Sorry for the delay. My life has been absolutely crazy busy lately. Thank you for being patient, and for those who sent me friendly nudges to continue. This is the last chapter of Summer at Downton, but perhaps not the end to this AU Mary and Matthew story. Thank you for following the story and for reviewing and sharing your thoughts.
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Rating: ***MATURE*** (for kissing, and Edwardian teenagers tentatively exploring what happens between husband and wife)
Spoilers: none since the story takes place in 1907
Summary: Lady Rosamund and Marmaduke arrive at Downton for a visit. More festivities ensue. Meanwhile Thomas is watching, and waiting for the moment to strike, as his resentment is steadily growing.
The summer is quickly coming to an end, as is Matthew's stay at Downton. As he and Mary enjoy their time together neither wants to dwell on the fact that he must leave. When his departure happens, the pain of parting takes them both with surprise.
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A/Note: If you find it shocking that Edwardian teenagers were interested in sex and were filled with hormones just like modern day teenagers, perhaps you should skip the part of this chapter which is set in Lady Mary's bedroom :) Keep in mind that Matthew is a gentleman (hormone crazed or not) and there are lines he won't cross, no matter how much he wants to.
Special thank you to the lovely Tambear for catching missing commas, odd grammar and offering excellent suggestions & advice!
Please send a thought of thanks and well-wishes to Tambear. She just got out of hospital and could use your thoughts and prayers.
THE RATING FOR PARTS OF THIS CHAPTER IS
PART XII – Last Days of Summer
Mary always liked when Lady Rosamund and her husband, Marmaduke Painswick, came to Downton for a visit. Things were never dull when Aunt Rosamund was around. This particular morning Mary and Sybil were sitting with Matthew on a blanket in the shade watching her aunt and uncle play a very competitive game of mixed doubles against Lord and Lady Grantham.
"Oh Papa," Mary groaned as her father missed the ball. "Focus on the ball!"
"Yes, Robert," Cora huffed. "Listen to your daughter."
Robert sighed and made a face. "It is just a game, my dear. And it is not polite for a gentleman to always beat his younger sister in tennis."
"Always?" Rosamund exclaimed with a loud laughter. "When did you last beat me, Robert?"
Robert huffed and tossed the ball in the air, hitting a hard serve which Marmaduke promptly returned.
"They are quite good," Matthew whispered to Mary.
"I suppose. I think Mama is better than Papa, but then she learned to play in America when she was much younger."
Matthew nodded. It made sense. He watched Cora serve, noticing the grace and ease with which she hit the ball. It went straight through, scoring another point for Lord and Lady Grantham. Robert laughed and kissed his wife's cheek.
"Well done, Cora."
Mary looked up at Patrick. "Who do you think? Aunt Rosamund and Uncle Marmaduke of course."
He grinned and sat down on the blanket, stealing a biscuit from the plate next to Mary. Matthew nudged Patrick and tilted his head towards the players.
"Do you play?"
"Of course I do," Patrick huffed. "It's considered a most desirable skill for a young gentleman," he said in a snooty voice that sounded suspiciously like the Dowager Countess. "So of course my father insisted that I learned to play."
"Perhaps we can play later?" Mary suggested. "You and Edith against Matthew and me."
Patrick grinned and nodded. "What a splendid idea!"
"Good Lord, Painswick! Are you trying to kill me?"
The four looked over at the court where Robert had removed his hat, wiping his brow. Marmaduke chuckled and busied himself with checking his tennis racket as Robert glared at him.
"Robert." Rosamund rolled her eyes at her brother. "The aim of the game is to return the ball, not stop it with your body."
Robert secured his hat on his head and moved his feet from side to side as he glared at his brother-in-law. On the other side of the net, Marmaduke served again. This time Robert returned the ball with a perfect backhand. Cora cheered but then ran for the net when the ball was returned. A beautiful lob over the net and she secured another point for team Grantham.
~ O ~
"What's eating you?"
Thomas looked up and rolled his eyes at O'Brien. He accepted the cigarette from her and lit it, puffing a few times before answering.
"Oh, it's more than nuthin'. Any fool can see that," she huffed. Eyeing him carefully she lowered her voice. "Is it him? Master Matthew?"
Thomas shot her a sharp look and she smirked. "Why can't he stay away from her? She's not to be his anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing. I mean nothing." Thomas tossed his cigarette on the ground, angrily stomping on it. "I'll see you at supper."
She watched him returned inside, pondering his words. She did not need to ask who he had meant by her. There was only one female Thomas could have been referring to – Lady Mary.
~ O ~
"I heard that Lady Mary and Master Matthew played a fine game of tennis this afternoon, milady," O'Brien said as she pinned another lock of hair in place on the Countess' head.
"They did," Lady Grantham said and smiled at her maid.
"I know how competitive Master Patrick is. I hope he was not upset about losing the game."
"Patrick is a true sportsman," Cora said cheerfully.
"Lady Mary and Master Matthew have become very close this summer."
Lady Grantham stiffened and looked at O'Brien in the mirror. The maid was busy attaching a jeweled pin to her hair and was not looking at her. She relaxed. O'Brien had probably not meant anything by her words.
"Matthew has indeed become a good friend to all our girls, and Patrick too."
O'Brien looked up and met the countess' eyes in the mirror. "I'm glad."
~ O ~
Thomas' opportunity came a few days later when he was asked to take Lady Grantham's tea up to her in the drawing room. He entered the room, finding the Countess alone with her needlepoint.
"Oh thank you, Thomas," she said and smiled at him.
"You're welcome, my lady."
He lingered a little, watching her pour the tea. Realizing that she had not dismissed the young footman she smiled at him.
"Was there something else, Thomas?"
"If your ladyship has a moment," he said quickly.
"Of course." Cora tilted her head, curious now. "Is something the matter?"
"I'm not sure, your ladyship. First I wasn't going to say anything, my lady, but then I thought that you would want to know."
"Know what?" she asked with a frown.
"About Master Matthew and Lady Mary."
"What?" Cora blanched, fearing what he would say next.
"I'm sorry, my lady. I'm sure there's nothing to it. It's just that when I passed by Lady Mary's room the other night," he glanced at her, making sure that she was listening. "I was doing my regular midnight round you see, my lady."
"Please continue. The suspense is killing me."
"Well, I thought I heard voices, so I stopped," he paused and looked at her. "It was Master Matthew, my lady. He was in Lady Mary's room."
"After midnight?" Cora's voice was like ice. She quickly reined in her emotions and forced her face back into its neutral expression. "You are certain of this?"
"Yes, my lady." Thomas smiled at her. "I'm sure there wasn't anything to it. I mean they are like brother and sister almost."
"Thank you, Thomas." She looked up at him. "As you said, they are very close, and I'm sure that there's a good explanation to what you overheard."
"Very well, my lady."
"That will be all, Thomas."
"Certainly, my lady."
He grinned as he closed the door behind him. Lady Mary did not deserve Matthew Crawley, and now he was certain that she would be guarded closely, preventing any more little encounters between the two.
~ O ~
Cora sat frozen in place after Thomas had left, her tea getting cold on the table in front of her. Her head was spinning. Had Matthew been inappropriate with Mary? What if the rest of the servants knew? She let out a tiny wail at the thought of rumors starting about Mary. Mary was her pride and glory. Mary was to be presented in London soon. A pretty girl at fifteen, Cora knew that Mary would be stunning as a debutant. Perhaps she would even make a better match than Patrick? But not if her virtue was questioned.
Lady Grantham jumped to her feet and stalked across the room, ready to confront Mary. She stopped by the door and thought about it for a moment. Perhaps confronting Mary was not the best idea. What if Thomas had been wrong? Cora decided to wait, knowing that the right moment would present itself.
~ O ~
Mary smiled at the feeling of Matthew's arms around her. She turned so she could see him better and he jumped as her hand graced over his thigh. She frowned, but then she felt the soft bulge inside his pants and she giggled.
"Oh my," she teased. "It appears that I have awakened something."
"Yes," he hissed and playfully pinched her nose.
Mary giggled more and moved her fingertips very gently over his pajama bottoms. He gasped and pushed her away a little.
"Mary! Stop it."
"Why? Don't you like it?"
"You know I do. Much more than I should," he muttered. "I really liked your hand on me last night," he confessed very quietly.
Mary nodded. "So did I." She blushed and looked away. "And when you kissed me… you know, in my private area."
Matthew grinned and nodded. "I really liked that too."
"Would you do it again?" she whispered.
"Do you want me to?" he asked, trying not to show how eager he was.
She nodded. Easing down on the bed she looked up at him as she pulled up her nightgown. She sighed when he caressed the soft hair that covered her. He moved his finger lower and rubbed her little spot. She gasped and smiled. He kept doing it a little longer until she made a face and pulled his hand away.
"Is something wrong?"
"It feels different, not as good as last night."
He thought about it for a moment. "Remember how you were a little slippery last night? Perhaps that's supposed to happen for it to feel good for you?" he said.
Matthew was quite pleased with himself for coming up with this, in his opinion, quite plausible explanation.
"I guess," she said a little hesitantly.
"May I move your nightdress a bit higher?" he asked, only blushing a little at stating such a bold request.
"Why?" she asked.
"So I can see your breasts."
Mary blushed. "They are not very big, you know."
She nodded and pulled off her nightgown, tossing it aside. She looked at him, waiting for him to say something.
"They are very pretty," he said and touched her with gentle fingers.
Matthew was amazed at the softness of the little mound under his hand. He felt his manhood strain against his pajamas as he kept stroking her breast. He leaned down and placed a kiss on the side, then on the nipple. It changed under his lips.
"Oh!" Mary sighed.
Matthew looked at the pink little tip. It almost seemed like it was straining to meet his lips. He kissed it again and Mary sighed. Remembering how she had enjoyed it when he licked her little spot down there, he ran his tongue over the nipple. Mary sighed and touched his hair. Matthew licked it again and then closed his lips around the rosy little tip and sucked very gently.
"Oh God," she gasped.
Matthew felt so proud. Mary was really enjoying what he was doing. He rubbed his finger over the other one and it perked up in the same way. He leaned over and sucked on it for a moment before returning to the first one. Mary was sighing and moaning, clearly enjoying it. He caressed her stomach and then touched between her legs again. He gasped when he felt the change there.
"Mary!" he said and smiled. "I was right. Does it feel good now?"
He stroked very gently over her slippery folds and then circled her little spot. She made a mewling little noise and nodded.
"Yes," she whispered. "It feels very good."
Matthew kept circling the little spot while sucking on the nipple. Mary trembled and made all sorts of little sweet noises. After a moment he felt her touch his cheek. He looked up at her. She was smiling.
"Would you… like you did the other time?" she whispered.
"Kiss your little spot?" he asked, his face feeling a little warm at saying the words.
She nodded. "Yes!"
Matthew grinned and moved on the bed. She pulled her knees up and this time eagerly opened her legs for him. He kissed her pink folds and she sighed. Matthew licked his lips, tasting her sweet essence. There was a lot more this time, and he found it intriguing and quite pleasant. Matthew ran his tongue up over her folds until he found that special little spot that made her feel so good. He smiled as he saw her grab a pillow to muffle her sounds. He stroked faster, swirling his tongue over her. Caressing the back of her soft thighs he pushed a little on her legs and it made her folds open a bit wider. Happy with the result, he licked the entire length, dipping his tongue inside her, flicking it, tickling her there a little before moving back up.
Mary bucked and let out a tiny scream that thankfully was almost completely muffled by the pillow. Matthew held her legs firmly as he sucked and licked her spot. Then he felt her buck and toss like the night before and he knew that she had peaked. Paying a little more attention this time he moved away before she could push him away. He stretched out next to her, pulling the pillow away from her face. She was smiling.
"God, Matthew," she gasped.
"You really liked it?"
"Of course I did silly," she said and kissed him. Her eyes widened at the unfamiliar flavor of his kiss. "It is actually not bad at all," she said with a grin. "I admit I felt a little bad for asking you. I thought it might taste quite horrid."
"It's lovely," he said and kissed her again.
Mary sighed contentedly and put her head on his shoulder. "Thank you."
He pulled her closer. "Are you cold?"
She shook her head. "For some reason when you do that, it makes me feel very warm, almost too warm."
He nodded in understanding. He had felt the same thing.
"Perhaps you should undress too?" Mary whispered against his chest.
Matthew blushed and silently pulled his shirt off. He gasped when he felt her hands on his hips pushing his pants down. She tugged them off impatiently.
"I knew it!" she said smugly and gestured to his manhood. "Touching my private place does that to your private parts."
Matthew grinned and nodded. "How true."
He pulled her on top of him and kissed her. She sighed as her breasts pressed against his warm chest. It felt very good. She moved a little, dragging her nipples over his chest. He grabbed her hips and their eyes met.
"Can I touch you?" she whispered.
He nodded. Grabbing his handkerchief from the pocket of his pajamas he watched her close her fingers around him. He groaned and his eyes closed tightly.
Mary smiled and made herself comfortable next to his hip. She stroked up and down, watching his manhood grow. Remembering how he had liked it when she kissed it, she placed feather-light kisses all over the tip. He sighed and moaned. Wondering if it would feel good for him if she would lick him she leaned closer again. It had felt so good when he had done that to her, so perhaps a boy would like it too? She ran her tongue around the tip, her lips brushing over him as she pleasured him. Matthew jumped and gasped. She looked up at him.
"Mary? Did you..?" he whispered, eyes slightly wild. "With your mouth?"
She nodded. "Was it all right? I won't do it again if it didn't feel good."
He shook his head. "It felt wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Please, Mary."
She giggled and tucked her hair behind her ear before leaning down again. With a teasing smile she stuck her tongue out and slowly ran it around the tip. He was biting his lip, his neck muscles straining. She fought hard not to laugh at the sight of his clear enjoyment. Feeling giddy with excitement of making him feel so much, Mary moved again and then looked up at him as she opened her mouth.
Matthew gasped and his body shook at the feeling of her soft lips and wet mouth around him. When he felt his release approach he touched her cheek and she pulled off him. She watched as he wrapped the handkerchief over the tip.
"Mary!" he moaned as his seed spilled from his aching manhood.
Mary grinned and rested her hand on his thigh, watching him recover. He wiped her hand clean and intertwined their fingers. She smiled at him. When he tugged at her hand she crawled up to lie beside him.
"I assume that that was not very ladylike at all," she whispered. "I just wanted to try it."
"It was… oh Mary," he said and sighed. "I thought I might die, it felt so wonderful."
"It is very soft, and you smell clean. If you had not been clean I probably would not have enjoyed it," she said softly.
"It is important for a man to be clean there. You can get certain illnesses if you don't."
"I see," she said, even though she didn't really.
Mary again thought about her idea of the two of them doing that other thing. She sighed and curled around him, putting her leg over his, imagining that he was properly hers. He pulled her closer and she started to drift off to sleep. After a moment he shook her.
"Mary," Matthew hissed and nudged her a little. "We can't fall asleep like this. What if someone comes in and sees us?"
She sighed and sat up, covering her mouth as she suppressed a yawn. She blinked a few times before she felt awake enough. She looked at him there on her bed. He looked like a Greek statue, his youthful, tanned body so absolute perfect. She stroked over his chest and down his thigh, then back up and over his manhood, pausing to run her fingers over it before settling her hand on his stomach.
"You are very handsome," she whispered.
"I wish you could stay," she said.
"Perhaps someday I will ask you to marry me, and you will accept," he said and grinned at her.
"I think I probably would. I think I would enjoy being married to you," she said softly. Then she sighed heavily. "I cannot marry without Papa's approval until I turn twenty one. I fear that he will want me to marry before."
~ O ~
Mary smiled as she lingered in the bath the next morning. She had slept better than in a long time. Remembering the wonderful feelings Matthew had caused she sighed and sank down a bit deeper in the warm water.
"Are you ready to get out, milady?"
Mary sighed and made a face. "Yes, Rosie."
The young maid held the towel for her and quickly rubbed her down. Mary slipped her arms into the robe and returned to her bedroom to get dressed.
~ O ~
The house was quiet this afternoon. Nanny had taken Edith and Sybil into Ripon for a fitting with the dressmaker. Lady Grantham was resting in her room and Lord Grantham was out visiting a couple of the cottages with Patrick. Mary and Matthew were sitting reading in the library, neither interested in going outside.
"Would you and Master Matthew like some tea, my lady?"
"No thank you, Carson," she said and smiled sweetly at him.
He nodded and left the room, leaving the door ajar. Mary got up and walked over to the window.
"Do you want to go for a walk?"
"Are you bored?" he asked and grinned at her.
Mary turned her head and made a face at him. He laughed at her and she walked over, sitting down on his lap. He glanced at the door, but the house was still silent. He caressed Mary's cheek, trying to memorize her face.
"Will you write to me?"
"Of course!" she said quickly. "You know I will."
He nodded and looked down, taking her hand. Mary rested her head on his shoulder, sighing softly as Matthew kept playing with her fingers.
"I will miss you terribly, Mary," he said seriously.
She sat up again and they looked at each other. He gently tugged her closer and kissed her softly. Mary sighed and wrapped her arms around his neck. He held her tightly, caressing her back.
Mary yelped at the sound of her mother's voice. She pulled away from Matthew and the two stood up, facing Lady Grantham.
"Be quiet, Matthew!" she snapped. He nodded and looked down. "What is this?" she hissed. "We allow you into our home, and you repay us by seducing our eldest daughter?"
"Mama!" Mary exclaimed, shocked at her mother's angry words.
"Mary, go to your room and stay there until your father gets back."
Mary glared defiantly at her mother. Noticing the anger and shock on her mother's face she knew that this time Cora was serious. With a cry, Mary ran for the door. Matthew took a step as to follow her.
"You stay right here," Cora snapped. She sank down in a chair and closed her eyes. "What…? How could you?"
"I love her, Cousin Cora," Matthew exclaimed.
"You're too young to know anything about love! What do you have to offer Mary?"
"Nothing but my honor, and the promise to always love and provide for her."
"And just exactly how would you provide for her?"
Matthew glared at her. She held his gaze, daring him to look away first. With a sigh he looked down. "I can't," he whispered. "Not now at least."
"Exactly!" Cora got up and touched his arm. "Matthew, you're a very nice young man and I know that my daughters are all very fond of you. The truth remains that Mary has a bright future ahead of her. Do you wish her to continue to live the life she is accustomed to? The only way of life she knows. Or will you tear all of that apart?"
Matthew had tears in his eyes as he considered her words. "I will leave," he whispered. "I only want the best for Mary. Always."
Cora smiled at him and patted his cheek. "I know you do."
Matthew swallowed and took a step aside. "Please excuse me. I need to pack."
Cora watched him leave, noticing the tense shoulders and quick pace. As hurt as he was, she knew Matthew would survive and find happiness.
~ O ~
Mary paced in her room, wondering what was going on downstairs. She stopped when the door opened and her mother entered.
"Sit down, Mary," Cora said sternly. Mary sank down on the bed facing her mother with a stubborn look on her face. "I want you to listen very carefully to me."
Mary frowned. "What did you say to Matthew?"
"Mary, there's a rumor in the house that Matthew has been visiting your room at night."
Mary gasped and her face lost all color. "It's not like that," she whispered.
"So it's true then. He has been here. Alone with you?"
Mary nodded and looked down. "Yes."
"Mary! How could you?" Cora cried out and got up, pacing in front of her daughter. She faced her and grabbed Mary's shoulders. "Has he…" she closed her eyes as she braced herself for what Mary would say. "Has he violated you?"
"What? No!" Mary stared in panic at Cora. "Matthew would never do such a thing."
Cora let out a breath of relief. "Thank God for that." She looked Mary in the eyes as she rephrased her question. "Just so we are absolutely clear, Mary. He did not touch you the way a husband would his wife… to join his body with yours?"
"No, Mama," Mary said. She knew Cora would not understand, so she chose to not share everything that had transpired between her and Matthew, with her mother. "We kissed and he held me, but most of the time we just talked."
Cora nodded. "Good." She sat down next to Mary and took her hand. "You're not a little girl anymore, Mary. You're a young woman who is soon to be presented in London. Your virtue cannot be jeopardized. Do you understand?"
Mary nodded. "Yes, Mama."
"I will not say a word to your father about this, only that I caught you and Matthew kissing."
"Do you have to tell Papa?"
"I do. He will wonder why Matthew is leaving."
Mary stared at her mother. "He's leaving? No! Mama, please don't send him away. I promise to behave. I do. Just don't send him away," Mary cried.
"I must." Cora caressed Mary's tears away and held her as Mary cried. "Someday you will understand, my dear."
"I never will," Mary sobbed.
~ O ~
"What the devil is going on?"
Matthew looked up at Patrick standing in the doorway. "Nothing. I'm leaving."
"I can see that," Patrick said and entered the room. "What I don't understand is why? You weren't supposed to leave until the end of the month."
"Things have changed. I must get back home."
Patrick's eyes narrowed. "What happened?"
"Just leave it alone, Patrick," Matthew snapped.
Patrick got up and closed the door. Returning to Matthew's side he grabbed his cousin by the shoulders, stopping his pursuit of throwing socks and underwear into his suitcase.
"Patrick! Let me go."
"Not until you tell me what happened."
"Fine," Matthew huffed. "Cousin Cora walked in on me kissing Mary."
"Keep it down," Matthew hushed.
"Matthew," Patrick sighed heavily as he sat down on the bed. He made a face at Matthew. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"The way she reacted you would think that I was about to sell her daughter into slavery or something."
"Mary is Cora's most valued possession," Patrick said in a gentle voice. "She has such high hopes for her."
"Possession?" Matthew snapped. "Mary is a person, not a… thing!"
"Of course she is, but she is also a pawn in a high stakes game, just like Robert and Cora were before her."
"And you?" Matthew asked and glared at Patrick.
"And me." Patrick sighed and looked at Matthew with very serious eyes. "I know what is expected of me, Matthew. I always have. I will do my duty and I will play my role to the best of my ability."
"Duty? Play your role?" Matthew cried out in anger. "Is that how you think of Mary?"
"Matthew, please," Patrick pleaded. "I don't know what will happen, only that that is one possibility."
"You don't love her," Matthew hissed. "And she doesn't love you, well at least not the way a wife should love her husband."
"I'm sure you are well aware that people like us rarely marry for love," Patrick said in a hollow voice.
Matthew threw his hands in the air. "I'm sick of this." He turned and faced Patrick again. "Will you at least be decent enough not to pursue Mary until it is absolutely necessary?"
Patrick nodded. "I suppose."
"I will show Cousin Robert that I am worthy of Mary's hand in marriage."
Patrick got up. He rested his hand on Matthew's shoulder for a moment. "I'm sure you will. I only wish you the best, Matthew. I know we started out on perhaps not the best of terms, but I really like you. You're an honorable and intelligent chap. I'm sure you will do very well at university."
"Thank you. I appreciate that. I have enjoyed our friendship as well." Matthew held Patrick's gaze. "Look after Mary, even when she doesn't want you to."
"Always," Patrick said firmly. "You have my word."
~ O ~
"Matthew, may I have a word?"
Matthew stopped and looked up at the sound of Lady Grantham's softly spoken words.
"Of course, Cousin Cora," he said and mustered up a faint smile. "I must say I did not expect to see you again."
"Oh Matthew," she sighed and touched his cheek. "You're a good boy. I've never doubted that. Giving in to the temptation was wrong, I know you know that. Still, in my heart I can't blame you for loving my daughter." Cora looked him in the eyes. "I forgive you for your lapse of judgment, Matthew, because I know that you will do what is best for Mary."
His eyebrows shot up in surprise at her words. "Thank you."
"Someday the two of you will look back at this and smile at the memory. You will see what I see."
Matthew pressed his lips together not to say something he might regret. He knew that Cora was wrong, but now was not the time to share that knowledge.
"Perhaps." He sighed and gave her a shaky smile. "I should go, or I will miss my train."
"Be well, Matthew. And best of luck to you at university," Cora said and pulled a very much surprised Matthew into her arms.
Cora nodded and stepped back, watching him push the door open to the waiting carriage. She saw him exchange a few words with Thomas, silently wishing she knew what they were saying. Thomas looked very serious as he closed the door to the carriage. With a jerk, as the horses stepped forward, the carriage started its journey taking Matthew Crawley away from Downton Abbey. Lady Grantham stood by the front entrance until the carriage disappeared down the driveway silently pondering Matthew's future.
~ O ~
Thomas was sitting on a crate by the servants' entrance, smoking and brooding. He flicked the cigarette away, watching it land in a small puddle with a tiny sizzle. He was angry with himself for not anticipating what had happened. He had just assumed that Lady Grantham would keep an eye on Lady Mary to prevent any more late night visits. It was clearly Lady Mary who was at fault for allowing Matthew into her room at night. After all, boys would be boys, right? Thomas huffed and lit another cigarette.
An hour earlier, he had carried Matthew Crawley's suitcase downstairs to the awaiting carriage. He tried to talk to him, but Matthew only gave one word answers. Thomas could tell that Matthew was upset, and he did feel bad for a moment, being the one who caused it. It had surprised him when Matthew had not said anything about his involvement. Apparently Lady Grantham had not felt a need to inform Lady Mary and Matthew who had told on them.
"Thank you, Thomas," Matthew said and sighed. "It was very decent of you to assist me."
"Always, Master Matthew. I hope you will have a pleasant trip and good luck with school."
Matthew nodded. "Thank you."
"I hope we will see you back here at Downton soon, Master Matthew."
"I highly doubt that, Thomas." Matthew finally turned his clear blue eyes on the young footman. "I have behaved in a manner not befitting of a gentleman, and because of that I must leave, never to return."
"Never?" Thomas gasped. "But surely…"
"I'm so sorry," Thomas said and swallowed hard. "I will miss you, Master Matthew. Quite a lot, if I may say so."
Matthew gently squeezed Thomas' shoulder. "Thank you. You've been a good friend, Thomas. It was a pleasure to compete by your side in the games."
"Thank you, Master Matthew," Thomas said with a wide grin.
Matthew climbed inside the carriage and nodded one last time at Thomas before the footman closed the door. The gesture seemed eerily final.
~ O ~
Cora sat by her vanity, gently dabbing some perfume on her wrists. She looked up when Robert entered the room. He smiled at her and crossed the room to kiss her cheek.
"Did you have a good day?"
"Mostly," she said.
"Oh, did something happen that I should be aware of?"
"Matthew had some disturbing news from home. He left this afternoon."
"Without even a goodbye?"
"He asked me to convey his gratitude and to let you know that he's sorry for his hasty departure." She smiled at her husband. "Matthew felt that it would be easier on everyone, than a lengthy farewell."
"The girls will be upset."
"I know, but they would've been no matter what."
"I suppose that's true."
"Mary was quite upset. I told her that it was fine for her to have a tray in her room tonight."
"Of course," he said with a heavy sigh. "You know, Cora, perhaps it was for the best? Mary was becoming a little too attached to Matthew."
Cora could only nod. She took his hand and together they went downstairs to dinner.
~ O ~
Mary stood by the window in her room, staring out into the dusky light of the late August evening. A lone tear slid down her cheek. Matthew had been gone for three days and she missed him so much it hurt. She bent her head and wiped her cheek. Matthew would not want her to be weak. No, he would expect her to be strong, his Athena.
She walked over to her desk and opened the drawer where her new diary resided. She had started it on the night of her birthday. Sitting down she flipped to the next empty page. Uncapping the beautiful pen Matthew had given her she started to write.
Matthew is gone. Yes, my friend, it is all true. I beg you to forgive me for my lapse in writing, but my heart is aching. How will I be able to live without him? What if I will never see him again? I suppose it is just you and me from now on. At least I can trust that you will keep my secrets and not belittle me for missing him. I will tell you all that I cannot tell him.
What would Matthew want her to do? Mary stopped, her hand held still, hovering over the page. Her new pen kept the ink safely inside, preventing any ink blotches of the past from happening, while she was lost in thought. A gentle tap on her door startled her and she quickly closed her diary and slipped it into the drawer.
Sybil poked her head inside and smiled at her sister. She quickly entered and closed the door behind her.
"Sybil? What are you doing up?"
"I can't sleep," Sybil said and twisted a little, digging her toes into the carpet.
Mary got up and tossed the covers back. "Get in," she said and smiled at her sister.
Sybil giggled and jumped onto the bed, crawling across it to slip between the covers next to Mary.
Mary caressed her little sister's hair. "Why can't you sleep, darling?"
"I'm too sad to sleep," she whispered. "I miss Matthew."
Mary sighed and nodded. "I miss him too. Very, very much."
"Do you think that he will come for Christmas?" Sybil asked hopefully.
"I don't think so." She met her sister's blue eyes. "Matthew is starting university soon. He will be too busy. Perhaps he will be invited to spend the holidays with one of his friends from school. Though I doubt that he would. I don't think Matthew would want his mother to be alone at Christmas."
"How dreadful," Sybil gasped. "to be alone at Christmas."
Mary nodded. "I don't think that Cousin Isobel would be all that keen on spending time at Downton anytime soon. She and Granny did not really get along."
"It's so unfair," Sybil muttered.
"I know." Mary wrapped her arm around her little sister and kissed her forehead. "Try to sleep now. Perhaps tomorrow we can write to Matthew and you can send him one of your drawings?"
"That sounds wonderful," Sybil said sleepily, a smile playing on her lips.
Mary watched her sister fall asleep and it somehow made her feel better. They would be all right, even with Matthew gone. She was more determined than ever to stay on her parents' good side. If she played her cards right, perhaps she would see Matthew again someday. Perhaps not everything was lost, after all?
. . .
A/N: There will be a continuation to this story. It picks up a few years later, during the 1911 London Season. If you enjoyed this story, keep your eyes open in December for the third installment of this Downton Saga.
Thank you for reading, and for reviewing. I've truly enjoyed imagining younger versions of our Downton family. I think little Lady Sybil has become my favorite and I'm sad to let her go!