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sans souci is calling

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“You shouldn’t leave me alone in a place like this,” she says when he returns with their drinks. Looking around, Matthew’s inclined to agree. He’s sure it’s for his benefit, but Mary wears the new fashions a little too well and the men here can’t seem to tell that she’s his wife.

Or maybe they can. These days, it hardly seems to matter.

“I quite agree,” he says, and Mary smirks at him while he lights a cigarette. Terrible habit, left over from the war, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

“Perhaps we should inform them,” she says and arches her neck up to reach his mouth, her hand settling on his chest, and Matthew manages a sharp breath before she’s kissing him. His hands fall to her waist and someone in the crowd whistles before Mary pulls back with a wink.

“That should explain things nicely,” she says as the band starts a new tune, and she reaches for his cigarette.

Well, when in Rome.

+

They were only supposed to stay in Paris two weeks, at the most, but there really doesn’t seem to be a reason to leave. There are museums enough to fill a lifetime, and they’ve already picked out several street paintings to send back home that will shock Violet Crawley.

“She was so helpful with the wedding,” Mary says regretfully, staring at a painting by Picasso that’s sure to alarm the Dowager Countess. “But this is just too beautiful to leave behind.”

“I’m sure she’ll understand,” Matthew says and it’s another painting shipped back home, if they ever get there. More still are back in their hotel room, with its pristine sheets and clear running water that drive memories of the Somme right out of Matthew’s head. There are almost enough good memories now to outweigh the rest.

(She warns him before she gets the haircut, thank God.)

The new revolution, though, is what keeps them here. Mary’s new dresses slip over her like water, though Matthew aches to help, and she smirks at him in the mirror. “Are you quite ready, Mr. Crawley?” she asks and Matthew tries (fails) to suppress his blush. Still undone.

“Quite ready, Mrs. Crawley,” he replies.

(Some nights, they skip dinner. Paris seems to skip it often, caught in a haze of jazz and smoke and new poetry, veterans dressed in three-piece suits, and they follow Paris.)

A cable comes from Cora two months after the wedding, asking if they’ve set a return date, and when Matthew looks at Mary, he knows the answer.

Soon.

+

It’s easy for them to make friends here, where nobody reads English papers and c’est 1920 ma chéri. Matthew learns to dance with Mary in new ways, the beads on her dress hitting his suit with the non-rhythm of the music, Claude and Amelia and Nadine keeping them out later and later.

Years later, Matthew swears they met Hemingway and Mary indulges him. He’s sure, though.

(When they finally make it back to their hotel, though they could not stand a moment longer, there’s fresh energy in the room. Mary’s new dress falls with a soft rustle, and she buries her hands in his hair as they stumble back towards soft sheets.)

It’s only when the first fall storm hits the city, driving them indoors, that Matthew suddenly misses Downton. Actually misses it, when he spent so long trying to avoid it, and all he really wants is here.

“God, this rain is so French,” Mary says all of a sudden and Matthew laughs. “We’re so English,” he replies and Mary arches an eyebrow at him but doesn’t disagree. “I think I’m getting an accent,” she replies and Matthew shakes his head. “No,” he says and Mary stares him down.

(Yes.)

“Perhaps it is time to go home,” she says, tanned and bobbed and sure to shock Violet Crawley more than all the paintings they sent home combined. He’s not much better himself, between the walking and the cigarettes. They won’t be recognized.

“One more night in Paris, then,” he says and Mary smirks at him – his blood runs hot. “I’m sure we’ll find something to do,” she says.

After all, it’s 1920.

Finis