January 2nd, 1920, Midnight
"What a marathon," Matthew groaned wearily as he wiped his damp brow on his rolled shirt sleeve.
"You're complaining?" Mary responded irritably. "I have stitches where one should never have stitches, and it is entirely your fault!"
"Come now, my dear," a smiling Matthew replied teasingly, "you enjoyed making our babies every bit as much as I did, and you know it."
Turning his back on his less-than-amused wife, Matthew leaned over the cot that had been placed, at his request, beside their bed to admire his tiny twin sons, absolutely identical and born within five minutes of one another.
They had been incredibly shocked when Clarkson announced that he could hear not one heartbeat inside Mary's rapidly growing belly, but two. Mary had almost hesitated to believe the doctor, remembering his misdiagnosis of Matthew's spinal injury the previous year. It seemed too incredible to be true. The very idea that she had two babies inside her...well, it seemed impossible. Her belly had soon swollen to such an alarming size that she was forced to accept that it was, indeed, quite possible. She had been dreadfully uncomfortable for months, and her labor had been terribly long and difficult. She was stiff, sore, and completely exhausted. At long last, the final remaining family member had departed, leaving her alone with her proud husband and their new sons.
Matthew had insisted they keep the babies in their room, rather than sending them to the nursery. He was already completely taken with his long-awaited family, and hated the idea of sending them away from him. He and Mary had been separated so much by the war in their early years of marriage that, he supposed, they hadn't been together enough for her to conceive. Then he had been injured, and, for months, they thought they would never be parents.
After all the years of waiting, Matthew had been surprised, but elated, to learn that they were expecting two babies at once. Isobel had smilingly informed him that her own father, Matthew's grandfather, had been an identical twin. Now he had two perfectly identical boys of his own.
The entire family was, of course, delighted. Lord Grantham had been nearly catatonic with amazement at hearing that the twins were both male. He had even admitted to being rather impressed that Matthew had managed not a single boy, but two in one try. Matthew had only laughed, still too giddy with excitement to think of an intelligent reply, and allowed himself to be thus undeservedly praised. He had enjoyed sharing their great joy with their beloved family, but was glad that they had finally all gone, leaving him to enjoy the pleasant company of his sleeping sons and radiant, if a bit grouchy, wife.
He carefully reached into the cot to scoop up one deeply sleeping infant - "Reginald," his elegantly embroidered smock read. Isobel had painstakingly stitched the little garments, as soon as she learned that twins were expected, to help them tell their babies apart. There were also two frillier smocks bearing the names "Elaine" and "Madeline," that she had made up in the event that one or both babies was female. Now they were securely packed away for future use.
The proud father carefully placed little Reggie (as Matthew had already dubbed him) on the bed beside Mary before reaching for the other infant, who bore the appellation "William" on his smock.
Mary's mood couldn't help but lift as she admired her sleeping son - a tiny, perfect replica of his handsome father. She leaned closer to nuzzle little Reggie's soft cheek with her nose, taking comfort from his already familiar scent. She smiled tiredly up at Matthew as he seated himself on the edge of the bed, holding baby William carefully against his chest. Nothing in Mary's entire life had ever warmed her heart like watching Matthew hold their child protectively in his arms. Tears stung her eyes as her heart overflowed with love and joy.
When her eyes returned to Reggie's darling face, his brilliant blue eyes were open, watching her intently. His delicate lips parted in a toothless grin as Mary gazed down at him, and her eyes became even more clouded.
"I know that look," Matthew spoke softly as he watched his son gaze adoringly up at Mary. "I should. I've worn it myself, many times. Little Reggie's smitten."
No longer able to fight her emotions, Mary dissolved into exhausted, happy tears.
"Oh, darling," Matthew whispered gently as he carefully placed William back in the cot before leaning over to press several loving kisses to Mary's hair.
"It's been a long day," he consoled. "You're exhausted."
Mary nodded almost imperceptibly, stroking her thumb over the back of the tiny, chubby hand that was wrapped around her forefinger. She kissed little Reggie, who had already dropped back off, goodnight and watched through half-open eyes as Matthew lifted him from the bed. She was almost asleep by the time Matthew slipped in beside her, pulling her into his comforting embrace.
"Matthew..." she whispered.
"Do you remember the night I accepted your proposal? When I said...that life with you was sure to be an adventure?"
"Of course I remember," Matthew answered, the happy memory prompting him to drop another light kiss on her soft hair.
"I was just thinking how right I was. First the war, and the many misadventures of Captain Crawley..."
Matthew chuckled at her teasing reference to his time as a soldier. He knew she had been worried sick for the years he spent more often at war than not, and she now tended to overdramatize his so-called "misadventures."
"...then I bore witness to a miracle of Biblical proportions," she continued in a theatrical tone, "and now, two babies at once. Never a dull moment in sight."
Matthew laughed quietly as he held her tighter, feeling his heart swell with love for the woman in his arms. His wife, the mother of his children. His beautiful, brave Andromeda. His storm-braver. His sweet Mary.
"Go to sleep, my love," he encouraged gently. "There's sure to be plenty more excitement in store for you when my sons wake to find that they require their beautiful mama's attention."
Mary simultaneously groaned and smiled at the thought, but soon relaxed against her husband's chest as she slipped into a restful slumber.
Thanks for sticking with this story, guys! Hope you enjoyed the happy ending. :D