More Than a Kiss

Author's Note: Was supposed to be part of a longer fic, but after more than a year without progress I decided to just post this as is.

***

If something surprised Lady Mary Crawley more than the fact that she genuinely wanted to kiss Matthew Crawley, it was her body's reaction when their lips actually touched.

Had she allowed herself to speculate beforehand (which she certainly had not!), she would have expected reserved, quiet lawyer Matthew's kiss to be… gentle, pleasant, even polite, especially when compared to the fiery, intense Turkish lord Kamal who had practically bowled her over (all the way into her bed). However, she would have been wrong, oh so very wrong, because while Matthew didn't push, he didn't need to - the simple feeling of his lips moving against hers, the slightest touch of his tongue, had something hot and tight curl deep inside Mary, making her want nothing more than to lose herself, in his kiss, in his body.

The intensity of her reaction astonished her, and she couldn't suppress a laugh, right into their kiss. Matthew pulled back a bit, clearly curious what had prompted this unusual reaction, but Mary wasn't sure she could explain, even had she wanted to, so she just shook her head slightly, her smile playful, and cupped Matthew's face in both her hands, pulling him back into the kiss. He went willingly, his lips curled into a fond half-smile, and seemed happy to follow her lead in increasing the physical closeness, letting his hands wander along her back, pulling her as near as the chairs they were sitting on allowed.

Mary herself enjoyed the feel of his hair through the silk of her gloves, running teasing fingers through the fair blonde strands down his neck, dipping inside his starched collar. He grinned against her lips when she tugged his ears gently and Mary couldn't help but laugh again, a breathless, giggly sound, unfamiliar to her own ears. For a moment they just looked at each other, close enough to feel the other's breath on their face, both of them smiling in a way that Mary suspected was rather stupidly stunned and happy. Yet it did nothing to release the tension she could feel coiling in her stomach, and she gave into it with a shudder, sliding both hands down Matthew's shoulders and around his chest, unbuttoning his jacket deftly while he looked at her with wide eyes.

"Mary…" His voice trembled a bit, a mix of nervousness and awe. It made her feel reckless and powerful, and impulsively she leaned in and kissed his neck, languidly tracing its line with her tongue as her hands kept exploring his upper body through still too many layers of cloth. Nothing to be done about that, not here, where Carson might decide to look in on them at any moment, but already the hoarse sound and warm gusts of his deep breaths against her ear made this feel like the most intimate thing she'd ever done. The thought scared her and she lifted her head again and kissed Matthew once on the lips, gently, before getting up slowly, resting her forehead against his for a moment, eyes closed.

"I… I should go upstairs," she said, too softly for her own liking but unable to help it, so she stood up properly, albeit still improperly close to him. His hands lingered on the sliver of bare skin between gloves and dress, and Mary shivered imperceptibly as her mind teased her with impressions of those hands on other, equally bare parts of her body.
"You know what I want, what I've wanted for a long time now." Matthew looked up at her from his sitting position, his earnest face tender. "And now I hope you want the same."

She rested the back of her hand against his cheek and pushed down the urge to follow her treacherous heart and accept right then and there, consequences be damned. That was not the way for Lady Mary Crawley, no matter how much she wished it was.

"I never expected this, Matthew, never thought…" She could feel her voice tremble just a little, but after all, if there was ever a time to show emotion, this was it. "So please, Matthew, just give me some time. Time to think, to process."

"Of course. After all, this is you we're talking about." She could read the resigned acceptance in his smile and leaned down impulsively, kissing him deeply, both hands buried in his hair, luxuriating in the way his arms encircled her, pulled her closer almost roughly for a moment before relaxing again, hands gentle on her lower back. It almost made her forget where they were. Again, she was the one who finally broke the kiss and took a step back. Matthew now stood, too, and she looked up at him, and then down at their entwined hands.

"Thank you." Her voice sounded soft and earnest again, not really what she had intended, but then Matthew always seemed to manage to expose her softer side. In response he simply lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed it, the first time he had ever done so, and she met his smiling eyes with her own, before turning around and leaving. It was not at all the done thing with a guest, but for once she did not feel the need to conform to protocol.

"Good night… Mary." His voice lingering on her name followed her out, and she did not have to turn around to know that he'd look exactly the way she felt: happy and more than a little bit bewildered.

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