Title: Challenge #1: Filled prompts
Bex - June 10, 2011 03:19 PM (GMT)
Post your responses to Challenge #1 here.
Thanks for taking part! Feel free to comment on the various epic ficlets which will be undoubtedly posted here :)
Bex - June 17, 2011 01:34 PM (GMT)
I'll kick things off then! Please make sure when posting your responses, you include the rating and any warnings, e.g. language, sexual situations etc. Remember the rating of this forum - nothing too graphic please!
Prompt: “Lady Grantham has a run in with Violet”
Warnings: Well its Bex writing it, so I’d expect femslash!
When the Countess of Grantham burst into her son’s study unannounced on a Saturday afternoon, it was not Robert who greeted her as she had expected – and indeed as he should have done! – but his little wife, sat stiff and flushed behind his desk and looking rather like she had been caught doing something she shouldn’t have been doing.
Violet narrowed her eyes.
“What are you doing in here? Where’s Robert?”
She glanced around keenly, looking for something, anything, which might indicate what the girl had been up to. She had known instinctively the American would be trouble, but had Robert listened to her? Had Edward listened to her? Heaven’s no! Their heads had been turned by the pretty little foreigner, but Violet could see right through the charmingly clumsy façade!
“Ripon,” her daughter-in-law breathed, though the words sounded decidedly shaky and not at all convincing; at least not to Violet. Cora grimaced to herself, and kept herself firmly rooted to the chair behind Robert’s desk with her hands curled tight around the oak edge. There was a flicker of something in her eyes that Violet’s sharp stare did not miss. Did the child really think she could hide from her? “I think.”
“Well is he or isn’t he?” She sniffed. “Are all American’s so inarticulate?”
Cora bristled at that, despite the blush overwhelming her cheeks and, in truth, every other part of her – she usually allowed her mother-in-law’s insults to roll over her but she loathed interruptions, particularly at a moment as critical as this!
She spoke as sternly as she could manage...under the circumstances.
“He is in Ripon. Will I do in his absence?”
If Violet had been determined before, she was even more so now, her suspicions enflamed by the sheer audacity of this child, speaking to her as if she owned the place! She had not run Downton for thirty long years for a silly little upstart, scarcely twenty-two, to speak to her in this manner! She was not Lady Grantham yet.
She opened her mouth to give the American a piece of her mind, only to blink in confusion as she heard a thump from underneath the desk. She would have willingly believed the sound was nothing more than the clumsy girl hitting her knee against the wood – she had been known to trip over her own feet on occasion – had the thump not been followed by a suspicious shuffling noise, like ruffling satin or fluttering silk, and a girlish squeak from Cora’s lips.
“What in god’s name are you-”
Violet froze in horror as a head, a terribly familiar head of red, curly hair, appeared from beneath the desk and between her daughter-in-law’s legs and offered Violet an insolent little smile that would have her blood boiling if she had not been so utterly scandalized.
God in heaven.
“Mama.” Rosamund’s eyes twinkled back at her. Dear god, was this what a heart attack felt like? “Did Granny never teach you to knock?”
Vero - June 18, 2011 08:07 PM (GMT)
I loved it, Bex! You even made me surprised at the end, I totally expected Robert to be under the desk. :P
Poor Violet!! But yeah she should have knocked. <_<
Ellie - June 19, 2011 01:04 AM (GMT)
Bex. You are a truly wonderful person.
Laura - June 20, 2011 02:34 AM (GMT)
Ok here's my fill. It turned out quite a bit darker and angstier than I intended it, and rather melodramtic and OOC! That being said, I hope you enjoy reading! Apologies on length, I seem quite unable to write short stories. Prompt:
Matthew Crawley cleans somethingRating:
None, but it is set a a few days after the tea party RP on here, which you can read here
. You don't need to read the RP to read this fill though.
Matthew let out a deep sigh as he lowered his book to his lap and looked across the sitting room. He’d been trying to read the last page for a good half hour, if the clock on the mantelpiece was anything to go by, and he still would be unable to recount a single word of what had happened to anyone. His thoughts were too preoccupied and restless to concentrate on anything and he’d finally given up trying. Usually a book was soothing to him when he was restless and agitated, but today the book only seemed to confound and amplify his thoughts and make them impossible to push away. It was the subject matter of his thoughts that bothered him the most and that she still had such a blasted hold of them! Ever since that stupid dinner party the other week, and the disastrous afternoon when he’d invited her around for tea a few days ago, she’d been constantly, and frustratingly, in his thoughts. Her behaviour baffled him completely and when he wasn’t trying to understand the sudden shifts in her conduct towards him, he was left trying to analyse just why she had stormed off the other afternoon! He’d only invited her round for tea as they’d chanced upon each other in the village; he hadn’t expected her to be offended by his offhand remark, nor for her to stomp out with such a lack of civility. Her whole conduct then had been quite insulting, both to him and his mother, who he knew took her role of hostess quite seriously.
As these thoughts bombarded his mind, he realised his eyes had rested upon the silver tea set in the glass cabinet. It had been an old one of the family’s, carefully brought here from Manchester and, in all of Matthew’s memory, it remained never used. With a distinct bitter distaste in his mouth, Matthew wondered if it had once come from the great family up at the big house – Matthew knew it certainly came from his late father’s side of the family. He glared at it, suddenly finding its very existence quite insulting, as if it epitomised everything he hated and despised about that great family at the big house, about his inevitable future there and, most of all, about her. Whilst it had not been the offensive tea set that they’d used that ill-fated afternoon, it still made him remember how she’d glared across her china equivalent and insulted him. How she’d banged it down on the table before storming out of the house in an inexplicable seething rage.
As he glared at the repulsive tea set, his dark mood seemed to manifest itself as imaginary thick black dust on the silver, marring the intricate detail and patterns on the shiny surface. It didn’t stop the images from shimmering through the blackness though, faces that his mind projected upon them. Faces of his late father, whose destiny had been skipped over and left to him; faces of his mother, who bore it well, yet whose way of life had changed completely with his; faces of those at the big house, both the family and the servants alike, who had looked down their noses at them when they’d first arrived and, finally, faces of her, Mary. Her eyes glaring at him contemptuously, her expression frosty and full of dislike as she talked of him, the sea monster, the upstart heir come to steal her fortune.
“It’s dirty.” Matthew suddenly said, his voice barely holding in all his displeasure and frustration as the images danced before him on the shiny silverware.
Isobel, who had ignored his earlier sigh and continued on with her letters, looked around at this and gave her son an examining look. He was grumpy, angry, rage simmering beneath the surface; she could tell that immediately from the way he was glaring across the room and slouched on the chair, his hands tapping agitatedly along the book spine. The cause of his annoyance was not much more of a mystery to her either; he’d been miserable for days, ever since Mary had come round for afternoon tea. Even before it, he’d been somewhat out of sorts since the dinner party at the big house. Despite her best efforts though, Isobel had been unable to get Matthew to open up to her, though she knew full well the cause. Mary. It seemed to be whenever he saw her that he got like this; grumpy and sulky, moping around the house like a petulant child! It was annoying to say the least; Matthew’s dark moods had a habit of sucking the life and light out of the house and Isobel had thought, hoped, they’d past all this now. Matthew seemed to be finally coming round to the idea that he’d be an earl some day, but now this whole business with Mary, whatever it involved, had dragged him right back into despondency again. Now, it appeared, all this pent up frustration and annoyance were finally breaking free.
After watching her son for a few moments and following his gaze to her late husband’s silver tea set, Isobel answered him quite calmly, ignoring the malevolent look upon her sons’ face, “It looks clean to me, Beth always gives it a good polish whenever she cleans the room.”
“It still looks dirty,” Matthew answered, his voice deep, threatening, as he tried to contain his rising fury, glaring at the silverware as if trying to mentally smash it into oblivion. The faces were there, still projected onto the silver surfaces, mocking him, taunting him, until he could take it no more. He got up so suddenly that Isobel almost gasped in shock, before he strode purposefully across the room, yanked open the cabinet and grabbed the offensive silver tray holding it all. “It needs a clean.”
Then, before Isobel had chance to speak another word, Matthew had stormed out of the sitting room and headed towards the kitchen, the silver pieces of the set banging together as loud as church bells in the heavy, repressive atmosphere.
Mrs Bird looked up in shock as Matthew barged into her kitchen, nearly dropping the roast chicken she was preparing for dinner on the floor. Not only was she surprised that the master had entered the kitchen, but the thunderous look upon his face quite stopped her in her tracks; it wasn’t like him to be so angry.
Without a single word at the cook, Matthew headed straight for the large ceramic sink, dropping the tea set in with a cacophonous smash that reverberated around the whole kitchen and, for all her stout and steadfast manner, quite made Mrs Bird’s bones rattle in fear. The tap was quickly turned on and Matthew didn’t even bat an eye lid as water poured out, hitting the silverware before ricocheting everywhere, soaking Matthew to his skin. With no more than a grunt of frustration as the water hit him, serving to only fuel his rage, he quickly grabbed the soap and the nearby cloth and began scrubbing. He scrubbed hard, vigorously, at the silverware, letting the soap foam up in the sink as the pieces smashed around, just about audible over the roaring in the tap and the roaring in his ears. He scrubbed and scrubbed, rubbing the imaginary dust off every cup and saucer, off every pot and tea spoon, trying to scrub away the mocking, scornful faces reflected within them. He scrubbed so fast that his arm ached, but he didn’t notice, the rage and anger and frustration that had festered within him so long pouring out, bottled up since he’d first received that letter, since he’d first arrived here, since he’d first met the great family and since he’d first met her. He’d bottled it up so deeply within him and now it was pouring forth, flowing faster than the streaming liquid from the tap, which still hit the silverware before being refracted about, splashing soap and water and frustration and rage everywhere it landed.
He didn’t notice the others in the room, the way Mrs Bird still stared at him in shock, her hands gripping the roasting tray through the tea towel in fright, her face as pale as the cloth she was holding. He didn’t see Molesley coming in from outside, staring in astonishment and panic at his master scrubbing furiously away, himself teetering from foot to foot anxiously, trying to work how to help. Nor the maid, Beth, standing beside Mrs Bird, her face filled with trepidation, terrified that her job was precariously in danger, that she had dissatisfied her master and not completed her work correctly.
Matthew also didn’t notice his mother, who had followed him into the kitchen and now stood leaning against the door frame, staring in concern and confusion as she watched her son scrub, taking out all his anger and frustration on the family’s expensive silverware. She let him be for a moment, knowing all to well her sons fit of rage needed time to escape, and ignored the desperate looks of the servants as they glanced around them in impending horror. After a few moments though, when Isobel knew instinctively the time was right, she walked slowly, carefully towards her son and gently placed her hand on his arm.
“I think it’s clean now, Matthew,” her calm voice spoke, so quiet and gentle it made its way past the seething rage within him, past the deafening noise of the silverware smashing together, of the water cascading everywhere and past the roaring in his ears. He immediately stopped; his hand stilling as he turned towards her. He expected to see annoyance, anger, reproach in her eyes, but instead they were warm and gentle, comforting and kind, and they helped push away all the rage within him. He looked away from her and back towards the mess in front of him, his own shirt and waistcoat sodden with water and soap suds, the sink and surroundings covered with steaming water as the silverware gleamed back at him, shining brilliantly in the glowing afternoon sun filtering in through the high kitchen windows. The faces were gone now, there was no imaginary black dust to be seen and, as his mother reached over and turned off the tap, the only sound he could hear was his heavy breathing and the continual drip, drip, drip of the water as it ran off one piece of silverware onto another.
His mother didn’t say another word, but pulled gently on his arm and Matthew gave in to the slight pressure. Now that the thunderous rage had left him, he felt drained, weak, unable to think coherently and he allowed his mother to pull him away from the sink, away from the silver tea set and out of the kitchen.
Isobel paused briefly at the door, glancing apologetically over her son’s shoulder at the servants and nodding at Beth, then the tea set in the sink, before nodding at Molesley, “Some tea please, Mr Molesley, in the mugs.” Then, lastly, she looked at Mrs Bird, whose face was slowly regaining its usual reddish complexion, “Dinner in an hour, Mrs Bird, if you would be so kind.” All the servants bowed their heads in silent solemnity and Isobel nodded again, before leading her son out of the kitchen and the scene of chaos and destruction within its walls. As if he was still a child, she led him to a chair and Matthew collapsed into it. She sat on the seat opposite, not saying a word, but holding his hand comfortingly until he seemed quite calm again.
“I’m sorry, mother,” Matthew said sadly, not quite raising his eyes to hers.
“It’s alright, Matthew, no harm done.” Isobel said consolingly, smiling at her now guilt ridden son. She was surprised by his recent behaviour for sure, but not frightened. She knew her son well and that, albeit infrequently, he would let his emotions overcome him for a short while. He would be fine now, Isobel knew that, though she was still anxious for him, concerned at what had brought on the fit of rage, for the last time she had seen him consumed with it was when his father died, many years ago. She didn’t dare pry though, not now, and instead simply made light of the situation, smiling at Matthew as she said, “Next time you decide to clean the silverware, would you mind awfully using polish instead? It’s a lot less damaging than soap and scrubbing.” She gave him a warm smile which Matthew returned, before he picked up his book again and started to read, finding the words soothing and calming now, his thoughts and emotion now under his control once more.
Eolivet - June 20, 2011 11:11 AM (GMT)
Hee, Bex -- the first time I read yours, I somehow missed it was set in the past (er...the more distant past)! Your Violet voice is amazing, and that's a killer last paragraph. Fabulous!
Laura, you always have such an ability to bring readers into the mind of a character, and this was no exception! I think my favorite line -- something I'd never even considered -- was how this was supposed to be his father's destiny, not Matthew's...that really got to me for some reason. But I also loved Isobel here -- calm and reassuring. Such a good mom!
Can't wait for more of these from everyone else! You guys are inspiring me to want to try it the next time around! :)
Scarlet - June 20, 2011 11:14 AM (GMT)
Oh man...I really did try, I promise!
Prompt: Lady Mary makes a mistake.
Rating: PG I suppose, but really not.
When she is ten years old Mary falls off the third shelf of her Papa’s bookcase where she had been eagerly climbing, searching with an unquenchable curiosity for secret things that she knew must be up there. It is an accident and she gets a fine bruise, but an accident is all it is and Mrs Hughes and witch-hazel make it better.
Three years later is the first time she is ever truly cruel to Edith with the full knowledge of what she was doing. They had fought before, but childishly and without malice but this is the day that Patrick is here and Mary sees him laughing with Edith and he should be laughing with her. Mama has told her now that she has to marry Patrick and Mary, pragmatic even in her youth, was determined to make the best of it. Or wait for a better offer. But until that happened she would not let Edith have her way. If it had been Sybil she wonder what she would have done differently, but it is not Sybil, its Edith, with her striking hair and who’s nearly as clever as she is.
She trips Edith over, getting her little sister’s gown covered in mud and she laughs. She tells everyone it’s an accident and fools them all but Edith. She never really regrets her actions per say, but she does think later that it didn’t matter either way and she was wrong to bother putting her effort into Patrick if it has made such an enemy of her sister.
She makes a deliberate error when she is eighteen and presented at court. Not during the actual presentation, good god no, but later, during the dinner and dancing. She smiles airily as she picks up the wrong fork and the Duke of Crowborough gently corrects her and a single step wrong when she is dancing allows her to laugh at herself and have her partner pull her closer to show her the right steps.
The men love her because she is spirited, the Mother’s because she will produce attractive Grandchildren and can learn. She catches sight of her own Mama and has never seen her face like that. Lady Grantham does not look proud, but neither does she look disappointed and for the first time of many to come over the years, Mary wonders where she got her guile from as it is clearly not her Mother.
Cora Levinson would never have behaved in such a calculating manner but Lady Mary Crawley will – she doesn’t have her Mother’s fortune and needs to create her own opportunities.
When she is twenty-two the opportunities present themselves but she is wrong, her actions are flawed and no one can call it an accident. Her judgement fails and she rejects Matthew Crawley.
She cannot call it anything but a mistake.
bijou156 - June 20, 2011 03:50 PM (GMT)
@Bex: I really enjoyed reading your prompt- it was epic (especially that last paragraph). I loved your characterisation of Violet- just perfect! After reading this, my new AU pair is Cora/Rosemund! <3
@Laura: I really enjoyed reading your prompt too! I loved how you depic the relationship between Matthew and Isobel. I loved your description of moody Matthew venting his anger on the silverware- delightful! I also liked that you had Mrs. Bird's cameo too! I bet she would have reacted just like that :D The narrative was quite excellent as it also captures perfectly Matthew's inner turmoil and the calming influence Isobel can have.
@Scarlet: I really enjoyed reading your prompt as well! I really loved how you depicted Mary's and Edith's catty relationship and sibling rivalry. I loved it how Mary concludes that :
|When she is twenty-two the opportunities present themselves but she is wrong, her actions are flawed and no one can call it an accident. Her judgement fails and she rejects Matthew Crawley.|
She cannot call it anything but a mistake.
I also loved your characterisation of Mary-spot on! ;)
It was quite a delight reading this amazing and excellent prompts. :D
Can't wait for more of these from everyone else! :D
Bex - June 21, 2011 12:37 PM (GMT)
Oh darling, this is spot on. There truly is no character that you cannot write, and this is such a good example of that. Your Mary is so exquisitely realistic - you haven't softened her, you've presented her as she is and I think this is a beautiful piece of writing and such an awesome response to the prompt. Whilst I would pay you to write Cora and Sarah until the day you die, I love when you deviate and explore other avenues, and you do it so frakking well.
under_ordinary_moonlight - June 26, 2011 06:23 PM (GMT)
(Everything so far has been beautiful, I especially love your scheming!Mary, Scarlet!)
Prompt: Isobel Crawley breaks something expensive
Rating: Probably G...? PG at a push.
In a family home - a real family home, one with rooms that could be counted on one set of fingers, one that didn’t have legions of staff at its beck and call (simultaneously conspicuous and absent all at once) – it simply didn’t do to have such costly things on display.
If there were little ones racing around the place (much as it had been a long time since Matthew had raced anywhere) then it was simply impractical. And, of course, parties – drinks were to be had, of course, and drinks and such valuable creations did not mix.
So, really, in truth, they were asking for trouble, having all of their expensive creations out on display. It was gauche. Uncivilised. Unnecessary bragging. Just an impudent display of wealth.
And simply asking for trouble when there was a woman fighting to keep her nerves under wraps, especially one who knew her son was to be thrown to the (admittedly beautiful and occasionally charming) wolves.
She was alone when it happened – she wasn’t entirely sure how she had ended up on her own, perhaps she had got lost (she certainly felt lost, but that wasn’t quite the same thing) or perhaps they had deliberately lost her.
She knew she was being reactionary (and perhaps the drinks with dinner had taken their toll) but she wouldn’t have been surprised if it transpired that they had done this just to see what would happen, to witness what hell would break loose.
And what hell that would break loose was, it seemed, a rather charming little figurine.
Had she been brought up in another house, in another time, Isobel would have sworn – violently and loudly. She would have cursed herself and this house.
But that wasn’t Isobel – all she did was feel an overwhelming wave of guilt, anxiety and a numb ache that if Reginald had been here then he could have prevented this, or helped her to laugh about it, or somehow made the situation better.
She missed him, more than she could stand. She imagined him, ghostlike, at her shoulder, whispering comments in her ear, responding pithily to barbs with a wit he had never possessed in life, arm snaking around her waist with a disregard for propriety which he most certainly had possessed in life.
The gasp was what plucked her from her reverie, what dragged her back to reality and sent her husband back into the ether.
One of the maids. Isobel felt immediately guilty for not knowing her name – she somehow knew the kind face, though, the look of genuine apology, the understanding.
At least this girl wasn’t judging her for the new station that had been thrust upon her, the station she had never asked for and never wanted.
“I – it was an accident.”
“Of course it was, ma’am.” The girl said soothingly.
“Let me help you clear it up.”
“No, I – I really must insist. It’s my fault. I can’t just leave it to you – what was your name?”
“Anna, m’am.” She smiled kindly. “I’ll take care of this.”
She bit her lip. “Let me help you, please, Anna. I simply couldn’t bear – “ She stopped, sighing. “I fear I’m not cut out for this.” She breathed deeply. “Did it belong to anyone in particular?”
“It was Lady Sybil’s favourite, I believe – “ Anna looked almost as if she was going to reach out and touch Isobel’s arm, or at least that she would have done, had their stations allowed. “It hasn’t been in the family for very long, as I understand it.” She met Isobel’s eyes – breaking so many rules, Isobel was sure, but it didn’t seem to matter at the moment. “Of all the things you could have broken, I think this was the least valuable.”
It was still worth twice as much as the most valuable thing Isobel had ever owned.
At least, monetarily speaking.
The more she thought about it – and think about it she did as she pulled Sybil to one side (Anna insisted on Isobel returning to the family whilst she cleared the mess up) to speak softly, apologise and be given a sweet, polite, really very well-bred pardon – the most valuable thing in her life was currently stood in another room, chatting with the current owner of the title to which he was heir.
That was all she could think of for the rest of her the evening, that her most valuable possession was no longer her possession (it was true, in many ways, that he hadn’t been her possession for quite some time, but he had at least allowed her to believe that he may be after Reginald’s death)
She sat beside him, driven home by a driver who hadn’t given his name but had given her a respectful smile when she had broached conversation, and reached for his hand. “You’ve grown up into a wonderful man, Matthew.”
As she said it, she could feel herself aging, becoming older than she truly was. She carried on regardless; “Your father would be so proud, if only he could see you now.”
Matthew smiled in the darkness, squeezing his mother’s hand – he was such a good boy, not that she would call him that, not that he could be called a boy anymore – and spoke softly, with the voice that reminded her so much of Reginald; “I doubt he’d be impressed with the prospect of being titled.”
“That wasn’t what I meant.” She replied gently, releasing his hand, looking out to a large house (not as large as the one they had left, but large enough) that one day – hopefully – she’d be able to call home.
Scarlet - June 26, 2011 06:52 PM (GMT)
Awwwww, I love this. Isobel is so seldom used a lot in fic and this is gorgeous and perfect.
WotcherNymphadora - June 27, 2011 10:28 PM (GMT)
(Not entirely happy with how this one turned out :/)
Prompt: "Lady Sybil has a bad day"
Rating: K+ I'd say, just to be safe.
Warnings: None really, unless you don't like reading about war.
“Lady Sybil has a bad day.”
A deep lurking feeling consumed her each time she saw her mama’s tear streaked face, at each glance of her papa’s empty desk. Even her grandmother’s features, which were usually as rigid as her posture, were marred with an open and uncharacteristic concern.
Papa was gone, they hadn’t heard from him in weeks and he might very well be dead. The endless waiting for a response was agonising, each morning the post boy came, and each morning there was no news of papa’s safety, not an inkling that he was okay. At first her hope had been in excess, she was not worried, papa was strong, he was a fighter, he’d survived one war and he could survive another. But now her typical supply of optimism was dwindling and with each passing day more and more grief overwhelmed her, as if her mind was preparing her for a devastating blow.
Mama had been spending increasing amounts of time confiding in O’Brien, who was proving to be an angel in her hour of need. Mary had Matthew and Edith had Sir Anthony, they both had been forgiven by their loves, Sybil wasn’t even allowed to have hers.
At first deciphering her feelings for Tom had been a thrilling prospect. She would have given anything to know why she flooded with happiness each time their eyes met and to know why her face burned crimson when they spoke. He began to affect her in ways she didn’t even know possible; her naivety and her juvenile nature began to disappear slowly but surely. Gradually his presence rid her of every selfish aspect of her personality. He had turned her into a woman without even knowing it and she could not imagine life without him being there, in the garage or tending the cars, anywhere so long as they were near each other.
It was then she realised that she was in love with Tom Branson.
But she would never marry him, she would not bear him children, they could never grow old together in their home. They could only ever have each other’s hearts, but that was enough for the both of them.
Whenever her grievances threatened to overwhelm her, and tears began to prick the corners of her eyes Sybil knew that there was always a safe place for her in the garage, no less.
Tom was mostly there, and he’d chat to her gently or not at all. He always knew when to say the words to make her feel like everything was all right; he installed hope into her weary heart for her father and took away her worries of the war. Sometimes Tom didn’t talk at all; he just welcomed her into his sanctuary, because he knew that there was nothing that he could say to change her frame of mind at that moment in time.
Today was one of those days. And it was about to get worse.
The moment the words, "I've enlisted", slipped from his lips her whole world came tumbling down. Papa's welfare was pushed to the back of her mind, and for that she felt a terrible surge of guilt. But Tom was leaving her, her Tom was going to be sent to some godforsaken trench in the middle of nowhere, she was going to be without him. Selfish tendancies began to crawl back, she sought to stand in the way of the man she loved and his patriotic duty. Because really, all of this was over a peice of blue, red and white cloth, it didn't mean anything, not when compared to her devotion to Tom.
She couldn't bare the thought of him being shot down in the mud like he was worth nothing, like he was a runty dog. It wasn't fair, war was stealing everything she cared about from her, and Tom was the final straw. What if he died? What if he wasn't buried properly, in Ireland, where he wanted to be? She envisioned the ghastly prospect of his fragile bones being ploughed up in a farmers field among those of other fallen soldiers, along with leather boots that had outlasted their wearers. It would all be remniscent of a war long gone, but one that her heart would still bare the scars of.
Slowly her limbs began to move of their own accord, out of the Rolls Royce and to where he stood bent over the bonnet. His head turned, his eyes met hers and the concern that spread across his features indicated to her that face must be a mess. She raised a trembling hand a threaded her fingers through the soft baby hair at the nape of his neck, pulling it out of it’s neatly combed style and into the gentle Irish curls she loved.
“Don’t be a fool, Tom.” She breathed into the hollow of his throat.
“Sybil, please try to understand. I’ve thought long and hard about this,” he tried to explain; “I want to make the world a better, safer place for you.”
He didn’t understand. He was the centre of her world, if he was gone, it wouldn’t turn anymore. She’d collapse in on herself; she would never handle the grief of loosing him. Sybil wrestled from his tight hold, and within seconds she missed the musty smell of his uniform, the brush of his stubble and the warmth of his huge hands. She couldn’t go months or even forever without this.
“What is it worth, Tom, if you’re not in it?”
He raised a nail to his teeth and began to chew on it in anxiety, his eyebrows knitted together. She thought that like a true politician he was planning a carefully worded response, one that would supposedly satisfy all of the “voters”. Instead he offered little philosophy.
“Life goes on, darlin’.”
She could have screamed at him for all it was worth. Life would most certainly not go on when he left, at least not for her anyway. Her love for him didn’t work like that, she couldn’t wish it away, and she didn’t want to. Her heart was going to stay rooted to Tom’s, even if that meant it was in a muddy trench in France with him, even if his bled to death, god forbid.
“Promise me, Tom. Promise you won’t...” she choked on the word like it was the cheapest of alcohol scorching the back of her throat “...die.”
mlt - June 28, 2011 04:50 AM (GMT)
I've been so remiss in not applauding all the lovely entries so far.
Bex: Loved your Violet, and her interaction with Rosamund was hilarious!
Laura: I like seeing the interaction of Matthew and Isobel, and she is able to get through to him. It makes me think about how close they must be, which I never thought about much during the show.
Scarlet: I really liked your contrast between Cora and Mary at the end. Also the different ways she's made calculating "mistakes" before making the one that causes her downfall. It somehow makes me less sympathetic towards her!
Underordinarymoonilight: Sorry I don't know your name! But I love your insight into Isobel's turmoil at her new life. We only got a glimpse of it at the AWKWARD introduction scene when they first dined at the great house, so I'm glad to see it a little more fleshed out.
Grace: Oh you made my shippy heart melt! That is really how I prefer Sybil/Branson, where Sybil doesn't begrudgingly love him, despite him being a servant, but really accepts him as he is.
ClaireH - June 28, 2011 08:36 PM (GMT)
(First off, LOVING all these!!)
(Secondly, I warn you this is incredibly silly and probably requires some suspension of disbelief!)
Prompt: Molesley has a giggle-fit at an inopportune moment.
Warnings: Semi alluded/suggested adult themes (all will become clear..!)
“Come on, darling – how often do we get the house to ourselves?” Matthew implored his wife.
“But Matthew, I’m not at all sure we have the time... You know I should like to, but your mother is likely to arrive home at any moment!” Mary wavered.
“Well we’ll just have to be quick, won’t we? I can’t imagine we’d take too long...” He had more faith in their capabilities than Mary, it seemed.
“Oh, you are that sure of your skill, are you?” Mary’s eyebrows raised in gentle mockery, lips curving into a smile as she laid her hands on his arms fondly.
“I don’t think it’s my place to be the judge of that, darling, do you?”
“Perhaps,” she said quietly. Matthew sensed she was beginning to give in and pressed a little more.
“We should really make the most of the opportunity while Mother is out. You know it’s the best way, darling.”
“Yes... Yes, I suppose you’re right. As you often are!” Mary placed an affectionate kiss on his cheek. “I’ll go on up, then – you’d better warn Molesley.”
Matthew nodded, smiling at her acceptance. As Mary exited he pulled the bell, and paced a little while. Before long Molesley entered, clasping his hands together meekly.
“Good afternoon, Mr Crawley. What can I do for you?”
“Ah, Molesley. Lady Mary and I are going to be upstairs for a little while – could you see that we are not disturbed, please?”
“Of course, Sir.” Molesley nodded, betraying no expression at his master’s request.
“Particularly if my mother should come back before we are quite finished – is there any chance you could deflect her? If she should... well, it would be very awkward. I’m sure you understand that.”
“I do, Mr Crawley. I’ll do my best, naturally.”
Matthew smiled appreciatively at his butler and valet. He’d grown to rely greatly upon the man over these last few years, and couldn’t quite imagine doing without him now. They had developed a good relationship, and it pleased Matthew to feel that he had earned Molesley’s loyalty in times such as this.
“Thank you, Molesley. We’ll be down soon.” And with that, he followed his wife upstairs.
Molesley smiled gently to himself as he returned to the kitchen of Crawley House. He set himself the task of polishing the silver cutlery; it had been a beautiful wedding gift for his master and Lady Mary some months ago now, and he was determined to keep it pristine. He looked up as Anna came in; she smiled at him and sat down at the table with a needle and thread, one of the mistress’ hats in front of her. Molesley smiled back. He could not deny that the addition of Anna to the household, along with Lady Mary, had been a welcome one. They got on well, he thought – yes, they got on quite well. She was very refreshing company after having only Mrs Bird and the young girl Beth for conversation for two years.
“Upstairs again, are they?” She grinned, her blue eyes sparkling mischievously. “They seem to be nowhere else, hardly!”
“Not these last few weeks, no,” Molesley agreed. He met hers eyes briefly, then quickly concentrated his attention back on the silver spoon in his hands. “I’m under orders from Mr Crawley to deflect Mrs Crawley if she asks where they are.”
“Are you!” Anna laughed; a light, cheery laugh. “I don’t expect she appreciates bein’ deflected much!”
“No, no I don’t think she does!” It warmed his heart a little, to be sharing a laugh, a moment with her. It made him feel rather like a silly old fool, but… he wouldn’t change it.
They chatted pleasantly awhile, each quietly getting on with their own task, until the comfortable peace was suddenly broken by the distant but distinct click of the front door opening. Molesley looked up, hastily clearing away his things.
“Ah, that’ll be Mrs Crawley back…”
“Seems so… Good luck!”
She flashed him a warm smile, which he returned before smoothly dashing out. Like the perfect servant, he appeared in the hallway at precisely the perfect time to intercept the entrance of his superiors.
Mrs Crawley had indeed returned, bearing in tow the Countess of Grantham. Without any indication of surprise or inconvenience, Molesley dipped his head in silent greeting and took their hats and coats.
“Hello, Molesley – thank you,” Mrs Crawley greeted him brightly.
“Afternoon, ma’am. Can I get anything for you, and her Ladyship?”
“Some tea would be most welcome, thank you.” She smiled warmly.
“Is my son in? Or Lady Mary?”
It was the question Molesley had been expecting, and dreading. Luckily he’d spent his time in the kitchen running through possible answers, and swiftly recovered himself.
“They are – both occupied, ma’am, at the moment.” It was not a lie; he was satisfied.
“I see, no matter then. Thank you, Molesley.” It did not really occur to her to wonder what they might be occupied with.
“Of course, ma’am.” He nodded and departed back to the kitchen as Isobel ushered Cora into the sitting room.
Quickly, efficiently, he prepared the tea tray as Mrs Bird produced some fine little cakes from the pantry. He took them up to the sitting room, balancing the tray on one hand with practised ease as he opened the door and slipped through, moving to the small side table to set out the tea.
“Thank you, Molesley,” Lady Grantham purred in her smooth accent.
“I see you haven’t deserted us for the war effort!” All the talk of the village currently concerned who was, and who wasn’t, heading to the front. Matthew had pondered over the issue; he did feel a strong sense of duty, but he also felt his duty to his new wife and the child they had recently discovered she was expecting, and so felt it wrong to leave. He’d said that he might, if it carried on; but for now, he found ways to do his service on the home front in what capacity he could.
“No, your Ladyship, not me,” Molesley smiled nervously. “I don’t think I’m cut out for a war, really, if you’ll pardon me saying so.”
“Well, I’m glad of it! We should hate to lose you here – we seem to have lost so many to it already, it’s a comfort to keep some familiar faces.”
“Hear hear,” Mrs Crawley concurred. Molesley smiled.
In the comfortable silence that followed, as Molesley passed around the teacups, a soft sound gradually became apparent. It had probably been there since they had come in, but it was only once they had noticed that it seemed to become imperceptibly louder, and distinctly more difficult to ignore.
Isobel’s smile dropped a fraction. Cora gripped her teacup a little tighter, wide blue eyes searching for Isobel’s as if she would find some reassurance there that she was just imagining it - but she was not. They shared a look of resigned acknowledgement. Molesley stood to the side, wishing he could just vanish into the background.
From the room above was coming the unmistakable sound of a gentle, rhythmic creak through the floorboards. Over and over; sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower; unceasing. Cora’s teacup rattled slightly in her saucer.
“I – I suppose the hospital is suffering from losing trained medical staff to the front?” Her voice trembled only a little; unnaturally loud in the quiet room as she did her best to talk over the sound.
“You’d be surprised!” Isobel replied, too quickly. Molesley began to feel a blush rising in his cheeks. He wondered if he should – no. It wouldn’t do to say anything.
Isobel flinched imperceptibly as the creaks were joined by another intermittent sound - low, muffled grunts of exertion.
“Yes! It seems as the war continues, capacity is being filled in the field hospitals and those who are fit enough are being sent back here, requiring tending to, and so it seems that many staff could be very usefully employed in the war effort here still!”
She knew she was talking too much and that her garbled sentence made little sense, but she was desperately trying to cover the muffled voices drifting down from the room above, for the sake of her own continued sanity. They could only make out the odd word; ‘Matthew… … very impressive! …’ and a soft laugh.
Molesley suddenly realised that both women were staring at him, with a sort of expectation in their eyes. As if he could explain it.
“Mr Molesley,” Lady Grantham said quietly, raising an eyebrow. “When you had said that – that Mr Crawley and Lady Mary were occupied…. This was not quite what I believed was in mind.”
“N-no, your Ladyship. I imagine not.” He couldn’t help it. He tried not to, tried to quell it, but his lips were twitching irrepressibly and he began to smile. The two ladies continued to stare at him, as if expecting some further elaboration, but it only made him smile more and, before he could stop himself, a small giggle had escaped.
“Molesley!” Mrs Crawley exclaimed, attempting a stern frown. “I fail to see what is possibly funny about the situation!”
Molesley was giggling unrestrainedly now. He opened his mouth to explain, but nothing else came out; how could he possibly explain? It was not like he could tell her what they were really occupied with!
“Well ma’am, it’s just that, you see –” he eventually stammered out in gasps between his laughter.
Before he could get any further, a loud, grunted exclamation sounded, followed moments later by a raised, breathless cry of, “Matthew!” and the rhythmic creak abruptly ceased. Even Molesley was surprised by this but it only made the situation funnier. Now would be the perfect time to explain, but he could only clasp his hand over his mouth to try and restrain his laughter. His shoulders continued to shake as Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham glared reproachfully at him. It was no laughing matter!
Luckily, Molesley was saved from his discomfort soon enough by Mr Crawley bursting into the room – fully clothed – clutching a handkerchief to his hand which was bleeding profusely. Lady Mary appeared behind him – also fully clothed – frowning in concern.
“Mother!” he exclaimed breathlessly. “Cousin Cora – I do apologise, I didn’t realise you were – Molesley, I need some gauze rather urgently, could you fetch some?” His brows furrowed a little as he took in Molesley’s red, grinning face and the raised eyebrows of the two women.
“Of course, Sir,” Molesley dipped his head, still giggling quietly, and looked distinctly relieved to have been granted an excuse to leave. He hurried out and to the kitchen, finally allowing his giggle to turn into a full force laugh.
Later, once Mr Crawley and Lady Mary had managed to reassure Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham that nothing untoward had been happening (he was really not sure how they had managed), Molesley sat laughing about it with Anna and Mrs Bird.
“So,” Anna tried to get it clear, “Mr Crawley and Lady Mary were upstairs makin’ Mrs Crawley’s birthday present –”
“But Mrs Crawley and her Ladyship thought they were…”
“My, oh, my,” Mrs Bird chuckled.
A few days later, Molesley watched his master beam proudly as he uncovered Mrs Crawley’s gift. It was a beautiful rocking chair, simple but elegant, with soft padded cushions tacked onto the seat.
“Oh, Matthew my dear, it’s beautiful!” Isobel exclaimed. “I can’t believe you have made it, when on earth did you manage it?”
Matthew’s eyes slid to meet Mary’s, and he smiled.
“We tried when you were out, mostly, Mother. I was surprised you didn’t wonder why my old study door had been locked for weeks.”
“Well, I just supposed you were busy clearing it still, to decorate, I did not think –”
“Evidently!” Matthew smiled. “Anyway, Mary helped, testing the rock of it as I adjusted it. It was all working rather splendidly ‘til I tacked my thumb instead of the seat.” He glanced ruefully down at his still bandaged thumb.
“Quite. Well, thank you both, it looks simply superb.” She grinned elatedly at them both.
“You’re very welcome,” Mary breathed with a charming smile, feeling really quite proud of her assistance with the gift. “Do try it out! I can tell you that it’s really very comfortable!”
“I think I shall.”
Molesley watched with interest from the sidelines as Mrs Crawley tentatively lowered herself into the chair. She smiled – so far, so good. She pushed herself back, allowing the chair to rock forwards again – and it did so, with an unmistakable creak. Isobel’s face paled as it all fell into place.
Vero - July 6, 2011 08:14 PM (GMT)
(This might be a bit longer than I intended. )
Prompt: Lady Grantham Falls in Love
It was one of those nights in his husband’s house. Yes, she still called the house her husband’s instead of theirs. It’s not easy to get accustomed to married life all of a sudden, although she was prepared to become a wife all her life.
What was the thing her papa used to say? “Don’t worry about love, my dear. There’s nothing money can’t buy.” Cora learnt the hard way that fathers are not always right.
There is something eerie about travelling to another continent and country just to pick your future husband. Cora wasn’t disillusioned about her prospects: it would take a smaller miracle to find the most suitable nobleman who is not only interested in her money, but personally in her as well. She knew better than to share her worries with her parents about the whole affair.
She could still recall the several balls she had attended with her parents, feeling like a stock of high quality meat waiting to be sold to the highest bidder. Of course she would get a title in return.
Her father never failed to remind her of the advantages she would gain by marrying a British aristocrat. The only thing she had to do is be successful at her debutante balls. And successful she was: the finest young and old noble gentlemen were buzzing around her all the time like busy bees circling around a spectacularly beautiful flower filled with the richest nectar possible.
Of course she knew Robert didn’t love her at first. No mistake, he was the most polite man during all their carefully planned encounters but Cora wasn’t naïve: she would recognize the lack of passionate affection in his eyes whenever he looked at her. Even sadder was the fact that however hard she tried, Cora just couldn’t bring herself to reject Robert Crawley as her suitor and possibly future husband in order to look for more agreeable ones. Call it sentimentalism, or anything else, but she was feeling a natural connection to him that of course wasn’t love yet, but in time she was sure she would be able to have a loving relationship with him.
It didn’t help Cora’s situation that her father really seemed to favour Robert over the other possible candidates, making a habit of discussing the Crawley family estate and their grim financial situation at the family dinner table.
“The estate is called Downton and as much as I happen to know about it, with the right amount of fortune --” here he glanced at his daughter and softly squeezed her hand; “—it can be restored to its previous magnificent glory. Wouldn’t you like to be called Countess one day, Cora?”
What is the right answer to that, Cora was wondering. A title, a glorious life surrounded by people whose only job is to make you comfortable is not anything a person in her right mind would deem undesirable; on the contrary, it was everything a young American woman with her social standing would hope for. In return, her only obligation was to become an agreeable wife and to bore an heir to the estate. It sounded like a reasonable agreement, Cora came to the conclusion before she answered.
“Of course I would, papa.”
Thus, when Robert very predictably proposed to her after an unconventionally short courtship, Cora accepted; even if she was still not entirely sure it was the best decision she could have made.
Their wedding night turned out to be an utter disaster. She still remembers clearly how she was nervously sitting on her bed in a splendid nightgown all tucked in under the blankets, waiting for Robert to come to her bedroom. If she wanted to be completely honest with herself, she was rather looking forward to the event. Her husband was young, easy on the eyes, soft spoken, a perfect gentleman. Nothing should go wrong.
Little did she know that in his own bedroom, her husband was pacing up and down the length of the whole room, having the biggest dilemma of his life. He somehow felt ashamed for not being able to provide the appropriate affection his wife deserved, and at the same time he was as much new to the whole concept of marriage as his wife was, and it still didn’t sink in that he was now a married man. He sat down onto an armchair facing his bed, his fingers nervously tapping on the arm. What to do? What to do?
The only noise Cora could hear in the whole room was the ticking of the clock as it struck past first ten o’clock, then eleven, then slowly crept past midnight and she was still on her own, waiting. She literally had no idea why her husband hadn’t come to her bed yet and she was absolutely furious. The most upsetting thing was that she couldn’t just simply go to her husband’s bedchamber, the reason of which was that being new to the whole house, she didn’t even know there Robert’s bedroom was located.
Her bedroom was the only place of the house she felt slightly comfortable in, where she didn’t have to pretend that she was so quickly accustomed – no one believed it anyway – to the new country, the new customs and most of all, to her new married life. On the other hand, she was eager to get out of her room, if only to do a little bit of exploring in the house, hoping that at that hour, she would meet nobody doing so.
After she quickly hopped out of bed, walked to her dressing table and reached for her robe. When she put it on and quickly checked her appearance in the mirror, she realized that her hair was probably not the most suitable for a nighttime adventure as her lady’s maid let it down hours ago in preparation of the night ahead. She absent-mindedly caressed one lock of her hair while she picked up a lit candle from her dressing table and slowly exited her room, leaving everything in complete darkness behind her.
As it was way after midnight, the corridors in the house were all silently sleeping, and the only thing that seemed to guide Cora’s way was a little flickering of light escaping through a narrowly opened door at the end of the hallway. Cora knew she would probably get into trouble leaving her room in the middle of the night without a serious reason; she already got scolded more than a few times earlier that day by her mother in law, the Countess.
Cora thought that one more scolding really wouldn’t matter much in her current situation anyway. She was considered a stranger after all, a foreigner who had to explain herself after every foolish little mistake she unintentionally made, and as much as Robert tried to protect her from his mother’s outbursts, he lacked that devotion towards to his wife that would had improved her situation in her new family. She could only hope that as the time would pass, things would get easier for all of them.
As she slowly reached the door, she quietly put her head into the opening, listening for any noise and when she heard absolutely nothing, she carefully peeked into the room.
“For heaven’s sake, what are you doing here at this hour, child?”
The Countess looked at her wide-eyed, while lying on her bed ready to go to sleep, with a nightcap on her head. Cora didn’t know what to say, or how to say it and whether she should talk at all because that might even worsen her already unfortunate situation. She couldn’t just tell her mother in law, the Countess of Grantham that her son didn’t have the decency to at least show up for their wedding night. Eventually, she decided to give the simplest answer possible, however embarrassing it sounded.
“I heard a noise and I seem to have lost my way when I came to check what it was.” She looked at her mother in law with her innocent blue eyes, while the Countess shot a disapproving look at her.
“I hope you realize how awfully inappropriate it is to leave your room while unaccompanied, in the middle of the night. Not to mention barging into rooms you’re unfamiliar with.”
She added, muttering under her breath.
Then without waiting for a reaction from Cora, Violet waved at her daughter in law with her lace handkerchief, ushering her out of the room.
Your chambers are all the way back the hallway. Good night.”
“Thank you.” Was the only thing Cora could force out of her mouth, trying to politely nod while leaving and felt a sudden air of relief when she finally closed the door behind her. To think that this night couldn’t get worse!
In the end, she got back to her room without any further detour, the place looked the same as she left it, unfortunately no sign of Robert, although Cora was sure that even if he had been there, things would go terribly, terribly wrong, knowing her luck. She couldn’t think of anything to do, except try to fall asleep and perhaps wake up to a better day. Her marriage definitely didn’t begin the way she anticipated.
Of course it got better as the time went on…first of all, Robert finally had the courage to enter her room and make her his wife.
But if anyone had asked, Cora wouldn’t have said that her marriage was happy, or she was happy. Of course this was England, nobody was even remotely interested in Cora Crawley’s feelings. She tried to perform the duties that were expected of her – she was grateful for not being a countess yet, she doubted she could bear the responsibility – at least not yet.
Her father in law, the Earl of Grantham shared his wife’s cold approach to Cora, never quite believing that an American could do just as well in the English society as a proper, noble Englishwoman.
A pleasant change in his attitude happened when he was informed of Cora’s pregnancy. She remembers receiving the first genuine smiles and a few compliments which made her feel a lot more comfortable around these people than before.
Of course Robert was pleased: he was sure it would be a boy, which meant that his wife did her duty – after all only two things were expected from her – an heir and a marvelous amount of money. She delivered one, and was prepared to deliver the other one, too.
By this time, she often wondered if she loved Robert? Nobody ever told her what love was like, anyway.
Was that love when she made her lady’s maid work an extra hour on her hair every time there was a slight chance that Robert would spend the morning with her?
Or was that love she felt when she accidentally found a note of possible boy names hidden in Robert’s desk drawer?
Was that aching pain love she felt every time Robert left her bed to sleep in a separate room?
Was that love when every touch of his made her shiver in anticipation?
If it was, then Cora Crawley fell in love.
mlt - July 25, 2011 10:06 PM (GMT)
Okay I've finally done it! Sorry for the long delay. Also, I blatanly ripped off Scarlet's idea of Mary tripping Edith (hope you don't take offense!).
Lady Sybil is Inspired
Sybil had always been easy to inspire.
A particularly charming rose could later find its pink hues sewn into a new frock by Madame Swan. A pretty cloud floating lazily in the air soon had its amorphous swirls stitched into a pocket square for a father’s day gift. A cheerful birdsong may have its refrain played sweetly back when the piano master wasn’t attending. The whole world lent its beauty to her mind, but it wasn’t only in objects or nature that the young lady could be inspired.
When Sybil was six years old, she caught Mary tripping Edith while everyone’s back was turned, prompting Patrick to roar with laughter. Mary smiled meanly while Edith’s face turned red and weepy, and Sybil decided then that it wouldn’t due to be so nasty.
When Sybil was seven years old, she watched Edith tear her own watercolor to shreds because everyone thought that Mary’s was better. Mary had been tasked with an easier landscape and Edith’s painting was still rather good, and Sybil thought then that it wasn’t healthy to be so envious.
When Sybil was eight years old, she overheard Mary and Edith arguing over who would catch the best husband. Mary flaunted that she could have Patrick and Downton and be a Countess just like Mama if she wanted, while Edith countered that Mary could have all that with a slice of cake, for she was free to choose her own husband and had bigger fish to catch. Sybil silently added that she’d rather marry for love anyway, and that it didn’t seem right to be so concerned with status and money.
The years fly by, ten in all, and the inspirations continue to trickle in, shaping the woman she’s growing to be without her even noticing; till one day Branson whispers such exciting news in her ear that she claps and jumps with joy as they both run off together.
“You’ve done it, Gwen, you’ve got the job!”
There’s laughter and happiness, and Sybil revels in the triumph of her friend, while somewhere, not far away, her sisters are doing their best to ruin each other’s lives. Sybil shares a joyous hug with her friends, and thinks that, of everything and everyone in her life, her sisters really had been the best inspiration after all.
Hattie - September 25, 2011 07:41 PM (GMT)
(I completely abandoned this challenge *guilty expression* and I’m embarrassed posting so ridiculously late, but I hate leaving things unfinished.)
Lady Edith has a cold
Edith is looking forward to visiting Uncle James and Patrick with the rest of the family, but she wakes up with a terrible sore throat.
Desperately trying to hide it, she makes herself go down to breakfast and tries to eat a piece of toast without it showing on her face that her throat seems to be full of razor blades. Unfortunately the effect is ruined when she gives a massive sneeze.
She lies in bed miserably all day with the nurse knitting in a chair next to her and forcing enormous quantities of hot water with lemon down her throat. Mary comes up to see her that afternoon, standing carefully in the doorway to avoid breathing in Edith’s germs. Edith wants to bury her head under her pillow as Mary talks about what fun she had with Patrick; she contents herself by sneezing in Mary’s direction and wishing that she had been there with the others today.
Four days later Mary is the one in bed with a streaming nose and a cough, and Edith is the one running down the corridors with Patrick. But Papa tells the two of them to be quiet or go outside so they don’t disturb Mary, and Mama sits reading with her for an hour. Edith does feel sorry for Mary – she knows what it’s like being ill – but she can’t help remembering how her parents left her to the nurse for almost the whole time she had a cold.
Patrick asks after Mary with a look of deep anxiety, and as Edith replies vaguely she thinks how nice it must be to be Mary. To be pretty even when your nose is scarlet and your hair is sticking up around your head. To have everyone concerned about you and admiring you. She thinks about it and wishes that it could be her, just for one day.
Edith’s head aches and her nose is blocked up and she never wanted to go to the wretched flower show in the first place. She sits at her desk that evening and glares at the letter she has just completed.
It’s not fair how Mary can have Mary and Sir Anthony when she doesn’t really care about one of them and can’t stand the other.
As she carefully writes the address of the Turkish Embassy on the envelope she keeps her mind purposefully blank. She doesn’t want to think about it, any of it. Mary deserves this.
Rereading the letter once more, the delicate phrases seem to have been written by another person.
She can’t enjoy it. When she was younger she used to like getting one up on Mary, beating her at something, anything. Now she just feels sour and empty.
A small part of her is looking on and telling her to throw the letter in the fire now while she still can. For a second she wavers. Then she remembers Matthew and Patrick and Evelyn and Sir Anthony, and a wave of anger fills her.
She seals the envelope.
The next week, once she has begun to feel better, she wonders if she has gone too far this time.
Edith's voice is almost too hoarse for speech: when it had come to the vows it had croaked embarrassingly. She had been sure Mary was hiding an amused expression behind the bouquet that she was clutching to her face.
Edith knows the cold won’t last, that it will be gone in a week. She can hardly speak at dinner, and her nose is blocked so she can hardly taste her slice of wedding cake, but in a few days she will feel better. And then she can move on.
Sir Anthony smiles at her from across the table, and she smiles back.
Katsuba - October 29, 2011 06:05 AM (GMT)
It was hard to pick a canon character for Thomas to fall in love with, so I went with someone rather unconventional, mostly because there are some nice ficcies on FF.net about the pairing and they've sold me on it. Also I really couldn't think of anyone else to pair him with apart from William. Maybe next time I'll try Thomas/William.
Thomas falls in love
It had been a very long time since Thomas had fallen in love, and looking back on his last relationship, he decided that he hadn't really been in love at all. A part of him knew this not to be true, but he bitterly ignored it. He hadn't loved the Duke; his ache was caused by his inability to escape the clutches of Downton Abbey, and the whole troublesome Bates business. Yes, that was the reason for the hollow emptiness deep in his gut. It wasn't the cold tentacles of loneliness returning to suffocate him once again. He refused to let that happen; he let sorrow give way to anger, just like he always did. And he had plenty to be angry about.
He had almost gotten rid of the valet, and had Bates left with the Duke, he wouldn't have been too upset assuming old Carson gave him the position he so desperately wanted. But no, Bates was here to stay, and stay for good by the looks of it. Despite his inability to do his work properly, his personal connection to Lord Grantham ensured that he remained in the job that Thomas would be so much more capable of doing. If Thomas and William were to fall ill at the same time, who would wait the table then, hmm? Mr Carson? Now that was a thought! Thomas bullishly ignored the fact that Bates was actually a good valet who just couldn't lift heavy luggage or serve at dinner, which would only be required were he and William both unavailable for whatever reason, a scenario that had yet to occur.
Thomas focused his bitterness on Mr Bates, and gradually on William as well. William. Stupid William. Stupid, kind, generous, handsome, perfect William. William, who came from a loving family, still wrote to his parents, fell in love with a girl. A girl he wouldn't have, if Thomas had anything to say about it. William already had so much more than he did, it would even more unfair if he had even more. If Thomas was going to be lonely, than so would William. It wasn't as if he had anything better to do, anyway. Nothing interesting seemed to happen at Downton Abbey, as far as Thomas was concerned.
One of the girls upstairs was sick. It was nothing serious, but it did bring Dr Clarkson around. Thomas opened the door for the doctor, a man he had met briefly before, but hadn't had much to do with overall. Not the Thomas didn't fall ill on occasion, but unlike his upper class employers, he could not afford to visit or be visited by a doctor unless he was on death's bed. Last time Thomas had seen Dr Clarkson he hadn't paid him much attention, but now that he was no longer attached to anyone, he found himself a lot more interested in the middle aged doctor than he should be.
Dr Clarkson was everything that the Duke was not. He was older, and had a rather refined moustache. Thomas had never liked facial hair, but he couldn't imagine what Dr Clarkson might look like without his moustache. It suited him. Dr Clarkson had a gentle voice that Thomas found rather soothing. He could listen to it all day and not tire of it. Thomas was rather surprised at himself. Had he... fallen in love? What nonsense. Why would he fall in love with a middle aged doctor he rarely saw? It was quite ridiculous. Perhaps he was lonely, and rattled from the Pamuk incident. Yes, that was it.
Thomas was definitely, undoubtedly, most certainly not in love.
Dr Clarkson smiled at him on the way out.
Rosalinde - October 29, 2011 06:52 AM (GMT)
I still don't know what this was... it just happened.
Downton Abbey Challenge 1 – Random Scenarios.
“Cora has a gigglefit at an inopportune moment”
By Ros Sawyer.
The fact that Robert still had absolutely no idea what was happening in a house he was meant to be the leader of often caused people amusement, not least his daughters and ex-wife, all the same they generally managed to keep control in front of him. All the same, their romances with people who weren’t supposed to be even known to them had caused much amusement.
Cora generally managed to hide her amusement, although she had had years of training when it came to that sort of thing, all the same, she was human and she was entirely able to slip up, which was what had happened now. She had, unfortunately, caught O’Brien’s eye and although O’Brien managed to look away and hide her smirk, Cora was utterly unable to hide her amusement, the giggles came easily and much as she tried to cut them off, they were clearly not ever going to stop.
As it was the girls had managed to excuse themselves and escape before the giggles caught. Robert was a little taken aback and, judging from the look on Robert’s mother’s face, she wasn’t exactly impressed by the giggles that continued to escape.
Cora had ended up apologizing and making a fast exit, glad of the spare room as she locked the doors behind herself, glancing up to find that Sarah had managed to get into the room before her, as usual Sarah seemed entirely sure of herself.
The smirk on Sarah’s face was enough.
“You knew I’d laugh…”
“So? About time you did.”
Guest - January 6, 2013 04:28 AM (GMT)
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