A/N: Come on, you know you wish this is what had happened... :D First posted on the LJ MMMondayMadness community where we are RPing a M/M scene for every S02 episode.
Such Wonderful Things
There was something almost cathartic about being forced to stand up and sing. Her parents were right. The only thing to do was carry on and, standing there surrounded by her family - even Edith, making the effort, she did feel better. Because she had to. But oh what a song! Mary sang mechanically, she knew she was, breathing in all the wrong places... but to try to phrase it, to think about its meaning - she simply couldn't. Everything about her was tense. Tense from natural nerves at performing (though she was so used to putting on a different persona that she was able to muffle these well) and tense because... she was not sure she would ever not be. Tense because it took every fibre of her being to stand up and not cry and wail and scream to the heavens that Matthew was missing.
As she finished the verse, she raised her arms slightly, encouraging the audience to join in the chorus. They were watching her, relying on her. She could support them and perhaps in doing so support herself. She smiled desperately, hoping they would respond and, in an overwhelming gesture of solidarity, they did. Everyone sang. Everyone except the one person who mattered, who was not there.
"If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy..."
They rang the bell, and waited. And waited.
"Odd," Matthew muttered to William.
He shivered a little, it was late in the evening - they'd been travelling all day, from the moment they were released, to get here; realising that everyone must be thinking the worst. Unable to bear it any longer, they looked at each other. Matthew shrugged and tried the door anyway - it opened. As soon as they were inside, the sound floating through from the library reached their ears. Singing... Beautiful singing.
William leaned, and whispered, "Daisy 'ad mentioned something about a concert, sir. For the wounded."
"Ah," Matthew nodded. "We'd best sneak in quietly, then - try not to disturb things too much."
Gently pushing open the door, the singing grew louder - the entire room, singing the same, familiar chorus. Tucking his hat under his arm, Matthew stepped behind the row at the back, peering through the heads to see... Mary, at the front. His breath caught in an irrepressible smile as he saw her singing, buoying everyone up with her sweet voice. The words struck him deeply, and he forgot for a moment about everything else as he caught her gaze, losing himself instantly in it.
"Nothing else would matter in the world today, we could go on loving in the same old..."
Mary was staring right to the back of the hall, avoiding meeting anybody's eye so she saw him as soon as he entered the room. The words died on her lips as the rest of the room faded into insignificance. She hardly heard the singing from the others, did not hear them fall into silence as they noticed her reaction. There was a rushing in her ears as of a wind through the room. Her eyes widened, her lips remained parted on the last word she was singing, all she was conscious of was him and the rise and fall of her chest, her heart pounding uncontrollably in her breast, struggling to be free.
Alive. He was alive. Dear God, he was alive. Alive and at Downton. She could conceive of nothing beyond it. Until her father rose and walked up the aisle to join him, she remained paralysed but his movement released some of the tension in her, made her see it as truth and not a vision. Closing her eyes in a relief that could not be hidden she breathed, "Thank God."
At her obvious response to him, everything else seemed to fade just a little. Matthew's heart thudded in his chest, a strange ache pooling there, at her evident - no, blatant - relief... and he realised he was almost as relieved to see her. Reaching the middle of the back aisle, he smiled, and... realised everyone was looking at him, staring at him as if in utter joy.
Feeling suddenly very conspicuous, he was almost glad when Robert broke the thick tension by approaching him, with such great warmth that Matthew was a little overwhelmed. Really, he hadn't been in such very great danger!
"My dear boy. My very dear boy." Matthew shook his hand firmly, then couldn't help but turn back to Mary - his heart twisted again, and he smiled breathlessly at her. His lips moved a little, but it took him a moment to muster any speech.
"Come on, don't stop for me," he eventually stammered out, unable to bear the thick silence.
He started walking towards her, hadn't even thought about it, it was as though he were drawn to her and he offered no resistance. All there was were her eyes, and her face, and he wanted her to sing again. Exhiliration suddenly hit him and he grinned, picked up his pace and, without any real thought, began to sing – perhaps in the hope that it would prompt her to continue. As his clear voice broke the weighty silence, he locked his eyes onto hers until everything else was drowned out.
"I would say such wonderful things to you - there would be such wonderful things to do..."He reached her, and turned back around, beaming.
He was real, he was real and he was here and - relief coursed through her, warm and shuddering and she could not have hidden her feelings, not now. She smiled, she trembled, she blinked back tears... He stood with her father at the top of the room and then, while she stood there, unmoving by the piano, he began to walk towards her, as if she was the only girl in the world, down the aisle, past their family, and then- then he opened his mouth and began to sing. She had never heard him sing before. Perhaps he did not have the greatest voice in the world, she did not know; it was still the most beautiful sound she had ever heard in her life. Her face seemed to be working of its own accord, smiling with a sweetness that was unfamiliar. Because right then and there in that moment as they stood together, side by side facing the rows of chairs, there was nothing else in the world that mattered. He inspired her, gave her courage, but unnerved her at the same time.
His physical presence next to her was magnetic in its power. She was so aware of him, of the space between him and her expression sobered again as she joined in with the words, "There would be such wonderful things to do!" though as she glanced over at him again and met his eyes she could not help smiling once more in the purest joy at seeing him there.
The feeling in Matthew's chest, gut, heart, his entire body, when she began to sing with him, was simply indescribable. He'd felt nothing like it, never such joy, not even when... His mind blanked of all but her. He could think of nothing, no-one, else in that moment.
"If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy..."
As they sang the final line, he flitted between glances at her and projecting his smile out to the cheery, joyful faces before him, but as the final word hung in the air he could only look at her. It was truly as though she werethe only girl in the world. He couldn't even muster himself to feel any guilt, not now, not in this moment - he was here, and she was happy to see him, and right now, there was nothing else in the world as he gazed warmly at her, his glittering smile faltering just a fraction with a great seriousness that suddenly swept over him.
As they sang the last line, she looked at him again and caught his eyes on her and the words died on her lips. A surge of warmth and affection and utter relief washed over her in a great wave as she turned to him in appreciation of his support. Dear God, he was there. As if to prove that he really was there - solid and real and alive, she raised her hand and very briefly touched his chest lightly, without even thinking about what she was doing.
That they were standing in - no, not even in, but at the front of - a crowded room was beyond Matthew's care. Propriety, convention, all concerns like that were beyond his care. Whilst he knew perfectly well all the time he'd been safe, they - she - evidently had not, and the chilling reality of that struck him hard. Now that he was back with her, he knew that she was the only thing that mattered. How had he ever believed otherwise?
Unconsciously, his hand rose to cover hers on his chest, fingers brushing lightly over hers. All he could see was her, all he could think was her, and the words of the song they had sung together were ringing in his ears... If she were the only girl in the world, and he the only boy, and it really felt like they were, he would... He blinked, lost in her encompassing gaze, and driven by an urge quite beyond his control he stepped forwards, lifted his other hand to touch her cheek and pressed his lips to hers, feeling his heart leap and shatter as a wave of rightness washed over him.
The warmth became something sharper as his bare hand covered hers. Her lips parted, her gaze flickered across his face and as he kissed her she sighed in joy and inevitability, stepping forwards against him and winding both her arms round his neck and pulling him closer to her as she poured everything she was feeling and had felt into the kiss without restraint.
Matthew grinned against her lips as her felt her respond, and slipped his arms around her waist then his hand up her back, holding her against him and all the warmth he felt from her. He kissed her, and kissed her, feeling sharply as though he had been denying himself this for so long now, years... and now he was setting it right.
She responded to him with ardour, only limited by the fact that her relief and love was almost too much to bear; it made her breathless and almost pained from the rapid beating of her heart. Her hand slid up his neck and into his hair, slicked back in military precision as she continued to kiss him. It took a particularly loud whistle almost in her ear to make her aware of the clapping, cheering and cat-calling that was going on around them. Even then it took her several more seconds to bring herself to break the kiss. And then she was unable to muster much alarm, staring deeply and happily into his eyes, her thumb caressing his cheek.
Matthew groaned softly in reluctance as she pulled away, and met her eyes with a great depth of warmth. Finally, he allowed the thought to flourish in his mind, that... he loved her. He loved her, completely, utterly, undeniably, loved her. Smiling bashfully, he dared to glance around, and gasped to see the entire room cheering at them - led with the greatest enthusiasm by the family - even Violet was beaming! Licking his lips nervously, he looked back at Mary, eyes sparkling with affection, clasping her hand warmly between his own, desperately needing her touch.
A soft chuckle passed his lips. "Oh dear, I think we've put on rather more of a show than your parents bargained for," he murmured quietly, lips quirking irrepressibly upwards.
Mary did not look away until he did, a blush covering her cheeks as she happened to meet her mother's eyes. But she was smiling, smiling so widely as Mama had not smiled for so long and she could not help smiling back and clutching Matthew's hand tighter. She felt empty without his arms around her and she felt that she never would, never could let go again. She bit her lip, still blushing.
"It's all for a good cause, I suppose!" She felt light, giddy, irrepressible. She looked at him again, at his eyes, at his lips, at his everything with gladness and love.
"A very good cause," he murmured deeply, not thinking at all of the wounded soldiers the concert had really been for. They were together. That was all that mattered now.
After a brief, apologetic glance back toward the seated assembly, he returned his full attention to Mary, eyes tracing over her face as though he'd never properly seen it before, as carefully as though he might never see it again. Turning his body slightly to shield her, he bent his head to kiss her once more, briefly but sweetly, with all the tenderness and affection he could muster that was overflowing within him. Knowing that to continue now really wouldbe improper, he drew back with reluctance, though his hand remained softly against her cheek.
She leaned up, eyes shining, and kissed him back gently, understanding his motivations and his reticence. Her lips tingled as she pulled away again and it was her turn to place her hand over his on her cheek.
Her father was speaking, however, calling the concert back to order. "We can greet the conquering heroes properly later. In the mean time I think there are some more people waiting to perform! Mary, do come and sit down, dear!"
It was a rebuke, affectionate, but still a rebuke. Mary pursed her lips and pulled Matthew's hand down and tugged on it. She rolled her eyes very slightly at him and murmured, "Come!" as she led the way back up the aisle to where she had sat before.
Matthew followed meekly, with a nod of apology at Robert before he turned at sat down. The Earl's warm smile, though, betrayed his feeling. Seated now next to Mary (someone had wisely cleared a chair for him), he was glad when the next act began, and everyone's attention was once again diverted - his own included, for he hardly dared allow himself to think just yet. And so, he sat, his hand contentedly in Mary's, fingers entwined, and let out a gentle, peaceful sigh. No, he would not think just yet. But for now he had comfort in that he knew, beyond any doubt, that he loved her... And all else paled beside that glorious fact.
She sat next to him, hearing not a word of the jokes the soldier who followed her song was telling. Her fingers played restlessly with Matthew's and, calm as she was externally, she was not calm inside. She could not help shifting in her chair so that her shoulder brushed against his as if by accident but then she would glance across at him and smile and it was clear it was not an accident. Dear, darling Matthew. If only they could always remain like this!
Then, as she was forced to let go of his hand to applaud whatever had been going on on the stage, a thought occurred to her and she leaned towards him and whispered, "Have you already been to Crawley House? You know your mother isn't here? Where are you going to stay?"
Distractedly clapping, Matthew turned slightly towards her though his eyes remained politely forwards.
"I'd hardly thought," he said truthfully. "I'd assumed Crawley House, though I suppose it's all shut up now, is it?"
She shrugged slightly. "I've no idea. I suppose Molesley could get a bed ready for you but it is rather late... You had better stay here where there is plenty of space. I'll speak to Mrs. Hughes at the end."
He caught her eyes, and his lips quirked up into a smile. "Well, if it'd be no trouble - the thought of going out again now seems quite impalatable." The thought of being any further from her than he had to be. "I'd appreciate it, very much."
"It's no trouble at all, Matthew!"
Her expression lapsed back into adoration for a moment. Then, realising with a jolt that this would be the first time he had ever spent the night under the same roof as her, she looked down with sudden consciousness. The applause had died down and she took his hand again, squeezing it gently and facing back to the front, her heart racing once again.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed! We are writing a sequel which will be posted here soon - the rating will go up *cough* so do add this story to your alerts so you don't miss it! :-)
Thanks for reading! All comments are very much appreciated.