**get ready for some sweetness**
Cora nestled further into the blankets and smiled into her pillow. Robert. Images of him crouching down, blindfolded, with arms outstretched tickled her lips. She smiled broader. Darling Robert.
With a click, the dividing door opened and he entered, wasting no time to rid himself of his housecoat, untying it carelessly and tossing it over the back of his chair. He never made eye contact with her as he climbed into their bed, and the mattress moved beneath her from the familiar weight of him by her side. He didn’t look at her, but she watched him, her grin a clear indication of how endearing she found him now. Oh, Robert.
After a moment, once he too had made himself comfortable between the sheets and creaked open the spine of a favorite book, the warmth of Cora’s gaze became apparent. With a blink, he slowly brought his eyes down to hers and furrowed his brow.
"What is it?"
His wife’s only response was a poor attempt to suppress the widening of her grin. She pressed her lips together and shook her head slightly, but a breath of a laugh escaped her nose.
Robert was not amused. “What?” He narrowed his eyes. “What are you smirking about?”
Again, Cora played coy. “I’m not smirking,” she volleyed with a slight lift of her chin. “Only smiling.”
"Smiling." He was suspicious. "And what about, exactly?"
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
"Hm." Robert studied her skeptically for a moment longer before reluctantly dismissing the topic. "Very well," he conceded before dipping his nose back into the pages of his book.
His wife, however, let her attention linger on him. Again she saw him in her mind’s eye, stumbling a little before feeling with a desperately unsure hand for the paper pinned to the wall. A snort, this time, and she brought her hand to her mouth to cover her offending lips.
The slam of his book was both startling and comical.
"Oh, for heaven’s sake, Cora. Is there something you’d quite like to say?"
She pulled in a breath and then locked her eyes right on his. “Hee haw.”
It took a beat before recognition alighted in his countenance, but when it did he shook it away. “Oh…” he grumbled. “Don’t tease.”
Cora was laughing now. Heartily laughing at the sight she had seen: her husband - the mighty Earl of Grantham, his Lord Lieutenant, stoic landlord and war hero - blindly pinning a makeshift tail on a rather poorly drawn donkey, their grandchildren giggling with delight. “But I’m not…” she managed, mindfully calming her chuckles.
"You are," he argued, "and I don’t find it very humorous."
She reached for his arm as she laughed, pressing it, “Oh-“
"And you aren’t much better!" His defenses were up as he stared down into her face. He put on an American accent in a high voice, “‘Pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been? I’ve been to London to see the queen!’"
"So there," he sounded like a child, "I’m not the only one who has been ridiculous."
Finally calming enough to speak, Cora shook her head. “No,” she breathed in and out. “You’re not ridiculous, Robert. I don’t think that.”
"Don’t you," it wasn’t a question; it was a grumble. He huffed as he adjusted himself vexedly in the sheets.
But Cora knew him better. She knew he wasn’t angry, but embarrassed. “No,” she smiled again, a simper this time really, and twisted her body closer to his own. She raised her chin and brought soft fingertips to the collar of his pajama shirt. “I think it’s sweet.”
"I think you’re sweet," she finished, bringing a finger up now to the tender skin of his neck.
He looked at her and gave a lopsided smile. “Well…” he pushed out some air, “I’ll admit it was quite nice to play. I haven’t played that game in such a long time.”
Cora nodded, nuzzling closer and he snaked an arm around her.
"And," he frowned thoughtfully, "I’ll also admit that I’m rather good at it."
Another laugh. “Oh, without a doubt.” Cora lifted her face to see him better, her eyes darker than before. “There are lots of things you’re rather good at.”
Robert was the one to smile next, peering down at his wife in his arms. After taking in her features, he lowered his face to hers, kissing her softly. She could feel him smile again against her mouth.
"Hee haw," he muttered playfully.
Cora laughed again, then happily kissed him harder.