"But what happened when they got home from that snowstorm in Boston?" This is the most asked Cancelled verse question, the one I've known the answer to for a while - just needed to pull it all together. And I'm just so tickled you all ask and are as in love with these two in my modern AU, because they completely take over my brain when I write them.
This will be a multi-chapter collection of drabbles/ficlets that cover a few weeks after our favorite two are back on home soil.
HOLIDAY BLUES — Chapter 1
The sink was filled to the brim with suds before he reached for the first glass and the wash rag. He didn't know why, but there was something calming about washing dishes. Whenever he was home for the holidays, he insisted his mother leave them stacked by the sink, sending her and Richard to the lounge to enjoy whatever Christmas Eve movie they would settle on. This year was no different, and his mind took advantage of the quiet and was miles away.
He needed the catharsis of the soap and hot water to clear his head. Or so he hoped. But the more he thought about it — about her — the more his head filled up with thoughts of her, much like the sink of dirty pots and dishes now overflowing with bubbles.
"Do you want me to dry?"
Startled by the voice, Matthew turned to find his mother in the doorway. Something told him she had been standing there watching him a while.
"If you would like."
He focused back on the saucepan he was working on as his mother picked up a towel and began to dry the glasses he had already placed on the drainboard.
"You were quiet at dinner. You're not upset about Richard's children coming with their families tomorrow, are you? I know it isn't our usual tradition, but I thought it might be a nice change."
He looked at Isobel in confusion. "Why would I be upset? We hardly have a chance to see each other; I'm rather looking forward to it."
Isobel nodded, putting the dry glasses away. "I had hoped that would be your reaction. But I wasn't sure with, well," her pause was a bit over-dramatic, as was the look she gave Matthew. "Well, given the recent break-up, if a gathering of the young married and little ones would bother you."
He shook his head, focusing back on the sink. "Stop walking on eggshells, Mother. I'm fine. Lavinia is fine. You can say her name. There is no ill will or anyone being upset. It … happened." He shrugged, giving her a smile. "We both saw the problems in front of us, and —" he tried not to wince at the lie, that Lavinia had been the one to see things, not him. "And, well, we made the right decision and called off our engagement."
Isobel studied him for a second with drawn brows, before picking up another wet dish. "Well, then. I'm glad you are comfortable with it all. So, how is Mary?"
The plate he was washing slipped from his fingers, hitting the bottom of the sink with a loud clatter. He tried to ignore it and the smile he could tell was on his mother's face.
"She's fine. Why do you ask?"
Isobel smiled and focused all her attention on drying the plates. "Oh, no reason. I just expect she's had quite the year with joining your firm and I can only imagine how her holiday is going to be with her parents."
He shook his head. Subtle, Mother, very subtle. "I don't know personally how her year has been, but I know I can say for Downton, we are more than pleased with her coming aboard. She's looking to meet her initial capital investment with new clients she'll have brought in by the close of the first quarter next year at the rate she is going. As for the family drama," he raised a brow at his mother who was trying not to grin too widely, "Tom has said as long as there is nothing that's made the national headlines out of London by Boxing Day morning, Mary and Sybil will have survived four days staying with their parents."
Matthew chuckled. "Him as well. But he's done this holiday with the in-laws and Grantham Agency chairman for a couple years now. It will be Mary's first year as the target for Robert's tongue for having jumped ship."
"You could have invited her here, you know."
He let go of the sponge and turned to face his mother, letting his exasperated expression do all the talking before Isobel finally looked away.
"Are you still planning on heading down there the day after tomorrow?"
He nodded. "I think it has become expected now. Robert even called me last week to make sure I'd be there." Matthew shook his head, still not able to understand Robert Crawley and his family dynamic. He'd known the man for nearly a decade, and yet Robert's take on the women of his family and business was still a baffling and contradictory mess. Despite Robert's anger with first Tom, and now Mary, for leaving the Grantham firm to join Matthew at Downton — the firm Matthew started on his own after his tenure with Robert — Robert still remained friendly with Matthew. To the point of encouraging him to join in family events ("After all, we're probably related generations back!"), and Boxing Day dinner with the Crawleys of London was now clearly a tradition in Robert's mind.
"I'm glad he includes you with that."
Matthew shrugged, not wanting to confirm his own reasons he was glad to be included, reasons that had nothing to do with Robert. "Well, I may need to rescue Tom and Sybil by then."
Trust her to know his weaknesses too well. He shot her another hot glance. "Mary has her own escape plan, trust me."
And he was sure he had nothing to do with it.
They put away the last of the glasses, and he shooed his mother back to the lounge as he was wiping down the counters and settling the kitchen for the night, making sure both the coffee and tea kettle were ready for the morning. Somehow his plan to calm his mind had backfired, and he could tell he was anxiously clenching his jaw over thoughts of Mary. The weeks since their time in Boston had been a mad flurry of new business generated and the rush to get proposals and contracts in place before the holidays brought most everything to a standstill.
It had been the perfect way for Mary to side-step him about anything except business.
But now, a holiday evening with her, no way for her to escape, he didn't know where or how he wanted to initiate the conversation — or something — or even now if he should.
No, he knew he should. The problem was if Robert didn't have Mary running for a way out, Matthew approaching her with anything not work related definitely would.
So where is this all headed? Any ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback!