This is my MM Secret Santa offering to EternallyRomantic on Tumblr. I hope you like it. I wrote it so that you don't necessarily have to have read the previous chapters. I did want to return to this universe in particular at Christmas. I might have gotten carried away a bit… I would call this T+ rated… :) (thanks apollo!)


" When the day becomes the night and the sky becomes the sea, When the clock strikes heavy and there's no time for tea. And in our darkest hour, before my final rhyme, she will come back home to Wonderland and turn back the hands of time." Cheshire Cat/ Alice Through the Looking Glass

10 December 1915— Loos, France

The cold invaded his body. Numbed his mind.

Matthew shifted, his gloves stiff from being encased in ice. He tried to rub the sleep from his eyes but fumbled and caused them to tear up instead. His nose began to run.

He couldn't see a thing. Or breathe.

He blinked rapidly in pain. Looked out over the edge of the pit to scan for any German movement.

He doubted he find any. They were also probably hunkered down to wait out the cold.

But orders were orders. So he sat alongside the sergeant of the watch and waited.

His cold breath heaving, forming a fog in front of his face.

Then the now familiar tingling sensation assaulted his mind, a kaleidoscope of light and colours.

He was in some kind of office. Multiple images flashing across square boxes behind on a wall. Talking with a man across a table who pulled out a device from his coat pocket and handed it to Matthew. He took the device, looked at the words on the screen and laughed.

The two men looked at each other across the desk. Satisfied smiles on their faces.

Some kind of agreement reached. They shook hands.

Then he was back, his nose stuffed with dirt as the shell hit their dugout and his face fell into the muck.

The slime oozing. The smell unmistakable. He was back.

Matthew scrutinized the sergeant. The man had not noticed Matthew's stupor. He breathed easier.

Then another shell hit their location. The sergeant was hit, his legs buckling and he collapsed. Matthew instinctively threw the man across his shoulders and pulled them both out of the dugout. He ran as fast as he could under the heavy weight to the trench, maneuvering around the barbed wire to the steps.

"This man needs help." He shouted out. A couple of corporals ran to get a member of the RAMC. Another took the man from Matthew's arms and laid him down on a cot.

After a few minutes a corpsman arrived. "What's his name…?"

Matthew's eyes darted back and forth, the shellfire bursts making everything stifling and choking.

"Sgt. Raymond Fedden." Matthew replied and they both sheltered the man with their bodies as another shell burst overhead. The doctor opened the soldier's tunic to find a bloody wound in his abdomen.

"We've got to get him out of here and into the reserves." The medic motioned to two others who approached with a stretcher.

"Will the doctors be able to save him?" Matthew asked apprehensively. Not another one, his mind reeled at all the losses recently. "He's got a wife back home."

But didn't they all have family or friends? Matthew closed his eyes. So many dead. That caused him to think of Mary, back home with their ten-month-old causing her all sorts of trouble as she amusedly recollected in her most recent letter. He was learning to crawl and had hidden himself away underneath the pianoforte in the music room until his gurgling cries of laughter gave himself away to his Grand Mama Cora

"You got him back in good time. There's hope." The medic tried to reassure Matthew.

Matthew nodded slowly. Then he was called away by another lieutenant to complete the report on the German's movement along that sector.

Matthew never found out whether that sergeant survived to have a family of his own or not.

At least he didn't think he did?


"Going back to lines tomorrow they say," Onslow nervously said to Matthew, the latter looking up from the letter he was writing.

"Don't I know it." He grunted in fatigue.

They had been replaced three weeks before, the snow allowing them some unexpected down time in boarding house near Lillers the army requisitioned for his battalion.

Matthew turned back to his letter.

To Mary. Saying nothing of course. He could never say what he actually was doing. Couldn't let the side down after all, back home by telling them killing Germans in useless dashes across no man's land would not make this war any shorter.

Nor prolong his life expectancy.

No… Matthew scratched his head. He would not tell her that.

Instead he wrote the usual nonsense. Funny stories from the officer's mess. That Jennings was as unreliable as the day was long. That he received the warm socks and to thank Anna.

That he loved her desperately with an ache that was unending until he was in her arms again.

Oh…well… that last bit was not nonsense.

He did love her. More than ever before.

Before… when exactly was that? Time had become so fluidic for Matthew. Since 'The Return.' As he had Mary had come to call it.

His mind played so many tricks now. Half the time he wasn't sure where he was. Some of his fellow officers had started calling him Rip Van Winkle as he would get this distant look and seem as if he just woken up in a different time. He'd ask what day it was…. Tell someone to just look it up on Google… Or that one time when he said he had been married Oct 24 2014. And he sounded absolutely confident he had been.

Others, less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, stared like he had said he was the King of Prussia.

Matthew believed that was when the reservations set in. That he was losing his grip. Needed a rest. Or medical help.

He had brushed it off, saying it was a mistake. Of course he knew he was married July 24 1914.

He was fine. Really.

And then the call into the Adjutant's office.

"Mr. Crawley, this is just an informal meeting. No need to worry." Major Perkins intoned darkly, making Matthew worry all the more.

The chair squeaked as Matthew shifted uncomfortably.

"I want to go back to the lines with the rest of the company, sir. I don't want to be sent back." Matthew blurted out. His voice strained and desperate. Did that make him sound worse?

Perkin's cocked an eyebrow. "There's been some concern about your judgement. It seems others believe you cannot be relied upon to make quick decisions and give the proper orders to your men…."

Matthew shrunk slightly in the chair. Had it really gotten that bad?

Was he truly delusional?

By the time he left the meeting, Matthew's whole body was shaking. He darted his eyes left and right along the corridor to make sure he was alone. Then ran around the corner and up the stairs. Threw open the door of his billet and raced to his packing case.

He needed the diary.

The private one he kept locked up. Not even his soldier servant having access. It was his lifeline to the truth. Opened the lock even as trembling fingers fumbled with the lock.

He opened the case and pulled out the diary, thumbing through the pages until he found what he wanted to see.

"It's all real." The note to himself read. "I know you'll think you're going mad. You're not. It all happened."

Matthew's pulled his hands down over his face. Read it again. And again.

Breathing hard, his eyes blurred as he read it again.

It was real. It happened. He had traveled into the future and back again.

He had married Mary twice.

The flashes that came and went frightened him no matter how much he tried to hide it. Unbidden. No rhyme or reason as to when they appeared in his mind. Vivid dreams of playing darts. Dancing a waltz. Another in cramped bed with Mary, her leg tickling his own under the covers. The din of car horns and bass boosters. Escorting a young woman on his arm. Giving a presentation in front of a crowd. Laughing at a pub.

Even being in this room brought on the flashes. That he had been in a such a room before. A bed against the corner. A small bath off to the side.

Matthew trembled as he caught his breath, his hands gripping the sides of the locker.

He tried not to collapse, his feet threatening to buckle under him when the flashes started. They had been so confusing at first. He went into a kind of momentary paralysis. The major had been told he would stand for moments in a kind of trance. Then pretend not to even know what they were talking about. He wasn't reliable in making the quick decisions necessary on the lines.

Matthew put his head down as he squatted next to his case. Maybe he should be a red tab back at headquarters? One of the yellow brigade. Where the no – hopers went.

He squeezed his eyes shut at the memories of those insinuations. The snarling contempt on the edge of their voices. Matthew wanted to fucking punch the arrogant sneers right off their lips. But instead he held his temper in check as any violent outburst would surely simply have proven their point.

But it had led to the meeting with the adjutant.

Matthew knew he had to learn to hide the flashes as best he could. Surrender to them. His mind rebelled and tried to make sense of them. He had to tell himself not to try. Especially when they occurred in the middle of a skirmish.

He knew it was noticeable to others. They had stared as his eyes glazed over. The deepest blue, piercing and unseeing.

And then he came back.

And knew that he had caused a stir. He had tried to ignore the looks to return to this world of mud and muck as if nothing had happened. To hear other sounds. Men in pain. Smoke and the smells of the latrine and creosol chloride. Screaming shells overhead. Long night of endless fear. Pulling out his firearm as he moved his men over the top.

Seeing them die.

Or worse.

He had not quite got a handle on dealing with the flashes. Only an instinct making him confirm his belief that he was not going mad by looking at his journal.

He couldn't tell anyone. And that made everyone else suspicious that the war had nobbled him. Even now, as he left his room to return to the mess to finish his letter to Mary he had heard murmurs of "Crackers…" as he passed by some of his fellow officers.

Matthew knew he had to pull it together. Knew his future as an army officer was at stake if he did not.

He wrote none of those fears to Mary in the letter he sealed with a kiss against her printed name.

She was at home with their dearest little chap. He needed to believe that she was free of these flashes. They had started for him only after he arrived in France. Something to do with the war. Playing with his memories. Mixing everything up.

Reality shifted under his feet all the time.

His only shield against the darkness was Mary.

He needed to see Mary.


Mary's arms opened and her body leaned down to take George into her arms. He had bumped his head in an ill-advised attempt to escape the nursery and race on hands and knees down the hallway.

And now he was whimpering, his face scrumpled and sad.

"Georgie Georgie…" Mary soothed as she lightly kissed his forehead. "What is Nanny ever telling you? You mustn't go exploring …" She gave the older woman a nod of understanding.

"Nursery discipline is everything." Nanny Webster chided. "You must not spoil baby."

But secretly Mary loved that her son was already so adventurous. She couldn't wait to get him on his first pony in the livery yard.

"Let's go see Great Grand mama Violet." And Mary turned to leave the nursery.

"Lady Mary…" the nanny admonished. "It is time for George's nap. He's in my charge and must keep to his schedule or his entire day will be upended."

Mary secured her son in her arms. "We won't be long." Her clipped, no nonsense response not to be questioned, she made for the stair case, smiling at her small victory.

Nanny Webster was always trying to assert her dominance over George's schedule. Telling his mother that indulging him would only lead to a spoiled little boy.

Mary ignored the presumably disapproving look Nanny gave her as she descended the stairs. She was the child's mother. And as such she wanted her son to realize from the earliest age that he was loved by all the members of the family. Not kept away for long stretches of time and brought out once or twice day to be kissed on the head and then sent away again like some inconvenient plaything. She knew that was considered odd, avant-garde even among the older generation. Her grandmother, her mother even did not spend so much time with their children.

Cora asked her once, did she ever feel unloved as a child? As if Mary was questioning her motherhood. Mary said she did not at the time. She had plenty of love, of affection from her parents. But she also knew now that she could have had more. Maybe she'd understand them better now, had they spent more time together. They were always so formal, so stiff with all the daughters. Better to be seen than heard. Run off with Nanny or the governess.

Maybe that's why she was always getting into trouble. Threatening to run away until Carson stopped her. Maybe that's why she chafed at the restrictions of the waiting room in which she had been placed. Entered the servant's quarters with Lord Crowborough. Allowed Pamuk to her bed.

What useless, indulgent whims of rebellion. Knowing always she could get away with it because of her station. Her title. Her father's money. Except when it resulted in the sullying of her reputation and the potential disaster that could have ensued had Matthew not understood.

She could no longer imagine her life without Matthew.

This was why she was so stubborn regarding George. The war had changed everything. Life was fragile. You must cling to all moments of love in order to survive.

The war, yes. Mary realized. But also "The Return." She had felt so lost, so bereft when she returned to this time without Matthew. Though most of it had slipped into a kind of half-forgotten dream, she remembered that. They were each other's strength.

She wrote as many details of these dreams as she could recall in the diary kept locked beside their bed. Sketches of being in a kitchen with other women, talking while making herself tea. Or standing behind a counter at a store waiting on customers. Of being with Matthew here at Downton, but in another century with tourists walking around gawking at the ceiling or artwork.

It helped to remind her it all actually happened.

So much of it so distant from the life she once again lived. Freer in many ways. But also tainted with melancholy. Except when she was with Matthew.

Oh she hoped Matthew would have leave for Christmas. His last letter did not indicate it was possible. But she wanted it so. Prayed for it each night, despite her uncertainty that God felt in any way disposed positively towards her.

He had hardly any time with George. His last leave being right before he shipped for France some seven months previous. They had hardly any time alone, what with her feeding the newborn and Robert monopolizing Matthew's time with war talk.

They had no time to speak of other things as well. She longed to ask him if he had the same kind of waking dreams she had. Disturbing at times, she felt quite discombobulated by them.

But she wanted to tell Matthew about them. And to reveal that her mother knew that George was not premature. As did Anna. It had been quite impossible to keep the information from them.

Anna had been the first to see.

Anna was the first to know everything. Well… almost everything. Undressing Mary the first night she was back revealed the tattoo. Mary had forgotten it in the midst of all the excitement of returning, of Sybil's ball, of being in Matthew's arms in their time so that everyone could see they were engaged and happy. Matthew had wanted to come back with her, whispering that they were married, feeling the wedding band he had placed on her finger at the registry office in London. In 2014.

Their other life.

She had allowed him a wisp of a smile, a finger to his lips, and a slight shake of the head.

She had to go back to Grantham House alone.

He knew. They'd be together soon enough.

So that night, the ball over and the family returned home, Mary's mind was on other things when Anna removed her wrap. She startled when the rose tattoo appeared against Mary's white skin.

Mary jumped as well. Anna eyed her in the mirror. The question forming on her lips but unsure whether she should ask.

Mary had already formulated an answer if this moment should ever arrive but she found herself a bit tongue tied. Already the memories of their time traveling adventures slipped her mind. "I'm afraid I was a bit reckless today. A fair in the park offering some beauty marks. Matthew dared me and I took him up on it." She hoped her voice was sufficiently contrite, slightly biting her lip. "I had no idea it would turn out to be so …so permanent."

'My Lady.." Anna said quietly, continuing her work. And said no more. But Mary knew Anna thought she most probably had lost all her marbles as Kassidy might have said back in the future.

But Anna also knew her place.

Then during the wedding dress fittings it was apparent that Mary's waist had expanded. Rounded. Unmistakable.

The two women had again eyed each other in the mirror.

Anna said nothing. But Mary knew she knew.

Mary shifted uncomfortably and started to make up another story.

"Would this have something to do with the night of the beauty mark, my Lady?" Anna intervened, a twinkle in her eye.

Mary's reddened cheeks were her answer.

So Anna pronounced with a pucker to her lips, "There are some situations best left unremarked upon. Wouldn't you say my Lady?"

Mary looked up through downcast eyes and returned Anna's cheeky smile. "Thank you."

The alterations continued without comment.

Mary knew it was only a matter of time before her mother knew.

The wedding had gone forward without incident. They had only a few days before Matthew had to report for duty.

Mary had taken suddenly sick several mornings in a row after. Matthew had already returned to the training grounds. Everyone assumed it was connected. Matthew had been so adamant about signing up as soon as the army was accepting volunteers. Mary at first would not consent to his decision. They had argued privately.

He left. She had kissed him good-bye at the train station. A lingering, longing length of a kiss. Never wanting to let him go.

Then she was sick. She let everyone think it was related to Matthew's departure. It was easier that way.

Mary was forlorn and had taken to her bed to hide out for a bit. Cora had knocked on the door. Mary huddled against the covers. She didn't welcome openly lying to her mother.

She tried pretending to sleep.

It was no use. Her mother sat on the side of her bed saying, after taking Mary's hand, "Is there something you wanted to tell me?"

"Matthew and I are fine Mama. I understand now why he felt the need to join up."

"That's not the only thing, though. Is it my dear?" Cora, trying to be delicate.

"I don't know Mama?" Mary had bluffed. "What?"

"You were ill this morning."


"Well I was wondering…"

"Yes Mama?" Mary's eyes narrowed.

"I think it very soon for you to be with child." Said in the flat American timbre her mother used when making a point.

"I am married Mama." Mary responded in her most upper crust English tone.

"I know dear." Cora was in no mood for Mary's contrariness. "But these things take weeks to manifest themselves."

"These things…?"

"Morning sickness. A roundness of the belly. I am not a fool Mary. We've been through too much together for you to keep me in the dark like this. Did Matthew force his hand on you in some way?"

And it was out. Her mother and Anna had both helped her carry the dead weight of Pamuk. They had shared her dirty secret. And now her mother did not want to be caught unawares again.

Mary slumped against the head board, but she cleared her throat and stated without hesitation, "It's not like that at all, Mama. Matthew and I love each other. He'd never do anything to ruin my reputation. We… we found ourselves together during the lead up to Sybil's coming out. Everyone else was busy. We took a walk at St. James's park where I accepted his proposal. I walked with him awhile and we found ourselves in front of his rooms. The ones he took during the season."

Mary calmly smoothed the sheet in front of her on the bed, to hide her jittery hands. "We got caught up in the moment is all." But her eyes did not meet her mother's. She had gone through so many possible responses should this situation arise, but in the end she just blurted out the first coherent thoughts that entered her head.

"You and your impulsiveness." Cora pinched her nose with her thumb and finger. "Is that why you two rushed in late to the ball? And demanded that the wedding take place immediately?" Cora finally understood everything. "You both were very conspiratorial. I thought better of Matthew."

"It's all worked out. And now Matthew's away again, this time to war…" Mary's eyes teared up, "I don't want a word spoken against him. He's my husband. And father to this child. No one need know."

"Your father you mean?"

"We've kept him out of worse." Mary then met her mother's eyes evenly.

The two women understood one another.

And so it had been. Mary gave birth and now George Matthew Crawley was a healthy ten-month-old. Any precociousness in development was taken in stride. Of course a Crawley child was clever, George's Grand Papa had boasted.

No one else had said anything. Dr. Clarkson has suspicions, Mary thought. But, like Anna, knew his place. The child was healthy. That was his first responsibility. Isobel had become something of an unwanted assistant at the hospital and so spent very little time at Downton anymore. Violet stayed at the Dower House. If either had suspicions, they kept their own counsel.

Mary let it go. And soon it was forgotten in the joy the young baby brought to the household. Especially as the war was now long past the promised Christmas 1914 end and now already on to the next yuletide.

She held the baby close to her breast. Matthew just had to be home. She needed him so. Wanted him to see their son thrive. Laugh. Bring happiness to all.

That all their adventuring through time and space and whatever it had been, had been worth it.

They had survived.

This war would not take him from her.

It would be just too cruel of the universe, God, or the fates. To bring them back, only to snatch him away again.

But of course her experiences were such that she realized nothing was a surety in this world.

All they had was love. Their love filled whatever space in which they existed. Sometimes she felt it was the only thing that sustained her.


Downton Abbey - Christmas

Mary was on the lookout for the delivery of the Christmas tree. As it December 23, it should arrive that day. But it was already well into the afternoon.

Violet had traveled over for the occasion. They'd all pitch in to place the ornaments. Violet would supervise.

"Mary, ring for Carson. Can't understand why tea is so late?" Violet was irritable. The weather was cold and her joints ached.

"I believe he said there was not enough coal for the stove. It's becoming more and more difficult to keep it heated all day."

"This war…" Violet muttered. "…will be the death of us all." She sighed heavily. She had seen so much in her life. How much more was there to endure?

Mary exited the room to hasten Carson's summoning. "Ah Carson." She found him already near the door. "The dowager is in great need of sustenance. Is there any chance of hastening our tea?"

"I'll have a word with Mrs. Patmore, milady." His reassuring deep tone reached Mary's ears. "She's been rather stingy with the coal, but I think we can figure something out."

"Thank you."

But her eyes were soon drawn to the door. She heard a car drive up. Thinking it was finally the delivery.

But the someone got out of the car and opened the wooden paneled entrance without waiting for the butler.

A whoosh of cold air greeted her as she hastened towards the caller.

She knew…she just knew…

"Matthew!" And without thought to decorum threw herself into his waiting arms.

"Darling…" Matthew's arms encircled Mary's waist.

Her warmth felt so good against his wet, cold cheek.

Others had gathered in the salon, but no one interrupted for a few minutes. Leaving the soldier at home from the war to the reassuring arms of his wife.

Matthew reluctantly let go. "I had leave at the last moment. I probably should have sent a forwarding telegram…"

"No…" Mary's alarmed expression concerned him.

"Why? That way you could be prepared." Matthew did not want her to think he had known about his leave but was too thoughtless to inform the family.

"Telegrams are things we don't like receiving. Not anymore." Mary stood back, but held tight onto his wrist.

His arm trembled at her touch.

The astringency with which those words were told spoke volumes to Matthew. To have a telegram now meant only one thing. That something had happened to a loved one. Missing in action. A prisoner. Or died of wounds. A letter from the commanding officer to follow.

"Of course…" His response a bare whisper. "No telegrams."

They embraced once more and then Matthew finally turned to greet the family members who gathered.

"Robert." He shook the older man's hand. Robert was in uniform. "Are you away as well?" He gave a dismayed look across to Mary.

"No alas. They don't want me." Robert let go of Matthew's hand. "I'm an honourary colonel in the North Riding. I might get some kind of London posting."

"Well you're well out of it." But Matthew said no more.

"Come. Come." Robert declared instead, "We were all about to have tea. Carson…" and he turned to see the butler standing off to the side, a happy smile also on his face that the heir and father of the next heir was safely back home for the time being.

"Yes my lord." He intoned. "In the library."

Matthew took Mary's hand, not caring if it was protocol. He needed to feel her skin next to his. Her life. To know she was real.

When they sat down Matthew leaned over to his wife, "Where's George?"

"Upstairs with Nanny. His afternoon nap. We'll go up shortly."

Mary understood why he kept her hand inside his own. She felt him shaking as he put on the brave face in front of the family.

"After dinner," Matthew whispered "when your father wants to keep me for port and cigars I'm going to cut it short. I'll signal you when we rejoin you all and we can retire upstairs."

Mary gave him a side eyed glance.

His cheeky grin was impossible to deny. Even if it was a bit frayed at the edges.

"I'll be on the lookout." Squeezing his hand even as she moved to take a cup of tea from the tray. Her eyes betrayed her as she turned to face him again. They darkened and turned passionate.

Matthew sat back, trying to be content. He was home. About to see his son. Later to be alone with Mary.

Sybil walked in just then. "Matthew!" She took the few steps over towards him.

Matthew rose to greet her with a kiss to her cheek. "Hello. Where have you been?" He took in her nursing garb.

"I've been filling in as a volunteer at the hospital. But in the new year I'm traveling to attend VAD training. Not that I'll be seeing any soldiers right away." Sybil's voice was wistful. "It is supposed to prepare us though."

Matthew blanched. He knew what the nurses saw in terms of the wounded. He didn't wish that on anyone.

"Not too soon I trust." But he said no more. Any loose war talk was frowned upon. Must keep up the courage of the home front.

"Come sit bedside me." Mary made room. The two sisters hugged. Talk turned to the Christmas tree which has finally arrived. The house boys were helping to set it up. "We'll all decorate when it's secure."

"Is Edith coming?"

"No. She's busy with her farmers." Mary's dripping disdain cut short only by the memory that she was trying to love Edith more. Sometimes, though, she forgot why.

Matthew's cup shook and dropped on the carpeted floor. The family turned, but he seemed not to notice anything.

Mary immediately distracted everyone from Matthew's disconcertingly blank face by reaching down to get the dropped cup and saucer. Carson took it from her hands.

By the time she returned to a seated position, Matthew was blinking rapidly. She tried to shield him with her body so he could not be seen.

The family noticed anyway. "My dear chap…" Robert's voice the first he heard.

Matthew's mouth opened but no sound came out. He felt everyone's stare.

Matthew's blue eyes were flawless. Mary was often lost in them. In their beauty. In their teasing.

She wasn't used to seeing such pain in them.

"Let's go see if Nanny is ready for us." And Mary clasped his cold and clammy hand into her own. "We'll come back down when they've opened the ornament boxes."

In that moment Matthew hated everyone and everything.

"I'm fine," he shook Mary's hand away. Matthew's brutally cold retort surprised his wife. Mary rarely ever heard him angry. He resisted Mary's coddling. He realized too late they was overheard. He put his hand to his brow. This was all more difficult than he imagined. The sense of unreality being away from the trenches combined with his embarrassment over the looks of patronising concern. Just like in the officer's mess.

He knew better. But the feelings were there nonetheless.

He turned to Mary, his eyes softer. Blinking back some tears. Trying to make amends, "Can we bring George down?" Matthew asked longingly. Making Mary love him all the more.

Matthew did not want to miss any time from his son. "I know he's too young to help..."

"Of course." Mary's voice warm and loving. Reassuring. "Granny will want to see him as well." She linked her arm into his and squeezed against him as a message that they were in this together.

Matthew gazed upon his wife in awe. She was his rock.

"Let's go get him…" His voice ragged and aching.

When they left the room, Matthew threw all convention out the window and cuddled Mary in his arms. They stayed that way as long as he needed to. Then he murmured into her ear, "Oh God Mary. I'm so so sorry. I didn't mean to sound off like that."

"I know." They met each other's eyes. "I think your dreams are worse than mine."

"You have them too?" Matthew knew she had. But wanted to believe he had taken on the entire burden of the time traveling. That Mary was safe. He needed her to be safe.

"Let's talk about them later." Mary said, wishing to divert him away from the darkness. She led him up the stairs. "Right now I just want to get George and decorate that Christmas tree."

They both turned to see the massive Norwegian Spruce fill the salon hall below. The house boys were scampering about bringing in the boxes of lights and ornaments.

"Our first Christmas as a family." Matthew inclined his head towards Mary.

"Let's make it the best one ever."

They ascended the stairs towards the nursery. Nanny Webster awaited them with George in her arms. His chubby fingers rubbing his eyes after the nap.

"Here's Papa." Mary said, taking the baby from the nanny's arms.

"Hello my little one." Matthew took him from Mary. "I hear you're giving everyone fits when you scamper away from them." He kissed the child's head.

"May we take him down to help with the decorating?" His question diplomatic, knowing from Mary's letters the nursery was the domain of Nanny Webster. He gave her his most winning smile, his eyes blinking back some joyful tears this time.

The older woman, who would normally scold Mary for any disruption, melted instantly. She looked on in adoration as Matthew carefully lifted George into his arms and placed him next to his shoulder. "Certainly, certainly sir." And she smiled beatifically, "Here's his favourite blanket. In case he gets a wee chill."

"Thank you." And Matthew turned to walk out of the room, completely unaware of the effect he had on the usually no nonsense nanny.

Mary mouth was agape at the change in Nanny's attitude, "She'd never let me get away with that." Mary observed coolly to her more than pleased husband.

"I just know how to win people over." Matthew retorted with a twinkle. He leaned over to give Mary a kiss.

Mary was about to give back when she suddenly realized how happy Matthew was now. George in his arms, a calmness descended around what had before been all coldness and fear.

It was good. It was all so very good. She gave into the calm serenity and escorted father and son down the stairs to the awaiting family.

It was everything she had wanted in their time traveling. To be returned home. To have everyone together. They were all safe.

Christmas was the time to take it all in. To bask in the wonder of their return and to enjoy every instant. For they, better than most, knew it was ephemeral.


Later after the dinner and the cigars and war talk with Robert, Matthew signaled Mary as he promised earlier. He hovered in the doorway upon rejoining the ladies as Robert said.

Mary met his smoky darkened eyes. He unobtrusively tilted his head towards the stairs across the hall. His need to be alone with his wife etched across his weary face.

Mary whispered something to her mother and walked over to him. Wordlessly she grazed his cheek in passing him moving her hand along his waistcoat in a manner both suggestive and inviting.

Matthew's hungry smile her reward.

They left.

Their bedroom became their sanctuary.

Matthew slowly undressed Mary, savoring every touch, his lips gliding along her slender abdomen, her waist, and then inner thighs. Sensing her need as great as his own, they shed the rest of their clothing and made love.

He kissed every part of her.

She stopped his troubled mind. She possessed his soul. Atop him, she controlled his need until he was blind with lust. Every thought focused only on her. On what she was doing to his body. She pushed against him, moaning in exquisite pleasure.

They came as one. He arched against her to extend her peak. She collapsed against his sweat soaked skin, the heat of his body in jarring contrast to the chill in the bedroom.

Mary stayed in his arms, reluctantly regaining her composure after the blissful haze of love making.

They slept. Mary pulled the covers up and they spooned against each other. Matthew's fingers cupping her breast.

In the middle of the night they made love again. Slept again.

Matthew had not felt so at ease, so at peace.

He saw in the dawn though. His body accustomed to waking with the light for patrols.

He let Mary sleep. He dressed and walked down the hall to the nursery. As he hoped George was also awake, in his crib and yawning.

He gathered the child in his arms.

Held him tight and moved towards the rocking chair in the corner near a window overlooking the grounds of Downton.

His cheek resting on George's head they rocked. George fell back asleep. Matthew hummed a lullaby from his own childhood.

"Would you like to give him his bottle?"

Mary had been watching him unnoticed from the doorway.

Matthew nodded. She prepared it and brought it over. "Let's go back to our room. Let Nanny sleep."

Matthew walked with the child down the hall while Mary had a word with Nanny Webster.

He had taken a chair by the window in their bedroom, George already sucking down half the bottle. Matthew gazing on in wonder and love.

Mary sat in the window seat. "We'll take him back for the rest of his breakfast and then go down ourselves."

"I thought married ladies have breakfast in bed." Matthew joked lightly.

"We do." Mary replied, "but I don't want to lose you from my sight. Every day I wonder if you'll disappear again into the mists."

She spoke in humour, but Matthew knew the truth of it. "I do too." His breathless answer breaking her heart.

"I find myself forgetting more and more." She admitted. "Then I have a vivid dream of being in the shop, helping customers, and singing Gilbert and Sullivan."

She giggled at the thought.

"I remember that day now that you say it." Matthew reflected. "We were just married. The first time."

Mary got up to open a drawer by her bed. Pulled out the diary she kept. "You remember this?"

Matthew took it from her. Opened it to find a picture of them at the registry office in 2014. It was shocking to him as he'd not seen it since it was taken. And all of that experience was fading, a distant dream of another life. Another time.

They looked so young. So innocent. Would he ever be that happy again?

"Do you ever regret coming back?" Mary asked. "I know I was the one more interested in returning. You wouldn't be in the army now if not for me." And she gave a shiver.

"I remember when I left to join up you were so angry. Was that with me? Or yourself?"

"Both." Mary shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't want to see why you had to go so soon. I also blamed myself for forcing your hand when I know you were content to stay with your job and the freedoms we had."

"I don't want you to think that at all." Mary had taken George so that Matthew could read the diary entries. He needed it to refresh his memories.

"I told you to keep this?" He scratched his cheek in confusion.

"Yes. When you left saying that in the army you couldn't possibly keep anything this private. That I had to keep it safe for both of us."

Matthew read the first entries. Written when they first arrived back to 1914. That their memories were already fading but that everything that was written here in their own handwriting was true.

Real. His hand shook.

Just like the one entry in the journal he kept under lock and key in France.

"They're trying to say I've cracked up." He shifted in the chair. "That's really why I've got this leave. The adjutant said I needed a rest. It seems I'm unnerving the rest of the company."

"Dreams?" Mary inquired. "Mine come as dreams. Did you have one yesterday? When you seemed to fade away?"

Matthew blanched. He nodded affirmation. "That's how they come. Sudden. Without warning I was looking at you and then we were walking in a park. You had on shorts and tank top. I was leaning towards your tattoo..." he blushed at the vividness of that reflection. He had become aroused so when he returned to the library setting with all eyes on him, he felt rattled.

"That has required quite the fabric of lies to explain." Mary said ruefully. "I believe Anna must think me mad when I tried to dismiss it as a whim of the moment."

"She'll keep your secrets to the grave." Matthew stood up to retrieve George again. The child seemed more than content to let Matthew hold him.

"You'll quite spoil him you know. Letting him be held and coddled that much." But her smile was indulgent.

"Good." Matthew laughed. "I want him to know and remember me when I get home next." He sat down again.

"I remember the rush to get married again when we returned. Because of this little guy." He kissed George's head.

"I have a confession about that. You should know that Mama and Anna both know I was already pregnant. It was impossible to keep from them but I've been reluctant to tell you. I hate that Mama believes you to be some kind of cad to take advantage before marriage. When it was quite the opposite." Mary moved closer to him on the window seat.

Matthew surprised her by laughing. Then he turned beet red. "I have a confession as well then." He leaned over George's head and placed a quick kiss on her cheek.

"Do tell. I need a good story."

They laughed.

"My mother and Cousin Violet also know." He sat back and awaited her reaction.

"What?" Mary was seldom taken off guard but this astonished her. They had neither ever given her any indication of such intimate knowledge or were in any way less loving towards her. "How? Why did you tell...?"

"I didn't." He reassured Mary. "I would have had no words with which to inform two formidable matriarchs that we were intimate before marriage."

"So how…?" Mary was now more than curious.

He shrugged. "They figured it out. You were glowing. I was determined to set a wedding date. They conspired to get me to tea alone right before I was to leave for the train. I walked right into their trap. Mother poured while Violet was the Grand Inquisitor. One question and they had their answer. Violet looked at me and asked if the wedding was hastened because I had already brought the intended bride to the marital bed so to speak."

Mary inhaled and put her hand to her mouth. "What did you say?"

"I didn't need to say anything." Matthew confessed. "I know I blushed so furiously red that it was all the answer they needed." He laughed turning the same flame red again. "Indeed though I have your granny to thank for my mother not continuing the interrogation. She was on the verge of asking how could I when Cousin Violet pushed a plate of sandwiches towards her. Mother got the hint and we changed the subject."

"Well it's all water under the bridge now." Mary knew they had to move. Anna must be wondering why she had not rung to help with the morning ablutions.

Matthew wanted one more memory. "You were a beautiful bride. I might not remember much of this one..." He held out the 21st century photograph for Mary to put back in her diary. "As glad I am that it took place. But I do remember every detail of you walking down the aisle on your father's arm in the village church. It was a dream come true. I had loved you for so long. And now we were joined together for all eternity."

"In this life and the next..." She finished. Those words taking on new meanings for the reluctant time travelers.

She moved her face down to take his lips into her own, saying with more confidence than she felt. "Come back to me Matthew. George needs his father. We both still have so many adventures ahead of us."

They held each other close, tears streaming down both their cheeks. George a warm bundle of love between both his parents.


Christmas morning was snow filled. At first Matthew was reminded of the war. The cold bitter wind. The snow that turned to muck.

But when the family returned from Christmas services, they were walking along the path from the village to the house, Matthew suddenly loved the snow.

George's cheeks were pink from the chill, bundled even as he was in layers of warmth.

Mary's eyes reflected the sunlight. The sky was that perfect blue. Like his son's.

Isobel took her son's arm. "It's good to have family around at times like this."

He got suddenly choked up. His mother was alive. Healthy. Vibrant. Stubborn as ever. She was determined to work for the Red Cross in France. He was going to protest. But decided it was no use.

"Maybe we'll have some time together in Paris. Once you're over there."

"I'd like that very much." And mother and son walked behind wife and child on the return to Downton for lunch and gift exchanges.

Matthew had not much time in London before catching the train to Downton. He bought George a Teddy bear and Mary a necklace. She was wearing it already as he had given it to her in private just that morning.

Matthew received some cufflinks from Mary. She whispered, "for when you return home permanently." And a wristwatch. He and Mary shared a private laugh about Robert's comment of just how smart he'd look with the new style watch. "It's all the rage in London Army circles."

The highlight of the day of course though came after dinner.

"Come on everyone." Rosamund clapped her hands. "We're all in the drawing room. "Come along."

Matthew groaned as his was the first name called.

"It's the game Matthew. We always play the game after Christmas dinner. It's your turn. Mama's called your name. Are you afraid of looking foolish." Mary's teasing made him laugh. As if they were back in the pub playing darts. "Too bad. Get up." And she pushed him away from her arms.

And so he did. Scratched his head in thought and finally gave Mary a cheeky grin. He held up five splayed fingers.

"Five words." Edith said.

"Obviously..." Mary mocked. Edith threw a dirty look.

Cora looked disapproving. "Well for heaven's sake we all saw him hold up five fingers." Mary tossed back. Being nice to Edith really did need to be her new year's resolution.

Matthew continued. He's put up four fingers. He looked at Edith and smiled.

"Fourth word..."and they both gave a conspiratorial giggle. Mary rolled her eyes but joined in. "Two syllables."

Matthew started gesturing. He gazed longingly outside the window.

"Window..." Rosamund guessed.


"That's one syllable..."

Matthew shook his head. "Try again." Sybil encouraged.

He held out his hand flat and inspected it closely.


He sighed. Two fingers.

"Second word." This time Isobel. "One syllable."

Mary thought she had the right inkling of what book title he was acting out, but she was enjoying his gyrations too much to cut it short.

He put both arms straight out in front of him and moved them in a wave back and forth.

"Swimming..." Edith tried.

"No ..No" Rosamund countered. "Pointing?"

Matthew kept at it, practically willing them along.

"Matthew you're doing it wrong." Rosamund chided.

He blurted out "How do you know what I'm doing? It's not what you think."

"Is there room for misinterpretation?" She retorted back. "You're not doing much of anything."

Matthew bit back the response he wanted to give. But the dirty look was sufficient he believed for Rosamund to not misinterpret that.

He tapped his foot in agitation.

Mary finally said very dryly, "Through?"

That was enough to change his mood. He had been wishing Mary to join in.

Matthew eyed her charmingly. He knew she had the right answer.

Sybil said thoughtfully "through...? Through... looking. That's what you were doing at the window..."

"Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass!" Sybil and Edith chimed together.

"Very good Matthew!" This from Mary. He sat down next to her, exhausted in a most pleasing way from that activity.

"It seemed appropriate. 'When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'" And Matthew continued, "it's one of my favourites. 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves. Did gyre and gimble in the wabe...' I had that at school. Humpty Dumpty is so vain."

He scrunched his face with a disarming charm, like a schoolboy winning a prize.

"Not at all like you, clever clogs, reciting from memory." Mary couldn't resist.

"Absolutely not!" Matthew was appropriately mock appalled at the very idea he was showing off.

Cora called "Mary your turn."

"Shoes on other foot. Get up and better that." Matthew challenged.

Mary threw him a wicked glance and moved to the center of the room.

"Three words."

Mary made a gesture with her mouth.

"Song title." Sybil provided.

"First word."

"One syllable."

While never taking her eyes from Matthew, Mary pursed her lips tighter and tighter. And blew him a kiss, holding her finger out, pointing and motioning for him to come to her.

And he knew the song.

Knew it intimately as the reminiscence flooded his mind.

It had been one they slow danced to in London when they alone in the Fedden's townhouse.

The memory returned in detail. Very measured. Very sensually they had danced. He had eased up behind her and whispered the lyrics while moving in rhythm against her rear. Grinding his body against hers. She had gasped when his hands came to rest along her hips as he swayed her to the music.

The very thought of it made him aroused. He shuffled in his seat and glanced around to make sure no one noticed. Robert was in conversation with his mother. Cora and Isobel had furrowed brows trying to parse out what Mary intended. Sybil and Edith were pointing at him, laughing at Mary's attempts to discomfit her husband.

He turned back to Mary. She threw one last shameless peek his way, just to extend the torture of not being able get up and kiss her. Then relented and pretended to change her mind and started another title. This time a book as she cupped both hands open.

The game started again.

She shook her head, her arms flailing by her sides.

"Drum?" Isobel said.

"No…wave?" Edith countered.

Mary looked decidedly put out. Then pretended to fall down like a rag doll.


"Mad…." Edith muttered.

Matthew couldn't help but chuckle in utter delight at his wife's willingness to do whatever was needed to win the game.

She was ever the competitor.

"Fall!" His mother finally got it. "Tenant of Wildfell Hall!"

Everyone clapped and Mary sat back down beside Matthew.

He deliberately chose not to discuss her first choice of titles. At least not until they were alone.

"Well done! Who wrote it?" He cocked his head towards Mary.

"Anne Bronte. The one people forget." Mary informed him coolly.

"Of course." He confessed with complete composure. "All those Bronte's. No one even remembers their poor brother Branwell."

She sniffed, "He foundered in alcohol and laudanum. Anne was quite ahead of her time. She's certainly better than your old Dickens any day."

The side of his mouth ticked up in a mischievous grin. "You're probably right."

During the rest of the game they gave each other private winks and glances increasing the tension that would only come to fruition later in their bedroom.

But first they crept into the nursery to see their son. Mother and father peeked over the sides of the crib.

"Happy Christmas." Matthew whispered sweetly to the sleeping babe.

He looked over at Mary. His eyes wet with happy tears. Mary took them both in quiet amazement, "I love you," she said fervidly gripping his hand alongside hers. "I'm so scared…"

"Shhh…" Matthew led her outside the nursery. His lips brushed her forehead, felt the curls of her hair tickle. It had taken a lot for his brave and self-sufficient wife to admit to fear. She would survive if anything happened to him. She had the grit and determination of her grandmother. He'd want her to be happy.

This war.

This war could take so much away from them all.

His family. He loved them so much. Could no longer think of any life without them.

"I'm not sure of anything." Matthew said as they walked the short distance to their bedroom. "I know you disagreed with my enlisting. I can't even explain to myself why I did. I'm glad you found it within yourself to forgive me."

"Forgive you?" Mary cried out softly. "What choice did I have? You were going. We were married. We support each other. I did not understand. I'm not sure I do now. It has something to do with where we were and where we are now."

"I couldn't stay. Knowing what I knew. What was to come. Reading what I wrote down in your diary upon our return only makes it more clear in my head. So many dead. I know that even I don't understand. I call myself a fool every day on the lines for leaving you. Leaving George. But if I can save just one man from a sure death. … " gasped for breath, the emotions overcoming his reason. "I do think it was worth it."

Matthew opened the door to their bedroom. "Stay here a minute." He went into his private dressing chamber. Opened a small locked box hidden deep inside his wardrobe.

It was still there. But did it still have a charge?

He brought it out. Smiled with a twinkle as he flashed it in front of Mary.

"What is that? Your iPhone?" She was stunned. "I…I thought we left everything behind."

"It was in the pocket of my tux. I forgot all about it until I was undressing that night in my rooms. I locked it away." His voice dark like decadent chocolate. "I have no idea if it still works."

He held out his arm, slowly taking up the space between them with his desire. "Shall we see?"

Mary puckered her lips in amusement. "Of course."

And he turned on the device. They hovered over it. "Ah…" It powered on. "3%." Matthew grimaced, but added, "Just enough." And he fiddled with the screens until he found what he wanted. His music list. The one Eric helped him create so that when he ran around the park, he'd have something to listen to.

The song was on it.

The one Mary played the game to.

Matthew pushed his finger against the app, Johnny Gill's "My My My" began to play

So good
My, My, My
Put on your red dress

Mary came up to him, one lock of his blond hair falling across his forehead. She took two fingers and moved it back into place.

He shuddered in agony at her touch.

And slip on your high heels
And some of that sweet perfume
It sure smells good on you
Slide on your lipstick

He watched Mary as the song played. Mary swayed her hips to the rhythm. She slipped off her dress at the same time. It was such a good thing they gave Anna the night off….

Matthew was mesmerized. He undid his tie leaving the ends hanging loosely. He unbuttoned the stiff collar, detaching it slowly from around his neck.

Mary watched every motion as he then flicked the tie around and off his neck. He threw it on a chair.

Her eyes never left his body. He moved towards her.

She moved towards him.

Let your hair down
'Cause Baby when you get through
I'm going to show you
Tonight will be a special night

No matter where we go
And I'm so proud to be with you
I just want to let you know

Their arms entangled and twisted around each other. His fingers glided down the soft silk of her bodice. Came to rest as they passed the curves of her hips on the rounded flesh of her rear end. He stroked and massaged, moving her closer and closer to him.

You got my saying
My, My, My
My, My, My
You sure look good tonight

The song slowed, the smartphone was dying… the lyrics getting even more distorted somehow make it more sensual as the words blurred

I just want to look at you
Girl you are so fine
I can't believe you're mine
And all I want to do

I want to make love to you
Tonight will be a special night
A minute more to come
And I'm so proud to be with you
So proud to share you're love

Matthew's lips crashed into Mary's.

Make love all night long
Make love all night long
'Til the dawn
Come On
Come On

The mobile died….

But they no longer cared. The music of their love carried them into the night.

Happy Christmas to all! This is the longest chapter I've ever written of any story…lol! I do so hope you liked it and it was all you wanted from our time travelers.

There might just be one more epilogue... after the war... Not sure... BUT ! Merry christmas to all readers, reviewers, likers, and favoriters lol