Grantham House, St. James Square, London, England, September 1914
Lady Mary Crawley turned her head slightly as she looked at her reflection in the full length mirror. Her hands moved down her front, her fingers playing with the long pearl necklace she had chosen to match her dress. She sighed to herself. The necklace was a gift, and her mind wandered to the man who had given it to her.
"Is that what you're wearing for this evening?" Edith asked as she came into the room and sat down on the bed.
Mary's eyes did not move from her reflection. She refused to acknowledge her sister directly when it was so obvious Edith was trying to goad her.
"No, it's not. I'm trying on clothes for fun, rather than dressing for dinner," she shot back, her eyes staying focused on the mirror.
"Mary," Sybil scolded her lightly, sitting down in a chair by the fireplace.
"Well, honestly, Sybil, obviously I'm wearing this dress to dinner! The gong's already rang," Mary rolled her eyes.
"I was referring to the necklace, actually," Edith retorted.
"And what is wrong with the necklace, pray?" Mary sighed in exasperation.
"It seems rather ostentatious for a simple dinner," Edith said lightly.
"I like it," Mary said firmly. "Matthew bought it for me."
'He bought it for me here in London, another lifetime ago it seems,' she thought.
"Must you constantly wear something to remind yourself of him?" Edith rolled her eyes.
"In addition to these, you mean?" Mary frowned at her sister over her shoulder. She held up her hand and flicked her fingers, showing off her wedding ring and engagement ring.
"Yes," Edith said tightly. "I would think that those would be enough."
"They are," Mary said, turning back to her reflection. "But it just so happens that I own a number of things bought for me by my husband. This necklace, these rings, the matching earrings, this dress, and these shoes, to name a few. Not only are they very generous gifts, they are also a small way for me to keep my husband in my thoughts."
'Matthew, where are you?' her mind cried out silently.
"Mary, don't be so unkind," Sybil sighed, glancing nervously at Edith.
"How am I being unkind?" Mary asked innocently, turning around. She glanced over at Edith, who was now looking at the floor with her hands clasped tightly together in her lap.
"Oh, for Heaven's sake!" Mary threw up her hands. "So Strallan left the Garden Party last month without proposing. That doesn't mean he isn't going to, you know! In case you don't remember, there was the small announcement that the country is at War. It may have distracted him just a little."
Edith glared at her sister. "I didn't see the prospect of War distracting Matthew when the two of you went to your bench!" she spat. "You were kissing as if the only source of air were in each others' throats!"
Mary's eyes widened and her mouth opened in shock.
"You weren't exactly trying to be discreet, darling," Sybil giggled.
"The guests had already departed!" Mary hissed, a blush clearly showing across her face. "We wanted to be alone. Papa had just announced we were at War with Germany. We needed to take time in private to properly absorb the gravity of the situation."
"Oh, I'm quite sure you would have absorbed more than that if we hadn't gone to fetch you to come inside," Edith rolled her eyes.
"Edith!" Sybil cried.
"Oh, grow up, Sybil, you've had your debut already. There's no need to act like you don't know what married couples get up to," Edith huffed. "Mary and Matthew can't keep their hands off each other. We all know that."
"Well if you expect me to apologize for having a husband who desires me, don't hold your breath," Mary said, composing herself.
'Matthew, I need you here,' her plea whispered through her thoughts.
"Shall we go down?" Mary's question was more of a command than anything else.
They filed out of her room and down the stairs, crossing the hall and going into the parlour. Their parents were already there, taking pre-dinner drinks. Mason and Carson stood by patiently.
"Any news, Papa?" Mary asked as she took a brandy snifter from Mason.
"The votes are cast. I think we'll be able to go home this week. I have meetings tomorrow but I should be free of this business after that," Robert replied.
"And what was the result of today?" Edith inquired as they gathered around.
"Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War," Robert sighed. "The man is painting a rather dreary picture of what we can expect."
"I thought prevailing opinion was that the War would be over by Christmas," Cora noted.
"That is the prevailing opinion, which is not one shared by our new Secretary of State, I'm afraid. He's talking about three years, and needing to raise an army of one million, I ask you," Robert huffed.
"But surely he's only being overly cautious," Mary frowned. "Three years at War? An army a million strong? Are things truly so desperate?"
"The reports back from Mons were not what we expected. The Germans outnumbered us by over 3 to 1," Robert said grimly. "It took two weeks to carry out the retreat."
"The press are calling it a strategic victory," Edith stated.
"Where did you read that?" Mary asked.
"In the Standard," Edith said simply. "They say we hit them harder than they hit us, and that they suffered far more casualties. It was apparently a blow to the enemy."
"Tell that to the Belgians," Sybil said dismissively.
Robert and Cora gave their youngest daughter a puzzling look. Cora then turned to answer Edith.
"Of course they said that, dear," Cora shook her head. "To say anything else would be poor for morale."
"Not to mention illegal, thanks to the laws that we've now passed," Robert said.
"Darling, I don't think we should be discussing this," Cora said, glancing over at Sybil before looking back at the Earl. "If your business is done, then let's have a proper dinner and prepare to go back home. I don't much feel like socializing for the rest of the week. London seems particularly dour these days."
"Of course," Robert nodded, smiling at his wife in understanding. "Well, let's go through then. Carson?"
"The meal is ready to serve, my Lord," the butler nodded.
"Fine. Then, shall we?" Robert asked his family.
"Yes, I'm starving," a voice called.
They all turned towards the door. Matthew came through, a smirk on his lips, his eyes finding Mary.
"Matthew, you've missed drinks, I'm afraid," Robert said.
"My apologies," Matthew nodded. "My meetings ran late, which set me back in changing for dinner."
Robert nodded and they all turned and went to the dining room. Mary paused and looked at her husband with a mix of pique and playfulness.
"It's terribly rude to have your wife come down alone," she said quietly as he leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"Please forgive me, darling," Matthew smirked. "Alex had a great deal to go over, and a number of arrangements that needed to be finalized today."
"I still can't believe he's leaving," Mary shook her head, reaching up with her gloved hand and smoothing out Matthew's suit.
"His brigade was called up," Matthew said resignedly. "Apparently there was a bit of commotion last month when Mons did not go so well. They felt they needed the reserves sooner than expected, so Alex is off to somewhere in France."
"We were just talking about Mons, actually," Mary sighed. "Does Churchill share Lord Kitchener's view of how long the War will be?"
"He wouldn't reveal anything to us," Matthew replied. "But he's been very adamant about increasing oil production at Abadan. That can only mean he expects to need stockpiles for some time."
"As cold as it sounds, I suppose a benefit to this terrible situation is that your fortune has increased," Mary noted.
"Yes, the company share price has gone up, that's true," Matthew said. "Although I would prefer not adding the title of 'War Profiteer' to my name anytime soon."
"Don't joke about it," Mary scoffed. "You know how the entire country is on edge about that sort of thing."
"Quite," Matthew answered. "Now, let's go through. I truly am starving."
Mary took his arm and he escorted his wife through to dinner with her family.
Downton Abbey, England, August 1914
"Will that be all, Milady?" Anna asked.
"Yes," Mary said quietly. She rubbed cream into her hands and barely looked at her maid as she wished her goodnight.
Anna nodded to Matthew and left the bedroom.
"You've been rather quiet since this afternoon," Matthew noted. He took off his robe and settled into bed.
"You didn't seem to be bothered by how quiet I was on our bench," Mary smirked, rising from her chair and coming to bed.
Matthew laughed. He opened his arms and she came into his embrace, kissing him softly. She pulled back and ran her fingers through his hair, smiling down at him.
"What's the matter?" he asked patiently.
"Does it look like anything is the matter?" she raised her eyebrow.
"You don't fool me," he replied. "You were shocked by Robert's announcement."
"Weren't you? Don't tell me you expected that the country would declare War on Germany," she said.
"It was always a possibility after the assassination. When they invaded Belgium, it obviously forced our hand," Matthew sighed. "But what's really the matter? We're perfectly safe here."
"I know," Mary looked away. "It's just that, Papa and most of his friends have all fought in the Army before."
"Yes, the British policy is usually to draw officers from the gentry," Matthew said. "But there's no indication that they'll need them this time around. Robert's Army rank is mainly ceremonial now, in any event. What is he? A Captain?"
"A Colonel," Mary nodded. "It was years ago that he last served. I was ten."
"The Boer War," Matthew said. "And you remember it?"
"I remember him not being home," Mary said quietly, looking into his eyes.
"Don't worry, darling. At his age, the most he would do is assist in training, if that. I doubt they would send him to the front lines."
Mary nodded, looking down at his chest.
"Darling?" Matthew asked, lifting her chin with his hand so he could look at her. "Is that all?"
"You're part of the gentry now," Mary whispered.
Matthew's eyes widened. He leaned forward and kissed her. "I'm not going anywhere, Mary," he said against her lips.
"But Alex…" she said.
"That's different,' Matthew replied. "He enlisted in the reserves to help pay for law school. He's already a soldier. If his brigade is called up, then he'll go with them, but I would expect the Army won't need the reserves right away."
"I just wonder about you," Mary admitted. "There's already gossip from downstairs that some of the footmen want to enlist. I don't know if the Army will have need of you or not."
"Not if they want to win this War, they won't," Matthew laughed. When his wife did not share his humour, he looked at her with a reassuring expression.
"There's no reason for me to enlist, Mary," Matthew said calmly. "I have my hands full here already, and I don't know the first thing about being a soldier, let alone an officer. The only battle I'm concerned about is moving some of the tenants to cottages so we can take over their farms.
"I wonder if Papa will honour our agreement now," Mary said. "He may want to keep things the same with so much in the world changing around us."
"If the world is changing, then we must change with it. Hanging on to the past is hardly the answer," Matthew scoffed. "We'll have to be careful about what we say. Truthfully your Papa will be busy in the coming weeks. The House of Lords will need to deal with special measures for the War. There's already talk about amendments to the laws. Robert may welcome our assistance if he's too busy to handle things on his own."
"He'll probably just rely on Murray and Jarvis," Mary replied. "The Estate needs you here, Matthew. The family needs you."
"Is that why you were so eager outside this afternoon?" he smiled. "Trying to convince me to stay because you're afraid I'll run off to play soldier?"
Mary blushed. She looked down at his bare chest, then back up at his blue eyes.
"Did it work?" she asked nervously.
Mary cried out suddenly as Matthew pushed her on to her back. He was top of her in an instant, his movements deliberate and confident. He pressed his chest against her breasts. One hand moved down her side and grasped the hem of her nightgown. The other swept across her cheek, moving across her neck and shoulder and drawing the strap of her nightgown down her arm to expose her shoulder to his lips. He pushed gently with his knee and she opened her legs for him. His lips covered hers, his tongue swiping at the inside of her mouth. Mary moaned as she tasted him on her tongue and inhaled his scent.
When he pulled back to look at her, she shivered at his lustful gaze. He smiled at her tenderly, giving her the appreciative stare that she knew now was only reserved for her – his lover, his wife, his other half.
"Convince me again," he growled before kissing her once more.
Downton Abbey, England, October 1914
"What I would like to do, ultimately, is to move Phillips and Taylor to these cottages," Matthew said, pointing to the space on the map. "That will give us this section of continuous land for ourselves."
"What will you do with the land?" Robert asked, glancing over.
"I think livestock would work well. Start with pigs at first, a small number, then see how it progresses," Matthew replied.
"Pigs? Won't you need a man to deal with them?" Mary asked.
"Yes, we'll need to hire someone," Matthew nodded.
"We may already have a man," Robert noted. "Mary, who was the tenant who came to your wedding? The one who's family had pigs in Swansea?"
"Mr. Drewe," Mary replied. "He sent his son there for a summer to learn the trade."
Matthew smirked at his wife. "You seem to know a great deal about pig farming."
"Hardly," she scoffed. "I merely heard the man regale us with the details when Mama and I were in the Village months ago. You won't see me wandering in the muck when they arrive, I assure you."
"Well, perhaps we should have a discussion with Mr. Drewe," Matthew smiled. "What do you think, Robert?"
"I'll speak to him. His family has been in partnership with us for generations. I think you'll have a problem with Taylor. He's been here for ages as well."
"One step at a time," Mary said. "If we don't have a pig man to take on the work, there's no point buying back the land, is there?"
"No, none at all," Matthew agreed.
The dinner gong sounded and they all looked up from the map.
"Well then, that's enough for today," Robert said. "I'll speak to Drewe and Taylor within the week. Matthew, you can draw up the papers on the chance that Taylor agrees. I think Phillips will go. The man can barely see as it is, and he has an aching leg on top of it."
"Thank you, Robert," Matthew nodded.
"Yes, thank you, Papa," Mary smiled.
Robert rose from the table and glanced at both of them. He smirked and shook his head.
"Just because I prefer working alone does not mean I'm incapable of getting along with others, you know," he said pointedly.
"Of course you can," Mary smirked. "We'll see you at dinner, Papa."
Robert glanced over at Matthew, then nodded and left the room.
Matthew took her hand and walked in the opposite direction. It was quicker for them to take different stairs to reach their wing of Downton Abbey, although often when they did so, Cora or Violet would scold them for it.
"What?" Matthew smiled, looking at Mary's curious expression.
"Nothing," Mary shook her head. "I just find that this alliance with Papa is going remarkably well."
"We haven't really done anything yet. It's been talking, mostly," Matthew warned.
"And who would have thought he would be so open to discussion even two months ago?" Mary asked.
"Fair enough. He has been rather receptive to everything, more than I expected. Perhaps arguing with the Lords and the government for the past few weeks has made him realize that there are worse annoyances than having to deal with us about the Estate," Matthew chuckled.
"Whatever the reason, I am glad for it," Mary replied as they reached their hallway. Anna and Bates were already standing outside the bedroom and Matthew's dressing room.
"You're both rather eager this evening," Mary smiled. "You must have ran to beat us upstairs."
"I was already in Lady Edith's room, Milady," Anna explained, glancing quickly at Matthew, then looking back at her Mistress.
"And you, Bates?" Mary asked. "I thought you would be with Papa."
"His Lordship sent me here first, my Lady," Bates said crisply. He looked at Matthew, then looked back to Mary. "Something about Mr. Crawley takes longer than he does so he wanted me to get him done first."
Mary laughed. Matthew frowned.
"Very well," Mary said. "Let's not keep you, then."
She squeezed Matthew's hand and went inside the bedroom with Anna. Matthew walked over to Bates and they went into his dressing room.
"It's all arranged, Sir," Bates whispered.
"Excellent," Matthew nodded to his valet. "Let's get going then, there's no time to waste."
Matthew closed the door to his dressing room behind him and came into the bedroom. He smiled as he observed Anna finishing with Mary's shoes.
"That was quick," Mary noted. "If that's how long it takes you to change, then Papa must be lightning fast."
"I disagree that I take longer than anyone," Matthew grumbled, sitting down on a bench next to Mary's vanity. "Your father just enjoys needling me when he gets the chance."
"You must admit that he doesn't have the opportunity very often," Mary smirked. "You have a maddeningly small number of vices which can be exploited for ridicule."
"At least as far as he knows, anyway," Mathew smiled. "And it shall remain that way, won't it Anna?"
"My lips are sealed, Sir," Anna smiled, standing up as her task was finished.
Mary stood up and nodded. "Thank you, Anna. I'll ring for you after dinner."
"Yes, Milady," Anna nodded. She bowed to both of them and left the room.
"Well, shall we?" Mary turned to her husband. "Are you hungry?"
"Ravenous," Matthew replied, standing up and looking at Mary with dark eyes.
Mary swallowed at his tone and the look in his eyes. She moved towards the door, biting her lower lip. She knew that stare, just as she knew of her husband's intentions whenever he looked at her like that.
"Let's go then," she said firmly, trying to keep her voice composed. It wouldn't do for them to be late for dinner because of…that. She stopped herself from recalling the numerous times they had been late for dinner as a result of such…distractions.
When they came out of the bedroom, a sound came from down the hallway. Mary frowned and stared in the direction of the noise.
"What is that?" she asked, looking down the corridor.
"What is what, darling?" Matthew asked.
"That noise?" she replied, turning towards it. "It sounds like…music."
"What would music be doing in our wing of the house?" Matthew wondered aloud.
Mary walked down the hall in the direction of the sound. As she grew nearer, she recognized the noise as the delicate strains of a violin. She passed their sitting room and reached a set of double doors that led to an empty parlour that had not been used since the days of the Third Earl.
"It's coming from in here," Mary glanced at the door.
"This is strange. Could it be an old music box left stored in here do you think?" he asked.
"And why would it suddenly start playing after years of dust?" Mary replied.
"Only one way to find out," Matthew said, taking hold of the doorknobs.
Mary stood slightly behind him as he opened both doors. He stepped back so she could see into the room.
"Matthew!" she gasped.
A dining table was set in the middle of the room, with place settings for two and an elegant candelabra and flower arrangement in the centre. A long table stood near the back of the room, with covered silver platters standing by. Anna and Bates stood off to the side, smiling back at them.
"Happy Anniversary, my love," Matthew whispered in her ear. His hands closed around her waist from behind and he pressed a delicate kiss to her cheek. Mary was too in shock to scold him for kissing her in front of the servants.
She walked slowly into the room, her husband guiding her to her seat. The room had been swept and cleaned, the walls repainted a neutral white colour. Light sconces were lit every few feet and the chandelier had been cleaned and refinished.
"What did you do?" Mary asked, glancing around the room.
"Nothing too extravagant," Matthew replied as Bates placed his napkin on his lap. "I had the wiring updated and fixed and the walls painted while we were in London last month. I didn't want to decorate any further, just in case you might have some ideas."
Mary looked across the table at his playful smirk. She smiled in return.
"And the two of you were co-conspirators, were you?" she called out.
"Forgive me, Milady," Anna curtsied. "But Mr. Crawley is Joint-Master here. We have to obey him."
They all laughed as Bates served the soup course. Matthew took up his champagne flute and Mary did the same.
"To many more years together, darling," he toasted.
"To many more years of happiness," Mary replied.
Downton Abbey, England, November 1914
"First, Barrow, now Branson," Mary said as they came outside. "I think Mason wants to be next."
"He's too young," Matthew replied as they took their places next to Edith and Sybil. "Although I hear he is not lacking in enthusiasm."
"How anyone could be enthusiastic about going off to War, I don't understand," she said.
"It's the Pals Battalions," Matthew said quietly. "The idea has become somewhat romanticized. Go off on an adventure with your mates and kill some Germans while liberating Europe at the same time. Every boy dreams about being a hero someday."
"Can't we do anything to stop them?" Sybil asked.
"How?" Edith replied. "If they want to volunteer for the Army, there's nothing to be done about it."
"Carson talked to both of them," Mary said. "They were both quite adamant."
Barrow and Branson went down the line, shaking hands and giving their goodbyes to the family. Mary and Matthew nodded politely to the two footmen. After saying goodbye to the other servants, the two of them picked up their large packs and went to the waiting motor to take them to the train station.
"I wonder if we'll ever see them again," Edith said.
"Don't talk like that," Sybil frowned.
"They may not make it to the Front," Mary said as they turned to go back inside. "Training can last for weeks, then it will be Christmas and the War could be over."
"Let's hope so," Matthew said. "Although I don't think anyone is sticking to those projections anymore."
Downton Abbey, England, October 1914
"Can you believe it's been one year already?" Matthew asked as they came into the bedroom.
"Of course," Mary smiled. "Why? Does it feel as though it's been longer or shorter to you?"
"Was that a question designed to get me into trouble?" Matthew smirked as he closed the door behind them.
"The depends on your answer, I suppose," Mary teased. She walked over to her vanity and began removing her jewellery.
Matthew followed behind her, his eyes admiring her form. The champagne had made him feel lightheaded, and the fact that his Anniversary surprise had gone over so well had him feeling positively giddy. It wasn't often that one could put one over on Lady Mary Crawley.
"On the one hand, it feels longer. After all, I've loved you for over three years now," he replied.
"A very wise answer, husband," Mary said, looking over her shoulder at him.
"And in some ways, I feel as though it's been quite short, as though we were back at the College in 1911," he said, approaching her and placing his hands on her hips.
"When you were a naïve lawyer from Manchester, thinking he was coming to London to teach music to some students and go on his way?" Mary smiled, glancing at their reflection in the mirror of the vanity as she took off her earrings.
"Mmm," Matthew smiled against her bare shoulder. "Little did I know the temptress that would soon appear in my classroom and change my life forever."
Mary shivered as he kissed her skin. "Why, Matthew," she breathed. "You make me sound as if I took advantage of you somehow."
"No, Mary," he smirked, kissing her neck lightly. "You opened my eyes."
She reached her gloved hand up and caressed his face, pulling him towards her and kissed him softly, their lips lingering together before she pulled away and smiled at him.
"I have a gift for you," she whispered.
"I am very much looking forward to unwrapping it," he raised his eyebrows and looked shamelessly down her cleavage.
"Behave yourself!" she scolded him lightly. Staying in his embrace, she reached down and opened a drawer of her vanity, removing a small box with a ribbon tied around it.
"When did you get this?" he smiled.
"You're not the only one who can keep secrets while we're in London," she said playfully. "Open it."
Matthew pulled the ribbon loose and opened the box, keeping his arms around his wife's waist so that they could both look down on the contents together.
"Oh, Mary. Thank you," he said gratefully.
"I know it may seem a bit unorthodox," she said. "But I'm sure you aren't too bothered by the fact that it isn't traditional."
Matthew smiled at the gleaming wristwatch. He brought it up closer for inspection. "It's beautiful, Mary. Where did you find this?"
"It's imported from Switzerland, by Wilsdorf and Davis of London," she smiled. "That was another reason that I bought it for you. I knew you wouldn't be too fussed about wearing something that wasn't English."
Matthew picked up the watch and turned it over, admiring the craftsmanship, the supple leather strap and the bright silver face.
"Thank you, darling," Matthew smiled, kissing her. "Perhaps you should consider picking out a matching one for yourself?"
"I'll think about it," Mary smiled. "Granny would probably have a fit. You know how much she loves these new innovations."
"Indeed," Matthew smiled. He ran his hands up her sides, causing a jolt of pleasure to shoot up her spine.
"Would you like to see your Anniversary present?" he asked.
"I thought it was the remodelling of the parlour?" she smiled, tilting her head to allow him access to the pale curve of her neck.
"Yes, that is for you to decorate to your heart's desire," Matthew agreed. "I do have something else though."
"Well, if past gifts are any indication, I'm sure it's a scandalously thin piece of lingerie," Mary smiled, her eyes fluttering closed as her husband continued his light pecks to her neck and shoulder.
"I am becoming too predictable," he chuckled.
"Shall I ring for Anna? She can help me prepare for bed," Mary asked innocently.
"Don't you dare think about it," Matthew snarled. His fingers moved towards the buttons on the back of her dress and made quick work of them. "It's our Anniversary and if anyone is going to undress you, it's me."
Mary laughed freely as her dress fell to the floor. She turned in his arms and quickly removed his jacket, tie and shirt, kissing him lightly as she cast each garment to the side.
"Would you like me to try on your gift now?" Mary asked as Matthew pulled her close against his bare chest, his lips finding her neck once more.
"Actually, no," he smiled. "The gift is to replace what you're wearing at the moment."
"Is that so?" she quirked her eyebrow. "Why?"
"Because I'm afraid you won't be able to wear any of this again when I'm done with you," Matthew drawled.
"In that case," Mary smiled wickedly, stepping back from him slightly. "Don't be so sure your clothes will survive the night either, darling."
She pushed him backward with both hands. He laughed in surprise as he tumbled back on to their bed. Mary was soon on top of him, her fingers pulling his belt free and undoing his trousers.
"Have a go, darling," Mary teased. She leaned forward and pressed her forehead lightly against his, their eyes locking on each other. "If you think you're man enough," she whispered.
The last thing she heard was Matthew's grunt and the tearing of her camisole before all thought was pushed aside in favour of more primal responses.