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27 June 2012 @ 12:47 am
fic: the rose captain, matthew/mary  
Title: The Rose Captain
Author: Ellyrianna
Fandom: Downton Abbey
Pairing(s): Matthew/Mary
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Written for the Downton Abbey kink meme. ladycallie requested "something involving Mary being kidnapped, freeing herself (because she's badass), but then getting lost on the way back to Downton. Much swooning and being carried back by Matthew - WHO COULD TOTALLY BE ON HORSEBACK!.... and maybe there's snow?!" And, well -- yeah, that's what this is. I hope you enjoy it, ladycallie! I tried to put everything you wanted in there. (And sort of mixed it with the other thing you requested, abusive!Richard.)




Her feet were frozen. She was wearing only her dancing shoes and her hose, and she had been running (and then stumbling, shambling, staggering) through the snowy woods for over an hour. She couldn’t feel them at all, not a single toe. She concentrated on that, narrowed her focus.

In times of struggle or distress in social situations, like when one was cornered by a pitiless bore or forced to endure a meal that contained one’s least favorite vegetable, Cora had instructed her daughters to pick something else on which to concentrate. The distraction helped mediate the experience, she advised. Mary had done this with various terrible suitors throughout her storied career, Sir Antony Strallan being the most obvious; indeed, the night he had been invited to dinner in one of her parents’ last attempts to find her a match themselves, Mary had chosen to distract herself from his presence by engaging with Matthew.

Even the briefest thought of Matthew twisted her gut, so Mary pushed him aside. Instead she thought of her feet, frozen hard, the tips of her toes likely black with frostbite, on her torn, running hose and her dress, once a fine, wine-red dinner gown, now a tatter of tangles that kept catching around her knees as she hiked it up to keep from tripping on it.

Then her grip slipped and she did trip, stumbling to her knees in the powdery snow, her jaw jarring from the impact. She drew in a deep, frosty breath and made the executive decision to pause her ceaseless, now seemingly fruitless, running in favor of assessing her situation. She was calm and rational by nature, she reminded herself as she chafed her arms through the gauzy sleeves of her gown. She could figure this out.

She knew where she was: in the midst of the wood that stretched beyond Downton, where the men hunted in the spring and shot in the winter, where she had raced Diamond a hundred times alongside her father, where she had impressed Kemal, where she had stood beside Matthew and promised not to reveal his inadequacy with the gun. She knew the wood exquisitely well by day, from the vantage point of her saddle, and especially in clear, calm weather.

Now, though, she was poorly shoed, underdressed, disoriented. She was bruised and battered and frightened. She had been enjoying the servants’ ball not – what? Two hours ago? Three? She had no idea how much time had passed since she had stepped outside for a breath of snowy air to find Sir Richard pacing in front of Downton’s door. He had looked up when she’d stepped out, staggered slightly, and she knew he was drunk. He wavered as he walked toward her, growled over the faint pleasantries she offered him, twisted her arm with inhuman, unchecked strength when she took a step back from him.

His face pressed close to hers, his breath reeking, he hissed, “You married him, of course you did, you couldn’t wait a second til I was out of that door to lay claim to what you really wanted, could you? Do you know how much you cost me? I felt badly, I didn’t sell it right away, and then of course by the time I found out what you’d done and wanted to publish, everyone had forgotten, everyone had forgiven you.” Then, his fingers still digging into the soft skin of her arm, he drew a ragged breath and said, “Everyone but me.”

Then, with a force she would never have attributed to him, even after the hint of it he’d shown during their tour of Haxby, he seized her and dragged her down the gravel path, through the snow.

At first she had not taken him entirely seriously. Like she always did, she attempted to laugh it off, to use her wit to work her way out of the snare he’d created for her. It was hard for even to comprehend: a year later, he drank himself barbaric on the drive up from London to harass her? It all seemed preposterous.

She told him so. “Please don’t act this way, Richard, it’s very unbecoming,” she said, sighing, affecting boredom even as he dragged her heels through slush and grass, even as the wood neared them with every long stride he took. Her arm was hot and hurting beneath his grip. She wondered later why she had not shouted, and knew instinctively that it was her own pride, mixed with disbelief at his behavior. “I thought we’d put all this behind us. I thought we were friends again.”

He hit her then, snapping around to land a hard blow on her face with his free hand. Her vision swam briefly, and she was so stunned that he was easily able to force her into the woods, into the tangle of dark trees and the eerily glowing snow that lay on the ground.

“Friends,” he snarled. “I think I gave you much more credit for your intelligence than you were ever due if you could imagine that the two of us could be friends after what you did. You toyed with me for years, and to what end? To bide time as you waited for your pretty solicitor cousin? Your family discredited my name, they discredited what I do, but if he were not the heir to your estate because of some extreme circumstances you would value him no more than you valued me. Less, even!”

They were in the deep of the trees now, and Mary struggled in his grasp now, her irreverence failing her as she stumbled over the uneven ground in her heels. Richard was ignorant to her attempts to free herself, convinced of his invincibility by the alcohol that she could smell wafting off of him. When she kicked at him, he hit her again on her other cheek; when she attempted to bite him, he threw an elbow into her stomach and then drove her to the ground with his knee between her legs.

The cold snow seeped instantly through her gown and, she felt, into her bones. She wriggled beneath him, winded but uncompromising, thinking, thinking, her brain panicked, shorting.

“My father will compensate you, if that’s what you’re after,” she said, and she couldn’t help it, her teeth began to chatter from the cold and her fear. “For the money you lost on me.”

“That’s not the sort of compensation I’m looking for,” he murmured, his breath misting over her. She turned her face to the side to avoid his stench. He seized a handful of her hair and forced their eyes to meet. “That Turkish got to try you, and your cousin’s had you a whole year. After what I went through for you, it’s only fair that I get a taste as well, I think.”

Mary’s heart rate increased to what she imagined was that of a hummingbird – or, better, a mouse. She was trapped, his knee between her legs pinning her to the ground, the confines of her dress no help. He had one hand in her hair yanking her head back, and the other still had her arm twisted to the side.

But she, she realized, still had one free.

Frantically she clawed at the snowy ground with her hand, and found what she needed: a heavy rock, not quite sharp, but rough. Before he could realize what she was doing, she wrapped her fingers around it and snapped it up hard to collide with his temple. He cried out in pain, his whole body jerking, and his knee lifted from where it trapped her gown between her legs, his grip on her arm loosening.

It was all she needed. She hit him with the rock again for good measure and wasted no time in pushing him off of her with both hands when he shouted out once more. He fell on his back and she kicked him hard in the ribs, once, then twice, before throwing the rock down on his chest.

Then she ran.

Now she was stranded in the middle of the wood, without a clue as to where she was, having run blindly in any direction that was not near Sir Richard Carlisle, a man she had almost wed. The terror that he would find her had outweighed any other thoughts or emotions, and at first she had only sought to put as much distance between them as possible. She was now only thinking of how she was going to die of hypothermia.

Then she reminded herself of who she was, and from where she came, and to whom she needed to return. She grasped handfuls of her skirts and staggered once more to her feet, to continue pushing her way through trees and over roots and snow, to find some light at the end, to find her way back.

She managed about ten more minutes in this way before she tripped again and fell hard on all fours, the clean snapping of some anklebone registering loud in the largely silent night. She screamed in pain, something she had not allowed herself to do before, for fear of attracting Richard’s attention, as slight a chance as there was that he was pursuing her. On her hands and knees Mary tried to crawl, her gloved fingers clawing through the snow, but she only made it as far as a niche in the expansive roots of a massive tree before she gave in. The cold, the fear, the pain, the darkness – all of it was conspiring against her. She pressed her face to the wood and breathed deeply through her thickened throat, willing away tears, clutching her arms.

She had only been there for two minutes or so before she realized that the thudding of her heart was suddenly growing louder, impossibly loud. In fact, it was not that at all, but rather hoof beats that she heard. She raised her head, blinking through the new-falling snow and the stubborn tears that had come from desperation, and heard shouting, too.

“Here!” she called back. Her voice was hoarse, scraped raw from terror, from pain, from exhaustion and cold and escape. “Please, here!”

Raw as it was, thin as it was, it rang true, and the shouting drew closer to her. Hooves crunched over fallen branches and sprayed snow and then skidded to a halt in front of her. Matthew dropped out of the saddle and onto the frozen ground and, his blue eyes wide, shouted to the rest of his search party that he had found her.

To her, though, he only whispered, running to her and crouching to gather her into his arms. Mary clutched at him, at his warm familiar self through his greatcoat and his suit. It was only with her nose buried in the crook of his shoulder, with his scent, his particular Matthew smell of cologne and books and crushed autumn leaves, that she began to cry. Her arms tightened around his neck and she sobbed, hard, into his shoulder.

“You’re frozen, you’re so cold,” he whispered. He smoothed her ruined hair, ran his fingers down her back, her arms, her waist. He was trying to ascertain what was wrong, to determine what needed fixing, what he could do and what he could not. “What are you doing out here? What happened?”

“I don’t know,” she said, honestly, and her words were ragged. “I went outside for a breath, and I don’t know how, Richard was there, and he pulled me – I don’t – I don’t know why I didn’t scream, I couldn’t really believe it, I didn’t…Matthew” was all she could finish with. She had evaded Richard in the end, hurt him, hurt him for hurting her, and escaped, and now she was exhausted, worn out from all of her strength and fright.

Matthew only stooped further to slide an arm beneath her knees, and when he rose, it was with her in his grasp. By then the others had found them: her father and Branson were both on horseback, which to Mary, even in her state, seemed wildly dramatic; and from the distant shouts she heard, her entire family was on foot somewhere in the wood.

--

She was brought back to Downton by her husband, carried inside like some princess in a fairytale. He carried her all the way up the grand staircase to her washroom, where Anna drew her a hot bath that Mary soaked in while they waited for Dr. Clarkson to wake, dress, and drive in from the village to examine her various injuries. Thawing her frozen feet was a nightmare, and she could not help screaming. Against the rules of propriety, Matthew held her hand the entire time she sat in the tub with her feet burning and burning. Her nails dug half-moons into his skin, ones she feared would scar for how deep they appeared, and he never uttered a word of complaint.

The constable and a small force came from the village to scout the woods in search of Carlisle. Her father assisted in the search, to the chagrin of all, and yet he was satisfied that he could be there when they found him in the weak light of pre-dawn: curled in a fetal position, his face streaked with blood, and terribly hung-over once woken. Her father railed at Richard the entire way back to the police lorry and had to be restrained from backing his words up with blows.

Clarkson eventually arrived, by which time Mary had been dried and robed and laid out in the bed she shared with Matthew. She dozed until the doctor’s entrance and then submitted herself to his examination, which concluded with the announcement that she had hypothermia, three bruised ribs, a broken ankle (which he set, and would cast in the morning when she came to the hospital), and an awful – but not critical – case of frostbite on her feet.

After he left, and her parents cleared out, and her sisters murmured their good-nights, it was, at last, she and Matthew alone.

“I’ll sleep in the other room tonight,” he said, running his thumb continuously, soothingly, over the back of the hand that he held.

“Please don’t.” She squeezed his fingers. “The thought of waking up alone is frightening.”

“After what almost happened, I don’t –“

“Of course you don’t. You would never.” She tugged at his hand, pulling him toward her. “Come.”

So he did, stripping off his clothes until he was merely in his undershirt and drawers, which always made Mary giggle. She did so now, exhausted, her mind reeling. He grinned wryly at her and slipped beneath the covers, flipped off the light. Mindful of her ankle, which throbbed inside the preliminary wrapping Clarkson had managed, she nestled into Matthew’s side, her cheek against his chest and her hand on his stomach. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pressed his lips to the crown of her head.

“How did you know to come look for me?” she asked him, yawning. The room was blessedly dark, the early-morning sun shut out by the drawn curtains. “How could you have known?”

“Well,” he started slowly, “I realized I hadn’t seen you in the hall for a while, so I went looking. I checked outside, and then in your father’s library, and then in the room upstairs. Our room, your sisters’ rooms. I started to panic. I checked the kitchens, even, and then the stables, but – nothing. I found Anna and asked her, and then Carson, then your parents and sisters, but no one had seen you. Then everyone started to panic.”

She fell asleep as he spoke, his voice a steady current on which she could safely flow, listening to the story of how her husband had found her. The last word she remembered him saying before she drifted off completely was “safe.”
 
 
listening to: The Rose Captain -- Sea Wolf
 
 
 
Stephanieladycallie on June 28th, 2012 03:01 am (UTC)
I wanted you to know that I read this while at work, and I spent the whole day smiling. You turned my overly dramatic prompt into a lovely, believable story! I think it's absolutely perfect! Thank you so very much!!!
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; no golden ringellyrianna on June 28th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad you liked it!! It was really fun to write, too, so, added bonus :)
MJmaidenjedi on June 28th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
Lovely!! This was like the best piece of candy in the bowl. Nice treat.
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; i've come homeellyrianna on June 28th, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
Haha, thanks so much for reading!
mirandascullymirandascully on June 30th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
Wow! I loved it! I thought initially that the prompt was not very believable, but your story is lovely, and plausible, and realistically dramatic. I adored it. Especially the fact that as usually, MARY SAVED HERSELF. Of course, Matthew and the family saved her life, but she did hit Richard with all her might, she never gave up, she ran, she fell and she stood up because she's Lady Mary Effing Crawley who refuses to quit. And I loved it.

Thank you for sharing!
Elly: (downton) mary; and in the darkellyrianna on July 1st, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you so much! Yeah, the plot is kind of crazy, so I'm glad it came off as at least somewhat believable! I worried at first after posting that I didn't make Mary strong/sarcastic enough, but then I decided that in that situation, even the strongest girl might break down and cry a little ;)

Thanks for reading and the lovely comment!