A/N: More from me... I can't seem to help myself!
Let's face it, I haven't written smut for AGES, and this episode was absolutely demanding of it. How exactly did Matthew and Mary go from a shouting, vicious argument and sulking in bed to "You look marvellous!" and being all smiley the next morning? Well, this is my attempt to explain... :P
HUGE thanks to EOlivet for inspiring this and her polish, and Pemonynen for helping the idea along... Enjoy!
Make or Break
The silence was louder, more deafening, than it ever had been before between them.
And it wasn't just silence; it was the imposed physical barrier of his back and her folded arms, and his pyjamas and her nightdress, and the layers of sheets and eiderdown staunchly between them.
Mary's quiet sigh was loud in the darkness, as she reflected miserably that they seemed to have a rather depressing tendency for falling out on the eve of weddings. Thank God Edith was the last of them to be getting married, and then there'd be no more on the horizon to threaten them. Weren't weddings supposed to be happy occasions?
Her eyes slid sideways in the darkness to the rigid outline of her husband's back and shoulders. His wedding to Lavinia, that never went ahead… Their own, that so nearly was not… And now Edith's, and once more it was heralded by them with bitter words and accusations that, however soon regretted could not so quickly be forgotten.
But she couldn't even be angry; frustrated, disappointed, yes, but most of all just… desperately, desperately sad. It was unfair and difficult and coming between them and… she felt the hot, stifling pressure of a sob rise up her throat and clamped it down, pressing her lips together and a hand over her mouth as she breathed through it.
Beside her, Matthew lay glaring stonily at the wall several feet away. His own breathing was loud in his ears and he was desperately, uncomfortably aware of Mary's slightest movement behind him. His body ached with tension… Where only weeks ago her presence had been a warm, arousing comfort, her physical closeness and separation now served only as an unbearable reminder of the conflict between them. That they were not the blissfully newlywed couple any more who had returned from France barely able to keep their hands or lips from each other, unable to resist the enticement of such newly discovered intimacy… No, now they seemed only a bitter married couple who argued and went to bed angry and whose cursory kisses in the morning had become a matter of expectation rather than desire.
He felt sick, quite honestly disgusted with himself, and then… horribly sad. It wasn't Mary's fault that he couldn't accept the letter. It was his problem alone, only… it wasn't, because the ramifications of it affected not only his wife but the whole family, the whole estate. Matthew glowered in the darkness, tucking his arms more brusquely around himself. It wasn't as though he wanted to ruin them! But… how could it be true?
True or not, though, it… didn't change the hurtful things he had said. And as the silence grew ever louder and broken by his own unsteady breaths and the painful, controlled restraint of his wife's that only signalled her distress, he couldn't bear it any longer.
He twisted a little.
His low voice was soft and sad in the darkness, and Mary's hands dropped to her sides, her eyes remaining wearily closed. So he was still awake, too.
He was silent for a moment, before rolling awkwardly over to face her. In conciliation she shifted to her side as well to face him, though the cold space between them seemed as impassable now as it had done for a week or more.
She could make out the glint of his eyes in the moonlight, disappearing as he blinked, the soft features of his face and neck slowly highlighting in the pale glow.
"I didn't mean it, you know. Of course, I… know that you'd never do such a thing. I am sorry that I said it."
Mary blinked. "I accept your apology, darling, but you absolutely did mean it, so don't pretend otherwise."
"No, it's alright," she sighed. "So long as you do believe me... Matthew, that letter is–"
"Please, darling, I… believe you, of course I do. It just seems… impossible. And I was angry, but that's no excuse, or… it shouldn't be. I'm sorry."
She smiled weakly. "It's a perfectly reasonable excuse. I'm sure I would've been angry too if you'd read a private letter of mine, though I know you never would so I suppose it's beside the point. So you see, darling, I was dishonest enough for that."
"Don't be silly," he shook his head fondly. "There was nothing dishonest in it, considering you told me. I only wish I could believe what it says."
Mary watched him carefully, feeling an unsettling sort of calm. She couldn't quite place whether or not this was a fight; it didn't seem like one, and yet… they were still no closer to agreeing. Though…
"Do you?" she asked quietly.
He laughed softly. "Of course, my darling. I don't… want to ruin the family, you know. Or your happiness."
"No, if I… could believe it, darling, I would – save you with open arms. Not – that you've ever needed me to save you," he added quickly, smiling.
"Flattery won't get you anywhere," she mocked him gently, lifting her eyebrow. For the first time, she felt herself begin to believe him, and the slightest flutter of excitement awakened in her chest.
"Sorry," he said. "It makes me desperately uncomfortable, you must know that. But if the letter were true, if he did know… then, it… wouldn't seem quite so wrong, perhaps."
Almost without thought, his hand found hers in the yawning space of empty sheets between them. The touch was a lifeline, more secure than their words, and they clung to it, fingers twining together.
"What did you mean by… not yet it won't? Change your mind, I mean," Mary asked, quietly. "Matthew, if there's any way–"
"I meant… that I can't accept it simply because I would like to, darling. If… I don't know, it could be proved somehow – but it's impossible, Lavinia's room was cleared of her things and there was no letter, we'd know–"
"Then I will prove it," she leaned desperately closer to him, as if her nearness could convict him of it all the more. "Whatever it takes, Matthew, I will prove it, because there is no other explanation."
"Well I didn't write it, and you didn't, and considering no-one else knew what went on beyond the three of us it simply must be true, don't you see that?"
"My darling," he sighed, bringing his face closer to hers, shivering at a closeness they had denied to themselves in recent days. "However much we might both want it to be true, that will not make it so!"
Mary held her breath for a moment, her eyes pressed closed, before exhaling slowly. This would not escalate again, they would not go to that miserable, wretched place again.
"You are a stubborn creature, Mr Crawley," she breathed against his lips, before she'd quite realised how close they now were. "But let us be grateful this once that I can be a good deal more stubborn, when I choose to be. Now…" she wriggled the rest of her body closer, hands stroking past palms to arms to clasp breathlessly at shoulders. "Stop talking and kiss me, before I get really cross."
His murmured assent of, "God, yes," was lost against her mouth as they came passionately together. Mary was utterly determined, and the determination gave strength to her passion, because she loved him and would not see his guilt drive them into misery.
Tension that had riven them apart for near on two weeks now suddenly shattered, and the slightest touch was fire. Their hands were everywhere, reclaiming, rediscovering, and each searching kiss and dip of tongue was like the sweetest first taste of water after a drought, for it was what they needed, what they could not possibly exist without. They moved together, asserting and yielding, taking, giving, hands shaking in barely controlled restraint of anticipation as nightclothes were tugged and flung aside and skin bared then covered with mouths and palms.
"Oh darling," Matthew groaned warmly against his wife's neck, shuddering as her fingers reached between the warm press of their bodies to pleasure him, "Can–"
"Don't you dare," she gasped, arching up as his mouth lowered to her breast, fingers twisted tightly into his hair. "Don't ask, just… do… ah!" Her lips curved into a helpless, indulgent grin as his hot tongue lavished over her breast, his lips closing and sucking, fingers teasing up her thighs, and it was… unbearably arousing. After what felt like so long, her body had ached for him; more than that, every pore of her skin and soul, and the distance between them had been torture, and now… oh, he wasn't perfect, but neither was she, and this… was the perfect apology, the perfect understanding, that communicated for more than their misjudged, thoughtless words.
She crawled over him, crushing her lips to his in a hot clash of searing, searching tongues as he grasped her hips with desperately shaking fingers. Matthew's eyes opened and he saw his wife so tantalisingly over him, the desire in her eyes, and wondered how he deserved this, orher. If he could give back to her, if he could accept it, if he could give to her everything she deserved, for everything she gave to him… God, how he wished he could. But he couldn't pacify his conscience with a wish, it wouldn't be right, and… oh, God, he didn't want to think of thatnow! But in that moment his wife's fingertips stroked over him, her mouth hot on his belly, and coherent thought vanished from his mind.
She curled over him, and for a moment he was driven too irrational and senseless with need at the warm pressure of her lips so tightly around his body, her fingers caressing in harmony, his hips jerking helplessly up to meet her mouth to comprehend anything else. His loud groan speared the darkness, and the pleasure was too much to bear when he was threatening to cost her so much. He didn't deserve to take, or even accept, only to give what he could, and he could give her this, at least… and tugged wordlessly at her shoulders till she rose, her lips glistening as she smiled at him, and then he tugged at her hips, and didn't stop until he'd wriggled completely beneath her, knees spread either side of his head as he leaned up to kiss her in the most intimate way. His firm hands anchored her hips there, and she shrieked in pleasure, knuckles white as she gripped the headboard so tightly to steady her shuddering body. His tongue was warm, soft, incessant as he licked at her, his lips closing over her with just enough pressure before his mouth opened and he tasted her so deeply and eagerly as if he could not survive without her. Her back writhed above him in agonising bliss, her lips parted in a silent, endless cry of ecstasy, and when he lowered a hand to stroke two searching fingers against and into her body she convulsed and cried out loudly, hips bucking helplessly against his mouth.
Their breath escaped in ragged, panting gasps as he held her, supported her as she lowered and eased her body down to cover the length of his. Her arms wrapped around his neck and his around her back as they kissed, languidly, deeply, expressing their adoration together until arousal began to drive out exhaustion, and her hips rolled against his with greater intent.
One pleading look, one breathless, assenting nod, and he was within her, hips driving powerfully up as if he might drive out all the wretched, frustrated tension that had marred them for so long. She whimpered into his neck, gasping at the feel of his palms grazing over the slick, slender curves of her back and hips, of his body beneath her, within her and filling her and taking her. However he frustrated her, and she no doubt frustrated him, this… in this, they would always find harmony. She eased somehow up to her knees, bracing her palms against his as their fingers laced together, and their eyes locked together in dark passion as she rocked over him, relishing in each glorious, powerful roll of his hips up to meet her. She was strong, and he was hers, and she would prove the letter's truth, and he would take action, and she lovedhim.
In intimacy fostered by the darkness and the moonlight, their desperate movements quickened, hips thrusting and rocking together and making their bodies shake with arousal. It was too much and she fell against his chest, and his arms tightened low around her hips as intensity speared and movement became instinct. Ever quicker, ever deeper, each hard thrust together an apology and a promise and a commitment; that however much they might argue in the future (and it was doubtless they would), they would never again sacrifice this in the name of stubbornness.
His palms were slipping against her skin, her fingers anchored upon his shoulders as their breathless, intensifying moans were muffled against beating pulses. She dimly heard her name on his lips, and his thrusts quickened until the sensation rolled over her in ever more powerful waves, each merging and clashing together until it became one whole, glorious, overwhelming pressure that flooded her with unthinkable ecstasy and her body tightened in his arms, releasing with a breathless, shuddering cry that rang again and again. And he did not stop, and she kept crying out, her face buried in his neck as he panted louder with exertion, jaw clenching as his body splintered apart within her with one long, thundering groan that calmed at last into a quiet, exhausted whimper as he hugged his arms around her and grinned.
She eased up and covered his face with soft, gentle kisses, and he brought her hand to his lips, fingers stroking tenderly up and down her bare arm as he kissed her. Then at last, when she'd recovered enough to move, she nestled down to curl against his side, her long braid hanging forward over her shoulder. She twisted it contentedly between her fingers, her arm resting upon his chest.
"Thank you, my darling," Matthew whispered into the darkness.
She smiled, and leaned up to press her lips to his warm neck.
"Don't worry my love, you're not getting off that easily. I will find the proof to ease your mind, you can be quite sure of it."
"Darling, please…" he sighed, rubbing his thumb idly across her knuckles. "Can we just… be happy, for Edith, for tomorrow? Please, and then–"
"Oh, darling, hush," she chided him with a gentle smack to his midriff. "That is absolutely what I intend."
In the darkness, he blinked, held her closely to him, and hoped desperately that she was right. There was time enough, still, to worry about the letter… but for now, just for tonight and the next day… they could find it within themselves, like this, to be at peace.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! I do hope you enjoyed it :) I'd love to know what you think, and I'm just SO PLEASED they're happy again (regardless of how lazy the letter was..) - thank you! :) :)