|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: 76 - Follows: 103 - Updated: 09-06-12 - Published: 12-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7666512
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Thanks to those who reviewed the last chapter. 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.
When Sybil came by the garage with her letter and some newspapers the next afternoon, she handed the letter to Tom, expecting him to read it. When he just put it in the envelope with his letter, she asked, "Didn't you want to read what I wrote to you mother?"
"What you write to my mother is between you and her. It's none of my business." With that he sealed the envelope and put it in the breast pocket of his uniform jacket.
The following days, the two of them pored over the newspapers Sybil brought from the big house and worked tirelessly in writing application letters with Sybil providing the references. In total, they sent out fifteen applications on various jobs that Tom thought he would have the skills to accomplish. Sybil even wrote a few application letters of her own that she had Tom post for her when he was in the village.
In the evenings when Sybil sat with her sisters after dressing for dinner which was their habit, every conversation with Mary involved being asked to reconsider her decision and every conversation with Edith involved being sure of her choice. It reached the point where Sybil would sometimes take as much time as she could dressing so that she wouldn't have time go see Mary and Edith before going down for dinner.
When Sybil went to visit Tom the afternoon before her birthday, Tom was reading the paper. When she approached, he smiled. "I have something for you."
Sybil looked at him, returning his smile. "What is it?"
"Why don't you come into the cottage and see?" said Tom mysteriously while he folded his paper.
Sybil nodded and followed him. Inside the cottage on the table was a brown paper package wrapped with a pretty ribbon. "For me?" asked Sybil.
"Happy Birthday, my love," said Tom, smiling.
"But my birthday isn't until tomorrow," said Sybil somewhat puzzled.
"With all the plans that are being discussed downstairs in the servants hall," said Tom. "I wasn't certain that I'd be able to see you alone tomorrow and I wanted to be certain that you had it for your birthday."
"Thank you for being so thoughtful," said Sybil with a smile when she picked up the package and opened it. Inside was a book, Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Looking up at him, she asked, "How did you know she is one of my favorite poets?"
"I remember seeing you sign this book out of the library many times, so I signed it out once long ago to see what captivated you so and found a poem that captures my love for you," said Tom, moving closer to show her. "As you can see, I bookmarked it."
Sybil found the bookmark quickly on sonnet 43. She smiled and looked up at Tom and started to recite it. Tom soon joined her.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
"I've always been drawn to this sonnet," said Sybil. "The intense passion she felt for her fiancé was encapsulated so well in it."
Looking into her eyes, Tom said, "That's the love I feel for you." He then placed his hand on her chin and leaned in for a kiss. Sybil quickly put down the book on the table so that she could wrap her arms about his neck and he pulled her closer to him. Tom's tongue then sought entrance to her mouth and Sybil's met his in a passionate dance. They remained in this embrace for quite sometime.
After they broke apart, Tom said, "I noticed that you had checked it out again last month and when I saw it in the bookstore recently, I knew it was the perfect birthday gift for you."
"I love it," said Sybil with a smile. She then looked up at him, leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you. I will treasure it."
"I didn't inscribe it in case it was discovered," said Tom, smiling from the kiss on cheek. "I can do that later when we aren't a secret any more."
"Yes, please," said Sybil, flipping through the pages of the book.
"Why don't we sit down and you can tell me the other poems you like from the volume?" asked Tom, leading her to one of the chairs in front of the fire.
"I'd like that," said Sybil while Tom pull her onto his lap.
After they settled in nicely, they spent the afternoon doing more than just reading the various sonnets from the tome.
The next day at Downton was filled with a great many activities including a visit to the village in the morning by Lady Grantham, Lady Mary and Lady Edith, presumably to obtain last minute presents for Sybil, an afternoon tea in the library with a number of Sybil's nearby friends, where Sybil was lavished with presents from her friends, followed by a family dinner, where Sybil was lavished with presents from each member of her family. Sybil couldn't help but think throughout the day that this was the last time this ritual would be occurring at Downton, which made each moment more precious.
The only opportunity Sybil had to see Tom was when he dropped off one of her friends from the village for tea. Their eye contact was brief when she greeted her friend, but she smiled at him and he returned it with a wink.
That night after all the cake had been eaten, the presents opened and the guests left, Sybil settled into bed with the Sonnets of the Portuguese and recalled the memory of the day before when she spent that afternoon with Tom, sitting on his lap, reading the book.
In the days following her birthday, Tom or Sybil would sometimes be too busy to meet, but of the days that they did, there would be kisses and hugs shared in the cottage and times shared to talk about their dreams for the future in Dublin. On Tom's afternoon off, they spent it in their grove by the brook in an impromptu picnic with food Tom had snuck out of the kitchen.
This was when Sybil was struck by the unfairness of it all. If Tom had been any of the men her parents found suitable, a picnic would have been provided with the best food and carried by one of the footman or at least a hall boy, but because Tom was the chauffeur, their picnic had to be food snuck out from the kitchens. Even if it was two of the servants, they could have gone into the village to have something to eat in public.
As a result, Sybil was struck with an idea to ask her mother about a new dress for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding, so that Tom could take her to Ripon. Though Mary and Edith would likely tag along for the first trip, Sybil decided that she would be indecisive and have to make a second journey to make her choice and then she would be able to go with Tom on her own.
When Sybil approached her mother the next day about the idea, Lady Grantham thought it was brilliant. She had been so caught up in the refugee work and the wedding planning that she had not thought of getting new dresses for the girls and later that week, took all three of her daughters to Madame Swann in Ripon. There wasn't much of a selection with the war ending only a few months before, so while her sisters made their choices from the meagre selection, Sybil picked nothing but brought some fabric swatches home, which she did share with Tom the next afternoon. However, Tom thought she would look fine in any of the fabric, so he was no help.
Approximately two and a half weeks after Tom posted their letters, he received a letter from his mother. When Sybil appeared that afternoon in the garage, they went to the cottage where he opened the letter while she made tea. When he saw who the letter was addressed to on the inside, he read it aloud.
Sunday, March 16, 1919
Dear Tom and Lady Sybil,
To say that I wasn't surprised by the contents of your letters would be a lie and I don't want to break any commandments. While I think that you are both very foolish with your notions, I don't want our family to be the ones to reject you, especially when it means that Tom will be coming home to stay.
While I knew that Tom reached for the stars from the time he was old enough to walk and talk, being a socialist, I never figured that he would try for the heart of an Earl's daughter. However, he has been singing your praises, Lady Sybil, for several years now. From his descriptions, I would have never guessed you to be the daughter of an Earl.
With Ireland's troubles the last few years, it will never be easy for the two of you and in discussions with Mairin, Ciaran, Niamh, Cathleen and Connor, we have decided not to tell anyone outside the immediate family about Lady Sybil being the daughter of an Earl. There will be enough prejudice that you're an English girl married to an Irishman. For you to be an English Lady, would just add fuel to the fire and you don't need that trouble.
Cathleen and I have made some inquiries at various churches and we have found one who will marry the two of you without needing to live here for a time. You will need to go see the pastor once you arrive and attend the services where he will read out the banns.
I think that before you are married, it might be best if Lady Sybil stays with me, while Tom bunks with Ciaran and Aileen. It would save on rent and I might be able to talk to my cousin about renting his top floor flat on a discount for when you are married since it has been empty for nearly a year now. When the children come, I can look after them after the lying in if Lady Sybil wishes to work again.
I have enclosed the list that you requested. Cathleen, Connor and I all worked on gathering the addresses you wanted and we wanted to send it to you as soon as may be.
Please send word of the date of your arrival when you know. I'll probably send Ciaran to meet your boat since he works at the docks.
Welcome to the family, Lady Sybil. I hope you don't regret your decision.
"So what do you think?" asked Tom after he read the letter aloud. He was surprised at how much his mother had accomplished in such a short time.
"I think your mother is very direct," said Sybil. "I'm not sure whether I've ever received such a letter from anyone before."
"Are you upset by it?" asked Tom. unsure of how she took his mother's letter.
"No, not upset," said Sybil. "Just surprised. In less than two weeks, she's found the addresses we requested, a church to marry us and a possible place to live afterward."
"She's raised six children while working since my father died thirteen years ago," said Tom. "There's no time to think too much, so she spends her time doing."
"I can see that," said Sybil. "Is it so bad in Ireland that I need to hide who I am?"
"I haven't been in Ireland for nearly six years," said Tom. "My mother seems to think so, but I thought you didn't care about your title?"
"I don't but if the information gets out, will I have to lie?" asked Sybil. "You know I prefer not to be deceitful unless I must."
"We will manage that if and when it happens," said Tom. "But what my mother is suggesting is that we don't bring it up on our own, that once married, you'll be Mrs. Branson. Will that be so terrible?"
"No, it will be rather wonderful actually," says Sybil with a small smile. "Mrs. Branson."
"I rather like that myself," said Tom, pulling her onto his lap.
Sybil reached for the letter while Tom nuzzled her neck. "Will I have to call her Ma?" asked Sybil.
"I think … that … it's entirely … between you … and her," said Tom between kisses.
"Tom, pay attention to me when I speak," said Sybil in an exasperated tone.
Tom looked up at her. "I thought I was paying attention to what you were saying."
"Would it be too much to look at me when you talk?" asked Sybil.
"But then I would want to kiss your lips, like this." Tom pulled her to his level and kissed her.
After Sybil broke the kiss, she picked up the list of addresses. "Will you now pay attention?"
"I will try." Tom put his arms about her waist. "What did you want to discuss?"
"How did you want to tackle the list?" asked Sybil, waving the list. Doing a quick count, Sybil added, "There are nearly twenty addresses here."
"Well, let's see," said Tom, looking at the list in her hand. "I know a number of these papers are unionist papers, so there's no point in applying to those, but it won't hurt to apply to the rest."
"Is there something I can do to help?" asked Sybil. looking at him. She was then struck by how utterly handsome he was, but she forced herself to focus on the matter at hand.
"Well, you can copy out my published articles to include in the application and you can give me another kiss," said Tom, looking directly at her lips.
"What is with you today?" asked Sybil somewhat annoyed by Tom's inability to focus on their task. It was difficult, but she was able to maintain it.
"I don't know," said Tom, sounding slightly annoyed. "My beautiful fiancée is sitting on my lap, leaning close to me, but she has little interest in kissing me or allowing me to kiss her. What do you think is up with me?"
"Oh, perhaps I should stand up then?" asked Sybil, sounding entirely innocent.
Tom took a deep breath and let it out before he spoke again, "Sybil, my dear love, Is it too much to ask for a few kisses in my own cottage? If the elopement hadn't failed, you and I would be man and wife and we would not have to part at the end of the afternoon. As is, I don't have many opportunity to see you in a day. Is it too much to ask for some kissing in the time we do have together?"
"Well, when you put it that way, I suppose not," said Sybil, still playing the innocent. With a sigh, she confessed "I, too, find being so near you to be utterly distracting, but I think it's in our best interest to send these applications soon. Matthew and Lavinia's wedding is coming up quickly. Wedding presents have already started to arrive and I want you to have something to look toward when we travel to Dublin."
Unable to disagree with Sybil's logic, Tom acquiesced. "Very well. Let me pull out my articles and I'll count the number of copies we will need and then we can return to our previous business?" Tom reached up to tuck a strand of loose hair behind her ear.
Suddenly shy, Sybil ducked her head and smiled. "Yes."
After Tom pulled out his articles and they debated over which one to copy, Tom counted the number of newspapers to which he wanted to apply. Once that was settled, Tom pulled Sybil back on his lap and they proceeded to kiss the rest of the afternoon away.
A/N2: So what did you think of Tom's present and Mrs. Branson's letter? I'd love to hear what you think good or bad, so please do review.