Sequel of sorts to my Mary point of view drabble "Sounds," this time Mary's musings about Matthew are interrupted and yet she finds an opportunity to share. 3.05 spoilers included. My gratitude to R. Grace is immense and hence this ficlet is dedicated to her.
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble,
And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth
Is the smile that shines through tears.
It is easy enough to be prudent,
When nothing tempts you to stray,
When without or within no voice of sin
Is luring your soul away;
But it's only a negative virtue
Until it is tried by fire,
And the life that is worth the honor of earth
Is the one that resists desire.
By the cynic, the sad, the fallen,
Who had no strength for the strife,
The world's highway is cumbered to-day;
They make up the sum of life.
But the virtue that conquers passion,
And the sorrow that hides in a smile,
It is these that are worth the homage on earth
For we find them but once in a while.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Mary felt the air cooling, and the once warm sweat on her body was now producing a sudden chill. She careful extracted herself from the bed and retrieved her nightgown. After she was dressed and her modesty satisfied, she daintily climbed back into the bed to snuggle her slumbering husband. Mary was exhausted from their lovemaking, but sleep was eluding her. She lay just to Matthew's side, propped up on their pillows, watching him sleep. Their bedroom had a beautiful glow about it, as the moonlight was brightly cascading through the open curtains. Mary had left her bedside lamp on, for she had intended to read a novel, but her mind could not focus. So, she stared at her husband, his face lit by these different but equally subtle illuminations, and that brought her contentment at least.
The christening of her new god-daughter, Mary reflected, had been quite the ceremonial event. Father Dominick had been kind to her, and she had enjoyed standing up in front of the family holding her niece. Mary had held very few babies since her own youngest sister's entry into their family. There had been so many moments today that would have pleased Sybil: Tom smiling, her father holding his granddaughter, and her mother's words of reassurance. And now they had another picture to cherish, a memory to frame. Isobel had suggested they start a book to collect the moments together. She said she had one about Matthew's christening and had invited her to tea to share it with her. Mary was looking forward to that invitation.
Matthew made a small hum in his sleep and she instinctively reached to touch him. Her hand, out of habit, started stroking the soft strands of his messy hair as he continued to mumble. She was fond of his sleepy mutterings; they brought her immense comfort to watch him sleep. Mary needed this time to think.
As she watched Matthew, Mary couldn't help but think of when they would christen their own child. She wondered if Isobel had his christening gown packed away in storage, for there was nothing she would like better than for their son to wear his father's gown when the time came. Mary respected the fact that Matthew was sensitive about the topic of children. However, his anxiety was unjust and unnecessary. Her darling should not worry, but she knew he would continue to until they had their own babe.
Perhaps she should confess that she didn't want to have to share him just yet, not after everything they had been through. He would make the most wonderful papa, but for now he was her husband and she was very content with just that. She was not afraid of motherhood, though she did wonder, since it seemed inevitable that their child would favor Matthew, how she would cope. Mary found her hand kept petting him and it seemed to soothe him as much as it did her. She reached over to kiss him lightly on the cheek.
A light knock on their bedroom door broke her reverie.
Though there was light in the room, she could not make out the clock's hour on the mantel. Mary knew Matthew kept his watch on the table, but instead of leaning over him and jostling him, she choice to address the situation directly. The time didn't actually matter. It was late; that was all she needed to know. So, whoever was knocking must have a serious purpose.
There was another soft knock on the door, this time a little more insistent.
"Who is it?" she called, loud enough to break the barrier of the door.
"Tom," the voice answered immediately.
Mary hated to think about the last time he had knocked in the middle of the night. With spontaneous passion, she leaned down to lightly kiss Matthew again. The love they shared was a barrier from any further dark thoughts her mind could produce about that night.
"Come in," Mary answered. But then, foolishly, she realized that she should have gotten out of bed and donned her dressing gown. After that, she should have gone to the door to talk to Tom so as not to wake Matthew. But Mary had not been able to bear the thought of leaving their sanctuary, their bed being a beacon of comfort. She had to smile at her folly, her eyes still fixed on her husband until she had to redirect her gaze at the soft footsteps entering their room.
Tom entered timidly; he looked a little bleary eyed but otherwise simply embarrassed. Mary pulled the covers up on the bed, trying in vain to hide the fact that Matthew's naked torso was visible. She wondered where her husband's pajamas had fallen and how visible they were from where Tom was standing awkwardly. She blushed and yet felt no shame. Again, her eyes were drawn to her husband as she felt Tom's eyes on her. Mary looked at Matthew who was sleeping so peacefully beside her. He was not an especially light sleeper unless he was having a fitful night of nightmares, so she could speak at her normal volume. Matthew said he had slept in France under uncertain and often very uncomfortable conditions, after all. And it had surprised her that he could fall asleep on the beach or in an arm chair all of a sudden when they were on their honeymoon. If he was relaxed, he could fall asleep anywhere at a drop of a hat.
While Mary looked at her husband, she thought perhaps she should not be so self-conscious about this situation; she was simply a married woman in her bedroom, after all. Tom would not judge her. She was slowly learning that. Matthew trusted him and Sybil had loved him. That was enough validation for her.
"How can we help?" Mary said, speaking first as Tom seemed unlikely to under the odd circumstances of his arrival.
He smiled a small grin at her assumption of assistance being required. Mary thought his smile was very reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
"Well," Tom began. "I've been celebrating with Kieran. He doesn't understand my new job, but he is happy for me. But now I could use a little more support getting him to bed…. "
Mary thought suddenly that this scenario made perfect sense to her. It was right for Tom to ask them for help. However, it also flashed in her mind how different things were now. He was an extension of Sybil in a strange way, as much as her niece was. Mary thought of her dear little sister's words about what a good man he was. She had promised to know him. In a strange way she wondered if trying to understand Tom now was a sort of atonement for how she had refused to get to know Matthew all those years ago. Mary tried to never repeat the same mistakes twice. She had vowed with Matthew to take nothing for granted. Therefore, she would bravely invest in people, and, with these people, show her emotions. Mary smiled at Tom, hoping her expression would be enough to will him to continue speaking.
Tom pulled off his black tie that had been dangling around his neck. He hastily stuffed it in his pocket. The action might have once offended her. It would have shown his distaste for the lifestyle she so highly valued. However, after the failed dinner party where Matthew and her father had so disappointed her with their attire... well her husband had tried to make it up to her. He had agreed with her that he did, in fact, believe she had every right to be downcast. As they walked up the stairs to their bedroom he whispered, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society," or so says Mark Twain.' He has kissed her, and she had been distracted by his needy arousal. Mary remembered with a passionate sensation how annoyed she had felt that her desire for Matthew had trumped all her other piques from the disastrous evening. So, it was safe to say that in some regards, yes, clothes did not matter as much to her, especially when worn by other people who were not her husband. She had taken quite an interest in divesting Matthew of his clothes after all. Mary felt her blush returning. Tom cleared his throat and she realized her mind must have been obviously wandering.
"I suppose," Tom begin, his voice slightly nervous and without its usual confidence, "I came for moral support as well as some actual assistance with Kieran. I could probably make it on my own getting him to bed, but I've been drinking too. The last thing I would want to call attention to is both of us falling down the stairs and walking up the household."
Mary did chuckle at that imagery. Carson would never be able to bear the shame of it and Papa was only beginning to support Tom as she wished he would. Tom's support for Matthew also meant a great deal to her. She was immensely pleased Tom seemed to have very good common sense on display during this current moment. His brother was every bit the rough diamond he had described him as, but a person cannot choose their siblings. Kieran's efforts were to support Tom where he could, and Mary wondered if she and Edith could ever do as much for each other.
"So," Tom said, looking rather sheepish, "I swallowed my pride and have come to ask for Matthew's help," Tom concluded. He took a step closer to the bed.
Mary looked at her peaceful husband, so securely propped against the pillows, anchored to the bed. He was completely oblivious to their conversation. Matthew looked very comfortable as he lay flat on his back, a content little smile still on his slightly parted lips. All the lines of worry on this brow were non-existent and he looked quite boyish as he lay in repose. She wanted to pull the covers up further but hated to draw attention to his obvious lack of clothing. Besides, he seemed perfectly relaxed as he was. Mary knew Matthew wouldn't like the notion that she was coddling him, shielding him from what he would see as his duty to a friend, but it was not his choice but hers to make during this moment.
"I will help you," she said suddenly and with determination.
Mary turned her gaze from Matthew to Tom, expecting him to simply agree with her plan. He had already shown he was capable of excellent common sense, after all. However, Tom looked quite puzzled. She would have to explain further, it seemed. For she was not going to wake her husband; that was out of the question. Matthew was working in Ripon tomorrow, and he needed to rest. The last thing he should be doing is helping to carry a drunken man up the gallery of stairs at some ungodly hour of the night. She was glad he was sleeping, for otherwise he would have volunteered without thinking of the possible consequences. They each had their own worries to contend with.
"I will not wake Matthew."
Mary stared at Tom, confused as to why he had suddenly gone silent. Perhaps he did not think she was up for the task, and perhaps she wasn't so, she offered a different solution to appease him.
"If you require a man I will ask Matthew's valet." Mary paused to make sure Tom was taking in what she was saying.
"Moseley idolizes Matthew, and since he seems rather afraid of me, he would follow my orders."
"Oh, I see," Tom said his voice taking on a sudden reverence. A tone of appreciation that she hadn't heard in any of his earlier words, but it was a tone she recognized from when he spoke with her sister. Mary looked at Tom again, and this time they shared a different kind of look. Mary knew he understood. She knew he had talked to Matthew the night before their wedding. Tom had been standing beside Matthew not just at the altar, but at her bedroom door. Tom had implored her to listen; now it was her chance to do the same.
The simple sentiment of loving someone so immensely flowed between them. They had that in common. Tom had loved Sybil the way that she was in love with Matthew. Mary diverted her eyes to look at Matthew again. She was helpless, it seemed, to avoid wanting to take in his slumbering face. Tom's question, therefore, took her by surprise.
"Does his back still bother him? I'm sorry I didn't think about that…"
Mary wondered if such a forward question would have once upset her, for it assumed a lot about private matters that were none of Tom's concern. But, everyone knew of Matthew's injury, though they never spoke about how it might still affect him. The subject mortified Matthew, she knew, because he couldn't bear the pity or perceived inadequacy they might label him with. He was completely healed, and only on rare occasions had any discomfort from his old injury. Matthew had privately become quite fussy about preventing any back pain twinges. When the weather changed, he needed an extra-long, hot bath, and he always slept flat on his back. It was his obligation, he playfully had teased her, having said that he was a married man with many responsibilities.
Mary thought carefully about how to word her response to Tom. It was an emotional subject. She had to keep her mind sharp and in focus or her heart would rule her head.
"No, his back does not bother him," she said looking back at Tom. Mary's hands fidgeted with the bedspread nervously. "But I am his wife and it is my job to look out for him."
Before the conversation would continue with Tom's reply, Matthew's sleepy noises returned. The sounds that Mary so loved and treasured that were unique to him. Matthew clicked his tongue, and with a soft rumble of his breath, he muttered a string of nonsense words. It brought all of Mary's attention back to his relaxed face, and she felt tears prickle in her eyes. She had an audience, once again, for Matthew's idiosyncrasies. The only word she could distinguish from his mutterings was her own name hanging in the air.
She had stayed with Matthew when he first arrived at the village hospital, almost two years ago. Sybil had washed him, removing the filth and blood that marred his battered body, and she had been in awe of her little sister. And as the morphine had fled his body, Matthew had constantly spoken gibberish. Dr. Clarkson and Sybil contented this was from the drug in his system, but it had not seemed right to Mary. She thought, with a flood of affection for her little sister, how Sybil had not contradicted her when she insisted that it wasn't the drugs that made him produce such sweet little noises. No, that was just who he was. She had never had the opportunity to tell Sybil, I was right. This is my Matthew and I knew it all along, somehow I just knew. Mary had thought they had plenty of time for shared moments. She brought her hand up to her suddenly quivering lips. Now it was her turn to feel embarrassed as she tried to regain her composure in front of Tom, her mind having wandered again.
When Mary looked at Tom, his expression reflected the trust that was between them now. He stood patiently, his expression concerned. Mary thought of the promise she had made in the Catholic Church in Ripon when he had trusted her with his daughter; she could trust him with this moment. Mary understood he wouldn't think less of Matthew or ridicule him. She did not have to be so sensitive about sharing the love she had for either Sybil or Matthew.
With a rush of gratification that at least she had, in fact, retrieved her nightgown and been dressed before his entrance, she willed herself to move forward. Mary felt a little exposed as she gently extracted herself from her bed with Matthew. As she reached for her dressing gown, she spoke again to Tom, her back turned as she tied the sash.
"Now, let's get this sorted for you. And …" the words stopped on her lips.
Tom stood still; his posture was upright and strong. He seemed much more sober than when he had first entered their bedroom. Mary swallowed the lump in her throat. She had never been able to share her victory with Sybil about Matthew's sounds. But now perhaps she could tell Tom. He had loved Sybil, and she had loved Sybil. Mary hoped that, if she shared the story, it would not only bring her comfort, but would share another piece of Sybil with him.
"Yes?" Tom asked respectfully. His hands were now clasped behind his back.
"If you like, will share a story about Matthew that I never had the chance to tell Sybil."
Thanks for reading! I've love to hear what you thought of this continuation story!