Author: Kat Lee
Dedicated To: My better half, my heart, the one who makes me whole, my beloved Drew
Fandom: Downtown Abbey
Challenge/Prompt: Bates/Anna - Time After Time and Woman, Amen - as requested by the King and Pirate Captain of my heart, my Drew, and 1_million_words: Rare Pair
Warning(s): [Spoiler (click to open)]A rape victim's struggle to move forward
Word Count: 1,224
Date Written: 29 May 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he spoke softly, his husky voice just above a whisper, though he still didn’t let go of her hand.
“I want to,” Anna replied, facing him with a smile. “I very much want to.”
He could see the fear in her beautiful, sweet eyes, and it tore at his heart. There was no part of him that regretted seeing to the end of that monster who had caused her such fear and pain, such horror. He cupped her face in his hands and softly stroked. “We don’t have to do anything,” he told her. “Just let me hold you.”
She nodded in his hands. He hesitated only a moment, then leaned forward and chastely kissed her forehead. He gazed into her eyes, longing for the taste of her lips, but pulled himself away despite the fact that so many men he knew would argue that it was his right as her husband to make love to her whenever he chose. He would never see this beautiful, treasured woman as a possession. She was his wife, but she was also the greatest blessing God had ever bestowed upon him.
He turned, and when his bad leg threatened to buckle underneath him, she was there, silently supporting him as she did every day and had for so long. Any other woman would have given up on him long ago, but not his Anna. His Anna had waited patiently through the hailstorm of his time in prison. She had waited for him. When he had told her not to, she had still waited for him.
Together, they walked to the bed, but then again she hesitated. Slowly he laid down, trying hard not to let her see how much he favored that bad leg. There was so much more he wanted to give her, so much he would never be able to give her. He laid down, turning on his side to gaze up at her, and slowly held a hand up to her.
She smiled as she took his hand; in that sweet, innocent smile of hers, he saw all the beauty in the world. Holding to his hand, she slipped into bed beside him. He held his breath as she quickly kissed him and then turned over. He wrapped his arm around her and felt her body go tense. He held back the weight of his arm, forcing it all back on his shoulder and just let his arm linger over her small body.
She held herself tight and rigid, and his heart ached again as he knew she was afraid. This woman had done everything for him. She had given everything for him, and she meant everything to him. He closed his eyes against the silent tears that welled therein; if he could, he would kill that bastard again a million times over with his bare hands.
The only thing that had kept him from doing the deed himself had been the fact that he had known they would throw him back in prison and this time, they wouldn’t have let him out. It was the very reason why Anna had not told him what the creep had done and why their friend had even lied on her mother’s grave to prevent him from securing the knowledge of that monster’s identity. But he had known almost immediately who it had been. He had known, and it had taken everything he possessed not to go after him and rip him limb from limb himself.
But had he done what he had wanted so savagely and desperately to do, the bastard would have succeeded in forever ruining his precious Anna’s future. She, after everything she had sacrificed to secure a future with him, would have seen her husband hang and been made far too young a widow. He had killed him for her, for all the atrocities he had done to her, but he had also not done the deed himself for her.
Now he lay barely touching her, barely breathing, barely letting his wife know his presence at all. The last thing he wanted to do was to add to her pain and sorrow, but it felt so good to have her back beside him, so good to know that she had never stopped loving him. Silent tears trace down Bates’ face; he choked them down without saying a word. When he’d thought he’d lost her love, he’d lost his very will to live. He’d almost sent himself swinging, but he’d thankfully had to know just what he had done to lose the most precious blessing with which he’d ever been bestowed.
“Lord,” he spoke softly and let himself brush his lips against his wife’s hair with no more pressure behind the kiss than a butterfly’s wings, “I want to thank you for this woman, for her love for me, Lord, for blessing me with her. Lord, thank you for Anna, and thank you for our love. I would be nothing without her.”
To his surprise, she turned to face him and drew his arm closer around her. “That, Mister Bates,” she said, “is where you are wrong.” She gasped in sudden surprise as the moon slipping out from behind a cloud showed his tears to her. With gentle fingers, she traced them.
“Oh?” he asked, his voice shaking. “How am I wrong, Missus Bates?”
“You are a blessing to me,” she said humbly, “and everything I have ever sought.”
He blinked in surprise. “Really?”
“I was a fool to be so afraid of you. You would never harm me. But I did not think myself worthy to lay beside you, to be called your wife -- “
“I am the unworthy one, my sweet, sweet Anna -- “
She smiled through her own tears. The last thing she wanted to do was argue with this wonderful man beside her, this man who still loved her, soiled as she was, in part, due to her own foolish naivety. “Let us not waste words arguing,” she told him softly, pulling him closer. “Let us simply agree we both feel ourselves unworthy and lacking though the one we love most in this world disagrees and we do both love each other most in this world.” Her fingertips curled a little into his flesh as she clung to him.
He leaned closer and drew himself to her rather than pull her closer to him. “I am unworthy,” he voiced, “but you are greatest blessing I have ever had bestowed upon me. You are the greatest light in my life and the only love I will ever know, and I thank God with every breath for putting us together, my sweet, darling, beloved, cherished wife, Anna.”
She seemed to glow in the darkness from his words of praise. Her eyes fell from his, and he realized she was as shy as she had ever been. He touched her as gently as if she was made from porcelain, but his fingers beneath her chin coaxed her wide eyes to look back up at him. “I love you, Missus Bates,” he declared, gazing into her eyes but still not daring to kiss her.
“I love you, Mister Bates,” she replied in earnest and finally kissed him, making his life, his world, whole again with her love.