Chapter 4: Sleeping Arrangements

A/N: Now for some good old fashioned Chelsie and Cobert. I've got one more chapter to wrap this little story up with. Enjoy the fluff!

Elsie Carson wasn't sure what time the hide and seek game had ended, but she did know the only reason it did end is because Tom and Marigold were found fast asleep behind the curtains in the dining room. Although George and Sybbie protested, the nanny said that their eyes closed as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Most of the downstairs staff had gone up after the card game had broken up, but she had stayed to have a nightcap with the Bates' and Mrs. Patmore.

The storm may have knocked out the power, but it had turned out to be a wonderful evening. Although, she wasn't sure that the matter of the hospital had ever been resolved. According to her husband, it looked as though old lady Grantham was fighting a losing battle. But all of that had been easily forgotten it seemed, as there had been a lively game of hide and seek that didn't just include the children.

Now, Elsie was listening to the storm in her old room in the attic. It had died down considerably and she had no doubt that crews from the village would be up before dawn, clearing the snow on the roads. But in her mind, the storm had been a welcome blessing, as it had given everyone an enjoyable and relaxing evening. On the other hand, she would really love to be in her own bed in her warm cottage, not stuck in this cold single bed with piles of blankets.

She found it humorous that after only five months of marriage, Elsie missed her husband's company in her bed. Before they had been married, she had stressed about the idea of sharing a bed with him after sleeping alone her entire life. But Charles was warm and solid, even if he did snore. Her little attic room was much too quiet for her to fall asleep now. Elsie rolled over on her side and sighed. Five months of marriage and she couldn't even fall asleep without him? It was silly. All she had to do was close her eyes; goodness knows she was tired enough.

In her head, she had calculated that it had probably been close to an hour since she had laid down. Even on the most stressful of days, she never had trouble falling asleep. So what was bothering her now? Did she miss Charles? They had worked together all day and he was just down the hall, sleeping in his own room. A fleeting thought ran across her mind: was he having this much trouble sleeping too? Or was he perfectly content to be back in his old room, alone? Elsie bit her lip at the thought. She had to admit, it would upset her, if he preferred his cold attic room to their marriage bed.

There was only one way to find out for sure. Elsie jerked back the blankets that covered her night gown clad body and her bare feet hit the cold hard wood floor noiselessly. She quickly slipped on her robe and grabbed the keys off the hook by the door. If she was going to do this, she needed to do it now, before she changed her mind. Years of experience helped her navigate the dark hallway in complete silence and there was no hesitation when she unlocked the door that separated the men from the women.

However, when she finally reached Charles' door, she hovered nervously. What if he was asleep? It had been an exhausting day and he was sure to be irritated that she was breaking the rules. Oh, his precious rules- he wouldn't even call her Elsie inside the Abbey walls. No, she was Mrs. Hughes at work and Elsie Carson at home. Well, that was about to change. Drawing her back up straight, she knocked lightly on the door.

To Elsie's surprise, the door opened immediately to reveal her husband in his own robe. Confusion was written all over his face when he whispered, "Mrs. Hughes, is everything alright?"

There was that name again. Her old name. Why couldn't he be improper for once in his life? Elsie shooed him back into his room with her hands. "Let me in, Charles."

Whether it was his shock of seeing her at his room at this hour or if he actually remembered they were man and wife, Charles stepped aside swiftly and ushered her into the room. Elsie scanned the room while he shut the door and was astonished to see a candle lit at the desk and a book open.

"You couldn't sleep either?" his deep voice broke the silence. He was watching her closely, hands tucked into the pockets of his robe. There was no trace of anger or annoyance in his voice, just curiosity.

"I'm afraid not." Now that she was here, Elsie was quite nervous. And that was silly, too. He was her husband for goodness sake. Sighing, she took a seat on the edge of his bed. "I slept in that bed for more years than I wish to admit and now it seems foreign to me to sleep alone."

Charles just hummed in reply and went to his desk chair. "And coming here is solving that problem how?"

And these were the moments she wasn't sure why she married the daft man in the first place. Irritation rose up in her and she made a split second decision. Still glaring at him, she threw back the blankets on his bed, stripped off her robe to the floor, and climbed into bed.

"Elsie!" She ignored him and pulled the blanket over her shoulders. Charles let out a huff of protest. "Elsie, you can't sleep here!"

"Why not?"

"First, it would be inappropriate."

She rolled over to face him, but didn't leave the bed. "Charles, I'm your wife. There's nothing inappropriate about sleeping in your bed. I was under the impression that you enjoyed the last few months of sharing a bed."

Charles actually blushed and blustered, "Second, that bed is too small for both of us."

"Not if we sleep on our sides," said Elsie with a smirk. "And get a little closer…"

"Elsie!"

"Oh for goodness sakes, Charles, I wasn't suggesting we actually do anything." She sat up in the bed, the blankets pooling around her waist. "I just can't sleep."

Charles' eyes softened and he leaned back in the chair before admitting, "I couldn't either."

Elsie patted the part of the bed next to her and turned back onto her side. She heard some shuffling as her husband shed his robe and the bed creaked as he climbed in behind her. Charles wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close.

"This bed is smaller than I remember," he grumbled and Elsie let out a giggle. "We're going to regret this in the morning."

"Probably." They laughed together which only made the bed creak more. Elsie snuggled back into his chest and gave a content sigh. "I love you, Charles Carson."

"And I love you, Elsie Carson." And with those words, Elsie finally found sleep in the arms of her husband in the tiny little bed in the attic.

Below them, another couple was getting ready for bed as well. Or at least, one of them was trying to. Cora Crawley was about to ring for Baxter when Robert entered the room in his dressing robe.

"Wait, don't ring for her!" He shouted quickly as ran over to grab her arm. Cora looked at him like he had completely lost his mind, but Robert just smiled mischievously and said, "I wanted to undress you tonight."

"Out of this dress?" stated Cora doubtfully. The evening had started as a dinner party, after all. Her maroon colored gown may have looked simple once on, but the laces and buttons that Baxter had carefully done up before dinner were much more complicated than the tie on her dressing gown her husband was used to. "I do recall you attempting to undress me out of a different gown and then we had to explain to O'Brian why the buttons were caught on my corset."

"I have a feeling Baxter will give us less of a lecture than O'Brian did…but you don't wear that difficult corset anymore. And this dress doesn't look that complicated."

"Robert, just let me ring for Baxter." Taking one look at his face, Cora sighed in defeat and turned around so her back was to him. "Fine, if you really want to, let's get this over with."

Expecting his fingers to start working at the back of her dress immediately, Cora gasped in shock at the tender kisses Robert began to place on her pale neck. His breath made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end when he whispered sensually, "I'm not in a rush to get this over with."

Turning her around, Robert ran his fingers tenderly over her arms down to the tips of her gloved fingers. His passion-filled eyes never left hers as he pulled at the tips of each of her fingers to work the dark purple gloves loose. A simple kiss was pressed to the inside of her wrist before he started working on the next one. Cora could hear her heart pounding in her ears and she wasn't sure if she was breathing properly. Thirty years, three children, three grandchildren, and a lifetime of love, she still trembled at his touch.

The dress came off next, albeit not as easily as her gloves. He tanged the laces at her neck at first, but managed to get the buttons undone without trouble. Or at least, Baxter was only going to have to sew one back on; not that either of them cared at the moment. The beautiful gown pooled at her feet, but she didn't move. They could both see her reflection in the mirror. All she had on now was her cream colored slip and her heels. Robert hummed in satisfaction and turned his attention to letting her hair down. Cora appreciated his care not to hurt her as he delicately pulled each pin to release a dark curl onto her neck.

Robert's lips brushed against her bare shoulders and his hands worked to push the straps of her slip off her shoulders and the silky material fell on top of her dress. She could feel the chill of the room, but she was certain the temperature wasn't the cause of the shiver that ran down her spine as her husband walked around to kneel in front of her. He traced the curve of her calf before hooking a finger around the strap of her shoe and pull it off. He took his time freeing her other foot, no doubt he could her the hitch in her breath.

Once he had finished undressing her, Robert took a step back and gazed at his wife in her naked splendor. He wasn't sure what had overcome him, maybe it was the bump to the head, but all he wanted to do since the power went off was have his wife all to himself. There was a pink blush on Cora's cheeks and he could tell she was just as turned on as he was. He didn't bother to try to hide the arousal in his voice when he said, "They haven't come up with a word to describe how beautiful and perfect you look right now."

Cora couldn't find words to reply. This was a rare side of her husband, one that was very precious to her. Barefoot, she stepped over the dress at her feet and came to stand inches away from him. She raised both hands to rest on his shoulders and pushed herself on the tips of her toes to kiss him just as tenderly as he had undressed her.

But Robert was done with tender touches. His hands found her bare back and the tangle of dark hair to pull her flush against his body so she could feel his arousal. The kisses were heated now and he was no longer holding back. Cora met his passion without a second thought and pulled the tie of his dressing gown and pushed it off quickly. It didn't surprise him to find him naked beneath it. Now that they were skin to skin, Robert pushed her back to the bed, only stumbling a bit over her forgotten clothing.

They were both done with talking and all of their years of experience helped them to express all their love without the words. The thick quilt and the flickering fire helped to warm the room, but most of the heat was being made on their own. The snow storm may have been dying down outside the window, but the storm of two lovers was one that could last all through the night.