|The Journey to Happiness
Author: ScarletCourt PM
How do Sybil and Tom get from a failed elopement to Lord Grantham's blessing and eventually married in Dublin? Interweaves with the scenes we see in S2E07 and S2E08 and eventually the C/S. Warning: Spoilers for S3! Runner-up in the January 2013 Highclere Awards in the Progress - Multi-Chapter category.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Sybil C. & T. Branson - Chapters: 44 - Words: 180,047 - Reviews: 384 - Favs: 75 - Follows: 101 - Updated: 09-06-12 - Published: 12-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7666512
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Many thanks to my patient betas, Tripp3235 and mswainwright.
Disclaimer: Not mine. All Downton Abbey characters belong to Julian Fellowes and ITV. I'm just playing with them.
After tea, Sybil had excused herself from company complaining of illness, knowing that no one would likely bother her until morning, except to bring dinner. A tray had been brought up to her earlier and in spite of her excitement, she ate as much as she could while packing. Since making her decision the night before to go with Tom, Sybil had written and burned a number of letters telling her family of her decision. It was the toughest letter she ever had to write. In all the lessons her governess had given on letter writing, she had never taught Sybil how to write one on the subject of leaving her family and running away to Gretna Green. In the end, Sybil just wrote the facts. She was eloping with Tom to Gretna Green because she loved him, and from there they would return the car to the village before going onto Dublin because he wanted to be involve in the fight for Ireland's freedom and while she loved her family, she couldn't live the life they wanted for her. She would write when they arrived safely in Dublin.
She was still getting used to calling him by his first name, but he had asked her to after they had kissed last night, and it seemed wrong to call him Branson after agreeing to run away with him. After placing the letter on the mantle in front of the clock, she took one last look around the room she had slept in since moving out of the nursery. She hoped that she would one day see it again, but if she didn't, she wanted to remember it as it was. After checking the hallway, she locked her bedroom door to buy them more time and walked down the rarely used back stair case and out the garden door to avoid family and staff. She then made her way to Tom's cottage to wait for him to return after dropping off her grandmother and Lavinia in the village.
When Tom opened the door to the dimly lit cottage, Sybil jumped from where she sat in front of the dying fire. She had not dared to light a candle in case they had discovered that she was not in her room.
"It's just me," said Tom, taking off his hat. He started to unbutton the collar of his uniform.
Sybil got up from where she sat and launched herself into his arms. "I am so worried that we will be discovered before we could leave."
"Well, I'm here now," said Tom, returning her hug. She smells of lilacs. I could get used to this. "I must change out of my uniform and into traveling clothes. I'm packed otherwise and ready to go."
After giving her a quick kiss on the cheek, he untangled himself from her and went toward the bed to change. Sybil watched for a bit before he started to unbutton his shirt. Though she had learned about the male anatomy in her training and seen much in her time at the hospital, she found the intimacy of the scene overwhelming. She then looked at him in the dim light. "I'll wait outside while you finish."
Upon placing her suitcase on the porch, Sybil found the cool night air refreshing and felt the blush receding from her cheeks. Not that anyone could see me. You will be bound to him for life by this time tomorrow. You will get to know him better than that. Yes, but not quite yet.
Sybil's reverie was interrupted by the door to the cottage opening and she turned toward the noise. By the pale moonlight, Sybil could see that Tom was dressed in a neat suit and had his valise with him. Closing the door behind him, he smiled. "Are you ready?"
Sybil returned his smile. "Ready as I will ever be."
"I parked the car outside the gate so that no one could hear us starting it, so we'll have to walk there," said Tom, reaching for her suitcase and stepping off the porch.
"I don't mind," said Sybil. "I'd rather leave quietly."
With both his valise and her suitcase in one hand, Tom held out his other hand for her to take. When they walked past the house, Sybil sighed wistfully, "I only wish that I could have parted on better terms with my family."
Looking at her, Tom said, "They'll come around some day. Maybe not in the near future, but some day."
"I do hope so," Sybil whispered while they walked hand-in-hand down the dark driveway toward the waiting car.
After about three hours into the drive and just outside Gretna Green, Tom could see that Sybil was falling asleep though she denied it when he asked. They had planned on waiting in the car for the overnight to save money. He had enough money saved for several overnights at inns, their passage to Ireland and a few months rent before they would run out and he was confident that they would find work before that happened, so an extra night at an inn would not harm them. When he saw The Swan Inn on the road, he left Sybil in the car before enquiring about a vacancy. Once he registered them, he retrieved Sybil and their bags from the car and led her to their room.
When they walked into the room on the second storey, Tom placed her suitcase on the bench at the end of the bed and his valise on the ground by the chest of drawers. "I'm sorry this isn't much for our first night together. I'll make it up to you in the future."
"This is fine," said Sybil with a small smile when she placed her grey coat and hat on the bench beside her suitcase. "I just need to close my eyes for a few hours and we can be off again."
"Well, the blacksmith's won't be open until eight o'clock in the morning, so there's no need to hurry," said Tom with a small smile of his own.
"I'm just glad that we weren't caught leaving," said Sybil, turning to look at him. Even in the light of this room at a roadside inn, she felt safe and happy. She knew she had made the right choice to be with him.
"You take the bed and I'll sleep on this chair," said Tom taking the blanket from the foot of the bed. Noticing that she paid him no mind, he asked, "Is everything all right?"
Still looking at Tom, Sybil said, "Until now, I hadn't been absolutely sure of my decision, but being here alone with you, I feel none of the anxiety of being away from my family as I felt the first week of training in York. I know now that I made the right choice. If you had left without me, I would have been bereft of my best friend and love."
Sybil took two steps toward Tom, and after dropping the blanket on the chair, he closed the rest of the gap, took her in his arms and kissed her. Her hands first held his arms but they gradually moved up around his neck and when he deepened the kiss, she responded in kind and played with the edge of his hair at the back of his neck. That sensation, in addition to the soft moans that escaped from Sybil, was nearly enough to drive him to distraction. He held her closer to feel her body against his. Tom wanted so much to make her his in every way, but he then remembered her request that all they do was kiss until they were married. Wanting to keep his promise to devote every waking minute to her happiness, he broke the kiss before he reached the point of no return.
Surprised by the abrupt end to the kiss, Sybil asked, "Did I do something wrong?"
Tom ran his hand down his face to help regain his senses. "No, not at all."
"Then why?" said Sybil. She touched the lips that had kissed his just moments before.
"Because I want to honour your wishes that we only kiss until after everything is settled," said Tom earnestly. "If we had continued, I wasn't certain that I'd be able to stop."
Sybil smiled shyly at him at the thought that her kisses could generate such fervour. A blush crept onto her cheeks when she thought of doing more than just kissing now that they were alone and without the chance of discovery.
Tom turned and stepped away from Sybil to put some distance between him and her. Her shy smile had only intensified his desire. It would not do to get this far and break her wish. He had not counted on the effect she had on him when they were truly alone. Turning to a safer topic, he said slowly to ensure he kept an even tone to his voice, "Perhaps we should get some rest. Is there something you need help with? I'm not a lady's maid, but I am an extra pair of hands."
"I would like to take my hair down and braid it," said Sybil. "While I could rest dressed, I could not sleep with my hair the way it is. I will take as many pins as I can out, but I will need you to help me get the rest out without getting it tangled. That way I can brush it out and braid it in order to put it up again tomorrow morning without too much effort."
"Very well. Let me know when you need me," said Tom, taking his jacket off and hanging it in the wardrobe. He loosened his tie slightly and unbuttoned the top button before settling down on his chair.
After about five minutes of taking pins out of her hair, she sat down on the bed. "I think I've gotten as many out as I can. I need you to find the pins holding the hair on the surface first and then work your way down."
Pulling the chair he was planning to sleep on closer to the bed, he looked at the mass of hair in front of him and started to unravel it while he pulled pin after pin out. When he pulled another twenty pins from her hair, he asked hesitantly, "How do you do this every morning and evening?"
Put at ease by his question, she laughed. "Well, it's easier when there's someone else who can work on it. When I'm on my own, I keep it much simpler, but I do like the style when someone is available."
Handing her the last pin he found, he looked carefully and saw no further pins. "I think that's all of them." While handing her the pile, he was amazed that her head didn't hurt after having to wear all those pins all day.
Turning to look at him, Sybil smiled shyly. "Thank you." She gave him a kiss to seal it. Rising, she took off her earrings before she put both the pins and her earrings in her suitcase so that she would not lose them. She walked to the mirror on the wall and began to brush her hair out in front of it.
Mesmerized by the simple act of hair brushing, Tom made his way across the room. "May I?"
Smiling at him through the mirror, Sybil handed him her hairbrush and he tentatively started brushing it out. "I usually brush one hundred strokes every night. I'm on fifty-five. I'll need to braid my hair afterward."
While he brushed and mentally counted out the number of brushes, the white of her neck and shoulder not hidden by her blouse was tantalizing him from under her hair. When he was done brushing, he quickly braided her hair loosely before he handed her the brush and leaned down to kiss her at the place where her shoulder and neck met.
At first not sure what he was doing, she nearly flinched and she was glad she didn't when he kissed her. "Oh, Tom," she sighed heavily while he turned her around and made his way up her neck, along her jawline and finally her mouth. This time her hands instinctively encircled his neck when they kissed, her fingers skimming his hair and caressing his neck. When she deepened the kiss, Tom gently pushed her until she was against the wall and slid his tongue into her mouth.
Sybil was a little surprised when she felt Tom's tongue seek entrance to her mouth, but she was a quick learner and granted him access all the while engaging his tongue with hers in an erotic dance that she never wanted to end. They spent the next several minutes savouring the kisses. This time, it was Sybil who broke the kiss.
Looking into his eyes, Sybil said, "I think we better stop before I no longer want you to stop. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough."
That declaration broke the spell on Tom, who took a step back. "Then I think we should definitely get some rest."
When Sybil put her hair brush in her suitcase, Tom moved his chair back to its place by the wall beside the bed and settled in.
Sybil then sat on the bed and moved the other pillow to her side on the bed and laid down. Pulling the covers on herself, Sybil tried to calm herself down after the last kiss. It wasn't the most comfortable bed she had ever slept in, but she was more content than she had been in a long time.
"Good night, Tom," said Sybil, turning off the light beside the table.
"Good night, my love."
A/N2: I hope you liked this start. I was quite intrigued by what we saw in S2E07 and S2E08 and had to write it out. Please review to let me know what you think. :)