Bates and Anna: In Answer.

Author's Note: I wrote this quickly. It is not my usual style, but it is what fell on to paper today while I watched a lovely vid on YouTube. "Downton Abbey ~ Anna and Mr Bates" by Cherrycakesbaybee.

January 2012: . I write fanfiction because I want good journeys with happy endings. I think people read what I write for the same reason. Real life is hard enough and often frightening, and while I want my stories to be realistic, I want the end to satisfy.

I wrote much of "In Answer" while I was working nights at a facility for older adults and those with Alzheimer's. I have kids, and so my days were not only for sleeping, quite obviously. Writing Downton Abbey fiction was another world for me. I felt a wonderful kinship with the other writers at the Fanfiction website that I needed as I went through my chaotic and often sleep deprived days and nights. Much of "In Answer" was written on short breaks at the facility where I worked or actually plunked into my phone when I waited somewhere for the kids.

The notable thing about my story is the format. The chapters alternate point of view, and are written in the first person, present tense. The story leads off with an account from John. This initial chapter, oddly enough, was going to be the extent of the story originally. Readers encouraged me to continue, and I was swept up in the mania and the love that is the Downton Abbey board. I ended up with 20 chapters.

Thank you, dancesabove, for the edits!

Anna walks with me down the stairs, the way she walks with me along the halls and roads. Always, she matches my strides. Flawlessly. She is a mirror that betters my imperfections. Our conversation and our footfalls take on the uneven-but-familiar rhythm of my broken body's gait.

I am happily blind in her. Laughing unbidden and unrestrained for the first time in possibly forever, I meet the landing with an unexpected, jarring step.

Would she know my embarrassment? Would she understand, when I am with her, my attention is unrepentantly hers?

It was too much to hope that it might escape her. Still, my vanity seems spare and unnecessary. She is, I am sure, an omniscient sprite who sees inside me all too easily.

Without a word, her small hand lands at my waist, confident and possessive. Her eyes smile her reassurance. Frightened for her, I take the half-step away to lean quickly against the wall. I don't want to breathe. But I have to wonder: Why do I think I can save her from me when she is the one in control?

Oh, Lord. Who is this passionate, benevolent woman-child-faerie whom you have sent? I would almost believe she is here in answer to a prayer I've been too proud to make. Don't let her touch me. She would own me, make me repent my solitude.

I look at her eyes, and I know it's far too late. I see the weakness I indulge because she makes me feel stronger by each day's end.


I know she wants me out in the dark of the kitchen yard, and so that is where I am an hour later. I pretend to be short with her. I tell her she wouldn't understand, but she doesn't even blink. Her eyes move over me. And in silence, remove the pretense and the lies.

We sit facing and too close on the crates William has unpacked, but not removed.

"Your gait," she says. "Do you feel it in your hip at the end of the day?"

I look bewildered, I know. I'm thinking of negotiating my surrender. Of handing her my soul. How can she in this moment possibly think of something so earthly and mundane? But I nod solemnly, amazed by her perception.

Is it second sight?

But then, if she has watched me as I have watched her these months, I am hopelessly laid bare.

"Stand up," she whispers.

And her hand rides along my better hip as we rise. Standing now, we are close together, penned in by choice and the crates we had used to sit upon. She smiles up at me. Her look tells me she registers the intimate, unchaste quality of our propinquity. She feels it, too. It exists as something for us to enjoy, but only later. Somehow, it is a surety when I look at her.

But, later, when she needs me to go to her, it will seem impossible.

"Lean over here," I'm told, and a kinder sergeant never led me. I have my hands against the bricks in the dark of our hidden corner.

"Favoring your right leg," she tells me, "makes your left hip ache." I haven't the ability or the inclination to ask her how she knows, because her hands are on me full and forceful. She is under my coat. She holds me steady with one hand. Exacts her cure with the other. Strong fingers push at the muscles near the top of my trousers.

My head is laid on the rough bricks now, and she voices my moan. It is relief and healing and undeniably, desire.

When William calls her name from the kitchen door, she does not pull away. She leans in closer to me if only for a bitter second. Her arms embrace me, reaching high across my chest. She does this so quickly, I wonder if perhaps I've only dreamed it.

"Coming, William," she calls back, and her hands and I turn my tired body. She doesn't kiss me with her lips then. But with her smile and the fingertips that ghost across my mouth.

"You'd better go," I mean to say.

But the words that I hear escape me are more honest. "Do you know?" I whisper. Do you know how much I need you?

"I do, Mr. Bates."