Rating: PG-13 (this chapter)
Spoilers: Season 1 & 2 trough the Christmas Special

Disclaimer: Any names off characters you recognize from Downton Abbey are not mine. All original characters do however belong to me. Fanfiction is in my opinion the ultimate form of flattery to a screenwriter :)

Special thank you to the lovely Tambear for catching missing commas, odd grammar and offering excellent suggestions & advice!

Also, thank you so much for the lovely reviews and for favoriting/following this story.

The Rightful Heir

Chapter 22 – A Modern Downton Wedding

On the morning of the wedding, the house was in a flurry of activity. Over in the nursery Nanny and Sophie had bathed and dressed the seven children, and were now watching them carefully to ensure no damage occurred to their fine outfits.

Lord Grantham had escaped downstairs as soon as he was dressed leaving his wife in O'Brien's capable hands.

"Good morning, Carson."

"Good morning, your lordship."

"Have you seen Mr. Crawley this morning?"

"I have, my lord. He and Mr. Branson left a little while ago."

"Good, good."

"The Dowager Countess arrived a few minutes ago. She's in Lady Mary's room."

Lord Grantham stopped and met the butler's gaze. "Oh?"

"Her ladyship brought the Crawley tiara for Lady Mary."

"Of course," Robert said and sighed. "I'm sure that there will be a while before we see any of the ladies down here."

Carson nodded and turned to the buffet as Lord Grantham took a seat at the table.

~ O ~

Anna stood over to the side watching as the young maid secured the tiara on top of Mary's head. Her fingers itched to help. The woman was clearly struggling, and appeared to be quite nervous. Anna looked around and smiled to herself. At one point she would also have been nervous being under the scrutiny of Lady Grantham, the Dowager Countess and Lady Mary's sisters, but so much had changed since those days. Her head snapped back to watching Mary when Mary yelped.

"I'm sorry, milady," the woman said and gently removed the bobby pin.

Mary nodded and sighed. Anna stepped closer.

"If I may?"

"Oh Anna, you're not here to work," Sybil said quickly.

"I know," Anna said and smiled. "But I'd consider it an honor to assist Lady Mary with her hair on her wedding day."

Mary smiled at Anna in the mirror as their eyes met. She nodded. "The honor would be mine, Anna. Thank you."

The maid stepped aside and busied herself with Mary's dress. Anna gently touched the tiara on Mary's head. Feeling it slide a little she readjusted it and started to secure it with little pins. Soon the conversation was flowing in the room again and Anna smiled to herself as she arranged Mary's soft hair. When she looked up and met Mary's eyes in the mirror, she blushed, embarrassed, when she realized that Lady Mary had been watching her.

"It feels just like old times again," Mary said softly. Anna's gentle fingers calmed her, where the nervous maid had just made her already frazzled nerves even more on edge.

"I think I've actually missed this," Anna said with a chuckle. "I can't wait until my little Mary gets older and I can fuss with her hair."

Lady Grantham chuckled and smiled at Anna. "Daughters are a pleasure."

Anna met the countess' eyes and nodded. "They are."

~ O ~

Sybil and Edith had left with Anna, wishing Mary good luck. Mary found herself alone with her mother. The two smiled at each other.

"Oh my darling," Cora whispered. "I am so happy for you. You're marrying a good man, and one who loves you."

Mary nodded. "I know that was not the case for you, but you found love eventually."

"I did," Cora said and smiled. "The thing is, Mary. I married for love, and I married a good man. Sometimes it takes men a little longer to figure these things out."

Mary nodded. "How true." She still remembered the pain from when Matthew had withdrawn his proposal that horrible day of the garden party, only moments before the world as they knew it would be forever changed.

"I wish that I had believed as much as you did, darling," Cora said and cupped Mary's chin. "To this day I feel guilty for trying to keep you and Matthew apart when he was injured."

"Oh, Mama, let's not dwell on those sad memories," Mary said and closed her eyes. "Not today."

"Of course." Cora brushed her lips against Mary's cheek. "You are so very beautiful, my daughter. I could not be more proud of you."

"Thank you."

"As much as I know that you don't want to hear about your Papa's and my intimate moments, just know that you have such fun days ahead of you," Cora said with a teasing chuckle. "I know that you once rolled your eyes at us for sharing a bed, but trust me, darling, it is heavenly. Don't turn him away. You will regret it."

Mary laughed and nodded. "How naïve I was back then. I can assure you, Mama, sleeping next to Matthew is one of the things I look forward to the most."

"That, and other delightful things, I'm sure," Cora teased, her eyes twinkling.

"Mama!" Mary's face felt warm at her mother's frank words.

"As you said the other day, you do have a child, so you know how these things work. And I'm sure you remember exactly how fun it can be."

"Mama," Mary groaned. "Will you please go downstairs and keep Papa company? I don't think I can take more of this right now. You must know that I have no wish to know about you and Papa."

"Of course, dear." She kissed Mary's cheek again and cupped her face. "There is one thing that you should know, Mary."

"What's that?"

"Just like William, you were a child conceived out of love. We might not have married for love, but your Papa and I found it."

Mary's eyes widened a little at this information, and the realization of just how deep her parents' feelings for each other actually were. "Thank you for telling me. It makes me very happy."

Cora smiled and then quickly left the room, leaving Mary to have a final moment alone.

~ O ~

Mr. Carson gasped where he stood behind Lord Grantham as the two watched Lady Mary descend the stairs. The tiara glimmered in the morning sun making her look every inch the noble woman she was. She stopped on the stairs and smiled at them.

"Will I do, Carson?"

"Very nicely, my lady."

She laughed and continued downstairs. Lord Grantham's eyes were a little shiny as he smiled at her.

"You look beautiful, my dear."

"Thank you, Papa."

"Well, we better hurry, or Matthew might start to worry."

~ O ~

Mary smiled and waved as the carriage passed by villagers and visitors on the way to the church. To her surprise camera flashes surrounded them as soon as her father helped her out.

"Lady Mary! Why are you getting married again if you already married him in New York?"

Lord Grantham stopped and faced the journalist who had shouted the question.

"Sir, I beg you to show some respect. Today is my daughter's wedding day."

"She's supposed to already be married!" someone else shouted.

"A church wedding is still possible even after having had a civil service," Lord Grantham barked.

"Papa, please," Mary whispered. "Let's just go inside."

With Alfred flanking them on one side and Thomas on the other, Mary hurried towards the doors holding on to her father's arm. Once the doors closed behind them, leaving the crowd and flashing cameras on the other side, they both sighed in relief.

"I'm sorry, my dear."

"It's fine, Papa. I'm used to it. They are even worse in America."

Lord Grantham huffed.

"Your lordship," Thomas said gently. "Are we ready?"

Lord Grantham looked at Mary. She smiled and nodded. Thomas held up his arm to Alfred who whispered something to one of the ushers. A moment later music started.

"The only solace for my aching heart is that you're marrying a good man," Lord Grantham said and patted Mary's hand where it rested on his arm.

"Oh Papa," she whispered. "Don't make me cry."

He chuckled and kissed her cheek. Together they started up the aisle towards Matthew and her future.

~ O ~

The photographers were still there when Mary and Matthew exited the church. Ignoring the flashes, and again flanked by Downton staff, the two hurried towards the car. Mary let out a sigh of relief as the door closed and the car started to move. She glanced at Matthew, noticing the confused look on his face.

"What is it? Don't tell me that you regret it already."

His eyes widened and his grip on her hand tightened. "Of course not! How can you even joke about that?"

"I'm sorry, darling."

Matthew smiled and caressed her cheek. "How does it feel to be a properly married woman?"

"I don't know actually," she said with a chuckle. "I don't think that it has really dawned on me yet."

"Then by all means, please allow me to remind you of all the delights and privileges."

Mary laughed as he kissed her, pulling her close.

~ O ~

The wedding luncheon had been a festive and intimate affair. It was unusual to have young children present at the dinner table at Downton, but Mary had requested it, insisted in fact. As the meal came to an end and toasts had been made in honor of the couple, Carson opened the doors to the grand hallway, allowing music to filter through. Mary looked at her parents.

"What is this?"

"Surely you know that we cannot have a wedding without dancing?" Cora teased.

Matthew got up and offered Mary his hand, leading the way, as the two of them along with their family and guests gathered in the grand hallway. Mary laughed in delight at the sight of the musicians. Unlike the string quartets of her parents' gatherings in the past, the five were clearly a more modern version. If nothing else, the presence of the stunning, exotic singer made it more than obvious.

"Goodness me," Matthew said in surprise when the woman's soulful voice filled the room.

"I think this is when you ask me to dance, darling," Mary teased.

Matthew nodded and led her out to the middle of the room. He pulled her close as they came together.

"It was your mother's idea, you know," he whispered in her ear.

"So you knew?" Mary pulled back and stared at him.

Matthew nodded. "Are you terribly cross with me?"

She smiled then, unable to do anything but. "Of course not. I'm delighted that you know me so well."

In honor of Lady Mary's wedding, and due to it being such a small event, Lord Grantham had invited the staff that could be spared, to join the dance. As the family and friends joined Mary and Matthew, several of the staff members filled the floor.

The Dowager Countess let out a surprised and slightly nervous laughter at the sight of Thomas and Edith doing the Charleston. Isobel chuckled next to her.

"It's so much fun to watch the young people, would you not agree?"

"Perhaps. I'm just glad that I am far too old for making a spectacle like that out of myself."

The music changed to a waltz and Lady Grantham nodded, pleased with the, in her opinion, more suitable music.

"Cousin Violet, may I have this dance?"

She smiled at Matthew and took his offered hand. "Thank you, Matthew. It's very kind of you to release your bride for a moment, in favor of whisking an old woman around the floor."

"You will never be old, Cousin Violet," he said with a chuckle.

"Isobel?"

Robert smiled at her and offered her his hand. "As the father of the bride, may I have the pleasure of a dance with the mother of the groom?"

"I'd be delighted!"

Cora watched from over on the side. She was pleased that Robert had asked Isobel to dance. Letting her eyes wander from couple to couple, the countess took in all their familiar and dear faces. Mary was smiling at Evelyn as he said something for her ears only. Matthew had a steady grip on the Dowager Countess as he slowly eased her around the floor. When Cora turned her head, she noticed that she was not the only one watching Lady Mary dance. Carson was standing across from Cora, his hands clasped behind his back as he fondly watched Mary as she moved to the music. Cora slowly made her way over to him.

"This is a very happy day, Carson."

"It certainly is, my lady."

"I believe that you owe my daughter a dance, Carson," Cora said with a teasing chuckle.

Carson turned his head and met her twinkling eyes. "I am content, just watching, my lady."

"Nonsense, Carson. You have always meant more to Lady Mary than any of the others." Cora chuckled as she remembered something Mary once said. "Did you know that she once told me that the two of you would run away and join the circus? She was about six or so and she was so angry with me."

Carson chuckled. "That explains why she wanted me to give her some of his lordship's silver."

They looked at each other and shared a smile.

"So you see, Carson, you are family to us, and especially to my daughter. Please don't disappoint her. Ask her to dance."

Carson sighed and nodded. Straightening up he crossed the floor and tapped Evelyn Napier on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, Mr. Napier, would it be possible for me to cut in?"

Mary looked at Carson, surprised that he of all people would ask a gentleman to step aside. Spotting her mother's smiling face behind Carson she nodded in understanding.

"Oh Carson, of course you may. Mr. Napier was starting to get tired of me anyway."

Evelyn chuckled and released her. "Be my guest, Mr. Carson."

"You look very beautiful, my lady."

"Thank you, Carson."

They were silent for a moment as he confidently led her through the dance.

"Are you happy?"

"Oh, Carson," she sighed and looked up at him. "I'm so very, very happy."

"That makes me happy too."

A firm tug on Carson's tails startled him and he looked down. William smiled up at him.

"Excuse me Mr. Carson, may I cut in?"

Carson chuckled and stepped back. "You certainly may, Master William."

Mary smiled and squeezed Carson's hand. "Thank you."

William held out his hands to Mary and she smiled at him as her son very seriously tried to lead.

Matthew chuckled at the sight of the two together. He swung Sybil around when she tried to crane her neck to see what had him so amused.

"Oh god," she gasped. "William is such a charmer."

"Excuse me; may I have this dance with my wife?"

Matthew turned and grinned at Tom. "Of course. It was a pleasure, Sybil."

Releasing Mary's sister into the arms of her husband, Matthew slipped through the dancing couples to where Mary and William were still dancing. Grabbing his son he picked him up before pulling Mary close.

"Perhaps I may join this dance?"

Mary laughed and nodded. With one hand on his shoulder, and the other around William who Matthew now had in a secure grip on his hip, Mary smiled at the two.

"My handsome men," she said fondly.

William giggled. Matthew whispered something in his ear and the boy leaned forward and kissed Mary's cheek.

"Thank you, darling."

The little family kept dancing, no one feeling the need to cut in, just content at watching them.

~ O ~

Sybil and Anna had whisked Mary upstairs to change out of her wedding dress. Matthew sighed as he watched the three leave.

"She's not going anywhere," Tom teased and elbowed Matthew.

"Sod off," Matthew muttered, causing his brother-in law and best man to let out a barking laugh.

Their friendly banter was interrupted by Nanny who was trying to corral five excited children upstairs. Sophie smiled at them as she passed. Matthew ruffled William's hair and the boy smiled at him.

"Nanny says that we need to play in the nursery now," he said and made a face.

"I'm sure that you'll have a lot of fun."

William nodded and took Sophie's hand.

"How about a game of pool while we wait for the ladies?" Evelyn suggested.

Tom put his arm around Matthew's shoulder and the three headed in the direction of the game room.

~ O ~

Mary sighed as Anna and Sybil eased the tiara and veil off her. She started to remove the pins from her hair, and her eyes fluttered shut as her hair fell down from its elaborate arrangement.

"God that feels good," she sighed.

Sybil chuckled. "Why don't you just cut it shorter?"

Mary's eyes flew open and she stared at her sister. "Are you mad? Matthew would never forgive me!"

Sybil grinned and squeezed Mary's arm. "You might be surprised. Tom said pretty much the same thing, and now he just loves my hair."

Mary met Anna's eyes in the mirror. "What do you think, Anna? Should I cut my hair?"

Anna shook her head. "It would be a crime. You have such lovely hair, my lady."

"Anna," Sybil huffed and rolled her eyes.

Mary giggled and held out her hand to Anna. "I could never have asked for a truer friend than you. I know we started out much different, Anna, but please know that I have not thought of you as a servant in a very long time."

"Thank you… Mary," Anna whispered, truly touched by Mary's words.

"Now will you two please help me out of this ridiculous outfit?"

The three laughed together. In no time Anna had Mary out of her dress and by the time Mary was in her new suit, the three talked like old friends while Anna arranged Mary's hair.

~ O ~

"I'm not tired," William muttered as he climbed into bed.

"Just try and close your eyes," Sophie said and smiled at him as she tucked him in. "Do you want me to read you another story?"

He shook his head. Sophie had read three books this evening. Snuggled up at the foot of Violet's bed she had spun the tales of naughty rabbits, clever trains and heroes fighting monsters. His cousins and Jimmy were already asleep. Martin had only lasted till the end of the first story. Violet had fought until the bitter end before her eyes closed in sleep, followed a moment later by Michael and Jimmy.

The door creaked opened and Mary slipped inside. She smiled at the two as she quietly crossed the floor to sit next to her son.

"I'll be right next door, Lady Mary."

"Thank you, Sophie. You've been wonderful today."

"Thank you, my lady."

"Can't you sleep, darling?" Mary asked and caressed William's hair.

"I'm not tired," he said, stubbornly.

"It's been a long day and tomorrow you're going over to Auntie Edith's to play. Remember?"

He nodded and fingered the edge of the sheet. "Where's Papa?"

"He's downstairs with Poppy. We're about to go in to dinner soon."

"Oh." William let out a heavy sigh.

"Do you want him to come up and say good night?" He nodded. "I'll ask him," she promised.

"Why aren't you and Papa coming with us tomorrow?"

"Because we have so many things to do before we move into Crawley House," she said cheerfully. William was much too young to understand the importance of the coming day, the first she and Matthew were to spend as a married couple. "You would be so bored listening to us talking about packing and furniture and so on."

"I guess," he said and sighed again.

"How about in a couple of days, you and me and Papa take the motor into Ripon and have lunch there and go to the toy store, and perhaps even see a matinee?"

"Can we?" he asked eagerly.

"We will," she promised. Mary bent down and kissed his cheek. "Now let me go down and get your Papa. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, darling. Sweet dreams."

"I love you, Mama," he whispered and hugged her.

"And I love you, my darling boy."

William smiled at her as she waved to him, leaving the door slightly ajar as she left the nursery.

~ O ~

Matthew hurried upstairs. When Mary had come up to him only to tell him that his son wished to say good night to him, he had felt his heart burst with love for them both. Thinking about his little family, he eased the door open more. William was on his back in his bed, one arm across his chest, the other curled around his head. His eyes were closed and he was breathing evenly. Matthew sighed, feeling slightly disappointed that his son was asleep.

He sat down and stroked the boy's hair. William's eyelashes fluttered and it made Matthew smile because it reminded him so much of Mary.

"Papa," he said in a sleepy voice.

"Hush, my boy," Matthew whispered. "Go back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

William nodded and closed his eyes again. Matthew kissed his forehead and rested his hand on William's soft hair for a moment before getting up. With a last glance at his sleeping son he closed the door to the nursery.

~ O ~

Dinner had been festive and intimate, conversation flowing smoothly and laughter echoing in the room. Afterwards they had all gathered in the drawing room. Sybil had commandeered the gramophone and music played in the background as they enjoyed their after dinner drinks.

Lord Grantham bit the inside of his cheek not to laugh at his new son-in-law and daughter and the looks exchanged between the two. Mary and Matthew might think that they were discrete, but every person in the room knew that should they disappear, the couple would barely miss them.

Noticing Sybil and Tom get up, Cora smiled as her son-in-law gently pulled his wife close as they moved to the music.

"Robert, I think you should ask me to dance," she said cheerfully.

"Why?" he teased. "When you're so very good at asking yourself."

"Oh, just do it," she huffed playfully.

"My dearest Cora, would you join me for this dance?"

"I would be most delighted, Lord Grantham."

Robert smiled and offered her his hand. The two came together with the ease of a couple who has danced together many times in the past. She fit perfectly in his arms and her feet moved in unison with his.

~ O ~

"Do you think they would miss us?"

Mary bit her lip at Matthew's husky whisper in her ear. "I think they probably would."

"I was afraid that you would say that," he said with a heavy sigh. "It's just that I've had more than enough of your family for one day, and I so wish to spend some time with just you."

Mary's cheeks turned a little pink and she smiled at him. "Oh Matthew."

"I love you, you know," he said a bit cheekily.

She nodded and moved closer in his embrace, her cheek brushing against his. "I can't wait for you to show me."

Matthew swallowed at the words said softly in a husky voice. "Then come."

She pulled back and met his eyes. His Crawley blue sparkled with life and excitement, only to darken as she moved against him. He steered them towards the door and without a word they slipped out and hurried upstairs.

To be Continued...