A/N: Well here we are, the fifth and final scene. Thanks again to all of you who have shared your thoughts; you have made my first foray into the Downton Abbey fandom very pleasant, and I am grateful.
5. One Last Journey
Matthew accepts the diagnosis much more gracefully than Mary does.
It's all right, he says. It is the natural order of things. I'm ready to take that last journey when the time comes.
But I'm not ready, she thinks. I'm not sure I remember how to do this without you.
He makes light of it with his friends: "I'm dreadfully old, you know, and I've put my body through a lot. If not this, it would be something else. I'm honestly surprised I've escaped this long!"
He comforts his family: "I've had a long life, a full life, and all of you have made sure it was a happy one. There is no great injustice here. Do not grieve for me too long."
He gives her a small box tied with a ribbon.
"I remembered that I still had one promise left to fulfill," he explains, looking at her expectantly, his expression playful.
She draws in a sharp breath when she sees what's inside. Overwhelmed with memories, she is rendered speechless for once, her eyes locked on the little toy dog.
Her mind might be older these days, but it is still quick, and it begins making connections without her consent. Here they are again, it reminds her, just as they had been when she had kissed his cheek and sent him back to battle with her good luck charm and her heart in his hands. She is facing a future without him, Death is an unwelcome guest on their doorstep, and precious time is running out. (Is that a train whistle she hears? No—there must be more time, she needs more time, just a few more moments, please—)
But unlike before, she knows there can be no reprieve; she is going to lose him.
"You made me promise to bring it back to you," he says, cutting through her thoughts, "and now I have at last, though I'm afraid he did get a few scratches along the way. So our roles are reversed, darling, and you must take care of him for me until we meet again."
She lifts her eyes to his and finds such love and assurance that she smiles in spite of everything.
She thinks of all they've done and shared and lived together since the last time she'd seen her old lucky charm, and she smiles because of everything.
At the end, Mary is holding the little dog while she sits at his side. The children are there, and the grandchildren. As he wanted it, they say. The natural order of things.
She leans close to give him her blessing, to let him know that he can leave her and go on ahead if he must. She kisses his cheek one last time, clutching the toy against her chest as if it can somehow fill the aching hole already growing there.
"Good-bye, dearest Matthew," she whispers, "and such good luck."