Please Don't Leave

Elsie heard a low moan emerge from her own throat, but somehow the sound seemed foreign to her, as if something outside her body had made the noise. That was quite impossible, of course, considering the fact that she was alone in the chilly darkness of her pantry. How had this happened? She couldn't quite remember... All she could recall was the wine. It had soothed her heavy heart to begin with, but she had quickly found that she required more and more just to keep the dreaded thoughts away. Even now, those shards of memories and thoughts pierced through the murky haze of her defenses and left her craving a more complete release. Her eyes clouded over, and it wasn't until she felt the warm dampness on her cheeks that she realized she had started to cry. She wiped the tears away hastily, refusing to allow herself to be reduced to a blubbering mess of weakness.

"Mrs. Hughes?"

At the sound of that deep, husky voice, Elsie instinctively wanted to run, before realizing that she could not have gotten very far in her current shape...

"Mrs. Hughes, are you all right?"

The concern evident in his voice tugged strongly at her heartstrings, yet she still forced herself to turn away from him. He shouldn't see her in such a state, particularly for such a reason as this.

"I'm just fine," she muttered, hoping that he would not stay to ask questions despite knowing he would never leave her until he was satisfied that she was well.

The heavy brusqueness in her voice was more than enough to alarm him. At the sudden feel of his hand on her arm, she jerked away as if she had been burned; to Elsie, it felt as if she had been. She squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to chase away the stinging threat of tears from her eyes.

Charles grew even more concerned when he smelled the alcohol on her breath.

"What happened?" he asked, wanting to hold onto her but fearing her response to his unwanted touch.

She shook her head adamantly. She would not, could not tell him that he was the cause of this. Now that he was leaving Downton, Elsie felt that her stability was crumbling away from beneath her feet. She hated how dependent her happiness had become upon him. She had always been such an independent woman, yet this man had single-handedly redefined her and shook her to the core.

"Please don't leave," Elsie nearly pleaded, grabbing onto his arm.

Her Scottish accent was heavy and slightly slurred as she spoke.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said gently as he took a seat beside her.

"You are, Mr. Carson," she whispered, this time not even bothering to hide the tears that began to form in her eyes.

He suddenly realized what this was all about.

"Please, don't let these tears be for me," he said quietly.

Charles offered her his handkerchief, but she was hesitant to take it. Instead, he reached over and tenderly wiped away her tears himself. At the sound of her whimper and the sight of the emotional pain that lined her face, however, he pulled back.

"I don't want to hurt you," he whispered.

She scoffed and turned away from him. If he had cared about her at all, then surely he would have seen how much he had been hurting all along, and he would have stopped it.

His strong hand on her shoulder was all it took for her tears to begin to flow once more. Despite his remaining fear that she would not welcome his contact, he, desperate to take away her pain, enveloped his arms around her. To his surprise, she clung onto him as if afraid that he would suddenly vanish into thin air. Her sweet scent and the softness of her body in his arms threatened to intoxicate him, though he tried hard to maintain his fleeting self-control. Charles felt his head begin to spin, as if he were the one who was drunk, the moment he felt Elsie's warm breath against his neck. Before he had realized what was happening, her hands began to run up his chest and then down his back as she pulled herself closer into his arms.

"Mrs. Hughes..." he began.

The sound of her soft moan nearly caused him to come undone.

"Please," she whispered hastily. "I need you."

Elsie crushed her lips down onto his with such a force that he almost toppled out of his seat. The earth spun for both of them. The small amount of reason remaining in Charles' dizzied mind shouted at him to stop this, but his body was already reacting to her touch, her smell, her taste... His low moan responded to her soft whimper as her hot mouth moved from his lips to his jawline and then to the sensitive area beneath his ear. He shivered almost violently as she gently nipped at the skin there and then immediately soothed it with her lips and tongue.

"I need you," she urged again.

There was a flush of warmth at her core as she felt his arousal between them. The only sound filling the air was their shallow, ragged breathing and heated kisses. Elsie tugged at the collar of his shirt, frantically trying to loosen the buttons. At the feel of her cool, bare hand on his fevered chest, Charles jolted as if emerging from the depths of an icy pool of water.

"Wait," he breathed, taking her wrists into his hands to stop her. "We can't do this..."

He saw the tears begin to well up in her eyes once more.

"You don't want me."

It was no question. She pulled her wrists out of his grasp and stepped away from him, feeling quite wobbly as she did so. Charles shut his eyes tightly and took a deep, sobering breath.

"You cannot know how much I do want you," he replied sadly, "but you're in no position to..."

"I don't want to hear it!" she snapped, turning away from him.

He rose heavily to his feet but did not step closer to her. Her shoulders begin to shake as she wept, and he cursed himself for being such an insufferable gentleman. Her knees began to quaver as the room took another spin. She reached for the chair but missed and stumbled. No sooner than she had flinched and braced herself for impact upon the hard wooden floor, she felt a pair of strong arms catch her.

"Be careful," he told her calmly as he helped her to her chair.

Elsie wanted to pull away just as much as she wanted to be in his arms again, so she allowed him to lead her.

"I'm sorry," she slurred with tear-filled eyes.

"Don't be," he replied quietly, reaching out again to wipe away her tears, this time with his bare hand. "Go ahead and rest now."

Charles rubbed her back soothingly as she lay her head down onto the desk. Her breathing slowed and became deeper and more regular as she relaxed. Before long, she was fast asleep.

When Elsie awakened in the morning, she would find herself back in her own bed, tucked in carefully. She would not quite be able to recall how she got there, but she would still be able to smell his warm, distinctive scent in the air around her, and she would, at least distantly, even be able to remember his gentle touch and his final whispered words to her: "Everything's going to be all right. Trust me."

The End