She had fallen asleep on the train, her head resting on his shoulder. He'd pulled the blanket over her shoulders after her breathing changed and her limbs grew heavy, showing him she'd given into the fatigue that had been gripping her all day. Her hands, delicate and soft – definitely a lady's hands, lay in her lap; her right gripping the blanket, her left hand, the hand bearing her thin gold wedding band rested on the round protrusion of her stomach.
The weather was unusually unpleasant for August, as the darkness began to surround the train the temperature had dropped and rain began to pound the carriages, drumming against the glass of the windows and making them rattle. The weather and Sybil's increasing tiredness was making him wonder if this trip was a good idea after all. But tensions were bubbling in Dublin, reacting to the riots in Belfast - he wanted to get them out of danger. A trip back to Downton had to happen eventually anyway, and with the baby so near Sybil was craving the company of her mother and sisters.
Lady Grantham's letters seemed to have softened since December, when Sybil announced the news – that she, that they were expecting a baby. The thought of a grandchild seemed to have quashed any remaining quibbles Cora had had with her youngest daughter and her choice of husband. Even the Dowager-Countess had written to Sybil congratulating her on the news. The lack of contact from Lord Grantham however had been something of a dark cloud on the horizon, Sybil hadn't said much about it – but he knew the lack of contact from her father had had a greater effect on her than she let on.
Sybil shifted in her sleep, a curl of hair fell in front of her face – he brushed it back behind her ear, brushing her soft cheek with his hand. She looked beautiful, truly serene and relaxed for the first time in weeks. The strain of the pregnancy had begun to take its toll, the lack of contact from her parents hadn't helped and she was constantly worrying about his safety. Being a political journalist, voicing his views as publicly as he did in a situation as tumultuous as Ireland's was dangerous. She needed to go home for a while, to the open spaces and fresh air, to a few familiar faces and customs. He couldn't bear the thought of her having the baby alone, but for a midwife she barely knew. They would stay for as long as she needed; Tom had worked at double his usual output for the last month or so – selling pieces here and there to earn enough to keep the rent paid while they were away. His job at the paper was secure as long as he kept writing some opinion pieces through correspondence – they wouldn't require him to be in Dublin, at the forefront.
The baby had come as something of a surprise; both of them knew it could happen but somehow it had not crossed their minds that it would be so soon after they were married. He had been surprised at Sybil's reaction; she seemed genuinely devastated at first and it took him a while to realize that she was just beginning to enjoy her freedom – life on her own terms. She saw a baby as something else to trap her, another bind just as she was getting a taste of the life she wanted as a woman with a voice who went out and worked, doing something significant with her day. It had taken a while but eventually his excitement at the prospect of being a father had had an effect on her. Her sickness had worn off and Cora continued to write about her excitement at becoming a grandmother; he had longed for the day she would be as excited as him, and toward the end of March it came.
He came home to the sound of Sybil singing; her voice resonated from the kitchen through the bottom floor of the house. It was a beautiful thing to come home to. It reminded him of how lucky he was to have her as his own at long last, they were man and wife – no one was going to come and take her away from him. She sounded happy, for the first time in weeks. He moved slowly toward the kitchen door, trying not to disturb her. She was dancing from one side of the kitchen to the other, filling the kettle at the tap and moving to the stove, placing the kettle over the heat. She seemed so energetic and full of life, the last few weeks she had been so tired as if the baby was draining all of the energy out of her. The sight of his wife looking so young and carefree once more brought a smile to his face and a chuckle he could not stifle. She heard him and span round to find the source of the noise.
Sybil walked over to him, arms outstretched, "I'm sorry." He drew her into an embrace, her cheek on his chest and kissed the top of her head, taking in the sweet smell of her hair. "I'm sorry…for how I have been acting for the last few weeks." Her arms were round his waist, holding him closer to her. "It all just came as a bit of a shock and so soon…"
"You've no need to apologise, sweetheart. None at all."
"I do. You were so excited – so happy. And all I could focus on was what was going to have to change, so soon, just when I'd got what I wanted." Tom went to interrupt her, to say he understood, but she shook her head and continued what she had been saying. "But last night, I was watching you sleep and thinking just how lucky I was to have you, at last, all to myself. And I realized, that soon I'm going to have another piece of you, all of our own. Both me and you together in this little person," she took his hand in hers and placed it over her stomach, "And I felt like the luckiest girl in all of the world. A perfect mix of you and me, that no one can ever take away from us." She smiled up at him, looking directly into his eyes, perfectly mirroring the smile on his face.
He put his arms around her waist and lifted her up, spinning her round in the air. They kissed and wrapped her arms round his shoulders,both giddy in their shared happiness.