This chapter is dedicated, in part, to krisnreine. Enjoy chapter 5!
"You have got to be bloody kidding me!" Matthew exclaimed.
"I'm sorry Mary but I just can't listen to this anymore!" Matthew shook his head. "Our parents are lost, they could be wounded or hurt, and we are discussing time travel as if we are in some sort of novel!"
"Well what if he's right?" Edith objected.
"I'm sorry but I agree with Matthew on this one," Branson replied. "I may come from a country of legends and myths but the concept of time travel is a little too much for me to handle."
"Well are we just to send him home then?" Mary threw her hands up in exasperation.
"Look, it was very nice of you to come out…" Matthew started.
"I really believe we should hear him out," Thomas interrupted.
"THOMAS! How DARE you interrupt a superior?!" Carson boomed.
The room erupted then. Everyone was shouting at someone, and no one was shouting to anyone. Mrs. Hughes put her hands to her head and shook it quickly.
Everyone stopped then, turned to the housekeeper, and gaped. "I think we are all being incredibly rude," Mrs. Hughes returned to her normal tone of voice and spoke with formality. "This gentleman has come all the way up here to assist us and we are all shouting. I think the least we can do is hear him out."
The man smiled. "You are quite kind. However, I can't begin to allow my services if the family does not…"
"You have my permission to stay," Mary stood up straighter. "Please go call your doctor friend."
The man grinned sheepishly. "I already called him, actually. He should be here any moment."
"You already….?!" Matthew started.
"I think the situation is more serious than you all realize," the man interrupted. He looked worried and checked his watch again. "When did they disappear?"
"This morning," Edith stated. "We discovered their absence around mid-morning."
The man shook his head. "It's been almost twelve hours. This is…." He was interrupted by a knock at the door. He ran out and answered it himself.
Thomas' friend greeted the man at the door quickly, and the two of them turned and ran up the hall steps together. Everyone filed quickly out of the library and followed them up to Lord and Lady Grantham's room. The doctor stood by the bed, staring at it. He had no instruments in his hands.
"John, where did your instruments shut off?"
John directed the doctor over to Cora's side of the bed and pointed. The doctor held his hand out and John placed a pen in it. The doctor leaned over and then stood up straight and put his hand out again. John placed a piece of chalk in his hand and he leaned over again.
Carson turned to Mrs. Hughes who glanced at him and shrugged.
"Would you care to explain what on earth you are doing?" Matthew asked, with a rather fearful tone to his voice.
"John was right to call me," the doctor said. "Lord and Lady Grantham have, indeed, been transported into time."
"Would you care to show us some proof?" Branson asked.
The doctor gestured to them. They all gathered on the other side of the bed. The doctor had drawn a circle in chalk, about the size of a sink. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and placed it in the chalk circle. It sat there for a moment and then vanished.
Everyone gasped. Mrs. Hughes put a hand to her mouth.
"Where did the pen go?" Mary exclaimed.
"Wherever your parents are," The doctor sighed. "I can't begin to speak of this as if I'm an expert on the topic, but I firmly believe that your parents are lost somewhere in time."
"How!?" Edith cried.
"This, as I'm sure, John explained to you is a time portal. We are not sure where they come from or why but….has there been a lot of death in this house?"
Everyone nodded silently.
The doctor sighed. "For whatever reason, they tend to appear where there is a lot of death. This isn't always the case…and I can't begin to explain why."
He glanced around the room quickly before continuing. "They can be of various sizes. This one is rather small; I've seen portals that are as wide as this bedroom."
"The one Mama and Papa went through is rather small," Mary remarked.
The doctor sighed. "That is the issue. This one is really only large enough for one person to enter. But, for whatever reason, both your parents went through it.
"What does that mean?" Mrs. Hughes asked.
"I find it easiest to compare a time portal to the human stomach," he replied. "Our stomach is a certain size from the outset. When we eat, it stretches to hold the food we've eaten, which is a normal part of the human body. If you overeat, your stomach starts stretching too far."
"If you continue to eat more than your stomach can handle, it will attempt to stretch beyond it what it can handle. At which point, your stomach generally ejects the food to make room."
Everyone made a disgusted face. "But how could this possibly apply to Cousin Robert and Cora?" Matthew asked, his voice now one of impatience.
"The time portal is small. It is only large enough for one person to fit through. However, two people entered it. Which means that it's stretched beyond capacity. Have any objects around the house been disappearing?"
"YES," Edith's eyes opened wide.
The doctor nodded solemnly. "It's attempting to stretch itself out, so that it can hold both Lord and Lady Grantham."
"But the portal is in here," Carson jumped in. "The only things that have disappeared are Lady Grantham's. And the objects have been disappearing around the house."
"I believe that she is the subject of the time travel," the doctor answered. "In other words, she was the one that fell into the portal. And for whatever reason, she dragged Lord Grantham along with her."
"But how is that possible?" Mary asked.
"I can't be entirely sure. There have been instances where someone in one part of the world will enter a portal and a spouse or a child on the other side of the world will then vanish as well. In other instances, a person will fall through and their spouse will not go along with them."
"This is entirely too bizarre," Matthew interrupted. "This is so wild a story I don't think I can believe it."
"Well you better begin believing it, because they are in trouble," the doctor said, rather harshly. "This portal will not be able to hold both of them for long, and it will eventually either collapse inwards or eject them."
"But that would bring them home," Branson finished.
The doctor shook his head vigorously. "NO. If it ejects them, they will be sent to a timeless limbo. They will cease to exist."
Robert's face broke into a relieved smile. He turned to his wife. "Do you see what this means?! They know we are here!"
"So…you know who John and Anna are?" Aaron asked, his face dumbfounded.
"Of course!" Robert exclaimed. "Bates is my valet and Anna is our daughter's lady's maid!"
Cora's face too, registered relief and she smiled slightly, the first one that he had seen all day. It made him feel so much better.
Laura and Aaron exchanged another glance. "How could you possibly…"
"We've somehow managed to travel through time," Cora stated, rather sheepishly. "We've no way of getting back."
Aaron stood up then and turned to his wife. "Are you hearing this?!"
Laura merely blinked and then shook her head quickly. "I think we need to do as your grandparents say."
"Time travel?" Aaron frowned and looked Robert and Cora up and down. "And I'm supposed to believe that these two are not drug addicts?"
"You mean…you don't know how to help us?" Cora's face fell.
"No I don't bloody know how to help you! Laura…this is insane! We are listening to a letter that…"
"Aaron! Can you please just….stop for a second?!" Laura cried. She turned back to Robert and Cora. "What happened?"
"We woke up this morning in Downton Museum. It was 1920 when we went to bed. They chased us out of our own house and we were forced to escape through the woods." Robert re-iterated. "How do we get back?"
Aaron rubbed his hands on his face and then turned to Laura and back to Robert and Cora.
"The letter just says to give you a place to stay," Laura picked it back up. "And that's what we will do. Nothing more. What you are saying is so outlandish I can't…." she paused for a moment. "It's not that I don't want to believe you. I do. But there is no proof of what you say."
Robert's eyes flashed and he opened his mouth to speak, but Cora interrupted him.
"We understand," she said quietly, glancing down at the floor. "We deeply appreciate what you are doing for us."
"Aaron's grandparents were good people," Laura spoke again. "Good, hardworking people. They were of a generation that faced hardship and prejudice. They didn't have much, but they cared deeply for their friends and family. If they really wrote this letter, and you two are really their employers, they loved you very much."
Cora tried to suppress her tears, but it did not work. They started rolling down her cheeks and she had to sniffle.
Suddenly feeling incredibly guilty, Robert closed his eyes briefly and then re-opened them. "How long are you willing to house us?"
"A couple of nights," Aaron stepped in, his face softened by his wife's speech about his grandparents.
"I'm sure that we can figure out how to get back home by then, can't we Robert?" Cora turned to her husband.
"I have every confidence," he breathed.
"I'm sure that you two are tired and ready to retire," Laura smiled and gestured upstairs. "The first door on the left is your room. There is a shower, and we will have breakfast prepared in the morning."
"Thank you," Robert spoke sincerely. He reached his hand out and Aaron paused for a moment before shaking it. Laura did the same.
They headed for the steps and stopped briefly, as Robert swiveled back around. "And do you…do you have something for a headache?"
Cora stood in front of the mirror, holding her dirty scratched dress in one hand and the jeans in the other. She'd finished showering and now Robert was in there. As much as she loved baths, she was beginning to think that perhaps she preferred the shower. The hot water pouring over her head made her feel invigorated. It washed away so much of the anger that she had been carrying with her all day.
Now, she had a choice. She knew Robert would be angry if she put the jeans on, but she could not bear to put the awful dress back on either. Not after that shower. She placed the dress on the nightstand and held the jeans up in front of her. She stepped into them and attempted to pull up. They were tighter than she realized. She hopped up and down in a circle, trying to get them up over her hips. She stopped then and buttoned them, pulling up the zipper. She gaped at herself in the mirror.
They hugged her at the hips and it made her legs look thinner. Cora was never one to pay attention to the size of her hips. But in these pants…
She bent over, picked up the flowered shirt, and put it on. She shook her head. The shirt cut low, exposing the tops of her breasts. She couldn't decide whether she felt beautiful or licentious. Sighing, she turned and picked up the comb on the vanity and started combing out the knots in her hair. It was times like these that she wished it was short. She only kept it longer because she knew Robert preferred it. She started humming then as she pulled the comb through her hair.
She didn't hear Robert exit the bathroom. He appeared out of the corner of her eye in the mirror and she jumped, placing a hand on her heart. She turned around then and then almost started laughing.
He was grumpily rummaging through their bag and stuffing the suit in. He had put the jeans and the t-shirt on after all.
"Aren't those clothes much more comfortable?" Cora crossed her arms, amused. He stood up straight, opened his mouth to speak, and then froze. His jaw dropped open.
Cora frowned slightly. "Robert….? What is the matter?"
He continued to stare at her, a strange look on his face.
"Robert…?" She tried again.
He closed his mouth slowly and then shook his head as if he were trying to clear cobwebs from his brain. "I apologize. I guess I just wasn't expecting you to put those pants on."
Cora blushed slightly. "I didn't expect you to either." The jeans slimmed him too, and the shirt exposed his biceps. She was not about to admit how turned on she was all of a sudden.
"Are you…." He walked towards her and then stopped. "Are you still angry with me?" His voice got quiet and he glanced down at the floor.
Cora sighed and put her head in her hands briefly before picking her head back up. "I….no. I don't suppose I'm very angry. I am tired. Perhaps we should just get some sleep."
Robert's face fell slightly and he followed her to the bed. They climbed in and lay there, neither of them moving to turn off the lights.
"Do you really think that we will wake up back in our own bed?" Cora asked. Her hands rested lightly on her stomach and her hair was splayed out across the pillow. Robert turned his head to look at her, desperately trying not to look down at her chest. It was getting more difficult by the moment. "I think there's a good chance."
"But what if we don't?" She turned over onto her stomach and faced him, the way she normally did.
He sighed and turned over on his side so that his face was in the same direction as hers. "Then we come up with a new plan. Maybe we should try to find one of our grandchildren."
"I'm scared to," Cora whispered.
"Because…what if we find out that they've all died? Or that Mary and Edith die when we are still alive? Or that…." She stopped and closed her eyes, trying to steady her breathing.
Robert instinctively reached up and stroked her cheek. Her hand shot up and covered his hand and she opened her eyes. "I don't think I can handle anymore death."
"We will make it through this, I know we will," Robert tried to be reassuring, but he wasn't sure how convincing he was being.
"Will we?" She whispered.
He leaned in and kissed her gently. She stared at him for a moment before suddenly shifting her weight and throwing her arms around his neck. Her body was pressed close, too close to his.
She interrupted him by pressing her body even closer to his. And he knew. He leaned in and started kissing her neck, the way she liked it.
Her body arched instinctively and she moaned slightly. Then everything was a haze of flying clothes and tangled limbs.
This was too much for Edith to bear. She put her head in her hands and started to cry softly. Glaring at the doctor, Mary walked across the room and enfolded her sister in her arms. "Is there a reason you must be so harsh?"
The doctor sighed. "I'm terribly sorry. I'm not trying to be…"
"Well you're doing a fine job of it!"
The doctor put his hands up in peace. "Listen. I know this is difficult for you all to believe and difficult for me to explain, but this is real. Time portals are a normal part of this world."
"If they're a 'normal' part of this world, then perhaps you'd care to explain why none of us have ever heard of them?" Mrs. Hughes spoke up, her voice one of disapproval. Carson glanced sideways at her. Her face was set in a hard line and she kept glancing uneasily at Lady Edith.
"If we went around telling people of the existence of time portals, what do you think would happen?" He put his hands on his hips. "People would attempt to enter them and change time. Except no one would realize how to get back and we would be stuck with masses of people in limbo."
"Limbo…limbo...you keep mentioning this limbo…" Branson interrupted. "What is it?"
"I've never been there, thank God," the doctor responded. "But from what I know of it, it's a vast timeless place."
"Yes, timeless. There is no past, present, or future there is only the current. There is no means of telling time because time doesn't exist there. And if there is no way to tell time, there is no way to measure a human life. When you're there, you are nothing."
"And you're saying that Mama and Papa are there now," Edith picked her face up from Mary's shoulders and wiped at her eyes angrily. "You're saying its hopeless!"
"No! I never said that. In fact, I know with certainty that your parents are not there."
"How could you know that?" Matthew interjected, his face still betraying the anger he was battling.
"Because we still know who they are. If they were in limbo, we would have no memory of them."
"But they…they can't just…! What about Lady Mary and Lady Edith?" Carson interrupted, his voice suddenly shaking as he looked over at the Crawley daughters. He gulped. He could manage without Lord and Lady Grantham. But not them. Not his girls.
The doctor shook his head quickly. "It's not as simple as all that. Lady Mary and Lady Edith are already here. If Lord and Lady Grantham end up in limbo, their daughters can't just disappear."
"How can Mama and Papa just stop existing then? And not us? How are they any different from us!?" Edith cried.
The doctor sat down precariously on the bed. "What many people don't realize is that every person is made up of two parts: the body and the mind. Some people like to call the mind the soul. Regardless, these two parts make us who we are. We cannot be one without the other. The body is of this world. It's physical. It is trapped in time, always moving forwards. Our bodies, by definition, can only age. Can only continue to grow older."
"The mind, on the other hand, has no tangible form. Many believe that the mind, or the soul, will go on to an afterlife after death. The mind is not trapped by the confines of time the way the body is. A person who is forty years old, can easily act and carry themselves as if they were twenty. The mind is not forced into the aging process."
"However, this poses a problem. When a person time travels, their body and their mind are along for the ride. The whole person. Now, this is not an issue for the mind. The mind can travel wherever it desires and be whoever it wants to be. The body, on the other hand, does not have such freedom."
"If I were to travel two years into the future, my mind would easily be able to adapt. My body could not. It would get confused, because the stage of age my body is in belongs to October of 1920. However, my body would eventually catch up; it would just take some time. If, however, I were to travel much further into the past or the future, there would be a terrible problem."
The doctor got up and began pacing. "I was born in the year 1890. Let's say that I am meant to die in the year 1960. I can't be sure of this, but let's say this is the case. If I were to travel back in time to 1889 or forwards to 1961, my mind and body would come with me. My mind would adjust rather easily to the adventure, but my body would struggle with the task."
"While, originally, when I moved forwards two years in time, my body eventually caught up, and everything was fine. But if I travel outside the expanse of my existence, when my body eventually catches up to its time period, it would not be able to sustain me. I do not exist in 1889 and am not meant to exist in 1961. Your body is trapped within its linear time frame. If this happened, I would no longer have a body and my mind would be sent to limbo."
"Surely there is a way to retrieve people from limbo," Mary whispered, her voice registering the fright that began to dawn on her face.
"It's been done, but it is a complicated process and not one I am entirely comfortable with. It is dangerous. Retrieving time travelers is a much simpler procedure."
"So what are we to do?" Edith responded. "How do we get Mama and Papa back? Do you know where they've been sent in time?"
"I'm afraid I don't. There is no way of knowing, and there is only one way of retrieving them."
"What is it?" Almost everyone in the room said at once.
"Someone will have to go in after them."
That chapter may have been a little confusing (hopefully it wasn't!). If there's anything you don't understand, feel free to send me a PM and I'll be happy to help!