I should be working at my other fanfic, but this came up, so... For all my loganites who are HAPPY about M/M wedding! \\o
Apparently the old days had finally returned, that was the impression he had. The noises of the house were the same as before, the tasks and concerns were limited to domestic life again. But something had changed at Downton, and this time it was for the best, surely. The war had finally come to an end, suitable men returned to work and he had finally managed to hire a new second footman in spite of everything. The other good news was the return of Mr. Bates, to the relief and joy of all, or almost all.
Standing in the shadow of the great tree, he watched the movement of employees in the garden. Tents had been set up and all the staff came and went hurriedly; carrying things, arranging flowers, towels, cutlery, but despite this interesting vision, something else caught his attention.
The golden sunlight lit up her figure. That sweet and lovely woman wearing a black dress with her keys glittering in the sunlight and her voice, which to him had always been the kindest, was giving orders to the maids, almost like a general. The Scot dragon, they would say.
Mrs. Hughes had everything in order beneath her critical and professional eye. Perfectionist, yes she was, but for him, more than that, she was perfect and the image of that woman was lighting a flame in his chest. Hope filled him when he stopped to observe her without restrictions, when he could study her directly and admire all the minor details. The hope for times of peace, hope for times of love, hope for them to be.
He never could imagine a life outside of Downton, there he was at home and felt complete. In Downton he had found the peace that he missed so much in Cheerful Charlies' times. Even so, it was harder to imagine a life without her. Together they kept the house running smoothly, no problem, however serious it was, seemed impossible to solve and no hardship was strong enough not to be overcome. Together, always together. Elsie Hughes was not only his companion of a lifetime, but his life itself. There is no Downton without Elsie and no Charles without her.
There was a time that his love for Downton appeared to be bigger, stronger and more necessary than her, her love and the love he felt for her. But the years passed and life teaches many things. Now, many years after the first brush of fingers, the first walking arm in arm, the first innocent kiss, it was easy to understand that without her Downton also had no meaning. His peace was not being at Downton, but her being there with him. She lived there with him, a few meters away and untouchable most of the time.
And perhaps this was only caused by his imagination or the influence of the romance that Valentine's Day left the air, or even the animation with the marriage of Lady Mary Crawley with Matthew, but suddenly it seemed impossible to keep track of his feelings. Over the years he got used to the twists and turns of fate, with moments of peace, with moments of union with the love and friendship that held them together. But now, all he could think of were those rare moments in which their shields fell to the ground, when their masks slipped from their faces and they found themselves lost in each other. He could only think of their eyes fixed on each other, foreheads together and noses touching as she smiled sleepily in his arms.
He didn't even need to make an effort as he closed his eyes to remember the touch of her lips close to his, the feel of her hands in his hair and the warmth of her small body warming the bed. Again the Scot dragon, in so many ways. Crazy, he could only be going crazy. Like a smile that curved her lips, it disappeared easily as the memories of the past months came back to him mind. Charles stared at the grass for a moment, trying to keep a line of thought that didn't drag him from the past few months or the last years. Despite the joy around them, both collapsed slowly, gradually and daily. The closeness was what distanced them.
"You are my friend, Mr. Carson. The closest I've got, I can say it and doesn't cost me anything. I don't want our friendship to be lost." she told him one night when he entered in her pantry with what's left of diner's wine and with a small smile timid on his lips. They had argued about the wedding preparations earlier. He had been demanding perfection of everything, he wanted Lady Mary's marriage to be impeccable and she would just say that she knew he was looking for a heart attack for himself.
Although he still thought it was an exaggeration and that she shouldn't be annoyed by it, he knew that her concern was genuine and sincere. That night, they sat in silence, side by side on the settee, unsure of what to say and do. All he wanted was to make her forget her worries, bring her to him and feel her warmth.
Elsie held her body tense, her hands clasped together holding the glass of wine and staring at the wall, she needed comfort, and all that he was able to do was watch.
Poor fool coward, should have done something, should...
He turned on his heel and was startled to see Lady Mary. For a moment he was so absorbed in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed her approach.
"You look sad." Mary said as she came to stand beside the butler, throwing him a piercing and curious look, as she did as a child.
"Certainly not, I'm only overseeing the preparations."
"Mrs. Hughes would not be happy if she knew you were overseeing her service." She still studied him, with a small smile on her lips as she mocked him.
"Maybe not, but tomorrow everything has to be perfect."
"I'm sure it will be."
Mary, who had spent much of her childhood chasing the butler through the house, wasn't easily deceived. It was evident that something was wrong, out of place, even though he strove to demonstrate otherwise.
"Are you happy here?" She asked seriously, letting her gaze get lost in the direction of the tents and allowing herself, as he, to observe the housekeeper.
"Of course, Milady, and why would I not be? I am proud of my position in the house, I am respected by the staff and I have admiration for the family. There is no other place I'd like to be if not here."
"There is no 'but'."
Silence fell upon them comforting but brief while Mary chose the words as carefully as possible. Well, there seemed not to be an easy way to say it, so she sighed and said:
"I know it's none of my business, but you both need to solve whatever has happened."
"Lady Mary I do not know ..."
"We all know Carson, we always knew, since the day she first came here." She said softly turning to face him. "And I know something happened, you look away, thoughtfully."
Carson remained silent for a few seconds before nodding.
"It's not that simple." He said quietly.
"She knows, doesn't she?"
"How you feel about her."
Mary smiled to see him shocked, Carson was totally hopeless. She kissed him gently on his face and squeezed his arm with one hand, showing all her kindness and support.
"Forget the implications and complications. I want you to feel as happy as I am now."
The question now was what should he do?