A/N: I have no idea how this happened. Well... I was in the car, and Classic fm was on, and it was a Strauss. I adore Strauss, and my headcanon is that M/M also adore Strauss, after dancing to a Strauss waltz at the Servants' Ball. I then thought what a shame it was there isn't more (actual) music in Downton, and wondered what had happened to the 2x08 gramophone, before remembering it was from Lavinia's relatives, and.. yeah.. awkward.

And out of nowhere, following from that thought... came this.

Thanks to EOlivet as ever for her support and polish!

Enjoy :)

A Song And A Dance (Or Two)

He wasn't even aware that he was doing it.

He'd been doing it all evening, as they'd walked upstairs to bed after dinner, as he'd taken his dressing gown off and hung it neatly over the back of the chair, as he climbed into bed and settled comfortably beside his wife with a book.

It was a half-familiar strain, not quite coherently formed, the odd snatch ringing faint memories that did not reach his conscious mind.

"Darling," Mary murmured softly, eyes already closed as she nestled against his warm, familiar shoulder. "You're humming."

"Am I? Oh."

And it stopped with as little notice as it had started, self-consciousness colouring Matthew's cheeks as he kissed the stop of her head. "I hadn't even noticed, sorry. But… it does remind me, that I've been… thinking."

"Hmm? What about?"

Her question was cursory, polite, as sleep already thickened her words; and Matthew eased down to lie facing her, fingers lacing naturally together between them. He watched her blinking slowly at him.

"Well I only thought… that it'd be quite nice to have a gramophone in the house… again. Do you think your parents would mind? I'd rather like for us to get one."

He licked his lips, and she knew what he was asking. Not, would your parents mind, but would you mind, because the last gramophone in this house was a wedding present for… and we…

"Yes, I think that's a lovely idea," she smiled and set him at ease. "It would be nice to have more music in the house."

"Oh, good." He lifted her hand to his lips, letting gentle kisses feather across her knuckles. "I feel as though we haven't danced in far too long."

They'd danced on their honeymoon, again and again, with music or without, with propriety or without; they danced in ways they'd always known… and new ways, that they learnt together.

It was a happier memory, and he saw it in the twinkle of her eyes, but… she was not too tired to lift an eyebrow with a wry quirk.

"So we haven't. But what would it be… Strauss? Or music from more shows that flopped?"

His mouth went dry, heart racing as he remembered that dance, that music, her warm, slender body in his arms…

We were a show that flopped.

It was an uncomfortable thought, an unpleasant memory, of horrible times and hurt both inflicted and felt. Their eyes locked together, dark against blue, as fingers twined tighter.

But they were here, and…

We were… almost a show that flopped.

They had been, they would have been, if Lavinia had not… died. But as forgotten memories stirred between them, breathless and unspoken as if that might disguise their reality, they remembered that though they could not be grateful for the tragic death of a pale, sweet girl, there were… other things, so many more, that might have prevented this moment, this reality, in a warm bed in their own room with the grounding truth of touch.

If Lavinia had not died, yes, but… if Patrick had not, either. If William had been one step back, if he hadn't borne the brunt of the shell's blast. If what there was of Richard Carlisle's heart had not been put aside and rejected.

Seeing each other through the haze of memory, regret and pain, though, they knew… that there was far more they could feel guilty about than a dance and a kiss, to a song on a dead girl's gramophone.

And perhaps they should, but... then…

"Oh, darling…" Matthew gasped, fingertips seeking the soft reassurance of her cheek, her skin, her warmth.

We… are not a show that flopped.

They might have lost each other, so very many times. So very many things had come between them. So very nearly… this might not be.

Mary watched her husband, saw every so dearly familiar contour of his face and the exact colour of his eyes, noticed the shift from regret, to acceptance, to appreciation. And she smiled, and tugged him tighter to her, the second passing in a blur that separated them before they came together in a desperate kiss that she needed as much as she knew he did.

They needed it, each other, to remind them… that this was real. This was alright. This, they need not be sorry for, for this… and their touch, and their bodies, and their breathless gasps, and the murmur of lips on skin, was pure, and true, and right.

So many times, they had come so close to losing each other. And the only thing they could do was to find each other, wholly… together… complete.


A/N: Only a short little one, but it is what it is. Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love to know what you thought! Thank you :)