A/N: Happy (almost) Monday! After a flash of inspiration last night, here at last is the continuation of a long running project between EOlivet, Silvestria and myself to somehow work smut into every episode of S1. Alongside 1x02 (see Fuel on the Fire, and With All The Time In The World for its continuation...), and 1x04 (Entails and Embers), I was tasked with 1x05. It's been stumping me for months, but at last I've managed it, and here it is! Many thanks to EOlivet for her encouragement and polish, and to Pemonynen for helping me through my grumblings at how to make this work!
As she watched his darkened figure disappear into the night, her sister's words rang mockingly in her ears.
Even you can't take every prize… Is that a challenge?
And in trying to take that challenge, in her stupid pride, she realised… that she had lost it.
The thought shocked her. Did she consider Matthew, then, a prize? Cousin Matthew, who hardly knew how to behave properly in her kind of company, and… oh, such a thought was impossible, but in that moment she only knew that the thought of his disappointment – and that she had caused it, she could read him well enough to be sure – was somehow unbearable.
Propriety stayed her hand for a moment, but as second after endless second dragged by and the unaccustomed ache in her heart grew, she found herself surrounded by cool air and moonlight as she walked quickly after him.
"Matthew? Wait a moment – please," she called, glad for the darkness to cover her cheeks, flushed from the exertion of having caught up to him.
He turned, eyebrows high in surprise as he tried to quickly school his expression back from the wretched disappointment etched across it only seconds before. But it was difficult to mask.
"Cousin Mary, I… What are you doing? It's frightfully dark, and –" He glanced over her shoulder, realising with a shock just how far she had come from the house, almost into the trees. He couldn't imagine why. He didn't want to, he thought bitterly; he'd only be wrong again.
She smiled bravely. "I… hadn't expected you to dash off so quickly after dinner! It seemed rude to let you go without saying goodbye properly." She saw him frown, unconvinced, and tried to be more direct. "Is everything quite alright?"
"Quite." His smile was thin, his voice tight in his throat. "I just had a rather nasty headache come on suddenly, and thought the walk might clear it. So if you'll –"
"I hope you hadn't thought me rude –" Mary snatched his chance to bid her goodnight, stepping more closely towards him, desperate to ease his mind before he left. She could see, it was written so painfully clear in his features, that she had hurt him. She was aware enough of her own charms to know that, that she had allowed him to be encouraged by her flirtation and how she had seemed to then dismiss him without thought… They had been beginning to get on rather well after all, they didn't need to be at odds, not really – and she couldn't let him leave until she was quite sure the damage had been repaired. If only it could be. She tried to pass it off with a smile. "You see, I had this sort of bet with Edith…"
"I see. And did you win?" Matthew's eyes fixed her with a bitter challenge, and the air around her seemed to chill even in the summer balm as every last idea she'd had of him as a dull, insensible city boy withered into realisation that he was more astute, more… sensitive, than she'd ever thought to give him credit for.
Mary shrugged, her smile cooling.
"I'm honestly not sure."
The silence between them hung for an endless moment, as each watched the other, reassessing everything they thought they'd known, everything they'd come to believe, unsure of what was now the truth between them. There was no more defence Mary could offer, and there was none he would be willing to hear.
The stillness broke sharply when Matthew turned away, and Mary felt her gut drop for a sickening second as she thought he would really leave without another word. But he'd only moved one pace, barely two, before whipping back around to her, his hat in his hands as he gestured, a distressed frown creasing his brow.
"D'you know, Mary, just for a moment I thought…"
He stopped, and pursed his lips, and she watched him, his hands flexing at his sides. He thought what, he considered bitterly. That she'd… liked him, been interested in him, even? His mind raced back over their moments together over the last months, as he considered her sharp beauty and her sad, dark eyes set into pale, luminous skin. She had smiled at him, she had… flirted with him, he was sure. And he was a damned fool for having considered for a moment that it had meant anything to her… that he had meant anything to her. God, why should he?
Shaking his head derisively, he stepped back. "It doesn't matter what I thought. I was wrong."
"No, you don't – you don't know that," she cut back, stepping forward again and this time reaching for him, feeling the rough, thick wool of his coat beneath her gloved fingers. It seemed to shock him enough to stop, and she took a breath. Edith might have wanted her to lose, but Mary Crawley didn't lose; at least… not if she could possibly help it.
"Don't I?" he snapped. "If you could – oh, it doesn't matter."
"It does matter!" Her fingers tightened on his arm, and she pushed away the flush of shame she felt at the impropriety of their situation. "At least, if I've… given you any false impression, I would like the chance to correct it. You must agree that's fair, Cousin."
Steadfast, he glared at her, desperately aware of the grip of her fingers through his coat, stifling him now in the warm summer night. As his cheeks coloured, he was pleased of the darkness to cover it, for he couldn't admit… surely… He couldn't own to the ridiculous notion he'd had.
He laughed without humour. "On the contrary. I believe you've already corrected my impression of you this evening, Mary."
The sting of his words was proved in her gasp, and her hand fell away. Instantly, Matthew missed it, and cursed himself for doing so.
"Then I demand the opportunity to explain myself! Because you don't understand me, if you think I'm so callous as to not realise when I've been stupid," she countered, dimly aware of her voice rising in agitation at the spectacle he was forcing of them. She'd known he was stubborn, but… this was fast proving intolerable. She argued because it was in her nature, because she couldn't let him get away with such words, even though she hardly knew how to explain herself. Truthfully, she wasn't even sure she wanted to, as such an admission was… strangely terrifying.
Her honesty, raw and unashamed, softened Matthew.
"I didn't think you were… stupid," he said quietly, and she leaned imperceptibly closer to hear him. "I thought that… Mary, I can't…"
Shaking his head, he would not speak further. It didn't seem fair, or right, to say what he'd come to realise this evening. However true it might be. However, Mary understood him well enough, and her eyes sharpened in response.
"I know exactly what you thought, Matthew," she said with a cold awareness, and suddenly she was close again, and neither of them were sure how, only that she was, and they couldn't look away from the depth of the other's eyes. "You thought that I was cruel, and unkind, and… frivolous with my… attentions. You thought that I'd given you cause to imagine that –" She took a deep breath, suddenly faced with voicing the prospect, knowing that once she had… it could not be taken back. Nothing, once done, could be taken back… She knew that, and shook her head in resignation. "I can't say it. But I was stupid – thoughtless, and yes it probably was unkind – but most of all stupid. I'm sorry, Matthew."
She shivered, feeling suddenly very small and vulnerable and cold, and… then feeling his fingers against hers, twining together with them, warming her. Glancing up, she frowned, unable to read his expression.
"Why are you sorry?" he asked.
"Because I always apologise when I'm in the wrong." A wry smile touched her lips, just gently, as she remembered saying that to another man… and considering that Matthew was far nicer than he had been. She realised it without regret, and it… pleased her. "It's a habit of mine."
Matthew watched her, and closed his eyes, slowly shaking his head, fixing on the tangible feel of her hand in his. It helped, though he wasn't sure… how.
"I still don't understand," he whispered. He was trying to, trying to understand her and believe her but after this evening it was so difficult to. To assume anything from her words would only cut him more, he knew that now.
Mary swallowed. With his eyes closed, she took the new opportunity to study his face, shadowed as it was in the darkness by the leaves of the trees above them. It gave her a thrill to realise, for quite the first time, just how handsome he was… and how tender his expression, how much he meant what he said, how deeply he cared for things that she hardly would have imagined.
Very carefully, she spoke. "You were right… before. About before, I mean. If you'd thought that we'd been getting on better, we had. If you thought I enjoyed your company, I did – I do. If you thought I'd flirted with you… I had. And if you thought for a moment that my consideration towards Sir Anthony was anything like my consideration towards you, you'd be very wrong. That's all."
Strangely lighter for having admitted it, she watched him with breathless anticipation, the gentle frown over his forehead as he listened to her words. They washed over him, each seeming to strike more meaningfully with his eyes closed. He'd been right. She had flirted with him, she enjoyed his company, she… knew what he had been intimating, he was sure of that, and she had confirmed it… His heart fluttered with possibility, before the memory of her cruel charm to poor Strallan intruded again and he wished…
"How can I be sure of you?" Opening his eyes slowly, seeing the seriousness of her expression and trying to believe it, his breath trembled between them. And he saw her shoulders drop, heard her sigh of desperation. "God knows I want to be–" he exclaimed, and–
His eyebrows shot up as she kissed him, the sudden heat of her lips pressed to his lancing through him. Every nerve in his body lit and sharpened, and he couldn't think, not beyond her mouth, and her hands on his face, her palms warm and smooth on his cheeks.
When she pulled back, breathlessly flushed and… utterly, devastatingly beautiful… his lips remained pursed in the impression of their kiss, his eyes wide in shocked delight.
"There," she whispered, and her breath rippled through his whole body. She simmered with pleasure, amazed at… how enjoyable that had been. "Will that convince you?"
Matthew licked his lips, feeling weak, almost dizzy with uncomprehending need. He couldn't answer her, was incapable of any response, she'd… kissed him, Mary… and the world seemed to crash around him as, seeing that the mute shake of his head was not a dismissal, she kissed him again.
And… again, and again, and at last his senses awoke and he responded, pulling her flush against him as her mouth opened to his and invoked a blinding need in him that he couldn't think to resist.
The world around them drowned out under the impossibly sweet sound of their lips slipping together and apart, their breath coming in quick gasps between each taste, their hands whispering against hair and fabric. The sharpness and newness of pleasure, of realisation, of the undeniable truth of this, overtook them entirely and yet it was not enough. The newness of arousal, a stronger and more powerful feeling than any Matthew had felt in his life, seemed at once impossible to satisfy as Mary's fingers raked through his hair. He was too hot, burning with desire, and as he met her eyes in the brief pass before their mouths met again they realised the same thought and worked together to shunt the heavy coat from his shoulders. The soft noise of it dropping to the ground behind was masked by the groan that hummed in his throat as his tongue touched to hers.
His arms tightened around her, pulling her closer, swaying together. They swayed, stumbled back, gasping sharply as Matthew's back thudded against a tree that lined the path, losing themselves in the darkness of the shadows there. When Matthew's hands roamed lower, and lower, seeking fulfilment to the craving he hardly knew how to satiate, the pull of her hips so sharply against his made his arousal evident to them both. Mary's back arched as she felt him, her head snapping up in shock but… the movement only exposed the slender, elegant length of her neck, and when she saw the look of unadulterated, helpless passion in his eyes in the moment before his head lowered to taste her throat with his tongue, her own pleasure wreaked from her lips as her eyes slid shut.
It was insensible and utterly impossible, certainly improper (they could barely consider how much so), and yet… if they'd have thought at some point to stop, or that they should… it was far too late to do so. Each told themselves they might… One more kiss, one more sipping taste of soft lips, one more touch of previously unknown skin… but then one more, and one more, and still one more, and the delight of discovering each other and the glorious heat that flared between them was simply impossible to set aside for the sake of propriety, or sense.
As they turned, and Mary felt the sharpness of bark against her back in contrast to the warm pressure of Matthew at her front, she pulled him impossibly closer. Their lips clashed together in a feverish kiss, and she hummed in delight as he tugged the long, silken gloves from her hands. Her newly bared fingers delved into his hair, twisting into a fierce grip that made him gasp and his hands fist tighter into her dress, the material bunching and raking higher as they writhed together in search of a closer embrace.
"Mary…" he groaned weakly, his lips falling to the heated, damp skin of her neck. He couldn't properly voice his need, vocalised wordlessly into the crook of his shoulder, and she answered him with her fingers, teasing open first his collar then brazenly his trousers, as her mouth closed hotly on the delicate skin of his throat.
"It's alright," she breathed, her voice soothing him as he jerked at the feel of cool air and then her fingertips, the touch so different from any he'd known before. "It's perfectly alright… Matthew…."
He eased back to look at her, overwhelmed by the tenderness of her passion, and humbled by the knowledge it was for him. When only minutes (was that all it had been?) ago, he'd thought… he hadn't known what to think, hardly did now, he couldn't think… and his eyes rolled up as she touched him again, a luxuriant smile gracing her moistened, swollen lips.
"If you're… sure," he gasped, and as his eyes fluttered open again Mary knew that he would stop, even now, if she were to ask him. He would, she knew, for her… and it was that, more than anything, that convicted her that stopping was the last thing on earth she wanted to do.
Emotion and passion closed her throat, and she could only murmur, "Please…" And with a low, unrestrained grunt of pure need, Matthew answered her plea, thoughtless instinct in possession of his limbs as he dragged her dress up around her hips… lifting her into place as he thrust up and their sharp cries of pleasure joined along with their bodies in heady fulfilment.
Her legs tightened around his waist in a desperate effort to draw him deeper, as if he might somehow reach the fire blazing within her, and as he thrust again she cried out at the roughness of the bark at her back.
Matthew's eyes flew open. "Oh, God…" he gasped, "Mary, I…" And then he was silenced again by her lips closing over his, parting with them, arms wrapping tightly around backs as they swayed together. He felt his knees go weak, and he carefully stepped back, grinning breathlessly as she clung to him still, their kiss barely breaking for a moment as he lowered her carefully to where his coat would shield her from the raw dirt of the ground. It was… better, there, and with his arms freed from holding her up he indulged to graze his hand up the smoothness of her thigh, shuddering as she arched up to meet him.
The night air covered them as they writhed together, there on his coat on the ground, under the trees, lost in the rapture of understanding each other in this most wondrous of ways. And the sounds of the night, the whisper of the breeze through leaves and the quiet murmurings of nature masked their gasping cries and breathless shouts, thoughtlessly unrestrained as their movements quickened desperately. Her fingers clutched at the sweat-coated skin of his back under his shirt, marking him, more sharply as his hand tightened on her hip then slipped between them, and his thumb brushed against her so intimately alongside the quick pump of his hips, and again, and over and over, that she shrieked and quaked in bliss. The feel of her tightening around him, of her body shaking in his arms in release, swept over him… his head dropped against her shoulder, each shuddering breath warming her neck and quickening until he lost control, bucking against her as he cried out and trembled, his body weakened from spent ecstasy.
They lay together… limbs tangling together and fingers twining together and lips brushing together, in delicate expressions of appreciation. Their dampened skin began to chill in the cooling air, and as Matthew felt Mary shiver a little, he eased up on aching arms and pulled her to sit, his coat rumpled beneath them still. Tenderness ached in his chest, no, more than that… he loved her, impossibly so; he'd dismissed the thought as foolish before, but… God, how wrong he had been. He pulled her into his arms, stroking her back warmly, kissing the top of her head as he felt her nestle against the crook of his neck. Somehow, it felt as gloriously intimate as what they had just done, and he could barely comprehend it.
Mary recovered her voice first, enough to whisper, "Are you sure of me now, dear Matthew?" She eased up so that he could see her gentle smile, and he kissed her softly.
"Quite… quite sure," he breathed. "Though I'm afraid… we've hardly made a proper start to things, I'm… sorry–"
"Heavens, don't!" she pressed a finger to his soft, swollen lips and her smile widened. "Don't apologise. At least you can hardly accuse me of thinking you a dull boy anymore, wouldn't you say?"
"No, I… suppose," he chuckled, and the sound warmed her heart happily. She couldn't regret this; this or him, not when she knew how twisted and shattered and wrong this could be… but with him, even like this, she could only feel a perfect sense of wholeness.
As for Matthew, who felt just as wonderfully sated and complete, the beginnings of sense (though without regret) were beginning to prick back into his consciousness. He stroked lightly at her cheek, looking at her more seriously. "Mary, I… I mean, would you consider… If I were to speak with your father–"
"Please, not now," she hushed him with a chaste, sweet kiss. "I would certainly consider – you can hardly doubt my regard for you now! – but don't speak of it yet, not tonight. Anyway," she raised an eyebrow, "you can hardly see him looking like that!"
Matthew looked down at himself, and laughed, comforted by her reassurance. He couldn't know how she fought the immediate burden on her heart of knowing what she must face before accepting him, of what she knew at once that she must tell him before anything else… but it was too late to worry about that for tonight, and she would not spoil this moment of perfect bliss with her lover… with Matthew.
"At least let me walk you back to the house," he murmured into her hair, "darling…"
To hear such an endearment on his lips, for her, made her heart clench with emotion and love for him. She nodded, and allowed him to help her up, and curled her hands around his arm as they walked back together. There was so much yet to face, and yet… for now, at least, she could be happy in the comfort of his love. She would not consider, not now, how much she might (must, even) disappoint him again; more so than she had this evening that had brought them to this in the first place… She could not.
For now, she knew at last that she adored him, as he did her. For now… that must be enough.
A/N: Heeee, there we go! I have missed S1, you know. It was kind of lovely to come back to. I hadn't seen any since S3 began, and when I watched some M/M scenes for inspiration this afternoon, I was fast reduced to a sobbing wreck at how gorgeously young and naive and brilliant they are! Anyway... I very much hope you enjoyed this little venture, and I'd so appreciate to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for reading :)