A/N: So we wrote a random sequel. We should say that this is by no means meant to be a coherent story. This chapter is basically an excuse for more arguing and kissing THIS TIME IN THE RAIN! Oh yes. The premise is that somebody in the village (not unsurprisingly) saw M/M's epic make-out and told everyone about it. Including Robert. Who is now (not unreasonably) forcing them to get married. Neither are particularly happy about that and the weather's really angsty too. So there we go. Enjoy!
It was unbearable. To hear her father start talking calmly about settlements to Matthew while she was still in the room as if this - this plot was acceptable in any way was beyond the pale. Mary had murmured noncommital agreement up to now - what else could she do especially when Matthew was being of no help whatsoever? - but she could not stand it a moment longer.
"Excuse me," she said tightly, interrupting whatever her father was saying, her voice a little higher than normal, and pushed her way out of the room. Once in the hall she stalked to the front door as if in a dream and threw open the doors. As soon as she was outside, something snapped and she ran down the steps and as far out along the drive as she could before shortness of breath forced her to stop. Only then did she realise how heavily it was raining. She did not care.
Matthew spun to look after her as she swept outside. His eyes drifted closed as he uttered an almost inaudible groan. After a second had passed he turned back to Lord Grantham, who was also staring at the door with raised eyebrows. He frowned, not wishing to make any apology to the earl, for in truth he felt as equally put upon as he was sure Mary did. Glancing out of the window, he suddenly noticed the weather.
Desperate to leave this room and this conversation, unbearable as it was, he pursed his lips and cursorily muttered, "If you'll excuse me, Lord Grantham, I think I should..."
The words trailed from his lips, and he turned and departed without giving further reason. Right now, he wasn't sure he cared whether the earl thought it rude. Stepping quickly into the hall, he cast his eyes up just to make sure Mary had not simply gone upstairs, when he saw the outer door swinging open and her figure, blurred through the rain. His first thought being for her safety and comfort, he ran outside, blinking the heavy droplets out of his eyes as he caught up to her.
"Mary... Mary!" he shouted, his voice muffled in the thick air.
Matthew's voice was fainter than it would have been in better weather. Over the splashing of the rain on the path he sounded further away than he really was. Mary balled her hands into fists. Would she ever be left alone? As she realised that if her father got his way (and he would because he always did) she never would be alone again, she heaved a bitter, almost laughing sob.
"Go away! Go away!" she shrieked without turning around.
Matthew let out a harsh sigh of frustration. Did she not think he was equally as dissatisfied with the entire thing as she? Perhaps a little harshly, he grabbed her elbow and pulled her sharply to face him, an angry frown on his face.
"Mary! For goodness sake, look at yourself! It's all ridiculous, I know, but you're only going to injure yourself behaving in this manner!"
He found his frustrated glare difficult to continue with the heavy rain streaming into his eyes, and brusquely swiped his free arm across his face in a vain attempt to clear his vision.
Mary had rarely felt so bad tempered, even the last time they had met. She was so angry and miserable that she felt her heart would burst with it. Never before had she felt so powerless. She tried to pull her arm out of Matthew's grasp but she could not even manage that.
"Injure myself? What of it!" she cried bitterly. "It would make things much simpler for everyone if I did!"
He gripped her elbow tighter as she tugged against him. As agitated as he was, her throwaway comment cut him deeply. His voice took on a low, dangerous tone, though he still had to almost shout above the weather.
"Don't be such a silly girl, Mary!" She made him absolutely boil with frustration; though he knew her distress, her response to it angered him. "Do you think this is what I want? Throwing yourself recklessly around like this will serve nothing!"
She tugged back, her face gaining an expression of mulish obstinacy that would have been amusing in any other situation, with her hair bedraggled and plastered to her head.
"I, throwing myself around recklessly? If that bothered you so much perhaps you should have thought about it before insulting me in public like that the other day!"
Matthew let out a sudden, harsh laugh of incredulity.
"Insulted you?" He narrowed his eyes and shook his head at her. "Forgive me Mary but as I recall you did not object so at the time! You were hardly innocent in the act!"
The entire sight of her made him simmer, the cold rain pouring down the back of his neck doing nothing to dampen the fire in him. How could she speak so callously of it?
Mary glanced automatically at his lips noticing a bead of rain water on the upper one. Had he noticed? She flung her free arm out in a useless gesture of remonstrance even as she flushed at the remembrance and how - how utterly, deliriously happy she had felt for a very short while when she had been in his arms.
"Hardlyinnocent? Think about what you are insinuating! I am a lady, Matthew!" She flung all of her rage and wounded pride and false maidenhood behind this last phrase. It had rarely seemed more incongruous.
"Yes, you are!" he yelled back in her face, unconsciously taking a step towards her.
His hands balled into fists by his side, his nails digging into his palms to distract himself from the rage of feelings within him that he didn't want to think about at the memory of it.
"So what drove you to it?" he angrily challenged her. "Deny it if you will, Mary, but we both know full well that we were both responsible for it! The very fact that you are a lady of propriety suggested to me, clearly foolishly, that you had actually cared about something!"
He did not say, 'about me', for he hardly dared comprehend that thought. But something had driven her, as it had driven him.
She shook her head at him more in negation of the situation than of what he was actually suggesting, even as she was forced to lean back as he invaded her personal space. (The drop of water was still there.)
"How- how do you think it is possible for me to tell what I felt or why or - or anything now? I suppose you know what motivated you, of course!" she shot back as a challenge.
Matthew drew back in defence, his expression twisting almost to a sneer in his irritation.
"Do not deflect, Mary. I imagine it was much the same as that which motivated you. You will not blame me for this, just because you are angry that we were seen!"
He turned his face from her in anger, glaring out into the rain.
"You can't at least pretend to be happy about the result!" Mary responded furiously, deflecting even further, trying not to think about whether he had felt the same as her. "Papa may be overjoyed that he can force us to play out his ideal succession games in a real life puppet show, but I hate it all!" She began to shiver almost uncontrollably.
His eyes flashed back to hers, burning darkly. "Do you imagine I do not? That I welcome this?" He despairingly felt himself beginning to lose control as she riled him further and further. Without thinking, he shouted, "This is not how I wanted this to happen, Mary!"
His eyes widened as he realised what he had said, his chest heaving with angered, heavy breaths and Mary wrapped her arms tightly round her chest in an effort to stop her shivering. Lord, she had no coat! And neither did he. His drenched shirt clung to his body and she could see every muscle... How - how could she be thinking like this? She was angry, so angry, and all she wanted -
"Well, how did you want it then?" she shouted back, noticing as she did that the drop of water had disappeared somehow. She pressed her eyes closed for a second in despair at herself, him, and the world in general.
Matthew swallowed nervously, beginning to shake slightly from a mixture of sheer frustration and the fact that he was utterly drenched. Rivulets of rainwater ran down his face and neck, and he suddenly felt very uncomfortably aware of the state of them.
"It is not something I can say that I had thought a great deal about!" he flung back at her in desperate deflection. "I only know that it seems we are hardly in a fit state to consider marriage at the moment. I should imagine that being able to hold a civil conversation at least might be a preferable state of things!"
In truth, he did not know what he was saying; he'd become distracted by the wet glistening of Mary's skin in the rain and of the trickle of water down the pulsing base of her throat and onto her chest. He squeezed his eyes shut against it.
"I don't know about that," responded Mary with bitter flippancy. "I have never heard civil conversation ever held up as a requirement for matrimony! In our case, that is probably a good thing."
An even greater shiver passed through her and she felt that prickly sensation in her nose that presaged a really enormous sneeze. She covered her mouth and nose with one hand to try to restrain it.
Matthew opened his mouth ready to snap back at her when he saw her nose wrinkle and her hand rise to her face. His eyes widened slightly, and he almost reached out to her; why, he did not know, it was merely an instinct.
The sneeze came and she reached blindly and grabbed his arm, stamping her feet on the sodden gravel.
"Civil - conversation!" she managed to bite out again as she sneezed.
Matthew stared in shock for a moment at her hand clutching at his arm, the sudden heat of contact flashing through him. Instinctively he reached and placed his other hand on her shoulder, as if to steady her from the force of it. His frown deepened in fresh determination.
"Really, Mary, it is not sensible at all to be out here any more. Look at us!"
He gripped her shoulder a little more tightly, his voice softening a fraction, despite the persistent simmer of anger at her unending deflection and flippancy. His care overrode all that, contrary to his more determined intentions.
"Please, just come inside. If you wish to continue abusing me there, it shall not surprise me, but it would be foolish to remain in this condition now!
Standing up straight with her hand still holding his arm - it was so warm and firm in comparison with everything else out here - she was unable to do anything other than look at him: at the way his tie was limp and silly looking stuck to his sodden shirt - he should take it off; at the way his hair plastered to his face and how water ran down his cheeks. He was too close to her, far too close, with his hand on her shoulder. She ducked her head, her cheeks flaring with colour at the way her heart had begun to pound and the acknowledgement of the desire that made her almost dizzy. Now that they had kissed once did it mean that it would be impossible to meet him without wanting to repeat it? Had she no self control at all? And yet, she had kissed other men - Lord, she had done more than kiss! and never, never had she felt need like this before. It was humiliating and exhilarating. She shivered again and shook her head, not daring to look at him, his following words returning her to the original source of misery.
"No – no, we can't. My father-"
Matthew's heart burned within him, and he felt as though it were trying to explode out of his chest. Every single inch of him was prickling, tingling, itching to move closer to her. It was a physical effort to maintain his small distance. Yet to kiss her again was the very last thing he wanted, not now, not like this, not with everything that had happened.. And yet it was what he wanted the most in the entire world, so much so that nothing else seemed to matter. Angrily forcing his mind back to the matter at hand, he dipped his head to peer at her, his eyes narrowing in concern at her pitiful state.
"Your father doesn't matter, Mary. We can deal with that, with him, later. All that is important now is that you warm yourself up, or you will become ill for no reason at all!"
He didn't even realise that as he spoke, his hand had crept up from her shoulder to her cheek. His touch sent a bolt of heat through Mary, warming her for a moment. She closed her eyes and leaned into it quite without being aware of what she did. As she did, she sighed gently and relaxed her tight grip on his arm, only resting her hand against it now. She could feel the warmth radiating from his body – he was now so close and she unconsciously leaned closer too. He could easily have embraced her and held her against him.
Matthew gulped, a shiver running through him at Mary's complete oblivion to his words. His lips parted a fraction as he felt her lean into his hand. He shuffled a tiny step forwards, gently nudging her face up towards him, trembling with nervous energy and... anticipation? Surely he, they, could not.. It was incomprehensible. Yet the building heat within him protested. Blinking the rain out of his eyes, he stared deeply into her eyes, questioning, wondering.
It was not quite a question, not quite a warning and not quite an invitation, but somewhere between the three.
She opened her eyes again at the sound of his voice so close to her ears and sucked in a breath at the sight of his wide, blue eyes right in front of her. She blinked once.
"Oh, Matthew, why?" she breathed in soft frustration before she leaned forward, let her eyes flicker downwards again to where there was a new drop of water, and gave herself up to the inevitable with remarkably little inner complaint.
A thrill shuddered through him in that heated moment of realisation. His eyes fluttered, weighted by raindrops as his sigh of contentment was swiftly muffled by her lips. With a more knowing confidence this time, he kissed her, firmly and thoroughly, shuddering at the way her drenched skin slipped against his. The bother of their marriage was forgot; every other worry and thought fled from his mind as he gave himself up to her, relishing the sensation of the rain pouring and mingling between them as he pressed closer to her.
As their lips met Mary sucked a little on the spot where the offending drop of water had been before she simply leaned herself as close against him as she could and returned his kiss eagerly. It was different this time. She knew what to do and in a certain way, she knew him. Her hand slid from his arm up to rub against the back of his neck, the sodden collar helping her to have greater access to his wet skin. Her dress and his shirt were so thin - she could feel his heart hammering under hers and it made her almost delirious. What did it matter that they could not talk to each other? She could not give up this pleasure.
He gasped as her hand slid over his wet skin, the sensation almost too much to bear. He lowered a hand to her waist, clutching slightly at the thin, sodden material. His lips roved from hers, to her cheeks, her chin, her neck, every point of contact blissfully enhanced by the warm rain. Never had he imagined such pleasure from so simple a thing. A low murmur sounding in his throat, he caught her bottom lip between his teeth, daringly grazing it with his tongue before kissing her more forcefully, more desperately, his hands clutching her tighter.
Somehow kissing Matthew for the second time was better than kissing him for the first time. The anticipation of what she knew would happen just before it happened added a whole extra layer to her feelings. She stood on tiptoe and moulded herself to him - much easier this time round without hats, coats or even jackets to bar them. Her hand that was not stroking his neck and tangling in his hair, clasped his back and pressed against the soaked shirt, which attached itself to her wet hand as she moved her hand over the full expanse of his back. Letting her lips leave his only momentarily, she dragged hers across his cheek to half kiss half lick at the moisture there before capturing his lips again.
He expelled a deep sigh of pleasure as her lips trailed across his skin, his hand slipping up to twist into her sodden, bedraggled hair. He realised that he had never touched her hair before, and the strange realisation of this new intimacy sent a fresh shudder through him. A low, almost inaudible groan reverberated deep in his chest. His nose rubbed against hers as he tilted his head, exploring every inch of her lips and mouth as the kiss deepened. If only this bliss could last forever! If only there were no consequence to it. If only he could tell her how he felt with such eloquent perfection as this intimacy seemed to have.
His hands were in her hair! The feeling of his fingers on her scalp was so unexpected and she gasped, wishing that the pins might easily fall out and she shook her head as if to help them do so and probably a few did for certainly about half of her hair tumbled down round her shoulders. The water from it dripped down the back of her dress and trickled down her back; she arched against Matthew to escape from the cold, moaning a little as she did so. But she could not escape the violent shudder that followed and she pulled her mouth away from his, bumping their foreheads together as she wrapped her arms more tightly round him.
"We have to go inside!" she gasped against his lips, and shivered again.
Matthew's eyes closed, a small sigh of pent up frustration leaving his lips, feeling suddenly empty and cold as she pulled away. He knew she was right, and in truth he was furious at himself for having allowed himself to be distracted. If she became ill now, he would hold himself wholly responsible.
Stroking his thumb absently across her cheek, he murmured, "Yes, we do." He smiled slightly against her lips. "I told you we must; we allowed ourselves to be distracted!"
With an enormous effort, he pulled himself away from her, retaining an arm tightly around her shoulders in the pretence that it might offer her some protection from the cold. He wanted to kiss her again; just briefly.. But now that they had stopped it seemed impossible, and he was unsure if she would welcome or spurn such affection. He felt unsure of everything. Rubbing her back briskly, he urged her back towards the house, not knowing what on earth to say to her. What words could possibly have any meaning now?
She sighed as the firm physical contact was lost but she felt cheered by his keeping his arm round her and she wrapped her arm tightly round his waist as they went back to the house. Despite her desire to return to the house, she found she was dragging her feet more than him.
"Matthew..." she began tentatively, and found she had to clear her throat as they walked, her head down against the blinding rain, finding it easier to talk without looking at him. "I hate what my father is making us do, but I wonder -" She slowed even further. "I wonder if perhaps we might..."
She could not finish the sentence and managed to look up at his bedraggled, wet, emotional face as they reached the portico in front of the house.
His lips quirked upwards as she turned to him, unable to hide his affection at the pitiful, yet utterly enchanting sight of her. He felt so much that he could not express, he hardly knew it himself.
"I think..." he wondered out loud, "that perhaps the hate might lie in the fact of being made to do it... rather than in the act itself."
He held his breath, hardly able to believe he had dared express such a sentiment. Mary drew a breath sharply at that and let her eyes roam over his face for a while, drinking him in, before she replied. There was nothing in his expression that was offensive. In fact he looked hopeful - oh, so hopeful. Her heart jumped treacherously - or could it be called treacherous now? Her arm was still round his waist but she raised her other hand. It hovered just in front of him.
"Perhaps," she acknowledged quietly and soberly, and brushed her fingers gently and daringly against his cheek, wiping away some of the moisture on it, before dropping her hand again.
His heart leapt at her simple reply. Suddenly he no longer noticed the cold drip of rain down his back; only her. He reached down and took her hand, allowing his fingers to caress and entwine with hers, before giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Perhaps," he echoed, flashing her a small, honest, grateful smile, before concern took over once more and he ushered her finally inside. Stepping inside, he closed the door behind them. Casting his eyes around the hall, he almost whispered, "I suppose we had better find your father. Rather; you should have a hot bath; I will speak to your father. Agreed?"
Fearful that at any moment they may be chanced upon, he gazed into her eyes before daringly leaning forwards and pressing one last swift, searing kiss to her lips.
A/N: This really is the end; however fun it would be to write a forced marriage fic, we're not intending to do it at the moment. However, we will be starting to post the other sequel to "Storm in a Tea-cup" which is currently 50,000 words long, about a third of which is solid smut. And we've hardly started the main story yet. IT WILL BE EPIC and you should look out for it! Hope you enjoyed reading this piece of frivolity anyway and reviews are always welcome. Thanks!
OrangeShipper & Silvestria