Author: Karis B. Hertford PM
Takes place shortly after 3.08. When John can't sleep, he asks Anna to tell him a story. After a few false starts, she thinks of the perfect story to tell. (More chapters to come, as long as I don't get lazy.)Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Anna S. & J. Bates - Chapters: 2 - Words: 1,834 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 12-06-12 - Published: 12-02-12 - id: 8760684
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Tell me a story, Anna."
John turned over in bed to look at her, his eyes twinkling.
"I can't sleep. You must have a bedtime story up your sleeve." He ran his hand up her sleeve, tickling her arm, as if to try to find the tale there hidden.
"Stop it! You silly fool!" Tickling never failed to undo her completely. She began dissolving into mirth.
"I'll stop when you tell me a story." His fingers reached her armpit, and she started flailing helplessly to get away, giggling all the while.
"All right - all right! Once... upon a time..." John's fingers slowed to a tender caress, and she had time to catch her breath.
"Um... there was... a princess... No, sod that. There was... a lobster..."
"Mrs. Bates, I don't believe you have the faintest idea what you're talking about." He started to tickle her again.
"NO! No, no no. I've got it! Oh, this is a good one." He stopped the tickling again, taking her up in his arms.
"I'm sorry, my love, I'm being very silly. You really don't have to dredge up a story."
"No, I've really got one this time! Can it be a true story?"
He laughed and kissed her ear. "Certainly."
"All right." She snuggled into his arms, her back pressed against his chest. "It begins with a young housemaid – well, somewhat young – in 1912. Anna Smith was bored..."
Anna Smith was bored, and she felt guilty about it. Surely she should be appalled at the sinking of the Titanic, and the death of two Crawley family members. And she was, she truly was. But she couldn't help thinking that after all this bustle was over, life would settle back into such a monotonous routine.
True, she liked Gwen, she liked Lady Mary, and she didn't outright hate her job. But there was no spark, nothing to make her wish to get up in the mornings. She remembered being young in that great house, being awestruck at its vastness and its beauty, even being enamoured of a few of the footmen. But she had outgrown it all – outgrown the men as much as the childish sense of wonder.
And now, what was Miss O'Brien going on about? Ugh. Inheritance. Anna didn't want to think about all that. It was just going to make all their lives more complicated, their futures less secure, their employers grouchier. And – had Miss O'Brien just called Gwen "stupid"? The nerve of her!
But Anna was too tired to defend her roommate at that moment. After making a mental note to have a chat with ever-so-sweet Gwen about standing up for herself, all Anna could summon up was a curt reminder to O'Brien that two men were dead: "It's a dreadful thing."
Before she could continue, the three of them were faced with a man, an unknown man. A man with a warm, worldly, intelligent face.
"Hello," he said. He told them that he'd been waiting at the door, but no one had come.
"So you pushed in?" said Miss O'Brien.
"I'm John Bates, the new valet." Ah, of course there would be a new valet. Surely Miss O'Brien couldn't find a reason to keep on being nasty to him now, not when he had every right to be there and she'd only known him half a minute.
But of course, that was too much to hope for. Anna saw O'Brien cast her eyes down to John Bates's cane, and her manner to him grew, if possible, even snootier.
Anna observed their uncomfortable exchange. This Bates spoke with a gentleness that appealed to her. O'Brien was... well, her usual maddening self. Who did O'Brien think she was? What right did she have to make a newcomer feel unwelcome? When O'Brien appeared to have nothing more to say to him, Anna transferred the candlestick she was holding from right hand to left, determined that the new valet should be made to feel at home.
Anna put out her hand firmly, and introduced herself with what she hoped was an inviting smile. "I'm Anna, the head housemaid." Their hands clasped together; his grip was firm and steady. Their eyes met for a moment, but his face remained serious. No wonder, for O'Brien was still staring him down icily.
"And I'm Miss O'Brien, Her Ladyship's maid. You'd better come along with us." She sounds like a stern headmistress! Anna thought. She felt extremely vexed. O'Brien seemed absolutely determined to unnerve this man. What on earth for?
Anna was trying to keep up her smile in the face of it all. Now – hang on. Was it just her imagination, or had Mr. Bates just, ever-so-briefly, conspiratorially rolled his eyes at her? She couldn't be sure, but if so... oh, how she'd love to have an ally in eye-rolling!
Just in case, just on the off chance that she was about to make a friend, Anna let the others go ahead as Mr. Bates picked up his case. When he stood up again, she glanced at him and outright grinned.
She couldn't tell by his answering smile what he felt. But she knew one thing: she believed she would like him very much indeed.
Anna finished her tale and looked up at her husband's face. She felt no small sense of triumph when she saw the tears in the corners of his eyes.
"There." She kissed away the tears. "Was that satisfactory?"
He kissed her for a while, and then said, "Well, it certainly didn't bring me any closer to sleep. But who needs sleep, dammit. You're much more refreshing."
Anna sat up a bit, pertly. "And what about you? Do you have any stories up your sleeve? I'm breathless to hear what the character of John Bates was thinking during all that."
"Oh, he was thinking a great many things, my dear."
Anna settled back down into his arms, facing him this time.
"Go on," she whispered.
"Well. John Bates's arrival at Downton Abbey..."