He was early waiting for his car that morning, outside before his valet, and so too any of Downton's staff or hosts. The sun shone weakly, highlighting the dew on the early grass of this spring, kissing the grounds of Downton in an ethereal greeting.
It was nice to visit this place. The homely feelings of it surprising to him, for he had never felt comfortable here as a younger child, but now…now Downton was one of the remaining great estates, and now that it was half hers, it felt like a wonderful place to spend ones time, yes…
Even as nice as the morning was, he was anxious to leave, for he had managed to make things properly awkward between him and Mary this visit. Of course, that all stemmed from his last visit, his impulsive proposal, his practical plea for her to marry him, that he loved her, and that love might save him from the dull, proper life that surely awaited with Mabel Lane Fox.
But she was only just wearing lavender, and even then she sometimes fell back into black, looking most at ease in that colour, for it meant she was keeping her departed husband close to her. He had asked her for a kiss, had taken pleasure in it, oh indeed. But ever since he could only feel he had asked a mourning woman to choose him over the memories she had of her husband, and he felt selfish, heartbroken, and woefully taken with her. He'd dug a hole for himself, had tried to bring her down with it, and he had made this visit something to forget.
Of course Mary had been nothing but kind to him, but she had heard about his engagement, had even written to congratulate him, and she made sure to keep him at an arm's length as his time at Downton went by. He felt himself drawn to her, magnetically and constant, but he respected the boundaries she had put up this time, and made himself simply a polite guest.
Until, as the second and final night of his stay was drawing to an end, and he found himself in a corner of the room with her, the Earl close by with an uncle he had only just met, and he swirled another brandy around a heavy glass. Yes, polite until he stared into her eyes, crimson and honey coloured all at once, and he told her, with remnants of the drink wetting his lips, that Mabel had thrown him over nearly as quick as she accepted his proposal.
They were through before they even started. Something wasn't fitting right between them, and oh it was because smack in the middle there was Mary, living within his heart and brain, a barrier to his affection and love with Mabel.
Things grew uncomfortable then, and Mary frowned with elegant surprise, concern, before bidding him goodnight, and much good luck. He must need it considering how often he was in and out of engagements, she said.
He had a fitful sleep that night.
So there he stood, jaw clenched, gazing across the grounds, appreciative of the warmth of this early morning, when the door behind him opened, and he heard light footfall on the gravel.
It was Mary, as sweet as the morning, and in her arms she held her son – their son, the one she shared with Matthew Crawley – and there was a pink flush across her cheeks, a lively one he had not seen since their reunion. The baby was outfitted warmly, in whites and blues, and Mary wore a stunning colour of burgundy.
"Tony," She spoke in a voice thick with sleep and unrest, deep and warm all the same. "I thought you might like to meet George."
"I very much would." He said, and grasped her hand in wonder, as she turned the child in her arms, to show to Tony blue eyes and Mary's smile.
And just maybe a future.