A/N: This is my first Carson/Hughes story and is also an entry for the NC Weekly Tumblr contest, theme of "first kiss". Enjoy!
She looked so utterly, terribly beautiful when she told him that she had refused Joe Burns for the second time, biting her lip and staring at him with mixed emotion in her eyes. His question, falling from his lips so cautiously and tentatively, for he was in many ways, scared of the answer, was answered in her soft voice and brought him more relief than he would've ever thought could be possible. She would not marry Joe Burns and leave Downton, leave him. She would stay.
She looked so utterly, terribly beautiful when she picked up the little straw doll in her slender fingers and told him why she had refused the farmer. He wanted to kiss her then, but he could not, as he was trapped by memories of a girl named Alice and bound by too many reasons of propriety to count.
So he waited, waited for old wounds to heal and time to flow on.
It is her turn for relief, though he does not know it then, as he makes the decision not to follow his beloved Lady Mary to Haxby. She hears the contempt in his voice when he speaks of Richard Carlisle, but also his utter confusion as to why his precious Mary would chain herself to such a man. There is genuine sorrow hidden in his tone as well, that despite how he loves Downton and the rest of the family, it will pain him to watch Mary depart. She always was his favorite, as much as any butler could have a favorite.
It is her turn for relief indeed, knowing that for once, he chose them, the servants, over his family. She is not so brazen to believe he chose to stay because of her, but she can hope, foolish though it may be. And oh, how she had wanted to kiss him then, but she did not, could not. It was too much of a wager, then, and she was not willing to bet her heart.
So she waited, waited for him to offer her a better gamble.
He came close, too close, to kissing her as she bustled around his room, organizing his blankets and fetching his medicine. He had scoffed at the possibility of overworking himself, had even tried to reject his diagnosis of Spanish Flu but she would have none of it. She had sent him to his bed sternly, but tenderly and then busied herself with caring for him, despite her already taxing workload. He could not quite recall those blurry, feverish times he spent recovering, but one dizzied thought spun clearly through his mind, that she was an angel who had descended from heaven.
He came too close, far too close, to kissing her then, but he did not. Even as she tended to him with her soft voice and kind eyes, he did not. With his thoughts barely coherent and his body constantly wracked with pain, this was hardly the time to lose control of himself.
So he waited, waited for his illness to abate and his courage to rise.
He will never know how touched she was when she heard him singing as he polished the silver, just as she will never know how afraid he was for her and for him, if he should have to live without her. The smile that spread across her face when she happened upon him, his voice raised in song, was one of pure joy. After weeks of caution and desperation and the constant, exhausting fear, his deep, rich voice nearly brought her to tears as he sang of a girl who stole his heart away.
No, he will never know, but she will always wonder what might've happened had she interrupted him. She does not think she would've been able to stop herself from kissing him, so perhaps it is better she remained unseen. She was not quite ready for that, not yet.
So she waited, waited for a moment when she could step out of the shadows.
A little risqué, yes, that is precisely what it was, but he found himself not caring in the slightest. He took her hand as the water gently lapped at their ankles and waded out, his pants rolled up to his knees, her skirt bunched in her other hand. It was a glorious day, made even more beautiful by her bright smile and warm eyes and her hand clasped in his. Were there onlookers? He did not look over his shoulder to check, fearing that would unbalance them both, nor did he harbor any desire to do so. Let them stare if they wished.
A little risqué, perhaps, but he has survived worse. His eyes lingered on her lips and he found himself wishing to kiss her once again, but restrained himself. Holding hands was one thing, kissing in front of the entire staff was quite another.
So he waited, waited for a different time, a different place.
She cannot believe what she is hearing. Her world is turning upside down yet he is still standing in front of her, hesitant, unsure, waiting for her answer. So she gives it, the only way she knows how. She almost laughs at loud at his expression, because it is what she herself has been feeling for the past few moments, a mixture of shock and joy. She hands him his champagne glass with trembling fingers and clasps his arm gently. Her eyes meet his, soft yet passionate and all the words she wants to say desert her.
She doesn't think she will ever be able to believe it, even if it was repeated to her everyday. But as she moves closer and his eyes fill with love, she wonders if perhaps this is the moment.
She is still waiting, yet she has no more reasons.
He takes the glass out of her hand and sets it on the desk with his own. She barely has time to raise an eyebrow before he places one hand on her waist and pulls her to him. Their lips meet softly, delicately as she winds her arms around his neck and he holds her as if he will never let go.
It was a long wait, but it has ended now, for both of them. He is fully inclined simply to hold her tonight. There will be plenty of time later to talk.
And if anyone needs them? He supposes they will just have to wait.
A/N: If you liked (or didn't!) please do leave me a review and thanks for reading! :)