Disclaimer: I do not own Downton Abbey or any of its characters. Those rights belong to the BBC. If I did own the show it would be very risqué.
I love this couple. Maybe it's because I identify with Sibyl (we both are a rare breed of romantic feminists). Branson is also adorable with that lyrical Irish accent and his ideas about political reform. Forbidden love will make good fodder for series two.
My first fanfiction and the exorcism of this creative demon. Frankly, I was rather upset that Matthew received all of the credit for Sibyl's rescue. If I'm not mistaken, his show of masculine bravado set in motion her accident. He doesn't even carry her away from the crowd! I thought this would help explain how Sibyl gets the stars knocked out of her eyes about Matthew (she was also suffering from a head injury) and comes to defend Branson so vehemently. I have at least another chapter in mind…Enjoy!
The Right Man
"Lean on me" murmured Cousin Matthew as he placed his arm around Sibyl and led her from Crawley House's sitting room. Sibyl smiled up at him. He was such a nice man, her cousin. Sweet, kind, and handsome, not to mention heroic.
But as soon as his arm settled over her shoulder, his fingers softly pressing into her upper arm, Sibyl knew something was wrong. His arm should've felt good. It should've felt strong. Powerful. Safe. But in that moment she felt none of those things. His arm around her felt strange, brotherly even. Off somehow. Like she'd never felt it. Like it was the first time she'd ever felt his arm there. He had been the one to carry her away from the crowd, right?
Her mind was fuzzy, but her body knew the answer. It hadn't been him. Then who was it?
The last thing she remembered was the violent shove and the blinding pain as her head struck the table. From then until she woke up in Crawley House everything was hazy. But now bits and pieces of memory flooded back. Being cradled against a hard chest. Strong arms holding her. The presence of someone solid and comforting.. Someone gently laying her down on the leather seats of the car. The quick brush of fingers against her temple. Someone carrying her a second time.
She assumed that someone was Cousin Matthew. But his arm wasn't the same and his presence felt different. Sibyl's face scrunched with curiosity, aggravating her wound and making her wince.
"Are you alright?" asked Mr. Crawley, stopping in the hallway, his face concerned.
"Yes, I'm quite fine. Really." she said. They continued walking.
If he wasn't the one to carry her, then who did? Could it have been Branson…Tom? She couldn't prevent the immediate burst of happiness that coursed through her at the thought.
But needing verification she said, "I can't thank you enough for what you did today. I am sure it wasn't easy carry a senseless woman through a crowd like that. I'm certainly no pixie" she said, laughingly.
He chuckled. "Actually, Cousin Sibyl, while I'd like to take credit for the heroic rescue, it was Branson. He was the one who carried you away from the crowd and brought you inside. I was merely the …conductor."
"I see."she smiled secretly, " Well, thank you for protecting and conducting me,"she said, genuinely. He might not have done the heavy lifting, but his actions were still gallant.
Tom, Sibyl's mind raced, he was her real knight. It was his arms she remembered. His touch that she felt. His presence that comforted. She smiled to herself. Tom had carried her. Comforted her in her insensible state. The smile slipped from her face and her cheeks heated with shame And now he was in danger of being sacked-because of her. This is all my fault, she thought. Her zeal for politics and rebellion had blinded her to the real state of the Count. She should've listened to Tom, he was right, the crowd was spoiling for a fight. Her own injury was a testament to that. But it wasn't her injury that bothered her, but what it would symbolize for her father; Tom's incompetence.
Moseley opened the front door and the very object of her thoughts was pacing by the car. His eyes looked up and met hers. She felt a jolt at the connection, a current of electricity passing in the span of their gaze. Did he feel it? Had he been worried about her? Was he terribly angry with her? She read his concern, the fear, and something utterly indefinable in his gorgeous blue eyes.
"Alright, m'lady?"his voice, slightly hoarse, whispered across the darkness.
This was her true champion. How could she have ever thought it was anyone else?
And her champion was likely going to get fired. Shame made her quickly avert her eyes.
"Yes, Branson, I'm quite well."she said, avoiding his eyes.
Tom…Branson didn't deserve this. This wasn't his ideal job but it was his nonetheless. And because of her selfishness he might not have it anymore. Her heart tore at the thought of him gone. Since the moment he handed her the pamphlets on the vote, they had forged an unlikely friendship.
But over the past couple of months her feelings for Tom had become anything but friendly. She thought about him all the time (his ambitions, his voice, his beautiful eyes). Made up ridiculous errands just to be in his company. She found herself staring at him while he was driving. Hoping he would put his hand on her back to assist her into the car. She could never quite admit to the violence of her affections. She dismissed it as crush, something brief and fleeting. No matter that he was the only man she wanted to be around. No matter that he understood her better than anyone. No matter that she couldn't imagine a future or a Downton without him. The barrier between them (even if she didn't believe there was) kept them apart. He was still a chauffeur and she was still (reluctantly) the daughter of a peer-something they were both aware of. But seeing him now, remembering his actions from earlier, she could no longer deny the intensity of her feelings for him. I love him, she thought. Even in her shame for Tom's predicament, she felt relieved to think those forbidden words. To finally name the mishmash of feelings.
It seemed so unfair that just when she could acknowledge her feelings, it could all be gone. He could be gone, all because of her.
Well, she thought, I will just have to make sure that doesn't happen. I will argue with Papa, defend Tom, and go to any extreme to ensure he stays at Downton..and with me.
Cousin Matthew settled her into her seat as Branson held open the car door, his eyes straightforward. Mary quickly took her seat and they were off.
"Papa will be furious. You best prepare yourself, Sibyl." said Mary, appraisingly.
Glancing towards the front seat, Sibyl whispered vehemently, "I am prepared."