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11 October 2011 @ 02:30 pm
fic: by your light, matthew/mary  
Title: By Your Light
Author: Ellyrianna
Fandom: Downton Abbey
Pairing(s): Matthew/Mary
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Sequel to Morning Glow. Matthew sees Mary out the morning after, because his peace of mind is worth the price of a scandal.

“Careful,” she whispered, her voice tight, as his foot slid on the stairs. Her nails dug into his arm with painful clarity, and Matthew did his best to grip the banister better, to assure himself of his footing. He heard his cane, hanging from Mary’s arm, sway and knock gently against the wooden steps. In the absolutely still and silent house, their quiet noises, their murmurs and tread, sounded louder than the bombs that had blasted beside him for months and months and months.

“I should have slipped out and left you up there,” Mary muttered, and Matthew couldn’t suppress the chuckle that escaped him. Lady Mary, world-weary, overconfident. She walked a mile into town on her own, in barely more than a slip, and chastised him for being the gentleman and seeing her out. She did things her way. Of course she did.

He sensed that her gaze was trained on him, practically saw the smooth curve of her frown. “I’m glad you didn’t,” he said. “To wake up to an empty bed would have assured me this all had been a fantasy.”

“So for the price of your peace of mind, we rouse the whole house and cause a scandal,” she replied.

In his best lawyer’s voice, Matthew said, “You chose to come here, in the dead of night, wearing that. If there is any scandal to be had, I shall pin it all on you.”

“My champion.” Mary’s voice was dry, and he knew she was making a face. He also knew that she was smiling.

He paused on their arduous journey down the stairs, halting her with a short jerk, and pulled his hand away from the banister to reach out toward her. His hand shook only slightly as he traced her lips with his fingers. Yes, there it was. He knew he could tell.

“It’s getting lighter,” she said gently after a long moment of standing patiently beneath his touch. Matthew nodded and released the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding in. Together they descended the last few steps, and with her warning him when the final one approached, and then Mary fitted the handle of his cane into his hand. He gripped it without the malice and resentment that had filled him whenever he touched it up until it was her that passed it into his grasp. Now, instead of wanting to throw it angrily aside, or snap it in two over his knee, he merely flexed his fingers along the smooth, sanded wood.

In his blackest, bitterest moments since waking up to darkness after the gas attack, Matthew had scornfully, childishly thought of remaining the rest of his life in bed, of running Downton through his servants, of cutting off his engagement with Lavinia and scorning his cousins and, most of all, of never allowing Mary to see him. He knew from tentative tracings of his fingers over his face that he was scarred, scorched, damaged. He knew from his time on leave that Mary still looked absolutely perfect.

It didn’t matter, of course, what he wished. Mary came to visit him in the hospital, to sit beside his bed and awkwardly speak to him about the goings-on at Downton and how she had spoken to the doctor and had managed to get his period of convalescence transferred to Crawley House. He remembered how stiffly he had laid on the cot as she spoke, his destroyed eyes buried beneath layers of white gauze, his heart a tight knot of anger and resentment and despair.

When the nurses had first sat him up and put the cane in his hand, he had flung it across the room and listened to it clatter into a tray of surgical instruments that sprayed across the floor. Mary had left not two hours before, and the idea that they expected him to carry on, to begin walking, was preposterous to him. What need had he to walk? Why even rise at all? He had known he was being immature, had recognized completely his childishness, and yet had been unable to stop himself from lying back down, turning his back to the staff, and refusing to eat or walk or cooperate in any way for two days.

Eventually he had apologized for his behavior, his color rising with his embarrassment, and consented to all the nurses asked. But still he felt the pain of remembrance: her sitting beside his bed, probably staring down piteously at him, thanking God she had not accepted his proposal.

Now she handed him the cane, and he grasped it, thinking how he would need it to walk with her down the aisle after they were married.

Mary kept her arm linked with his as they walked to the door, Matthew tapping out his way as the endlessly patient nurses in the hospital had taught him. When Mary unfastened the locks and pulled open the door, the warmth of the early morning spring sun very nearly dazzled him.

“You cannot walk back in that,” he repeated once more. “It feels so bright. We can get Branson down here.”

“I would rather not,” Mary firmly insisted. “It’s early enough I can get inside without much fuss, and even the townspeople are still asleep. If we call for Branson, it will create a chain reaction in the town and the house and eventually Papa will hear of it and this will all turn out to be just about the worst thing either of us could imagine.”

Matthew withdrew his arm from hers and felt his way to the coat rack in the corner. He took down his black greatcoat from the peg on which it had hung since he had left for the trenches. He hooked the curved handle of his cane over his arm.

“Turn around,” he said to her, and Mary obediently stepped close enough to him that his knuckles grazed her shoulder blades through her nightdress. He set the coat round her shoulders and listened to her as she slipped her arms through the sleeves. She turned back around, and he reached out, tracing the lapels and then running his hands over her shoulders. He could feel how big it was on her, and he could imagine how it must have swallowed her up. He fumbled the buttons closed. She did not stop him.

“You’re awfully fussy,” she said.

“The mornings are cold” was his explanation, but the truth was that he was merely delaying her return as long as he conceivably could.

He did not want her to walk through that door, to set up through the countryside back to her vast house. The interminable stretches of months that had passed when he had not been able to see her, to be near her, were all too freshly burned into his memory. She had attempted to allay his fears a few hours ago, but in his heart he still feared her leaving and never returning. He could not even watch her go, watch her retreat away from him, a lithe white figure encased in the oversized husk of his coat. He could only imagine the way it would look, and that was simply not enough.

“You’ll be up to the house later?” she asked when his fingers finally fell away from buttoning and smoothing.

“I will. I must dictate a letter first, I imagine, but I will.”

Mary was too intelligent to say Lavinia’s name, or, indeed, mention her outright in any way. Instead, she asked, “Will it be a difficult one to write?”

Matthew raised a hand to trace across her cheek. He felt the flutter of her lashes against his finger as she blinked, and his hand fell to her neck, where he stroked his thumb across her thrumming pulse. He closed his eyes. To touch her like this, to stand so close to her that her breath ghosted over his morning’s growth of stubble, was almost too much. He wanted to pull her back upstairs, cane clattering against the steps and all in their haste, and pull her back into his bed. Except this time he would press her down flat on her back, and he would kiss her lips, and then beneath her chin, and then all the way down her neck to places he had never seen, would never see, but would certainly feel, would expressly, expertly feel.

“No,” he finally managed to say around the tightness in his throat. He forced all of those desires and dreams back. There would be time. There would be so much time for all of it. “I will feel badly about it, certainly. But no, I don’t imagine it will be especially difficult to write it.”

He kissed her. He couldn’t resist. He cupped the back of her neck and pulled her close, the fine hairs at her nape snagging around his fingers. She braced her hands against his chest and gave into him for what could have been eternity but was, truly, no longer than a few minutes at most. When she withdrew, Matthew felt a distinct, tangible loss. She grasped his hand.

“Do come sooner rather than later,” she said. “Papa has plans to go into Ripon today, I think.”

Matthew wanted to kiss her again, but she slipped out of his grasp before he managed to. It was just as well. He likely would not have released her.

He stood in the doorway and pretended to watch her leave. He faced the direction he knew the road led, and imagined her walking away, her back straight, her hair drifting around her in the early morning breeze. As he had imagined her coming to him in the night, clad only in white, now he pictured her leaving, shielded by his coat, by him, by her knowledge that he was watching, and waiting, and ready.
listening to: Shake It Out -- Florence and the Machine
just_a_dram: downton mary/matthew3just_a_dram on October 11th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
I adore the image of her draped in his too big coat.

“So for the price of your peace of mind, we rouse the whole house and cause a scandal,” she replied.

In his best lawyer’s voice, Matthew said, “You chose to come here, in the dead of night, wearing that. If there is any scandal to be had, I shall pin it all on you.”

“My champion.” Mary’s voice was dry, and he knew she was making a face. He also knew that she was smiling.

That is just marvelous banter. It sounds so very them.

This is a very worthy sequel.
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; no golden ringellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind comments! The whole scenario is very outlandish, so knowing at least that the dialogue seems realistic is heartening :)
7gifts7gifts on October 11th, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
The characterisations are perfect, I could her Mary especially saying her lines.
Elly: (downton) mary; mary mary quite contraryellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
is that BABOU?!: ♠ (what is a weekend?)oltha_heri on October 11th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Both of these pieces are just so beautiful and lovely and Matthew's feelings, both on his blindness and on his fear over Mary leaving, are kind of heartbreaking but then you just build it up 'cause they are going to build this life together, and just, ugh, it fills the heart. I kind of can't imagine adding more but I hope you can 'cause lovely.

Also, YOUR JOURNAL TITLE! Prufrock is one of my greatest loves!
Elly: (downton) mary; and in the darkellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC)
Thank you so, so much! I was led to imagine a sequel after I realized how tickled I was by the idea of blind!Matthew/Mary interactions, and while I didn't envision a follow-up to this one, I will definitely write one if it comes to mind.

Prufrock is so fantastic, right? I recently had to do an assignment where I needed to use eight consecutive lines of a poem and the first one that sprang to mind was, of course, this one.
starbuckhan: Rise & Shine Sleepy Headstarbuckhan on October 12th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
This is just so well written, you portray Mary & Matthews characters so well, please say your going to do a sequel :)
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; no golden ringellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC)
Thank you!! If I do think of a way to continue I will definitely write it; these two are so heartbreaking and fun!
✎ robinrobin_aloha on October 12th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
oh my i am the happiest person for reading this sequel!
loved blind matthew's mind development! go for more more sequels!
Elly: (downton) mary; mary mary quite contraryellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! If I think of a way to continue I definitely will :) I love writing these two!
ena: da ▹ matthew & mary | of courseirelands on October 12th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
OH GOD, A SEQUEL. UGH AND JUST AS BRILLIANT AS THE FIRST. I CANTTTT. But I really did love this, honestly, the whole morning after deal is just so sweet and so cute. I can totally imagine him fussing over everything for her. ♥♥♥
Elly: (downton) mary; and in the darkellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
I feel like Matthew would be fussy! I would love to see daddy!Matthew at sometime in the Downton storyline, but I'm thinking we never will, hah. Thanks for reading again!
ariadneo: Paris streetsariadneo on October 12th, 2011 06:01 am (UTC)
I really don't know how you do it. I knew I would love this story from the first sentence and from the absolute beauty of your last story, but I was still unprepared for the way it at once broke my heart and uplifted me. The characterizations are perfect, the imagery beautifully spun and I really felt transported to this moment with them. Absolute bittersweet perfection.

Please do say you will write a sequel. Your Mary and Matthew and my heart all demand it. :)

Thanks so much for sharing!
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; no golden ringellyrianna on October 12th, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
Ahh, thank you so much for this kind message! Everyone has really been so nice in their comments and it's just making my love for this couple grow and grow (I didn't think it possible!). I would really like to write a part three; we'll see if I can think anything for it!
braindivabraindiva on October 24th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
You've got the banter between them down pat. That was such a pleasant read. :)
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; no golden ringellyrianna on October 24th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks for reading bb!
is that BABOU?!: da (of course it's the end.)oltha_heri on January 24th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
I'm doing a "shipper manifesto" at het_reccers for Mary/Matthew, and I was wondering if you'd mind if I'd rec this and Morning Glow there. I just reread them for this assignment, and Morning Glow especially kills me with the imagery, perhaps a bit mean word choice on my part given Matthew's condition ;), but your language is just gorgeous.
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; i've come homeellyrianna on January 24th, 2012 10:12 pm (UTC)
Omg, wow! That's so sweet and kind! I would be totally honored if you did that :) Thank you for reading the stories and enjoying them! They were cathartic for me, haha.
Celtic Flickaceltic_flicka on September 18th, 2012 11:42 pm (UTC)
I found these through the manifesto, and *swoon* I agree with oltha_heri--they're wonderful.
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; might want toellyrianna on September 18th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you! I really appreciate you reading! I'll have to read the manifesto and see what M/M gems I've overlooked.
xx__Lonely.Angel__xxlove_doctor_who on July 10th, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for such a wonderful fic! :)
I do hope that there is more to come - I loved it!! :D
Elly: (downton) matthew/mary; i've come homeellyrianna on September 18th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm hoping I get inspiration during this season :)
missblack825missblack825 on November 24th, 2012 07:00 am (UTC)
your prose so gorgeous and characterisation is so incredibly well done and perfect
i've read and reread these two fics so many times in the past couple of days since i discovered it and i still can't get enough of it
it's such a heart wrenching combo of angst but hope as well and you've done it so beautifully
i hope maybe you'll write a sequel (though the two are brilliant on their own as well!) or write more downton/mary and matthew because you have such a gorgeous way of writing and capturing and eliciting emotion :)