"Love Will Always Win"

Chapter One

John walked into their bedroom and smiled and the sight before him. Anna always looked beautiful when she was sleeping. This morning was no exception. She was on her side, and her hand was tucked under her chin. Her mouth was formed in a slight smile, as if she was having a pleasant dream. He hoped she was. She had been so upset in recent weeks, ever since Matthew Crawley had died in the automobile accident. Being Lady Mary's ladies maid, Anna had dealt with the grief of it on a daily basis and it had taken its toll. That was why he was thankful she was going on this trip with Lady Cora. Lady Cora was going to London for a few weeks and had asked Anna to be her ladies maid for the trip. Normally O'Brien would have been the one to go, but she was still recovering from a bout of the flu that had stricken her several weeks ago. Anna was to go ahead early with some of the staff to set things up and Lady Cora would be joining them in a few days. John was going to miss her terribly, but he knew that going away for a few weeks would be just the thing she needed to put some color back in her cheeks and the light back in her eyes.

John looked at the clock, and sighed. As much as he would love to be able to let her wake naturally, he knew he had to wake her if she was going to be able to get everything done that needed to be done before she left this afternoon. He slowly walked to her side of the bed, and sat down gently. He began to slowly stroke her face, moving some hair off her forehead. He bent down and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. Anna frowned slightly at the contact and then her features settled once again into the slight smile as she sighed gently.

"Anna, my love, you have to wake up."

Anna scrunched her face up and shook her head. "Five more minutes."

John had to laugh. They had this same discussion every morning when he was the first to rise and had to wake her. "No, darling, you cannot have five more minutes. You must get up."

Anna slowly opened her eyes. "You're a mean husband; you know that, don't you?"

John laughed as he bent down to brush his lips against hers. "Yes, I know. This mean husband has made you breakfast. Would you like me to bring up or will you take it downstairs?"

Anna stretched and sat up and smiled as she reached for her husband's hand. She reached up and brushed another kiss across his lips. For a moment John allowed the kiss to deepen, but with a deep sigh he pulled away. She frowned slightly, as John placed one more kiss on her lips before standing up.

"Sorry, my love, but I have to leave in a few minutes and you have to start preparing for your trip."

Anna nodded and started to get out of bed. "I know. I will miss you terribly, John." She reached for her robe and put it on. "I wish her ladyship had asked another maid to go with her."

"She asked for you because you are the best and I think she knew you needed to get away for a few days. This trip will be good for you, Anna."

Anna sighed; she knew her husband was right. The past few weeks had been so hard. Lady Mary was still in a state of shock and grieving terribly and often the burden of comfort fell on her. She was happy to be there for Lady Mary, who had been a source of such support when John was in jail, but even Anna had to admit she couldn't take much more. As much as Anna would miss John, she knew this was what she needed; deep down she knew she needed to go.

She reached for John's hand and they both slowly began to walk to the door. "I will come down in a few minutes for breakfast. As soon as I wash up and get dressed."

John nodded and started toward the stairs. He watched as she walked toward the bathroom and smiled as she shut the door. This would be the first time they were apart in months. He was really going to miss her.

Anna had just closed the clasp on her traveling satchel when she heard the front door of the cottage open. She smiled; John had mentioned that he would try to get home for an hour or so before she had to leave so they could say a proper goodbye. She had been hopeful he would succeed, but if she had learned anything about working at Downton it was that schedules could always change, and plans were often cancelled. So she was thrilled that John had managed to slip away. She quickly left the bedroom and was just headed down the stairs, when John turned the corner and looked up at her. It took her breath away a little bit as he smiled up at her, his eyes sparkling and crinkling in the corners. She loved his smile.

"You managed to get away."

He nodded, "I have an hour; his Lordship is in a meeting."

"Let me fix you something to eat then." Anna started heading down the stairs, but stopped as John moved to block her.

"As nice as that sounds, I could think of a far better way to spend the next hour. " His voice grew deeper as he finished his sentence.

Anna blushed and smiled. Her blush only grew as she noticed his eyes darken as he looked her up and down. She slowly licked her lips. She took a few steps back until she was on the landing, "Why Mr. Bates, whatever do you mean?" She smiled at him and let out a little giggle as he let out a little growl and met her on the landing at the top of the stairs.

He reached out his arms and pulled Anna flush against him. He brought his hand to her face and tilted her chin up towards him. "I love you and I am going to miss you so much." He slowly lowered his head and closed the distance between them. The lips met and Anna moaned as their kiss deepened. John's fingers fanned through her hair and she had the brief thought that she was glad she had not pinned it up yet. John briefly pulled away so he could grab her hand and lead her to the bedroom. They resumed their kiss as they walked through the door, and Anna reached to take off John's jacket and he started to unbutton her uniform. Soon the jacket and the uniform were on the floor joined by the rest of their clothing. They had just enough time to say a proper goodbye.

The staff had turned out to say goodbye to Anna and the other staff members who were getting set to leave for London. Anna said goodbye to Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes and the rest of the staff, who had all turned away discreetly as Anna saved her last goodbye for her husband. John pulled her into his arms and placed a soft kiss on the top of her head. "Have a safe trip, my love. The time will go by fast."

Anna fought back tears as she pulled away to look up at her husband. She would miss him so. "I will miss you John. I will call you from the house as soon as I arrive and I shall write you every day!"

John smiled and kissed her softly. "Just try and have a good time, go for long walks, maybe even see a show if you have the time. I will miss you too." His kissed her again, keeping it chaste as they were still in view of the other staff. He pulled away and grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips. "I love you."

Anna smiled up at him, and reached up to cup his cheek. She kissed him one last time, "I love you too." She clasped his hand in a tight squeeze before stepping back. They shared once last smile before Anna turned towards the waiting wagon. She climbed and settled down. As the cart pulled away she turned and looked at John. She waved one final time.

John watched as the cart left and waved once more before it turned the corner and Anna was out of view. He took a deep breath and headed towards the servant's entrance. He knew he would only have a few minutes before his Lordship rang to change for dinner. He hoped to stay busy over the next few weeks, and could only hope that would make the time apart from Anna go more quickly.

John walked slowly down the servants hallway, his cane making a clicking noise in the silence. John had been working non-stop since Anna's departure. He would be thankful to sit and have a bite to eat and relax for a little while before his lordship rang to change into his night clothes. It wasn't until he sat down that he realized that Anna should have arrived in London a few hours ago. He frowned slightly as he wondered why she hadn't rang yet, but relaxed when he realized she probably had duties she had to fulfill before calling him.

The rest of the staff was already eating and he smiled at Daisy as she placed a bowl of soup and a roll in front of him. He had just taken his first bite when the phone rang. He watched as Mr. Carson put his spoon down and rose to answer it. John hoped it was Anna. Even though it had only been a few hours since her departure he longed to hear her voice. He looked up as Mr. Carson re-entered the room. He frowned at the look on the butler's face, his frown deepened as he bet to whisper to Mrs. Hughes. As he watched a look of horror cross the housekeeper's face and the color fade from her cheeks, John felt a deep feeling of dread. Something was wrong. He wondered if it was the Dowager. She had been unwell the past few days and he hoped she hadn't taken a turn for the worse.

He watched as Mrs. Hughes rose from her seat and stood next to Mr. Carson. By now the rest of the staff realized something was wrong and they all looked towards the pair, waiting to hear what was wrong. John felt of jolt of surprise when instead of looking at the entire staff both sets of eyes found him. He began to panic, surely nothing had happened with Anna. She was only going to London. What could have happened in the time it took to get from Downton to there?

Mrs. Hughes spoke up. "Mr. Bates will you please join Mr. Carson and I in his office." John looked at her trying to sense what the issue was, but she quickly moved her eyes away, but not before John saw the sheen of tears. He felt is heart start to pound and a bead of sweat broke out on his forehead. He slowly rose and reached for his cane. He felt the glances of the rest of the staff on his back as he followed the elder staff members out of the dining room. He entered the office and quickly turned to face his superiors.

"What is it? Is it Anna?" He noticed how his voice cracked on his wife's name and took a deep breath. "Please tell me."

Mr. Carson took a deep breath before speaking. "Mr. Bates I am afraid there has been an accident"

John tried to listen, as Mr. Carson went on. He heard bits and pieces. Apparently the train had de-railed and there had been a fire. There were a lot of injuries and the scene was still chaotic.

John looked up, "But they have found Anna, and she is okay, right? Please tell me they have found my wife." He knew how desperate his voice sounded, but he didn't care. He just wanted to know that Anna was okay. He watched as Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes looked at each other. He saw the look that passed between them. His eyes filled with tears and he felt the panic begin to rise in him. "Please, just tell me. Where is Anna?"

Mrs. Hughes looked at him with sadness in her eyes, "Mr. Bates, they have not found Anna yet. The most damage was in the part of the train she was sitting in. The fire was intense. They cannot get to those cars yet. They don't think anyone from that section could have survived the crash and the fire."

Mr. Carson starting speaking again, but John barely heard him. He was aware of his cane hitting the floor and of the tears falling down his cheeks. Then he heard nothing. Just silence. Just blackness.

It was impossible. His Anna couldn't be gone.