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10 August 2012 @ 02:06 am
fic: a million filaments, gen  
Title: A Million Filaments
Author: Ellyrianna
Fandom: Downton Abbey
Pairing(s): Mostly gen, with canon couples
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Ten deaths and their witnesses, a mix of servants and family.




I.

Thomas protested the letter that arrived for him. “But my hand,” he insisted when he went to the assignment office in person, peeling off the glove that had become a second skin, showing the poorly-patched bullet hole and the scarred skin pulled tight around it. Thomas stared at the officer he spoke to, at his pitiless face, remembering the bombs falling all around him, the bunkers collapsing, the piercing pain of the bullet as it ripped through his palm. He carried that memory around with him as he put on his uniform again, reported for duty again, was shipped off to France again.

The bullet that found its way into the back of his neck two weeks after his deployment, though, he did not feel at all.

II.

Daisy took the day and road the train out to the village, her hat pulled snug over her ears, snow on her shoulders. She made tea and cooked a soup Mrs Patmore had taught her especially for this trip, one that was thick and creamy and easy to sip. Mr Mason looked so small and fragile in his bed, the sheets tucked up to his chin, his mouth moving but with no words coming out. She sat beside him and fed him tiny teaspoons of the soup for what felt like hours.

He fell into an uneasy sleep around twilight, and so she stood from his side and went to wander through the house. She touched the boards of the walls and tapped on the knotty wood doors. She peeked into a room that certainly had been a boy’s, might even have been William’s. She made a tight circuit of it, its plainness striking her as desperately sad.

When she went back to her father-in-law, the dark was settling in for the night, and he was absolutely still.

III.

The water was freezing, and had begun to fill his shoes. His father was waiting on the deck, looking out frantically for a spare seat on a lifeboat, but Patrick could not find it in himself to fear for his own life. Instead, he sat on one of the steps of the grand staircase, wearing his greatcoat over his tuxedo and worrying the brim of his hat between his fingers. His hands were shaking.

“Please, sir, come above, the water level here is rising rapidly –“

Patrick shook his head politely at the steward, who rushed off without attempting to continue his persuasion. His ankles were completely submerged now. He heard screams above him, around him. His father might have been yelling for him, but he did not hear. It was inevitable, all of it. Couldn’t any of them see it?

He distracted himself by wondering what Mary’s face, so perfectly porcelain, so completely controlled, would look like when she learned what had happened.

IV.

He didn’t know what to do. The sheets, the blankets, one of the legs of his pajamas, Mary’s nightgown – all of it was stained red, and he could do nothing but shout. The servants had come, had fled, had called Clarkson and the chauffer, but Matthew knew, somehow he did, that none of it would help. He was kneeling beside the bed, clasping one of Mary’s cold, clammy hands in both of his, and her grip was weakening by the moment. Finally he could not wait, but stood, bundled her up in her bloody sheets and gown and carried her, nearly full-term pregnant and yet disturbingly, hauntingly light, to the stairs.

She was unconscious by the time he reached the bottom, and Carson had pulled her from his grasp somehow, had carried her out to the car. Bloody, shaking, crying, Matthew collapsed against Anna, who had rushed up with Carson to meet him. She patted his shoulder awkwardly, and tried her best to disguise the distress in her own voice when she told him, “It will all be all right, Mr. Crawley. Pratt will get her down to the hospital…it will all be all right.”

It wouldn’t, though. Sometimes there are miracles, and spines heal, legs work and walk again. Most other times, Matthew knew from the war, there was absolutely nothing.

V.

Bates’s coughs had grown so painful and constant that he hardly stirred from his cot any more, and kept the grimy face towel he was allotted beside him always so that he could hack phlegm and blood into it with as much ease as he was allowed. His breakfast tray, toast and beans and a fried egg and a bit of a fried tomato, lay untouched where the guard had left it that morning. It was now nearing suppertime. He knew he needed to eat to regain his strength, and yet he felt too weak to get up and retrieve the food. His bad leg was beyond help now, and they had taken his cane long ago.

He closed his eyes and pressed the towel to his mouth as he coughed, loud and long and painful, gasping for air at the end, tears blurring his vision. He coughed and coughed, and to get through it he thought of Anna, of when she had visited him a week ago, her silvery hair shining in the weak sunlight that managed to creep through the barred visitors’ room window, how faded the blue of her eyes had become, the way her dress hung loose on her tiny frame, how she had never looked more beautiful.

VI.

Robert fell in his study from a pain that radiated first from his arm, and then deep in his chest. He was reading the newspaper and had stood to look out the window because he thought he had glimpsed something, some animal, streaking across the grounds. The shock, the hurt, that hit him, was sharp and deep. He dropped to his knees and managed to cry out for help, or thought he did. His shirt collar felt as if it was strangling him.

The door slammed open and to his surprise, it was not Carson or Thomas or one of the new footmen, the ones whose names he always forgot, who came dashing in, but Cora. She immediately shouted for a servant, for help, for something, and then ran to him, staggering to the floor beside him.

“Robert, please, Robert –“ she gasped, her hands clasping his forearm, the one he was pressing to his chest. He could not think, nor breathe. He drew in a half-breath that rattled through him.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “Jane –“

Cora’s eyes widened, but that was all he saw, her brown eyes, the irises dark, the pupils black, everything, then, turning to black.

VII.

“I didn’t want this for you,” Anthony wheezed. “Forgive me. I should not have done this to you.”

Edith shook her head and smoothed his white-blond hair out of his eyes. She stroked his cheek gently and then reached down to hold his good hand. He weakly clasped her fingers and brought her knuckles to his lips, grazing a dry kiss across them.

“I wouldn’t have changed a second of it,” she said to him. “Not one moment.”

A maid wandered through the room, depositing a pitcher of fresh water before slipping out again. Edith poured Anthony a glass and offered it to him, but he could barely choke it down. He had grown so thin and frail and no one had been able to explain to them why. The doctor said it was something internal, something eating away at him from the inside.

“I didn’t want you to become a nursemaid,” he whispered.

“I became exactly what I wanted to be,” she replied. “Your wife.”

VIII.

Beryl dies in the dark, her cataracts returned, her hearing nearly gone. She lies in a bed in her sister’s house and attempts to discern what is going on around her, but no one is loud enough to provide any sort of detailed information. There are vague thumps, scrapings of chairs. There are human voices speaking with one another, but Beryl cannot discern individual words if the speakers are rooms away. She’s had pneumonia for weeks and is too tired to fight it any longer.

Before she does, though, she hears familiar footsteps cross her doorway. She knows those tiny, shuffling steps, nervous, like the skittish hopping of a bird. She knows to reach out for Daisy’s thin fingers before the girl has even said a word, and the tears seep out of her sightless eyes when Daisy says, “I brought you a cake, Mrs Patmore. The old recipe we used to make special, just the two of us.”

IX.

Charles stepped on a landmine and his left leg exploded from his hip down. He collapsed on his back and felt all of the warmth leave his body, felt it simply evaporate through the cavern the mine had created in him. Two medics rushed over to him and pulled strings, swaths, of bandages from their cases. They murmured between the two of them. One of them grasped his hand and told him to squeeze, to squeeze it hard.

He could not. “Major,” they said. “Come now, Major, you will be fine. Stay with us. Stay present.”

He would not be. He was far too cold to believe that. “I have a son,” he said to them instead. His voice was so quiet, and the medics did not respond. He wondered if he had even said it at all. “I have a son,” he tried, louder, but still they did not answer him. He closed his eyes and tried to picture what the boy looked like. He could not even remember the face of the maid, the boy’s mother.

“Her name,” he breathed. What was her name?

X.

The baby was crying and Tom was yelling. They were driving up the road late, returning from a meeting in a town outside Dublin where Tom had been investigating a lead for the paper. Sybil had come and brought the baby, thinking it could be a family outing, thinking she could use it to try and smooth over some of the cracks in their marriage. A day out, a nice day out, she had thought. We can walk together and get some food and it could be lovely.

Instead, they were bickering again. Tom was driving the paper’s automobile -- for that was part of why he could work for them, he could drive the car, hadn’t that been a lovely catch, something to boast about back home? Part of the reason my husband is a journalist is because he can drive. Isn’t that something? – and their son was bawling in her lap, and she was insisting they go home to Downton for Christmas because she wanted to see her parents, wanted to see how Mary and Matthew were getting on, how Edith’s engagement was progressing. Tom was refusing because he hated the way the servants treated him, looked at him.

“Your parents hate me,” he shouted. “I hate being there!”

“I hate when you act this way!” she screamed back. “I hate when you disregard me entirely! You always do that, do you know? It’s always about what matters most to you, and not what matters at all to me!”

“Go yourself! Take Patrick and just go yourself! You’d like that better, wouldn’t you?”

Sybil did not know if she would like it better, had not decided it before the tire ran off the edge of the road and Tom swerved and they hit something, a solid something, and she flew forward, through the windshield, flew forward into the night.
 
 
listening to: Call Me Maybe -- Ben Howard cover
 
 
 
teenwitch: [DOWNTON] in the drawing roomteenwitch77 on August 10th, 2012 10:20 am (UTC)
This is fantastic. What I really like about it is that each moment feels believable within the context of the show; there's no melodrama, there's a subtlety to all of them that makes them even more poignant. Nice work!
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; i've come homeellyrianna on August 12th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this! I'm glad it wasn't too melodramatic; I think keeping the segments short helps stave it off. :)
layne: da marylayne67 on October 17th, 2012 08:35 am (UTC)
As the commenter above said, poignant yet subtle. Very nicely done, I like it!
Elly: (downton) mary; and in the darkellyrianna on October 19th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!