Three Vices

This is season three post honeymoon fluff from Mary's POV.

Dedicated to R. Grace for being a storm braver of a friend and for suggesting the title!

By the time Mary Crawley returned from her honeymoon, she had observed enough about her new husband to fill several diaries. She now understood so much more about the man she had loved for many years, and had discovered two of his very unique vices. This was wholly separate from the situation regarding sleeping patterns, yet Mary saw the correlation.

Matthew always arranged his long, lean body flat on his back when he was preparing for sleep. He had apologized at first, but without explaining anything. Long strings of rambling words fell from her husband's lips as he muttered nervously, "Mary,it has to be this way. I always sleep in the same position." She had started to fight him and his silly declarations. Honestly, the man was so frustratingly stubborn! Why couldn't he change? She found it very hard to believe that he had always slept flat on his back. It was utterly ridiculous.

Mary looked into his soft blue eyes. He shifted in frustration and crossed his arms over his chest. She thought about his statement and how the word "always" bothered her. In her mind, she mentally amended his statement; Mary knew how to read between the lines when Matthew spoke. I now always sleep in the same position. I have ever since the war, ever since I was wounded.

"Oh Matthew," she sighed, wanting to reassure him that she did understand. What could have been attributed to stubbornness, she now saw was a masking of his true feelings of humiliation. They had never spoken of his war injury before, and judging from the tension oozing out of him, he couldn't even now. So, Mary simply kissed him, and, as their lips met, she felt his breath enter her as though it was his very soul, crying out thank you with his little sigh of relief. And then his groans at the pleasure of their contact emboldened Mary to encourage him to relax while she nibbled up his face, kissing him before devilishly sucking his tender ear lobes. Matthew's strong arms were around her, picking her up before she could protest. He didn't try to be careful all the time.

Now Mary understood more. She had relished the time collecting an inventory of memories on their honeymoon. They had both learned about anatomy and sensual escape on the French Riviera. Mary's desire for shopping and Matthew's sweet tooth for deserts always seemed to be forgotten in place of intimate pursuits in their bedroom, bathroom, and once even on a not so private beach. Sometimes their intimacy did very much make her blush, even though she had her husband convinced she was completely fearless with their lovemaking.

Mary was very fond of how her husband had found his own escape as they adapted to living at Downton together. He simply brought his two favorite vices with him. She was amused that Matthew seemed to assert his independence even when relaxing, for what he was undertaking could indeed be a very risky operation, if left to his own devices. They were very commonplace, very average indulgences. However, when he combined them, Mary felt she was forced to save him from his own foolishness. For Matthew Crawley, she had discovered, liked to read books in the bathtub. It was utterly ridiculous, but he had combined the two activities on more than one occasion she had witnessed. Mary found that these two vices helped her immensely to read her husband. When he was using them both together, she could gage the temperature of his moods, mentally and physically. The subject of the book was as big of a clue as the heat of the water. And, of course, anything that allowed him to relax she had found was something she wanted to encourage.

Matthew's reluctance to stay at Downton had many justifiable reasons. However, Mary also thought it was monumentally important to teach him to love it as their home. He had only ever lived at Downton during and after his most grievous back injury. She believed his perceptions would now altogether change. Mary had hoped he would see the logic of staying at Downton; it seemed that her great house, her home, would be the perfect shelter for their new beginning. It represented every disaster and every victory between them. Downton was what had brought them together, forced them apart, and perpetuated circumstances outside of their control.

Mary had found an unexpected ally in the bathtubs at Downton, as they immensely pleased Matthew. He had commented on their size in proportion to those at Crawley House several times. A long, hot soak, she knew, helped his back when it ached. Although it did not hurt him regularly, she understood it was something he was anxious about preventing. Matthew hadn't ever wanted to be judged as weak or marked as an invalid; he wanted his past washed clean and forgotten. So, he took preventive measures and made preparations in most of his daily routines.

Sometimes Mary found herself thinking of him in different stages of his life as it related to these two vices. She thought of the books he had snuck into the tub as a little boy and the fits it must have caused Isobel. She couldn't help but wonder if he had ruined many a book with the filth of war, scrubbing himself clean mentally and physically. And then, much to her own sorrow, she would picture him and the sponge baths at the hospital, and finally she understood. When he was forced to be dependent with his injury, he was deprived of both of these two favorite comforts. How cruel it now seemed. If she had understood then, she would have found a way to make his strange habit a reality for him. Somehow, she would have done that as a small comfort to him despite everything else having gone topsy turvy.

Mary missed him terribly after they were back in their routines when the honeymoon was over. He was out of her sight for not minutes but hours. Matthew was not simply in another room, but another city. Irrationally, she hated Ripon. This particular day, she found her mind constantly wandering, unable to focus. The entire day was a struggle, her heart aching for his presence. She had a short but pleasant ride on Diamond in the hot summer sun, before the rain showers that had been threatening the sky for days had finally produced a fitful downpour and had driven her back inside. Mary had then returned to their room. Not her room, she thought, her lips perking into a smile, their room. She desperately needed to change from her ridding gear and perhaps take a bath before the dressing gong.

So, as Mary pulled the cord to summon Anna, it was to her shock that she suddenly noticed the connecting door to Matthew's dressing room was open. Still in her riding clothes, Mary followed the trail of masculine clothing - two black socks, a pair of trousers, and a shirt - crumpled on the floor. His shoes had been discarded and his jacket was draped over the armchair. The rest of his attire had been dropped on his dresser - his watch, silk tie, and cufflinks. Mary smiled; Matthew was home early from Ripon. But where was he? Surely, since he was lacking his clothes, he could not have gone far. He was, after all, still occasionally embarrassed when Anna entered their room. Mary felt her face warm as she bent to pick up his shirt. He really needed to admit that a valet would be helpful. Mary brought the shirt to her face, the urge to cherish his scent suddenly overwhelming her. She could smell him in the fabric, his familiar smell mingled with the aftershave he had been wearing. A fragrant mixture of citrus, frankincense, and earthy cedar wood flooded her senses. She closed her eyes and felt arousal overtake her body. Where was her husband?

"M'lady," Mary heard Anna from their bedroom. Mary released the garment, letting it drift through her fingers back onto the floor. She smiled; somehow it did not look out of place there now. Mary never imagined she would have been contented with such inadequate manors as these, but to her, Matthew was always a gentleman, even when he was a slob.

"Yes, Anna," she called as she left his dressing room. "I was just looking for Matthew. Is he home?" She sat at her vanity, and Anna started without instruction in helping her from her ridding clothes.

Anna looked a little concerned. Mary hoped it wasn't more bad news about Mr. Bates.

"Yes, m'lady. He arrived not very long ago. And…"

"And?" Mary said impatiently. She did not mean to snap at Anna, but it was impossible to have any delay when information was not immediately forthcoming.

"Well, Mr. Crawley appears fine. Don't worry m'lady," Anna answered calmly. Her pause was brief, "But it is a very damp day," she concluded.

The people that Mary loved the most always let her draw her own conclusions. They presented the facts and the circumstances in neat bundles and let her read between the lines, trusting her to follow through and act. She presumed this trend had started when she first learned she had Carson at her beck and call, and it had continued ever since. Mary watched the rain pound against the window and understood. They spoke no more about Matthew, but Mary did hurry her preparations. She knew where he would be now.

For only a moment, Mary stood with her ear pressed to the bathroom door, just listening. She felt her palm reach for the door handle automatically, craving to enter. The sound of sloshing water calmed her. As she entered, Mary had ample opportunity to observe, for the bathtub was fixed in the center of the room. Matthew was completely reclined, so she could only see his blond head of hair resting on a folded pillow on the rim of the tub. Mary smiled as she watched the steam evaporate in a swirl around the cocoon of the tub. He was going to need more hot water. That told her all she needed to know about his body, but what of his mind? The subject of his book? She walked carefully towards him, not wanting to surprise him just yet.

Mary pulled the sash of her nightgown, feeling the heat of the room. She was ready to expose her naked flesh when the opportune moment presented itself. He was holding the book on the edge of the outward rim with only his left hand. It was an older, more delicate-looking book- the first edition of The Oxford book of English Verse. Matthew loved to read aloud his favorite poems from that volume. Mary had been touched by his sentimental attachment to the book when she learned it was a treasured gift from his father. He had even brought it to France and read her many poems as they lay in each other's arms. She felt her call to action; the book would need to be rescued, and she knew just how to distract him. Approaching the tub, she saw the soapy water was not completely covering his torso, and she felt quite wicked taking in the view.

"Mary," he said quietly, his voice deep and lusty. She smiled and crossed the distance between them with a few rushed steps. She took the book from his hand and let it drop to the ground, their passionate kiss taking over all her senses as his wet hands stroked her where he was able to grab at her exposed flesh. She was his third vice.

"What am I going to do with you?" Mary asked playfully, and kissed him seductively again.

Thanks for reading!