A/N: Quite a while ago, EOlivet, Silvestria and I decided it would be an entertaining challenge to somehow work AU smut into every S1 episode. Here is my attempt at Episode 2. It took off in its own direction somewhat from what I'd planned, but I very much hope you enjoy it - it was surprisingly fun to write! I don't think I've ever written M/M this early on before. In fact I definitely haven't. So it was an interesting challenge! Thanks to EOlivet for making sure it wasn't entirely messed up!

Anyway, without further ado. I very much hope you enjoy it!


Fuel on the Fire

It wasn't entirely fair, Matthew thought ungenerously as he strode through Downton village, looking around him at the little buildings with their pale stone and welcoming fronts. If he'd have tried, he would hardly have been able to consider a situation more wholly different to Manchester. No, in fact, it wasn't fair at all.

He'd hardly asked for this. He'd been perfectly content, would have been perfectly content, and now not only was he thrown headlong into a position he'd neither anticipated or desired, but he must be judged and held in contempt for it as well? The grand family, looking down their noses at him and his mother, with every look they cast their way saying in unequivocal terms, we do not want you here. Well, he didn't want to be here, either.

If only there were a way to refuse it! Lord Grantham, at least, appeared sympathetic in part to his difficulty. Cousin Cora had not been… unkind, he supposed. No, on the whole, if he were honest, for the most part they'd been pretty generous in their welcome, only the whole thing had been soured in his mind by… Mary.

Oh, she had reason enough to despise his presence there, he supposed. It rung faintly in the back of his mind that she'd been due to marry Patrick. Perhaps she'd loved him; in which case Matthew could hardly blame her bristling towards himself. Or had their engagement simply been the most convenient arrangement? Quite possibly. That seemed to be, to Matthew, how her sort of people did things. Well, he was not that sort of person, and nor did he wish to be. And Mary had little doubt of his opinion; how could she have, when she'd walked in upon him expressing it so ineloquently?

Damn. He kicked himself again for such poorly chosen words at the worst possible moment. And how she'd made him pay for it! It was all so… damned… stupid! They needn't be friends, of course they needn't, it wasn't like he expected her to welcome him with open arms, or even to treat him with any sort of particular familiarity, but there had been no need for such barbs, to make every concerted effort within her grasp to humiliate and offend him…

No, he hardly wanted to be friends with Cousin Mary. At the very least, he could assume a quiet pride in the belief that he'd held his own well enough against her, had not risen to her jibes, had not granted her the satisfaction of showing him up to be a complete fool… Because he wasn't, he knew damned well that he was clever enough and well-read, despite his very middle-class background.

As Matthew frowned stubbornly at the pavement in front of him, his every thought swirling around Mary and what she'd said and what he'd said and could he have said anything differently, and being frustrated at himself that he was dwelling upon it (upon her) so much, he realised that he'd missed his house entirely. With a heavy, angry sigh, he glared one way up the street and then the other, furious with himself even though he could hardly be expected yet to have memorised his way around this place (though he knew that it should only have taken him a day or so…).

He bit back a groan of despair as he saw, from the direction he had just been walking in, none other than Mary walking towards him, looking down at a telegram in her hands. Irritation burned in his chest as he stared at her for a moment, at how she must not be content with invading his thoughts alone but she must be here as well, and… oh, how much easier it would be to hate her if she were not so… striking. Noticing (how could he help but notice?) her undeniable beauty only made Matthew angrier with himself. He could hardly avoid her now.

"Hello," he smiled, masking his sigh of resignation, forcing a greater brightness than he felt into his tone.

"Oh!" Mary looked up, surprised as she hadn't noticed him until he spoke. Why should she notice him? Everything about him; the sight of him, the sound of his voice, made her bristle. "Hello. I'm on my way to the post office."

"Ah. I'm just walking home," he replied, falling into step beside her (she hadn't even slowed, and what else could he do?).

"Are you? You've not been with my father," she observed. If he'd have been walking all this way from the house, she would have seen him long before now. Or not; Cousin Matthew was hardly a striking figure of fascination.

"I was just showing my mother to the hospital," he lied, frustrated at what he felt certain was a snipe of accusation behind her tone.

Mary raised her eyebrows, still refusing to look at him. "Of course. You both favour an occupation, it seems." Her dismissive tone indicated how little she thought of that.

"I suppose we do," Matthew replied defensively. It wasn't as though he needed to explain himself to her! But a kernel of stubbornness that was beyond his power to ignore made him continue, "I know I hardly need to depend on it any more. Your father has made that quite clear, however unnecessary."

"Unnecessary for you, maybe," she shrugged. How pitiful, she thought, how sad, that a man felt the need for an occupation to define him. Injustice rippled through her afresh; that Matthew was not only taking her rightful place but couldn't even bring himself to be grateful for it, for his fortune, however undeserved! It only made the bitterness of it sting more.

"Precisely." Matthew didn't see why they should be under any illusions as to his nature. He took pride in his work, he enjoyed it, and why on earth shouldn't he? "No doubt that disappoints your expectations of me, but I'm afraid I won't apologise for it."

"On the contrary, Cousin Matthew!" Mary smiled airily, though the insincerity of her tone was barely concealed (she was barely bothering, after all). "It fulfils my expectations of you entirely."

He smiled tightly. "In which case I must be glad to not prove a disappointment to you, Cousin Mary."

There was little she could say to that; and so for a while they walked in terse silence (it might have been supposed a truce only there was not a trace of peace between them) until Crawley House came into view.

"Here you are!" Mary proclaimed as if he needed reminding of it. Matthew bristled at the intimation, which struck closer to the truth than he hoped she realised.

"I know," he snapped back. She blinked and stared at him, unperturbed, and Matthew was momentarily thrown. He shrugged, abrasively and helplessly. "Won't you – come in for some tea?"

The invitation slipped from his lips, a mere habitual nod to politeness, before he remembered having already declared his mother to be out. His lips pursed fiercely in frustration as the myriad of ways in which Mary might construe this and use it against him flitted through his mind. The very last thing he expected was for her to accept.

"Why not?" Her smile was sickeningly pleasant, and sent a cold shiver through Matthew. He got the distinct impression that she'd find some way to turn it against him, to insult him, to ridicule him. Only he could hardly revoke the invitation now; to do so would reduce his status as a gentleman in her eyes when she already thought so little of him, and – oh, for God's sake, why did he care?

With a guarded sigh, he pushed open the door. Molesley appeared instantly, and Matthew's expression darkened.

"Good afternoon, Sir. Mrs. Crawley is just out, at the minute… May I take your coat?"

The warm greeting from the butler only made Matthew feel worse about their argument the previous evening; his mounting frustration at this and a guilty relief at his mother's absence making his answer all the sharper.

"No, thank you. I can manage."

"Thank you, Molesley," Mary smiled overly sweetly as she handed him her things. "How very kind of you."

"Only doing my job, Lady Mary," Molesley chuckled nervously to hide his embarrassment. "Would you like some tea bringing through?"

Mary simply folded her hands and blinked at Matthew, her face still illuminated by that same, infuriating smile. He glowered ungenerously, knowing he had no option but to relent.

"Yes. Thank you."

As Matthew led the way to the sitting room, Mary followed demurely, casting her eyes around in appraisal. She was enjoying this far more than she knew she should. Her cousin was simply far too easy to tease. While part of her knew it probably wasn't sensible to goad him so, she found herself unable to resist when he was so easily provoked. Even when he'd argued back to her the night before, something she had not expected and which had unnerved her for a very short while, she now found a part of her relishing the argument. Not many people stood up to her, not properly, certainly not any men – and there was something quite thrilling in it, while she could revel in her undoubted superiority.

For a moment she stood in the middle of the room, slowly looking all around her as she had not taken the time to do during her very brief visit a few days ago. It was small. The whole house, she already knew, was small. Small, simply appointed and furnished. Unimpressive. Her smile now had an air of victory to it.

"It suits you rather well, you know. Crawley House." Small. Unimpressive. Hardly worth noticing. Yes, it suited Cousin Matthew very well.

Fire danced in his eyes, and Mary noted with satisfaction how distracted he seemed. He understood her jibe, she could see. She'd hardly tried to mask her point, in any case. But then, to her surprise, he only cocked his head and smiled.

"Yes, I think so too." He wanted nothing grander than this, he did not aspire to her way of life, to be her sort of person. There was no shame in that at all, that Matthew could see. Quite the opposite. "I could live very happily here for a great many years." If things were different. If he were not set to inherit the big house, and all the grandeur of that estate, for which he had utterly no desire.

"I very much hope that you will!" Mary replied coldly. She wished that he would, she wished that he'd live out his days in this small, unimpressive house and never bother her family again. She stared fiercely into his cold, blue eyes without apology, and found that she could not look away. She wouldnot.

His smiled widened, though it lacked warmth. "Then we've found something we agree on, Cousin. Perhaps we're making some progress."

"Indeed!"

Damn him! Thankfully Mary was spared from having to reply with anything more cutting (for she really could think of nothing, much to her chagrin) by Molesley's entrance with the tray of tea. She perched delicately on the edge of the settee and waited, watching how Matthew's eyes followed the butler's movements with frustration and unease. Oh, she cared nothing for him, and of course he was not used to being served in such a way. It was hardly worth her attention, her notice, and yet… still, every time she tried to look away her gaze kept returning to him. It was becoming rather frustrating, as by now she'd noticed the set of his shoulders and jaw, the way he held himself, the way his hair had not been properly set, the way the delicate skin of his throat was reddened from his razor. She swallowed, reminding herself with satisfaction that all these things only supported her impression that Matthew Crawley was barely a gentleman.

Molesley painstakingly set out the things for tea, and Matthew kept staring at him, shifting from foot to foot. After laying them out, and two china teacups and spoons, he stood quietly in the corner with hands folded together in front of him as Matthew tried very hard to ignore him. He sat down, and stood up again a moment later, growing hotter and more frustrated by the second as he felt Mary's eyes burning appraisingly into him.

"I'm going to see your father later today, actually," he eventually said, in lack of anything else at all to say to her. He was painfully aware of Molesley still standing in the corner, waiting for the tea to brew. Good God, it was intolerable! "He's being so kind as to – listen over some – good Lord, Molesley, I'm perfectly capable of pouring some tea for myself and Lady Mary!" he finally snapped, unable to bear it any longer. Silence thundered in his ears, as he saw Molesley's blink of reaction and could only imagine Mary's expression of shocked delight at his loss of control. But his pride could not take it, as he felt his cheeks redden in shame, his voice softening with difficulty. "Look, there must be – plenty more useful things for you to be doing!"

Molesley stammered slightly. "Well – yes, I suppose there's –"

"Good," Matthew cut him off, as every word only made him feel worse. "Why don't you get on with that, then, and I'll – ring if we do need anything. Thank you."

"Yes, Sir. Of course," Molesley said quietly, nodded to Mary (who made very sure to thank him), and shut the door carefully behind him on his way out.

Matthew's heavy sigh broke the weighty silence, and he flopped back into a chair. He'd made himself look ridiculous enough already, and couldn't bring himself to care now.

"I suppose you think that's very ungenerous of me," he muttered darkly. He was exceeding her expectations indeed.

"It was, rather," Mary shrugged. There was no need for clever words and subtle jibes now to prove her superiority. She found that strangely dissatisfying. "It's only his job! Though of course you're not used to –"

"No, I'm not!" He stood up again and paced restlessly. "I'm not, and I don't want to be! I don't want – any of this! For all you may mock me and make your attitude unashamedly clear that you think I have no part in your – lifestyle – has it occurred to you for a moment that I was perfectly happy as I was and didn't ask for any of this extravagance to be conferred upon me?"

Mary's eyes widened at his outburst, and once he had finished and stood with his arms flung out angrily by his sides, she rose and matched his indignation.

"No, I don't suppose it did. But it has been, and you might at least be grateful for it!" she snapped back icily. Everything about his attitude made her unreasonably angry. It was all terribly, terribly unfair. Quite unexpectedly (even to Mary herself) a loud, harsh laugh spilt from her lips. "And to think, my family thinks all our problems might be solved if I were to marry you!"

"And you don't want to," Matthew's eyes narrowed.

"No, I don't want to! Why on earth would I!"

"You see," his lips pressed into a cold, thin smile. "Our situations are not so dissimilar as you think. Only you may abide by your choice, where I may not."

His arrogance stunned her. "They are not in the least similar! Your fate is only a life of elegance and comfort in a place which is not even your home, and I would be – tethered for a lifetime to –"

"Well then it's fortunate that you share my feelings on the matter," Matthew snapped, cutting her short before she could insult him further.

"I beg your pardon?"

He laughed bitterly. "I mean it's rather fortunate that our opinions concerning our apparently desired union match," he explained. "For I would hate to disappoint you further if by any chance you'd wished it!"

Mary reeled in anger. How dare he insult her! For all she'd thought about how hateful it would be to marry him, it stung even more that she'd really never considered the possibility that he wouldn't wish to marry her. Rejection was not something she'd been used to, not from men who normally fell so easily to her flattery. She had quickly learnt this disappointment in the last months, and it was an uncomfortable realisation… One that seemed all the more bitter coming from him.

"Quite so!" she finally shrugged, as though she couldn't care less what he thought of her. Why should she! "And what would you expect from your wife then, Matthew, if I would prove so poor at it?"

He swallowed, feeling a small kernel of self-reproach. Even in his angered state, he realised how cutting his words had been. But he was still too worked up to really care. His eyes narrowed as he stared at her with more consideration, now, and she flamed under his searching gaze.

Carefully, he answered. "Oh Mary, don't pretend that for a moment." He swallowed. "You know your qualities perfectly well –"

"I'm not so sure I do, when you seem so abhorred by the very idea of it!" She had no idea why she was pushing him to this, only she couldn't stop, and she hated it. She hated him for it, and that she felt any sort of need for his approval or admiration.

His eyes darkened, his voice lowered, though it was still cold and somehow trembled. His speech seemed alarmingly beyond his control, for he didn't want to admit any of this to her, he could barely admit it to himself.

"Only because – oh, for God's sake! You are… beautiful. You take pride in your intelligence, your wit and you are quite clearly well-read and learned, which are qualities I'd admire but – how can you imagine I'd want to marry a woman so determined to insult and ridicule me, who thinks so pitifully little of me? I have my own pride, whatever you think of me!"

The weighted words hung thickly in the air between them. They made Mary tremble, they stirred her, in shame for her behaviour which she would not apologise for and… something deeper… that only made her simmer against him even more. How dare he hold any sway over her, how dare he make her feel this way!

In that moment she hated him with a burning fire, and wanted to humiliate him and regain her dominance over him, and so she did the only thing that came to her mind – the most powerful weapon she possessed, which he had just revealed himself to be weak to.

She kissed him.

Driven by pure instinct, and a hunger for dominance, she stepped forward in one smooth motion, fisting the lapels of his jacket into her hands as she pulled him towards her and pressed her lips to his, expecting repulsion. His startled grunt of surprise satisfied her, and she did not relent; though she was shocked her own brazenness empowered her.

When she finally released him, a thrill coursed through her to see his flushed cheeks and wide eyes. She had taken him by surprise, and her eyes fell to his reddened lips (unexpectedly soft, she noted. Were all men's lips so soft as his?) and she saw how helpless he was. It took less than a moment's thought for her to kiss him again, relishing in her power over him.

Her kiss was firm, unrelenting, and they swayed together. Matthew's hands shot out to grasp her shoulders; his intention being to push her away, but… one moment more… as a fire he'd never felt before pooled in his veins. He was angry, insulted, furious at her, and… as her demanding lips sought his the fire within him burned hotter at his own weakness. He would not let her beat him this way, or humiliate him, and so he kissed her back matching her passion beat for beat, fingers curling around her arms and gripping them tightly, refusing to let her go.

Oh, she was not going anywhere. She pressed herself ever closer to him even as she tried to shrug off his hands. Her own rose in response, slipping around the back of his neck as she pulled his head down and his mouth to hers, his mouth which… opened against her lips, and she could only respond in kind. Her fingers scratched at the back of his neck, and her belly fluttered at the smoothness and warmth of his skin and the feel of his hair. An unnatural sound escaped from the back of her throat, a kind of hum or a whimper, and she felt Matthew's hands flex upon her in response. Unnerved by her own body's betrayal of her, she frowned, and kissed him with more determination as she tried desperately to regain some control.

Matthew felt dizzy, and desperately powerless as his body responded to her. He couldn't help it, the… thrill, the excitement, the arousal burning through him. He should stop, he knew he should stop, but she'd know he was weak and she could not take that victory, as if she didn't hold enough against him and… she wanted it, didn't she? He didn't know any more, what he wanted, what she might want, he couldn't think beyond the feel of her lips and her body as they staggered back, entwined together, arms and hands clinging desperately and fiercely until his back thudded into the wall. He gasped, felt the shiver of breath between their lips, felt Mary's own curl into a smile and… groaned aloud. Damn. His arms slid around her waist, hands smoothing to her lower back, her body was slender and writhing against him and… God.

As he responded helplessly to her, his weakness and reactions becoming increasingly apparent, Mary felt overcome by a sense of dominance and pleasure. This felt… good, he felt good, and she would take him if she liked. There was little in her life that she could control, and if she could control this… Desperate need overwhelmed her, need for him or for herself or for excitement or power or what, she couldn't even tell anymore. But she would see this through, she would fulfil this need, whatever it was, and… heavens, it felt glorious. Her mind swam, lost in pure sensation, though dissipating as she became aware only of Matthew's hands on her and she felt herself wilt against him and… then… in the wildness of thoughtless passion she suddenly realised that part of that glorious feeling sweeping powerfully through her was… his tongue, teasing past her lips, brushing past her own. She shuddered, at the sensation and the shock of it and from the low moan that she could not have prevented even if she'd been aware of it.

Determined to reclaim some assertion over the situation, and emboldened by Matthew's evident desire, her hands began to search his torso more purposefully, slipping inside his jacket. His chest was… pleasantly firm, and strong… but that was not enough, she could feel his heart thudding under her hand but she needed more from him than that. Her hands traced lower, and lower, as she grew bolder and bolder from his response until she stopped thinking at all as her fingers ghosted over the front of his trousers.

She was rewarded by the sound that tore from his throat, his reaction so sharp that his head fell back and banged the wall, his eyes screwed shut and his mouth open and she touched him again with more confidence. She bit her lip in pleasure, she felt him, she saw his cheeks pale then flush, his pulse beating against the delicate skin of his throat… and she kissed that spot, feeling his skin hot under her tongue.

Heat blazed through Matthew, of arousal and shame at his helpless reaction. He could not help it, not in the least, he was completely intoxicated by her and every sensation she invoked in him. This was a far more satisfying fight than their verbal sparring; just as fierce, just as exhilarating, just as potent and it felt… It felt… intense, so intense he could barely breathe, could barely think as her fingers grasped him through his trousers, hot, slender fingers that threatened to undo him completely as he shuddered against her. Her lips were at his neck, sucking at his skin, he was helpless… Swallowing thickly, he lowered his head to reach anything of her he could, nudging her with his nose until he was granted access to her jaw and he kissed her skin for the first time. It was sweet, and hot, and his lips dropped to her neck, smiling as her head fell back to allow him to. Incensed by this small victory, he sought to match her own play with his hands, slipping from her back to her breasts which he caressed a little more firmly than he dared, then more so as her responding whimper shivered into the air around them.

Without being at all aware of it, somehow they'd slipped, devolved, lost themselves to each other and this, though neither of them could truthfully say what this even was. They teased each other, caressed, taunted, gloried in the other's inevitable response, as unquenchable heat flamed between them. The air was hot, their skin was hot, white hot, and their arousal burnt out sense and thought. And so they did not, could not, think as they descended into their passion, each determined to keep the upper hand. As Mary's fingers flipped open his belt, and tugged open his trousers… As he turned and held her to the wall, hand slipping under her dress, finding silk and dampness and heat… As her legs lifted to curl around him, claiming him, possessing him, trapping him even as she was trapped between his body and the wall… As he thrust up into her, or she pressed her hips down to take him, they were suddenly equals in that smooth motion that made them both cry out and shudder helplessly and cling together.

Matthew trembled under her weight, but he would not be weak, would not give in. He simply held her tighter, pressed closer. Mary throbbed with pain, but she would not be weak, would not give in. She simply gripped him tighter, bore it out. It faded quickly, and as he moved within her again (how intimate, how shocking, how bold and wonderful and powerful it was!) she gasped, and rocked, claiming her own dominance once more as the pain dulled and was overtaken by pleasure.

Instinct drove them, hunger, desire, desperation. They responded to their own bodies, their own desires, quickly realising their reliance on each other in this position so unnatural to both of them. They clung together, hips shifting, rocking, thrusting in time, in harmony, hands clutching and arms tightening and lips tasting hot, salty skin and searching tongues clashing together as they sought now only to satisfy that fire. But it was devastating in its power, as each thrust and murmur of satisfaction demanded more, and more, and their movements became quicker, fiercer, stronger… The fire burning stronger and hotter and hands and bodies gripping tighter and moving faster, more urgently, more desperately, until the fire became red and white heat that consumed them as stars burst and shattered behind their eyes which were clenched shut in ecstasy.

Unable to fight any more, Mary slowly uncurled her trembling legs from Matthew's waist, her thighs slick with sweat as he held her until her feet touched the ground. He sagged against her, his cheek on her shoulder, lips brushing her neck and his head bumping against the wall. Their games were at an end, for they could not think or speak or act upon their own will as they clung together. Their arms would not release the other, could not. Mary closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall, smiling faintly as she felt Matthew's hot breath on her neck, and her chest rise and fall against his.

It was a long time before he moved, or spoke, and when he did his eyes glittered and his voice shook deeply.

"I'm rather afraid," he murmured, pausing to lick his dry lips as he stared at her, their noses bumping together, "that I've gone and proved your opinions of me to be truer than I'd hoped."

"What do you mean?" She could only whisper, her eyes flitting between his. She couldn't stop shaking.

The ghost of a smile graced his lips. Mary glanced down, and smiled herself, realising quite unexpectedly that – really, if she properly looked – there was something very, very attractive about him. And somehow the realisation did not anger or repulse her as it might have done only a short while ago.

"Well. You hardly thought me a gentleman, did you. I'm not sure I could call myself one –"

"Or I a Lady, then!" she laughed weakly, silencing him. Somehow it didn't seem to matter. She wasn't sure whether she had won, or he had – she liked to think that she had, in fact she was sure that she had. But it hardly seemed to matter.

Gently, she placed her palms against his chest and pushed him away, looking down at her feet as she heard him re-do his trousers. She prayed he would not notice the blood; and he did not. Perhaps he would later. She pressed her hands together, trembling pleasantly at the thought of it.

He stood awkwardly now in the centre of the room, unsure where to look. His body felt weak, spent, but… satiated and fulfilled in the most heavenly way. Short of anything else to do, but feeling the need to do something, he pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face.

Mary laughed at him. "Well, if you are determined to not be a gentleman for today…"

"What?" He glanced up, feeling a fresh, but muted, spark as their eyes met. And this time it did not make him angry.

"You may finish poor Molesley's job," Mary prompted quietly, and with only a little mockery in her tone, "and pour me a cup of tea!"

Fin


A/N: Thank you so much for reading! I'd be very curious to know what you thought, reviews are always incredibly appreciated! Thank you!