A/N: Final installment of 'Musings': Anna.
Have your dentist on standby: unapologetic fluff! As always: please read and review, your input is very much appreciated and my heart skips a beat with every notification!


He sits at the head of the table and she is on his right hand. We all have our place, according to our title. Mrs Hughes has managed to place John and me together: valet sits next to head housemaid. It is a kindness and one I appreciate very much. Since we have moved to the cottage, I miss seeing their morning rituals. How they greet each other, both being the first person they see in the morning, how he pours her tea and how she puts sugar in his. Their quiet chatter, not yet discussing the day, because that comes after breakfast in his pantry.

They are so solidly part of Downton, almost like they are the heart of the place, pumping blood to every part, making it run smoothly and efficiently, without any hiccup or stutter, that i cannot imagine the pair of them not being here. I know there will be a day Mr Carson will retire and it will be strange to have a new butler, a different butler, a stranger, confer with Mrs Hughes.

I don't think it would be right.

Mrs Hughes is the only one who scolds him and Mr Carson is the only one who snaps at her. They are so much at ease with each other, they feel free to let go of restraints. You see, her touch is never so tender as when she puts her hand on his and his voice is never so warm as when he compliments her. They complement each other, almost like two people who have been married for a long time.

I remember when Mr Carson collapsed and Mrs Hughes took over, her face was so pale, I thought she was going to faint until she saw Lady Sybil and Mrs Crawley taking care of him, she pulled herself together and had everything under control in a matter of seconds. When he caught Spanish Flu, she ran up and down the stairs, bringing him weak tea and Bath biscuits, made him take his medicines and the cinnamon in milk, as well as taking over all his tasks.

She is never ill. I have heard she has been taken sick once since she started working at Downton, that the doctor was called even, but in the fifteen years I have worked here, she hasn't as much as sniffled. Mr Carson brings her tea when the day is rough and they share the leftover wine from dinner - the perks of being butler and housekeeper, I suppose. His gentle care might be why Mrs Hughes stays so strong and steady and always solidly there for all of us.

The war has changed everything, nothing is like it was, but they managed to make Downton remain our home, to never stop giving us the feeling of security and safety. When I leave the warmth of the servants' hall in the evening and go to the cottage, I look around and I see how Mr Carson helps a new footman with the ways you address the people who come to stay and Mrs Hughes talking with Mrs Patmore and I almost feel sorry I have to go.

I love having my own place, a home of our own, where we are just the two of us, but it is taking some getting used to. Mrs Hughes warned me about it, saying it would be quiet in the beginning and that I had to learn to appreciate that. I find that John and I are slipping in the same routine as Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes: at night we sit by the fire and we drink tea and talk about our day and about tomorrow.. Sometimes John reads, I have mending to do - not much, thankfully, I am not fond of repairing tears and holes. I always let another maid do it.

No more sides to middle sheets for me, though. I know Mrs Hughes sleeps on sides to middle sheets and I know she hates it. She keeps those sheets far from Mr Carson's bed, which I have always found such a lovely thing for her to do. He makes the beds as tight as she does, though. His corners are as well done as hers. Sometimes I wonder if she has taught him how to do it, like she has taught every maid that ever stepped over the back door's threshold. Mr Carson's bed always looks like it hasn't been slept in, he pulls the covers under the foot of the bed so nothing could make it move.

At Downton there is a sense of teaching and learning and of family, somehow. We pull together, we stick up for the others, even Miss O'Brien felt pained by the hearing and being called for the prosecution. I remember how awful we all felt when William died and how we all lend a hand with Ethel. Charlie is getting so big, he is a really dapper little chap. Mrs Hughes dotes on him and when he thinks no-one is looking or listening, Mr Carson has whole one-sided conversations with him. One day I found Mrs Hughes standing by the door of Mr Carson's pantry and she put her finger to her lips to keep me from making a noise.

She pointed at the room and I heard Mr Carson playing with Charlie and I looked at her. I couldn't read her expression, there was a kind of fragile happiness and a sense of deep sorrow. She looked like she had to physically tear herself away from the pantry. When I talked to her about the request to polish the chandelier in the great hall, I don't think she really listened.

Lately, she has been paying more attention to what I do, asking how I feel. I find it rather sweet. I know how she feels about me, I know that she is afraid to step over the boundary and that she thinks she can't allow to put her feelings into words, but she isn't afraid to show it: the embrace when I tried to hand in my notice, her hand taking mine when we sat in the gallery for John's appeal, the soft squeeze in my shoulder when I tackle a new task, the kind smiles my way during dinner. When I look back, she gives Mr Carson glances that go with shy smiles and he sometimes takes her hand in his and gives her this fond look. Sometimes I start to wonder if they aren't secretly married after all.

Every time I knock on the door of her sitting room and ask if I can talk to her, I can see her hold her breath and she balls her hands into fists so tightly, her knuckles turn white. She sits up even straighter and when I tell her it is just a request from her Ladyship, or extra guests for dinner, I can see disappointment flash over her face.

Today there won't be disappointment. I am telling her. It won't be quiet in the cottage much longer. I'm a bit nervous. I have been contemplating getting the pair of them together, telling them together, like you would your parents, but I am not certain of Mr Carson's reaction, I am hoping she will stand by my side when i tell him, too.

She is in her sitting room now, pouring over the linen rota, it is Wednesday after all. I knock and push open the door.

"Do you have a moment, Mrs Hughes?"


A/N: I am not apologizing for the fluff, I am not apologizing for the baby Bates: I dreamt of this a few nights ago and it screamed to be written down. HA!

I am taking a little break from writing. Until a plotbunny hops my way: thank you so much for reading and reviewing, for favoriting and for following: you are all amazing and I love you.