|Ship of Dreams
Author: Veringue PM
S1 AU. The ship of dreams, they called it, the Titanic, the greatest liner. Unsinkable. The Crawley family sails first-class across the ocean, and Lady Mary, engaged, is one of them. Matthew seeks to make his fortune in the new world. And then they meet.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Matthew C. & Mary C. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 22,570 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 63 - Updated: 09-15-12 - Published: 04-16-12 - id: 8030802
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Finally, I managed to take no longer than a week to write and revise this chapter! I hope you agree that some really important development took place here for our favourite Matthew and Mary - and well, it didn't turn out quite as I'd imagined it, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, you'll see.
I'm so glad that you're as enthusiastic as I am about this story and thank you so much for all your lovely reviews, follows, favourites and so on and so forth! The attention is so nice and I hope this chapter lives up to your expectations!
Enjoy! (Oh, and we all know that Titanic was on TV today, don't we? *creys*)
10 April, 1912
The wind lapped at her hair and face as Mary followed the deck in the direction of the front of the ship. Finally, after some twenty feet or so, she crossed over to the whitewashed railing where she could finally be away from the exposing lights of the dining room and the prying eyes of the nouveau riche. Nouveau riche, yes, that was how Mary referred to her company in the privacy of that particular moment. This inexplicable feeling had come across her, this inexplicable feeling that despite everything Matthew had said and how terribly rude he had been and how his behaviour was atrocious, he was somehow right, right about thinking all of it to be ridiculous. In fact, she'd known this notion to be true long before she'd met him and she hadn't needed him to make it clear to her. She had simply suppressed it all along, suppressed these ideas of rebellion and feelings of disgust, for how would it possibly help her? She could not break free, she was eternally changed to the harbour, a ship never due to leave the land.
She had accepted it long ago, that she was to marry Patrick, that this was to be her life. She had been brought up in preparation for this, it was her fate, and going against it would just be an unnecessary struggle. After all she did have her home secure at Downton now – what more could she want? And Mary hardly minded the fact that her to-be husband might always love another, although why he picked Edith over her, she could not possibly fathom. Anyway, all of that was irrelevant.
The problem now was that somehow this dreadful middle-class lawyer had set her mind at work, had made her think about all of this, and, most of all, had proved her wrong on multiple grounds.
'God, damn him, damn Matthew Crawley!'she swore inwardly. In truth, Lady Mary Crawley swore a lot more often than people thought, but then again there were many things people did not know about her.
She gripped the railing all the more tightly and, despite her gloves, the metal felt cold to her touch. The deck was almost empty with the occasional exception of a wandering couple or maid running from cabin to cabin – the servants weren't supposed to pass here but well a little shortcut in the dead of the night could do no harm.
Mary felt hopelessly small and irrelevant and above all selfish, dwelling on her own troubles so, as she leant back her head, exposing her bare neck, and looked up at the sky sprinkled with stars. The moon hung like a silver pendant on a thin thread of cloud – so close, and yet always out of reach.
Being on the port side of the ship, she could see the North Star almost directly ahead of her. Cocking her head, she drifted off to the left leaving the Little Dipper and Draco behind to locate strong and courageous Hercules. She sighed inadvertently, oh Hercules. Then she left even him behind and looked right. Her heart froze. There was Perseus, beside his beloved Andromeda – both saved, both immortalized.
For a moment Mary had felt at ease trying to recall the constellations but already she had harshly been thrust back on earth with the realization, now more present than ever, that she was quite alone. Oh, but by pitying herself she would get no further either! She straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she saw the waters below her, curling and twirling around in a dance they were doomed to perform until the end of time. In them she saw reflected the stars, she saw Perseus and Andromeda drowning – not saved, but perished.
She shook her head to clear it. Those specks were probably just the lights of the Titanic – not the stars anyway – the Titanic gliding on ahead, strong and reliable. As long as she remained here, she could never drown, and yet, what would it be like, to be taken along in that eternal dance of the waves and clashing foam? Would she be free then? What might it be like to–
Mary's mouth froze, as though she'd been speaking to herself – in fact, her thoughts froze as well. Even the waters below seemed to freeze, and in an involuntary movement she clutched the railing that much tighter, as though this new arrival might be here to push her in, to fulfil her wishes.
The shock however only lasted a second. The voice had belonged to none other than Matthew Crawley. Patrick would never have come for her anyway.
"I–" she started, without looking at him. She still couldn't quite move.
"I'm sorry for disturbing you. I just wanted to make sure you were all right," Matthew said, his voice reflecting the deepest form of guilt and concern. He made sure to keep his distance from her, though, thinking that she might pounce at the slightest new movement.
"I–" she tried again. It still didn't work, her tongue seemed glued... "Don't be ridiculous!" There, that felt better. "I'm perfectly fine. You needn't have come looking for me."
Matthew slowly took a step towards her now that she seemed to be her old self again. Somehow it comforted him more when she was smooth-tongued and sharp, versus when she stammered, and seemed more human. Somehow it reassured him that she was just how he'd imagined a highborn lady to be and not something...more.
"How did you even get away?" She looked at him properly for the first time. His cheeks were flushed, he looked pale, but alive, whilst when she'd checked the mirror before embarking on her journey to dinner she had made sure she looked absolutely drained of all life, unreadable and disinterested. That saved one lots of trouble. But Matthew, he looked different, he looked likeable.
Matthew, gazing out over the ocean, had to hold back a smile. The way she'd posed the question had made it seem as though the two of them were some wild explorers who had just managed to individually escape from the lion's den.
"Well, I rather took advantage of my 'Manchesterian' background to make a very low class exit. Anyway, this evening couldn't have gone much worse, so I didn't think it would matter."
Matthew's reply was utterly sincere and Mary couldn't help but look at him in a new light. He had put her above his reputation. She didn't know why he had done it, but somehow she thought it unbelievably sympathetic of him. "Oh, things could have gone a lot worse, Matthew, I assure you."
Smiling, he said, "I'll take your word for it then, my lady. Are you sure you're feeling quite well? You didn't look like you were enjoying the view just then."
Mary rolled her eyes. "Please, don't worry about me."
Matthew simply nodded and they stood in silence for a few moments. Eventually, he began by saying "Shall we–" with half a nod in the direction of the restaurant but was immediately interrupted.
She spoke as though he hadn't even opened his mouth. "Do you happen to know the story of Perseus and Andromeda?" Her eyes were fixed on the heavens.
Since she wasn't looking at him, Matthew took advantage of the moment to observe her face from nearby. It was almost too close, really, for him, but now he couldn't bring himself to tear his eyes away anymore. He spoke without actually realizing what he was saying. "Why?"
"The only way King Cepheus could appease the gods was by sacrificing his eldest daughter to a hideous sea monster..." she mused. "So they chained her, naked, to a rock."
She paused and swallowed and Matthew did not dare speak. He watched her throat move, her eyelids flutter and the way that one odd, rebellious strand of dark hair quivered in the wind.
"Did the sea monster get her?" Matthew queried, although he knew the story by heart. He just wanted to hear her speak.
"No," she continued in that same soft tone. "She was rescued."
"By Perseus," concluded Matthew.
Immediately, Mary snapped out of her daze and looked at him, catching his expression and meeting his eyes directly. She smiled somewhat challengingly as Matthew tried to make up for his inappropriate stare by blinking a lot. "So you do know the story?" she asked. "I was almost beginning to think you were boasting of your knowledge."
Matthew was at first caught slightly off-guard by her change of temper but quickly relaxed and chuckled. "Maybe you simply chose the one myth I've heard of," he joked. "But I will have you know, however, that I can truly read."
Mary's challenging smile seemed to soften into a friendlier one, but maybe that was just his imagination combined with the stars in the background and the light from the chandeliers sweeping out over the deck.
"So, who is your Perseus?" Matthew ventured.
Mary's smile remained frozen for a second, then she turned her head away, and when she looked back her expression was once again placid.
"Surely Patrick isn't that bad," he continued matter-of-factly as if it was the most natural topic in the world.
Mary however was utterly taken aback by how transparent she had let herself be in those few moments and how quickly Matthew had seen her situation through. They'd only just met, they were strangers, he was a stranger, they couldn't possibly be related and all of this was absolutely preposterous.
"Whatever are you talking about?" She quickly decided to take on the incredulous approach.
Now it was Matthew's turn to wish that the deck would swallow him up. Who did he think he was, to be giving her blatant advice like that? He wasn't sure how this evening could really have gone any worse, to be quite honest, and felt his face turn that much redder. "God, I'm sorry," he said for the second time, "I didn't mean to intrude, I just–"
"No, I'm sure you never mean to do anything and end up doing it anyway, which is just marvellous. Now you certainly are no Aristotle in disguise!" She was truly offended now. How dare he assume things about her? And, at the same time, she had just started taking a liking to him, when– when she had been brought to realize that all of this was a complete joke! So, in truth, she probably was angrier with herself than with the young man by her side.
Mary's sudden heated words triggered something in Matthew, some defence, some internal pride that still had to be protected – for he did have some integrity, even if those big wigs believed him to be a hollow shell of a human being. But this wasn't the true reason for his response. "So the point of all this was just to recite Perseus and Andromeda's wonderfully romantic story to me?" he demanded, ignorant of the fact that Mary felt much the same way as he did – the moment had suddenly been broken, and he blamed himself for it.
"Oh, it's a classic, don't make it sound like a punishment," Mary bit back.
"Firstly, I would gladly not have myself quoted every other minute. Secondly, I don't think that lovely myth is quite suitable here. This seems to me a lot more like a case of the Narcissus."
At this point, Mary looked positively flustered. "Well, you would know, wouldn't you, being a doctor?"
"A lawyer! But, speaking for the doctors, I don't think this particular patient can be cured." He took a step back now, motioning to her in mock gallantry. "So, by all means, my lady, do go on enjoying the view of your own reflection."
"How dare–" Mary started.
"Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to go back and finish my peaches in chartreuse jelly before they drown in equally good temper."
As if on cue, the wind picked up and whipped at their figures. The deck was abandoned now and darker clouds had moved to shield the stars: the distant suns covering their faces in shame and embarrassment. Mary could kill herself for all her self-pity now. "Oh, how cruelly eloquent you are!" she cried out over the wind.
"Lawyer at your service," Matthew bowed stiffly and when he looked up at her one last time, saw her pressing herself so tightly to the railing, looking so desperately pale, and so desperately lost, that he halted. He was wise enough this time not to appear as though he felt sorry for her, but decided to reflect on himself. It did not take him long to realize how atrociously he had behaved and to recall that this woman was not merely a school friend of his but a true lady and one who had indirectly invited him to dinner at that!
But then there was also something more, something more that they seemed to be fighting over, a moment that had been there seconds ago, a moment that shouldn't have really been there, and yet it had happened, just like that. So neither could truly figure out whether they regretted that moment's having been broken or were angry that it had taken place at all.
Matthew had to remind himself that the two of them had only just met.
Slowly, he walked over to her. Saying 'I'm sorry' for the third time in one conversation would not do, so instead, without touching her, he spoke under his breath, "Yet I'd be careful not to fall in if I were you."
Mary lowed her eyes and paused. It took her longer to reply this time. "Is it very cold?"
"Awfully cold." Even colder than you are, he added to himself, but his inner voice was gentle, almost affectionate even.
Slowly, her hands released their grip on the railing and slipped away, hanging limp at her sides. She had nothing to fiddle with, no cutlery to clutch onto with all her might, she couldn't even think of any way to rid herself of his company (or perhaps she purposely wasn't thinking hard enough). She was bare and had only her jewellery to weigh her down. All of a sudden, she felt like ridding herself of every single precious stone and flinging each one individually into the sea.
"I think you should get back to your peaches in chartreuse jelly now," Mary said determinedly.
The wind resided. "Not before we've been properly introduced."
She raised her eyebrows but Matthew didn't give her much time to wonder. Taking her hand in his he kissed it. "Matthew Crawley."
She nodded her head in acknowledgement and had to do her best to hide a very untimely smile. "Lady Mary Crawley."
"May I accompany you, Lady Mary–"
"Mary," the name stripped of its title left her mouth like a shot and she probably couldn't have stopped it from coming even if she'd wanted to.
Matthew blinked. "Mary...may I accompany you back in?" He reached out his arm to her and she took it, so lightly and regally that he would barely have felt her presence at his side if he hadn't somehow been so aware of every movement that she made. It was the closest they'd been, physically and mentally, so far, and despite the cold, Matthew shuddered, warmed by an inner fire.
As they made their way across the deck, Mary's hand on Matthew's arm (how had it gotten there again?) she remarked, "This is so dreadfully against the rules, Matthew! One cannot simply introduce oneself, you must have friends to do it for you!"
"Nonsense, nonsense!" Matthew replied immediately, acquiring a slightly lower voice and a slightly more aristocratic accent. "What rules? We make the rules! Who has time for friends nowadays?"
Mary's laugh rang out high and elegant as it drifted down to sea and was tasted by the waves. Fortunately, that was all they would be seeing of Lady Mary Crawley for the time being.
She had been saved. By Perseus.
"What a delightful dinner that was!" Isobel exclaimed drily as she and Matthew walked down the second-class hallways (how tight and narrow they now seemed!) leading back to their own cabin.
Matthew didn't really know how to reply. If he had not gone out onto the deck during dessert he most probably would have agreed whole-heartedly...or would he? "The food was good," he ended up replying.
Isobel looked at him with narrowed eyes as only a doctor could look, as though she were already performing a medical examination. "Indeed it was, and well, an interesting experience all around, one might say."
Matthew supposed that she was trying not to clash with him too much if he had had an enjoyable time, but then again, she had been sitting just beside him as he and Mary had fought (relatively politely) throughout two courses. And then one and a half course later they had fought (somewhat less politely) over an oncoming storm. Thankfully Isobel had missed out on the latter. Matthew himself didn't know what to make of it. His mind had gone blank and blurred and kept tripping over itself every time he tried to have it think more reasonably.
So he didn't respond. They reached the door of their room, the key was produced, the lock clicked.
"You haven't been talking much lately," Isobel said as they entered. "Are you ill?"
Typical. Matthew smiled to himself and somehow the smile lightened his heart. "No, not in the least–"
"I thought you might be seasick," Isobel persisted.
"Or had food poisoning?"
Matthew frowned as he turned from shutting the door. "Mother?"
"Or were suddenly infatuated with high society life?" The way she looked at him almost reminded him of Mary and her incessant questioning. He shook his head.
"I'm just rather overwhelmed by it all," he said. "Is that so very wrong?" Walking into the bedroom, he undid his suit jacket and hung it over the chair by the desk. His eyes lingered momentarily on the notebook lying in front of him. He hadn't written anything more since he'd been interrupted earlier today but now had the sudden urge to fill pages and pages with anything and everything that might come to mind.
"Well, Matthew, allow me to add to this sudden anxiety symptom of yours. Do you chance to know who we picked up in stopping by Cherbourg earlier today?" Isobel pulled the pins out of her hair, her voice subtly laden with sarcasm.
Matthew grinned amusedly. "Who?"
"None other than John Jacob Astor, who appears to be the richest man on this ship!"
Her son laughed. "So they get richer?"
"Apparently. And younger, too. His wife is eighteen, or so I'm told." Matthew and Isobel exchanged smiles as they organized their things and got ready to retire for the night.
"Taken to gossiping, have we, mother?" Matthew teased.
"Well, one does have to adapt to survive." In saying this, she gave her son one of her most meaningful looks. Sometimes it felt as though she could see straight through him at a glance. But then again she was his mother, wasn't that what mothers were for? Matthew swore his eloquence came less from his career as a lawyer and more from those deathful looks Isobel often shot him. Now those could truly speak for entire volumes.
"We were only talking about literature," he provided apologetically, something which took him back to his school days when he'd had to convince the teacher that the topics of conversation certainly did have something to do with what was discussed in class. It had almost always worked on his teachers, never on his mother.
"Oh, I'm aware of that," Isobel said emphatically, "and what an exciting discussion it was. I'm sure even a blind man listening in would have been encouraged to read! Extremely inspiring!"
Matthew looked concerned and extremely concentrated for a moment, then suddenly burst out laughing. "It was quite a flop, wasn't it!" he exclaimed, throwing himself down on his bed and digging his hands deep into his blond hair.
His mother smiled and sat down next to him. "I believe it all to have been quite a flop and a good joke to them, certainly – and even that is still an understatement."
He tried to control his laughter a bit and when he had, he faced her, appearing serious with the exception of that betraying smile that hovered around his lips. "I think I behaved rather horrifically! Will we never understand them, mother?"
Isobel got up again, straightening out her shirt. "You can try, Matthew. Those upper-class irons do tend to get awfully hot!" Here, a meaningful look was no longer necessary. Her words had said enough.
"And try I will!" he called after her as she disappeared into the bathroom. And try I will, he repeated to himself. All of a sudden, he found that the challenge had been set up, and what an impossible challenge it was!
A/N: Impossible? Hmm, well, we'll see, Matthew, we'll see...
Next time: Sunshine, reclining chairs, Keats, notebooks, and to flirt or not to flirt? (If everything goes according to plan, that is...)
Also, reviews are as always very, very much appreciated! Thank you a billion times in advance!