A/N: Welcome back loves! Thank you all so much for the reviews and constructive criticism from the last chapter. Your opinions and suggestions are definitely taken to heart. Please note that this chapter finishes up the conversation in the study, and then moves to the next day to the conversation between Mary and Violet. Now without further ado I give you all chapter 6!
The study (continued)…
Robert sat in stunned silence as Matthew's last words swirled in his head "this wasn't the first time I have had to tell Natalie I wasn't interested." Robert knew that his son in-law loved Mary deeply, and would never betray her. What did surprise him is the fact that Matthew had kept like this from Mary.
"Matthew, what do you mean that this wasn't the first time?" Robert asked, almost hesitantly.
"Remember how I said I am taking care of some things for her father? Well, Natalie called the office one day last week during regular hours saying that her father had forgotten to drop a form off and had asked her to bring it by. She asked if that was fine but that would she would be there after hours because of her evening plans. I told her that was fine that I had planned to work late on another case anyway" Matthew paused to take a sip of his drink before continuing. "Natalie showed up about an hour after we had closed. She put the form on my task, and asked if she could sit down for a few minutes; I told her of course. After a few moments she started asking questions about the firm, my job, and etcetera; nothing that I haven't ever answered before. Then she started asking more personal questions about Mary, George, and it just got very uncomfortable on my end. After giving her nothing but basic and minimal answers she stood up as if she was about to leave, so I stood as well and walked over to the door to let her out. As I was about to open the door Natalie leaned up and kissed me. I pushed her away and asked her what she thought she was doing. And, I made sure I made it perfectly clear that if it ever happened again, her father would be informed. That seemed to scare her enough because she left red faced and apologizing. And no, Mary doesn't know any of that happened either" Matthew finally finished speaking after what he felt was an eternity.
"Why haven't you told Mary any of this? She deserves to know and by you keeping it from her makes it seem like you don't trust her." Robert concluded, hoping that this would make Matthew see where the real problem was.
"The night it happened when I got home Mary was already in bed asleep. Then things started piling up at work, and I also thought I had handled the situation, and I didn't want her upset. But yes, in hindsight I should have told her; because now I have to explain not one but two very difficult situations. And like you, Mary will ask why I didn't tell her anything before." Matthew said, finally realizing the hardest part of this situation.
"Talk to her tomorrow as soon as you get home and get George settled for the night. Matthew, she will be angry, she has the Crawley temper. But remember that she does love you; and that you two will work it out. Of that I am sure." Robert said with certainty.
"I will. I just hope that irrevocable damage hasn't been done. Thank you, Robert. Not just for the advice, but for being like a father to me over the years." Matthew said, finishing the last of his brandy.
The next day at the Dowager house…
At ten o'clock the next morning as Mary waited to be let in to the Dowager house, she thought over her and Matthew getting ready for bed the previous night...
They had spent the previous night in her old room. Things were not back to normal just yet, but they had managed to talk a bit before going to bed, even if was just about mundane things such as Mary informing Matthew that she was going to visit her granny before they left tomorrow, and Matthew saying that once they got home and put George to bed the next night he thought they should talk. They shared a rather chaste kiss before telling one another goodnight, each hoping silently that the next day would allow them to solve their dilemma.
Mary was pulled from her thoughts by her grandmother's butler James opening the door and informing her that "the Dowager Countess is in the sitting room." Mary made her way to the sitting room, to find her granny seated at the small table in front of the window which had a tea pot and two cups waiting to be filled on top of it.
"Hello Granny." Mary said in greeting as she bent down to kiss her grandmother's check before taking the seat on the opposite side.
"Hello Mary darling, how was George this morning?" Violet asked genuinely concerned for her great-grandson.
Mary couldn't help the smile that broke across her face at the mention of her son. "Right as rain; and full of energy, you would never have known he hadn't felt well." Mary said, as she began to pour them each a cup of tea. "What was it you wanted to speak to me about?" she asked, taking a sip of her tea.
"Matthew." Violet said by way of explanation.
"What about Matthew?" Mary asked, as she fidgeted with the arm of her chair.
"What was going on between the two of you last night at dinner? It was clear to everyone that something was amiss with the two of you. And then, in the drawing room you were so preoccupied with your thoughts that Edith practically had to yell your name to get your attention." Violet responded. Whatever was the matter had to be something serious, for Mary to try and avoid talking about it. "And Mary, before you respond with another question or some excuse I would like to remind you that I know you better than your own parents at times. You are just like me, so just come out with it in detail, because you aren't leaving here until you do." Violet concluded, watching Mary carefully.
Internally rolling her eyes and thinking classic granny Mary decided to tell Violet everything that had happened Saturday night at the firm's dinner.
"And you two haven't talked about what happened?" Violet asked?
"No, we haven't. To be honest I am the one who has put off talking about it, I wasn't ready to talk about it when we got home; and then George was sick. There just hasn't been a right time, and I think we both needed the time to think, but it just seems as if the tension keeps growing." Mary said. She had always found granny to be her strongest champion and wisest confidant.
"Mary, you not only have to talk to Matthew; you have to listen to him and his side of the story. I know you are aware of that, but it needs to be said. Something isn't right about this whole situation. Why would this woman suddenly make a pass at Matthew?" Violet wondered the last aloud. Hearing Mary's sharp intake of breath she quickly added "I am not saying that Matthew has been unfaithful. Anyone with eyes can see that he loves you more than anything. No, something with this Natalie Cavanaugh person does not set right with me." Violet said, while making a mental note to talk to some connections and see what they knew of this Natalie Cavanaugh.
"I know you're right. I never doubted his fidelity but even with that, you have to admit finding him in someone else's arms was not the most pleasant or welcome experience." Mary said, taking another sip of tea.
"I would imagine it was quite unpleasant. However, you two need to talk and get to the bottom of this. Mary, speak to him tonight when you get home and put George down for the night, the sooner you handle this situation the better. There were many things I learned while your grandfather and I were married and one of the most important was that while it is good to go to separate corners and think the problem over, it isn't good to ignore it. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away nor does it make you forget that it is there. Marriage is hard, worth it, but hard. This isn't the first or last trial you and Matthew will face, but always remember to talk it out. A little talk goes a long way. And that is my advice to you, my dear." Violet concluded.
Mary pondered these words for a moment, and she knew that granny was right. She and Matthew had to talk, tonight.
"Thank you, Granny." Mary said as she checked her watch; it was half past eleven, she needed to leave.
As Violet watched her granddaughter leave, she started planning out how to go about finding out the information she desired. Family had to stick together.
Matthew and Mary had left Downton shortly after Mary had returned from visiting Violet. The ride back home had been filled with George's nonsensical ramblings and childish laughter. Both were music to his parents' ears. Despite the tension between Mary and Matthew they both decided to push their problem aside and give George an afternoon filled with fun since he had been sick. The three of them passed the afternoon at a nearby park. George was quite fearless when doing the monkey bars (sitting atop his father's shoulders). Sliding down the slide with Mary had his squealing with laughter that made his parents smile at one another. So absorbed in the lovely and rare family time no one noticed that the day was quickly fading. Soon though both Mary and Matthew noticed the sun starting to set and George's energy stating to fade. It was time to return to the house.
Dinner that night was as usual a noisy affair. George screaming trying to resist eating his peas, Mary trying to coax him into eating them, and Matthew laughing as she failed. George managed to get more of his food on him and Mary's clothes than in his mouth. After dinner Mary gave George his bath, and then handed him off to Matthew to tuck him in.
Mary was in the living-room pretending to read when Matthew came downstairs twenty minutes later. Despite the lighthearted atmosphere of the afternoon both had been aware that the evening was going to be less than pleasant. Mary looked up as Matthew sat down across from her in one of the chairs, it was time.
"So, how do you want to do this?" Mary asked, feeling so much more than just nervous.
"I think it would be best if I explained what happened Saturday night." Matthew said, as he met Mary's eyes. Mary's only response was to nod.
"To start with I know Natalie because I am working on some things for her father, and she was present at several of my meetings with him. When you went out to check the voicemail from Cora, Natalie came up to the table and asked if she could speak with me privately. Supposedly about something relating to her father; I told her yes, so we walked out on to the balcony. Once we were outside and far enough away from the door she put her arms around me and tried to kiss me. Mary, when you walked out I was trying to break the grip she had on me without hurting her. If I had done what I wanted to I would have pushed her away so hard and so fast that she probably would have fallen. I know what it must have looked like. But, you have to know that I never would that I never could do that to you." Matthew said, trying to read Mary's face to get a sense of what she was feeling, because his heart was in his throat.
Remembering her granny's advice Mary made sure she heard Matthew out, before speaking. "I know. Matthew, I have never questioned your faithfulness to me. But, walking back into that ballroom and seeing you be led out the door by the same woman who I saw eating you alive with her eyes when we arrived was hard. Then, walking outside to see your arms around each other…no don't say anything" Mary said, as Matthew opened his mouth to correct her. "…I know what you said and I believe you. But can you understand how that looked to me? And then you saying 'this isn't what it looks like,' Matthew those words never imply anything good. Can you imagine how you would have felt if you had walked out and saw me in another man's arms and said those same words to you?" Mary asked, hoping he could see her side.
Matthew sat in silence for a minute seeing the image in his mind that her words had painted. He didn't like what he imagined, the very thought of any of those things happening that she had said made something in him burn with an icy rage. Was this what Mary had felt?
"Mary, I am so sorry." Matthew said as he stood and walked over to sit beside her on the couch.
"I know you are." Mary replied, reaching over to squeeze his hand. "Matthew I owe you an apology as well. You started to try and explain what had happened after Natalie went back inside and I cut you off. I shouldn't have, but I wasn't ready to listen or talk to you. Can you forgive me?" Mary asked, looking into his clear blue eyes.
"Oh Mary, you don't need my forgiveness. I know how you are." Matthew said as he pulled her into his arms savoring the feel of her against him. Heaven knows he better savor it he thought, because he hadn't even told Mary the worst part yet. Reminding himself that she deserved to know, and hearing Robert's advice in his head Matthew prepared himself for the worst.
Mary sat contentedly in the circle of Matthew's arms with her head resting under his chin. They had talked she thought to herself everything was going to be okay, or so she thought until Matthew started to speak again.
Holding Mary tightly against him for as long as he could Matthew began to speak. "Mary, that isn't all I have to tell you. There is more, so much more you need to know."
Mary's eyes which had been closed shot open at that last statement. Pulling away but still remaining in the loose hold of Matthew's arms Mary asked in a soft voice, "what do you mean there is more?"
"Mary, Saturday night wasn't the first time I had to tell Natalie I wasn't interested." Matthew said as calm as he could, daring to meet her eyes.
Mary was up and out of Matthew's arms so quick he barely had time to realize she had moved. Matthew could only watch as she paced the length of the room once, then twice before coming to stand in front of him. "This wasn't the first time." Mary repeated his words. "When was the first time? And, why didn't I know about it until now?" Mary asked, unable to hide the anger and hurt from her voice. What else was he hiding from her? Mary thought, as she waited for him to answer.
A/N: Enormous and never ending 'thank you(s)' go as always to the wonderful Oiseaus and Matthewandmaryfluffalert for their never ending support, talks, and cheerleading with this story. Also, thank you to my wonderful friends on Tumblr who have been so supportive and even reading part of this story to help me out. From the bottom of my heart I can honestly say that you all have become some of my most cherished friends! I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. Mary and Matthew have finally talked, yes I know I left it with a cliffhanger (I write better that way), but don't worry we shall see more of that in chapter 7. What could Violet be up to? As always read and review! Your comments on the last chapter were greatly appreciated.