Here it is...the last chapter. First off, I want to say a special shout out to queenlovett who appears as Jimmy's American lady friend (she's *really* friendly, according to her cousin Reed), and I want to dedicate this chapter...TO YOU! *ALL* OF YOU WHO HAVE READ, FOLLOWED, FAVORITED, AND REVIEWED THIS STORY! This has been such a joy to write and so much fun to share. I loved that I got to take one of my favorite movies and turn it into a Downton story (and a multi-character/multi-ship one at that!). Anyway, I hope you enjoy this last chapter. THANKS AGAIN AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
P.S. for extra feels, go to Youtube and look up "God Only Knows" by the Beachboys (the song that's played at the end of the movie) and play it while reading this last chapter.
In the New Year…
Cameras were clicking and flashing and various voices were screaming for his attention. Thomas Barrow smiled and lifted his hands in the air to wave at both his screaming fans and the various photographers as he made his way through the arrival's gate at Heathrow, having just returned from promoting his record and talking on a few American late night shows in New York and Los Angeles.
Sarah O'Brien decided to take a rather long holiday herself, much to Thomas' surprise. She realized it didn't matter what she did, he would find a way to get into the various antics that he got into with or without her there and quite frankly, she felt she deserved a holiday after everything that had transpired leading up to Christmas. But thankfully, he had behaved himself (or as best as one could hope for such a man as he) while in the US, and Sarah did find some time to relax. Now he was back, and she was there at the airport to greet him.
Thomas continued smiling for the cameras, and then turned his dazzling smile on her. She couldn't help but grin back, feeling that things were, at least for the moment, better now between the two of them. He threw his arm around her shoulders and waved again, before pointing at her and saying, "world's best manager, right here," to which she poked him in the ribs with her elbow, however she couldn't help but blush at his compliment. She knew she should treasure them now; they wouldn't last, and soon the both of them would be back to their old ways, at least until next Christmas.
"Welcome home, Thomas," she greeted, and then turned her attentions to her client's latest boy toy, who had been left with the task of dragging the luggage. "And um…hello…?"
"This one's Edward," Thomas murmured into her ear.
"Ah!" She smiled at the young man, already worrying if she needed to check his ID to find out just how old he really was. "Well, hello Edward!" She turned and looked at Thomas, muttering out of the corner of her mouth. "Whatever happened to Jacob—"
"Jamie," he corrected.
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever happened to the other one?"
The pictures she had seen uploaded to her mobile from Thomas when he was in Los Angeles featured him with a rather tanned and hard-bodied chap and not this young, pale, ginger-ish lad.
"Cramped my style," Thomas said with a shrug, before putting on the charm and smiling big to a group of screaming fangirls who were begging him to come to over and let them get a picture with him. Sarah sighed and gestured at Edward to follow her.
Nearby, Matthew Crawley watched the spectacle and chuckled to himself. Leave it to someone like Thomas Barrow to steal all the attention from the arrivals gate where the Prime Minister herself would soon be exiting.
He turned and grinned, pleasantly surprised to see his mother and Dr. Clarkson. "Mother! What are you still doing here? I thought your flight was scheduled for this morning?"
"Delayed for some reason or another," Richard explained with a shrug of his shoulders. "But they upgraded us to first class! And our flight is ready to start boarding…"
Isobel grinned and turned back to son. "Please give Mary all of our love," she said with a smile as she stood up on tiptoe and kissed her son's cheek.
He smiled and gave her a hug, as well as shook his new stepfather's hand. "Have fun in Barbados," he told them. "But not too much fun; and don't send ridiculous pictures where you're bragging about the beautiful, tropical weather while the rest of us are trapped in cold, snow-covered Britain."
Richard chuckled and Isobel gave her son a light swat on his arm. "A couple are allowed to enjoy themselves on their honeymoon, and if that includes sending you pictures and bragging about what a wonderful time we're having while walking barefoot on a white-sand beach…then so be it."
"Come along, my dear," Richard urged, gently pulling on Isobel's arm and giving his new stepson an apologetic smile. "See you in a fortnight, Matthew!"
"I'll be here to pick you both up—I'll be the pale one, wearing at least three layers."
"Ah yes, but how will we be able to tell you apart from all the other pale ones?" Isobel teased before giving her son one final wave, and turning to join Richard as they made their way to the gate.
Matthew sighed and smiled as he watched them go, before turning his attention quickly back to the arrivals gate and hoping to catch sight of his own lady love.
A few feet away, Robert Crawley was standing off to the side, away from the group of people he had come to the airport with, talking on his mobile to his new secretary. Shortly after Christmas, Robert returned to the office only to discover that Jane had handed in her notice. Apparently she had met someone over the holiday and had more or less "moved on to fry bigger fish". In many ways, Robert was relieved, but of course this left him with the hard task of trying to find a new secretary. Thankfully, Anna had stepped in to help.
"So everything is set for that meeting on Thursday?" he asked.
"Yes sir, oh! And I was able to get you those two tickets you had requested; would you like me to keep them for you here, or ship them out to your house? I'm sure I can get a messenger boy—"
"No, Anna, that will be fine; I'll pick them up tomorrow when I come in," he said with a smile. "And…I know, you're probably getting very tired of me saying this, but…thank you, for stepping in and helping as you did, and…well, for agreeing to do this. I know being my secretary may seem like a demotion—"
Anna giggled and Robert could imagine her shaking her head as she spoke. "No, no, I actually enjoy it, to be honest! I get to interact with more people, and…it's helped me come out of my shell a little bit."
"Well, you're certainly very organized and capable—and I will make it financially worth your while, I promise," he vowed.
"Thank you sir, but I am glad I can help."
He smiled and thought he heard another voice in the background. "Is that Bates?"
"Yes, would you like to talk to him?"
"No, no, that's alright, I um…Anna, I'm very happy for you," Robert told her, meaning every word. He was also very proud of her for having the courage to take that leap of faith, and he was happy for his friend, too. In all the years he had known John Bates, Robert had never seen the man look happier. Everyone should be just as lucky, he thought. And he would spend the rest of his days making up for the foolish mistakes he had committed and that had nearly ruined his marriage.
A soft, bashful giggle could be heard on the other end of the line. "Thank you sir…and thank you for your encouragement."
"Oh Anna, no, no, I don't deserve that sort of praise or gratitude. You did it all and you alone."
There was a pause and Robert thought he detected the slight sound of whispered voices murmuring back and forth, and the words "love" and "you" being exchanged.
"We take one day at a time, sir," Anna explained, her voice filled with light and merriment. One day at a time, Robert thought. Very good advice indeed.
"Oh! I think…yes, yes, I see her; thank you Anna. You and Bates continue running a tight ship while I'm gone!"
She laughed and gave a hearty, "yes sir!" before hanging up. Robert turned to join the rest of the group he had traveled to the airport with, which included his daughter, her husband, and her husband's best friend.
"SYBIL!" Edith called, waving her hands over her head. "Can she see me?" she asked Anthony. "You're taller, you wave!"
Anthony lifted an arm high in the air, but didn't seem to be as confident about shouting his sister-in-law's name as his wife was. But Evelyn did that for him, giving Anthony a cheeky grin. "SYBIL!"
Sybil gasped at the sound of her name, and saw through the crowd three people waving their arms at her, including her sister who happened to be jumping up and down. "HEY!" she called, laughing and smiling at the sight of them. She turned back over her shoulder and felt her heart go out to the handsome Irishman who was standing just behind her, pushing the luggage cart and looking rather nervous.
"Tom, come and my family!" she said with a grin, joining him at his side.
He gave a worried smile. "I don't think I've ever felt this nervous before in my life," he confessed. "I mean, I'm not only about to meet your parents, but the Prime Minister of Great Britain as well!"
"Well, if it helps, she's not here yet," Sybil reassured, noticing that it didn't seem to be doing much to keep him calm. "Oh Tom, they'll love you! How could they not?"
"Because I'm the man who 'stole their daughter/sister'?"
"You didn't steal anyone," Sybil softly chastised. "Besides, how could you steal someone who not only came to you in the first place, but who wanted to stay by your side for the rest of her days?"
He smiled down at her and felt his fears ease slightly at her words. "Alright, just…don't get your hopes up; I doubt they'll love me half as quickly as my family loved you."
She gave his bicep a swat before wrapping her arm through his and guiding him towards the small welcoming committee. "Well, here he is!" she said with a grin, going up to her sister and giving her a big hug. "My husband!" she grinned, saying the word very proudly. "Oh Edith, you're not wrong, it is SO MUCH FUN to say that!"
Edith laughed and smiled at Tom, before offering her his hand. "Edith Strallan," she greeted, before turning to introduce Tom to the other two men. "And this is my husband," she said with a grin at Sybil, "Anthony," who smiled and shook Tom's hand, "And our friend—"
"Evelyn!" Sybil said, smiling at the sight of Mr. Napier. "How wonderful to see you again! I don't think I've seen you since Edith's wedding."
"I offered to drive everyone to the airport," he explained with a kind smile. "And good to meet you, Mr. Branson!" he greeted, shaking the Irishman's hand. Evelyn glanced over at Edith and felt his lips curl with a smile. Things were better now, or they were certainly getting better. While his heart still ached for the beautiful middle daughter of Robert and Cora Crawley, he felt that this would be the year when he would be able to finally move forward.
"OH PAPA!" Sybil said, smiling at her father, who came forward and gave her a big hug. "Oh how wonderful to see you again! I've missed you!"
"We've missed you too," he murmured, looking at his daughter and feeling his heart swell at the sight of her. He then turned to look at the man who stood by her side, and who also happened to be standing rather stiffly and swallowing nervously as Robert met his eyes. "And it's…Tom, yes?"
"Aye, sir," Tom quickly answered. "Tom Branson."
Robert nodded his head. "Good name," he said with a smile. "Well, it's very good to meet you Tom," he murmured, trying to be polite and friendly, when in truth, he was just as nervous as his new son-in-law. Cora was so much better at these things!
"Where's Mama?" Sybil asked, as if reading her father's mind.
"Her plane hasn't arrived yet," Edith explained. "But while we wait for her, tell us all about Dublin! I hope you brought pictures? Oh Sybil, we have so much to discuss about the vow renewal ceremony and reception! AH! I think I may quit the gardening business and go into wedding planning!"
Anthony forced a smile and then whispered to Tom, "Welcome to the Crawley family."
Across the floor, at the other end of the arrival's gate, stood another group of people, sipping coffee and tea and keeping a close watch as more and more people came through gate.
"I don't know why you're so nervous," Jimmy muttered to William. "You already told her how you feel—"
"But that was nearly a month ago!" William groaned. "This will be the first time we'll have seen each other, face to face—" he paused because he knew Jimmy would bring up that both William and Daisy nearly Skyped every day, "IN PERSON," he added, "since Christmas Eve…"
"Listen to your friend there, William," his father encouraged. He was standing next to Mrs. Patmore, who was happily sipping some coffee while having her arm looped through his. It was strange in a way, to see his father "courting" The Edwardian chef. But he was happy for them both, just as he was happy for Mr. Carson, who was also there, sipping coffee with Mrs. Hughes on his arm.
"Your father is right," Mr. Carson added. "Have faith, lad, and—" he stopped and his eyes widened slightly as he saw a familiar face approaching the arrivals gate. "William!" he hissed.
William turned and felt his breath leave his chest as he took in the sight of the very girl he had been thinking and dreaming about ever since he met her, and who he had been counting the days to when she would step foot once again in England. "Daisy!" he gasped, and moved towards her.
Daisy grinned and waved her hand at William, and William couldn't help but stare in amazement at her transformation. She looked…well, he always thought she looked beautiful, but…she looked…STUNNING! Her curly hair had been straightened and hung beautifully off her shoulders, and she was wearing a pretty and flirty-looking black and white checkered coat with a red belt at the waist, a silk scarf around her neck, and just in case anyone ever wondered where she had been all this time, a black beret. Yes, Paris had been good to her, it seemed. William was floored.
"Hi, William," she practically purred, smiling with a sparkle in her eye.
William merely gulped.
"Oh he should have kissed her!" Charles groaned under his breath.
"I agree!" Beryl sighed. "I was hoping to see something out of a movie, where he just swept her up and dipped her!"
Both Elsie and Mr. Mason chuckled. "No, no, he's doing fine," Mr. Mason reassured, smiling down at Beryl.
"I agree," Elsie concurred, turning and looking up at Charles. He caught her eye and saw the sparkle in them, a look that despite his age caused him to feel thirty years younger. He turned his face just slightly, and Elsie grinned as she stood up on her tip toes, and gave his mouth a quick kiss.
Yes, things were going very, very well between both he and Elsie Hughes.
Over back where the rest of the Crawley clan were standing, Robert had once again broken away from the others and was keeping his eyes peeled on the arrivals gate. He wanted to be the first to greet her before the others had their chance.
When she finally appeared, pushing her small luggage cart in front of her, Robert felt his breath catch and his heart stop at the beautiful sight of her. "Cora…" he whispered.
Despite all the noise in the airport, she turned and met his eyes, and Robert couldn't hold back the emotional smile that spread across his face. "Cora…" he murmured again, and she smiled even more as she quickly approached.
"Oh Robert…it's so good to see you!"
He wanted to take her in his arms and hold her so tightly and never, ever let her go. But he needed to see her eyes first, to see what she was thinking and feeling in their beautiful blue depths. "Do you mean that?" he asked, hoping beyond hope that perhaps, they could begin again?
She blushed but nodded her head. "Yes…" she whispered. "Yes, and I missed you so much. But…but thank you, Robert, for your willingness to do this, for giving me the time I needed."
He nodded his head, not trusting his voice any further. All that mattered was that she was home, and they were together again. One day at a time, he thought to himself. That was what Anna had said, and never had more perfect words been used. They would take one day at a time…and hopefully rebuild the foundations of their marriage…and make it stronger.
"Before our daughters attack," he teased. "May I…have your permission to kiss you?"
Her eyes were shining with tears and she nodded her head. "I was hoping you would," she confessed. He smiled and leaned close, taking her in his arms and letting his mouth cover hers, moaning in his throat at the wonderful sweetness that was his wife's lips. Never, never again would he take an extraordinary woman like her for granted.
He lifted his face and sighed, but smiled as they heard both Sybil and Edith squeal in excitement. "Come and meet our new son-in-law," he chuckled. "And I have no doubt that you'll like him."
As both Edith and Sybil embraced their mother, and then proceeded to introduce Tom to her, on the other side of the floor Jimmy kept his eyes peeled at the arrivals gate for another Edwardian employee who had scheduled to return from his extensive stay in America on this day.
"HEY! HEY! HEY! THE GOD OF SEX IS BACK IN BRITAIN!"
Jimmy whipped his head up and threw back his head and laughed at the sight of Alfred, tall and lean with his hair gelled and spiked and wearing sunglasses despite being indoors and the fact that it was January outside.
"Oh my God, you made it…" Jimmy laughed. "You made it and you're alive! I DON'T BELIEVE IT!"
Both friends laughed and embraced, but Alfred quickly stepped away, gripping Jimmy's shoulders. "You haven't seen anything yet," he grinned. "Jimmy, I would like you to meet…Reed."
Jimmy turned his attention then to a beautiful woman who came just behind Alfred through the arrival's gate, her dark hair flowing down her back, her cheekbones high, her skin glowing like soft, ivory porcelain, and even though she seemed to be wearing stiletto heels, she looked as if she were floating off the ground. She smiled at Jimmy, and her radiance glowed even brighter. She was long-legged and…and just…GORGEOUS! Jimmy's mouth fell open.
"Hi Jimmy," Reed murmured as she shook his hand, her American accent thick and warm, like hot melted caramel. "It's really nice to meet you."
"H-h-h-h-hello…R-R-Reed," Jimmy stammered, his face glowing redder and redder at the sight of the beautiful American. Holy shit…Alfred was right. ALFRED WAS RIGHT!
"Oh! And I want you to meet Elizabeth!" Reed said with a smile. "My cousin," she explained. "She's from Georgia. And she's really friendly. I invited her to join me, because she's never seen London! I hope you don't mind if she stays?"
Jimmy's eyes moved beyond the gorgeous woman in front of him, and gasped as another beautiful woman, with catlike grace and poise, began strutting towards him, not stopping until her arms were around him, hugging him tight and pulling him against her chest. "Hello, you must be Jimmy!" Elizabeth grinned, hugging even tighter.
Jimmy looked at Alfred over Elizabeth's shoulder and simply mouthed, OH. MY. GOD!
Alfred just smiled and nodded his head. Ah yes, he had been to the Promised Land, indeed.
Elizabeth giggled and took Jimmy's face in her hands. "Alfred said you were gorgeous," she purred, running her fingers through his hair, and without warning, leaning in and kissing him. Jimmy was stunned silent and simply stood there, gaping at the woman who had just kissed him and showed no shyness or regret. "I'm really glad I came now," she murmured, leaning close and kissing him again.
Jimmy met Alfred's eyes again, wider and even more amazed than before. God bless America, indeed!
However, Alfred, Jimmy, Reed, and Elizabeth quickly moved out of the way as several bodyguards cleared the arrival gates, and all the cameras who had been there to snap pictures of Thomas quickly returned to get a glimpse of the Prime Minister as she entered the room.
"PRIME MINISTER! PRIME MINISTER!" shouted several reporters, while Mary simply smiled and waved her hands at the crowd that was gathered. But in truth, her eyes were scanning the crowd, and stopped…when they fell on a certain man who was pushing his way through.
The bodyguards, who were keeping the reporters from crowding her let her fiancée through and Mary grinned as Matthew walked right up to her, and without a moment's hesitation, took her in his arms and not only kissed her, but dramatically dipped her low like in an old Hollywood movie.
"Matthew!" Mary gasped, blushing deeply but grinning all the same. "This is hardly proper!"
"Oh hush," he muttered against her lips, kissing her again despite the thousand flash bulbs that flickered around them.
"Matthew, let my sister breathe!" Sybil shouted from where she was standing, giggling and grinning at the sight of her sister and her cousin.
Mary and Matthew rose back to their full height and laughed, blushing and smiling sheepishly at the cameras and then moved over to where the rest of the Crawley family stood, meeting new members, reuniting with old ones.
Sybil smiled as she hugged Tom and introduced him to her sister and her cousin, and then continued to smile as she back at the arrival's gate, where more and more people continued to exit and greet their loved ones from all over the world.
"Love is actually all around," she murmured with a smile.
"What did you say, love?" Tom asked.
She smiled up at him and simply answered his question with a kiss. God only knows where they all would be, without each other, and without love.