A/N: I started this last week as my weekly offering for the mmmondaymadness LJ community, but wasn't very happy with it and sacked it off in favour of smut! This week, I intended to continue with Broken - which I very definitely intend to do! - but just couldn't get in the mindset and decided to have another crack at this!

Et, voila. Hope you enjoy! :)

What's In A Kiss?

"Will there be anything else, Lady Mary?"

"No, thank you, Anna."

"Alright. Good night, my lady."

"Goodnight," Mary murmured distractedly as she sat at her dressing table, contemplating herself in the mirror, illuminated by the soft lamp light. The door clicked quietly shut.

Mary stared at her reflection in a sort of wonderment. She was trying to see if she looked any different – she didn't, of course, but felt as though perhaps she should – that there should be some marker of it, somehow.

Her lips parted and she expelled a gentle sigh. She supposed this was what he saw when he looked at her – minus the loosely curled hair and nightdress, of course, but – how did she appear to him? He had looked so simply enthralled at her, so utterly enraptured with such dark promise in his eyes – was she really so very desirous? Well, she had always supposed herself to be beautiful, but it had been more than that... She shivered gently, her eyes resting upon the reflection of her lips as they curled into a knowing smile.

Matthew had kissed her. Really, thoroughly kissed her. Matthew. A small thrill rippled through her and she let her eyes drift closed as she remembered.

She felt dizzy, light-headed – she really had no idea what she was saying or how she was daring to say it! She had admitted – well, not quite admitted but had most definitely not denied – an attraction to him, and his face when he realised it... Oh, his face. His eyes, his hair, his lips, everything about him seemed suddenly to be tempting her with its perfection. She wasn't quite sure how she had never realised it before. He leaned so closely toward her and she was breathless, only able to disarmingly imply that he should forget every unkind remark she had ever made, or thought, or expressed about him... And in that glorious moment, he looked at her with such understanding, such desire, such a deep and unnerving knowledge of her, and she was completely and helplessly drawn into him.

His lips were soft, warm, eager against hers and Lord, it was Matthew! The knowledge excited her terribly. Lost within it, she felt as though it was utterly right, and she didn't want to kiss or be kissed by anyone else again, not ever – it couldn't possibly be the same as this blissful exploration. Her bare fingers skimmed his cheek lightly – the most she had ever touched him before was the odd chastely gloved handshake and now – this! Her head was swimming with delight. He tilted his head and suddenly it was deeper; unhurried and wondering and filled with a sense of realisation and acceptance that this was completely right, and why on earth had it taken them so long to realise it?

He shifted suddenly and his lips dragged away – she stared at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes – why had he stopped? The immediate pang of longing she felt frightened her. And then all at once his hands were on her face and his lips had found hers again and he was kissing her with an even greater intent than before. She sighed softly into his mouth and heard a low hum of response at the back of his throat; it reverberated all the way through her. She was startled, intoxicated by the intimacy of it and was filled with the most intense and desperate need she had ever felt. It was so passionate, deep and thorough and longing – yet at the same time so tender, so... loving. It terrified and excited her in equal measure. His lips were crushing against hers and his hands were at the back of her neck and - oh Lord! - his tongue – she had no idea when he had teased it into her mouth but there it was, glancing against hers and tasting her and making her tremble in the most delicious manner. It was like nothing she had ever felt and she instinctively responded; oh, it was more than the sensation alone, it was the way it blossomed heat through her body and made her shiver down to her toes... A tiny whisper at the very back of her mind was shocked at her own brazenness, alarmed that it was Matthew (whom she knew she cared for deeply but had never thought of in such a raw, physical way as this before!) but she stubbornly ignored it and let herself sink into his warmth and his passion. The heat of his body and his breath against her was absolutely enrapturing...

Somehow she suddenly became aware once more of her reflection, flushed and breathless just at the memory of it. She thought of him in an entirely different light now, he could not be the same to her as he had been. She knew him on another level, a deeper one, one which only she was privy to – and he knew her. She couldn't put her finger upon it but he seemed to understand her better than anybody else at all – she felt as though he could well know everything about her.

Except that he didn't.

Her contented smile dropped a little as it hit her fresh again. She had to tell him. She had known it as soon as...

As soon as he had proposed.

With a deep, shaky breath, she indulgently allowed her mind to mull this over. Matthew wanted to marry her. To be her husband. To spend his life with her, by her side. Incredibly, in all her thoughts and considerations of marriage over the years (and she had thought about it and considered it a lot!), she had never considered the notion of a husband to be something desired for the man himself and for the relationship they would share. Before, it had always seemed like a deal; something to be negotiated, arranged and agreed upon, for the mutual benefit and future comfort of both parties. Of course there must be affection there, they should get on well at least... But the contemplation of marriage to Matthew filled her with all sorts of other feelings and considerations; of companionship, of intimacy, of partnership, of... love. Matthew – dear Matthew – loved her, he wanted her and wanted to be with her, and that knowledge spread a warm glow out from her heart and right to the tips of her fingers and toes. And she, she had realised with quite a genuine shock, wanted to marry him – she wanted to be his wife, with no thought of duty or expectation or prospects but simply because she wanted to be.

But she couldn't.

That is, at least, she couldn't without telling him. Her mother had clearly thought her mad, but she had instantly known that of course she must tell him. Why? Honour, or pride? It was clearly not for her own self-preservation; that fact alone was enough to ring alarm bells as to her motive! No, she had to tell him because he deserved to know. Because she couldn't lie to him. Because she wanted to marry him with a clear conscience and no secrets between them. Because she...

Because she loved him.

Oh, she loved him. She observed her reflection again; seeing the way her eyes shone and how the little dimples appeared in her cheeks from her wide smile and how her skin seemed to glow with the sheer joy of it. To finally realise it, admit it and embrace it, felt utterly liberating and wonderful. She loved him. When her mother had asked her, her affirmation had simply slipped out, quite surprising herself with how easily it came. 'Yes... I rather think I do!' she had exclaimed quietly. It suddenly seemed the most obvious thing in the world, and she had honestly no idea how she could have loved him for so long without realising it. Of course she loved him! She had never felt such a depth of connection or affection, or been so enthralled or affected, for or by anyone in her life, in quite the same way as him. He pervaded everything; his wit, his intelligence, his humour, his care, his decency, his handsomeness, his goodness; he and everything about him filled her thoughts... Oh, yes, she loved him.

She thought that perhaps she had realised it when he had been so taken with helping Sybil up. He had taken her hand, slipped his arm under her shoulders and allowed her – no, invited her – to lean upon him, and Mary had stared at them stricken by a horrible jealousy. It was wrong, he should not be touching or holding her, he shouldn't be looking at her like that; it should be she, and she alone! This sudden feeling and the realisation of what it was had forced her to reconsider him and her position towards him, and it had hit her with quite a shock that she felt inherently as though it would only ever be right for him to be with her, and her with him.

But it couldn't be, unless...

No. Mary frowned sternly at herself in the mirror. She was elated and exhilarated; she refused to let thoughts of him bring her down. Not tonight, at least. In the morning, yes, she would have to more seriously consider how to tell Matthew, and face the risk that he would not have her. But it was a risk she was determined that she was prepared to take. No, for tonight – it was enough to revel in the sheer and utter delight of the fact that Matthew had kissed her, that he wanted to marry her, that she loved him... She watched, fascinated, as her face unconsciously softened and lit up when she contemplated it. It was quite remarkable.

She had never felt more perfect than she had this evening, lost in his embrace. Settling that thought in her mind, breathing in a contended sigh and smiling peacefully to herself, she flicked off her lamp and slid into bed, indulgently allowing her mind to flood with thoughts and memories of him, of her very dear Matthew.

She knew that she wouldn't be able to indulge it for long.


A/N: Thank you for reading! As always, feedback will be humongously appreciated! I'd just like to take this opportunity to say (because it really needs to be said, I think!) that the fact alone that you've got to the end and are reading this bottom A/N means a huge deal to me, and I'm so grateful that you've taken the time to read my random scribblings. I must be in a gushy mood, sorry, but I really mean it.

Thank you! :)