Because I think their story was one of Downton Abbey's best

I.

Jane was on her way home from the post office. There had been no letter from Freddie, but she knew she had been overly optimistic, after all, she had gotten one just last week. But she had written back to him and posted it the very next day. Surely he must have gotten it by now. Well, at least he seemed to be happy at Ripon. She would never be able to repay Lord Grantham.

"No, Jane, no" she mumbled to herself. She couldn't think of him, mustn't.

Instead she started going over the day. Things had been normal at the public house. In the morning the regular lot, then more around luncheon, after that they had had some quiet hours to clean and prepare for the evening and then there had been full house as usual. At least she didn't have to stay the whole evening, she dreaded the men who used to stare and wink at her, despite her wearing her wedding ring. No, she did not want to think of them either and turned her thoughts back to Freddie as she unlocked the door to her small house. When she opened the door she got a terrible fright. She cried out and froze in her step, unable to believe her own eyes. But then she forced herself to pull herself together, she put down her bags and closed the door.

"Lord Grantham? What . . . ?" Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, looked at the woman before him, feeling slightly embarrassed and much out of place in the tiny, but perfectly clean kitchen. He had had time to inspect the house and had found it, as he had found everything about Jane, simple, charming and absolutely perfect.

"I am sorry to frighten you. Your landlord was kind enough to let me in, I told him I was from Freddie's school. I came to see how you were doing" he started hesitantly, and not until now did it hit him that the landlord might not have believed his story.

Jane couldn't help but smile and with slow uncertain steps did she approach him. Robert shook off the thoughts of the landlord and closed the remaining distant. His hand seemed to act on its own and was put to her cheek in a tender caress "I just desperately needed to see how you were."

She was still smiling, still unable to believe it, but he was there. He was really there. He looked at her with that melancholy gaze and she so wanted to conform him, assure him. She covered his hand with her own.

"I am well. How are you?" her sweet voice released something within him and finally he smiled back.

"Much better now when I've seen you" then he became aware of his hand still on her cheek and under her small hand. He hastily removed it. That had not been the reason for his visit, he had simply wanted to know that she was well. After all, it had been his fault that she had had to leave her position and her stable life at Downton. He walked over to the small table by the tiny window through which he could see the grey back yard. Jane remained still, not wanting to rush him, and awaited his next move while trying to make her heart slow down.

"I spoke to my banker" he said in a much clearer voice now from a safe distance and turned back to her "he told me that you had contacted him, but you had not taken the money, nor had you accepted his offer to help you find a position."

He had spoken to her with great importance and she took on his tone while folding her hands to keep them steady. "That money is for Freddie when he has finished school, I will not touch them until then. As for the position, there was one as a maid, but your lordship knew the family so I figured . . ." she tried to force the smile back on her lips, but it did not reach her eyes "And as you can see, I manage perfectly well"

"So you have been avoiding me?" he asked with that serious tone of his that never seemed to work on his family. Jane stared at her feet and Robert silently scolded himself and sighed. "Of course you have, and rightfully so" he sat down on a chair, the only chair. "You are much stronger than I am"

The woman shook her head, hurried over to kneel before him and took his hands in hers. He looked down at her with a sad defeated look on his face. She wetted her lips and then spoke "Not a day goes by without me catching myself thinking of you, even though I know I shouldn't . . . I just thought this would be better for, for everyone. And you are strong, I know you are"

Lord Grantham rose and helped his former maid to rise from the floor. He caressed her sweet face and looked into her tearstained eyes. "No, I'm not" Why did it have to be so difficult? Why did they ever put themselves in this position? Finally he leaned in and kissed her, just as passionately as he had done their first time.

There was no end to his relief when she this time placed her arms around his neck and kissed him back. This was dangerous, he knew. No Bates who could come and interrupt, Freddie being far away, no one to stop him from placing his arms around her waist to draw her nearer, and then lead her to what he had discovered earlier to be her bedroom. It was wrong, so very wrong, but could it be, when it felt so right? He was thinking in clich├ęs, so he tried to stop thinking altogether, to just savour each moment with his precious Jane.

Afterwards he held her in his arms. Mostly to hold her close, but also because he was afraid she might fall out of the narrow bed if he let go. Jane closed her eyes in bliss. Part of her had been afraid that once they had made love he would turn around and leave, so afraid to once again be rejected. She realized she had been unfair. The room was even smaller than the kitchen, it reminded him of a closet, but made them a safe little cocoon. However, Robert couldn't help but wonder if the room and kitchen made enough space to house two people. For example, where did Freddie sleep when he was home from school?

"Percival told me that though you turned down the position with the family, you still found work" he made a small unintentional pause "in a public house" he had attempted to sound at ease with it, though failing and his disapproval shined through clearly. Her only response was to take a firmer hold of the arm he had placed around her. "I'm sorry, Jane. I've no right to . . ."

But she looked up at him with steady eyes. "I give you the right." Surprise showed in his face, but he quickly composed himself.

"Oh, well then, I don't want you to work there, it's no place for you. I'll sort something. I promise it won't be with any family friends." He added and placed a kiss on her shoulder. She didn't answer and he was grateful, grateful she didn't thank him, grateful she didn't ask what would happen next. "How's Freddie?" he asked to change the subject.

Again she didn't answer, but gently released herself from his hold and sat up on the edge of the bed. His eyes watched how her loose dark hair contrasted to her pale skin. He felt an urge to reach out and touch it and still lying, he let his hand gently stroke her back. She shivered. "Jane? Jane, what is it? Freddie is alright, isn't he?" it had to be the mentioning of her son that had upset her, he would not be able to handle if it was him and his actions that had now caused her distress.

"Yes, yes, he's good, very good" she turned back to him and Robert could read the sadness in her eyes as well as in her voice "I just miss him so." he felt with her, recognizing his own sense of loss over Sybil. He opened up his arms and she dived back into his embrace. "I'm so glad he's there though, so grateful to you" she was shaking slightly

"Shh, there, there . . . there's no shame in missing your child, your only child at that. It's perfectly natural" she nodded, then tilted her head to look at him, her eyes, as always, mild and caring.

"How about you? I heard about Lady Sybil" Robert wasn't surprised, wondering if there was anyone in England who hadn't heard that the youngest daughter of Earl Grantham had ran away with the chauffeur.

"Did you? Well, she's in Ireland now, and I do miss her . . ." he was talking more to himself than to her and quickly decided he did not want to talk about it at all. Instead he kissed her again, a long sweet kiss and he could feel her lips curve into a smile. It had never been like this with Cora, to be in love and just starting to know each other. At the time he had developed that sort of feelings for his wife, they had already been married for almost a year.

He started tracing kisses over Jane's neck and collar bone and pulled her over him. She laughed, oh, it was a wonderful laughter, and he couldn't help but join her as strands of her hair fell into his face. He wondered what time it was, but decided they had time, he could always say he'd missed the train. And as he made love to her for the second time, he knew he had to see her again.

i

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