Short one shot in which Matthew reflects on his full life, going home to his wife. Has just a stream of consciousness flow to it, very much Matthew's thoughts, lots of reverence for Mary, foreshadowing, etc. I have been out of the Matthew point of view for a while, so I wanted to revisit it somehow. Hopefully something else to come later. Thank you for all of the reviews and messages on my other stories.
He threw himself into his seat on the train, weary before the journey had even begun. He hadn't had a restful moment since they received word she was in labour, just too anxious to leave and join her. He was stupid to let her go back on her own, but he didn't like to see her in discomfort and it was only at her insistence that he stayed. She was considering his well-being, his freedom if you will, and lack of once the baby was here – but he would have went with her in a heartbeat had she asked for him.
Not that he thought he needed the break, the vacation or the preparation for his loss of selfishness – isn't that what having a child means? If not your freedom that is lost, it's certainly your selfishness – and he wouldn't miss either thing very much, for he'd been self interested and hurtful in their relationship for far too long. This, this was one thing he longed to give her, a partner in raising their child, someone there as entirely as he could be, as involved as he was able, he wanted to do right by her and make her proud. But he knew she craved her independence and valued her own freedom, so when she wanted to leave for home and told him to stay, he did so. Certainly, he thought of the hunting and the misty Scottish mornings, and was glad to get a little bit more of both, but it was hard to enjoy anything fully without her by his side.
And how lucky was he that this was the case now – her by his side. Life was full and rich because she was by his side, and he at hers. He never thought, never believed it would come to light, he only dreamt of it for long, torturous years apart. Now his only complaint was that she wasn't there every waking minute that he longed for her. How things had changed, how time had moved, that they were married, to be parents, and he only wanted more. His biggest problems now were wanting more of her, wanting to please her and share with her everything. These were the sweetest struggles, the most wonderful compromises, for it seemed another lifetime and just yesterday that they battled fiancés, both alive and dead, scandal, and plans for America.
This was contentment, this absolute ease and desire with one another. God, this was loving Mary Crawley and it was more fulfilling, more reassuring than any other thing he had done in his life. He could not recall a day without her, even at his lowest, at the most extreme ends of self-loathing, he could not think back to the twenty-some-odd years he had lived without knowing her. When he found love with her at Downton he was all but reborn, for there was nothing that called to him in his old life like she did. If he thought of the quiet nights, the work-filled days, the simple house he called home, he would think of her and all he had missed without her. No, there was no life without Mary Crawley, there was no completeness, no purpose. He would think of Manchester and then think of her there with him. Even when he so needed to, there was no escaping Mary.
At times she was the most beautiful vision, a precious spectre that was everywhere, and at others she was truly haunting, in his dreams at the war front, sweeping away from him in fog and blood.
Through it all she lived, thrived, took control, she was more whole at her most broken than he was at his best. He knew he caused her grief and strife, had ached her heart and stole years but he admired her, regarded her more highly each time they met.
He was a cowardly, foolish man most of the first decade they had known each other, and he intended to make up for it the next decade or five. Because now they had a chance, now they were settled and their life was unfolding, their child about to be born, and the past was oh so the past, the future so enlivening that he felt his chest expand pridefully at just the notion of all to come.
How much they would see together, he thought, the world, the babies, the change, and love.
Of course, buried and forgotten beneath this bright, shiny worldview, were the worries and darkness that he had left behind when he proposed to Mary (the second time). He had been toxic and dramatic after Lavinia had died, damning she, cursing them both. The loathing he felt those long months, the guilt and anxiety, the regrets – they were gone, faded, easier to live with, but he did wonder of the bad that might befall them, too. They had seen so much bad, so much ill in the world, that it would be stupid to think everything had suddenly turned up.
Because, of course, it hadn't. Sybil had died since, writhing in pain in her childhood bed hours after giving birth to her daughter. Reggie had died and he fought about the inheritance with Mary, about plans for the estate, and there was always the chance – always the odds that things would fall apart sooner than later. There was nothing to be relied upon, certainly not happiness, certainly not calm, and so he succumbed to these taunts, these dark thoughts, at times.
He chuckled to himself as he thought, because it was good to remain grounded, and practical, for Mary would surely scoff if she knew how fit to burst with joy was he. She'd wrinkle her nose and brow at his hope, his love and light for her, and he knew it was never so simple as that, but God, in him she brought out the best, the most optimistic. She would likely to be glad to know he feared for the things that he did, that he wasn't always cheery optimism.
Matthew feared for Mary, feared for this day as much as he anticipated it, for everything had gone normal for Sybil, too, everything had happened as it should and the baby came, healthy, and then...
His mother had been by Mary's side through checkups and reassured them both that Mary would be fine, even if she was a bit small, and he knew his mother would be with her today as she gave birth. He wished it were him, he wished he would be there to wait outside the door or hold her hand if she allowed him in. But he also felt sick with the thought of watching her go through that, but so too he felt sick at not being there to know if she came through it all right! Ah, he supposed it was his turn to worry about her, as she had for him the three years he was at war, and if she knew how desperately he was torturing himself with every possibility of what could go wrong, she would likely agree they were on equal ground.
Mary was bringing life into the world, their first child together, a brand new Crawley baby, maybe even a new heir, or if it was a girl – one he could fight for inheritance rights when the time came. Yes, she was giving him a future, giving him a family, and for that fact they would never be equal again, for this elevated her so high in his eyes. He thought of her as otherworldly and strong, more a warrior than angel, but the most beautiful warrior he'd ever seen – angular and with eyes the warmest, peculiar honeyed shade that flooded his innards with comfort and desire.
As the train ride stretched into night, and he felt stiff and hot in his travelling suit, he thought of all the dead that surrounded them. He thought of how the odd lately seemed to be death over life and they were defying it, hopefully, by both being alive and welcoming another new life. Perhaps this could break the trend, the curse of that estate and all who touched it. He counted them off, all who had perished since he met this side of his family, and it was unnerving, it was nearly enough to make him paranoid – What could possibly be just around the corner or just over their shoulders?
The train rounded a corner, went through a stone tunnel, and the bright moon was hidden from sight, the compartment plunged into darkness. His flesh crawled as his lingering thoughts of the dead paired with the eerie, quiet black that lasted a long minute.
He held his breath and thought, this is nothing, this is death, no memories of loved ones to keep you company, just nothingness, just finality. It spooked him to imagine, to think of himself or Mary, lifeless, still, and quiet in the same cemetery where half of the damned family and Lavinia were and he was thankful when the moon reappeared. He took a deep breath, anxious to get to his wife and child, to hold them both and never part from them again.
We must never take us for granted. Who knows what's coming? She had said to him once, distraught over her sister's death, desperate to communicate to him through the grief, through the estate battles, curled up with him in bed on a night similar to this one – warm and the bright light of the moon.
Yes, who did know what was coming, Mary, too, wondered what was just over their shoulders, what was looming and lurking and ready to destruct them further. He worried that she was preoccupied with this and would be overwhelmed during labour, hoping everything went smoothly, but Matthew knew he was underestimating her and that she would handle it as calmly as possible.
Mary Crawley was unwavering, as was his love for her.
I have to take one thing for granted. That I will love you until the last breath leaves my body.
And he would, oh how he would, love her until he was gasping and breaking and leaving the world, love her even beyond the last breath, beyond death, if he could, if there was a beyond, if he could love her from a that schism, that world afar. Oh how he would, oh how he hoped she would feel his love always, alive or dead, young or old. He could never live without her, could never love without her, and hoped it would be he to go first, when they were both old and grey, wrinkly and decayed. He hoped it would be with her soon behind, when she was ready, when her strength left, as his inevitably would leave first.
No, Matthew Crawley was not built to outlive Mary and he smiled at that thought, because of course he wasn't – he could never match her strength or vitality, was not made to live without her, when he knew she would survive without him. But that day would only come when death did them part, and not otherwise, they would be together until the end, this he knew so well.
To focus on death as his child was being born was strange but it haunted them so that accepting it was better than ignoring the possibilities – He reached a point where he made himself uneasy, though, pondering the end so closely to his child's birth, so he pulled himself from it, hoping it wasn't bad luck, and he slumbered peacefully.
Matthew arrived home to a clear, blue skied morning, and he straightened himself out, retying his tie, buttoning his waistcoast and jacket, sprinting off the train platform, in a rush to get to his family.
And how he revered her so, how he put her onto a pedestal she would likely fall from the first time they argued after the months passed and a new baby became their way of life. But he was never wrong about how much he loved her, even if he elevated her, he loved every part of her, longed to fight with her, to watch her roll her eyes at him, maybe even kick him out to sleep in his dressing room. He knew all that would come would not be easy, would not be perfect and sunshine-y each and every day, but that's how he felt for now, that's what he could imagine now, as he made his way to the hospital. They had their faults and flaws, had their weak points and those of contention, but what did any of it matter on the happiest day of his life?
His hands shook as he pushed through the hospital doors, found his mother, felt his stomach tumble with nerves over whatever news awaited him. He nearly collapsed when he found Isobel, his features drawn together in desperation as he looked at her expectantly.
"She's fine," His mother said and the sweet, comforting woman that had soothed him all of his life was doing so again. "So is he. They're both fine."
He, a boy. He kissed his mother on the cheek, weak and buoyant at once, tears wetting his eyes as he stumbled to the door of Mary's room, blinded and breath taken once he had.
For there she sat up in bed, her back to the window, light streaming in, bright and glowing, just as was she. Anna at her side, the baby swaddled in a white blanket, and Mary swaddled in a white floral robe, her hair smooth and tucked back, the most serene smile upon her face. He had never seen that smile before, and knew it was reserved only for their new Crawley boy, someone Matthew was sure she would love more than him. She looked up at him, he her husband, and she was a heavenly vision, one that only blessed and God granted persons would ever see, and how lucky was he, how lucky was he...
She smiled at him, too, tentative, glorious, and he approached the bed, face already aching from beaming so broad, eyes watering, throat dry. Mary, lovely, darling, new mother Mary, slowly, gently, handed him his boy, his handsome, resting son. This was why he had survived, the war, this was his point and purpose in life, this child, this woman, and he would never view life the same way again.
"Say hello to your son and heir," Mary, his wife, his love, spoke in a soft, peaceful tone, and his heart burst with joy, hardly contained inside himself, and Matthew knew then he would die happy, just for this, just for this moment in which she looked more settled and joyous than he had ever seen, and he felt the same.
I wonder if he has any idea how much joy he brings with him.
It would be the image of she, holding their son, with his tuft of dark hair, Mary and babe in white, that he would be thinking of when he indeed took his last breath – Only but an hour later on the side of the road, beneath his car, in between the hospital and the abbey, in between life and death.