A/N Okay so here it is. A tiny one shot about the wedding reception. I might have dreamt about this last night - bits of this. And all day I felt the need to turn it into a ficlet. But the thing I started writing at work sounded wrong. So I started again once I was at home. Here is the result. (Thirty Days will continue soon!) Please let me know what you think :) this is for chelsie-carson and for kouw!

TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH


Never has she been filled with more happiness, never has she felt more alive than today. They shake hands, accept good wishes, both their smiles are so bright, her heart beats so heavily in her chest she fears it might burst. She reaches for his hand, touches it with her fingertips, assures herself he is still there, that this is not a dream. More people enter the school, the entire village it seems. They don't know that many people but everyone wants to congratulate them, everyone is happy for them. Even Mr Barrow who calls her Mrs Carson without having to think about it. Her ladyship stumbles a bit. But it is fine. She has to get used to it too after so many years of carrying the title of Mrs just for show. Now she truly is a wife, a married woman, his beloved. And he introduces her as such in his toast just after they've finished thanking everyone for coming. Her hand hurts a bit from shaking all the other hands. But it is worth everything, all the years of waiting, not knowing what the future held for her, if there even was a future after work.

The smile on his face grows wider with every word he speaks about her, to the gathered crowd and she has to take deep breaths to stop her tears from welling up. He calls her a woman of grace and charm, the man all of those around them only know as the stern butler. There is a gleaming in his eyes, a different sound in his voice. She has never seen him display his emotions so openly and it fills her with even more happiness and pride. He's come such a long way, they both have.

And from somewhere amidst the crowd she hears a familiar voice. The soft Irish lilt, so distinctive, missed for too many months. Now the wedding can truly begin with Miss Sybbie and Mr Branson there. She turns to her husband, the term so new, so unfamiliar yet, raises her glass. They drink to their health, to that of the people surrounding them, to their friends, the Crawleys.

- ooo -

It is a true wedding breakfast with pies and a roast, beer and wine and punch. Hearty delicious food prepared by Mrs Patmore's skilful hand. Even the Dowager asks for a second helping. Everyone enjoys this traditional feast, the gathering of friends and family that does not require evening attire or perfect manners. People have loud conversations across the room, the tone is joyful and a bit raucous. She does not mind one bit, takes in the relaxed atmosphere. This is them, this is true life, the real life.

He sits next to her, still smiling, observing each and everyone. There is a I told you so on her lips, a I knew you would like this more than the great hall. She doesn't say it, does not want to tease him. Not now, maybe later when they are alone. The thought sends a tingling feeling down her core, butterflies everywhere. He turns his head in that very second, looks at her, right into her soul. She can feel her cheeks blush, has to look away, down onto her half empty plate, then feels how his hand envelopes hers. Warm fingers on her cold skin, a gentle squeeze- He lift her hand, turns it around, presses a kiss into her palm for everyone to see, or no one because they are all busily chatting. His lips form words and she does not need to hear them, can understand them without sound. I love you. I love you so much.

- ooo -

Someone, she does not know who, has cleared the table, put the drinks and glasses away onto some other table in the hall. There is room for dancing now and they are gently pushed forward into the semi circle of people. Hands clap a rhythm, the music sets in and his hand is on her waist, a bit too low. His body is a bit too close. His face so near. They move to the music without thinking. One step follows the other, automatically. He swirls her across the room with such enthusiasm, so close, she would call their dancing a tad too risqué for others to watch. But the others do not mind, do not care because they have joined them, surround them now, concentrate on their own dancing and no longer on the bride and groom. His hand wanders down a bit more, she leans into his touch, the music slows down a bit, her head rests on his chest. They sway slowly now. She wants this to never stop, to continue forever. Her eyes are closed. Then the applause wakes her from her daydream and they stop moving. She looks up into smiling faces around her, happy faces. Embarrassment shows on hers, red, flushed cheeks, the lip between her teeth. Then he raises her chin with one finger, causes her to turn her head and she knows what will happen next. She can feel his warm lips, his hand cupping her cheek. Their guests cheer loudly and they both smile into the kiss but do not break it.

- ooo -

He is bold after that kiss and they share a few more throughout the rest of the day. Quick pecks on the lips, longer ones in moments when no one is paying them any attention. She never knew kissing could be so wonderful, cannot get enough of it now that they've started. But she is also aware that not only their friends attend this wedding. There is the family she serves, her employers. She does not want them to think ill of her, fear that Mrs Carson will from now on no longer concentrate on her work. Although today is their day, their wedding, a day where they are not servants, where they are them, Charles and Elsie, she feels the need to keep a bit of excitement to herself. Not much, because nothing can spoil her good mood, her happiness, but some.

She tells him so, reminds him to show a bit more restraint, whispers this into his ear in a stolen moment when they stand at the side of the dancefloor. His reply is a kiss on her cheek, an almost inaudible I will do my best. He is not angry, not hurt and his answer leads to another sweet kiss. When they break it the look in his eyes tell her that he understands, but it also promises her more. Later. When they will be alone.

- ooo -

It is late in the afternoon, maybe even almost evening, when a coach stops in front of the school and they are escorted outside. She has not planned this and by the surprised look on his face, neither did he. Lord Grantham opens the door, tells them to enjoy their ride and that everything is cared for. He helps her into the coach, her husband follows, the door is closed and the horses start moving. Whereto they both do not know but they are truly alone for maybe the first time today. It hits her with such force that tears spring to her eyes and before she knows, her cheeks are wet and she is sobbing. His arm is around her, he holds her close, cradles her body, kisses her brow, whispers soothing, loving words. She is overcome, cannot stop crying happy tears, tears of relief.

Neither of them pays attention to the landscape that is passing by the window, although it is familiar, very much so. The gravel pathway that leads up to Abbey crunches underneath the wheels but the coach does not stop at the front door the back, it moves on, around it, towards where the cottages are. When it stops she has stopped crying but is still held close by his strong arms. The driver opens the door but before she can get out, see where he has taken them, she has to take a few deep breaths, adjust her hat, wipe away the last tears with a his white handkerchief.

He lets her disembark first but follows immediately because, like her, he has noticed where they are. A cottage, not their own, but one the late Mr Matthew has restored to its former glory. A garland hangs across the door, white roses, heather and fern. Vases adorn the windowsills inside. She can taste the tears again, reaches for his hand, needs to hold on to him now, feel steady, before they open the door and take a hesitant look inside the cottage. Behind them the driver unloads their bags, the ones she cannot remember having packed.

Before she knows what is happening, he sweeps her off her feet, carries her over the threshold. And between her happy tears she laughs out loud, a happy, joyous sound that fills the small living room of the cottage.

- ooo -

Someone has planned all of this, secretly, behind their backs. And she is proud of whoever it was because usually she is the one that knows everything about everyone. Not this time, this one time they managed to keep something secret from her.

The lie on the bed in the upstairs bedroom. White, soft sheets underneath them, a carelessly draped blanket covers their bodies, but not all of it. She is naked and not even nervous, not anymore. He traces her collarbone with his index finger. He meets her lips again for a brief but loving kiss before he lets them travel across her body, before they continue what they've only stopped for long enough to catch their breath.


(I'd love to continue but I am SO BAD at writing M rated stuff...)

I hope you like it. This is the product of 1.5 hours of listening to crappy house music and not looking at tumblr or any other websites ;) (yes sometimes I can concentrate on something)