A/N: Hello and welcome to OrangeShipper and Silvestria's first (published) collaborative effort! Obviously we're jumping straight in at the deep end by writing Matthew and Mary's wedding night. This chapter is only moderately salacious though so Silvestria can put off wearing a paper bag over her head for the moment at any rate.
We should probably mention a little about how this story was written. We RPed it over instant messenger with OrangeShipper writing Matthew and Silvestria Mary. This means that the POV chops and changes more often than it probably would if we were each of us writing individually though we have tried to smooth it out in the editing process.
Frankly, the setting of this story isn't remotely important (plot, what plot?) but we envisage it taking place in the "Fluffiverse" we share. Silvestria's While the Paint Dries and OrangeShipper's To Prove a Woman Wrong may therefore be counted as sequels to this story!
Hope you enjoy and leave a review if you do, especially considering we are losing the reviews we would naturally give each other! :)
Squinting slightly in the bright sunshine, Matthew stepped out of the church. His face lit by an infectious grin, he happily clutched Mary's hand.
"I'm afraid there's no going back now, my love!" His voice was light and filled with irrepressible joy. "We are married!" He could hardly believe that she was at last his wife.
Mary was in a complete daze and she clutched his hand tightly more from nerves than from anything else. She glanced quickly at him and said, "So it seems!"
He tugged her gently around to face him, clasping her hands between them. Her wedding ring glinted in the sunlight, and he found himself smiling down at it. Suddenly, a surge of happiness swept over him and he leant forwards, kissing her sweetly. Though he already knew the answer, he could not resist asking her anyway.
"And are you quite happy?"
Her hands trembled in his and she replied, half smiling, "How can you ask me that?" She nodded to the church gate. "We shouldn't keep Branson waiting!"
Allowing his eyes to glance over her in affection, he took her hand and smoothly folded her arm through his.
"Of course, we mustn't." He led her to the car, carefully helping her in. "After you, darling!"
Mary got into the car, leaning on Matthew's hand, smiling at Branson as he offered his congratulations. Matthew followed her swiftly in. She tucked her dress around her and leaned back as car started, suddenly alone, she realised, with her husband! She felt nervous and started to pick slightly at her veil.
Matthew gave her hand an affectionate squeeze, slight nervousness creeping through him as he glanced over at her. "Alone at last. It has been such a hectic morning; I must say it is a blessed relief to see you, and you alone, for a time!" A smile spread across his face, and he beamed at her. "You know, you look breathtakingly beautiful, Mary. More so than usual, though that is barely possible!"
At his words, she looked at him properly and blushed. "Thank you..." She briefly touched his cheek. "You had better make the most of it for we shall not be alone much longer! I am afraid you must prepare for not being left alone at all for a very long time now." She lowered her voice. "There are people here whom I am apparently related to, but I have never heard of them!"
"I rather think I am a stranger to most of our guests! You will have to guide me, I'm afraid. I may have to stay close to your side for you to introduce me to as many as you can!" He raised his eyebrows, really not minding that at all.
Mary smiled slyly. "Very well. I shall do my best, but do not, I beg you, demand names from me if I do not volunteer them at first! And..." She looked slightly mischievous. "Perhaps we had better arrange some kind of signal if we are confronted with a very boring guest so that we might escape as quickly as possible!"
"I think that is a very wise idea." Leaning across, he whispered conspiratorially in her ear. "You know, I think I would prefer it infinitely if we could simply do away with them all. But do not tell your parents that!" As he leant away again, he could not resist a swift kiss to her cheek.
"You know, Matthew, I need not tell my parents anything now! Would you mind terribly if I told you instead when I have dreadfully improper thoughts like that?" She raised her eyebrows and looked mock-seriously at him.
Matthew's eyes darkened a fraction as he replied, "I don't think I would mind that at all, Mary. You may tell me all the dreadfully improper thoughts that you like! I would be a poor husband if you felt you could not!"
She noticed his expression and blushed but remained defiant. "Very well." She glanced at Branson in the front and then leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially, "I also wish we might do away with the reception altogether!"
He blushed slightly, breathing shallowly as her breath tickled his ear. He turned to whisper back to her, his lips ever so lightly brushing against her. "Do you know, my darling, I wish quite the same thing. I think this bodes well for harmony in our marriage, do you not?"
His wife did not move away. "I'm not sure. It would be a shame if we thought the same about everything..."
"Hmm. I wonder if you think this would be a good idea as I do..." He raised his hand and gently tipped her chin, turning her face towards his, but a hairs breadth between them. His eyes met hers darkly for a moment before he daringly kissed her.
She briefly closed her eyes but pulled back almost immediately from the kiss, laying her hand on his chest to keep him away. She laughed very lightly. "I am not sure that Branson would think it a good idea, dearest!" She looked down at her hand on his heart and the ring on her hand and then back at him.
Matthew looked a little abashed, but did not really mind. "I suppose you're right, as ever!" He glanced down at her hand too, wondering if she could feel just how hard his heart was pounding. Looking back up, he smiled fondly. "I hope that this afternoon will be just as pleasant as the morning has been. I cannot imagine it should not be."
She kept her hand there where she could feel his heart beat for a second longer, then gently lowered it in a caress and held his hand again. She smiled gently and said drily, "If there is more wine and fewer prayers then it will probably be an improvement! We never did decide a signal, did we? I am afraid you distracted me." She looked at him archly.
"I apologise sincerely, of course, darling." His mischievous smile disagreed. "I shall distract you no further, I assure you!"
She raised an eyebrow at that. "I should hope not! In future you should be satisfied only with my undivided attention!" She smirked and then continued quite coolly, "I think a mention of your poor, deceased aunt Gertrude whenever the conversation is too awful should do it, don't you think?"
Matthew's eyebrow rose sharply. "Aunt Gertrude? Well, her story is very unfortunate..." He placed a slight emphasis on the word 'story', his eyes twinkling. "I may need some time to recover myself at the thought of it, you're right."
"You may borrow my handkerchief if necessary." Her lips twitched but she tried to stay serious even as her eyes smiled at him very fondly.
He lowered his head, wearing a respectful expression of sorrow as he squeezed her hand gently. "You're so thoughtful, my dear."
She squeezed his hand back. "I know how upset you were that she could not be here today..."
At this Branson who had been trying not to eavesdrop could not help himself and coughed uncontrollably.
Matthew flashed a smile in Branson's direction before looking back at Mary, the only crack in his serious expression being the sparkle in his eyes. "I am only thankful that I've had you to get me through this very difficult time, Mary. I know the pain will only become easier to bear, with you beside me now."
Mary also glanced at Branson very briefly and in doing so realised they are almost at the house. "I am glad that I have been of service to you. If there is any further way I can distract you from your pain, you must let me know!" She was barely managing not to snigger.
His lips twitched and he could not prevent a tiny snort. "I would not wish to trouble you, darling, of course! But I appreciate your offer, and would be glad of your distraction from any discomfort... Very glad of it!" Giving up the pretence entirely, he relented and grinned at her.
She just looked at him, feeling more relaxed than when she had first entered the car, then saw Branson opening the door behind Matthew and nodded in that direction.
"Maybe later, darling..." she murmured, pushing him slightly towards the door and finding her heart pounding at her daring.
It took him a long moment of staring in delighted shock before he remembered he needed to exit the car. He swiftly clambered out, taking Mary's hand to assist her. Distracting thoughts swirled through his mind and he gulped nervously.
She smiled mischievously at him as she got out of the car, smoothed her dress, and finally looked up at the house - no longer home. They went in, where Carson was waiting to congratulate them. He ushered them into the drawing room and then left them alone to await all the other guests who had to walk from the church.
Matthew's eyes swept over the impressive piles of gifts and china arrayed on the table in the drawing room. "Your relatives are generous indeed, Mary! I'm not sure all this will fit into our rather more modest abode!" He was suddenly struck by the thought of sharing a home with her, and clasped her hand gently with a smile.
"Indeed!" She looked round the piles rather apprehensively. "We shall simply have to dedicate several days to sorting out and putting it away. I dare say there will be quite a few replicas!"
"Undoubtedly." His eyes followed hers around the room, before his gaze fixed warmly on her once more. "There'll be plenty of time for that, of course."
"Oh yes..." As she looked back at him she felt overcome by sudden affection towards him and added casually, "I don't suppose we need to start until Monday at the earliest, don't you think?"
Breathing suddenly a little shallower, his eyes flickered across her face. "I think it would be quite unnecessary to start before then." His voice had lowered to a hoarse whisper.
She stepped towards him, eyes shining and brushed one hand against his neck, kissing him softly. She pulled back a little. "Quite unnecessary, my husband." She blushed and smiled slightly.
He let his eyes drift closed as she kissed him, unconsciously clutching her hand a little tighter. He whispered, "I'm glad you agree, my darling wife..." A pleasurable tingle swept through him at being able to call her his wife. Feeling suddenly nervous, he stepped back a fraction. "Of course it will take some time to become used to each other... You never know what irritating habits of mine you may have to put up with now!"
Mary stared at him in surprise and then laughed softly and stepped forward again. "I think I have discovered one now! If you must speak of your faults at this point then we shall soon get onto mine and though you know the worst, I fancy you will discover many more!"
A smile of relief spread across his face, pleased that she did not seem to be put off at all. "My darling, I think they should only cause me to love you more. I can't help but find your little irritances to be endearing!"
She loved him very much at that moment however irritating he might be being. "I think my entire family is grateful that you have such unnatural feelings about them! I wonder if you shall feel the same in twenty years time!" She suddenly drew in a breath at the thought of still being married to Matthew in twenty years time.
His smile spread a little wider as he gazed fondly at her. Reaching up, he touched her cheek tenderly. "I can't imagine that I would not, I assure you." He leaned forwards and softly kissed her.
Her eyes fluttered closed as she leaned into the kiss and responded very gently, almost tentatively but with great affection.
A small thrill raced through him as he felt her respond. He gently took her face in both hands, holding her lovingly to him, before whispering against her lips. "I love you, you know. Very, very much, Mary."
She smiled against his lips, not wanting to spoil the moment with further words and kissed him again, wrapping her arms around his neck. Matthew kissed her a little more firmly, slipping a hand around her waist. Rubbing her back in affection, he felt quite delirious at the thought that he was now perfectly allowed to do this whenever he wished. Mary sighed, tilting her head to deepen the kiss but without any feeling of haste. For the first time that day she felt absolutely no hurry or anxiety, a strange thing when the rest of the family would be back so soon – but she did not pursue such an analytical train of thought. As she deepened the kiss, Matthew felt a delightful tingle sweep through him, and felt very, very glad that she was his wife. Smiling, he held her a little more tightly against him and relished the warm feel of her body. As she was drawn closer to him, she started to respond with more desire and slid one hand up to tangle in his hair, her head starting to swim a little. A sigh of pleasure escaped his lips, as he felt her hand in his hair, kissing her back very thoroughly indeed. His other hand slipped round to the back of her neck, holding her tightly against him. She rose onto tiptoe and pressed herself against him, moving her free hand down from his neck to clutch at his shoulder.
He almost swayed back as she leaned further into him, feeling lightheaded with desire. Reluctantly, he pulled back a moment, holding her face very tenderly still only a fraction away from his.
"Darling, I think your family might be joining us soon... Unless they are walking very slowly!" He sincerely hoped that they were. He suddenly kissed the tip of her nose tenderly, feeling strangely unsatisfied when his lips weren't touching her at all.
Mary opened her eyes when he pulled away and then closed them again in disappointment when he spoke. She sighed and pulled away from him completely though reluctantly for she did not trust herself in his arms. She still retained one of his hands though.
"Oh, Granny is always very quick to arrive when she is least wanted!" she replied, her languid, thoroughly-kissed smile belying the humour of her words. "But the reception won't last for ever and then we shall be alone." Her eyes flashed briefly and then she swallowed and walked away to check her reflection in the mirror and recover some of her poise.
His heart beat a little faster at her intimation, a pulse of desire making him gasp slightly. Watching her walk away, he resisted the urge to reach out to her again. "I'm sure your grandmother is also slow to leave in the same situation! We shall have to make sure she is well fed and sent off happily. Maybe some dancing would tire her out." He couldn't prevent a grin at the thought of cousin Violet dancing, certain he would never see it.
Mary grinned at him (still rather languidly) in the mirror as she patted a few strands of escaped hair back under her veil. "She gives us to understand she was a beautiful dancer in her youth. Of course, they were probably still country dancing then... Where is your mother staying tonight, Matthew? Here, or did Papa manage to persuade Granny? I was not paying attention."
Matthew chuckled softly. "Can you imagine my mother taking up residence with your grandmother, even for one night alone? I think your father realised the better option for all concerned would be for Mother to stay here, and she quite agreed. I dread to consider the alternative!"
"Indeed! That is definitely for the better." She glanced back at him in the mirror again. "I should have lain awake all night thinking about them otherwise!"
Looking intently at her in the mirror, he stood behind her, almost but not quite touching. He willed himself not to look away. "That would never do, my dear. We should have had to take your mind off it, somehow."
Mary met his eye with a look of slight alarm, suddenly wondering if she had gone too far, her heart pounding once more. "I can't think how!" She started fiddling needlessly with her veil, looking down to cover her embarrassment.
Matthew felt equally alarmed at the sentiment expressed by his own words, and desperately tried to quash the images they'd conjured. He tried, rather pathetically, to lighten the tone. "Maybe I could find you a bedtime story; reading always takes one's mind off things!" He smiled weakly at his poor excuse for a joke.
She turned around suddenly to find that, yes, he was standing right behind her, causing her to step back awkwardly onto the fender of the fireplace. She glared at him.
"What were you thinking of, dearest? A charming fairy tale perhaps? There are many stories I believe in which terribly bad things happen to the groom on his wedding night!" She rolled her eyes.
He grinned at her mockery. "Well, darling, perhaps you might have a better suggestion?" Placing his hands on her upper arms, he ran them softly up and down before pulling her gently towards him.
She stepped down from the fender and back into his arms, shivering slightly, and smiling again. "I think you should ask me later..."
Before he could reply she suddenly became aware of very loud voices approaching outside the door and she pulled back from the kiss she was going to give him.
Smiling regretfully, Matthew stepped back to face the door, preparing himself to be assaulted by many congratulatory relatives. He kept hold of Mary's hand a moment longer, giving it a conspiratorial squeeze. They were ready to face them together.
Mary breathed in and turned so they were standing in front of the fireplace. She tucked her hand into his arm and looked up at him. "Ready? - And try to be nice to Great-Aunt Elizabeth. You can always abuse her to me afterwards!"
"Would I be anything but?" Patting her hand fondly, he stared ahead with a fixed smile. "Just remember, darling, about my poor aunt Gertrude!"
She had just time to reply piously, "Poor aunt Gertrude!" before the door opened to display them to their relatives with expressions that were positively funereal.
He chuckled beside her. "Do you know, I think we might have some fun after all!"
There had been congratulations, handshaking, the receiving of gifts, lunch and tea as well and at some point Mary had disappeared for half an hour to change out of her wedding dress. The whole thing had simply gone on and on.
It was already evening when after several hours of background, incidental music, the string quartet began to play a waltz. Mary had been telling her grandmother and her great-aunt Elizabeth all about aunt Gertrude's final illness, death and funeral arrangements for at least ten minutes and was getting rather desperate. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that aunt Rosamund had cornered her husband.
"Do you know, I am not certain precisely what the doctor did think about it!" cried Mary. "Will you excuse me if I check with Matthew?" She beamed charmingly and escaped without another word, fooling neither of her relatives. She felt rather pleased with herself anyway.
Feeling really quite intimidated, Matthew stammered desperately to Rosamund. "Well, yes, I suppose it has all worked out rather well, but –"
Mary came up behind him and put her hand on his arm. "Excuse me, aunt Rosamund! I do hope I am not interrupting anything!"
He turned to give Mary a relieved grin. "Not at all, dear! Your dear aunt Rosamund was simply commenting on how tidy our marriage is. I think we might all be agreed on that." He frowned gently, having only spoken to be polite. Glancing towards the string quartet, he sensed an opportunity. "Lady Rosamund, would you mind terribly excusing us?" He raised his eyebrows imploringly at her. "I would quite like to offer my wife a dance, if you would not object?" Rosamund looked peeved, but did not object. Matthew smiled gratefully, turning to Mary and taking her hand. "And, of course, so long as you would not object, Mary?"
Of course she did not. In fact, she was glad Matthew asked her to dance before she could make any acidic comments about how much tidier it would be when her father died and he became earl and wasn't she looking forward to that too? It did not hurt that she also felt her heart skip a beat when he called her wife. She would not have refused him anything.
She clasped his hand and met his eye. "I do not object, Matthew."
Matthew grinned happily, a warm glow spreading through him from her acceptance, and the more general realisation that they were actually married. It kept occurring to him, suddenly and pleasantly. "Shall we?"
Mary allowed him to lead her in the direction of a slightly cleared space in the centre of the room, feeling a strange thankfulness that she never had to dance with anyone she didn't want to again.
Taking a deep breath, Matthew pulled Mary around to face him, slipping his free arm around her waist in one easy movement. He pulled her closely against him, until she was so close that their cheeks almost touched. Confidently, he pressed forwards a little with his leg until he felt her respond, and started to slowly turn about the floor. Mary rested her hand lightly on his shoulder, hardly touching him at all and danced smoothly in response to his lead, feeling his hair tickle her cheek but not quite touch it. Only her right hand felt firm in his. Suddenly she felt oddly like crying and she applied a bit more pressure to his shoulder. Smiling, he turned his head to press a swift kiss to her cheek. He raised his hand from her waist slightly higher up her back, rubbing his thumb comfortingly in a small gesture of affection.
She felt even more like crying at this and wished somehow that the reception could be over. Then she felt confused because she shouldn't feel sad today of all days! She swallowed and murmured very softly in his ear, "I never thought - when I thought about my wedding which, of course I did very often - I never thought that I would ever marry anybody I loved!" She blinked hard.
Matthew felt an odd stab of sadness, feeling sorry that she had once thought she would not have love in her marriage. "Oh Mary..." His embrace tightened a little, reassuringly. "I'm so glad that you have!"
She gently leaned her head against his for a moment and replied still in a very low voice, "So am I!" She paused, finding it easier not looking at him, then continued, "I hope - I hope I can make you happy. I shall try! But you know me, Matthew, I'm not very good at thinking about other people."
He turned his head slightly towards hers, still leaning against her but feeling somehow even closer. He whispered softly in her ear, "Mary darling, you make me happier than I ever imagined I could be. Don't ever worry that you should not!"
She smiled tremulously and sighed, her breath tickling his cheek. "I'm afraid I shall never not worry but-" She got into a slight muddle of double negatives here. "Dearest Matthew, I love you very much, and that is all you need to remember!"
Chuckling fondly, he pressed another kiss to her cheek, this one lingering a moment longer. "I think it will be very easy for me to, Mary." He pulled back slightly, just enough to meet her eyes, and spoke seriously. "And I hope that I should make you happy - I fear I have significantly fewer charms than you, my dear!"
She blinked quickly as he looked at her, not wanting him to catch sight of the tears that shone unfallen in her eyes. "I have never found you lacking in charm! Well, not recently anyway!" she added, tilting her head in consideration.
He dipped his head with a smile. "Yes, well, I don't think I need a reminder of your initial considerations of me! I have never blamed you for it, though. And I entirely did not help myself." He frowned as he remembered his dreadfully priggish behaviour on his arrival, before looking back up at her. "I am simply glad that your opinion has not remained such!"
She blushed. "I loved you a lot earlier than you think I did, Matthew! And I think I loved you before I liked you!" She looked down shyly. "How could I not when you were the only man I ever met who actually bothered to talk to me!"
This was not precisely what she meant but it would have to do. Her emotions were making it hard for her to think as clearly as she wished.
Smiling wryly at her, he guided her into a brief spin in the corner as he thought. "I fear you left me little option but to talk to you - I had to defend myself against your accusations against my character! A sorry man I would have been if I had kept silent!" He squeezed her hand to indicate his lack of seriousness, before adding quietly, "Anyway - I was very glad of the excuse to talk to you - you had me under a spell from the moment I saw you. I think I might have loved you from then!"
Mary's lips twitched and she felt glad that her moment of weakness had passed.
"Love at first sight? Really, Matthew, how dreadfully common!" She smiled at him to show she was teasing.
"Common it may have been of me, but strangely I find myself unable to care!" He grinned at her teasing. "I hope you should not think less of me for it!" Though he knew she didn't really, he quite liked to be reminded sometimes.
"I shall endeavour to overlook it!"
"I am glad to hear it!" As the music built slightly, they reached another corner. Matthew raised an eyebrow mischievously, guiding her into a pleasantly dizzying series of spins down the floor.
She laughed into his shoulder and was forced to clutch him tighter as he spun her to a smatter of laughter and applause. As the spins ended, she pulled back and looked at him suddenly seriously. "You make me dizzy, Matthew!" She smiled ruefully at the dreadful pun, but did not care.
Grinning in exhilaration, Matthew relaxed into a calmer waltz around the room, catching his breath back. He met Mary's eyes, his own shining with deep affection, shaking his head despairingly at her terrible pun. "I hope you find yourself soon recovered, darling! I would hate to be the source of any discomfort to you."
"I cannot imagine you ever could be. There, I am feeling better already! Though-" Her expression softened. "I expect I will always feel a little dizzy around you!"
"Then I'm afraid we may often have to walk arm in arm, my dear, or we may both lose our balance if the condition persists!" He smiled fondly, wishing he would stop being so saccharine but could not quite seem to help it.
She liked that idea. "I can think of worse ways to go through life than by your side..." She trailed off wistfully and became aware that they were hardly dancing any more.
Feeling almost dazed, Matthew smiled at her. "I can think of few better." He shuffled almost to a standstill, altogether too engrossed in feeling in love and gazing contentedly at his very darling wife to concentrate on dancing any more. Mary gazed at him just as intensely and adoringly, displaying her feelings openly in the way she had only just started being able to do as the music came to an end.
How long they might have remained there locked together is anyone's guess if great-aunt Elizabeth had not announced in the loud tones of the very deaf, "Well, I don't suppose you need to be talking all that claptrap about tidiness now! It's quite obvious why they're married and the sooner they're allowed to leave the better for the rest of us!"
Matthew dropped his head onto Mary's shoulder, blushing furiously.
She also blushed but, knowing her great-aunt, was more overcome with the desire to giggle uncontrollably especially as her father, equally embarrassed, tried to calm his aunt down. She gently stroked Matthew's hair once on the side not visible to the rest of the room and then pushed him away slightly. She met her mother's eye across the room, who also looked as if she was trying not to laugh.
"Perhaps Lady Elizabeth is right," said the countess diplomatically. "It is getting very late! Mary, Matthew, you have been accepting congratulations for many hours now and you must be getting tired."
Mary continued trying not to snigger.
Though Matthew had recovered enough to raise his head, he continued to open and close his mouth ineffectually with no words coming out, wishing fervently that everyone would disappear.
Realising his mother-in law was awaiting a response, he eventually stammered, "Well, quite so, cousin Cora, but..." before trailing off pathetically. He certainly didn't want to seem too keen, with everyone staring at them!
By this point his wife was just about keeping it together, and was able to say, "Yes, Mama is right. I at least am very tired!" She pinched Matthew's hand very hard.
He jumped slightly, but squeezed her hand back. "Yes, and I'm sure you shall be wanting your house to yourself again after we have dominated it so this afternoon!" He blushed, still feeling very, very uncomfortable, desperately trying to avoid looking at his mother, or Robert, or Violet. Or anyone.
"Really, Matthew," said the earl, "We really do not mind when the occasion is such a joyous one."
"Perhaps Branson could be ordered to bring the car around?" suggested his wife.
At this point Lady Rosamund returned to room, nobody having noticed she had left. "I ordered it five minutes ago!"
"It was a truly lovely reception," said Mary, stepping forward, much more composedly. "Thank you all so much."
Nodding gratefully, Matthew addressed Lord and Lady Grantham. "Really, we cannot thank you enough. It has been a beautiful day."
Before he could continue, Carson came in to announce the arrival of the car.
Looking at Mary, Matthew squeezed her hand and gave a small, nervous smile. "Are you ready, darling?"
She gave him a small, private smile and nodded.
Despite everyone present being very keen for the bride and groom to leave as quickly as possible, it nevertheless took a long time for them to say a proper goodbye to all the guests. Finally, however, it was over.
Waving awkwardly to the assembled guests, Matthew gave a grateful nod to Robert and Cora before taking Mary's hand through his arm and leading her out to the car.
A/N: The rating will be going up in the second part, so do add the story to Author Alert or keep a sharp look out for it!