Author's Note: This is my contribution to Mary/Matthew Celebration Day. Some may wonder why we chose this day in particular to celebrate M/M, and really there is no reason. Everyday, quite frankly, could be M/M Celebration Day, and for some of us, I suppose it is.
Many thanks go to my dear patsan for organizing this wonderful day and spreading the word, and for all her generous support of me, given without my even asking for it. Grazie! As with most things that I write, inspiration and motivation are courtesy of Willa Dedalus and Lala Kate, again without being prompted, but just for being who they are. Thank you, ladies.
This is my canon fill/AU, showing how there always was so much more to the dull boy, Matthew Crawley, and how eventually he does truly shine.
Crawley House, Downton Village, England, September 1912
"Matthew, you're still up?" Isobel asked, looking with bleary eyes into the study. "Whatever are you doing?"
"Just reading, Mother," Matthew smiled, his eyelids half-closed. He frowned at the numerous books and papers spread out across the desk, before looking back at his mother with a sheepish expression. "I was working on something and forgot the time."
Isobel regarded the balled up crumpled pieces of paper strewn about the desk with a suspicious eye.
"Well, whatever it is, you'll be no good to anyone by staying up half the night. Go upstairs immediately. Poor Molesley is probably asleep on his feet waiting for you," she admonished him, turning to head back upstairs.
"Yes, Mother," Matthew sighed, taking one last glance at his notes and scribbles before piling the books into a neat stack and rising from the chair.
Downton Abbey, England, March 1913
"I was wondering if I might trouble you for some advice?" Matthew asked quietly, his view reluctantly leaving the scene of the two figures across the room, who only seemed to have eyes for each other.
"Of course," Evelyn Napier answered, tearing his own gaze away with great effort.
"You know the pulse of the government, I'm sure," Matthew began. "How has the House reacted to the changes that have been taking place over the last years? Has the People's Budget been accepted?"
"Hardly," Evelyn scoffed. "You must understand, Matthew, that the House is full of Lords who have been in power for decades, and their families even longer than that. Even if Parliament has passed a number of revolutionary measures, there are always ways to keep these things tied up for years on end before anything concrete actually is implemented. Change always sounds good to the public of course, but very little will actually change. I suppose whether you think that's good or bad depends on how you feel about the current state of things."
"Indeed," Matthew nodded, taking a sip of his drink. His eyes strayed once again across the room to a red dress and coiffed brown hair and a radiant smile that was sadly not meant for him.
Crawley House, Downton Village, England, August 1913
"How was your evening? Did you enjoy yourself?" Isobel asked with a smile.
"Quite," Matthew answered, looking down the stairs at his mother. "The thing is, just for a moment, I thought…" he paused, his eyes unfocused as his pleasant memory turned to dust. "Never mind what I thought," he shook his head. "I was wrong." He crossed the two steps between them and kissed her on the cheek. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, darling," Isobel said quietly. She turned and went to seek out Molesley to have him lock up.
Matthew lay in bed, his eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. His mind was a mess, recalling hushed whispers and teasing glances and playful dark eyes staring back at him enticingly. His blood raced as he pictured her stare, her lips, her smile. Had she ever looked at him like that before? Had she ever smiled at him, laughed with him, whispered to him like that?
He sighed and sat up, reaching over and turning on his bedside light. He opened his nightstand drawer and pulled out a thick legal size notepad. He looked over it with a frown, the urge to tear it up fighting a losing battle within him.
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the images of a smiling face looking past him and two people perusing a book vanishing from his mind. He opened his eyes and reached for a pen from the nightstand. He sat back in bed, leaning against the headboard, balancing the notepad on his bent knees in front of him. He began writing on a fresh page.
Grantham House, St. James Square, London, England, June 1914
"Are you enjoying yourself tonight?" Matthew asked, his voice low and soft in her ear.
"Yes," Mary answered, swallowing slightly. He felt her shiver in his arms and he moved his hand across her back, drawing her closer to him, the heat between their bodies spreading.
He kept his eyes on hers as they danced. Her gaze seemed different to him somehow. She was looking back at him but her glance was not placid or neutral. Her eyes seemed to be wide and inviting. Her cheeks were rosy and a smile seemed to be pulling at her lips. He could feel her warm skin under his hand, her elegant gown doing very little to hide her figure.
"You seemed deep in conversation earlier with that older gentleman," Mary noted. "A colleague of yours, correct?"
"Yes," Matthew nodded slightly. "Just discussing some boring lawyer business. You know how these parties are. One must fill the time with conversation."
"Of course," Mary smiled. "I think Mama enjoys these affairs more for the gossip than the food and dancing."
"I must say I am looking forward to the day that you host one of these grand soireés," Matthew smiled.
"Oh?" Mary replied nervously. "And you think you'll be invited, do you?"
"Actually, I plan on co-hosting it," Matthew answered with a firm voice, even though his stomach was lurching.
This was a test. She was looking for him to show weakness or annoyance, to take her jibe beyond the playful spirit in which it was intended. She probably did not believe that he would wait for her answer as he said he would. He needed to show her. He needed to show her that he trusted her, that he believed in her, even though his heart and mind were cracking at the thought of her not being in his future.
Mary swallowed and Matthew gave her a playful smile, desperately hoping that he was affecting her as much as she was him.
"I'll miss you," he dared to say, filling the silence between them. Her eyes widened at his admission. "I know that you're staying here after we go back to Downton," he continued. "I know that you usually spend time here alone during the Season, but I will miss you just the same."
"Matthew," she said quietly. "I promise you'll have my answer the day that I get back to Downton."
Matthew smiled bravely as they continued to dance. "Another reason that I'll be glad to see you upon your return, then, Mary."
Law Office of Harvell & Carter, Ripon, England, May 1919
"Matthew? What are you doing here?" the man asked.
Matthew looked up from his desk and gave a tired smile.
"I needed to keep myself busy, so coming to the office seemed appropriate," he replied.
"I'm very sorry, Matthew. We all feel just gutted for you."
"Thank you," Matthew nodded politely. "And please thank the partners for the flowers. They were lovely. Lavinia would have been pleased."
"A damn thing, this Spanish flu. How is the rest of your family?"
"Lady Grantham is recovering. She should be fine eventually," Matthew said quietly, glancing at the open books scattered across his desk. "The family butler also fell ill, but he's a fighter and I expect he'll be all right, God willing."
"Very well. Don't work too hard, Matthew. I understand your need for distraction, but you shouldn't overdo it. The files will still be here when you're ready to come back."
"Thank you," Matthew nodded.
When Matthew was once again alone in his office, he returned to his task. He reviewed his notes and cross referenced them against the various passages he had flagged in the books opened before him. Furrowing his brow, he took up a fresh notepad and began to write, pushing the guilt and shame that he carried deep down into the pit of his stomach.
Village Hospital, Downton Village, England, May 1923
"Mr. Crawley," Dr. Clarkson smiled. "You can come see them now."
Matthew walked nervously into the room, pausing just past the doorway. He grinned widely as he took in the sight before him. Mary cooed to the baby, smiling with bright eyes at their newborn daughter. Matthew came to the bedside and gingerly sat down beside them.
"Meet your Papa, my darling," Mary smiled, turning the baby towards Matthew. He reached out with his hand and stroked the small infant's soft cheek lovingly.
"Hello, my precious girl," Matthew cried happily. "Oh, Mary, she's beautiful. Just like you."
"Don't speak so soon," Mary teased, her eyes still locked on the joyful gift in her arms. "Her hair looks like yours."
"How terrible for her," Matthew chuckled. They both sighed and laughed blissfully as their daughter slowly closed her eyes and turned towards the warmth of Mary's body.
"A girl," Mary exclaimed, beaming unabashedly from ear to ear. "Mama and Granny will be doing cartwheels."
"Mother too," Matthew replied. "She's been dying to spoil a little girl all her life."
"This doesn't bode well," Mary said, turning her head to her husband and arching her eyebrow. "All of these women doting on our daughter will make her quite an entitled princess."
"So be it, darling," Matthew beamed. "So be it."
"I can't explain it, Matthew," Mary whispered. "Seeing George for the first time was so indescribable, but now seeing her feels just as incredible, and yet different."
"I know, Mary," Matthew nodded. "But one thing feels the same. I am just as overwhelmed by how amazing you are as I was when you gave me our son."
"Heavens," Mary smirked, looking into his adoring blue eyes. "Does that mean I've earned a similar reward?"
"Most definitely," Matthew smiled. He leaned forward and kissed her soundly. A decent kiss. A firm kiss. A proper kiss. A kiss to show her all the affection, admiration and devotion that he felt for her in this moment.
"You better go," Mary smiled into his lips. "Papa will be climbing the walls waiting for news. Carson along with him."
"I'll be right back," Matthew said, kissing her again, then rising from the bed and turning for the door.
"Matthew," Mary called.
"Yes, darling?" Matthew turned back to her.
"I want you to stay here with us," she said firmly. "A telephone call to Downton will do."
Matthew smiled and nodded, and went out to the hall to carry out her instructions.
Downton Abbey, England, February 1925
"Milady," Anna bowed as she came into the library. "A package has arrived for Mr. Matthew. Shall I bring it up to your sitting room?"
"What is it?" Mary asked, closing her book and looking over at her maid.
"It's a rather large parcel, Milady, from London," Anna replied.
Mary smiled to herself. Matthew had already given her a beautiful pair of diamond earrings for Valentines Day. Surely he did not have another gift planned? She blushed slightly as she thought of how she had thanked him for the earrings. Well, if he expected her to do that again, then this new gift had better be spectacular.
Mary glanced at Anna and bit her lower lip. It would be terribly wicked of her to spoil her husband's surprise. Then again, he of all people knew how much she loved to ruin surprises. And if the gift was sufficiently impressive, well, she knew how she could make him forget about her small transgression.
"Have Bates bring it here," Mary said conspiratorially. "I want to inspect it before we bring it upstairs."
"Yes, Milady," Anna smirked in understanding.
Bates brought the large parcel into the library and placed it on the desk in front of Mary. She examined it carefully, frowning to herself in confusion. It was bigger than a simple parcel, almost the size of one of the boxes that she often saw in Matthew's office, the ones he kept reams of papers in. There was no mark on the paper from any of the shops or boutiques that she frequented in London.
"It's from Westminster," she said, examining the post mark. "Whatever could it be? Books?"
Bates and Anna looked on, smiling to themselves. While it was quite a shame that Lady Mary could not resist delving into her husband's business, it was somewhat adorable at the same time. She perused the package like a child on Christmas morning trying to determine what was inside before she was allowed to open it.
"Bates, you saw the postman take a tumble on the driveway and sadly the wrapping paper of the package was torn," Mary declared.
"Yes, Milady," Bates nodded. He smiled knowingly at Anna.
Mary smirked at Anna and Bates, then turned back and carefully ripped part of the paper, keeping most of it intact, but opening a large enough tear that she could see inside. She peeked through the hole she created. At first she frowned as she looked more closely, then finally her eyes widened and she gasped.
"You can both go," Mary said quietly to Anna and Bates. "I'll keep this until Mr. Crawley comes home from work."
Anna and Bates looked at each other, then nodded and left the library.
When she was finally alone, Mary tore open the package and devoured the contents with her eyes, turning the pages as she perused each document in great detail. After going through the material twice and understanding half of it, she sat back in her chair and closed her eyes, the tears falling freely.
"Oh, Matthew," she sighed, shaking her head.
He wasn't that man.
He wasn't that man to steal a kiss from her at the Northbrooks, then arrive at Downton under false pretences, whispering and flirting with her through secret passages before feigning he was tired and abandoning her in the morning.
He wasn't that man.
He wasn't that man to beguile and seduce her with his eyes, his smile and his innuendo, to force himself upon her underneath the gaze of the Della Francesca, then somehow breach the sanctity of her bedroom, turning her playful flirting into something far more sinister, then fade away before dawn, leaving her with only shame and ruin as reminders of their brief time together.
He wasn't that man.
He wasn't that man to use her as his invitation into Society; to try to impress her with grandiose visions of power, a large house filled with excess but empty of anything else; to covet only her body and her upbringing, her ability to give him sons and play hostess to his contacts, and to speak of love as if it was beneath them and was a commodity so undervalued that it did not need to be talked about.
He wasn't that man.
He wasn't without flaws, and he would be the first to admit it. As a nobleman, he was rather disappointing. He was barely average at horseback riding, passable at cricket and tennis, dreadful at shooting, and even worse at double guns. Despite being joint Master of one of the largest remaining Country Estates in England, he still went to work each day at a nondescript law office in Ripon.
They had argued. They had enraged each other with their stubbornness and short-sightedness. They had hurt each other, so many times and in so many ways that the ledger was probably filled and it was hard to tell which one of them had come out ahead, if a winner could even be declared for such things.
He was her husband.
He was her husband, and he loved her, loved her madly despite her being horrid when she wanted to be. He loved her even when she argued with him, forced him to live under her father's roof, teased him in front of company, and always had to have the last word. He loved her even though she had never set foot in Manchester, barely kept in touch with any of his relations, save her regular tea appointments with Isobel, and barely asked him about his work. He loved her beyond reason, and never hesitated to tell her so, even though she stuttered to say the words in return, preferring to show him rather than talk about it, even when they were in the privacy of their bedroom.
In her private moments, Mary would sometimes be aghast at her own behaviour towards him, but she would dismiss it quickly, convincing herself that hosting parties for his clients and colleagues, and sharing private smiles and kisses and passionate lovemaking was sufficient apology. He had changed her, softened her edges, created precious children with her. She could not truly regret all the drama and tragedy of their history because they were together now and what was the use of caring about the past when they had a future to live? The happy memories now outweighed the sad ones by such a vast degree that she could barely remember them.
Mary lay on their bed, crying softly. Matthew would be home soon but she could not rouse herself back to being normal. She could have had Bates tie the package back up, claim that it was torn in the post and swear she never looked at it. She could have feigned a headache to avoid dinner and tell him she wanted to retire early, knowing she could put her mask on in the morning, knowing that duty would require him to have dinner with her family without her, knowing that she could be asleep before he reached their bed.
A man who didn't know her would accept her excuses. A man who didn't listen to her wouldn't care that she went to bed without him. A man who didn't love her wouldn't bother to see behind her mask to find out what was truly affecting her.
He wasn't that man.
"Mary? I'm home," Matthew declared as he came into their bedroom. "I had an absolutely hideous day."
Mary lay in bed on her side, facing away from him. She dabbed her eyes quickly, then sat up.
"That sounds terrible, darling," she said quietly. He went into his dressing room and Mary blinked, trying to compose herself.
Matthew divested himself of his jacket, vest and tie, hanging them up neatly. He came back out to the bedroom, the top button of his shirt undone and the weight of his work day left behind.
"I must say on days like today, I sometimes wonder whether continuing to work is such a good idea. Perhaps I should have taken your suggestion and retired months ago," he laughed, coming over and kissing her.
Mary looked up at him and gave him a polite smile.
"Darling? What's the matter?" Matthew frowned upon one glance at her. "You've been crying." He reached out and stroked his fingers over the tracks of her tears across her cheek.
Mary closed her eyes and shook her head. "It's nothing. I've just been thinking." She opened her eyes and smiled at him again.
Undeterred, Matthew sat down next to her and took her hands in his. "Mary? What is it? You can tell me."
Mary stared at him for several moments, then burst out in tears again. She collapsed into his shoulder and sobbed, her arms wrapping around him. She hated showing weakness. She hated crying. She hated that of the rare times that she seemed to come undone, it was often in his presence, her defences long abandoned where he was concerned.
"Mary?" Matthew asked in bewilderment. "What's wrong? Is it something I've done?"
"Oh, Matthew," she said into his shirt, sobbing anew at his choice of words.
"Mary, please," Matthew said, rubbing her back. "You're beginning to scare me, darling."
He could not imagine what had her so upset. He had looked in on the children when he first came home, as he always did. They were playing in the nursery as usual, without a care in the world. In fact, he had to tear himself from their playful grip around his legs so he could escape to the bedroom. It couldn't be the children. It couldn't be anything to do with her family, at least that as far as he knew. What had his wife so distraught?
Mary pulled back and wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath, then reached over to her nightstand and pulled a bound volume from the drawer. She offered it to him with shaking hands.
"This came for you in the post today, along with a large number of other papers," she said quietly.
Matthew took the tome from her hands. He glanced first at the invitation card clipped to the cover, then looked over the first few pages of the book. He closed his eyes and sighed.
"Oh, Mary," Matthew said softly, turning and looking at her apologetically. "You weren't supposed to see this."
Mary nodded and sniffled. "That's not all that I saw, I'm afraid."
She reached back into her drawer and took out a stack of thick legal size notepads covered in handwritten scribbles.
Matthew's eyes widened.
"These were in the same package," Mary said, looking at him with wet eyes. "You always were meticulous about notes."
Matthew smiled bravely. "I find my thoughts are often jumbled. It sometimes helps to write them down."
"September 10, 1912," Mary read aloud, looking at the first page of the first notepad. "Entail binds Levinson family money to title of Earl of Grantham. No provision for Mary. How to separate to allow money to pass from Earl to eldest daughter instead of next male heir?"
Matthew's hands tightened around the thick book on his lap.
"March 18, 1913," Mary read, turning the page. "Spoke with Viscount Branksome's son. Doesn't believe that property laws will change under current government or House. Waiting for new government not realistic. Need to research options if court challenge to entail not possible."
Mary's voice shook slightly as she continued to read, flipping pages of the notepad as she went through each date and entry. Matthew did not need to see the written words. They were so familiar to him that he could recite his notes from memory, and picture the moments of their past that had spurred him to action.
"May 7, 1920. Swire inheritance invested into Downton. Problem solved for now. Set up meeting with Lord Birkenhead for June. Draft bill must be finished two weeks before meeting."
Matthew smiled at the memory. "The initial draft was quite rubbish, actually," he said. "It took years before it became this." He hefted the large book in his hands. "For some reason, after 1920, I didn't have as much free time as I used to."
Mary laughed bitterly at his joke. She continued to read.
"August 8, 1924. Bill complete. Going before the House for vote in next session. Lord Birkenhead optimistic. If passed, Royal Assent sometime next year. Need to speak to Robert about changing his Will."
Matthew placed the book down on the floor. He turned back to his wife and put his hand on her knee.
"You never gave up. Papa, Mama, Granny, all my suitors, they all gave up without so much as a fight. Everyone just assumed I could never inherit," she whispered as she turned back to the stack of notepads. "These dates – I remember what happened around those times. Those times that I rebuked you, those times that I didn't respect you, those times that I ignored you to chase after some fool who was not even half the man you are, you still kept working on this."
Matthew nodded, smiling at her sadly. "Yes," he said simply.
"Even when we were apart. Even when we were engaged to other people. Even when you said we could never be together. You still intended to break the entail for me?" she stated.
"The money should have been yours before I even arrived here. It wasn't right for me to take that from you. I wanted my presence here to be worth something. I wanted to at least give you this, give you something of value. At least then, you would have what you deserved, even if…" Matthew stopped himself and looked down at his lap.
"Even if it meant that you would be Earl of Grantham without Mama's money to support the Estate," Mary finished.
"No," Matthew smiled, looking back at her. "What I meant to say was that you would have what you deserved, even if you married someone else."
Mary exhaled sharply. "You would have done it, wouldn't you?" she said quietly. "You would have given it up, the money, given it all to me, no conditions, no demands, just so I would receive my birthright? Even if we weren't together?"
"Something like that, yes," Matthew smiled. "Until I came to my senses and selfishly decided I didn't want to let you go."
"But we're married now," Mary smiled, sniffling as her tears dried. "You're the heir. You have me. You didn't need to do this."
"And what if something were to happen?" Matthew replied quietly. "Robert and I could perish, as James and Patrick did. Do you think I would let you be passed over again? Or what if we wanted our daughter to inherit someday? Britain needs this Law, Mary. We need it to put things right."
"I was so stupid," Mary shook her head. She reached up and ran her hand along her husband's cheek. "All those times I acted as if you weren't worthy. All those times I told you that Downton mattered, that it had to be saved, that my family's legacy was the most important thing in the world. I made you feel unwanted, irrelevant, a consolation prize to a pile of bricks, and still you did this, with no thought of how it could ruin you. How did you put up with all of that over the years? How did you put up with me?"
"It wasn't easy," Matthew smirked, reaching up and covering her hand with his. "Because, my darling. Because I love you. I've loved you from the very beginning, even when I was an utter clod. You know that."
"I know that's what you keep telling me," Mary nodded. "But I never imagined that you would be willing to go to such lengths for me."
"Of course I would," Matthew smiled. "It's all I have to offer, Mary. I'm not an aristocrat who was groomed from birth and whose name will open doors for you. I'm not some rich mogul whose wealth commands respect and can buy you anything that you desire. I'm not a power broker who can pull the strings of Society and build empires with a single nod. All I have are my wits, and my willingness to toil for your benefit. That's what I do."
She shook her head, looking at him as though she were seeing him anew. So many past moments between them changed in her mind, reshaped and reformed by the light of this new knowledge of what he had done for her.
"Why didn't you tell me about any of this? Why did you keep it hidden for so long?" Mary asked.
"I had no idea if it would work," Matthew sighed. "I still remember your face years ago when I told you that the only option was an Act of Parliament. You were so crestfallen, so angry. I didn't want this to be another disappointment for you. I didn't want this to be another way that I failed you."
"Oh, my darling," Mary said, leaning over and kissing him soundly. "I don't deserve you."
"You don't deserve me?" Matthew laughed, kissing her several times as he spoke. "Shall I remind you that it was you, my dear wife, who has gone through childbirth twice? I think that is a far greater contribution to our marriage than a few scribbles on a notepad."
Mary laughed. "Well obviously I'm the one best suited to carry our babies. Your delicate sensibilities would never be able to handle it."
"You're incredible," Matthew laughed, kissing her again.
She caressed his face once more. She smiled at him, admiring her friend, her husband, her champion.
"Mary Crawley, you are my wife, the mother of my children, and you will be my Countess one day in the distant future," he smiled widely. "If it's possible to deserve more happiness than we have now, I don't know if I could stand it."
"Well, that sounds like a challenge," Mary smirked. She dropped the notepads to the floor and pulled him firmly by his shirt towards her. Matthew smiled against her lips as she kissed him again, turning him on to his back and pushing him down on to their bed. Her fingers quickly moved to his shirt buttons.
"Mary, it will be time for dinner soon," Matthew breathed, his hands moving down to her hips and sliding across her bottom.
"Consider this a preview of dessert," Mary said, kissing his neck and moving along his exposed skin as she opened his shirt.
"Don't argue with me, Matthew," she teased as she undid his trousers.
"I am the heiress to the Grantham Estate, you know."
The Law of Property Act 1925 was given Royal Assent by King George V in an official ceremony at Westminster Palace, London, England, on April 9, 1925. Among the changes introduced by the new law was the abolishment of entails, thereby removing restrictions on the transfer of property and allowing the inheritance of Estate land by individuals other than the next male heir of a family line of succession.
Several distinguished guests attended the ceremony, including Lord Birkenhead, who as Lord High Chancellor in 1922 introduced the reforms that would lead to the passing of the Law itself. Also present was Matthew Crawley, a Yorkshire solicitor who some say wrote the first drafts of the Law and was instrumental in encouraging Lord Birkenhead to move for the reforms, to present the Bill to Parliament, and ultimately passing the necessary vote in the House. Accompanying Mr. Crawley at the ceremony was his wife, Lady Mary Crawley, and their two young children – George and Victoria.