A/N: This idea came to me the other day in the car, and I suddenly felt an urge to write and post it. It's 4am and I've just whacked it out, so I apologise for any errors! I adore Matthew and Isobel's relationship and just wanted to explore her reaction to his decision to enlist. Hope you enjoy.
Matthew sat at the small table by the window; his arms folded pensively, his lips pursed in thought. He'd been staring out of the window, waiting, for some time. He didn't know what the time was. He glanced at the newspaper spread on the table in front of him, glossing over the enthusing ads.
Footsteps and the soft click of the door announced the bustling arrival of his mother, back from one of her regular interferences at the small village hospital. He turned as she entered, a tentative smile touching his lips.
"Good afternoon dear!" Isobel beamed at her son breathlessly after the exertion of walking through the village. Taking off her hat, she gave him a swift kiss of greeting before handing her things to Molesley, ordering some tea and sitting down. "What a refreshing walk! I am quite in need of a cup of tea." Matthew smiled fondly, but almost sadly, at his mother.
"Any exciting occurrences to report today, Mother?"
Isobel detected a soft hint of quiet sadness in Matthew's question. She responded lightly.
"None at all, I'm afraid. And what have you occupied yourself with, cooped up indoors on this fine afternoon?" She allowed him the opportunity to express what was clearly on his mind, and was not disappointed.
"Thinking, mainly." Matthew frowned, tapping his fingers together a moment. He looked resolutely at the ground as he spoke. "Mother, I've been thinking hard and have come to a decision." He raised his eyes to her, sporting a fiercely determined expression. "You must know that I am fully convinced, have made up my mind and shall not be swayed from my decision."
"Oh?" Isobel's eyebrows rose though her face remained impassive. She knew that look in his eyes, how stubborn he could be. Matthew paused a moment, considering his next words carefully.
"I have decided to enlist; to join the army. I think I must." His gaze remained firm as Isobel's face dropped in shock.
"Matthew!" Her worst fears of the last three days since Lord Grantham's announcement were confirmed. "I think you are being very rash."
"I assure you, I am not." Matthew stood up to pace the floor.
"Why must you join the army?" Isobel pressed, fear for her son gripping her heart. "I don't see that -"
"I consider it my duty, Mother. I am young, healthy and well able enough to do something to help the war effort. To help defend what is dear to me."
"But Matthew, you have a good job and position here! There are hoards of young men signing up across the country, surely it isn't necessary for you as well to –"
"And why should it not be?" Matthew's voice raised a fraction in frustration, facing his mother obstinately.
"Well –" Isobel spluttered. "You have so much to lose!"
"Do not other men?" Matthew's eyes narrowed; he refused to back down. "Mother, every man who signs up leaves behind something to lose. Many of them are husbands, fathers." He stopped a moment as his voice caught, a flash of regret or disappointment passing over his face. "I am neither of those." His voice rang bitterly in his ears. "Such men are leaving behind families; I have less to leave behind than they."
"You have me!" Isobel cried, her voice rising pleadingly. Though she knew in her heart he was right, he was her son; she could not let him go so easily as maybe she should. "What am I to do if you are gone?"
"Mother..." Matthew smiled a regretful, bitter smile. "You know perfectly well you should manage well enough. We have family here now, and you are perfectly capable of handling yourself in any case." Isobel pursed her lips, unable to argue. Matthew softened a fraction. "I know you are only objecting because you are worried for me."
"Of course that is why!" Isobel recovered her voice. "I am sure it's very noble and right of you to want to serve your country, but Matthew, it is so dangerous! You're my son; of course I do not wish you to go." She looked pleadingly to him, knowing with regret that she could not alter his conviction.
"And such is the sentiment of every mother whose son decides to serve," Matthew paused in his striding, looking at his mother with love and sincerity. "But consider; what if every man were dissuaded by his mother's concern? What gives me any right to refuse my duty when others do not? Anyway. The more force we push with now, the sooner it'll all be over. By Christmas, they say."
Isobel let out a deep sigh, her eyes closing in despair and resignation. Though pride for him swelled in her breast, she could not help but think it a rash decision. Her eyes snapped open and she met his eyes resolutely, surprised that she had only just realised.
"This is because of Mary, isn't it?" She knew he was running away. He had to be, and it was no surprise after the humiliation he had suffered from her delay.
"No it is not because of Mary!" Matthew was taken aback by the force with which he countered the suggestion. "Everything I do is not because of Mary, Mother!" He was angered by the suggestion that his misguided love should dictate his every action.
"Are you sure?" Isobel pressed, not believing him. "I know you are hurt, Matthew, but there are less impulsive ways to deal with it!"
"Yes, Mother, I am sure!" Matthew snapped back fiercely. "It is not just Mary, it's... It is everything! Everything of the last few months. I am tired of the direction of my life being thrown about beyond my control. Do you realise," he gestured furiously, "that my life has been turned upside down over and again more times than I care to think in the last few years? And not a time of it at my own desire?" Isobel closed her mouth, retreating slightly into her seat at his frustrated words. "I will have no more of it; I must do something for myself now." Realising his mother's distress, he softened, his tensed body relaxing. "You must understand that, Mother."
Realising that any further argument was futile, Isobel slumped slightly.
"I do understand that, Matthew. And I think you've dealt with everything so admirably. But are you sure that this is the best course of action? Is there not another way?"
"I think not, Mother." Matthew gave her a weak, apologetic smile. He was determined; though he would never reveal to her how much the very prospect terrified him, he knew that there was no other course of action left to him. "If I must do something, what better thing to do than fighting to preserve all that we love? I can think of no greater duty, and I choose it for myself."
Isobel gave an almost imperceptible nod. She wished that her son were not so stubborn. She wished that he were not so noble. Yet she would not have him any other way.
"When will you leave?" She asked with resignation in her voice.
"Tomorrow, I should think," Matthew said bluntly, gazing distractedly out of the window. "Best to get it over with, I imagine; though I expect I will have some time after signing up to arrange things." He turned to give her a faintly reassuring smile.
"I see," Isobel clasped her hands in her lap.
"You must not worry for me, Mother," Matthew spoke softly. He moved to stand behind her, placing his hand upon her shoulder in a hollow gesture of comfort. "I have been blessed with your grit; I am sure I will come to no harm."
He knew his words were meaningless, and so did she, though she appreciated his show of comfort. She smiled sorrowfully, reaching up to clasp his hand on her shoulder. And so they were; mother and son; grasping each other in vain consolation. Neither dared to speak the fear on their lips; each pretending to themselves that they were sure of his safe return.
Isobel cherished him so very dearly. She was filled with pride at his determination and nobility, yet could not escape the crushing fear of her dear and only son on the battlefield, risking his very life for the fragile notion of his country. Matthew felt sorrow at leaving his mother thus; he owed her such a great deal, and was fiercely fond of her. Yet he knew that he could not let that prevent him, his sense of duty and his desire to do something too strong. He was impressed by her acceptance of his decision, difficult though it had been.
Of course, what mother would not find it difficult to accept their son leaving for war? None, I should think.
A/N: Thank you for reading. I apologise for the cheesy ending; as I said, it's 4am lol! Reviews will be massively appreciated. Thank you. :)