They left the Ripon Registrar Office in a manner that would have caused Mr. Carson to arch one expressive eyebrow in paternal disapproval. Anna was smiling and giddy while he would have danced a jig if it wasn't for a gammy leg. John Bates stopped for a moment and Anna… his wife… turned to face him. Her giddiness was replaced by a quiet concern regarding his bad leg.

"Mrs. Bates, I feel I have waited long enough for a proper kiss," he gently teased. He gave Anna… his wife… a warm smile. "Five very long years."

"A proper kiss?" Anna teasingly asked."Have we been improper before?"

In answer, he leaned towards her and kissed her. It was an unhurried, opened mouth kiss. When Anna relaxed into the kiss, he slowly changed it into a more passionate kiss. At this moment, there was no fear of Mrs. Hughes or Mr. Carlson witnessing to prevent him from kissing her as thoroughly as he liked. For some time now, John Bates had truly wished to kiss Anna like she deserved to be kissed. Now free from prying eyes, John took the chance. When his tongue touched hers, she pulled away.

She was rosy, and she looked away.

"That tingled," she shyly admitted.

Her reaction to his kiss made him pensive. Really, perhaps because he had never believed that he would wed Anna, he had never truly thought of their differences. She was young, quite young and he was… God help him! Old enough to be her father. He had been married once before, fought in the South Africa war and… she was really young, and… God help him! She had offered to be his mistress, a wondrous, generous offer as he had sensed the fear that had belied her seemingly bold as brass offer.

God alone knew he much had been tempted, but he wouldn't allow his base nature to overwhelm his good senses. Anna Smith was a proper girl and she did not deserve the infamy of being a drunk convict's mistress.

Their few kisses had been sweet and …. innocent. Yet, an innocence that had been tempered with a great deal of enthusiasm on her part. It had been difficult to restrain his desire for her.

He stopped walking then and winced.

Her inexperience in some matters had been assumed and accepted but now… dear God… just how innocent was she? He winced again as he remembered the bawdy tales he had overheard when he was a solider – of ill-prepared women coming to the marriage bed completely unaware of what was to take place. It hadn't been particularly funny then, but now, with Anna

How would she react when her husband came to their marriage bed, eager and keen for her?

That is, if he ever made it to their marriage bed as he feared that Vera's suicide would continue to haunt them . It was ironic, that he had spent two years in jail for Vera and there existed a more than probable chance that he'd be accused of her murder.

It was the way of his life. No doubt Vera was gloating from fiery depths at this last spanner in the works.

Vera… his onetime childhood sweetheart.

Vera had been the personal whiskey of a far different John Bates. Destruction and chaos, passion and anger, their coming togethers had been explosive. He had worked hard, bloody hard, to control that ugly part of his personality, the explosive highs and lows, the bitter fights. Lord Grantham was currently the only witness to his explosive temper and he wished to keep it that way.

And he never wished Anna to know that part of him.

He wouldn't be able to handle her disappointment in him, to have her fear him and his ugly temper.

Because he could easily hurt her if he lost control. She was a little slip of a girl… John guessed that she probably barely came to his shoulders if she wasn't wearing her shoes. The few times they had managed a stolen kiss, she had to stand on her tip toes while he had to lean down to kiss her.

"What ever is the matter, Mr. Bates?" she asked. "Is it your leg?"

"Perhaps, we could find someplace to sit. I know we must return back to Downton with all due haste but I'd like to talk. Some place in private."

A blushing Anna sat down next to her husband on the bench and she smiled when he sat next to her. Their knees touched and her smile grew still broader at the accidental touch. However Anna's smile faded when she realized that John who was never particularly jovial except for the rarest of times, seemed exceeding serious.

"Are you regretting…?" she began.

"No, I will never regret marrying you," he insisted even as he took her hands. "I just thought we should talk in private, before we return back to our cloister. Before we are separated and unable to talk freely. Anna, I fear to embarrass you but do you know what happens between a husband and his wife? What did your mother tell you?"

"I know," she quietly explained.

"What do you know of it?" John repeated. That was a definite non-answer.

"That it how I will be able to have our children," explained the guileless Anna.

That was not the answer John wished.

"Anna, what do you know of the… p-p-p-process?" John stumbled.

"It is how I will be able to have our children," she repeated.

"Anna? What else do you know of it?"

"I caught my mother and father… when I was very young… I thought he was hurting her… but my mother explained it to me then. Wifely duty and how it was how children came about. How men have urges…. That the husband gets a great deal of enjoyment…from satisfying those urges…" Her voice grew noticeably quieter.

John swallowed once.

"I hope that you find enjoyment in it with me. I wish you to," she softly explained. "I will be delighted to know that I can succor my husband's needs."

She touched his face with her fingers and he kissed them.

"Anna…." He began again.

"I will be proud that I will be the one to satisfy you," she assured him.

"Anna May Bates," he began. He paused, keenly desiring that the Wisdom of Solomon was available for let. However Solomon had been a noble man and had little use for the common man. No doubt Lady Mary had previously made arrangements to utilize his Wisdom in the purchase of her latest frock. "You speak of wifely duties, but I fear that I must remind you of my husbandly duties. I will find no joy in our … coming together… if you do not experience your own enjoyment. Do not close your eyes and do it for me or for the children we may have. "

"Husbandly duties?" Anna questioned him in a teasing tone. "What do your husbandly duties entail on our wedding night?"

"There will be a proper kiss," he explained.

"Is embracing your wife part of your husbandly duties? Will there be a great deal of kissing?" Anna whispered.

"Yes." The one word was his answer but Anna still appeared unsure. "There will be much kissing."

"I must confess that I look forward to that." Her voice grew even softer and he strained to hear her. "When you embrace me, I feel…"

John waited for her to finish speaking and at last, she finished her tawdry confession.

"I feel like I did… that one time you were so bold …when you kissed the side of my neck … only more so," was what she finally admitted.

"How did that make you feel, Anna?"

"That I wish to be alone with you, and have you embrace me… tightly… really… really tightly… Close enough so I could rest my head on your chest and hear your heart."

Anna seemed flustered, so he gave her hand a comforting squeeze and let her talk when she was ready.

"And…" she whispered.

"Tell me only what you're comfortable revealing," insisted John.

"I feel…"

She shook her head then.

"I hope what you're feeling is pleasant," he finally offered.

"It is… and it most assuredly isn't. I like the feel of you so close to me, but it's not enough as I…fear to shock you, but I wish more. To be pressing against you… It's almost an ache… but it's the sweetest ache…"

"A tension?" John offered.

A brief nod combined with Anna biting her lip.

John whispered a short, heartfelt prayer to whatever god that might be in want of sincere appreciation. Anna, while inexperienced, seemed to desire more physical closeness.

"Anna, my husbandly duty is to ease that ache for you," explained John. "So I will hold you as tightly as I dare, and I will kiss you. On your face, on your neck, perhaps even on your right ankle, which you teased me with the briefest of views last month."

"My ankle?" Anna asked. She remembered that she had unlaced her shoe in the kitchen in order to straighten the tongue. And John had watched her! Admired her ankle!

"It's a lovely ankle, from the little I saw."

"Will you touch me?" was her next whispered question.

"Yes." He stated.

"I must confess that I enjoy watching your hands," his wife informed him. "You enjoy my ankle, I enjoy your hands."

Anna Bates was surprised by her husband's reaction to her confession of her hand fascination. He didn't seem appalled by her admission of an unseemly 'ache'. No, instead he had been quite pleased as he had grinned AND dimpled. It had taken her a great deal of effort to learn to read his stoic face and his assorted smiles. A quirk of his left cheek meant appreciation; a right quirk meant that he was slightly amused. The barest of a downturned mouth meant that he was in severe pain with his leg but wished not to confess to that supposed weakness. A slight, full smile with no teeth, sans dimples meant that he was feeling content with life and his surroundings. Dimples meant that John was quite chuffed.

A full smile with dimples meant that John Bates was giddy. He was giddy because part of his husbandly duties would entail the easement of her inner tension?

Perhaps intimacy with John would be far different than her mother had described. No, possibly, it would be like her auntie had described it, a wonderful experience between man and wife.

However, John's expression was now one of disbelief. No smile and a slightly arched left eyebrow.

"My hands?" He repeated. "You enjoy looking at my hands?"

He flexed and extended them in his disbelief, little knowing that his wife was wondering what it would be like to feel those hands on her skin. On the areas of her body that were normally covered by fabric.

Really, was an appreciation of his large, agile hands that much different than an admiring glance at an ankle?

Especially when those hands had rubbed her back just SO during a tight embrace, as though pulling her closer to him. The feel of his body against her, hearing him breathe…it had lead to Anna to fantasize about what would it be like to be in bed with him?

She understood the basic mechanics of the act because she had been a farm girl. Woman on the bottom, man on the top…. But with his knee… however would they manage?

"You're rosy again," John informed her. A quirked smile and a dimple meant he was concerned but not excessively worried. "Are you being a naughty girl, Anna Bates?"

"I'm having the most unladylike thoughts," she admitted.

"Never, unladylike? You? I refused to believe that you have ever possessed an unladylike thought? Lady Mary, on the other hand, I can credit with many an unladylike thought," was his retort.

"How will we manage?... When we're together?" Oh dear, she knew she was blushing.

Straight face, brief sideways glance of his eyes. He didn't understand what she was attempting to say.

"Your knee," she blurted. "When you're on top of me, Mr. Bates. When you're…"

She would not say 'satisfying your urges'. Would most assuredly not! 'soothing her ache' made her sound like a harlot. She fumbled for a bit and then added, "When you're trying to give me our child."

Oh dear, now he was blushing. He leaned toward her and whispered, "I have found that my knee is not suited for that position. I thought perhaps… you on top?"

"Mr. Bates!" She exclaimed. She put her hands over her rosy cheeks.

"For this conversation, please call me John, not Mr. Bates," her husband insisted. "If you're uneasy, naturally, we won't do it. I would never ask you to do anything you disagree with?"

She nodded her head once.

"I don't disagree," protested Anna. "I'm just surprised at your boldness."

"I've never been described as bold," he gently teased. "I think I rather like it, so I will endeavor to be bold for you, Mrs. Bates. As part of my husbandly duties, I boldly assert that you must be kissed regularly. You are overdue for a proper kiss which will include a very close embrace with your loving husband."

"I must agree," was what she wished to say. However, John was kissing her. A proper kiss and yes, he was holding her tightly against him. Not too closely so she couldn't breathe but just tight enough so Anna could sense him. The warmth of his body, the slight odor of tobacco from the cigarettes he sneaked as he knew she didn't like him smoking and his hands, his large, glorious hands that were positioned just perfectly!

They stopped kissing, fortunately, before she melted against him, yet she still needed to support herself against his chest.

"John, you'll show me how to…" she stopped as he tightened his embrace.

"Only if you promise to tell me what you like," he rumbled.

"Promise," she assured her husband.