A/N: You may notice that the rating has turned to M. I entered the land of sexy...and reemerged with the help and betaing of Apollo. Merci.
Any now we shall continue.
Merry Christmas. :)
Home of Isobel Turnbull Crawley and Reginald Crawley, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Early March 1900. 4.24am
After everything she had learned about being a nurse, nothing at all could prepare Isobel for the moment when she would become a mother. Even though her husband was a doctor, she demanded at the top of her lungs that he remain outside of her room. Bless her darling husband, she could sense his nervous energy even through the wooden door.
But that was 2 hours ago.
Now, wrapped in a soft white blanket, with a mass of blonde hair and intense blue eyes- like his father- lay her baby son. From now on, everything he did would be a complete marvel to her. She would make sure she would always be there to guide him, to help him chose a pathin life and to try to keep him out of trouble.
Isobel looked up to see Reginald coming into the room and gently shutting the door behind him, careful not to wake his sleeping newborn son. He gingerly sat down next to his wife's feet and rubbed her leg through the blanket.
"Well I've thought of his middle name at least," Isobel said, her eyes remaining on her baby.
"Oh?" said Reginald, his voice laced with intrigue. His wife hadn't given him any ideas on names during her pregnancy, so this was a surprise to him.
"Mmm-hmm" Isobel said absently, her finger stroking over her son's wispy hair. "Reginald."
Her husband looked up in wonder and smiled ruefully. "Well in that case, I'd like to be the one to give him his name"
"Oh?" She said with a smile on her face, mimicking her husband's earlier remark.
Reginald chuckled as he brushed a finger over his moustache. "Now, I know you are going to moan because you think it's biblical- but-"
Isobel looked up at his suddenly. "Oh no, Reg! Not Peter!"
Reginald smiled. "No, my darling Izzy. But Matthew."
"Matthew," Isobel thought aloud. "Matthew Reginald Crawley. It has a nice ring to it, I suppose."
"Gift from God," Reginald said proudly. He looked down at his son. "May I have a hold? You've had him for the last two hours."
Isobel glared at him, but a yawn soon counteracted her annoyance. She gently handed over her little boy into his father's safe and waiting arms before turning over to go to sleep.
Reginald watched over his wife for minute before walking to the window to listen to the spring rain patter down on the glass. He smiled and pressed a kiss to his son's forehead.
"Hello, Matthew. Now you may call me Papa and as long as you do as you're told, you and I are going to get on just fine. Your Mother may be a little fierce at times, but that's only because she loves you. You be good to her because she's going to give her all to you. Do make sure that you treat her with the utmost respect, alright?" The little baby gave a small gurgle. Reginald knew he couldn't truly understand a word he said, but in that moment, he was willing to believe that Matthew heard every word.
Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Late August 1923. Noon
Matthew sighed as he threw his blazer over their heads to protect them from the downpour. Although the rain and weather were warm, it was still coming down hard enough to get soaked to the bone in minutes. Her laughter took over his senses as her arm slid affectionately round his back. They rushed along the wet sidewalk, finally reaching the shelter of the doorway to the quadrangle.
She laughed shyly as she tried to catch her breath. "Well there goes our lunch plans then."
Matthew nodded and glanced out into the rain. Even breathless, her pleasant voice with the slight accent could still make butterflies flutter in his stomach. Her blue eyes sparkled, and lunch was suddenly the furthest thing from his mind.
"What is this, Matthew?" she asked, fiddling with the diamond ring on her left hand, "This thing between us, what is it?"
He reached out and caught her hand, rubbing her knuckles with his thumb. "This is an engagement," he said, trying to sound confident, though worry crept ever so slightly into his tone. "You are what I want for the rest of my life, as I am to you, surely?"
He looked at her nervously for a second. She had accepted his ring, but it was more in the way of a promise than a commitment. They were both still so young. He was on the verge of a burgeoning career, but for now they were still students, and marriage seemed like such a huge step. Still, he knew this was right, that she was right, though he wondered if she felt the same. Yes, she cared for him, he knew that, but did she have the same ardour, the same passion, the same fearless belief in their future? He sometimes wondered.
She took a determined step forward, surprising him as she grasped the back of his neck and pulled him down to kiss her firmly on the lips. Matthew placed one hand around her trim waistline and another on her jaw line and her hands weaved their way into his hair- both had seemingly forgotten their lunch plans and the rain that had halted them.
Their shyness returned when they came up for air, their hands resting on each other's flushed cheeks as their breaths mingled together.
"Does that convince you?" She whispered, brushing the stubborn forelock of caramel hair away from his eyes. "I know what this is. I just like hearing you say that we're engaged, is all."
Matthew nodded, laughing gently before putting a strand of her red hair that he adored behind her ear. He wasn't sure how he got so lucky. She was beautiful inside and out- her red hair, the way her eyes sparkled when she gave off that laugh that echoed an accent of her homeland. her intellect that sometimes scared him in how sharp it could be; her ability to challenge him with a good counter argument - but the goodness and the kindness that she held was what made him love her the most.
"It's stopped raining" She motioned to the outside from the doorway. Students were starting to emerge and continue going about their daily business. Without warning, Matthew backed her up against the wall and kissed her firmly on the lips. His hands came up and cupped her jawline as her hands grasped his wrists. This was rather bold of them, being so out in the open, but they didn't care. They were young and in love, and surely there was nothing to be ashamed of in that?
"Beth?" He said between kisses.
"Yes?" She breathed, as his lips trailed down her neck and her hand threaded into his hair.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Matthew."
Home of Isobel Crawley Clarkson, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Early March 1935. 6.20pm
Matthew stood in the doorway of one of his spare bedrooms, watching Mary take in her surroundings.
"Are you comfortable?" He asked, stepping into the room and taking her into his arms.
"It will do, I suppose. I'm used to more lavish quarters, but such are the sacrifices one must make when one is on the run," she teased, placing her arms around his neck.
He smiled and rested his forehead against hers before pulling back and smiling at her. "How is Clara?"
"Clara? Fast asleep down the hall," Mary chuckled. "I think the excitement of meeting her Granny and seeing her Papa wore her out. I've never seen her smile so much and laugh for so long"
Matthew smiled sadly. "I wish Madeline was here to see her," a tear fell down his cheek. "She'd be so proud."
Mary wiped away the tear with her thumb and kissed him gently. "I know. She'd be proud of the both of you." He pulled her back to him, hugging her tight.
"I'm sorry that I keep bringing up her name. It's not fair to you, and I don't mean to compare her to you," he said softly.
She nodded and leaned into his embrace. "I know. She's a part of you, and a part of Clara, and always will be. I'm fine with that, so long as there's a small corner in there somewhere for me."
He stepped back so she could see his eyes, his hands moved up to caress her face. "Mary, you mean more to me than that. You're not just a nanny, or a tutor, or an etiquette instructor."
She smiled sadly and nodded her head. "Oh, Matthew. I know you think you mean that, but we barely know each other, really. And we have so much baggage between us, with how we met and what happened to my father, and everything with Blake. You need me for comfort. I understand. I'm happy to do it. There's really nowhere else for me to turn anymore."
He lifted her chin so she was looking at him again. "What do you need from me?" he asked earnestly. "You talk about giving me comfort, and you've done so much, but what about you? Tell me, please."
She shuddered, afraid to answer. He nodded encouragingly, and she rolled her eyes and gave in.
"I just…it's so silly. I hear you talk about her, and see what you have with Clara. It all seems so genuine, so real. I suppose I've had so little of that in my life that it feels nice to see it up close, to know that love like that exists, because in this world I've often wondered if it does, or if I will ever receive it."
He frowned at her words, then leaned forward and kissed her.
"Oh Matthew, please don't give me your pity. I don't need it, honestly. I'm just blubbing because of everything that's happened, I suppose," she said shakily.
"You are loved, Mary," he said quietly, kissing her again. "You are loved."
She sobbed as he kissed her forehead, both of her cheeks, her neck, then back up to her mouth, repeating the phrase again and again.
"You're not alone. I'm here. You're mine," he said, seizing her mouth again.
She moaned as he scooped her up and carried her to bed, setting her down gently and following after her. She shifted across the mattress to give him room, their hands roaming over buttons and snaps, removing their clothing between heated kisses. There was a desperation to his movements that she did not dare think about. She didn't want to think about anything. All she wanted was to be everything he wanted her to be, do all that he asked. He had chosen her, and was here with her, and as imperfect as this was, it was theirs and theirs alone.
"Mary," he breathed over and over, his lips tracing a path down her neck and over her breasts, his lips teasing her flesh and drawing gasps from her mouth. She reached for him and he shook his head, pressing her arms out to her sides and giving her a look that told her she wasn't to move, just before his mouth resumed his work.
"Matthew," she gasped, her voice sounding wanton and pleading. She hated begging, despised it even, but she freely begged him now, his nimble fingers rendering her naked before moving between her thighs and showing her what was in store for her.
"Yes," she called, spreading her legs for him and submitting to his dark intentions. Whatever shed of reason she might have left was ignored and banished from her mind. With every whisper of her name and heated glance, he convinced her that it was she that he was ravishing, she who he was taking, she who he was claiming as his.
"Mine, Mary," he grunted, one long finger finding her core. "Mine."
He stroked her over and over, his hot breath on her neck, his firm body against hers.
Her mind reeled as he added a second finger and she wondered who was this harlot moaning and whimpering and begging him for more. What had he turned her into? She couldn't think straight as rapture came upon her like a rushing storm, swallowing her up as she keened in pleasure.
He soothed her through it, kissing her and slowing his hand, eventually pulling back completely.
She couldn't help but feel him against her thigh, even as she fought to catch her breath.
He kissed a wet trail across her chest, moving atop her, resting his weight on his arms.
She looked up into his steely gaze, his blue eyes bright and wild. She swallowed and raised her hands to his face.
"Yours," she whispered, nodding her head as anticipation and need swirled in her chest. "Only yours."
He entered her swiftly and she almost came apart again, her legs rising and parting to receive him. His hips moved deliberately and strongly, building her up with every thrust.
"Yes," she sighed, her eyelids fluttering. She tried to keep her eyes on his, to lose herself in his stare, but his thrusts demanded her attention, her acceptance. She vaguely remembered their first meeting, a lifetime ago in that bar. She had taunted him, played with him like she always did with men, always hinting that they weren't man enough for her, that he wouldn't be able to keep up with her. How wrong she was.
"Mary," he growled, leaning down and kissing her. He repeated her name again and again, his hips moving faster, drawing a moan from her with every plunge. He was relentless and she hung on, hoping he would have mercy on her while also praying he would never stop.
She called out his name again as she fell apart for a second time, waves of bliss crashing inside of her. As the high of her release dazzled her mind, she felt him push in deep and snarl her name. He unleashed and filled her, the warmth of him spreading through her, his claiming of her complete.
Eventually, he withdrew, turning them both on to their sides and kissing her softly. She looked at him and found his eyes a much calmer colour. He kissed her again, and again, and again, his arms holding her close, the softness of his lips and the power of what they'd just done making her drowsy.
"Yours," she mumbled, kissing him back lazily. "All yours."
Mary fell asleep before he did, and he preferred it that way. He lay still in bed, the only sound in the room the ticking of his watch that had been discarded to the bedside table, and Mary's gentle breathing as she dozed peacefully in his arms. He hadn't had this in almost two years – someone falling asleep on his chest, skin to skin. He distinctly remembered the last time he felt like this – actually at peace and content – when he and Madeline saw each other for what would be the last time. He remembered the smile on her face as she'd snuggled up to him, the late day rain pattering on his bedroom window. Despite what he did for a living, despite his sins, being with her then felt glorious, redeeming and safe.
Matthew shook himself out of his thoughts and looked over to the glaring white envelope that came a couple of hours before Mary and Clara's arrival. Tom's messy handwriting done out in black pen and hinted at the horror contained inside. He felt guilty momentarily that he was lying naked in bed with Mary when the world outside the window was so cruel and despicable. He sighed, unable to put his mind at ease. He carefully untangled himself from Mary, careful not to wake her, and picked up the letter.
He threw on a shirt and trousers before padding quietly down the stairs and out to the back. He sat down on one the steps leading down to the vast gardens and sighed. This was probably the worst letter he was about to open. Of all the men that had died in the last 8 years of this bloody conflict, he had never had to deal with a suicide and a suicide note. His hands trembled as he opened the envelope and held the letter in his hands. True to form, Tom's handwriting was near enough unreadable, but over the years, Matthew had learned to decipher his friend's handwriting.
I want to start with something that is long overdue- I'm sorry. I'm sorry for fleeing the night when you needed your friends around you the most. I'm sorry for leaving without telling you, but it was only way I could protect myself, and you.
I gather that people are probably asking lots of questions about my disappearance and now my death- there I said it. I left because even before the ambush, I knew I was in danger from Blake. I was in danger from him long before I knew you. You're probably frowning or shaking your head, or both, but hold on, I'm going to tell you.
A long time ago, I was a close ally of Blake's and I was asked to spy on people that he didn't like. I was asked to spy on you. He didn't know that you were sleeping with his wife. He wanted you watched because of your affiliation to Charlie Carson and the New York Firm. I'm sorry, Matthew. It's a part of my life that I'm ashamed of. Eventually, you became an inconvenience to him, a threat, so one night, I followed you to Stone's, with the orders to kill you.
I couldn't go through with it.
I saw you with a woman, a red head with a foreign accent. Beth, I think her name was. You both looked so happy, I couldn't take that away from either of you. So I just turned away and lied to Blake that I'd gone through with it. Of course, he knew I was lying. He couldn't be bothered to off me, said I wasn't worth the effort, so I was dismissed, but with the promise that I'd one day pay for my mistake. And by God I did. 4 years later.
Matthew felt sick. "No, it can't be" he whispered, as the evening began to whip up.
It was me, Matthew. I was the one that killed Patrick Crawley. I had to, you see. It was him or me, and I took the coward's way out, just like I am now.
And that's the reason I have to die. Too much has happened for me to face you or go on carrying on with all the horrors I've seen and been a part of. This is the only way out. This isn't your fault, whatever Blake or even Charlie Carson made you believe. Patrick Crawley's death was never your fault. Blake only began to really hate you when he found out about you and Madeline.
Thank you for everything.
Matthew didn't flinch when he felt a soft hand place itself on his back before gently removing the letter from his trembling hands and sitting down beside him. He began to weep bitterly.
"From Tom?" she asked quietly.
He nodded his head.
"Tom killed himself because of Blake, Mary," he sniffled, as she leant her head on his arm. "It's all there in the letter."
"I used to think that he killed Patrick himself, well that's the way he bragged about it" Mary confessed. "But then I always knew he wasn't capable of doing his own dirty work."
"Do you think you could keep an eye on Clara for me tomorrow evening?" Matthew asked quietly.
"Of course. I've been keeping an eye on her for the best part of 4 years you know" Mary joked. "Why?"
He took a deep breath, then looked at her unflinchingly. "I'm going to end it."
She blinked, his meaning sinking in. Her lips parted and a harsh breath left her. Shaking her head, she got up and went back inside.
"Mary!" he called, getting up and following after her. She ran back upstairs and he chased after, eventually going back to the bedroom.
"Mary," he repeated, approaching her slowly. She was sitting on the bed, her arms crossed over her chest, staring down at the floor.
"I can't convince you not to go, can I?" she whispered.
"He won't leave me alone, and now that you've left with Clara, he'll come after you too. I have to do this," he said firmly.
She looked up at him with desperate eyes. "And if you fail? What then?"
He frowned for a moment. "I won't."
"And if you come back, what then? There are many Charles Blakes in the world, you know," she said.
He kneeled down and took her face in his hands. "It's over tomorrow. I'll get out and we'll go somewhere far away and start over. California, maybe. You, me and Clara."
She swallowed nervously. "Do you mean that?"
Her hands drifted down and undid her robe, pulling it back and off her naked body.
"Prove it," she said.
He kissed her and pushed her back on to the bed.