A/N: So someone (bastard person!) sent me a promo pic for Episode 5. There's a bed, an apron, M/M, and a blank stare. Me, I get all verklempt, and instead of walking it off like a normal person, this is what happens. Not happy. Actually quite miserable. (me, and the story) Don't call me, I'm already sorry. Photo the only spoiler, I have no knowledge of the rest of the context. (one month until the DVDs arrive, one month until the DVDs arrive.)
Goodbye to Galahad
Shellshock was a good word for it, the hollow rattle of emotions shrunk to nothingness inside a carapace as brittle as burnt paper, the automatic breathing, eating, sleeping, drinking without awareness, the living inside a long tunnel in which every sound trickled in through a mile of water, every touch as if through a thousand layers of cloth.
And that was just how Mary felt... or didn't feel.
She had no idea what was going on inside Matthew.
He'd not moved for two days, save with the help of others, cleaned and fed as if he were a baby, his beautiful blue eyes unseeing, barely blinking, closing only to sleep, when he would scream and cry in terror. His mother could not face it and Sybil could not stop herself from shaking every time she nursed him. Mary, on the other hand, as unskilled as she was at nursing, could help without flinching, could look upon him without emotion getting in the way. So it fell to her to stay by his side when he would nod off, so someone would be there to help him wake up from the nightmares.
She was so used to that small corner of the hospital being free of everything but screams that when she heard him speak, at first she thought she'd imagined it.
"She's coming home today, you know."
He was not looking at her, at anything really, the thousand-yard stare still directed at the ceiling, but a small smile was twitching at the corners of his mouth. She looked around to see if anyone else had heard him, but there were only unconscious patients in that room now, two men who could not see or hear.
"I didn't know," she said softly. "Who?"
"Mary, of course," he said. "I don't know if you know her. Lady Mary Crawley?"
Her heart thumped in her chest.
"She's coming home from London, and she's going to give me her answer." The smile was full-on now, directed at the unseen things above his bed. "I think it's all right for me to tell you this now, but we're going to be married."
The breath was sucked out of her, she was instantly, horribly dizzy, and it was only the iron grip she had on the side of the bed that kept her from falling. "Congratulations," she whispered.
"I know everyone thinks it's tidy and we're just doing our duty but it's not that at all," he said, his voice strong and happy. "And it's not because she's beautiful, although I've never seen anyone or anything more beautiful. It's her." His fingers picked at the blanket, the terrible tic of shellshock, and she slid her hand under his to make him stop, which resulted in a death grip on her wrist. "Mary likes to make people think she doesn't care, but I know how much she does care, about the people she loves, about the world around her, about honesty and integrity and honor. She does things for people, beautiful things, but would rather die than anyone find out about them. Did you know she went against my mother's orders once about a patient?" He did not wait for her to respond. "Mary made it possible for one of the footmen to see his mother before she died. Nobody knows that. Nobody knows how kind she is, how much she loves the people in this house, all of them. She's so intelligent, so funny, so perfect... I can't wait to see her today. I must get ready to see her." He made no move, only held her wrist even tighter. "She hasn't written. She hasn't written once since the news. It means I might not... but she can't be like that. She doesn't love me because of that, does she?"
"No, of course not." Her voice was small, so small.
"Of course not. She's not like that. She'd love me no matter what, just as I'd love her. As I do love her, so very, very much." His voice trailed off, and he released his grip on Mary. "I must get ready. She's coming home today."
Mary worked her wrist back and forth, the feeling coming back slowly, the pain nearly unbearable. The skin was marked, and she could see it beginning to swell, but she welcomed it as something to feel, something to focus on so she didn't have to look at him. He was silent for a few minutes, his hand returning to the awful, rhythmic scratching at the blanket.
"Of course, all those awful things I heard in London make no difference at all."
She went ice-cold and could not breathe. She looked back at him, at the eyes still unseeing, at the lips parted slightly, at a frown that formed across his brow.
"Everyone was so keen to insinuate things about her, about her honor and virtue. They took so much pleasure in it." His voice was scornful now. "And they would smile to her face, and fawn over her, all whilst stabbing her in the back. These are the people I'm supposed to aspire to be like? I'm supposed to be honored to be accepted by them?"
She was crying now, silently, the tears splashing on her lap, her hand wiping them away as fast as she could. He mustn't see her cry.
"And it doesn't matter, you know? It wouldn't matter what was true about her past. I can't see a future without her, and so what happened or didn't happen with someone before she really knew me truly doesn't matter. I won't ever ask her about it. I won't. It's not fair, and if there's one thing I know about Mary, it's that she's fair. If she's wrong, she admits it." He was breathing oddly now, a hitch of new emotion. "You know, if it is a boy, maybe that's for the best. We won't have to be around those people. We can make our own world, our own life." The smile returned. "She's coming home today, you know. Lady Mary. Do you know her?"
Sybil found her in the hospital linen closet, curled up on the floor, screaming into a pile of sheets so no one could hear. "He knew, he knew, he knew," was all she could get out of her sister as she pulled her away.
There were no more screams by the time Sybil calmed her down, by the time she was packed into the car and sent back to Downton, by the time she was put into bed by Anna, far too much of the wine on her tray consumed and far too little of the food.
There were no more screams ever again, not even when she returned to the hospital the next morning and took up her place next to him, waiting for him to wake up.
Shellshock was a good word for it.