Yes, my head canon is that Branson plays piano. Also, it helps with the narrative. I'm almost certain the dialogue is too 'modern' but hopefully you'll be able to ignore any glaringly obvious stuff

His fingers hit the somewhat weathered keys lightly, bringing a low calming melody out of the instrument. For the first time all day, the house Tom grew up in has gone quiet. His nieces and nephews are at long last exhausted from a day of running about all over the place.

It's been a long while since his whole family has been assembled in one place –what with his brothers and sister moving to different villages and him being at his employment- and it'll be the last for a while. Tomorrow morning he'll be on the ferry toLiverpoolthen ontoYorkshire. It's been a good last day, in the presence of his family; and he knows he's going to miss being away from them. His fingers still on the keys; the idea of being away from home- away from Ireland, consuming his thoughts.

"Keep playing, son," his mother says behind him, making him jump a little. He does as she asks, starting to play a favourite of hers. She ruffles his hair affectionately and he smiles. "What'll I do without your piano music?"

"I'm sure you'll learn to survive, Mam."

She put his hands on his shoulders as he plays quietly, not sure not to wake up the sleeping children. They are silent for a while, letting the music reverberate around the four walls uninterrupted.

Neither of them are particularly happy about where he's going to work-and not just because of the distance between them. Tom clearly remembers the look of disappointment in her eyes in her eyes when he told he got a job working for aristocracy inEngland. His last mistress was just well off rather than being nobility, and there was a certain bitterness to him working for the oppressive upper-crust that the hierarchical class system deemed to be so much better than anyone else. But his mother also understood there was no other way. There was no sense in him cutting off his nose to spite his face and turning down the job –which was well-paid and came with a cottage- just to make a statement that society would not hear or even bother listening to. While she never congratulated him on his new post, there was a mutual understanding between them, and she didn't stand in his way.

"I want letters every week, d'you hear?" his mother finally said, sitting next to him on the worn piano bench

"Yes, mother," he responds in a playful monotone, drawing out the syllables like a child.

She smiles, and then continues. "And when you meet a nice English girl who sweeps you off your feet, I want every detail." Tom gives her a look that makes her chuckle. "Oh, a ridiculous idea that my son should find a girl in the whole of England!"

"I'm going to work, Mam, not to be a ladies' man."

"Well, if you do happen across someone special, I want to know. Make sure she's good enough for you."

"I feel sorry for her already, having to meet up to your expectations!" Tom says mischievously and he receives an elbow in the ribs for his troubles.

"Cheeky!" his mother responds, laughing despite herself. She pauses a moment then continues. "She'll be a fine beauty, of course."

"Of course," Tom replies, rolling his eyes.

"And intelligent, but not boastful. Spirited too, willing to stand up for what's right. Maybe even a bit political…"

His fingers hesitate on the keys. "Mam…"

"And knowing you," she carries on, smiling indulgently at her youngest son. "She'll require a little bit of fighting for. And you will fight for her." Her voice is matter of fact, but her smile is fond. "You're a hopeless romantic at heart, Tom, just like your father."

Tom's smiling by now, even though he realizes how much he's going to miss his mother when he leaves tomorrow.

"Well, if I ever meet a girl like that, you'll be the first to know."


Tom walks back to his cottage as soon as Mrs Hughes has left, flexing the hand that held hers restlessly.

He remembers with perfect clarity how her thin, fragile fingers curled around his; heat emanating even through her gloves. Her curious, storm blue eyes shifting upwards, settling on his own. He doesn't entirely know what he was going to end his sentence with; somehow it just felt like the right thing to say at the time.

He gets inside his cottage and sits down at the small dining table. Before his brain can give into the thoughts of how very wrong and inappropriate it would be to fall in love with his employer's daughter, he grabs a pen and paper and starts writing.

Dear Mam,
She is everything you said she'd be.