I hadn't really planned this it just sort of spilled out so I thought I'd put it up here. Be warned for Christmas Spesh 2012 Spoilers. This is pretty depressing but then it was a pretty depressing twist, so.
Ignorant. So very ignorant. There she is, sitting in the pristine white hospital bed assigned to her for the task she has endured. She has another task to face yet and she doesn't even know it. You know it. You're not free of the knowledge anymore because you know. And you thought the suffering was finally over, you let yourself think that maybe, just maybe after all the trouble you've had with your daughters that your eldest might finally, finally have earnt some recompense in the joy of a child. Not now. She still believes as you had because she is still ignorant. What's that saying? You think. Ignorance is bliss.
You took it upon yourself to be the soul to shatter it. To send the world crashing about her because she is your daughter. She does not deserve to hear from anyone else. Who else could tell her anyway? Robert? Edith? Violet? Isobel? Poor Isobel's in too much of a state to say anything remotely close to tangible English. But you can relate to that can't you? You lost your baby and she has lost hers. It has become your challenge to tell her, Mary must know. She looks up from her burbling brand-new infant and notices you.
You take a long, shaky breath and despite your best efforts, your smile comes out weak and sad and immediately she knows something is amiss. Mary is too tired to pull you up on it, her own smile smallens a little and she looks back to her babe, passing off your insecurities as motherly pride.
"He's beautiful," you say in a near-whisper, and you're not lying. He is a beautiful baby. You edge closer to the bed. Now you're procrastinating after so quickly taking on the job of breaking it to her. You know you have to do it for her but the words stick in your throat. Your mouth has become dry and hoarse and the beam of pride in your eldest daughter's eyes is unlike anything you've ever seen before. Immediately you feel such a desperate ache in your heart. It's already wounded with holding grief for Mary.
"Mama, I was so worried," she says. "But it was all worth it. I couldn't have imagined him more perfect. He's here and everything finally feels so perfectly in place."
Tears are betraying you.
"I'm so proud of you," you say, taking another steadying breath. She looks up and smiles. "What will you call him?"
"I'm afraid Matthew and I are largely disagreeing on that," she grins because she doesn't know. Your expression has stopped her from uttering another word. "Mama?"
"Mary darling, I'm going to let you rest but we'll need to talk afterwards. The others won't come in until you've slept."
"I feel fine, you can let them in now."
"Darling, you'll need some rest first."
"Really mama, I'm fine... Is something the matter?" A flash of concern in her eyes is your final clue that you're running out of time. It's nearly up, there's something wrong, something amiss and she can feel it but she doesn't know what it is. But you know. She knows that you know, it's practically written on your forehead.
"I think we ought to talk after you've had some rest," a last ditch effort to put off the truth.
"I'd rather hear it now."
A deafening silence has filled the room. You don't have the words anymore. A cold shiver rolls down your spine and chills your bones, you're finally feeling aged and worn out from what the world has given you. The light crinkles at the edges of your eyes and the slight creases in your forehead are feeling more prominent than before. You're finally feeling like an old woman.
"Let me call the nurse to take the baby. It might not help to be holding him when I tell you..."
Mary looks at you suspiciously.
"Why don't you hold him?" She asks, raising a defiant eyebrow, demanding your knowledge now. This isn't what it should be like the first time you hold your first grandson. But you nod anyway, resigned to accepting this is how it will have to be. You allow a few moments to savour holding him and Mary even relaxes a little when she sees you adoring her baby. The child yawns and scrunches up his eyes before settling against you and gently dozing off. You swallow hard and look your eldest daughter in the eye. When next will you deliver such heart-wrenching news to her? You pray never but then God hasn't exactly been forthcoming in answering your prayers.
"I'll put him down in the crib, I'm going to need to be able to... One moment."
Stop putting it off, Cora. You think as you settle the child down and return to your daughter's bed. By now Mary is a fraction irritated by the way you're handling things. She stifles a yawn and sits back on the pillows. Tentatively sitting yourself beside her on the bed once more, you find the ability to make your lips produce words.
"I never thought I'd have to do this..." Your eyes fall from her intense gaze and find a spot on the floor. Her interest has been anewed and now she is becoming more worried than impatient.
"Mary... Darling. There's been a most awful accident."
Though naturally pale in complexion, she's getting whiter, her body is tense. For once Mary is scared as she should be.
"A truck hit the car..."
"Is somebody hurt?" She asks. "Is it papa?"
"No, it's not papa..." You feel a single hot, wet tear roll down your cheek. "Mary, I'm so sorry."
"Mama, what are you saying? Don't apologise. What are you saying?"
Your baby is frightened and you can't protect her anymore.
"It's Matthew... Matthew was in a car accident earlier this afternoon."
Her eyes are animalistic, wild, fearful. She's shaking her head because though you haven't spelt it out, she knows what you're trying to tell her.
"What are you saying?" She practically growls, backing up against the pillows like you've offended her or physically hit her.
"No, he was here. Just now, he was here. He was with me. He was here!" She argues, trying to fight her way out of believing her husband, her love is gone.
"I'm so sorry," you murmur, her pain is making you feel raw. "Mary, I'm so sorry."
"I don't understand! He can't be, he was just... I don't..." her voice is beginning to falter but still she shakes her head in disbelief. "He can't, he..."
A sob racks her body and you reach out to her but she isn't ready.
"Why are you telling me this? Matthew was here, he is here."
"Darling, he left the hospital to drive back to Downton. But he didn't see the truck coming. The car swerved off the road and Matthew..."
"Don't... Say it," she says through gritted teeth.
"He's gone," you say as gently as you can. You did all you could to soften the blow but really there was no way to make her pain lessen. Her tears are fierce, rolling down her cheeks while she stares at you, at first she is incredulous. She sits very still will her guard breaks down. You hear a hollow gasp emit from her throat and silently she crumbles. Her face contorts with her pain and she recoils from you at first. Broken with the burden of your message, she finally falls into your arms.
"No!" You've never seen your eldest baby cry since she was just that - a baby, but this is more like howling. She screams in agony at the sword that stabs her with loss and you have misplaced your shield. Her pain is not entirely unimaginable to you, some of it rubs off on you and partly it reminds you of watching Sybil die. Mary writhes in your arms, she's angry. Her child has woken upon hearing his mother's distress and he joins the symphony of heart broken sobs with his own bawling. Your own tears are there but you make no sound.
Two nurses have appeared to take care of the child, they look at you but you're looking out of the window behind the bed. Your grip on Mary is an iron-vice, the nurses say things but you hear none of it. They take the baby from the room, Mary doesn't seem to have noticed. She physically twists in your arms and grabs you so tight you'll have bruises. You couldn't have expected her reaction. She was always so reserved, so quick to cover her feelings but this she can't hide. This hurts her, cutting deeper than anything she's ever felt in her life.
It could have been hours, you're unsure. But finally she is exhausted and she falls to sleep in your lap. Gently, you stroke her hair and half-whisper, half-sing lullabies. Your clothes are all wet with her tears and the room finally feels still and cold. It's beginning to feel surreal to you. One moment you were at Downton with Robert, anticipating meeting the second grandchild with pride and warmth and childish glee. Now you hold Mary after telling her she is now widowed. Her world has changed. Matthew lies dead.
I may do a chapter from Robert's perspective, it depends. If not, I hope this was a good enough second offering to Downton fanfiction.