A/N ~ Forgive me as this will be my first time doing a multi-chapter fic that I really have no idea where it will end up. Kinda terrifying to post not having everything else perfectly in place….
Despite falling in love with all kinds of stories over the years, it has been rare I've actually turned to fanfiction to supplement my enjoyment of a story. Then I mainlined Downton Abbey and became emotionally involved with characters who have stolen my heart (and broken it into a million pieces, but whatever). I figured after the 2011 Christmas Special, honeymoon fanfic would be all over the place, and I was ready to read through it all. I was surprised to only find a few, and though delightfully smutty, I wanted more — and not just of the smut. So as I started actually writing my first fic for the fandom ("The Size of Things", which is a silly pre-honeymoon one-off that I like to think could have happened), I had bits and pieces of a proper honeymoon fic starting to emerge. I also had calls of a sequel to "The Size of Things," I think because of Matthew's line about "one room being checked off the honeymoon list."
But as I was dawdling with the next fic demanding to be written and still mulling over the proper honeymoon fic, and reading all kinds of wonderful meta up on tumblr, I decided maybe I would play with something a bit closer canon. I'm determined not to make this a total smut-fest; more of a revelation of what was meant by "my eyes have been opened." There are some deeper character and motivation issues that bothered me (and a few others) through S3 that I want to explore, since obviously in an 8 episode season with 20+ characters, not everything can be covered to satisfy us all.
As always, gratitude to JF and TPTB for these wonderful characters I am only borrowing to become yet more emotionally attached to a fictional show. A huge hat-tip to OrangeShipper the the usual suspects for the cheerleading and butt-kicking as this first chapter simply did not want to be born. RGrace is once again an awesome beta, even for a MIA fic-writer such as myself. And if you all haven't discovered agncatz and her graphic talents on tumblr, what are you waiting for? She worked so hard with me to make sure this fic has a gorgeous cover that was just what I was imagining. Please send her some kudos and love since my endless squees in her general direction can't begin to convey my happiness. ;)
Oh, boy. Here we go!
Matthew studied Mary's slim figure on the platform where she stood talking to Anna, watching the way the steam floated gently around her, almost curling her in an embrace — one he longed to gather her in himself. The rich blue of her suit and hat only emphasized her fair complexion and richness of her hair. He smiled as she glanced over at him, paused to meet his gaze, the faintest hint of a return smile curving her lips. He was married to that incredible creature, that stunning woman, that closest of friends who had been there for him, no matter what. No matter how hard he had stupidly pushed her away in the past, she stood calm and still, unflustered, able to forgive him when he wasn't able to forgive himself.
And now they were married. He had to keep telling it to himself, fueling the stupid, besotted smile he had been wearing all day. But it had all seemed so impossible, even Mary's upset with him yesterday and attempt to call it off last night seemed to be just one more hurdle in what had been a six year battle to get them here. To have it finally be so after so long had him in a state of happiness of which he wasn't quite sure he was worthy.
His breath caught again as Mary walked over to him, a coy look on her face. "Ready, darling?"
He smiled down at her, delighted by the affectionate term she used so easily with him. "Quite ready," he answered, tucking her arm into his.
They headed toward the first class carriages, and Mary continued, "Did you get a chance to talk to Aunt Rosamund at all this afternoon?"
He shook his head. "Only briefly and to thank her for providing us accommodations in London."
"Oh. So she didn't tell you she's decided not to stay on at Downton this week after all?"
Matthew came to a dead stop, letting go of her arm. "I'm sorry, what?"
Mary had continued a few steps beyond and turned back to look at him. "She told me she will be back to London tomorrow morning after all. She said she would feel an impolite hostess otherwise."
He swallowed and tried to recover himself. One of the things he had most been looking forward to on this honeymoon was the chance to finally have some time alone with Mary. He knew they would have plenty of time for that once in France, but he had really hoped to have it for the first few days of their honeymoon as well. "Well, um, that will be …. I suppose it will be nice to have her, uh, company for a few days."
She cocked a brow at him. "No it won't." Stepping back to him slowly, she took his hand again. "Which is exactly what Granny told her in no uncertain terms. She's been relegated to the Dower House now." She grinned up at him, and he couldn't miss the dark sparkle in her eye. "Really, now darling. Did you think I would let our honeymoon start off with a chaperone?"
Swallowing hard at the warm purr of her voice, he squeezed her hand. "I don't know whether to thank you or be cross with you for teasing me that way."
Her low chuckle floated around him as they settled into their carriage. "Oh, you will thank me and learn to enjoy some teasing, I think."
"Be careful, turn about can be fair play," he growled as he sat down next to her. He was close enough to catch the softest touch of her perfume, lightly floral with slightly darker, spicy note underneath, perfectly suited for her. He unbuttoned his jacket and settled in as the whistle sounded, more steam rising up around the windows as the train slowly lurched forward.
Matthew reached over and pulled her gloved hand into his, smiling down at it. Looking at their joined hands, he ran his fingers over the back of hers, playing over where her wedding and engagement rings now made a bump beneath the silky fabric of her gloves.
He smiled and lifted his head to find Mary looking at him with an equally joyous smile on her face. "Happy?" he asked.
"What do you think?" She laced her fingers through his.
"Well, you aren't exactly predictable," he teased, reaching up to brush over the tendril of dark hair that curled around her face. He loved this style she had chosen for the wedding, the way it seemed to soften her, showing a very different Mary from the one she was so determined to show the world. This was the woman he knew, the one who had loved him so quietly and selflessly, the one who looked so elated and young as she said yes in that gentle snowfall, face alight with joy.
She leaned towards him slightly, a gentle challenge in her gaze. "Good," she whispered very close to his mouth.
He grinned back at her, and then leaned in to complete the kiss. Soft and gentle, as his fingers continued to trace over her silky skin, began to learn the curve of her delicate jaw. His eyes had already memorized her long ago, every look, every angle, every gentle curve. Now it was time for his fingers and hands to learn all those same features, to memorize their feel, to find how easily he fit against those angles and curves. And then maybe his mouth would start to learn the taste of every inch of her. He had to stifle the moan as thoughts of what their honeymoon held for them both came rushing in.
A loud rap accompanied a rather forceful clearing of the throat, and Matthew quickly looked up to find the conductor standing in the open door of their compartment. Embarrassed, Matthew fumbled for their tickets inside his jacket, mumbling an apology as he handed them over. "Sorry. Just married."
Mary glanced at him and continued to smile serenely at the conductor who smiled in return and uttered a brief congratulation before handing the punched tickets back to Matthew. Matthew shifted in his seat as the compartment door slid shut.
It was Mary's turn to reach over and run her hand lightly over the edge of Matthew's face. "Your ears have gone red," she teased.
He looked up at her, "I got a bit distracted."
"So did I," she murmured. The openness of her gaze and the shared thoughts and wants he saw in the warmth of it was still so new to him, still making him dizzy with knowing he would now share his life, as well as those needs and wants with this woman. The strength of emotion swelled in him, causing an actual pain in his chest, and he gently squeezed her hand tighter.
As if in understanding, She placed her other hand over his, leaning into him, and he felt her lips brush his cheek softly before she settled against his shoulder. Her soft sigh wrapped around them both, and he closed his eyes, leaning his head back, and then slightly against hers. "It has been a long day," he murmured.
"Mmm," was her quiet response next to him. "And yet it'snot quite over."
His stomach flipped excitedly at the implication of her words, and all he could do was grasp her hands even tighter. "I suppose we should take the chance to rest then on what may the longest train ride to London ever."
Her answering chuckle was soft. "Oh, most definitely." She settled in close to his side, her thumb tracing a soft circle on the back of his hand.
The quiet and stillness of the Belgravia house was nearly palpable. Where Rosamund may not have understood the needs of a couple on honeymoon, what with her proposed return the next day, her servants certainly had. Everything was subtle efficiency and as much privacy as possible. As Anna was shown upstairs and given help with unpacking and settling both in, Mary and Matthew had been whisked into a dimly lit dinning room, intimately set with a light dinner for two. The butler, Meade, hung back, nearly in the shadows, overseeing needs as necessary, but clearly letting them have as much seclusion as they wished.
"This feels like such a luxury after all the noise and bustle of this afternoon," Mary sighed as she bit into another strawberry, glancing at Matthew where he sat beside her.
"Yes, but you loved the attention."
"Well," she paused to chuckle before retuning his cheeky grin, "I suppose, but there is a limit even for me." Taking another slow bite of a strawberry, she deliberately let her lips drag across the fruit, holding Matthew's gaze as she touched her tongue to her lips, catching at the juice. It had the desired effect as his hands paused over his own plate and he stared at her, mouth slightly agape. She smiled and cocked her head slightly to the side, thrilling in both the rush of the sensual power she had over him and the knowledge that they were both allowed to finally act on it.
Matthew pushed away his own fruit plate to lean in closer to Mary, his gaze still fixed on her mouth. "Hold on, I think you missed something right about here." His thumb stroked across the corner of her mouth as he leaned in closer. "I think I can get it," he murmured, his breath now caressing her lips.
She pulled back slightly, reaching up to catch his hand. "Matthew," she tutted slightly, raising her brows to indicate Meade was watching.
He glanced over her shoulder and shook his head. "All alone," and he leaned forward once more. She evaded him again with a light laugh, but still held on to his hand, her fingers caressing over his before she lifted his fingertips to her lips and ran light kisses across them. Dropping his head with a smothered groan, he let out a strangled, "Mary!"
She pressed one final kiss into the palm of his hand just as she heard a quiet cough behind her. Jumping slightly, she looked at Matthew as his head snapped up, cheeks flushing ever so slightly.
"Enough," he murmured, standing and tugging at her hand. "Nightcap?"
She hummed her assent, glancing over at Meade to give him a silent nod. As they stepped into the foyer, a liveried footman was waiting for them at the drawing room door. Guiding Mary with a warm hand on her back, Matthew waved away the footman. "I think I can manage to pour brandy for the both of us, thank you."
She had to smother her laugh as the door clicked closed behind them. "That wasn't at all obvious, darling."
"My subtlety has been used up today." Catching her hand, he turned her back to face him as his other arm slipped around her waist and pulled her in closely. "Now, about that bit of strawberry," he murmured against her lips before exploring them with his own.
A shiver ran along her spine, settling right where his hand was pressed low on her back. She was losing herself in the gentle glide of his lips against hers and the ever-increasing tension around them. She cupped his face with her hands, stroking her thumbs against his cheekbones as he sighed gently into her. She pulled back, watching as his eyes slowly opened, a small furrow of disappointment emerging on his brow.
"I'd love that brandy," her voice was low, and she slipped out his arms to find her way on shaky legs to an overstuffed settee. The small sips of wine at dinner had done nothing to calm the fluttering in her belly, and she was fast becoming annoyed with her own nerves. Perhaps this was the most trying part of it all, when they were shifting from friends and a more than eager engaged couple to actual lovers. And after all, it was such fun to tease him, especially given how often he had teased her in the past few months.
Smiling widely at him as he approached with the two snifters, she reached out to take one, loving the glancing touch of his fingers as she did. "Thank you, darling." Being able to call him that so freely was making her giddy.
His gaze had darkened slightly, but he sipped at the brandy, raising his brows in appreciation. "Rosamund has excellent taste in brandy," he said, glancing around the room. "Though not so much in decor, I think."
The room was an overcrowded collection of marble and anything covered in gold leaf, Rococo swirls and ornamentations in every corner and on every object. "Hmm, perhaps a bit over the top. I'm not so sure it is to my tastes either, but …" she shrugged in deference, sipping at her drink, the sweet warmth of it calming her.
Matthew shifted slightly closer to her, leaning a bit against the back of the settee. He brushed a hand across her cheek, pushing back a loose tendril. "Have I mentioned how beautiful you look today?"
"You may have, once or twice."
"Well, I meant it." His fingers were caressing just under her ear now. "I know it is cliché to say, but when I saw you coming down the aisle, I don't think I took a breath for the next few minutes you were so stunningly gorgeous."
She leaned in to his caress ever so slightly. "Good, that was the desired effect," she murmured, taking yet another sip of brandy.
"And this is lovely as well," his fingers played at the floral print collar of her jacket, then slowly trailed down the buttoned edge, tugging just slightly. "Though I'm sure what is under it…"
"Don't make me blush," she mockingly chided, catching his wandering hand. She watched him start to sip at his own snifter. "Even if I might be thinking the same thing about…," She loosed his fingers and reached out as if to tug at the edge of his waistcoat, but let her hand drop to rest on his thigh.
He nearly choked on his brandy. Setting his snifter down on the side table behind him before leaning in to slip one hand around her hip and the other behind her head. "Just for that," he rumbled lowly, "I will make you blush."
The heat that flared across her cheeks from his kiss was from anything but shocked sensibilities. His mouth was as sweet and warm as the brandy, only more emboldening. He was tasting her lips with slow yet sure caresses, and she answered in kind as her free hand reached up to circle around his neck. Each traced curves and lines over the others lips, all of it falling together as naturally as breathing. The heat flaming in her cheeks was spreading, traveling down her body until everything was too warm. His lips were now tasting the line of her jaw, and she let out an involuntary gasp and shudder as he licked a spot behind her ear. She pushed him away gently, leaning her forehead against his as she panted for breath, "Sorry, I just …" She hesitated, unsure how to explain she was dizzy and too warm and yet wanting more, but not here?
His hand circled her shoulder, thumb caressing gently back and forth along the tense muscles that curved up to her neck. "Are you tired?" It was a quiet question, holding no expectation or disappointment, just soft concern that matched his gaze.
Her thumb mimicked the action on the back of his neck. "Tired as in, 'have we sat in the drawing room long enough and can we go upstairs now', or tired as in, 'it has been a very long day and exploring all sorts of things would be too exhausting'?"
Chuckling softly, he pressed a surprisingly chaste kiss to her lips. "Well, if you put it that way, both."
She pulled back slightly, her fingers combing through his hair as she smiled at him. "Well, then. Yes. And no."
He leaned in for another kiss, carefully lifting the drink out of her hand and managing to set it on the side table without taking his lips from hers, deepening the kiss until it was far from chaste and both her hands had reached up to twine through his hair. He pulled away slightly and searched her gaze. "Excellent answers for both questions."
"Will you manage this month without Molesly?" she asked as they ascended the curving staircase.
"Yes, I will manage just fine. Trust me, I was managing to dress myself for years before arriving at Downton." He reach out and tugged at the hem of her jacket. "And now I have you to undress me."