A/N: This was never meant to take so long - in the time since you've heard from me last I've won an election (and also sort of lost an election), made a jaunt out Parliament way and seen out a kind of nerve-racking leadership spill; too much real politics and not enough fiction.

I've also been slowed somewhat knowing that this will be the end. Thank you, you wonderful people for sticking with me this far and I hope you enjoy this final piece of the puzzle.

In case you need some catching up: last chapter Mary & Matthew worked out how to prove that Carlisle did some pretty shifty things (i.e. phone hacking) to get the dirty on Robert and his dubious business activities back in the day. They used this info to force Carlisle's hand and to get him to back off but it all sort of went pear-shaped when Robert decided to turn himself in anyway in exchange for a lesser sentence. Mary did not react to this turn of events particularly well and as she started to pull away, she realised that the whole mess had taken its toll and that she needed to get away from it all for a while. With some reluctance, Matthew agrees that she should take up a (temporary) job on the American Presidential campaign and he steps into the role as Carson's Chief of Staff until she returns.



From: andromeda12

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 11.12 AM (GMT -7:00)

To: perseus01

Subject: Suspended account

It's been more than a month and I still can't believe they suspended my Downing Street email account and credentials.

You're the Chief of Staff, you should get on that.


From: perseus01

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 6.20 PM

To: andromeda12

Subject: Re: Suspended account

Acting Chief of Staff. And I'm very busy and important so I do not have time for trifling things like your suspended email account.

Why do need it anyway? You're on the other side of an ocean.


From: andromeda12

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 11.26 AM (GMT -7:00)

To: perseus01

Subject: Re: Suspended account

It's the principle of it – emailing from that address has inherent prestige, Matthew.


From: perseus01

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 6.29 PM

To: andromeda12

Subject: Re: Suspended account

Don't you have some fancy account from working on the campaign? I would have thought the American President was prestige enough.

And still you ignore that, and I'm sure other personal accounts, to email me from an address I set up in jest. That I find rather interesting.

I'd say you miss me.


From: andromeda12

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 11.34 AM (GMT -7:00)

To: perseus01

Subject: Re: Suspended account

I'm just trying to keep the personal and the professional separate.

Also, shut up.


From: perseus01

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 6.36 PM

To: andromeda12

Subject: Re: Suspended account

The lady doth protest too much. You most certainly miss me.


From: andromeda12

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 11.37 AM (GMT -7:00)

To: perseus01

Subject: Re: Suspended account

I think the gentleman wants me to stop replying to his emails.


From: perseus01

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 6.40 PM

To: andromeda12

Subject: Re: Suspended account

Never! Unlike some, I am not ashamed to admit that I miss you terribly.

That said, am now going to leave you hanging. Have to have dinner with my mother – long story – and am already late. Will call you when I get home?


From: andromeda12

Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 11.42 AM (GMT -7:00)

To: perseus01

Subject: Re: Suspended account

I will not confirm that I am in any way looking forward to your call.

Love you, you sap.


Isobel Crawley had shown up on his doorstep quite unannounced only the night before, an overnight bag clutched primly in hand.

"I've been worried about you," she'd announced as she'd marched herself through the door as Matthew had stood back, gaping.


"You've sounded a little down on the phone. I thought I'd come and... gee you up a bit."

And that had been that really. No date of departure set, nothing else said – just his mother coming to stay for some unclear reason and some indefinite period of time.

He gets to the restaurant that night with the best of intentions at heart; he's just going to set her straight (again) about his frame of mind and stress that he by no means expects her to go out of her way no matter how incredibly generous it is that she's offered to stay for the next few weeks.

But then she asks: "So, what is it about this Mary Crawley girl?"

The tone of the conversation takes a turn.

"What do you mean?"

Isobel's response is light and innocuous, "Well you've been so flat these last few weeks and I understand that you're fond of her. I thought the two might be related."

"I'm not flat."

"Oh Matthew, you forget that I am your mother and that I know you far better than you give me credit for." She waves a hand.

Still, he remains firm, not allowing himself to falter or to admit to anything that might start him on a slippery slope of self-pity, instead trying to remind her, "I'm not flat – I'm just busy, a little tired perhaps. I have been acting the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff this last month, I think it's to be expected."

"And your Mary, she's ordinarily the Chief of Staff?"

Matthew has to smile, "She's not my Mary – she's not anyone's Mary, at least not like that."

"Well you're... involved, are you not?"

It's not that he hasn't told her and more that it has never been easy to explain.

"Yes," he eventually tells her.

"Is it serious?"

"Yes," he replies again.

"Oh..." this seems to interest her and she asks with some sort of agenda bubbling under her words, "How much longer will she be away?"

"A month, at least – the election's still that far away."

"And she's... happy enough to be away for so long? To seemingly leave you behind, quite on your own, for months on end?"

"It's not like that," he explains away quietly, "It certainly wasn't an easy decision and we talked about it a great deal. Mary has had her own issues to deal with-"

His mother interjects, "Because her father was arrested?"

"That's part of it yes," Matthew replies a little tiredly, "Going was the best thing for Mary – we talked and we agreed. She certainly didn't just up and leave me here."

There's a pause as Isobel thinks about this suggestion. Then she does as she always does when she doesn't agree with something Matthew has said – she brushes it off with simpering lightness, "...Well if that's how you really see things, I suppose I shall have to accept you point of view."

"It is."

But then comes, "It's just..."

The words trail off.

When she lets her pause draw on just a little too long, he's forced to ask, "What is it mother?"

"...You're... comfortable to be associating with people like that?" Isobel's lips press together, "These Crawleys seem to be an... awfully entitled bunch. The fraud charges alone seem to suggest that they're a type of people used to getting whatever it is they want, no matter the means – that's what a life of privilege will do for you. They're not like us, Matthew."

For a long time, this might have given him a reason to worry; such a comment would have stopped him in his tracks and made him stumble with his own uncertainty – as it once had late one night at restaurant when the now-recently-incarcerated Kemal Pamuk had come to town.

It strikes him that he hasn't thought about that night in a very long time.

"You know, I struggled with that idea for a long time," he begins, and his mother seems to be pleased enough to find him almost agreeing with what she's said. Then, assuredly, watching as her expression falters, he goes on, "It's complete rubbish."

"But why?"

And so, Matthew explains, "It's true that Robert Crawley deserves whatever he gets – he probably does have the makings of a serious attitude problem but it's not fair to say that that much is systemic or that it's somehow bread into his kind. I don't think that just because their family is well off and well connected to say that they all have a problem with the way they go about their business. Violet Crawley may be stuck in her ways but she'll defend those ways and everything that she believes to be truly right to her death. Cora Crawley may be hard-nosed about business but she also has one of the kindest hearts of anyone I've met and Mary... Mary is just exceptional. In everything she does. She may seem cold and may be closed off from the world at times but she's truly determined, truly brilliant and capable of greatness in all that she pursues – thinking and feeling and... loving. These people are not bad people and they're not different people; they're just people. Just people that I'm so glad to know in the way that I do."

There is a long, reaching moment of silence and his mother seems to begin some kind of response more than once, each time letting it slide to nothing.

Eventually, she gives him an amused but kind sort of smile. "My, that's quite the testimonial."

"I suppose it is."

"I've never... heard you speak much in that way before," she remarks carefully.

"Perhaps I've never had reason to."

"But you have reason now?"

"I do. A... a very... good reason," Matthew finishes quietly.

He's not quite sure what it is, but his mother must have found something that she was looking for in his response as she drops the subject for the rest of their dinner and she leaves once again the very next day.

"You're doing just fine," she tells him as she goes, patting him on the arm fondly, "I'm so proud of you my dear, working where you are and achieving all you have. Your life has become... all that I hoped for you."

And then she's gone.

Matthew wonders if he ought to take Mary up to visit her once she gets back. It could be quite nice.


From: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Sent: Friday, 5 October 7.14 AM

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Wedding date!

Missing you around here today, lady.

John and I settled on a wedding date last night – what with everything at work and the political calendar as it stands, we found something that works right at the end of November and we're just going to go for it.

It's really happening!


From: 'Mary Crawley'

Sent: Thursday, 4 October 11.17 PM (GMT -8:00)

To: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

So glad I caught your email before bed. Congratulations!

I absolutely miss you too. Especially now – I'm so sorry I'll not be around to be more helpful with planning.

But I can assure you that come hell or high water, there's no way I'll miss the actual wedding part. Give me your date and I'll make it work.


From: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Sent: Friday, 5 October 7.21 AM

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

November 25.

And of course you're going to have to make it work – I can't bloody well get married without my maid of honour.


From: 'Mary Crawley'

Sent: Thursday, 4 October 11.32 PM (GMT -8:00)

To: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

Oh Anna! Maid of Honour – are you sure? For lack of a better term, I would of course be completely honoured; I just worry that I won't be a very good one to you when I'm all the way over here.

Are you some place that I can call you?


From: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Sent: Friday, 5 October 7.35 AM

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

Just about to duck into a meeting with some of the media staff but you don't need to call anyway, it's fine. I know what I'm getting into – John and I are keeping things small and doing most of it ourselves anyway.

You just have to send us your measurements and then show up on the day.


From: 'Mary Crawley'

Sent: Thursday, 4 October 11.37 PM (GMT -8:00)

To: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

I'll do a lot more than that.

I'm already starting my list of ideas for both the hen night and the speeches.


From: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Sent: Friday, 5 October 7.38 AM

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

Should I be worried?


From: 'Mary Crawley'

Sent: Thursday, 4 October 11.40 PM (GMT -8:00)

To: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

Of course you should be worried.


From: Smith, Anna (C. Carson, MP)

Sent: Friday, 5 October 7.44 AM

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Re: Wedding date!

Your lack of detail is what concerns me most.

Unfortunately, I have to head off for this meeting now so I'm pretty sure I now get to be tortured by that thought for the rest of the day.

I went back and forth on whether to send you this but I know you'll want to read it. It popped up on Yes, Westminster this morning – wasn't sure if you would have seen this post. I thought it was quite... sweet.

Anyway, I have to go but don't stay up too late – I know what you're like on campaigns and you could do with the rest, lady.

Skype me later? xx


Profile of a dark horse

by M. Gregson, posted to Yes, Westminster

Matthew Crawley was by no means the obvious choice to step up as Chief of Staff at Downing Street when the true heir apparent, Mary Crawley (no relation? The mind boggles), committed herself to a stretch overseas. For starters, until recent months at least, he's been a relatively unknown face in British politics. He also isn't a member of the Conservative Party and to this day, appears to have no inclination to join the ranks of the party from which our nation's leader hails.

But despite this, Matthew Crawley is still a good choice.

As the Chief of Staff to BFP leader John Bates (a job it's understood he'll return to upon the repatriation of the fairer sexed Crawley), Matthew Crawley will have had a great deal to do with Carson's office and its inner workings when negotiating an extended coalition agreement at the start of this year. Many commentators have also remarked upon the key role he played in this process and how effectively he assisted Bates to a position of power at a time when his party was only establishing its role on the British political scene. There is no doubt that these are among the reasons that Crawley would have caught the eye of Charles Carson when he was shopping for a new face to head up his office.

Having been in the role just over a month, the comments I've heard about Matthew Crawley's stint thus far as Chief of Staff have largely been positive ones. He's hard working – which I imagine was a given, considering his earlier role as the Number Two to one of Britain's more effective Ministers – he's also amiable and approachable, with the sort of political mind that can't entirely be taught or learnt.

Since stepping up to this most daunting of jobs, Crawley has had to navigate the minefield that is the first major defence bill to front the parliament since the spending debacle of August, and he appears to have done so with minimal fuss. He's also had to co-ordinate a tricky announcement over schools funding and an even trickier state visit with everyone's favourite Russian President.

While Chief of Staff, there has been a stoicism about him that many have remarked upon but whatever it is that's got him stern-faced, Crawley has nothing to be concerned about when it comes to his own performance. From a government that has spent the best part of two years being gaffe-prone, in his tenure in this top job there have been surprisingly few gaffes.

All of this begs the question: does Crawley have a more permanent future as Carson's most senior political appointee?

This suggestion has already been put by assorted media outlets to the Prime Minister who spoke highly of Mr Crawley but also recommitted to installing his long-time protégé, Mary, upon her return.

And what of Matthew himself? Well, this blogger got the chance to put this very question to him in person and his response was entirely diplomatic:

"As much as I am enjoying my time working for the Prime Minister and truly appreciate this very exciting opportunity, I am fully prepared to return to my position with John Bates and moreover, I very eagerly look forward to Mary's return."

He's declined to make any further comment on the matter and has, as the picture of a discrete political staffer, kept himself well away from the media fray.

As much as we here at Yes, Westminster would enjoy the drama that would come with yet another messy fight for the CoS spot, it seems that it is not to be. And when it comes to Matthew's unusual charity towards the famously hard-nosed Miss Crawley? Well, we all have our theories...


He's getting more and more used to it – the part where the Prime Minister appears at his door.

Matthew can be proud now to be able to say that he's at least gotten to the stage where his heart doesn't jump well and truly into his mouth each time he looks up to see the very stately form looming, but there is still just the bare hint of nervousness to contend with that seems to come hand in hand with the revelation that this man is actually the Prime Minister, standing before him, seeking his input.

He's almost sure that the day he actually gets used to it and all of the prestige stops dazzling him will be the day that Mary comes home. But so long as that day comes quickly, he finds that he doesn't mind.

And so, when Carson appears that Friday afternoon, he finds himself quite typically uneasy, getting to his feet as the Prime Minister strides through the door.

"Prime Minister," comes the rather obvious greeting. Matthew takes a breath and fixes a smile to his face.

"Matthew, did you have a minute?"

"Of course, of course," he waves a hand.

Carson hovers before him, watching him carefully enough that Matthew begins to feel a little... unnerved.

"It has come to my attention," he begins stiffly, measuring each word, "that you have been somewhat... discontented of late and that this fact is now being picked up on by certain individuals outside this office-"

Matthew interrupts, "No... No, I'm not unhappy, I assure you." The words come with an edge of urgency as he tries to explain away the Prime Minister's disquiet, "I'm not sure what it is that's being said but please believe that it's not anything I've invited."

Carson's features soften, "I'm not concerned, Matthew – I would perhaps go so far as to say that it's... understandable given the circumstances. It's just that hearing this chatter brought me to realise that this has been a rather trying number of weeks for you and that you've done remarkably well given the circumstances."

"Oh," he manages in surprise, "Thank you."

"I imagine that you... Well, I imagine that like me, you are finding Mary's absence somewhat difficult."

"I am," Matthew replies evenly, keeping the words neutral.

"...I thought it might be time that you took a well-deserved break from it all," he begins carefully. A little wary, Matthew says nothing, leaving Carson to continue, "While I'm not at liberty to slip away very easily, you are not in the same position. You are also fully entitled to spend your weekends as you choose – as much as I note, and appreciate, that you've dedicated much of them to your work of late."

But the thing is, he doesn't want to take a break or to pause for weekends. He doesn't want to stop long enough to realise that he's actually rather lonely.

"I appreciate it Carson, but I honestly prefer to be working. It keeps me busy."

"If you let me finish," he prods gently, "I was going to suggest that you use the next couple of days to get away."

A piece of paper is slid onto the desk in front of him.

"What's this?" Matthew pulls the page closer.

"Plane tickets," Carson announces unceremoniously. "I'm sorry that I can only spare you for a weekend but I thought a couple of days would be better than nothing."

He looks more closely at the document before him and realises what it all means.


"Consider it my... more personal thanks for a job well done," he smiles fondly, "Though, you leave tonight, so you ought to think about getting yourself organised."

"Right. Of course," Matthew blusters over the words, at a loss for what else to say. As Carson goes to turn, he calls him back to offer genuinely, "Thank you. Truly."

"You're very welcome Mr Crawley. I am not ashamed to admit that the idea of bringing happiness to two people I'm rather fond of was selfishly quite a pleasing prospect. Enjoy yourself."

And with that, he's gone.

Matthew dives back behind his computer and commits himself to powering through the last of what's open on his screen. He has a plane to catch.


The journey is a rather... long one.

While his feet are on American soil by ten thirty (local time, at least) his connection through to Mary's most recent stop on the haphazard and ever-moving campaign trail – somewhere out Midwest – is delayed and he's left to get acquainted with some plastic airport chairs. When he does eventually find himself back up in the air, the plane is small, the flight is bumpy and he doesn't sleep, all leaving him a little worn by the time they finally land.

He hasn't told her that he's coming – it's maybe a little silly, but the fanciful idea that he might surprise her somehow has taken hold. There's no one to meet him at the airport but as the night (or more aptly, the morning) draws on in his third time zone of the day, Matthew doesn't seem to mind. The minute that he climbs into the back of that taxi, none of it matters any more.

Because he's actually here.

Because he's just a cab ride away.

The bright lights of an unfamiliar city flash by as the car speeds along empty roads and the awkward groggy feeling that had hung over him before landing seems to fall away.

Mary's kept him updated with her itinerary while she's been overseas and when he sees the familiar name of her hotel rising out of the sky the anticipation that's been buzzing within him reaches a low hum. Having failed to think of the little details like stopping to withdraw local currency, he brandishes his credit card in the direction of the driver (and hopes that his bank won't cut him off, he really should have notified them he was going out of the country) and waits impatiently for it to go through.

The minute it does, he makes a beeline for the lobby and then for the elevators.

Quite quickly, however – pressing at buttons and staring with dazed frustration when nothing happens – he learns that one does not easily get up to the floor that houses an entire presidential campaign without a key card for the lift.

Just great.

Back out he goes.

"I ah... I was hoping you might be able to call through to one of the guests," Matthew awkwardly asks an attendant on the front desk, "I know it's late, but I think they'll want to see me."

He tries not to feel too self-conscious at the thought of how it all must look, showing up at a hotel quite literally in the middle of the night.

"Who are you?"

"My name's Matthew Crawley" Nothing. No reaction. A little more cannily, Matthew tries, "I'm the Chief of Staff to the British Prime Minister."

He tosses one of the still-crisp business cards across the counter and smiles to himself.

He knew that would come in handy eventually.

"...Who do you need to speak to?"

"Mary Crawley. She's with the presidential campaign. Room 1012."

Matthew lets the attendant take this all however he chooses. Any one of the various conclusions he can reach with the given information suits his purposes just fine.

The boy behind the desk then huffs, tapping away at the keys of his keyboard and eventually picking up his phone without another word said.

The wait for some kind of response at the other end of the line is almost painful.

"I'm sorry to disturb you Ms Crawley but there is a man down here in the lobby who's asking to see you."

A pause. Something is said on the phone that Matthew can't make out.

The concierge looks back up in his direction, "What's your name again?"

"Matthew. Matthew Crawley," he bites back.

"...His name's Matthew Crawley."

There's a look of only mild surprise on the attendant's face as he lifts the phone from his ear. "She hung up."

Nothing more is said as the man steps out from behind his desk in order to speak with a colleague.

It's this same colleague that approaches Matthew, still waiting by the counter, a few minutes later. "I'm afraid you'll need to leave sir."


"I am asking you to please leave the lobby," he reaffirms with more force.

"Just wait a minute-" but his words don't get any further. One of the lifts dings its arrival and out of it flies a familiar form.


They've never been a pair for over the top affection but there's something about this moment that seems to catch them both up with its uncanny excitement. Mary almost bounds instead of runs and she launches herself at him without artifice or concern once he's finally within her reach.

His arms go out automatically and they crash together, one into the other, leaving Matthew feeling a little more whole than when he began.

"You're here," is all she seems to manage.

"I'm here," he agrees quietly, drawing her closer, "I'm so glad I'm here."

They stand like this for a long while, twined together, unable to separate themselves and unable to take that step back. Not so soon.

As time draws on, Mary tucks herself under his arm and her breathing evens into something much more subdued. Murmuring into his shoulder, she asks, "What are you doing here?"

He actually laughs, "Carson found me too miserable for his liking and booked my ticket. I think he wanted rid of me."

"Miserable?" The question is a little more serious. She leans back and studies him for a brief moment.

"I'm fine. I've just been working hard... perhaps missing you just a little. It's a lot for anybody to deal with."

"How long can you stay?"

"I'm booked home on a red eye Sunday night; back to work Monday."

She sounds disappointed, "Two days?"

"That's all they could spare," he explains. "I know you must have a hundred things planned for the days I'm here and I don't expect you to drop anything – I'll just... admire from afar. Here. With you."

"Nonsense. We'll make something work," she offers him a warm smile with her words as her eyes drift from his own and seem to roam, taking in his face, his arms, his whole body...

He wonders if like him, she can't quite believe he's standing quite where he is.

After another long pause, she steps out a little further but extends her hand back in his direction, "Come on."

He takes the offered hand and follows her more than willingly back to the lift.

They both inch closer as the doors take their time to close.


It's safe to say that Matthew's first day on the campaign trail is a disaster, all with the help of six little words: we're going to need more coffee.

He'd sort of wanted to see it – the madness, the energy, the significance – and he certainly hadn't wanted to turn Mary's entire weekend upside down, so he'd encouraged her to go ahead with what would be a normal day on the campaign. She really had tried to accommodate him and to show him some of the things he might have wanted to see, but it had only been a matter of time until she was pulled away for some unnamed-yet-urgent task never to be seen again.

He hangs awkwardly for a while in the shop-front campaign office they've ended up at, trying not to look like he's in the way, pretending that he knows what he's doing. He's fairly certain he fails on all counts.

As time draws on, Matthew sits by the desk that Mary has briefly claimed as her own amidst the fray and after internal debate, turns to a laptop that she'd left behind – at the very least he figures he can use the time to keep up to date with his own, no doubt numerous, emails from home. He doesn't pay much attention to the bustle around him in the open-plan space, with volunteers and seasoned campaign workers all making noisy phone calls and shouting instructions back and forth. He's only brought back to awareness when he realises some is shouting loudly and repeatedly in his direction.

"Hey you!" When he doesn't look up it continues, "You!"

"I'm sorry?" he eventually asks, lifting his head to see a tired looking worker – one of those ones with a disproportionate sense of personal importance – covering the mouth piece of a phone in hand so as to allow her to shout over to him.

"Can you get that?" she nods to phone on his desk. It's ringing.

Before he has the chance to say anything (namely to point out that he actually has nothing to do with the campaign and has no idea what he's doing) the woman goes back to her call and turns her whole body away from him without giving him the chance to protest.

And so, he picks up the phone.

After that, everyone seems to think he's some kind of assistant. It starts with one phone call, passing along one message, and ends with a day of manning a desk, directing enquires and doing regular coffee runs for a group of people who drink enough coffee to make insomniacs out of a small nation. He doesn't see Mary again.

("Hey Matt!"

"It's Matthew."

"Matthew then. We're going to need more coffee."


"Can you go?"

"I don't- I'm just using the desk, I'm not actually-"

"There's money in the jar by the door and a list of orders pinned to the wall. Get something for yourself if you want."

"But I-"

"Sorry Matt, I got a hundred things to do. I'm so glad you're helping us out.")

It doesn't let up for most of the day but when those in the office begin to trickle in and out to eat around dinner time, he finally sees his chance to escape and he leaves without looking back.

With nowhere else to go and unable to get hold of Mary on her mobile, he sends her a text about making some of their own dinner plans and heads for the only place he can think worth going.

Mercifully, she appears about twenty minutes later.

"I'm so sorry." He hears her voice, and her genuine plea, from across the open space. "I'm really, really sorry – I kept trying to leave and then I kept getting pulled into something else; it makes me worry how these people got by before I got here." She then brandishes the bad full of take away in his direction, "I brought dinner as a peace offering."

"It's fine," he offers.

She sets the bag aside and comes closer, her words wary and apologetic, "Is it?"

Matthew smiles gently. He is warm and resolved when he responds, "It is; I knew what I was getting myself into when I came, I probably shouldn't have imposed myself upon you when you were working today – it only gave you another thing to worry about."

"That's not true," Mary tells him earnestly, "I wanted you there today; I want you here now." As she finishes, she takes one of his hands in her own.

Fingers lace together. "Then that's all that matters."

And it is. All that matters is that they're here, in the same place after all the weeks that have passed. All that matters is them on this hotel rooftop, edging closer together (in a way that's more than just the literal) just like each of the times they've found themselves in this spot before.

"We have a thing for hotels and their roofs," Matthew points out on a breath, taking another look around where they stand.

"I know. I find I quite like it." She curls herself closer against the windy air. It's almost like a habit by now. "And here I never thought I'd see the day a reasonable person could get nostalgic about rooftops but once again Matthew Crawley, you have proven me wrong."

"Oh, again?" he prods with a wry smile.

"Don't be smug. It doesn't suit you."

"I think it suits me just fine. Just as this new humility seems to suit you."

He'd meant it as a joke but when Mary's response comes a moment later it is more staid, edged with emotion, "I'm trying. It's only been a few weeks but I think I'm doing a little better on that front."

"...That's not what I meant," he qualifies gently.

"I know. But it's worth saying." She seems to practise the words, rolling them around on her tongue, "I'm trying."

Making an effort to be light and with deliberate wit, Matthew observes, "I've never known Mary Crawley not to succeed at something she's really put her mind to."

"Then I suppose by the time you get me back for good next month I'll be a changed woman."

"Not too changed," comes his earnest caution, "I've said it before, but there's a difference between change and growth."

Softly, offering him a cryptic smile, Mary replies, "I know. I remember."

He can't help it after this – there's something about the utter rawness of her words that sees him gather her up and fold her away in a tangle of arms, chest and body.

They stand like this for a long time.

The night goes on around them.

After a while – after their heavy silence has settled – Matthew goes for something lighter, colouring the words with amusement, "Everyone in there today seemed to think I was some kind of dogsbody." He has to laugh looking back on it all, "You might have been kept busy today, but then, so was I."

"Oh god! Did they have you on the coffee run?"

Matthew can only nod with good humour while Mary groans in response, "No matter where you are on the campaign and what city you're in, they always seem to treat the new faces in exactly the same way."

"I also spent a lot of time answering the phone. There seemed to be a fair number of people looking to talk to some woman called Tammy."

"She thinks she runs the office there. She's a bit of a cow to be perfectly honest."

"I got that impression," he gives a short laugh.

"Did you want to eat?" she redirects his attention back to the food he's almost forgotten about, "It's my way of saying sorry for every Americano you were sent to buy this afternoon."

"What have you got us?"

"Thai. A campaign tradition."

He turns and reaches towards the bag with grandeur, "Then I am yours to initiate."

Just as it was that first night on the roof, they both pull up chairs that are at least a little less ragged than previous occasions and they chatter idly as they eat. Mary runs down her day, talking with increasing animation about her work and about people that used to be mere colleagues that she's come to see as friends.

Her eyes are alive and she uses her hands as she talks, gesticulating with each point she has to make. She enjoys this work, that much he can see, and Matthew can only be happy to see her so fulfilled by this choice to come here and to try something new in the way she talks about travelling, about policy and about new media.

He could watch her like this all night.

And for a long time he does – he just watches.

There's a subtle change in the tone of their conversation when a while later Mary mentions, "Anna emailed me yesterday – she and Bates have set a wedding date."

"Really?" he leans closer, "When?"

"It's soon – the end of November."

"That is soon."

"They know what they want," Mary shrugs, "You can't blame them for going for it now it's all fallen into place."

"Absolutely not. I imagine I'd do the same."

"You would?" The question seems carefully innocuous, "I'm not saying I necessarily agree, but there are a lot of people who might suggest they're rushing into all of this."

Matthew thinks about this for a moment and his response is measured, "I've seen firsthand how much Bates cares for Anna – they deserve very much to be happy and to be happy on their own terms."

She cocks her head, "I'd suppose that's fair." And then after a pause, "Do you think this is what they need to make them happy?"

This is a new introspective side to Mary that Matthew isn't entirely sure he's used to seeing.

He doesn't comment, instead replying, "Happiness is what you make it. Knowing Bates and Anna as I do, I'd say this is a good thing."

There is something just a little... more to the way the whole exchange unfolds – a weight to their words that Matthew can't quite place but still can't avoid. It all makes him uncomfortable in a way that isn't entirely bad and he finds himself somewhat at a loss for what else he can say.

Still, Mary seems to be waiting for more.

After a beat, he offers, "I don't think it will define them or make them any more or less than they are now. But it will be... nice."

"Nice," she agrees with a careful nod.

The conversation drifts again after this, both careful to stay just this side of light after a more weighty turn – he fills her in on bits and pieces from Westminster that she might have missed since she's been gone, he passes comment about their food, they speak of how nice their view is from their spot up so high, how he thinks he'll take some time to see more of the city tomorrow.

What they don't talk about is the fact that it's already his last night, that come six the following evening, he'll be back on a plane and on his merry way back to England. They don't talk about the likely six weeks they'll still be apart once he heads home, Mary's still-undecided return date or any of the questions that still loom over the heads about an uncertain future.

They just enjoy their food, the view and their company. The rest, Matthew resolves, can wait.


Mary's wake up call comes early the next morning.

"Yes?" she groans into the phone, sounding only half awake. She holds it to her ear only for a few moments more, muttering in acquiescence before hanging up.

"I'm supposed to get up."

"I gathered," comes Matthew's sleep-worn reply.

"We have a meet and greet thing first up this morning."

"You mentioned." He's still only half-awake.

"I'm not going," she announces.

This gives him a jolt. "What?"

"I'm not going," Mary sounds more resolved, "I'm going to sleep a little longer with you, then I'm going to come with you to see some of the city. I'll have to go to that rally later but at least we'll have the morning."

"What about the campaign? I don't want to-"

"Oh, stuff the campaign." She almost laughs. "I haven't had a moment to myself in weeks and my significant other has travelled several thousand miles to at least get the chance to see me – I deserve a break."

He props himself up in the bed to ask, "Did you really just use the term 'significant other' like it's an actual thing?"

"It's a perfectly acceptable term," she replies, lightly defensive as she pulls a sheet loose and climbs from the bed partly wrapped in it.

"You know what I mean."

Mary ducks her head back from the bathroom where she's started to brush her teeth. Quickly rinsing her mouth she comes back to hover across the other side of the room. "Well we've never really had that discussion."

"What discussion?"

"About what we... call each other. To other people," she finishes somewhat awkwardly. More evenly, she explains, "We were too busy keeping it a secret before that we never really worked out these sorts of details."

"I suppose there's no need for it to be a secret now," Matthew observes carefully.

"Not really. I thought when I got back maybe..." His heart picks up with a tentative sort of anticipation as Mary's words trail off. He waits for her patiently and after a few beats she finishes, "I thought we could be more official about things."

Then she waits.

"I think that would be nice," Matthew tells her when the right words come.

She offers little more than brief agreement, nodding, "Okay."

She steps onto their balcony not long later to call one of her colleagues and to tell them of her plans, though as she goes he calls after her, "We're going to have to come up with something better to call each other!"

Mary smiles as she pulls the door closed behind her.


At the rally, he watches from afar.

Their day has been wonderful; they'd seen the sights, neither of them actually that bothered with what they were seeing and more concerned with the experience of seeing them – together, a little giddy and just free.

Here they are, free.

"Since we've known each other," she'd told him carefully and quietly, curled into his shoulder partway through the morning, "there's always been something."


"Carlisle, my father, even Patrick sometimes... Now there's nothing."

"You make it sound like that could be a bad thing."

"It's not." She'd turned a bright and airy smile in his direction. "It's really, really not."

Like proper tourists they'd taken photos, the sort that Matthew had only ever associated with other people – grinning faces crowded together in front of an assortment of attractions and landmarks, occasional kisses but always much deserved silliness.

He'd found that by the time it was time to head for the rally, he was excited to see Mary in this new role – in what is still her element even so many thousands of miles away from home. Though the last time he'd taken to playing her shadow while she'd worked had not gone well, this time she seems more determined – she introduces him more formally to each of her colleagues as they pass by and she negotiates a seat for him by her own for when the afternoon's proceedings formally get underway.

When she gets called away for some final prep, she apologises with grave and candid words, assuring him, "I'll try not to be too long – it should only be a quick run through."

"It's fine," Matthew has to smile. The man waiting for her briefing is the President of the United States – he doesn't put it into so many words but in this slightly star struck moment (yes, he knows he works for the Prime Minster) there doesn't seem to be any way it could not be fine.

"Just don't let anyone harass you into answering phones," comes Mary's witty parting remark and she leaves him with secret smile and a quick pat on the shoulder.

It's fascinating, being here, behind the scenes – it's nothing like the day before in a stuffy office, where all the people that could be considered at all important disappeared almost as soon as they'd arrived – this is an actual hive of activity and everyone who's anyone is still buzzing around. Mary's over in a corner and he can still see her talking quickly and quietly, addressing a knot of people (addressing the President) before the event properly begins.

He can believe it and he can't. He can believe that this is a world that Mary has so seamlessly become a part of. He can't quite believe he gets to stand here and be the smallest part of it as well.

She makes for an impressive figure – he's known that from almost the moment he met her in her office at Downing Street but he's so very glad to see it now in her most confident demeanour, her subtly expressive form and in the way that the small crowd around her are so intensely engaged. She might have worried once that she was losing a part of herself but watching her here, Matthew thinks she must be well on her way to getting it back.

It's a lovely sort of sight to see.

He stands like this a while longer, just watching, and is distracted only when a voice interrupts, "So you're the reason Mary ditched us this morning."

"Sorry?" he turns his head, still trying to bring himself back from a place he was lost to in thought.

He turns to find Josh – Mary having only introduced them a short while before – watching him with some amusement. Josh, Matthew has quickly learned, is dry but amiable and has seen three American Presidents elected from his days running campaigns. Mary likes him.

"You're the mystery boyfriend. You're the reason she didn't show her face at the meet and greet this morning."

"I wouldn't say mystery," Matthew tells him wryly, "And I did tell her she didn't have to miss anything for my sake."

"You're a mystery to us out this way at least," he replies, observing lightly, "You came a long way for a short visit."

"It was all the time I could take away from work." He says little more, leaving it there almost like a challenge.

It's a challenge the American rises to. "Of course – your man Charlie Carson is another one that Mary speaks highly of."

He can't tell if it's been turned back on him with bait hidden somewhere beneath the remark but Matthew makes a point not to rise to it. His response is plain, "It's well deserved – Carson is a good man."

"I've heard." His words take a turn for the serious, "We asked her to stay, you know."

"You did?"

"She's good– I mean look." They both cast their eyes over to where she's still talking with the imposing form of a President. "She'd only been here two weeks when we knew we wanted to keep her around."

"That doesn't surprise me."

"I can see that." And then with careful curiosity, "You don't think she'll stay?" There seems to be a competitive edge to the suggestion.

"You think she will?" Matthew turns his question back on him.

Josh pauses on a wry smile and after a dramatic sort of pause, he admits, "No, not at all. Between Mr Carson and the not-so-mystery boyfriend I don't genuinely think we have a hope. Doesn't mean I'm not going to spend the next six weeks trying to convince her otherwise."

"Good luck with that," Matthew quips.

"Thanks. I'm going to need it."


In the end, it all becomes horribly impractical for her to come with him to the airport – he realises he has to go back via the hotel, the rally runs late, she can't avoid the fact she really ought to go to a dinner thing afterwards to butter up some shamelessly anglophile donors who have been hoping to meet her.

They've drawn themselves into a corner, made their excuses while the focus is decidedly elsewhere and ducked behind the scenes of the event once more to talk in lone tones and soft words.

"It's fine – I'll cancel or I'll be late..."

"This is not going to be the second or third time today we have this argument, that would just be silly," but he smiles fondly. "I've got to insist Mary, it makes more sense this way."

She'll stay, he'll go the airport. Alone.

She doesn't accept this right away, opening her mouth as if to protest before closing it again at Matthew's knowing look.

"I see what all of this is about, you know" he tells her gently.


"You're trying to show me how things are different, how coming here has been a good thing. You don't need to."

"That's not-"

"I can see it, Mary. I already know."

It's all he needs to say.

He can see it in the obvious enjoyment she gets from this work like he hasn't seen in so many weeks and he can see it also in the way she's still trying to make room for him here. He can just see it.

"Oh? Is there anything else that you know that I'm not aware of Mr Crawley?" she fishes with a teasing sort of tone.

"I know lots of things," he shoots back lightly, "I know that you're sharing more of yourself now, more of that side, than you used to."

"Anything else?" she encourages with careful words, stepping closer.

There is a lot that goes unspoken through their exchange – possibly more than all that they take the time to say aloud – but it doesn't mean it's not understood on both sides.

"I know your American friends are going to beg and plead you to stay. I know that you're going to come home regardless."

"That's a very bold statement," she smiles.

"Well am I wrong?"

A pause for dramatic effect and then, "...No."

"Then I'll be the one waiting for you at the airport in six weeks time."

Impishly, Mary replies, "Maybe you should make me a sign."

But as long as he tries to draw it out with this little back-and-forth, in the back of his mind Matthew knows the time for him to leave is all but upon them.

He pulls away.

"I have to go."

"I know," she sighs heavily.

"Time will fly."

"I hope."

Matthew pauses for a breath, pauses just to take notice for a moment and then begins with quiet confidence, "I tell you one last thing that I know, if you want."

"Okay..."She says it almost as a challenge.

"I know that you love me Mary Crawley."

She laughs lightly. This is a good thing, a nice thing.

She seems so glad to have this niceness in her life, almost as if it's a surprise to her.

"I suppose I can pay you that."

"How generous," but with his words, Matthew grins and tugs at her arm.

She comes without any resistance. "Do you love me back, Matthew Crawley?"

"You know, I think I do."

This seems to be the right answer because she hugs him close for just a moment, allowing him to press a quick kiss to her temple.

It's simple, but it's also easy. There doesn't seem to be any need for grand gestures.

"I'll see you at the airport," he tells her as he steps back.

"I'll be expecting that sign."

And so he goes.

This time, it doesn't feel so much like goodbye.


Politics: Why it's ruining your family life

By Edith Ryan, posted to Mother Knows Best blog

People ask me often about politics and I suppose they're right to – my background in politics is well known and my experience gives me a unique and worthwhile standpoint from which to commentate from. I have avoided touching on the issue of the current presidential campaign as I imagine that you will all have had enough of it from the over-hyped, overwrought and perpetually in-your-face media but with just a few days to go in what is touted to be a knife-edge poll, I thought it might be time to offer my informed perspective.

It's true that my sister Mary is working as part of the campaign to re-elect the President, but given that in the two months she's been here in the US she hasn't bothered to call more than a handful of times, I don't think there should be any concerns about bias. What dear Mary has bothered to do is to fly our distant cousin cum apparent secret boyfriend (yes, you read that right) all the way across the Atlantic to join her long enough to get photographed together at one of the President's campaign rallies a few weeks ago but that, I suppose, is a whole other story.

My experience with politics, vast and varied, has shown that it isn't the nicest of businesses. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the majority of the political experience, as exemplified by the recent campaign that is mercifully drawing to a close, has become one of those things, among the ranks of McDonalds (read my post: here) or organised competitive sport (here), that is undermining the family compact in surprising and alarming ways.

The first and most important reason for my concern is...


From: 'Mary Crawley'

Sent: Wednesday, 31 October 4.52 PM (GMT -8:00)

To: 'Edith Ryan'

Subject: Was that really necessary?

Your blogs are in the public domain you know. I can actually read them.


From: 'Edith Ryan'

Sent: Thursday, 1 November 9.17 AM (GMT -5:00)

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Re: Was that really necessary?

Dearest Mary,

You're still in that terrible habit of failing to properly address your emails. Greetings at the beginning of an email and a short message of farewell at the end are still considered to be good manners.

Also: I am well aware how the internet works. You are free to read my blogs if you wish.




From: 'Mary Crawley'

Sent: Thursday, 1 November 7.47 AM (GMT -8:00)

To: 'Edith Ryan'

Subject: Re: Was that really necessary?

I'm not in a secret relationship with Matthew. I'm in a relationship with Matthew – there's a difference and you never asked.

I'd also point out that phones work in two directions and that you are perfectly free to call me whenever you like.


From: 'Edith Ryan'

Sent: Thursday, 1 November 11.02 AM (GMT -5:00)

To: 'Mary Crawley'

Subject: Re: Was that really necessary?


Please expect my call later this evening. It is clear there is a great deal we must discuss.



Mary takes in the sight before her.

It's an impressive sort of madness – a whole ballroom of people on phones, glued to computers, TVs trained to various channels all offering permutations of the same election night commentary – there are bodies milling around everywhere and the buzz is unmistakable.

Election Night 2012.

They all keep saying it's going to be close. Most of the people in this room have been running on nerves stretched wire-thin for days (for weeks – for the entirely of what has been a long and gruelling campaign) and in this moment, nearly all have reached that election night stage that Mary can only describe as apoplectic.

And yet, Mary finds herself eerily calm.

She just... watches, feeling light and strangely detached from the whole process.

She has to admit, this is not a usual feeling. In all the years Mary Crawley has worked in her field, never has she found election days to be anything short of nail biting.

Still, on this, the highest profile and theoretically highest staked vote night of her career, she feels decidedly composed.

"You alright up there?" Mary hears Josh's voice approach from across the raised stage where she stands.

"Fine." She doesn't turn.

"What are you doing?"

"Just watching," she explains.

"They want you to have another look at the speeches for later."


"You know what they're like. They've gotta keep moving, tonight especially – it gives them something to actually think about."

"I'm coming."

Mary takes one last long moment to look out at the scene below before finally turning on her heels.

Back to work. But only a few hours more.

"You're... calm," Josh points out when she reaches him after a few moments.

She has to smile, "I think at this stage, it's all relative." Josh raises and eyebrow and she continues, "So long as I'm doing better than the masses out there veritably twitching with anticipation, I'm sure to give you the impression of unwavering serenity."

"No seriously, have you taken a Xanax or something?"

Mary only laughs lightly in response and without acknowledging the suggestion, she tells him, "Come on; let's go argue over whether we really do need the extra 'that' in the seventh paragraph..."


There's a lilt of excitement and quiet warmth to Carson's words. They come with pride and an air of grand pronouncement. "They're actually going to win it."

Matthew's head tips toward the voice looming at the front of his office.

Since the count and the subsequent rolling media coverage have each gotten underway, he and Carson have chattered back and forth, keeping up their own commentary alongside what is already a busy day for them in the office and in the Parliament. Matthew has spent the day up and down from his desk, in and out of Carson's office as the Prime Minister tries to fit three days worth of meetings into one, but still they've both found time to channel hop and to stay on top of events across the pond.

Though any kind of election of this magnitude is always big news around Downing Street, there's a mutual vested interest for Matthew and for Carson that has them more eager, more engaged.

Except now Matthew finds himself feeling increasingly... concerned.

"It's beginning to look that way," he replies without intonation, nodding along noncommittally.

Carson seems to misinterpret his wariness and with staid reassurance tells him, "It's hardly as close as they were expecting. There was talk of them counting for weeks but it'll almost certainly be done tonight."

"You're probably right."

"Of course I'm right."

Matthew falters, "It's just..."


"Well... I didn't really realise that I was worried they might win until it actually started to look like they're going to win."

Carson's brow knits as he regards Matthew carefully. "Any why?"

"You haven't thought about it?" he asks. "They've asked her to stay. It's not that I don't believe her when she says she's coming home or that I don't trust..." The words trail off. Matthew sighs and starts again, "If they win, it's going to be so much more tempting to stay. It's not by any means going to happen but it's there in the back of my mind."

"Matthew," comes Carson's affectionate sort of reprimand. Matthew knows well enough to discern what Carson thinks of his suggestion.

"I know," he rubs his temples tiredly.

"Do you?"

"I do." Matthew sounds more resolved as he repeats, "I do."

There's a pause while Carson looks thoughtful, before beginning carefully, "...Do you know why I wanted you to have the Chief of Staff job Matthew?"

"Well... no. Not really," he replies dryly, then observing, "To be perfectly honest there were... more obvious candidates you might have chosen."

"That's true," Carson lightly remarks, "You're new, inexperienced – you're not even a Tory for goodness sake – but you were still the best choice I could have made."

On the back of this pronouncement, Carson moves from where he stands to comes sit by Matthew's desk. He continues, "If I were avoiding any sentimentality I would point out that I wanted you to come and work for me because you are hardworking, you've proven yourself to be somewhat of a shrewd political operator and because you don't have any of the same inherent motivations and agenda that my other choices from within the party may have had."

"Oh," Matthew finds himself bashfully fumbling for a suitable response, "Well thank you, I suppose."

Carson is not moved, "You're welcome." He then goes on, "I am not a trifling sort of man Mr Crawley but I will admit that my reasons for choosing you were in some ways sentimental."

It's a careful admission when Carson finally puts the words together, explaining to Matthew, "I suppose it comes from the evening we spoke of your relationship with Mary and about doing what is right – I got the impression that you were dedicated, worthy. It might all seem a little abstract given I'm usually more... methodical about things but it all just gave me this sense... Well, it gave me the sense that this is what I wanted."

There is a heavy sort of moment and Matthew finds himself asking precariously, "What you wanted for your office or wanted for... other things?"

Carson betrays little emotion when he replies tightly, "You know well enough what I'm saying." They share a look for a moment before the Prime Minister adds reluctantly, "Perhaps it's a little of both."

He continues quickly, "My point is Matthew, I hope I wasn't wrong in this assessment. I don't think I was."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that while – I concede – that some doubt is probably to be expected, I hope you don't lose sight of those convictions that made me so sure of you in that first instance. The election's almost won and Mary will come home."

Time passes in silence.

Eventually Matthew nods, announcing with finality, "Okay." He takes the words to heart.

Some doubt is to be expected. Mary is almost home.


Once again, "Okay."

After a few more beats and a decisive nod of his own, Carson goes to leave. Matthew stops him, dancing around the edges of a careful question, "About the other things you mentioned..."

"Yes?" It seems his interest is piqued but he doesn't offer any more, instead leaving it to Matthew to elaborate.

"I've been thinking about... other things. The other things."

Carson's response is very contained, "I see."

The words come jarred and a little awkward, "When I was visiting Mary, we talked about... the future. Indirectly, anyway."

"Indirectly?" Carson looks over him, "So you were about as specific as you're being now?"

"Something like that," Matthew has to smile – a brief flicker before his features fall back into seriousness with the weight of their conversation leaning on him, "When she comes back we won't have to be anywhere near as cautious as we were before she left. We can move forward."

"That's true."

"And I think we both realised..." The words drift and he starts again, trying his best to sound steady, "Realised that there's something more there to be had."

Carson doesn't give and doesn't waver from his almost amused sort of indifference, "What might you mean by that?"

"You know what I mean."

"No Mr Crawley, I don't."

"...I mean that there's a next logical step. Questions. Decisions about a future."

"And why are you talking to me about it?" Carson asks stiffly.

"Because Mary cares what you think. Because you care about Mary. Talking to you seems like the right thing to do here."

"...Are you... asking permission of some kind?"

The suggestion runs through him with a bolt of anticipation.

"In a sense."

His response comes seriously, "You don't need it Matthew. And I don't think Mary would want you to need it either."

"Your opinion matters a great deal to her."

"That's not what I'm talking about."

"And that's not what I'm talking about."

It's a stalemate – who can be more vague, who can dance around the issue more carefully. Both look at each other for a long moment, a thick tension thrumming between them before it dissipates on Carson's smile.

"What... What about my blessing?" he asks with careful words. It's an offer of middle ground.

It's what Matthew needs.

"I'd appreciate that."

"Then you have it," Carson replies fondly, adding, "You know you have it – just so long as you think about what it was we were talking about."

"Thank you," he nods keenly.

"Let's get back to our day, shall we?" Carson shifts in his seat. "Do we know any more of how the count is going?"

Matthew taps at a remote, turning up the volume of a TV on his wall. They catch the tail end of analysis on some state called early, the results from which are hardly a surprise by any stretch of the imagination.

And for the rest of their afternoon they watch and they work as an election is won.


British Prime Minister Charles Carson is one of the first foreign leaders to publically congratulate the President on his re-election...

The words glide along the ticker banner at the bottom of the screen and an artless, uncontained and almost unexpected smile splits across Mary's face. The message is from Twitter – Mary knows as well as anyone that Carson has next to nothing to do with his own Twitter account but she wonders if this particular update might have more of a personal note.

They've actually done it. They've won.

It all happened a lot more quickly and a lot more easily than anyone ever expected and it's surreal to Mary that it's all over so soon. The mania and hysteria around her has turned to elation and delight but her own unusual calm has remained.

She's happy, yes, but there's also this resolved sort of feeling – steely and settled – that has a way of taking the edge off.

Her date of return back home has never been set as she'd agreed to help with the uncertain post-election transition either back into or unceremoniously out of office but with the finality of a win comes a determination to move on. She's ready to go home.

On her phone in front of her is an itinerary – flights home leaving before the end of the week. She books it without a second thought.

She's done – she's gotten what she came for and she's finished with the job she came here to do.

Things feel different this time, and though a part of it may come with the fact that she was always going to be less invested in an election here and with these people, it also feels like she's learned to let go a little. She'll have to work on it – it will probably always be something that she has to work at – but she's better equipped now than when she first arrived.

She knows how to be calm. She took time, stepped back and took time away to focus on the personal when Matthew came and when real life was more important. She has barely thought about what unfolded before she left with her father and all that entails and it's been weeks since she felt that heavy weight of both power and powerlessness, pressing tightly in her chest.

It's a work in progress but she's getting there.

Finally – finally – it's time to go home.


Heathrow, Mary finds, is always a crush. The crush of the queues to get through passport control, the crush of rows and rows of baggage carousels, a crush of trolleys and customs and finally – finally – the crush of the arrivals hall whenever she steps into the open space full of tired travellers and hopeful faces.

But as the bustle of the hall around her sinks in she finds herself searching instinctively for her own hopeful face – the person waiting for her in the crowd.

Usually when she travels, returning home is an uneventful affair. Mary is the type of person who always has a seat near the front of the plane, who powers off before anyone else to snatch her bag (if she's even gone so far as to check one) and make sure she's first in the taxi line. If she's travelling with Carson, his car might drop her back at her home or office instead but rarely is there any fanfare.

This time feels a little different.

She steps further into the fray and after a few moments with her eyes darting around, she finally finds him.

"Matthew!" The call comes almost unexpectedly and she catches herself by surprise with her own eagerness after a long flight.

His head turns.

And that's it, really. Barely a heartbeat passes and they're all sort of tangled up – she throws an arm around his neck in a fast embrace, while his own snakes around her waist pulling her closer. As they twist together, the grip she has on her trolley loosens and the ground below her feet seems to give way. It takes her a moment to realise she's quite literally being swept of her feet by way of an enthusiastic welcome.

"Why hello," she finally manages, though not as slyly as she might have hoped, once her feet are returned to the floor.

Matthew sounds a little dazed, "How was your flight?"

"Uneventful." Then she smiles and the words soften, "I'm just glad to be home."

Because this is it – this is home. Not just England or London or even Westminster but the thought of having someone at the airport who's waiting to see her, someone whose face she can look for in the crowd – a crazy off-balance hug instead of a rush to the front of the taxi queue.

He has this sort of dumbfounded look on his face that she finds strangely flattering; his eyes are wide and his mouth hangs open just an inch as he takes her in standing before him as she does.

"I'm glad you're home as well," he replies after several heartbeats with a sort of warmth that curls pleasantly in her stomach, "I missed you."

"You only saw me a few weeks ago," she reminds him, though mostly in jest.

Matthew doesn't seem to like this suggestion very well and he tugs on her arm with playful roughness, bringing her into him for a slow, indulgent kiss that welcomes her home in the best way possible. She's never been a particularly romantic person but there's something a little bit suave about the grand gesture – the bold moves and the sweep of his hand across her back – that is enough to pull her in at the knees, almost weak.

"Welcome home," he tells her quietly – a shared moment in their busy surrounds.

"Thank you." After a beat, she laughs airily, reprimanding, "You didn't bring a sign. You said you'd bring me a sign."

"If I recall, it was you that mentioned a sign – I made no such promise." He falters, one hand scooping down to lace fingers together tentatively, "I had something... rather different in mind."

"Different?" she cocks an eyebrow.

Everything around them falls away – in a literal sense almost – as Matthew sinks to the floor keeping hold of her hand. She looks down on him, trying in the face of her own surprise to catch up as the weight of the moment seems, all of sudden, to make time move more slowly.

"What are you doing?" she eyes him a little nervously.


"Are you...?" She stops there. She's only half-aware of what's happening – some far-off part of her drawn in by a sense of anticipation with the rest a little lost to the moment before them and dazzled, grappling to catch up.

He tries again, the wordy heavy and thick with meaning, "I talked to Carson."

"...Carson?" she echoes.

"About the future. About what it is to be worthy."

"And?" Mary's words warm a little. She's catching up.

"And I was thinking some on how... happy we've been. On how hard it was to see you leave and all the reasons I felt you had to go anyway."

"And?" she presses one last time with a grin inching its way across her features.

The world around her – around them – narrows to a point, a haze of noise and movement washing around the utter clarity of her hand still in his, of his smile and hers.

"And Mary Crawley," he pauses, seemingly reaching for the words before asking on a breath, "Would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?"

Maybe it's a little crazy. Maybe it's too soon and a grand gesture rooted in the ephemeral notion of feeling – the sort of thing that Mary would usually shy away from.

But then, maybe she's spent the last few months learning to be a little more open, a little more brave with emotion.

Maybe she understands how unwavering he's been and the change that has come about – real, positive change – because they've worked together. They work well together, both in a personal and professional sense.

In the end, it's not really something she has to think about. In the blur of thoughts, there's only one answer that she could ever really offer.



King Carson is at it again

by M. Gregson, posted to Yes, Westminster

With his cut glass accent, reserved mannerisms and an occasional haughty charm that reminds us here at Yes, Westminster everyone's favourite Iron Countess, Violet Crawley – our dear PM Charles Carson has made a name for himself for being just a little bit... regal. And not always in a good way.

Now come reports that at a lunch today, put on as part of the G8 circus that's come to town, Carson made a swipe about the French Pres's poor table manners while his mic was still on. As our luck would have it, it was overheard by a handful of reporters sent to cover the festivities. Not the best idea for a man whose press team have spent months and years trying to shake the 'King Carson' moniker that always seems to be hanging around.

Word on the street is that there's a recording of what was said – the Yes, Westminster team might even have a friend that can hook us up. Watch this space.

Long live the King!


It's safe to say that Mary's first day back at work is a disaster, all with the help of ten little words: the French President's manners certainly leave something to be desired.

They're Carson's words to be specific and they're enough to have sent Mary's day into full-on damage control before she's had time to finish her lunch.

"Look Gregson," she grouses into her phone, "It's not the first time something like this has happened – he didn't know his mic was still live and he said something he shouldn't have. To be fair, the French President was using the wrong fork."

"Can I quote you on that?"

She adopts a lightly horrified sort of tone, "No."

"What about as a well placed source?"

"Seriously, let's get back to the real world, shall we?" Mary quips – her coarse banter the best way she finds she can deal with reporters. Smoothly, she goes on, "You know why I called."

"You're going to ask me not to post the recording of your boss's little gaffe this morning," Gregson gleans.

"Sharp as ever."

"I'm going to post it."

She has to groan, "You know it will give us trouble in negotiations tomorrow – and he'll become a farce if there's audio; it'll be played on a loop and he'll be a meme before the day is out."

"And that's my problem, how?"

"Oh, I have my ways of making it your problem," Mary warns him lightly.

She really doesn't need this. She doesn't need bargaining and apologising and a news cycle running away from her on her first day back.

"What, you'll keep me out of the loops for a few weeks – no tips, no comments? Maybe this is worth it."

Mary bites the inside of her cheek knowing he's just about on the money. When she says nothing, Gregson continues, "You know, if you went on the record about the fork thing, there might be something I can do."

She quick to a prim retort, "Not going to happen."

"Think about it."

"Oh I won't. But maybe you should think about holding back on the audio in the national interest. It would help if we didn't piss off the French any more than we already have."

"Has anyone ever told you you're quite the diplomat?"

"I'll be ringing you again this afternoon Gregson," she goes to wrap up the call.

He catches her before she can let him go, sliding the words in before she has the chance to ring off, "Yeah, yeah. What about that boyfriend of yours? Did you see my piece about him a few weeks ago?"

"...Why?" Mary asks guardedly.

"If you want something from me it might help if you filled in some of the blanks. I hear there's a ring."

"I'm hanging up now."

"Oh, come on! Does this mean the boyfriend is the boyfriend no more?"

"Hanging up," Mary singsongs. Her personal life is not fodder for political blogs.


She jams at the button on her phone with a little more force than really ought to be necessary.

Yes, Mary's first day back is trying to say the least.

After a short moment of sucking the air in through gritted teeth, steeling herself in a manner of speaking, she dials a few more of the journalists on her list – none of whom seems nearly as cocky as Michael Gregson and nowhere near as close to getting a hold of and posting the tape in question. She flicks off an email to Anna who's working on their more formal press response before pressing her forehead to her desk allowing herself the briefest moment when she doesn't have to own the problem or be surrounded by the shit storm that is about to become her start to the week – before resolutely shrugging it off.

Because this is what she signed up for, this is what she came home for and this is what she is better at than anyone else.

She's feeling a lot better by the time the other phone on her desk, her mobile perched at the other end, starts to ring. She reaches for it after checking for the caller and answers with half a smile, "Hello?"

"I think you're going to need to come to tea."

"Granny, it's really not the best ti-"

"I'll send a car."

And so ends the discussion.

With a glance at the clock, Mary starts to gather together her things.


Over a cup of tea, the words stiff and haughty, Violet Crawley reprimands her granddaughter, "I wouldn't have had to summon you had you presented yourself to me more readily after your return."

With little other choice and quietly rather pleased for a short break from what had already become a long day, Mary had dutifully done as she'd been asked and gone with the car to her grandmother's townhouse.

There is something almost comforting about sitting, cup of tea in hand, dissecting the day's events.

"I got back on Saturday, Granny," Mary reminds her airily.


"It's Monday."

"Which means you've been back in the country for at least two days and still didn't bother yourself with contacting your own grandmother," Violet points out with an edge. If Mary didn't know better she might be fooled into thinking she was genuinely offended. "Instead, you've seen it fit to make some viral internet sensation of the nation's Prime Minister when the G8 have only been in town five minutes."

"You know fine and well that I no control over what's happened."

"Perhaps," Violet concedes, "But it was within Carson's control and like it or not, you are Carson's keeper."

"We're working on it. It'll all go away before long."

"Will it?" she doesn't seem so sure. Pursing her lips over her teacup, she begins, "I've made some phone calls..."

A little suspiciously, Mary asks, "What phone calls?"

"It's Michael Gregson – isn't it?"

"You mean with the tape?"

"He's your biggest problem because he's the only one who could feasibly get hold of a recording."

"I know all this," Mary tries to keep the words even. "I've already spoken to him – I can assure you it's all under control."

Violet gives her this little smile, announcing, "Of course it's under control, I've made sure of it."

"What? How?" Without giving her grandmother the chance to answer, she presses on with notes of concern, "What did you do Granny? You know you're not supposed to get yourself too involved."

Feigning innocence, she explains, "I merely spoke with Mr Gregson – you know how fond he is of your sister still – and saw to it that he won't make the recording available publically."


There's a moment of standoff before Mary arcs an eyebrow, compelling her grandmother to respond.

"Well I said I would give him an attributable quote on the whole affair." It's the pause that comes after, as though there's more to come that makes Mary a little nervous. After a beat, it comes, "...He also needs you to go on the record about why Carson said what he said. You can remain as an unnamed source."

"I already told him I wouldn't do that!"

"Bad manners deserve to be exposed for what they are. As unfortunate as this whole incident may be, Carson was right to pass comment on such poor behaviour; the man is a world leader – he should know how to conduct himself at the table!

There's vaguely horrified silence as Mary tries to find the right thing to say. Violet takes this as her opportunity to pass another choice comment, "I always did find the French woefully lacking when it comes to manners."

"I don't think middle England is going to see it all quite in that way," she replies dryly, before offering a reprimand, "And you shouldn't be making promises that I can't keep Granny, that's not fair."

"I think it's well within your abilities to keep this particular promise," Violet sniffs. "How easily you forget that I was once the Prime Minister myself – and for much longer than Carson has held the office – I know how these things work."

"I don't deny that."

Before Mary can say anything further, her grandmother takes to urging her, "Give him the comment Mary, dear – everyone already knows Carson is a snob. You don't need him to be a laughing stock as well."

"He's not a snob," she defends.

Violet's quick response is spoken as if obvious, "Well that's certainly what much of the wider electorate think."

"No it's not. We have focus group data that-"

"You know I don't agree with all that focus group nonsense. What I know and what that doesn't tell you is that the country knows that our Prime Minister is a bit of snob sometimes – but they like it as part of the whole image he projects. They're fond of Carson and of the way he goes about things."

There's a pause while Violet shoots a knowing look across the table.

When Mary fails to find anything she can say in response, her grandmother asks, "So, will you give Gregson the comment?"

"I think about it," she replies flatly, not giving an inch.

"That's the sort of thing you say when you don't want to admit that you're wrong."

"I'll think about it."

"Very well."

After a few moments of silence, both drinking a little more, Mary picking around the edges of the food on her plate, Violet begins again with careful words laced with a firm opinion that Mary can almost taste, "I hear your mother has formally transferred to Levinson's London office now."

She wonders how long her grandmother has been waiting to ask. How long she's nursed an opinion on the matter just waiting for the chance to air grievances and debate practicalities.

"A few weeks ago, yes. She's heading up the operations there."

"Oh." And then, "So she and your father...?"

"It would seem that they have reconciled on a permanent basis," Mary replies thinly.

"You don't approve?"

"Do you?" She lets the question hang there pointedly for a few moments, before feeling compelled to explain more level-headedly, "They're my mother and father, I do want them to be happy, it's just... after everything that happened between them, everything that Papa did, it can be hard to stomach that this is the right thing."

"It's a very... bold move for your mother to make," Violet observes, though it doesn't seem much like a compliment.

"Of course it is; especially given that with the state of things as they are now, Papa will likely serve time for everything that happened at Downton – on home detention at the very least. But if she's come with all that in mind then I suppose I have to accept that they've worked themselves out." With a careful smile and an odd sense of comfort, Mary finds herself adding, "That's what I've tried to learn from my time away – acceptance rather than control."

"That sounds... unpleasant."

"It's healthy Granny."

"Healthy?" Violet is incredulous, "It seems quite the departure."

"Not really," Mary hedges, "I don't want to change, I just need to be more balanced about these things. A couple of months away is hardly going teach me a whole new way to live my life but it did help to give me a bit of... perspective."

There is mild interest as her grandmother asks, "And how does that work exactly?"

"It's like today," she gives herself a moment to find the right way to explain. Violet Crawley is not always the easiest woman to win over. "A few months ago, something like this with Carson would have really bothered me, I would have taken it all very personally; it's slow progress but I did remind myself this morning to stop and take a breath. Whatever you want to say or believe, it has been... easier to manage. I enjoy my work – I really enjoy my work, even on days like today – it doesn't always need to be my fault. I can be the best person to fix the problem without having to shoulder it all at the same time."

There's a considered pause before Violet sniffs, "It all seems a very modern notion."

But Mary can only laugh. There was never any way her grandmother was going to think differently – the payoff seems to be in the fact that she doesn't seem to mind.

Her grandmother can think whatever she likes because Mary feels more resolved than she has in a very long time.

First day back, a major crisis under her belt and a solid solution on the horizon – she's fairly certain she can talk him down from a formal comment of her own if Gregson can get Violet Crawley on the record (but she won't be mentioning to her grandmother that particular free kick; no point in encouraging her after all.)

And she's so glad – quite simply happy to be home, to be surrounded by the buzz of news and of the highest echelons of British power at work, to be surrounded once again by people that all care for her in their own unusual ways.

Even if they show it by going rogue and making secret deals with reporters.

She leaves a while later with a fond kiss on the cheek from her grandmother. "I'm glad you're home safely, dear," Violet tells her in a rare honest sort of moment, before brushing it off with a pat on the arm.

In the back of a car back to her office, Mary pulls out her phone to ring Michael Gregson.

She has a crisis to avert.


Fond comments about a beautiful bride certainly dominate warm chit chat at the reception – her understated but tasteful and truly gorgeous gown, sleek with its smooth lines and intricate beading, her carefully pinned hair and radiant smile – but later in the night a whole other kind of chatter does the rounds of the function room of a quaint country hotel, where a reception is well underway.

With so many watching eyes and interested parties brought together in one place, an event like this was always going to attract just a little bit of old fashioned gossip.

The wedding has been a great success – perhaps a little grander than the bride had ever envisioned but so it goes in the line of business of both she and the groom. All the same, the event is intimate and personal in a way that leaves most people a little teary and the reception that carries on late into the night is more of a party than any kind of formal affair.

Yes, the new Mrs Anna Bates knows how to throw an event.

As one among the wedding party, Mary had braced herself for a chaotic day at the very least; instead, she's found that she's enjoyed herself, the sense of occasion and the satisfying fizz of four glasses of champagne over the day making her head pleasantly light. There's a warm, tight sort of feeling that wells up in her chest from time to time as she looks over to see her best friend smiling widely, wrapped together with her new husband, happily accepting the compliments and well-wishes of those people that pass her by.

It's not until Mary takes to the floor, a corner of the room set aside for dancing – a live band playing a mixture of well-loved covers and easy swing that's just about enough to get anyone into the spirit – that this proper gossip takes flight around the room.

It's a slow sort of song and from behind her she hears his approach. His hand slides down her arm and she leans back into him as he asks in low tones, "Will you dance?"

"Of course."

And that's what they do – they dance. Standing close, her arms twisted around his neck and his settled around her hips, they talk and laugh freely, moving easily to the downright sultry sounds from the band.

When she compliments his dancing, his fingers inch along her waist and his cheek grazes hers as he leans down murmur something in response.

"People are talking about us," she observes as his lips skate away from her skin.

Matthew doesn't seem to mind. "Are they?"

"We are awful cosy dancing here," Mary wryly points out.

"Well you're my fiancée," the word rolls off his tongue and with it, Matthew flashes her a proud sort of smile, "and this is a wedding – I would have thought this sort of dancing was more than appropriate."

"Appropriate: yes; expected: probably not. I don't imagine many of the usual political types here would have anticipated seeing the two of us quite this cosy."

"Mmm," he muses contently, almost absently, "I suppose we did keep a lid on things for long enough."

"Necessary as it was at the time," she trills back.

Matthew's words are as low as hers, his mouth still level with her ear as he softly replies, "Not necessary anymore."

She lifts her eyes to his and there's a moment of gleeful understanding before she reaches up to press her lips into his firmly. She can feel him smile as he leans back into her, giving just as good as he gets.

There's something about the titters of the people all around them passing comment at the spectacle that is a rather public showing of affection – it ought to be frustrating or intrusive somehow but instead it's just kind of satisfying.

They're together. She's together. They're each in a place where it doesn't need to be some kind of sordid secret any longer.

The semantics of a proper engagement announcement (at Granny's insistence, of course) will be worked out at a later date, a wedding will be planned, a whole life will be shared but for now she's happy for everyone to know that she's happy.

Those who are watching on with their opinions on their sleeve can take from this moment what they will.

They break off after several heartbeats pass them by and Mary tucks herself under his chin. They both take to swaying quite happily, far removed from the whispers and goings on of the room around them, once again to music.

"Beautiful wedding," Matthew remarks casually.


"We should have one of these."

She can't help it, she just laughs. "We will, just give it a few months. There's planning involved."

With a bit of a nod to some of the people still not-so-subtly looking on and a cheeky little laugh, he spins her outward with a flourish so that she can turn back into him smoothly.

"Whatever you need," Matthew offers with a lilt to his words; it's a joke but also landed in truth somehow. "We've got plenty of time."


If our people feel that they are part of a great nation and they are prepared to will the means to keep it great, a great nation we shall be, and shall remain. So, what can stop us from achieving this? What then stands in our way? The prospect of another winter of discontent? I suppose it might.

But I prefer to believe that certain lessons have been learnt from experience, that we are coming, slowly, painfully, to an autumn of understanding. And I hope that it will be followed by a winter of common sense. If it is not, we shall not be diverted from our course.

To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, 'the u-turn', I have only one thing to say – you turn if you want to; the lady's not for turning.

- Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)


A/N: I had always planned to end the story with this quote. Before I'd so much as started writing, I set out to find a fitting title and this quote from Thatcher struck a chord right away. While I know many won't agree, she's a lady that I will always admire and this general idea (as well as this political legacy) set the tempo for what became a crazy ambitious and very fun story for me to write. I don't try to suggest the two are in any way comparable, but it feels very right to bring this story to a close this week.

Thank you Em (Tadpole24) for being kick ass, for beta-ing all but one chapter and not even batting an eyelid when they consistently topped 10k words. She may never see this, but thank you Ren (sunsetdreamer) for listening to my rants and always being my cheerleader.

Thank you most of all to you wonderful people for reading my silly little story. Thank you for indulging me when things got a bit twisty political, thank you for always saying nice things and thank you for making me feel like sometimes I can sort of write good. You all rock.

From here, I don't know. I have a couple of ideas for stories that fall within this universe and if things come together, I might write them a little down the track - I do, after all, have a soft spot for this universe of my own making. For now though, this is a happy farewell :)