A/N This is a one shot about an idea that came up on tumblr tonight. Where did Charles Carson get the key for the store cupboard from when he steals the provisions for Grigg? Usually Elsie Hughes is the master of the keys.
Beware: This one is not canon but head canon ;)
Carefully he removed her hand that rested on top of his chest like every night. She had to feel his heartbeat, feel his chest rise and fall under his breath. It reassured her, calmed her and always lulled her to sleep. He tried to slip out of the embrace quietly, without making a noise and most important without waking her up. It was not easy to move in her small bed. They had to lie almost on top of each other whenever they shared it.
Charles managed to disentangle his legs from underneath hers, pushed the covers back and slipped out of the warm bed. Elsie stirred and mumbled something incomprehensible. "I'll be back before you know that I've been away," he whispered and placed a soft kiss on her forehead before he pulled the covers back over her naked body.
Without making a noise he tiptoed over to the armchair where she had thrown her dress earlier. They must be here somewhere. She always wore them on that little clip at her waist, the chairs dangling down from it, creating that familiar jingle when she walked.
Carefully his fingers felt for the keys, lifting the fabric of her dress. But they weren't at their usual place. Charles could not remember seeing her taking them off when he came to see her tonight. And his memory also failed him as he tried to recall if they had been at her waist at all. He turned the dress over in the darkness of her room, trying once more to find the keys. After several minutes he gave up his search.
She must have taken them off earlier, before she came upstairs. Maybe they were in her sitting room in one of the drawers of her desk? Though he doubted she would put the keys there so close to Mrs. Patmore's reach.
His eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and he had a look around the room. The little desk that stood in one corner was so tidy that he would have instantly noticed the keys. On the clothes rack by the door only her coats and hats were hanging. He should have asked for the key earlier but she did not know about Grigg, about his past, what a fool he had made of himself all these years ago. He would eventually tell her one day, however he had to deal with his ex-partner first and then find the time, moment and the right words to tell Elsie about his time on stage.
Maybe the key was in her sitting room after all. He looked around for his pyjamas and his robe and found them on the floor in front of the bed. Quickly he dressed and decided to try his luck. The floorboards creaked underneath his feet when he made his way to the door. He looked at Elsie, afraid he might have woken her up, but she was still asleep, one hand on the now empty pillow next to her head, the other underneath her cheek. He hated to leave her alone tonight but he had to get into the store cupboard without anyone noticing it, gather a few provisions and put them in an old bag. Tomorrow he would then hand them over to Grigg and hopefully see this man never again.
He opened the door inch by inch and sneaked out of her bedroom onto the dark floor. To the left was the door that led to the men's quarters with the old brass key on its hook. To the right he could just take the stairs down to the servant's hall. No one would be up at this hour so he would be safe to take the stairs. For a man of his size it was not easy to tiptoe across the floor. Inside her bedroom he knew where to tread but on the corridor every step could make an unwanted noise. Somehow he managed to get to the stairs without waking one of the housemaids. Quickly he descended them in the darkness until he came to the door to the servant's hall and kitchen.
It was ridiculous, really. Sneaking out of a woman's bedroom at night to get a pair of keys so that he could betray his employer, steal provisions for a man he despised and pretend that nothing had happened at all. Every single part of this plan was utterly wrong and he could already feel the guilt well up. He could still go back and tell her everything in the morning, ask her for her opinion and decide what to do. Still, if Grigg did not get what he had demanded he might denounce him in front of his Lordship and in front of the woman he loved. Charles turned the doorknob and descended the last flight of stairs.
The silence felt odd. He was used to the noise, the hustle and bustle, the smell of food. What welcomed him now was the dripping of a leaky tap, the scratching of tiny mice feet somewhere behind the cupboards and the smell of cold food. There was no need to watch his step anymore. The stone floor made no noise at all. Fast he made his way towards her sitting room and opened the door. For the first time he dared to turn on the electric light. He squinted his his eyes at the yellow glow and it took a while to get used to the sudden brightness.
For a moment he just stood there, taking in her room, all the little objects on the shelves, books, delicate pieces of china, little trinkets, and figurines. Then his gaze came to rest on her desk. The books were neatly stacked on the left, pen and paper on the right. Four small drawers were hidden behind the stacks of paper and ledgers. He carefully moved away her work and opened each of the drawers. No keys.
For the second time tonight he looked around one of her rooms. There was no other place he could think of where she might hide the keys. If they were not fastened to her dress nor in one of the drawers of her desk she must store them away elsewhere. But where?
The clock on the mantelpiece chimed two in the morning and the stifled a yawn. It made no sense to look for the keys any longer. He would not find them tonight. With a deep sigh he switched off the light, closed the door behind him and made his way back upstairs.
When he crawled back under the covers her hand intuitively reached out for his chest again. She cradled her head in the crook of his neck and inhaled his scent. "Where have you been", she mumbled.
Charles stroked the back of her hand and sleepily answered "Looking for the key", before closing his eyes.
"They are in my green coat." He heard her say before he fell asleep again.
A/N OKAY THIS WILL BE A TWO CHAPTER THING THEN! because it cannot end here. But I am tired now and I need to sleep. *lol*