Cura te ipsum ("Take care of your own self!" or "Cure your self") is a Latin injunction, urging physicians to care for and heal themselves first, before dealing with patients. (Wikipedia)
April 18th, 1912
Lady Mary Crawley looked up from buttering her toast as her father entered the dining room, his placid smile causing a twinge of irritation to stifle her already meagre appetite, and he hadn't yet spoken a word beyond "good morning."
"I've had a telegram from Murray this morning," he began cheerfully, taking his seat and accepting his freshly-pressed newspaper from William. "He's found my heir."
"Oh," young Lady Sybil perked up. "Who is he?"
Lady Mary rolled her eyes slightly and Lady Edith sneered into her coffee; both pretended a disinterest they couldn't completely feel.
"His name is Matthew Crawley," Lord Grantham answered. "He's a doctor, the son of a doctor, from Manchester."
"A doctor!" Edith exclaimed in surprise, necessitating another eye-roll from Mary. "I suppose that's...somewhat impressive," she added quickly. "He must be very clever."
"Or very vulgar," Mary muttered, taking a sip of her coffee. Imagine, the heir to Downton Abbey, a common city doctor! And this...person was to be preferred over her, to be simply given what should be hers by right! Or would be, if the world were a fairer place.
"I'm going up to London tomorrow to meet him," Lord Grantham continued, his voice betraying not nearly enough trepidation for his eldest daughter's liking. "He should receive my letter this morning."
Mary sighed again and dropped her cup back into its saucer with a clatter.
"Pray excuse me, Papa. I could use some air."
Cura Te Ipsum
It wasn't until he'd paid the cab driver and was stood on the sidewalk before the imposing facade of the Ritz holding his bag in one had with his lab coat draped over the other arm that Matthew began to feel the first real stirrings of trepidation. The past day since he'd received Lord Grantham's letter had been rather surreal. He had a sudden impulse to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the idea that he was to have luncheon at the Ritz with an earl who apparently wanted to change his entire life. Lord Grantham's letter had been straight-forward and factual, giving very little insight into the character of the man himself. Most likely, his distant and exalted cousin was a proud man who was somewhat less than pleased that the law dictated he leave his fortune, property, and title to some untitled and unconnected nobody from nowhere.
No, he thought to himself, not nobody from nowhere. I am Doctor Matthew Crawley, son of Doctor Reginald Crawley, from Manchester. I have a successful, if rather recent, medical practice. Surely that's nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary...
His thoughts were interrupted by the doorman who gazed rather impatiently down at him from the top of the stairs.
"Coming in, sir?"
"Er...yes." Matthew handed his bag, coat, and hat to the obviously disapproving man.
"Do you have a reservation, sir?"
"I'm here to meet Lord Grantham. Has he arrived?"
At the mention of the earl's name, the doorman's eyes widened a little, and his expression lost some of its disdain, if only a bit.
"Indeed. His lordship is expecting you. This way, please."
Matthew followed the doorman through the marble tiled entry, feeling woefully out of place as he tried not to gape at the high ceilings and crystal chandeliers on the way to the dining room. His eyes were drawn to an attractive grey-haired gentleman who stood as they approached. Bright blue eyes, not dissimilar to his own, looked him over quickly, and he was greeted with an open smile that put him a little more at ease.
"Jameson, is this..."
"Lord Grantham, I presume?" Matthew asked, brushing past the indignant doorman to extend his hand. "Doctor..."
"Matthew Crawley," the earl filled in, accepting the proffered hand. "I'm delighted."
"Likewise." Matthew cleared his throat as their hands parted, resisting the urge to tug on his collar, which suddenly felt stiflingly tight.
"Please, take a seat, Dr. Crawley...or may I call you Cousin Matthew?"
"Cousin Matthew, it is," he answered politely, "Cousin...?"
Matthew nodded and seated himself across from the earl.
"So, Cousin Matthew," Robert began after the waiter placed tea and sandwiches in front of them, "tell me about yourself."
Matthew's eyebrows rose slightly at the question, and he took a bite of his cucumber sandwich, chewing slowly to buy him a moment to think.
"Well, there isn't much to tell, really," he began at last. "You already know I'm a doctor, as was my late father. I live with my mother, Isobel Crawley - she's a trained nurse, by the way. - near the hospital in Manchester, where I make my living."
"I see," Lord Grantham responded, taking a sip of his tea. "As my heir, you will, of course, have the option of moving to Downton Village to be close enough to become acquainted with the family and the running of the estate. And your mother, naturally, is also welcome. I own a small cottage in the village that you can stay in."
"Lord Grantham, I'm not sure..."
"Cousin Robert, please."
"Cousin Robert..." Matthew hesitated, hating to disappoint this kind and sincere man who so obviously bore him no ill will. In fact, he was cautiously optimistic that his cousin might actually like to know him - however ridiculous such a hope probably was. "Sir, I appreciate the offer. Truly, I do. But I don't know if I can just up and leave my home, my practice..."
"I realize it's a lot to ask," Lord Grantham interrupted, "and it would be a big change for you. I can't fault you for being hesitant. But, surely you understand what an opportunity this is. And it's absolutely essential that my heir be familiar with the running of the estate that will, one day, be solely his responsibility. The future of the family and all those dependent on the estate for their livelihoods is at stake and must be handled with the upmost consideration and care."
"Of course," Matthew responded, looking down into his tea, his brow creasing in thought. He wasn't particularly keen on having such a responsibility thrust upon him, but the law was what it was. This lot had fallen to him, and he wouldn't let so many down. And the thought of a country practice did hold a certain appeal, he had to admit. "But...must I uproot my mother and leave my home so soon? Can it not wait a few more years... or months, at least?"
"I believe it would be unwise to wait, though I do understand your position. Thankfully, I have no reason to believe death to be knocking on my door, but one never knows. I'm not a young man anymore, and it could take years for you to learn everything you'll need to know to fill my shoes and to build a report with the tenants and villagers. It's important that those dependent on the estate feel that their future is in good hands."
Matthew nodded resignedly. Lord Grantham was right, of course. He now had responsibilities that couldn't - shouldn't - be put off. A weary sigh escaped him at the thought that, soon, he would leave the home of his childhood - the home he had hoped to raise his own children in - to travel to a place completely unknown to him. But, perhaps, it would be a pleasant place. He'd heard of the beauty of the Yorkshire countryside, and the promise of a cottage in the village wasn't unappealing. He could forgo cabs and ride his bicycle to work every day. The thought brought a ghost of a smile to his face.
"So, my boy," Lord Grantham continued after a brief silence, "I do hope you won't think me terribly rude, but is there, perhaps, a future Mrs. Crawley I should be aware of?"
"No," Matthew chuckled softly, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. "No, there's no one."
"Excellent," Robert murmured softly, almost to himself. "I have three daughters, you know. I had hoped that my eldest, Lady Mary, might have wed my former heir. They didn't get on as well as my middle daughter and he did, but Mary is, after all, the eldest. Her natural grace and elegance would make her a fine choice for future mistress of Downton."
Matthew squirmed uncomfortably in his chair at the earl's barely concealed hint, shoving another bite of sandwich into his mouth to avoid the need for a reply. Fortunately, Lord Grantham seemed to have said all he wished to on the subject; he proceeded to regale his captive audience with a long soliloquy on the beauty of the grounds and the need to chose one's gardener with the upmost care. Matthew listened respectfully, nodding and making little unimportant comments here and there until his need to catch the afternoon train back to Manchester brought the visit to a natural end.
Mary's haughty exterior disguised her unease as she gracefully mounted her horse after discharging her unwanted duty of welcoming Dr. Crawley and his mother to Downton. She still shuddered every time she thought of it. That they should be connected with someone of the medical profession was insult enough to her family pride without adding the additional indignity of having such a person stand to inherit her home and her father's title. It wasn't to be born.
Added to these woes was the newly discovered knowledge of the upstart's shocking lack of gratitude for the unexpected good fortune that had befallen him and his obvious contempt for a family he hadn't even met.
"'I will choose my own wife,' indeed," she thought as she absently instructed Lynch. "As if any of us would agree to have him. Well, perhaps Edith would be that stupid."
Her eyes locked angrily on bright blue ones set in a rounded face that was far too boyish to belong to a doctor.
"I hope you didn't misunderstand. I was only joking."
Oh, she had misunderstood nothing. She fixed him with her most withering glare, already spurring Diamond into motion as she replied.
"I agree. The whole thing is a complete joke."
Matthew had to remind himself, for perhaps the third or fourth time in as many minutes, to close his mouth as his beautiful cousin rode away, her dark head bobbing gracefully above her squared shoulders.
Lady Mary Crawley.
Lord Grantham had mentioned the commonplace name to him more than once, but, connected with the vision that owned it, it took on an entirely new allure. He mentally kicked himself again as he recalled the rude words Lady Mary had overheard just before she'd stepped into his line of sight and stolen his breath right out of his lungs. Of course he would insult and dismiss the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen before he'd even gotten a proper look at her.
Yes, Lady Mary was beautiful. Beautiful, cold, and proud...and entirely beyond his reach, even if he would consent to such a convenient arrangement.
Determined to put his bewitching cousin firmly out of his thoughts, Matthew turned to reenter the house. Despite his resolve, a pair of flashing dark eyes lurked in the back of his every thought, taunting and scolding him even as they held him captive in their piercing gaze.
Realizing that it was still very early in the day, he decided that he couldn't simply linger about in the house until time for dinner with the Downton family - an occasion he couldn't say he particularly anticipated. After locating his mother busting about her new bedroom, he announced his intention to walk over to the village hospital.
"Just a moment, dear," Isobel called as he turned back into the hall. "I'm coming with you."
A/N:Thank you for starting another M/M journey with me!
It may not seem very AU thus far, but...Well, I don't want to give too much away, but I promise that Matthew's different profession will change more than you might think. As with practically everything I write, the rating will change eventually.
If you have a moment, I'd love to see your thoughts. Thank you again for reading! :D