?

Log in

 
 
14 June 2015 @ 04:12 pm
While Away - Chapter Two  
While Away
Chapter Two
Chelsie fic for Cami’s birthday.

Yes, I finally had time to finish this chapter. Hopefully the large word count will make up for the wait! It’s also a little more mature than the first one. :)



Elsie used the back of her hand to shield her eyes from the glare reflecting up from South Bay. The compensation of this mild discomfort was the stunning blue palette shimmering across the water’s surface. From the lightest of azures to the deepest of indigos, each shade altered slightly as a smattering of clouds passed overhead.

The tide was slowly coming in. Loath to wade in any deeper alone, she instead waited for the quiet waves to reach her.

Memories of that precious time she did have someone by her side as she paddled at the seaside washed over her along with the seaspray sprinkling in the breeze.

Before then, she and Charlie had always spent time apart during the London Season.

The butler was required to travel with the family to London; the housekeeper was not. During the summer of ‘23, this routine was shattered.

“It’s not to say Mrs Bute is incompetent, Mrs Hughes, but it is rather pleasant to have someone of your calibre here for the duration,” Charlie had said when she’d arrived at Grantham House.

“Oh, Mr Carson, you should save your excitement. I know nothing of London. I might turn into more of a hinderance than a help,” she declared frankly.

“Nonsense, Mrs Hughes.”

She stepped closer, not knowing he was going to adjust his stance at the same time, meaning their bodies ended up much closer than she had originally intended. When she felt his breath warm on her cheek she knew she should again shift to put more of a distance between them -- but she didn’t.

She would stay awake that night wondering what he had thought of her behaviour at that precise moment, but in the end their nearness had seemed fitting, given what she was trying to convey. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” she warned quietly.

His look turned hesitant when he caught her drift. They had always had a break from each other’s company. With her travelling to London along with the family, they had entered new territory in more ways than merely location.

Shockingly, it turned out to be Charles who would exacerbate their predicament.

At the end of her first hectic week, she came across her two oldest friends, Mr Carson and Mrs Patmore, plotting that she should get out and about and see the city. Seeing as Beryl was spending more and more time taking young Daisy under her wing, they’d settled on Mr Carson as Elsie’s guide.

Their outings were typical of Charlie, of course. Nothing so grand as the ones he would later suggest for the entire staff’s day trip, but ones which included a visit to a haberdashery, a stroll through a public garden so he could point out how much better the Downton roses were tended, and mapping out the best route to the post office.

Though most people would call their destinations dull, it was the way they walked, side by side, shoulders occasionally bumping, to reach them that made Elsie both confused and elated.

The crowded streets of London played their part. Charlie had to take her arm to save her from being jostled by other pedestrians, or to help her cross to the opposite pavement seeing she was not accustomed to such a high number of passing autos. And Mr Carson always declared the air was so polluted from those motorcars that they should stop and share a tray at one of the many tea houses scattered throughout the city.

It was in the clear air of Brighton Beach, however, that brought her to the heady conclusion that she was in love with Charlie Carson. Not platonically, as she had always supposed for many years, but romantically.

Cheering and clapping roused her from her daydreaming. With her feet firmly buried in the sand, she swivelled her body around to investigate. A Punch and Judy show had just started on the edge of the promenade. A crowd of children was gathered crosslegged at the base of a red and white curtained booth.

The marionettes were still a happy couple. Elsie turned away, focusing her attention on the water view once again, before they come to blows.

Perhaps she should have tried knocking some sense into Charles a few nights ago.

He’d hovered beside the bed, and made some ridiculous confession regarding his worth. Elsie had obviously been on edge herself because this slight falter on his part had caused her temper to boil over immediately.

“Charles Carson, whatever are you thinking?” she had asked before she flung back the bedclothes and marched over to pull on the string near the door, lighting up the room once more.

“Just who do you take me for?” she snapped, knowing her accent had sharply thickened to match her irritation. “I’m not the man I’d have you believe,” she repeated his nonsensical words mockingly. “I’ve known you for nearly twenty years. You can’t tell me what type of man I think you are, or tell me what I believe you to be.”

He exhaled deeply. “I made you believe I was a man of the world, but the truth is I’ve never… Known a woman...”

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. His confession was hardly surprising. He wasn’t the type to take advantage of women in that way, and she already knew the sad ending to his and Alice’s affair.

Whatever he thought, however, he must have more experience than she did. Men were not treated any differently should they succumb to temptation, but women! She would not have been employed as a housekeeper should she have done anything so disgraceful. And considering her circumstances, gainful employment had been a priority.

“I’ve never even kissed a man before today,” she scoffed.

His mouth thinned with disapproval. “I should think not!”

She laughed, her anger abating almost as quickly as it had flared. She’d become accustomed to his perceived differences between men and women, and the silly expectations he had of the fairer sex. It was so typical that he should want her to be untouched, but be embarrassed by being labelled as such himself.

“Your reputation was impeccable until I asked for your hand, at least,” he lamented.

“I’m sure everyone will move on to talking about something else soon enough,” she reassured him. Better to be talking about the extent of an esteemed butler and his corresponding housekeeper’s intimacy than Marigold’s parentage or unsolved murders of men who had once visited Downton, she reckoned.

“I think it was your good reputation and not mine that prevented any suggestion of impropriety between us prior to the announcement of our engagement,” she insisted.

It was the only explanation for their smooth sailing until recent times.

She and Charlie were close in age, and for many years had gotten along quite well, so it was true to say that the lack of rumours in the past was more remarkable than the newly started ones.

There was always talk swirling involving staff having relations at one time or another, even the most unlikely of pairings, and butlers were often the most popular targets of such gossip. The more aloof and respected the butler, the more muddy and indecent the tales, it seemed.

There were some circumstances that led to a lack of scandalous scenarios about the butler and women. If the butler’s preferences ran in another direction, for example. She chortled quietly to herself, trying to imagine anyone suspecting Mr Carson of such a leaning.

She reached up and lightly grazed her finger across the cleft of his chin. Betty, a maid who had worked at Downton many many years ago, had told her once that such a flaw in a man highlighted his virility and masculinity.

She’d sneered at that old wife’s tale at the time, telling the wee lass it rather highlighted his patience, if anything, considering the extra care and time he needed to take when using a razor in its vicinity.

“But you’ve never been a patient man, Mr Carson,” she mused aloud.

“What do you mean?” he said, his tone affronted even though he crept closer so that she could explore the hollow in his chin freely. “Patience is a virtue,” he added.

“Yes,” she agreed with the sentiment even though she didn’t think patience was a trait he’d ever developed.

The sleekness of his cleanly shaven face distracted her from sharing this thought. She let her hand drift across her own face to compare its smoothness with that of Charlie’s. Thankfully, she thought, wrinkles and age spots could not be felt.

Yes, another explanation as to the lack of talk surrounding their relationship was Elsie’s obvious lack of beauty. No one would assume Mr Carson would not be able to control himself around his dowdy housekeeper.

She remembered Thomas hinting at something one day when Miss O’Brien was still employed at the house. The then-footman and lady's maid’s subsequent discussion had been quite enlightening.

Still thinking along these lines, she noted flippantly: “Of course, it’s not as if I am any temptress.”

Obviously they’d jumped from subject to subject too much at this stage, because instead of agreeing, Charlie only murmured, “I’m not sure I understand.”

She opened her mouth to elaborate, only to find his attention had been diverted. He was no longer looking at her face even, his gaze had drifted down.

In her haste, she hadn’t bothered to cover the yellow nightdress, and now the cool night air bitingly sent her a reminder regarding her immodesty. It had to be the cold night air, she thought. Charlie’s gaze couldn’t be the sole reason her nipples had hardened and pressed firmly against the flimsy material of the night attire’s bodice.

She shivered, either from the fresh air or the ridiculousness of her introspection, she wasn’t sure which. As she had concluded earlier, she was as attractive as she ever would be. And it was time she and Charlie ceased their carry on and returned to the warm security of the bed. “If there’s something we should be ashamed of, it’s this,” she declared positively.

He quickly lifted his gaze at her words, making her even colder, she noticed.

“You think we should be ashamed of…” His shoulders slumped, embodying defeat. “You’ve decided it’s unacceptable for us to… Share a bed?”

“Heavens!” She hadn’t expected him to interpret her words like that at all. “No!” she instantly denied. “It’s unacceptable how silly we’ve been since we stepped off that train,” she corrected him. “We’ve been circling each other as if one of us will bite. We shouldn’t let--” She waved towards that foreboding third piece of furniture. “--This… Come between us. I didn’t marry you for the sole reason of tasting forbidden fruit.”

He stood, silent, and she wondered if she’d offended him by talking so crudely.

“Charlie?” she prompted. Still, he never said anything. His hands hung listlessly by his side, his gaze was solely focused on the threadbare carpet runner that led from the wardrobe to the door.

She panicked completely when he then turned his back to her. Before he could move too far away, she quickly reached up and placed her hand gently on his shoulder. She felt the muscles there contract beneath her touch.

Days later, whilst splashing in the shallows on the Scarborough waterfront, Elsie would conclude this would have been the perfect time to clip Charlie around the ears, Punch and Judy style.

It might had been the way he’d raggedly posed his next question that managed to keep him safe. “Didn’t you?”

She frowned. “Didn’t I what?”

He turned and waved his hand around. “Marry me so that we could be together. Absolutely.” His voice deepened to an impossible level, a husky appeal tugging at her aural sense. “As a man and woman.”

That pain which she now recognised as arousal thrummed across her upper thighs.

He went on: “You could have seen out your days with Mrs Patmore in an estate cottage. Or as a paid companion. For Lady Merton or Painswick, perhaps.”

“I married you for…”

She let the sentence go unfinished, realising the element of truth of his words. All along, she’d been thinking about more? She didn’t want friendship or companionship from Charlie? For all her good intentions, she simply wanted him to be her husband in the most basic way?

“I was selfish,” he murmured, “and took full advantage, and it only just dawned on me during the train ride that it’s up to me to…”

A terrible thought hit her at that moment. He couldn’t have presumed she thought he was anything else but innocent when it came to love making, so was there another reason entirely for his apprehension?

She wasn’t completely ignorant and thought she knew what kept a man from being able to participate in sexual relations. Other than alcohol and sickness, age was quite often bandied around as the blight of men everywhere.

She couldn’t help it, it was her gaze that drifted downwards this time. The top of his pyjama pants was covered by his untucked pyjama shirt loosely hanging over it. Furthermore, the striped pattern hid anything inappropriate from her view.

“Charlie? I’ve heard stories that things don’t always work. At our age.”

He turned beet red, obviously uncomfortable at her inquiry. His mouth gaped, and then snapped shut.

Apparently though, his old familiar pride conquered his anxiety on this particular subject! “We’ll have no worries on that score,” he declared positively, pompously puffing out his chest.

“How do you know?” She tilted her head in genuine curiosity. He had just admitted there was no other women…

“Because I… Men… We…”

Her mouth quirked. “Yes?” She recognised she was now really only egging him on, and especially so when she added, saucily: “Women don’t do such things, of course?”

He took her bait beautifully. His neck, and even the tips of his ears, bloomed as red as his face.

“Some women do, but not ones as admirable as yourself,” he insisted, all the while she could not stop herself from laughing. This, of course, only seemed to make him angrier, which in turn made her laugh more.

She sobered abruptly though when he reached up to loosen the pins that had been keeping her hair in place. A few curls bounced haphazardly across her forehead.

“When I alighted from the train, I realised it was time for me to follow through with my intentions, and I panicked a little. Perhaps I should have gotten some advice…”

Her humour returned as his words trailed off. The image of him asking Lord Grantham, or even Mr Bates, for advice on such matters was a comical one, that was certain.

He disposed of the final hairpin and began to massage her scalp.

“Everything I know is what I’ve heard in hallways or dance halls. Hardly the tutorage you deserve.”

He was fretting because he didn’t think he would be good enough for her? As she had told a man once, she hadn’t lived in a sack, and she knew it wasn’t often thought to be a man’s prerogative to satisfy women.

“That’s quite a liberal way of thinking, Mr Carson.”

Instinctively, she wriggled closer. His hands swept from her hair to draw a pattern of circles across her back.

“You’re getting soft in your dotage, Mr Carson,” she accused gently.

His only reply was another disgusted grunt.

“We are getting old, though,” she conceded quietly. She gestured behind her. “Perhaps we should… Rest...”

Without waiting for him to agree, she shifted out of his arms and busied herself by, this time, lighting up the room with a candle. After it was emitting a soft comforting glow, she placed it upon the low dresser and Charles moved to once again turn off the electric light.

Whilst his back was turned, she lifted her nightgown over her head, placed it on the floor, and slipped into the bed. Arranging the covers to hide everything from her shoulders down, she shivered not only from the cold on her bare skin but also from anticipation.

Charlie stepped to the side of the bed and hovered. With a sense of deja vu washing over her, she clung to the bed covers.

“From what I’ve heard, I do think things will be over rather quickly, and then you can catch up on some sleep. All the excitement of the wedding, and the journey… You must be rather tired…”

She swallowed. Before she could vocalise any of her whirling thoughts he’d removed his own pyjama shirt.

“We’ll need to put these back on afterwards,” he announced in a confident tone, but she did decide that his bravado was all false. Especially when he spun in an aimlessly odd circle beside the dresser, his hand waving just so, before seemingly taking charge of his actions and retrieving her nightgown to place it alongside his pyjama top.

“I suppose,” she finally agreed quietly, mostly for simply something to say. She was busying herself by intently studying his naked upper body as he moved around the room.

She’d not admit it to Charlie, but she’d seen a unclothed man’s body before. However, that accidental moment of mortification had not prepared her for this reaction. She was quite pleased she was no longer standing; she wasn’t sure her legs would have held her upright.

Charlie’s chest, free of hair other than one proud streak of grey cutting down its centre, was much more well-built than she would have imagined for a man his age. His colouring was naturally darker than hers, his large flat nipples a deep maroon, so different to the dusky pink of her own wee ones.

She swallowed down a whimper when she had a sudden mental image of his almost olive-skinned hardness and her pale soft curves contrasting as they pressed together.

Finally, with an audible inhalation of breath, he pulled back the sheet on his side of the bed, and lowered himself dramatically. A warrior going into battle. In fact, his jerky manoeuvring to reach his goal of lying beside her was so theatrical that she could no longer stifle yet another snort of mirth.

This time, however, with a faint grumble that conveyed he was defeated, he dipped his head and cut off her laughter quite effectively by kissing her.

Again she was surprised by the subtle differences of each kiss they’d shared. This one had a tenderness about it that elicited from her a small sigh of relief and peacefulness. Everything was going to be fine. Yes, she decided as his mouth moved lower until he was whispering kisses across the skin peeking out from the edge of the sheet, she might have just married him for this.

“I’m no better than a young featherbrained maid,” she murmured as his tongue swirled distractingly. “Here I am, as wanton as any other woman.”

“It’s not the same.”

He had to stop kissing her to speak unfortunately.

She bit down on her bottom lip and stared up at him helplessly. She determined she liked him balancing above her, close enough to touch and staring down at her with a doting smile.

“Because we’re married? You think it’s as simple as that?”

“Yes,” he declared, his arrogance returning slightly. “If you had simply wanted to know a man, you could have,” he muttered.

She doubted that statement. Obviously Charlie would be the only one she could trust in this way.

She dared to tease him though. “So you think you’re the only man I’ve ever wanted?” she asked as she gave into that burning desire to touch him, smoothing down his thick eyebrows.

“You did reject that red-faced farmer,” he pointed out.

She snorted again. He never said Joe’s name if he come up in a discussion of past loves. Her old beau would be forever relegated to the ‘red-faced farmer’ by Charlie. She had never asked why, but now she wondered if he was jealous. But why on earth would he need to be jealous? Did he not know that he would always be superior if she had to carry out comparisons between him and any other man?

“I couldn’t afford to do otherwise,” she confided. “Asking him to pay for Beccy’s care…” She shook her head. “I suppose I could have earnt my keep…”

“You were not meant to be any man’s drudge,” he growled as her fingers traced a path to his lips.

“I don’t think he would have been that demanding. But Charlie--” She paused, and took a deep breath before continuing; he had turned his head and was gently kissing the tips of her fingers. “--I always thought that you and I…”

She took another deep breath. If she told him she thought they always had a passion simmering beneath the surface, he’d most likely be outraged at her depravity.

“Really?” he asked, his tone skeptical, even as he leaned back and swept the sheet to one side.

Lazily, he cupped her breasts, just as she had done earlier, and simply held them. Only it wasn’t as she had done earlier, because it was his large and capable hands.

And his mouth now... Kissing the voluptuous flesh he’d fully exposed. It felt decadent. And right, and she heard herself mewling with pleasure.

Next, she was lost completely. He lifted one breast higher and bent over it until his mouth covered one of her nipples. She relaxed into the pillow, closing her eyes and making her own slow exploration of his scalp, threading her fingers through his hair, so unusually ruffled, firmly keeping him in place. Yes, she didn’t want him to ever stop…

He found her other nipple, circling its sharp tip with his thumb, as he continued to suckle on its mate.

Then, she cried out much louder than she ever imagined she would when he pinched and pulled at one sharply while his teeth grazed over the other.

He froze. She opened her eyes to his expression, which was one of horror. He let his hands fall away, and knelt back, away from her.

“I hurt you?” he asked in a small voice.

“No!” she quickly denied, blushing.

Her bottom lip bore the brunt of her shame and she felt him studying her scarlet face for the longest time.

Finally, she tried to make a joke. “You really will think I’m some common tramp if I continue to make such noises...”

“Of course,” he declared, his tone imperious as he too attempted to be humourous, but his eyes soft and indulgent. One of his hands snaked out to rest upon her hip, possessively. “I’ve always thought as much, Mrs Hu--.”

“I don’t mind, really.” She placated this new horror of again nearly calling her by her maiden name by pressing a hard kiss onto his shoulder.

“We’re a couple of old fools is what we are,” she added, daring to let her fingers brush against that mysterious line of hair on his chest. She followed the feathery fur down until it disappeared beneath the waistline of his pyjama bottoms, not daring to go further. Clearly she was not as bold or modern as she’d assumed.

“Sometimes I enjoy reminiscing of when you first arrived at Downton, so young and brash,” he murmured, and then added, almost as an afterthought, “and womanly.”

“Womanly?” she asked laughingly. “I was not too thin?” Men liked buxom curves, and she had been a tiny sparrow of a lass two decades ago.

Her confidence ebbed when he never answered her actual question, but instead said, “You made quite the first impression.”

“I remember that I thought--” She broke off her confession with a gasp.

“I know what you thought,” he said sharply.

Her eyes widened. “Charles Carson! You knew?”


End of Chapter Two