to see they get what they deserve for hurting her. But maybe it is only the excitement, the adrenaline still in his blood.
"Cousin Matthew," she says, her voice hoarse, "I'm so sorry. And Branson, I - "
"Don't apologize m'lady," Branson mumbles. "Everything's going to be alright."
For just a moment, he imagines what it would be like to hold Sybil in his arms - not the way he has tonight, her nearly unconscious and him shaking, his heart going too fast for comfort - but in a real embrace. Once when he was younger, he had gone with some relations of his mother to the sea shore. He and the other children had kicked off their shoes, and even now he remembers the feel of the hot, coarse sand on his skin. It has always seemed to him that Sybil's voice is like that - novel and familiar at once, saturated in warmth. For an instant, he wants nothing more than to sink into it.
He watches as his mother tends to her. And then he watches Branson - the man hovers there, face drained of blood, hands clenching and unclenching. He stands there and murmurs, "It'll be alright, m'lady." And suddenly, Matthew laughs inwardly at himself - as Sybil glances past his mother's shoulder and up into Branson's face, he sees that she has chosen her own Perseus. That, like her sister, she has once again relegated him the role of sea monster. But, he thinks, it is better this way.
It is surprisingly easy for him to admit, even after such a short time, that he loves this woman - this girl, really, for she is such a child still. His love for Lavinia, he thinks, is perhaps the purest thing he has ever felt.
When she says, weeping, "I shall die if you don't come home. I don't think I can live without you," he almost believes it because there is no secrecy between them, nothing left of her that is not already his. Her gaze is so clear and innocent, she could be staring out of a painting of a saint. She is open to him like a flower when Mary had been a shut book, a pair of sealed lips.
And maybe those words are a premonition. Maybe he should have known then that they were doomed, despite the fact that they seemed to have been so lucky - he came home alive, didn't he? He could walk again, couldn't he? He was still the heir to Downton, and she loved him to a fault, and he still loved her. Didn't he? He doesn't know anymore.
So perhaps, after all, it wasn't those words of hers, or even the war that ruined them. Perhaps it was only his own weakness. Whatever it is, it is strong enough to fill her with fever and cover her skin in a horrible cold sweat. To make her hands tremble, her voice rasp like dry leaves. It is his fault, for loving her too much to let her go, yet not enough to keep her alive. He feels the last of her shallow breaths on his cheek, as if he is the one who has physically pulled them from her. He forces himself not to think of how it hurts him - how he would rather be dying himself than have done this to her - and thinks instead of how she must now feel nothing. No pain, no heartache. She is still.
Intense/Lustful Love & True (but Not Necessarily Perfect) Love
She leaves him quite literally breathless, and open-mouthed more often than he should like to admit. He tells himself it is only because he has never met a woman like her. The very first time he sees her, his immediate thought is that it must be something about the country which accounts for why there are no such Mary Crawleys in Manchester, in London, in any other part of the world, most likely. And she looks so at home on a horse as she turns and rides away from him that he decides this must be it - perhaps the takes her strength from the hills and trees, from the slate-colored skies of the open country like some kind of faery queen.
He never imagined he would be the type to fall for a pretty face - but then, he is always surprised to find that the parts of her he finds most appealing rarely are her face. When she comes down to dinner in a red gown he can think of nothing he would like more than to put his mouth to the bare bend of her arm, the place he knows must be smooth as a pearl, radiant with the heat of her. Despite the elegance of her bound hair, twisted and sculpted with a technique he cannot even begin to fathom, the desire to see it unbound is overwhelming. On many a drive home he has lost himself in thoughts of it tumbled down around her shoulders, the feel of it between his fingers. He is always unpleasantly jolted from his reverie by the opening of the motor's door, the suddenness of the cold outside.
The worst thing of all - or the best, he is not sure - is the alluring ridge of her collar bones and the hollow between them, for which there is no name. Sometimes in dreams but more often in waking follies, he kisses this part of her and revels in the soft hum of her breath, the sound and feel of his name in her mouth. He has never, not ever in his life, wanted anything so badly as this.
Even when she calls him monster before the entire family, her voice clear as crystal and her eyes full of mirth and not a little ferocity, he admires her for it. He is a solicitor, after all, and is rather good at being objective most of the time. He knows how to value intellect and self-worth, and he knows the game she must play in life, as they all must. Even when she is fickle, when he can see the fine mask she slips into place for strangers and those she mistrusts, when she hides behind practicalities he can only see as excuses - even then, he thinks he would fall to his knees and kiss her palms that are white and pale pink, delicately veined like the petals of a flower. He would do this, if only he were not trying so very hard to be the kind of man she could love. If only she would not think him weak.
Even when she says she wants only to be friends, and when he agrees, saying that nothing in the world would make him happier - even then he is thinking, though he doesn't know why, of the shape her body takes when she rides out on her black horse. Her back perfectly straight, how she knows the animal's movements as if they are her own. Even when he thinks himself lame, his life perfectly ruined, and he pushes her ever farther away, he comforts himself with the memory of her hand steadily rubbing his back while lay in a hospital bed.
And even when Lavinia is ill upstairs, he cannot resist the urge to have Mary close to him. Happiness takes the form of her two hands in his, then the rise and fall of her breath beneath the palm he places on her waist. Then her mouth. He remembers her mouth even as he stands before Lavinia's open grave, watching her disappear with Carlisle. He feels nothing, as if he is some sort of husk scraped clean - and yet he remembers her mouth. He cannot shake the feeling, perhaps because it is the only one he has left.
It must be wrong, it has to be, that his love for her persists even as he mourns another woman - another woman whom he loved with what he believed to be his whole heart. But wrong or not, he cannot deny the feeling - it is love, and it has held fast despite time, despite war and death and so much else. In spite of everything life has done to them, everything they have done to one another, he loves her.
Just now he thinks, as he often has, that loving Mary has brought him nothing but pain, but it is still the most honest thing he has ever done, the greatest truth he knows.