Further Down the Line Chapter 20

"Lady Mary Crawley to see Dr. Johnson," Mary said, smoothing her dress nervously.

"Of course. I will let him know you are here," the receptionist replied.

"Thank you," Mary replied, turning around to take a seat in the waiting area. She gasped the moment she turned around and saw her husband standing there staring at her, the shock on his face mirroring her own.

"What are you doing here Mary," he asked, tilting his head and wearing a disapproving look that told her he had a fairly good idea why she was her. It dawned on her in that moment that he was here for the very same reason, to see the same doctor.

"I am here for the same reason you are I would imagine," Mary replied.

"Mr. Crawley, I am so glad I caught you. You left your hat in my office," Dr. Johnson said, handing the hat to Matthew.

"Thank you doctor," Matthew replied, taking the hat but never allowing his eyes to leave Mary's face. "Allow me to present my wife, Lady Mary Crawley."

"A pleasure Lady Mary," the doctor said, hiding his surprise given the fact that Mr. Crawley had said specifically that his wife would not be joining them.

"Lady Mary is your next patient," the receptionist informed the doctor. The tense looks passing between the couple did not escape his notice.

"Indeed. I have a few calls to return. Perhaps you would like to wait in the examination room," the doctor suggested as it was clear that the couple needed time to speak to one another.

"Certainly. Thank you doctor," Matthew said, taking Mary's elbow as he allowed the receptionist to lead them to the examination room. The walk was silent and gave Matthew a much needed moment to collect his thoughts. His first reaction was anger. Yes being angry with her for keeping the same secret he was keeping was hypocritical, but he was angry just the same. Besides, he had a perfectly valid reason to keep it from her. God only knew why she was keeping this from him, more than likely she was just falling back into the old habit of secrecy that she promised to break.

As soon as the receptionist closed the door leaving them alone in the room, Matthew folded his arms across his chest and fixed Mary with an angry glare.

"Don't you get angry with me Matthew Crawley. Not when you are guilty of the exact same thing," Mary warned.

"Perhaps, but I did it to protect you. You know full well that Dr. Clarkson said worry was not good for you - not in your condition. I had no choice in the matter. I had to keep it from you - to protect you. What earthly reason could you have for keeping this from me?" he demanded.

"I did it to protect you too."

"To protect me? I am not the one in danger Mary."

"Not physically, but you are in danger - from yourself," Mary said, causing him to roll his eyes at her.

"What are you talking about?" he asked, thoroughly confused be her responses. Before Mary could reply, Matthew noticed her rub her lower back as a look of discomfort came over her face. He strode quickly across the room, picked up a chair, set it beside her, and urged her to sit. "You see darling, you are unwell. This worry is not good for you."

"It is not the worry that is causing this Matthew. I am big as a house and getting bigger every day. I am bound to be uncomfortable."

"All the same, I will feel better if you sit."

"Very well, I will sit, but then you must listen to me." He nodded his agreement, and she sat in the chair. "When I told you I would not keep secrets from you, I meant it. I felt terrible about keeping this from you, but I really had no choice."

"Mary, I am trying to understand but…"

"Just listen. Matthew, you have a larger sense of guilt than any person I have every met. No, don't protest - it is not meant as a criticism. I knew that if I did nothing and the worst happened, you would be unfairly forced to make life and death decisions for me. If something happened, if I did not survive, you would forever blame yourself."

"Mary I…"

"Oh don't say you wouldn't because we both know you would. I couldn't let you be put in that position, not when I knew what it would do to you. So I thought I would decide before anything happened, to protect you. Last time, when Lavinia died, you weren't yourself - not for so long. I don't want that for you, but more than that, I don't want that to be the Matthew that our child knows. So I thought this way, if I decided and worse did happen, you could despise me if you had to, but not yourself."

Matthew knelt down in front of her and took both her hands in his. "I told you once, I could never despise you Mary - not ever. No matter how angry I may get, no matter how you might infuriate me at times, I will love you until the moment I die."

"So you understand?" she asked hopefully.

"Yes and no. Yes, I understand your reasoning now, and I am not angry. But, no I cannot agree to your plan. This is not something you should have to decide on your own. It is funny, both of us wanting to protect each other in secret. We are so used to making decisions for ourselves and are still new to being together. Perhaps it is time we learn to make important decisions like this together."

"Only if you promise to accept whatever happens without blaming yourself," Mary offered.

"And only if you promise to rest, relax, and try not to worry," he countered.

"I promise," she replied, squeezing his hands.

"So do I," he answered, lifting her hands and kissing each one.

"So tell me what the doctor said," she said.

He was filling her in on his meeting when the doctor joined them. After much discussion and many questions, it was decided that Mary would continue to have weekly tests taken by Dr. Clarkson who Dr. Johnson would consult with weekly. If the levels remained in the danger zone, then Dr. Johnson would travel to Downton and perform a cesarian section two or three weeks prior to when the baby was expected to prevent the onset of labor.

"Thank you doctor. You have allay many of my worries," Matthew said.

"Well that is my job. Now perhaps I can offer you something much more pleasant. Would you like to see if we can hear your baby's heartbeat?"

"You can do that?" Mary asked in wonder.

"It is possible to hear with a stethoscope late in pregnancy depending on the baby's position. You will have to step back up on the examination table though if you wish to try."

Mary quickly complied, anxious to hear the baby that she had thus far only felt. The doctor felt her belly, pushing firmly before stating that he thought the baby was properly positioned to allow them to hear the heartbeat. He put the stethoscope in his ears and after adjusting the position on her belly a few times, he smiled and indicated that he had found it. He held the one end in place on Mary's belly before removing the earpiece and offering it to Mary. Mary eagerly reached for it and looked up to see Matthew smiling in wonderment and patiently waiting his turn.

"You listen first," Mary offered, holding the earpiece out to him.

"What?"

"I got to feel the baby for weeks before you did. I think it only fair you hear him first. Besides, I can afford to be generous when only need to wait a few seconds for my chance," she said with the tender smile that she reserved only for him.

"Thank you darling," Matthew said, truly touched by her offer. He held the earpiece up and soon heard the distinctive thumping of the baby's heart. The huge smile that spread across his face was all the thanks Mary needed. "Oh Mary, I can hear it. I don't think I have ever heard something so beautiful," he said, fighting the tears he felt welling up in his eyes. He could have listened all day, and although Mary looked content to wait until he had his fill, he wanted her to hear this and passed the earpiece to her.

"It sounds so strong," Mary said in wonderment, grinning at Matthew.

"Very strong. A good sign," the doctor agreed. "And now I am sorry to say, but I do have another appointment."

"Yes of course," Mary said, reaching to hand the earpiece back to the doctor.

"Just one more second," Matthew said, intercepting the earpiece and holding it to his ear to hear again just one more time. "Perhaps we should buy one of these for home," Matthew said when he handed it back to the doctor a moment later.

"So you can follow me about the house with it. Goodness, what would Granny and Papa say?" she said with a laugh.

"I hardly care," he admitted as he helped her step down from the table. "I love you darling," he said, lifting her hands to kiss them. She blushed at the fact that he would speak so freely in front of the doctor. While she could not bring herself to speak so freely of her feelings with anyone beyond Matthew present, her face told him all he needed to know - that she felt the same love and happiness he did in equal measure.

TBC

Author's Note: I am sincerely sorry for the delay in this chapter. I hope you are still enjoying it and I will try to get the next chapter out soon. Getting closer to the birth and I am still undecided on the gender of the baby so if you have any thoughts, please share.