Pairing: MM Phrase: "What possessed you to think this was a good idea?" Tag! You've been prompted. :D
I feel honored that you would prompt me! This takes place on the honeymoon that we never got to see (not that I’m bitter or anything). This took an angsty turn (more like most of it is angsty) but I hope you enjoy it!
On the Shores of Calais
Mary knew that compared to many, her experiences were limited. But she could hardly see how anything could be more blissful than the first days of her marriage. She and Matthew had gone up to London the day after their wedding, taking advantage of Rosamund’s empty house to get to know each other, in many ways.
But the days in London couldn’t last forever. Matthew had roused her early, after four days in London house. “We’ve got to leave, darling, or else we won’t make the boat.”
The boat. Rosamund’s chauffeur drove them to Southampton, where they boarded a ferry that was set to go across the English Channel.
Ever since they had planned their honeymoon, Mary had wondered about Matthew’s inclination to go to France. He never talked about the war, but she could see how any mention set him on edge. She couldn’t help but wonder how he would react to seeing the site of his worst memories again.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Mary asked.
Matthew was taken aback. “That’s kind of a silly question, don’t you think? I want to go everywhere with you.”
She didn’t think he was being entirely truthful, but she dropped the subject and allowed him to lead her onto the boat.
They stood at the railing, and he wrapped his arms around her, a gesture that was both protective and sweet. Mary relaxed in his embrace, his warm body distracting from the chill of the wind and the spray of the sea.
The boat ride was relatively short, but there was little to see. It was foggy, grey mist obscuring any view that they might have had. “Is the ride usually this foggy?” Mary asked. “I haven’t usually gone from Southampton, and when I was young and we went to France, it was always in the summer. Never in March.”
Perhaps this wasn’t the right thing to say, because Mary could feel him stiffen. “It depended on the month, really.”
“Hmm,” was all Mary replied with. She didn’t want to make him think about it more. “We’re staying in Paris for the night, aren’t we? Because I have a couple restaurants and shops I’d like to show you. There’s a marvelous bookshop near the train station that I’m sure you’ll appreciate.”
“Galignani?” Matthew sounded curious, and Mary could feel his amusement when she let out a gasp.
“You’ve been there too?”
“Uh huh,” Matthew murmured in agreement, pressing his chin to her head. “If I had a short leave where I couldn’t manage to get to England and back, I would spend it in Paris. It was strange, how a place so close to a center of death could feel so full of life.”
Mary stepped back, now standing by his side, and looked over his face. His jaw was shaking and his eyes were becoming glassy, tears threatening to escape at any moment. He had been able to hide the quaver of his voice, but it was frighteningly obvious when he whispered, “Mary… don’t worry about me.”
“What possessed you to think that this was a good idea?” Mary asked. She sounded much harsher than she had intended, and she immediately regretted her words when she saw him shake ever more.
Matthew turned to her, his face that of both an angry man and a frightened little boy. She was unsure how that was possible, but she didn’t dwell on. She took both of his hands in hers and tried to smile at him, but Matthew would not respond. “I thought… I thought it would be okay now. I wanted to be okay for you, I really did.”
“Is this why we came to France?” she asked. It was difficult to keep her own voice calm when she was so afraid for him. She never thought of herself as particularly compassionate, but any thought of herself had fled and she looked at her new husband with deep concern.
He nodded, seemingly all that he was capable of. His breaths were heavy and his face paled. “I’m going to be sick,” he managed to choke out, before leaning over the railing.
She rubbed his back gently. “Shh, don’t worry about it. It’s alright.” She didn’t care about his shortcomings, about the violent emotions he had that managed to make him sick, she loved him just as he was.
When he lifted his head back up, he looked intently at his feet, his cheeks a bright red contrast with his pale face. “Oh Mary, I’m so sorry. It’s just the water and here we are and the coastline of France right over there…”
“You don’t need to apologize,” Mary said firmly. “You’ve been through a lot, I’ve gone through some traumas as well, but we’ll get through them together, alright?”
However weak his response was, Mary was immeasurably grateful for Matthew’s nod, for the slight self-deprecating smile that played at his lips. “I’m so very lucky to have you,” Matthew said, his voice sincere.
“And despite your tendency toward seasickness, I’m very lucky to have you too.” At Matthew’s confused glance, she added, “No one needs to know. Why would they? That is between you and me.”
“Thank you for that,” he replied, allowing himself to laugh lightly. “Maybe France wasn’t such a good idea, like you said…”
Mary shook her head. “If it’s important to you, I think it’s a very good idea. We’ll make new memories here, better ones. Much better ones.”
“I’ll trust you on that. And see, there’s Calais. We’re probably going to dock soon,” he said, forcing a smile. “And then a train to Paris. If you don’t mind, I might try to nap on the train. I didn’t sleep well last night, and that train passes through places I don’t really want to see.”
She tilted her head, looking over him. He still looked pale, and there were obvious dark circles under his eyes. “Were you worried?”
“Yes,” he admitted, biting his lip so hard that Mary feared he might draw blood. “I was afraid that I was going to lose control like I did.”
“You should have told me.”
His shoulders slumped, and he let out a loud exhale. “I’d rather you not notice, or at least pretend. I do have some pride, you know.”
“Too much of it,” she teased. “But in all honesty, don’t feel like you need to keep anything from me. I’m stronger than I look.”
Matthew pulled his wife close to him. “I have no doubt you’re stronger than me, my dear stormbraver. But no matter what storms this trip might put us through, no matter how terrible my ideas are, I’d like a kiss to prepare myself.”
“On the shores of Calais? On a ferry?”
He had a point, and Mary was only too happy to oblige him.
Their night in Paris was pleasant, despite an episode that Matthew would rather have forgotten. His memories had turned themselves into nightmares, and he had woken Mary. Mary was afraid for him, but she held him tightly until his tears subsided and she was able to comfort him. And she realized that no matter the difficulties, no matter how damaged they were, there would be no greater bliss than her marriage to the man she loved.