A Very Modern Arrangement

I was working on Duration, but then the first line of this came to me and I HAD to write it. Let me know if I should continue. And all fanfic is met with a choice seat at one of Rosamund's gatherings.

.~.~.~.~.'

It was not easy to keep up one's mood when one was impotent, crippled and stinking of sick. And increasingly Matthew Crawley found that he was all three. In the weeks after his transfer to Downton, Matthew had gone about the business of slowly but surely letting all the old dreams go. Gone was the idea of himself as a husband. Goodbye to the notion of himself as a father. Adieu to the role of heir to Downton. So long even to himself as a free, independent member of society. Hello to the bright new future where he felt nothing below his stomach, a place where a not dead Patrick was again the once and future Lord Grantham, where he could move only as far as his chair would transport him. It was beyond even the worst of his fears and unimaginable in any kind of fashion. Dying would have been one thing, living like this was quiet another.

And increasingly his living was made all the harder by the continued presence of one who had once brought him such happiness…Lavinia Swire. The sweetheart of his wartime dreams had returned yet again to Downton. Once again full of sweet promises and vows of eternal devotion. Vows he had spent weeks trying to slice to ribbons. And yet she returned again and again, like a pin he could never bowl down. He knew he was supposed to be melting at her words, made teary by her promises by the depths of her love. Intellectually, he reproached himself for not feeling such things. Emotionally however he wanted a sick bucket.

"Lavinia," He said in his coldest, most impersonal voice.. "We have discussed this time after time." He hoped he did not sound as peevish as he felt. Once she had brought him a kind of effervescent joy, now it was all irritation and frustration. It was if they were trapped in a circle of conversation of her promising and him rejecting. He would have to ask Sybil or Edith which Austen novel Lavinia believed herself trapped in…

"And we will go on discussing it until you see sense."

"Until I give way, you mean." He said tiredly. "I won't. I can't. It wouldn't be fair."

"And is it fair to me…" She asked stridently, angrily. "To reject me, toss me aside. I love you Matthew."

"I believe you do, but love could not last in my state. You'd grow bitter, angry. I'd feel hurt and rejected."

"I do not believe that would happen." She said decidedly.

He looked off into the distance. "Well I do and so we are back where we always are…Your promises and my conviction." He decided they were beginning to sound like characters in an overly verbose, repetitive Victorian novel.

Lavinia stared at him for a long moment before announcing desperately, "I think I will die without you." She punctuated her words by bursting into tears.

Matthew felt a wave of anger coursing through his veins. "How dare you say that!" He said passionately, "You will not die. You will move on." He said tensely, "And the fact you could speak of death here of all places." He shook his head, "Just go! Go back to London. Go anywhere." He released the brake on his chair and rolled away as fast as he could roll toward the house, wishing his legs would let him run. He could not get far enough away from her and her protestations, but mostly just her. As he rolled into the house he sighed hoping, praying really that she would not follow. But even as he thought that voices raised in the library drew his attention.

.~.~.~.~.'

"You have given me the power to destroy you." Richard noted determinedly. "Do not imagine that I have the slightest compunction to use that power."

Mary faced him realizing late far to late what she had ignored far to easily. She had been bemused by his actions, pushed aside his impudence and tactlessness. Drawn to his ruthlessness, she had again wrongly guessed the intentions of a suitor. Pamuk, again except Pamuk had the decency to expire. Sir Richard seemed capable of tormenting her for decades. "I know you won't" She said quietly.

"We will be married and you will behave appropriately. And if you do not."

"I KNOW!" Mary declared near tears, "I know! I let a man into my bed and I go on paying and paying."

"Do not be so dramatic my darling." Richard replied coolly as if watching the second act of a comedy that no longer amused him. "You will find it a velvet prison. A house of your own, a place in society, wealth beyond even your greediest of imaginings."

"I am the furthest thing from greedy." Mary said defiantly, "Gullible and a miserable judge of character, certainly."

"I am very glad you are, otherwise I would not have you. And I will have you." He stepped closer backing her against the wall and moving to seize her mouth and force it open.

Instinctively as if following some biological urge Mary bit down hard and felt blood spluttering into her mouth.

Richard fell backward stunned by her actions. "You'll pay for that!" He said angrily placing his handkerchief against his lip, trying to stem the flow of blood.

"I am certain I will!" She said near hysterically. Richard gave her one final furious glance then hurriedly fled from the library.

.~.~.~.~.'

Toward the climax of the scene, Matthew had instinctively rolled his chair backwards, into a corner. In his anger, Richard hurried by him without ever seeming to notice Matthew at all. Matthew figured a great many people passed Richard Carlisle without his noticing. Still, he dismissed the thought, rolling toward the door that Carlisle had thoughtlessly left open. Carlisle did not matter one single jot to him. All that mattered was making certain Mary never had to spend one more instant in that beast's company. Rolling inside the library he saw Mary doubled over openly sobbing, her back turned to him. Reaching he just managed to shut the door, causing her to straighten her posture.

"Richard!" Mary recoiled angrily, "ENOUGH!"

"It's not Richard." A smooth cool voice replied.

She did not need to turn, She would recognize that voice anywhere. "Matthew," Her voice was broken, which she thought rather matched her spirit. She tried to quiet her sobs, making no effort to turn or in any fashion suggest he had her attention.

"He's beastly." Mary thought this a great understatement. "Is he forcing you?"

"My mistakes are forcing me." She said despondently. Wanting to alter the topic she quickly put in, "I see Lavinia is back. I hope you're being nice to her."

"As a matter of fact I was not."

His tone was clipped and cold, and it pained Mary to realize it grew more so virtually everyday. "If you are not careful Matthew, your role as the noble one of us may become tarnished."

"I do not care for nobility, I just want peace."

"Good luck finding that." Mary said.

"Original question," He said bullish and determined. "Do you really want to marry Carlisle?"

Mary sighed feeling suddenly utterly tired. "I seem to have no way around it."

"So dramatic," Matthew clucked seriously. "Of course you have a choice."

"If I don't marry him." She mentally edited her sentence uncertain precisely what he had heard, desperate not to give him any more ammunition than he had. "He will reveal something that will finish our family."

"That a man slept in your bed." Matthew said, and she could tell he was editing his words, parsing them out carefully. She thought too he seemed distracted as if only half conscious of the meaning behind his words.

"Pamuk," She said.

He opened and closed his eyes and then shook his head. "It is of no matter to me." She wanted to ask so much, needed to know how he of all people could say such words. Instead she remained silent, unwilling even now to ask any questions. "I mean that. That part of my life is over."

"Is it that easy?"

"It is the hardest thing in the world." He said tightly. His jaw set and he forced himself on saying, "But its is the only way to set myself forward."

"So no marriage to Lavinia."

"No, nor any real marriage."

Mary felt her lips quirking upward, "So you want no marriage, and I'm being dragged into one with a man I cannot stand. Funny…" She looked close to tears again.

Matthew meant to roll toward her but his chair stuck on the carpet. "Mary," He said softly, "Come to me." And she did crossing the room and lowering herself, embracing him awkwardly and thinking it did not feel even slightly awkward.

They stayed like that for some moments before Mary pulled away, "You have troubles enough of your own. You do not require me piling mine upon you."

"It seems mine are much the same as yours." His brow creased and she recognized he was deep in thought. "Perhaps," He suggested looking up at her, "The solution lies together."

Mary looked at him uncomprehending, "What are you thinking?"

"Marriage." He said looking decided. "A different sort of marriage. Platonic. Absent any romance or even the idea of romance."

"What are you saying?" Mary asked fearing she understood, but afraid she could not possibly be correct.

He was suddenly smiling and cheerful, full of every kind of good cheer. "I do think we could pull this off."

"Pull what off?" She asked feeling more and more confused by his words and his sudden cheer.

"In a few years we could quietly separate, you could marry whoever you want, Lavinia would surely have moved on by then. Yes, this could work." As if decided he said, "Mary Crawley will you spend the next few years of your life with me?"

Mary laughed, a tired exhausted laugher that she was certain one could find located in mental asylums across the country. "Whatever are you saying?"

"You must be free of Carlisle," Merely saying the word caused him to scowl, "I need Lavinia to move past me. Don't you see if you could spare a year or two then this could work."

"You cannot mean!" She was absolutely certain she knew and afraid to hope it could possibly be true.

"I'd go down on one knee, but this isn't going to be that type of marriage, and beside you would merely have to haul me back into the chair." Looking at her with an intense expression Matthew said, "Marry me."

Feeling suddenly dizzy, Mary stumbled toward a chair trying to relocate a world that seemed to be spinning around her rather like a child's top. She heard Matthew call her name and saw him pushing himself toward her, this time overcoming the rug. "I'm sorry Mary, I know I am putting this badly…but I can be there for you and you can be there for me. And don't worry, whenever you meet a man you want to marry, I'll give the quickest kind of separation and divorce." He smiled almost cheekily saying, "I'll even arrange a tidy fake romance to facilitate matters." The offer should have been offensive, but it was so endearingly delivered Mary felt she could easily cry. And despite the words it felt like a welcome glimpse of a happier Matthew.

"But what about you? What happiness do you get?"

Matthew took a deep breath and looked away, "That is all over for me. And having you around helping me get through this adjustment period will make a awful time, slightly more bearable."

Mary smiled in spite of herself, "Well you know Matthew, I've always wanted to make someone's life slightly more bearable."

.~.~.~.~.'

Just after seven the family gathered in the drawing room for drinks. Carlisle was telling a ponderous story about himself, Lavinia was sitting quietly speaking to Edith and Patrick, while Cora and Robert stood by the mantle glancing about them nervously.

"Are you quite certain that Mary is not upstairs." Robert whispered careful to keep a faux smile plastered across his face.

"Perfectly." Cora answered coolly. "Still, I sent Anna up for another look."

Robert shook his head, "It is terribly inconvenient. I rather count on her to manage Carlisle."

"Yes. Though the idea of her enduring a lifetime with him."

"I know." Robert agreed. "It does chill the blood. I do hope Mary knows what she is entering into."

Cora played with the beads of her necklace, "I fear she believes she has no choice."

Robert was about to inquire as to meaning of her words but before he could, Anna slipped back into the room. "Was she upstairs?" He asked hopefully. "Or Lady Sybil?" He asked realizing his other daughter should have been upstairs as well.

"No." Anna said plainly. "And begging your pardon but Miss Edith just received a telegram.

Edith rose, "A telegram.. I cannot imagine who would have sent me a telegram."

Annoyed with the situation and Ethel's false dramatics Robert snapped angrily, "Open it!"

Edith frowned clearly displeased not to be allowed to enjoy a dramatic moment, and feeling reasonably certain that Mary and Sybil would be allowed their moments. Trying to push aside the mood, Edith ripped the envelope open and read the note, once then read it again. Her eyes grew larger, telegraphing her surprise. "Its from Granny." She noted distractedly clearly reading the note again.

Robert watched her finally saying, "Tell us Edith."

She looked up saying not unhappily, "She's in London."

"London." Robert said in surprise. "Whatever is she doing in London."

"She went there this afternoon with Isobel, Sybil, Mathew, and Mary." Edith paused dramatically for a moment before continuing, "She says that Mary and Matthew were married this afternoon with Isobel, Sybil, and Aunt Rosamund, and herself as witnesses."