Author: OrangeShipper PM
This afternoon, they can't bear to say goodbye. But come tomorrow, that won't matter so much anymore. Extreme fluff warning, and copious amounts of kissing. Consider yourselves warned.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Matthew C. & Mary C. - Words: 4,713 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 33 - Follows: 15 - Published: 07-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8309588
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: A long overdue prompt for the lovely smndolphin who suggeted this scenario to me :)
Matthew and Lady Mary are getting married in the morning. This is possibly the fluffiest thing I've ever written. And you know how fluffy I can be. Book your dentist appointment now.
Many thanks to smndolphin for suggesting it and EOlivet for passing her seal of approval on the fluff-o-meter (which I think should be A Thing).
After a week of incessant, grey, drizzling rain, the sun had finally made itself known again. Matthew was pleased for it, and smiled to himself, noticing how the air smelt fresher now and all the colours of the grass and trees and flowers along the path up to the Abbey seemed brighter, somehow. Mary would be pleased, anyway; and the thought only made him smile more. She'd been so afraid the rain would dampen their day. It couldn't in any true sense, of course – nothing could possibly dampen their spirits or lessen their smiles, nothing in the world would have the power to – but even so, sunshine was always more pleasant for a wedding than rain, so Matthew prayed that for his bride's sake it would hold off for one more day. After tomorrow, he thought, it could rain as much as it liked. It might never stop and he doubted he'd notice, because after tomorrow Mary would be his wife and he'd never again have to walk through the rain to see her in a house that was not their own.
Approaching the Abbey, he felt an odd sense of nostalgia stir in his chest at the sight of the grand old building. It seemed different, or, it would… The next time he came here, he'd be Mary's husband, and the Earl's son-in-law, and he began to feel his connection to it more than ever. The difference was a technicality; he was and still would be the heir, it made no material difference for his life would always have been tied to it anyway and Robert had made it clear for years now that he counted Matthew his son regardless of his connection (or lack of, at times) to his daughter. And yet… tomorrow he would feel a truer heir to it than ever before, because he would more legally be the Earl's son and married to the person who should always have inherited it anyway. His relationship to it was changing, and while Matthew was desperately glad of it, it all still felt rather… odd. He couldn't quite get his head round it.
His sense of displacement and nervousness only increased as he walked into the bustle of activity that swamped the expansive hall. He felt his gut lurch with memory at servants carrying boxed gifts and flowers, and his eyes widened taking in the breathtaking arrangements that covered every surface and rail, before what little breath left in his chest was knocked out of him by Mary latching onto his arm without warning.
"Matthew! What a surprise, and fortunate timing – come on."
"Darling – what?"
"You must save me," she hissed against his ear as she bustled him back out of the door and into the air. Now alone, and shrouded in the warm silence of the tentative sunshine, she ran her hands down his arms and leaned up to kiss the startled expression from his parted lips.
She eased back and smiled, and he looked so enchantedly dumbstruck that she kissed him again, slower and sweeter, and this time his hands curled around her slender waist and she felt him smile against her lips. At the sensation of his eager, tender response, Mary stretched to her tiptoes and brought her hands to his cheeks, stroking her thumbs affectionately over them before one hand lifted to swipe off his hat as her arms wound around his neck. She left one hand at the back of his neck, feeling the muscles shift as his head moved to kiss her, again and again, her fingers dipping into his hair. All day, and more since luncheon, she'd felt stress and tension coil in her like a barbed wire at all the fuss… and now, her darling Matthew's kiss was like a balm that softened and melted her agitation with every gentle suck of his lips against her own.
It only occurred to them after several, blissful minutes of such tender delight, that they hadn't even said hello to each other yet. But then, it was often so easy to forget that when the most important, vital, encompassing thing in the universe was the other's taste, their caressing hands, the warm slip of their tongue against their own…
Eventually, they did part (though not very much at all, their faces still only breathless inches apart).
"Hello, darling," Matthew murmured, and Mary felt the warmth of his gaze flitting over her flushed cheeks and lips. Her smile widened, and she desperately wanted to kiss him again, settling instead to close her eyes and move close enough that her nose just brushed his.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Crawley," she breathed.
Matthew laughed, and stepped away a little so their joined hands swung between them.
"That was very formal of you!" It seemed slightly absurd considering their relationship but it was fond, and warmed him with happiness.
"I know," Mary frowned seriously. "But I thought it really would seem silly, after tomorrow, so it's probably my last chance to call you it."
She shrugged dismissively, and smiled at Matthew's delighted laugh before tugging his hand to walk with her to their long-favoured bench, just out of sight of the house. She folded her hands in front of her while he took off his coat and laid it over the seat, just in case the sun hadn't quite dried off the previous week's rain. He gestured for her to sit down and she smiled graciously and did so.
Matthew watched her every graceful move with bright, appreciative eyes before sitting down beside her (closer now than he would've dared before their engagement) and gasped when, without warning, Mary twisted and hooked her crossed legs over his lap, tucking herself against his chest. His arms curled instinctively around her, and he laid his cheek against her hair.
"I'm so glad you came," Mary murmured into his neck, pressing soft kisses to the little shaving cuts she always noticed there. "I wasn't expecting you to!"
"Of course I'm here." He chuckled against her hair. Normally whenever they came out she'd worn a hat, but in her rush just now she had none, and he noticed the way the sunlight made her chestnut hair shine a softer, more golden brown. "I won't see you this evening, and we hadn't said a proper goodbye yesterday. It's the last chance I had to see you before… tomorrow. It seemed rather significant."
"Oh. Yes…" she sighed gently, curling a little more closely into his arms. The thought of not seeing him again until he was waiting for her at the altar seemed suddenly terrifying, and she didn't want him to leave her. "Thank you so much for doing so. I was going spare in there. I needed a more pleasant distraction."
"Ah. I had wondered why you'd dragged me outside so enthusiastically. Much as my pride would like to think you were simply so happy to see me that you couldn't wait to–" He cut off, laughing, as Mary slapped his midriff.
"Don't flatter yourself," she smiled, even as she belied her own words with a series of little seductive kisses along his jaw. He shivered, and kissed the top of her head.
"Alright, alright. Was it very unbearable? Is my mother in there? She told me she was going to the church to see to the flowers there…"
"I think she did," Mary sighed. "And then she came here to make sure that Granny's arrangements, already distinctly modified from Mama's attempts even though I'm sure the florists had done them beautifully in the first place, were quite in line with them."
"Oh dear. I don't suppose that's going down very well."
"No, it isn't. Meanwhile Grandmama is taking great pains to observe the relative value of all our wedding gifts, which of course Granny finds disgusting even though we all know she's doing exactly the same and simply not shouting about it."
"My poor darling," Matthew smiled apologetically, and tipped her chin up to kiss her softly, no matter the uncomfortable angle this twisted his neck to. "What about your Papa?"
She frowned, thinking. "I'm not sure. In fact I don't know if I've seen him since breakfast. He's probably hiding somewhere, and I don't blame him."
"No, nor do I."
"So you see I was dreadfully pleased to see you!" She smiled adoringly up at him.
"Happy to help, my darling." He kissed her nose and sighed gently. Mary frowned, stroking her hand softly and unconsciously over the lapel of his jacket and his broad chest beneath it.
"It was very good of you to enter the fray for me, Matthew dear. You… looked a little startled yourself when you came in, was there anything the matter?"
In truth she had a perfectly good idea of what the matter was, and it was something she'd been afraid of for the last few weeks as their wedding drew nearer. Flowers in the hall, the excitement of preparation, gifts being brought and arranged, invitations sent and accepted… It was all so horribly… familiar. Darling Matthew hadn't ever mentioned it, and she wasn't sure she'd wanted him to – she didn't want the excitement of their wedding tempered with regrets over what had happened before. But now it came to it, she realised she would far rather he be honest about it, if it troubled him. The last thing she wanted was for him to feel he must hide what he felt from her.
He seemed to read all of this in her tenderly concerned expression, as he looked troubled for a moment and the pressed his lips to her forehead, blinking up at the sunlight glimmering through the leaves above them.
"I suppose," he began with some difficulty, "it all seemed, just for a moment… a little too familiar, it was… unnerving." But he knew how hard that must be for Mary to bear, that he should be thinking of his former fiancée and former wedding preparations now, and he didn't want to himself! He lowered his head and looked forlorn, and frustrated with himself. "I'm so sorry, Mary…"
"Don't be!" she replied quickly, and pulled his face up to look her in the eye. She kissed him, quickly, reassuring him that she understood him and did not for a moment hold it against him. Fondly, she stroked his hair back from his forehead, though it had been perfectly placed anyway. "You mustn't be sorry for that," she said again. "Of course you're thinking of it. But… tomorrow will be new in all respects, and we will be making our own new memories then. Won't we."
Matthew smiled weakly. "Yes, we… we will, darling. And – I'm so, so happy."
They kissed again, as if it might put all those worries behind them, but of course it could not. But they were less, now, and they each allowed and enjoyed the distraction of the kiss, allowing it to deepen naturally as their breath quickened and little gasps broke the otherwise silent afternoon. They were so close, so close… and Matthew was desperately aware of her legs hooked over his, her hand on his chest, playing at his collar, in his hair, and his own hands warmed by her body. It was perfect, she was perfect, and… fear suddenly flooded his chest.
"Mary," he murmured desperately against her lips.
"….yes?" Her mind was fogged with desire, why had he stopped kissing her? She nipped playfully at his lips, seeking him again, but he placed two fingers on hers to stop her. Her eyes blinked open, and she saw the odd light in his and frowned. "What is it?"
He swallowed. "I don't want to let you go," he said quickly. "I don't want to… say goodbye to you. I don't want to have to wait until tomorrow to be with you always. What if… What if something happens?"
"Oh, darling – it won't!" Mary laughed gently, and kissed him again, but she felt in his trembling lips that he really was afraid. Life had taught him to count on nothing, to rely on nothing, and that his confidence should fail so made him even more dear to her.
"Promise me it won't," he asked her, in all seriousness. His hand stroked anxiously up and down her arm, wondering at the sensation of her skin under the cotton of her blouse. She was far, far too precious. "Promise me that – you'll be there, tomorrow, that we will marry… That you – won't –"
"What?" she laughed again, more brightly. She couldn't settle his fears, not seriously – for he was right, to a point. And that made her terribly sad. But she didn't want to be sad, not today, and she didn't want him to be either. In a fit of madness, she supposed, she decided to tackle his fears by making light of them with her own instead. She kissed his nose quickly and looked at him with a fond amusement. "Don't die, before tomorrow? Dearest Matthew, I'll only concede to such a ridiculous promise if you'll promise me in turn that you won't die tomorrow night!"
His eyes widened as he realised in an instant what she meant, and in the same instant how ridiculous such promises were to make. And then all that would stick in his mind was the thought of tomorrow night, and… then it became rather hard to think at all.
He nodded, making only a low sound in the back of his throat in the absence of any speech, and lowered his head to kiss her again. This time it deepened quickly, and a soft, happy moan slipped past Mary's lips into Matthew's mouth that only aroused him more. His palm and fingers were warm on her neck as he held the back of her head, his tongue slipping against hers in heady delight… then they slipped lower on her neck, almost to her throat, to the top of her chest… but no further, he would not, though the effort it took was immense and he groaned gently in frustration. Not yet. Not yet… One more night, one more day, then…
They broke breathlessly apart, foreheads leaning together and eyes closed as their breath mingled and they recovered, their minds swirling and blood warming with thoughts of tomorrow.
"I don't want you to say goodbye today either," Mary gasped, and lay her head again against his shoulder as his arms wrapped around her. The thought of him leaving, even for just one more night, was unbearable. "I wish we could be married today. I wish I could come home with you now and forget about all the flowers and the cake and my dress, I don't care about any of it. I wish I could escape all of this fuss and it be done with, today." She didn't mean it of course, about the flowers and cake and her dress, but in that moment in Matthew's arms they seemed terrifyingly insignificant.
He knew her too well, and replied, "You could do away with it all of course, darling – our banns are read and we can bin all the food and the flowers. But I think you'd soon regret it."
"I suppose you're right," she sighed, and smiled appreciatively. They were quiet for a moment.
Then Matthew said, "Tell me what your dress is like?"
She sat up straighter, shocked. "Absolutely not!"
"No! It must be a surprise, Matthew, or it's bad luck. You'll see it tomorrow anyway – and me in it, with all the required accompaniments, or it shall lose all effect of its loveliness!"
"I know, darling," Matthew smiled teasingly. "And that's exactly why I want you to tell me a little, or I'm afraid that when I see you in the church I'll bowl over at how beautiful you are. You must prepare me a little, you see!"
Mary laughed delightedly and kissed him. "Certainly not! I'd be quite flattered, I think, if you bowled over at the sight of me. In fact I'm rather disappointed now that it's not your typical reaction to seeing me."
"Oh, Mary –"
"So, no!" She swatted playfully at him again before tugging his lapels to bring his lips down to meet hers in yet another long, and torturously delightful, kiss. And when they finally stopped for the sake of breathing again, they were warm from their embrace and the sunshine and tired from the strain of their plans, which would so soon now be realised. And before they knew it, they had fallen asleep together on the bench under the tree.
When Mary awoke sometime later, the sun was noticeably lower in the sky. Her eyes fluttered open in its warmth and she considered, for a few moments, how perfectly comfortable she was. Her head lay on Matthew's shoulder, tucked into the crook of his neck, really, and his arms were around her, one hand resting lightly on her hip. Her legs were beginning to ache a little, hooked over his lap as they were, but she couldn't bring herself to care about that. If she tipped her head a little she could see some of Matthew's face… his features relaxed in slumber, and for a moment she thought happily about how beautifully handsome he was.
And then she realised something.
"Oh!" She gave a little cry and sat up more fully, which startled Matthew awake.
"God, what is it?" he exclaimed, and looked so endearingly panicked for a moment that Mary laughed gently. "What time – were we – asleep?" he frowned, still confused.
"I think we were," she smiled ruefully.
"Oh. I'm so sorry – what time is it? Has it been hours? They'll be missing you –"
"No, they won't," Mary sighed, patting his arm to calm him. "It isn't that."
"It's very silly." She leaned back slightly, and blinked away tears that were too ridiculous to be there. She swiped them angrily away.
"Darling, what is it?" Matthew's thumb replaced the back of her hand, stroking gently at her cheek as she sniffed.
Mary laughed ruefully at herself. "It's just… I feel as though I've spoilt things. I wasn't – supposed to fall asleep in your arms until tomorrow night, you see. And I wasn't supposed to wake up in them until the morning after, and –"
"Oh, Mary!" Matthew's thumb was replaced by his lips as he kissed her cheeks softly, before easing back to give her a little space. "Darling, please – please don't think that! You've not – spoilt anything!"
She nodded slowly. Oh, she knew it was only a little thing, but in that moment of waking it had suddenly seemed the most important in the world. She had wanted to wake in his arms for the first time… properly. To enjoy it and savour it, with nothing between them but sheets and skin and sunlight…
"I know," she sniffed, "but –"
"I know, my love."
And she knew that he really did know, and that when he kissed her he too was thinking about that beautiful moment of waking, and the fact that before that they would have fallen blissfully asleep together, in a bed warmed by their passion and their limbs tangled together.
It was not at all the same. And it was so soon, now.
Mary twisted a little, leaning against him, and craned her neck to see the Abbey rising beyond the trees.
"It's funny," she said quietly, "to think that from tomorrow this won't be home anymore."
"It will be," Matthew murmured, pressing soft kisses along her hairline. "Downton Abbey will always be your home, my darling." He'd promised her once that she would always have a home there, as long as he was alive – and he was only glad now that he could keep that promise, with her as his wife instead of… whatever other arrangement he might have imagined them living in. Anything else seemed absurd, now.
"Don't be silly, love," she shook her head and reclined again into his chest. Her fingers played idly over his lapel, creeping up to his collar and the warm skin of his throat, now shadowy with the faintest stubble. "Crawley House will be my home tomorrow. I'm afraid you're bringing me down to your middle class way of life."
"Oh, Mary –"
"–and I don't mind it at all," she smiled triumphantly and kissed him. She felt his gentle frown, and carried on pressing her lips softly to his until she felt it relax as he believed her.
"Do you really not mind?" he asked softly. He would do anything to make her happy, and he felt bad enough as it was that his status could not live up to what she'd been accustomed to – not yet, at least.
"Mind?" A gentle laugh bubbled from her lips at his darling seriousness. "Darling, I don't mind a bit! Do you know," she inclined her head mockingly, "People of the upper class are supposed to sleep in separate bedrooms?"
Matthew blushed a little. "Well, I –"
"You'll have to forgive me for being so forward, dear Matthew, but it's the day before our wedding and such a prospect as living with separate bedrooms seems quite ridiculous for really smart people to abide by. Wouldn't you say?"
"Quite ridiculous." Matthew's voice dropped softly, unable to think for the moment of anything beyond the frighteningly immediate prospect (after so long) of sharing a bed, and a life, with Mary. In his modest little home. In their home.
Mary smiled radiantly, and tilted her head just that fraction more it needed to ease her lips to his. She wouldn't say it for fear of sounding ridiculous, but she dearly hoped Matthew knew by now that she couldn't care less whether 'home' was Crawley House or Downton Abbey or… a run-down cottage in the back farms of the estate. Her home was fixed, she knew where it was. It was wherever Matthew was. And from tomorrow, that would really be true, and they would be and live together. The thought made her inexpressibly happy; it had been building up for so long and now it was tomorrow – and the sweet promise of his repeated, earnest kisses and his warm, tender hands made her head spin with delight.
But all too soon, the afternoon was passing and the evening was threatening to draw in. With enormous reluctance, Matthew helped Mary to her feet and stood up to face her, taking her hands in his own.
"Shall I walk you in?" he asked quietly. His heart ached. For all he wanted the next day to arrive as quickly as it possibly could, he wanted to draw out this moment of parting for as long as he was able.
She shook her head. "No. It's quite alright, you'll only get trapped if you do."
They were breathlessly silent for a few moments, their fingers still laced together, unable to part.
"Well!" Mary tried gently again. "I suppose I'll see you tomorrow, Matthew dear."
"Tomorrow," he smiled knowingly, and lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. Oh God, the next time he kissed her, she'd be his wife… He couldn't bear it, his whole body shaking with tension.
Still, they didn't move.
"Well, then," Matthew tried now. "I hope you have a lovely evening with your family."
The last one, properly, before they were husband and wife and beginning their own family. Mary drew a shuddering breath.
"I will! Thank you. And you, too."
"Yes. Pleasant dreams, my darling. I hope you manage to get a little sleep."
"I'll try. But really, Matthew, you can't think I'm so very excited to marry you that I'll lose sleep over it!"
They both laughed at the woeful lie, still terrified to part.
"Why would you be," he smirked affectionately, his thumbs lightly caressing her knuckles. "Excited to be marrying a middle-class lawyer with a small house and only four servants? What a ludicrous thought."
"Isn't it!" But her inexpressibly happy, trembling smile told them both that she couldn't possibly be more excited about it if she could wish to be. "Goodbye, then," she said at last.
Matthew licked his lips, watching her with an aching gaze of passion.
"I don't want to say goodbye to you," he said again, as he had earlier that afternoon.
"Then don't," Mary whispered.
"Can I – just once more –"
"Dear God, yes."
And they kissed again, their arms tightening about each other into a fierce, longing embrace. Though it seemed such a bitter parting, and such a momentous one, they knew that the next day they wouldn't have to bear this again. Matthew tasted the sweetness of his fiancée's mouth, knowing that tomorrow it would be his wife's mouth he could savour, and not just her mouth but… He groaned and pulled away, then kissed her again, pressing his lips desperately to hers before he forced himself to step physically back. She was breathless and panting quickly in front of her, her cheeks rouged in passion, and he stored the beautiful image in his mind to last him until tomorrow.
"Please don't be late," he pleaded softly. "I couldn't bear it."
"I won't be." They'd have to fight to make her wait until noon, even, never mind being late!
"Thank you. I suppose – I'll see you in church, then."
She rewarded his sweetness with a breathtaking smile.
"Yes, darling. I'll look forward to it."
He smiled, and still didn't move. His feet would not obey, he didn't want to leave her…
"I should go…"
"Yes, you should!" she laughed. Squeezing his hands once more, treasuring the feel of them, she let go and flexed her fingers at her side. She was determined, now (though naturally she would not leave until he had moved to do so). "Till tomorrow, my love."
"Right." He wouldn't say goodbye. He didn't want to.
He smiled, and as he had promised himself that was to have been the last, he stepped back and blew a kiss to her. "I'll see you at noon, darling. I love you."
And before he could see her trembling smile burst apart into happy and terribly affectionate tears, he turned away and walked quickly away from her down the path, fighting every urge to turn back to her.
Just tonight, and then tomorrow, and then they'd be married. If he turned back now, he'd never leave her to be able to see her at the altar, he was quite sure of that.
He took a deep breath and stared into the sky, praying once more that the rain would hold off and the sunshine would hold out, so that Mary might have the most perfect wedding day of her dreams. And then she would be his wife, and…
A/N: Thank you so much for reading, and I so much hope you enjoyed it! :)