Inside the car, Tom kept one hand rested on Sybil's knee. From a distance, he could see the family and servants lined up outside the house to receive them and exhaled sharply.
Sybil could see the anxiety play behind his eyes. She knew how difficult this was for him, and loved him even more for bringing her home.
"Tom," Sybil said gently as she rested her hand on his clean-shaven cheek. "You've already won me, and nothing that happens here will change that."
Tom smiled at his wife, moving his face to hers until their lips were touching. Tom kissed her lovingly, not caring that the driver was spying in the mirrors, until he felt a tiny kick in his side.
"Oh not you too, little one," Tom said as he put a calming hand on Sybil's rounded stomach. "You've nothing to worry about. They'll love you."
Tom looked out the window and could make out the sullen face of Lord Grantham juxtaposed by the bright-eyed smile on Lady Grantham's face.
"I love you," Tom said quietly. "You too, my little one."
"We love you too," Sybil replied stealing a quick kiss on Tom's cheek before the car came to a stop in front of the great house.
Tom took a deep breath, and opened the door. He quickly walked around the side of his car to help his wife from the car.
Sybil stepped on the ground. She could feel her heart racing and could hardly control the carefree smile that spread across her face.
"Are you ready?" Tom whispered.
Sybil nodded excitedly, and together they began to walk from behind the car.
Mary was the first to notice her sister and her rounded stomach.
"Dear God," she said, louder than she intended. In fact, if she had remembered she was surrounded by others, she wouldn't have said anything at all.
Matthew put a hand on Mary's arm, to remind her of this. "I believe she means congratulations," Matthew smiled as he shock Tom's hand.
Mary took a step back. She hated and loved, if that was possible, how Matthew had the correct words to say for every situation. I suppose that's why he's a lawyer, she thought.
"Oh Sybil," Cora cooed as she took her youngest daughter in her arms and kissed her on the cheeks. Lady Grantham pulled away just slightly to look over her daughter's rounded frame. She was radiant. "You look beautiful darling."
Mary, Edith, and the servants all watched on trying to comprehend the unfolding of events, while Sybil smiled as she was passed from one person to the next to be hugged and fussed over.
Anna turned instinctively to say something to Mr. Bates, only to realize again that he wasn't there. John wouldn't believe this, she thought to herself and made a mental note to write him as soon as she retired later this evening.
"Tom, we're so glad you're back," Cora smiled politely as she placed a hand on his arm.
Through all the upturning of events, Lord Grantham couldn't take his eyes off his daughter. His baby, round with child. His sweet precious Sybil. He had known of the pregnancy, but it hadn't registered until he saw his daughter standing before him with that round little bump emerging from behind her coat. And suddenly, all the work he had done to calm himself had been for waste. He could hardly breathe. He knew his face was growing red, but all he could think of was that Tom Branson had done this to his daughter.
"Papa," Sybil said, bringing Lord Grantham out of his gaze.
Lord Grantham worked to unclench his jaw, and managed a meek smile at his daughter. "Hello Sybil," he said, concentrating on each word to keep his voice from rising out in anger.
Sybil smiled, the same smiled that had made Lord Grantham bend to nearly all her requests as a child, and ran to her father.
Lord Grantham took her in his arms and let himself realize the full extent of how much he had missed his youngest daughter.
"You look well, my darling," he said, still torn between the love of his daughter and the anger he felt toward the man who took her away from him. Cora gave him a knowing look, as if to remind him that their goal was to keep their daughter here so they could be a part of their grandchild's life. Robert sighed. He didn't want to play nice, he had no reason to, other than his love for Sybil.
Anna, who had been watching the unfolding of events noticed the brief tilt of his head that Lord Grantham gave as Mr. Branson finally met eyes with him. Tom returned this greeting with the same gesture.
Anna exhaled in relief as she felt the tension of the situation released with the seemingly truce of the men.
Mr. Carson, though, she noticed, was not near reaching a point of truce. He was too much a professional to mention his thoughts in public; however, it didn't take much for one to read his feelings. His face was flushed, his eyes, it seemed never left the back of Tom Branson's head. If looks could kill, Anna thought. Tom would be dead ten times over.
. . . . .
Tom shut the door and let his weight lean against it.
"See," Sybil said, as she opened a case and began unpacking their things. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
Tom took a deep breath, trying to recollect his thoughts. Habitually, he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. "I don't know what that was," he answered honestly.
"I told you Papa would behave," she continued as Tom began helping to organize their things.
"Yes, Milady," Tom said teasingly.
"Stop it," she said as she playfully swatted his arm. "I can't help that I was correct."
"So this is what it feels like to be in the room of Lady Sybil Crawley," he said as he sat down on the edge of her bed. "You know, I dreamed of what this might be like."
"I believe it's Nurse Branson now," she smiled, letting him pull her into his warm arms. Sybil let herself realize that this was the first time Tom had been in her room. It felt so odd to her that she was back here. Her time in this room was a like a different life to her. A life without Tom and without purpose, which, in her mind, were nearly the same thing. A life where her greatest responsibility was to arrive at dinner in the proper attire at the proper time. "And I spent quite a lot of time thinking about you in this room."
Sybil's love for Tom was something that originated long before she realized. It was the kind of love that started out of friendship. She looked away for only a moment, and there she was, in love with the chauffeur.
"Aye," Tom replied, lowering her head to hers. "Did you spend some time spying on me as well?"
Sybil laughed. "Whatever do you mean?"
Tom smiled and nodded toward the window. "I believe you can see the garage from that window."
"And how do you know that?" Sybil asked, pulling away so she could interrogate him.
"Because I could see it from the garage," he replied, thinking of how he used to count up three floors and over five windows from the west wall. "As I was leaving at night, I'd check to see whether the light was on or off. It let me know whether you were safe or still awake causing trouble, Milady."
A sly smile spread across Branson's lips, and Sybil couldn't help but laugh at her husband. "Well, I wouldn't call what I did spying so much as I would call it keep track of you. How do you think I knew where to find you those nights?" she asked him, remembering the evenings when she would look out her window to see whether the lights in the garage were still on and then invent excuses to go see him.
"Well, I suppose we both needed to be watched over," Tom replied, pulling Sybil back into him.
"Well, there's no one watching us now," Sybil smiled mischievously as she stood on her tiptoes to reach his lips.
Sybil sighed contentedly as Tom's mouth worked to open hers. He let his hands wander down her spine as Sybil ran her hands through his hair. She didn't know happiness like this could exist. So much has changed, she thought, since the last time I was in this room.
There was a knock at the door.
"Ignore it," Sybil said against Tom's groan.
"They know we're here," Tom whispered as he placed a final kiss on Sybil's forehead and redid his tie and collar.
Sybil pouted as she went back to unpacking.
"I hope I'm not interrupting," Mary said coolly.
"Not at all," Tom lied and forced a smile. Realizing that she wanted some time with her sister, he decided to leave them be. "I was just going to see Matthew."
Mary watched her sister smile as Tom left the room and shut the door behind him. Sybil was ecstatic, that much was evident. With her coat off, her stomach was even more so evident; her face more rounded than it once had been too.
"You're really pregnant," Mary said, still working to comprehend the news.
Sybil smiled, "I'm not pretending, if that's what you're asking."
"No," Mary said. "I just, well, I can't believe it, that's all."
Sybil stopped unpacking for a moment and sat on the edge of her bed, letting her hand rest instinctively on her stomach. "To be honest," she said, "there are times I can't believe it either."
Mary was still trying to sort it in her head. She wasn't the best at interpreting shocking news, as evident by her reactions at Sybil's arrival. "How?" Mary asked, saying the only word she could get her brain to wrap around.
Sybil laughed. "I don't think you really want to know that, Mary," she replied.
"No," Mary said shaking her head. "How long?"
"Nearly five months," Sybil said.
"Five months," Mary repeated shocked.
"You're not upset, are you?" Sybil asked, worried that her sister would be angry that she had kept this from her for so long.
"Upset?" Mary asked. She was far from upset. In fact, she was happy for her youngest sister. "Of course not! I'm to be an aunt, and you're going to be a mother. I'm just still trying to understand. I wasn't expecting this!"
Sybil smiled, she was glad for her sister's presence. She had missed Mary in her time away from Downton, and to have her companion back now, someone to be on her team through this, it was a welcomed feeling. "Well, Tom and I weren't exactly expecting it either."
"But you are prepared for it, aren't you?" Mary asked, the question she had been wondering since Sybil arrived. Was her younger sister prepared to birth and raise a child?
"Mary," Sybil said, placing a reassuring hand on her older sister's knee. "Tom and I work; it doesn't mean we're starving to death."
"No," Mary said, not wanting to offend her sister, "that's not what I meant. I was just wondering, well, in your condition you can't work, and with Tom just moving here, I'm assuming he's not found work yet."
Sybil shrugged. "Tom and I will make due."
Mary shook her head. There were times when she wondered if she would ever understand her younger sister and her views on money and hierarchy, but she loved Sybil all the same, and at the root of her worries was a genuine concern for not only Sybil's welfare but also that of Tom's and their child's. "Well, as long as Matthew and I are here, you'll always have a home."
Sybil smiled. Having Mary on her side would be a powerful advantage. "Thank you, Mary," Sybil said honestly.
Mary's eyes rested again on Sybil's stomach. She found herself fascinated by the tiny life growing inside her sister, but if Mary was being honest, it seemed that any "tiny life" these days seemed to latch hold of her heart. Mary had never thought much of babies, finding them needy, unnecessary, and otherwise a nuisance, but lately, it seemed that every infant she passed sent a warm longing through her bones that left her aching for something more. And now, the only image she could seem to summon was one of tiny Crawleys and Bransons playing in the courtyard of Downton.
"Oh!" Sybil said as she began rubbing the top of her stomach in hopes that the tiny infant would subside its kicking.
Mary looked quizzically at her sister. "Sorry," Sybil offered. "It's just he's kicking me right in the ribs."
"He?" Mary asked. "Is there a way to tell…for certain?"
"Oh no," Sybil said, rather enjoying for once having the upper hand with Mary. "But Tom is convinced it's a girl, so for the sake of an argument, I'm siding with a boy."
Mary nodded, this at least, she could understand. "May I…well may I feel it?" she asked shyly.
Sybil smiled at her sister's self-consciousness, this was such a side of Mary Sybil had never seen before. "Of course," she replied.
Mary cautiously moved her hand to her sister's stomach. She was surprised by its tightness. She let her hand rest there for a moment before she felt a tiny pop right on her palm.
"Oh my goodness!" Mary said, pulling her hand away quickly. "Was that it?"
Sybil laughed at her sister's reaction, "Yes, what do you think it was?"
"Does it hurt much?" Mary asked, reaching back for her sister's stomach.
"Not much," Sybil replied. "Only when he catches me in the ribs."
Again, Mary felt the tiny kick on her hand. She let out a carefree giggle at the tiny infant's persistence in trying to remove the hand from his mother's stomach. Sybil laughed with her sister until they had both fallen back on the bed, grateful for the presence of the other.
"I think you'll make a great mother," Mary said quietly.
Sybil smiled at the ceiling, thankful again that her sister was on her team. "When the time comes," Sybil said. "I think you'll make a great mother too."
Thank you all again. I must admit that I had a great deal of fun writing the Mary/Sybil scene. I love those two girls together. As always, comments and suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks!