Title: Acquiescence
Summary: Tom Branson and Lady Mary Crawley have a difference of opinion. Post 2x04.
Rating: K
Pairing/Characters: Implied Branson/Sybil, Mary Crawley
Disclaimer: Downton Abbey belongs to my cruel mistress, Julian Fellowes
Author's Note: I've never written Mary before, hope I got her okay.

"Branson, you should know by now that I don't approve. Not even in the slightest."

Tom had been waiting for her to broach the subject, so he wasn't hurt when it eventually did; on the way to Ripon on a rainy afternoon. He had known this was coming ever since she asked him –with a hard, disapproving look- to bring the motor around to the front. He was going to say something then, but Lady Mary had turned and walked away before he could gather his thoughts.

Since they set off from Downton, Tom had been feeling the force of her gaze on the back of his neck. He didn't let himself get intimidated by it though; part of him felt as though that would be an admission of defeat before he'd even started fighting.

And fight he would. He took a deep breath and thought of the way Lady Sybil's voice wrapped around the word 'us' like the word was made for her lips alone.

"I know that, milady, and nor do I expect it from you," Tom replied confidently.

Unfazed, Mary merely blinked at his deflection. "Sybil has asked me not to tell anyone, and I won't; so long as you promise not to encourage her to do anything stupid."

Tom pursed his lips thoughtfully, measuring his words. "What do you mean?"

Mary watched him icily. "Don't mess with me, Branson. I'm keeping this a secret purely for Sybil's sake but I won't have you leading her astray."

Tom's grip tightened on the wheel. "She knows her own mind, milady," he protested.

"I know she does. But one thoughtless decision and her whole future is beyond all repair, whether she wants the future or not. Even you must see the importance of that."

"I suppose I do. What I question is that it's more important than her happiness."

Mary exhaled heavily, rolling her eyes and looking away briefly. "I'm starting to see what Sybil meant." Tom gave her a questioning look in the mirror. "She said you were full of yourself." Despite himself, Tom had to chuckle.

Mary continued, "Believe it or not, you aren't the only one who could make her happy. There are plenty of men more…"

"More what?"

Mary lifted her chin defiantly, responding to the challenge in his voice. "Suited," she finally said.

Tom laughed out loud disbelievingly. "You know, when you people say things like that; I always wonder whether you mean it, or if it's your divine right speaking through you."

Mary looked like she wanted to reproach him for talking out of turn, but she wasn't to be put off the subject of her sister.

"It's going to end in heartbreak." Her eyes burn a hole in his rear view mirror. "And if it's my sister's, then I will make sure you never work again- at Downton or anywhere else," she told him, with just enough calm menace to let him know she meant every word.

He smiled at her a little ruefully in the mirror. "If your sister's heart is ever broken and it's my fault, I'm going to hold you to that."

Mary looked a little wrong-footed by his response. She didn't speak for the rest of the journey, and Tom couldn't help but class it as a small victory.