A/N: An experiment! Written from Elsie's POV, something i have never attempted before.
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We have been like this for such a long time, they don't see it. Sometimes we joke about it over leftover wine or steaming cups of cocoa. I tell you how nobody sees that you put your hand on my shoulder and that nobody saw the exasperated looks i gave you and we laugh a little and go on with our routine of discussing work to be done and the welfare of those in our charge.
Maybe they don't think of us 'together' because we don't share our last names, because I preferred to remain 'Hughes' under his Lordship's employment. Though in private, I am Elsie Carson - let there never be any mistake about that. Maybe they don't think us together because we don't share a bed - at least not so they see.
Very few people have seen my bedroom, but you see it nearly every night and have done for so long, we both start to forget how many years it has been since you kissed me in front of the administrator and carried me over the threshold. Beryl was a kitchenmaid and she never saw us, none of the others were employed yet. Everyone who knew about it is either dead or lives in the dower house.
Sometimes she says something in passing, and I feel her eyes boring into my back and I remember her remarks, her disagreements with her late husband, who couldn't care less if his valet was married to a housemaid. Lady Violet lashed out at him, saying that if children were added to their household, he would not be so happy about the arrangement.
Lady Violet needn't have worried.
I stare at your sock and I keep on stitching, every stitch as neat and perfect as the next. I have done this so many times, but never with the small white stockings of a child. I have come to terms with it, I have learned to live with the knowledge that I will leave nothing, that my legacy will be that of lessons learned by housemaids about how to keep your knees together and how to plump up cushions.
Sometimes I sigh with the guilt of not giving you at least a son to follow in your footsteps, but I am glad too, because he might have been called up for duty during the war and he might have died like William. Or caught the Spanish Flu and have perished at the fevers like Miss Swire. Having had a child and losing it must be far more terrible than to never have had a child in the first place.
You are reading Charles Dickens, your favourite. Sometimes I hear you chuckle and when you look up I smile at you and you smile back, just like at breakfast every morning. Maybe they all do see, but they are so used to it, our smiles, our arguments, the little touches of my hand on your sleeve, they don't feel the need to comment. Come your retirement, we will go away together and live in a small house with a garden. I think you might like to get your hands dirty. In a garden there is a time for everything: pruning and mowing and weeding. You likes rules and order. I like it when you are happy. We will be the same there, but with more time to ourselves.
I know at the moment you are happy. Lady Mary has accepted Mr Crawley's offer of marriage and I have no doubt you feel the way I did about Anna and Mr Bates getting married, even if I only learned it after the event. We have watched both girls grow and blossom. I didn't always understand what you saw in Lady Mary, what it was that triggered your loyalty, but I do now. When she gave Anna that locket, I knew the young lady had grown up, that she had learned compassion.
When she marries, we will sit at the back, next to each other and I know you will take my hand in yours and that when the vicar asks Mr Crawley the question, you will answer 'I do' in my ear - like you have done countless times before.
You snort with laughter again and I look at the clock. It is late and I put away my darning and stand before you. "Time for bed, Mr Carson." You get up and lead the way. I follow, like I always will, caring for you and loving you and seeing you for the man you truly are. We undress and wash and we get into bed and i feel your arm around me, like you have wrapped it around me countless times before and as I fall asleep i think:
"One day, people will know that under that strict butler exterior is a man of great gentleness and love and that I am the lucky one for being the one he chose to be with until death do us part."
In the morning we smile at each other at the breakfast table, passing toast and butter, I pour your tea and you spoon sugar in mine and nobody mentions anything. Maybe it is because we are constant, because we are predictable. Dependable, like Downton itself, the glue that hold everything downstairs together.
Maybe my legacy won't be so small after all.
A/N: It's a bit wistful and not very upbeat, which i thought a nice change from the fluff.