Disclaimer – I own nothing of Downton Abbey except some DVDs.
A/N – This is my very first piece of Downton Abbey fanfiction, and was written for my friend Silvestria. She got me into DA by literally forcing me to watch the first series last year, something for which I'm obviously very grateful. She's been ill this Christmas so this is an 'I-hope-you're-back-to-normal-soon' present... though of course nothing could have been a better tonic for her than the last five minutes of the Christmas Special... ;-)
Anyway, feedback would be lovely given this is my first stab at this fandom. Enjoy!
A HAPPY NOTE
Cora felt slightly light-headed as she sat at her dressing table that night. It had been a long day – first the worry and then the relief of Bates' appeal outcome, followed by the last-minute organisation of the Servants' Ball to say nothing of the ball itself... yes, a long day indeed. Cora was very ready to go to bed and O'Brien, well-versed in her mistress' moods, was making short work of undressing her hair and putting away her jewels. They made some small talk about the ball but for the most part Cora was content to sit in a dreamy silence as her maid went about her business.
She thought over her talk with Robert and smiled to herself – it had gone better than she'd expected. She knew that her husband missed their youngest daughter just as much as she herself did, and she suspected that his obedience to her wishes had a lot to do with his desire to see Sybil again. Still, she knew his dislike for Branson would take some time to overcome – Cora couldn't exactly say herself that she liked the man, but she had accepted his love for Sybil and her love for him.
Sybil was happy. Sybil was going to be a mother. Cora smiled again, and this time O'Brien noticed.
"You seem very happy this evening, my lady," she said.
Cora looked at O'Brien's reflection in the mirror and gave her an affectionate smile. "Today was a happy day," she said, echoing her words to Robert from earlier.
O'Brien gave her a small smile in return and went back to unpinning the last of Cora's hair.
There was a rap on the door and it was pushed open before Cora could even open her mouth. Only one person in the house would do such a thing, and sure enough Robert appeared in the doorway. His dressing gown was hanging open over his pyjamas and he looked... excited.
His eyes locked with Cora's as she turned around in her chair to face him and he gave her a smile that made him seem years younger. "Cora –" He started to say, closing the door behind him.
O'Brien didn't say anything, but she stepped to one side, drawing Robert's attention to her. His face cleared immediately as he realised he and Cora weren't alone, but Cora could tell how excited he still was when he didn't think to tie his gown shut, and instead just reopened the door.
"Thank you, O'Brien," he said, holding the door open. "Would you please leave us?"
O'Brien glanced down at Cora, who nodded her head and gave her maid a small smile.
"Yes, my lord," O'Brien said, bobbing Robert a small curtsey. She looked at Cora again. "Good night, my lady."
"Good night, O'Brien," Cora said. The moment O'Brien was gone and the door was shut behind her, Cora got to her feet.
"Robert, what on earth –"
Robert's smile was back as he started to cross the room towards her. "You said you wanted today to end on a happy note," he said.
Cora's eyes widened as she watched Robert walk straight past her and over to one of the windows. He pushed aside the drape and peered out before looking back at her with an expression that was almost giddy.
Cora frowned. "Robert..."
"Come here," he said, holding out his hand to her. "Come here and look."
Cora hesitated for a moment before crossing the room to her husband and taking his hand. He drew her in front of him so she could see out of the window and pointed at something that Cora could barely see through the dark of the snowy winter night.
She almost had to press against the glass to see what Robert was pointing at, as it was to the extreme left of the view, but just out of the reach of the light from the front of the house was a person – no, two persons. One was clearly a man, the other... Cora squinted, and realised that the other was a woman, but she was wearing the man's jacket around her shoulders. Cora glanced up at Robert, who was looking at her expectantly, and then back to the couple outside in the snow. She tugged at the open drape, pulling it a little shut behind her to block out some of the light from the room against the glass, and found she could see a lot better. The man was facing her and was immediately identifiable as Matthew... and the woman wearing his jacket, though she had her back to Cora, could only be one person.
Cora felt hope rise inside her so suddenly that her throat tightened and she had trouble speaking. "Is... are they..."
As if in answer to Cora's question, Matthew stepped forward at that moment and wrapped his arms around Mary's waist, pulling her towards him for a kiss.
Cora gasped, her free hand flying to her mouth as tears sprang to her eyes. Her other hand was still held tight in Robert's, and she squeezed his fingers. She felt for a moment as if she wouldn't be able to contain the joy she felt – her lips trembled under her hand and she gasped again, this time trying to stop herself sobbing.
"I believe Mary and Matthew have found their happy note," Robert said quietly in her ear.
This time Cora's attempt to contain her tears failed; they escaped both her eyes and only biting her lip stopped her from sobbing as well. Robert let go of her hand and put his arm around her waist instead, pulling her close to his side. She went willingly, smiling widely as another tear fell. "Oh Robert..." she started to say.
He looked down at her but she found she couldn't speak... or rather didn't have any words to describe the moment. His eyes were shining and he smiled again before bending his head to kiss Cora softly. "I know," he said.
Cora and Robert both turned to look at Mary and Matthew again – they were still in each other's arms, heads close together as they spoke about who knew what. The snow falling around them was getting heavier, though Cora doubted either of them had noticed. She smiled down on them one last time before stepping back from the window, drawing Robert away with her.
This happy note had been a long time coming for both of them, and they deserved to enjoy it in peace.
For tonight, at least.