Welcome! Well this epic saga will be nothing like my previous fanfics but I promise it will be lots of fun!
Come meet Mary and Matthew in this nonlinear Modern AU...
But first I must thank my friend R. Grace because she has always supported my writing each and every step of the way. *Round of Applause* This saga is dedicated to her.
Authors note: In this story let me assure you, never fear, Matthew will always be alive.
Disclaimer: Since this story is both Modern and AU – beware some similar canon events and lines of dialogue are jumbled about mixed and matched or updated given the nonlinear format of the story.
"Sir," said a voice. He had limited experience with hangovers, but he assumed that was his present problem. It must be. His head was pounding and his body was quite numb. When he thought of moving his limbs, they did not obey his commands. But he could feel the summer sun bouncing off the glass all around the bubble he seemed to be trapped inside. The heat was spreading, but he couldn't shift away; he couldn't move. It seemed to be pooling around his spine which suddenly awakened with a burning sensation. His head tilted forward, unable to move left or right. He heard a voice again, but the words were a jumbled mess.
"Me hear can you Sir? Hear me? Can Sir you?"
Everything was out of sequence. His perceptions were out of balance. The dimensions of time were not denoting, evolving, or arranging in a straight line. All actions in time appear to have a direction – the past lies behind, fixed and immutable, while the future lies ahead and is not necessarily fixed. Events occur in a sequence, like dominoes falling. And yet time also seems random, as a wheel revolving in any direction.
This made sense, as he couldn't think. He couldn't understand what was happening. Perhaps time is not measurable; it can't be contained nor defined. There was a loud commotion all around him. He hated the white noise. It reminded him of chaos theory, a non-linear field of mathematics. Just like chaos theory, he felt sensitive to initial conditions and variables.
"Mmmthw Crwlyy," the voice spoke up again. "Paramedic, Bruce. My name is. You can me hear?"
His head certainly seemed to be spinning in a chaotic fashion. He felt his back burn again. And then he felt pain. With this sensation came a sudden breakthrough in clarity.
"Matthew Crawley. My name is Bruce. I'm a paramedic. Can you hear me?"
His memory took over replaying the car accident. The impact of the crash jolted through him in slow motion. He felt the steering wheel spin as he tried to hold it. It was a red light. A car had recklessly sailed through the London traffic, plowing into the passenger side, where his friend William was sitting. Matthew felt sick. Memories flashed before his mind's eye before he blacked out.
Numbers were like old friends to him. Matthew, from a very young age, loved mathematics. While at play in his sandbox, the only words he'd spoken were numbers. He had tried to count each grain of sand, but he had given up. Someday he could do it though; that is what his papa told him. Matthew was always thinking, but rarely talking. Sometimes this took a toll on him as a little boy who became impatient when he couldn't explain his thoughts or when he couldn't count high enough. What he saw in his head and what he could vocalize were often very different. Matthew thought words were inadequate, so his mama taught him sign language. As he watched her approach from his position in the sandbox his father had made for him, she signed to him, "I love you," and he signed back, "so much."
It was ludicrous. An absolutely god-forsaken idea, but he had gone along with it. He was enriched with her love because Mary always made him feel so alive. Matthew didn't mind the mess as he lay on the cold kitchen tile, beads of sweat dotting his forehead. Her ideas about making love continued to surprise him. He had been in the middle of making pancakes from scratch to bring her breakfast in bed when she had changed his plans. The batter and syrup suddenly became body paint, the flour thrown up into the air as a distraction between passionate kisses. Matthew could tell the refrigerator was still open because it was blowing cool air on his bare ass. This was not how he usually spent his Sunday mornings. But his life had changed; their lives had changed since their rendezvous in New York City.
"Open you mouth," his seductress demanded. He had never imagined he could love anyone the way he loved her. It was physically impossible to possess unlimited affection for a person. Mathematically impossible, and Matthew loved numbers. It should not have been allowed by the very nature of nature itself – and yet she was here – and he loved her all that much and, possibly, even more. Matthew didn't need to open his eyes. He trusted her. There was a strange whooshing noise, and suddenly his mouth was full of whipped cream. The sweet taste was followed by the sweetness of Mary's mouth on his.
"I love you," she purred, licking a dollop of sticky syrup that had landed on his check.
The book "Einstein's Dreams" sat on his desk. He knew passages of it by heart. His father had read it to him, and the words had stuck. He'd requested it be read it aloud to him again and again. It vibrated through him because it just made sense. To Matthew, it felt as musical as the piano chords of Chopin. The words were as crisp and clear as a Shakespearian Sonnet. Matthew enjoyed his studies at Cambridge, yet he still felt he was different from the rest of the students.
He looked up from his doodle - a long möbiussketch - to connect with his teacher's eyes as she referenced the assigned reading. She was a beautiful woman, he suddenly realized. But the notion made him squirm in his seat. He didn't miss being homeschooled anymore, but he did miss his mother and this environment was still hard to adjust to. His awkwardly chubby body was crammed into a small seat. He sighed. His stomach growled. I don't belong here, he thought, his mood melancholy. But, as he looked down at the book on his desk, he could still hear his deceased father's voice reading to him.
"Some say it is best not to go near the center of time. Life is a vessel of sadness, but it is noble to live life, and without time there is no life. Others disagree. They would rather have an eternity of contentment, even if that eternity were fixed and frozen, like a butterfly mounted in a case."
She was not his type of woman. In fact, it was safe to say she was out of his league. She was brash, outspoken, and it grated on his nerves. But she had an infectious laugh. It had been taunting him all night.
Matthew had been invited to the opening of the new component to the vast Crawley Empire. Everything commercial from soap, tea, and wine, to real estate and banking could be connected to this family's history. They were members of the peerage and held more royal warrants than any other enterprise in Britain. It amused Matthew that his own last name was similar; actually it was identical but pronounced differently. Matthew did not know what to think about this, but he couldn't deny the coincidence.
It was through his work as a financial consultant that Matthew had met Robert Crawley. He was an avid financial speculator, having inherited this sixth-generation family company. Robert was constantly working to promote his legacy. Matthew admired the man and always accepted his invitations. Ever since they had bumped into each other at the London Symphony, their casual acquaintance had changed. Robert had old-fashioned ideas and three daughters. Matthew thought the earl's matchmaking was ridiculous. Besides, he already had a girlfriend - his childhood sweetheart, Lavinia Swire. He heard the laugh again as she came up behind him. Matthew could smell her ginger perfume.
"Mr. Craw-lee," she said, her smooth voice edged with a puckish tone. "What on earth are you doing here?"
"Hello again, Mary," he responded politely as he braced himself for her attack.
When Matthew first attended nursery school and could already read but would not speak, his teachers speculated he was borderline autistic. There were other labels slapped onto him from a very early age too. He was different, and he felt the stigma. But his parents would not medicate him and did not accept the diagnosis. As they were both practicing in the medical field, they knew there was nothing wrong with their only child. He was only shy and sensitive. His Mama decided she would home school him until he was older. His Papa read him books on famous scientists and mathematicians. At home Matthew was free to be himself.
"You said, 'yes'. I still can't believe it," Matthew said, walking his fingers idly up his new fiancé's arm. She lay next to him, face to face in bed, their naked bodies wrapped in a cocoon of sheets. Her eyes were closed, but he kept talking. "There must be something wrong with me," he continued, "because this just isn't how I saw the night ending." His voice was soft and reverent. "I just read your letter and bought the plane ticket. I didn't tell anyone what I was doing or where I was going. Nobody even knows I'm here."
"I know you're here," Mary breathed affectionately. "And it's morning now," she said with a mischievous lilt to her sleepy voice.
"Well, good morning then, my future wife," Matthew said as he leaned over and kissed her chastely until she responded more furiously. She rolled on top of him, eventually, as they finally came up for breath. Mary nibbled the sides of his face, kissing the sensitive skin that had perpetual razor burn to distract him. He seemed to particularly enjoy the action, and she made a mental note of the fact.
"Husband," Mary whispered lightly, reveling in the way Matthew's face beamed proudly. "Just trying out the word," she explained as if it were a test drive. She kissed his nose rather than his mouth, teasing him.
"Boyfriend? Lover? Fiancée?" Matthew prompted her serenely.
"No," she said sternly. "We've skipped all that; it wasn't necessary." Mary continued lovingly, "I'm going to always call you darling, because you make me feel like Wendy Darling to your Peter Pan."
Matthew smirked at her tenderly. "If you ever want me to finish that question I tried to ask, I'm at your disposal."
"I don't care about the proper proposal or the finished question because you are my answer," Mary responded, kissing him again.
Matthew returned her kiss as dawn broke over New York City's horizon. It was February fifteenth, and yesterday they had met at the Empire State Building after a long separation. They had found each other, and this was the start of their lives together.
When he was six years old, he asked his parents about bravery. Matthew thought numbers were brave the way they just kept going -they did not stop and they never ended. He liked the way numbers could change and yet still stay the same.
"Papa," he said, "can you plan to be brave?" His father smiled at him as he sat next to his family. Matthew was sitting on his Mama's lap with books all around him on the sofa.
His father said he would take him to the hospital tomorrow where he could, in fact, meet someone he deemed brave. His mother agreed to the plan as she knew who his father was speaking of. The next morning, he walked into a sterile room holding his Mama's hand. His father took out two pieces of peppermint candy from his pocket and handed one to him and one to the child in the hospital bed.
"This is Lavinia, Matthew," his father said. "She has been very sick for a long time, but she can still smile. I think she is a very brave girl."
Matthew looked at the frail little girl in bed. She wore a pink kerchief over her head. Her eyes were timid, but hopeful. She seemed to almost disappear in the bed because of the white sheets and her pale complexion. There were tubes and wires hooked up to both her arms, holding her prisoner in her sterile cell. Before his father could say anything more, Matthew took a step forward, releasing his Mama's hand. Lavinia fiercely clutched a small, worn Paddington bear. She looked scared, and he wanted to help her.
"You do look very brave," he said to her. "My name is Matthew. Can I be your friend?" He gazed hopefully up at her, suddenly overcome by Papa's example of what bravery meant.
The little girl batted her eyelashes at him and nodded her head, and so he smiled.
"Matthew," she said in a low whisper, "that isn't true."
"I'm not like you Livy," he shot back, biting his lip, which was quivering. "I'm not brave."
They were talking on walkie-talkies. Though they were thirteen now, they hadn't outgrown the toys. Matthew pressed the button to talk and held it, but no words came. He felt the tears rush down his face as he sat on the floor, his bedroom door locked. Nobody could come in, and he wasn't going out. His Papa had died that morning of a sudden heart attack. Matthew thought about those words. Heart. Attack. It wasn't fair.
"Matthew, I lost him too," his friend's voice came through the toy device. "He was my doctor, my friend. My savoir."
Matthew listened to his friend. She was right. His papa didn't just belong to him. It took tiny fragments of his pain away to know that others would grieve, could understand the way he was feeling.
"What if I get sick again? I don't want anybody but him!" she cried, her voice wavering on the words.
"Hush now," the words of his mother came through the walk-talkie. There was a knock on the door.
"Matthew," his Mama spoke gently, "you're going to be okay."
"I have a favor to ask."
Matthew looked up at Williams words and took another sip of his drink. They were at a charity function that would benefit leukemia research. Matthew's oldest friend and girlfriend, Lavinia, had succumbed to the illness just last year, yet he felt he still had to attend to keep her memory alive. Matthew only wished Mary could be with him tonight; her presence would calm his nerves, but he couldn't deny his fiancée when she had wedding errands to attend to. So, he had corralled William, his personal assistant, into coming along with him.
Tomorrow was Friday, and Matthew was very grateful because he was exhausted. His work load as a financial consultant seemed to be constantly growing. In a way, this was good because it meant he was trusted by so many individuals, yet it was also overwhelming to be juggling so many different people's lives. Matthew felt the responsibility keenly, and did not want to ever let anybody down.
With Mary's blessing, he had recently converted the spare bedroom in their new condo into an office, though she had made him promise he wouldn't work too hard. He took another drink of his beer and looked at his watch. They could leave in another fifteen minutes or so, he estimated. Matthew watched his assistant as he sighed heavily, his fingers drumming on his glass; he was practically jogging in place. He knew that something was on William's mind, but his friend was still silent, which was not like him.
"Just tell me, William," Matthew said over the rush of what felt like a thousand murmurs and whispers in the convention center. He didn't mean to be so blunt, but he was tired and annoyed and never one for so much social chit-chat with the city's elite. He just wanted to go home.
"I'm sorry, boss, Maybe now isn't the right time," William responded apologetically. Despite the fact that William worked for him, Matthew considered him a friend first. He softened his tone and finished his beer with a final swig before turning his gaze on his friend holding a soft drink.
"William," he began gently, "is this about Daisy and the courthouse? I told you, whenever you need me to be your witness, I am at your disposal."
"Is tomorrow okay? I can clear your schedule, boss," William asked with a smirk.
"Yes, of course," Matthew answered enthusiastically, genuinely happy for his friend. After all, William had been badgering Daisy to get married for almost a year. It was about time, he thought. Matthew even felt a little jealous of William, since his wedding to Mary would not take place till next year, late summer at the earliest. The fact that they still hadn't set a date was rather annoying to him, but Matthew smiled at his friend's happiness and suddenly had an idea. "Tell you what. I will even drive you there."
"Thank you," William said with a big grin. He reached out his hand, and Matthew shook it.
Authors note: Each chapter of this story will now be a scene between Mary and Matthew. The nonlinear format will jump around in time. Stay tuned! Also on tumblr I will have pictures that showcase each chapter. Find me - wdedalus
I'd love to hear any thoughts about this story so please feel free to comment and thanks for reading!