Disclaimer: I don't own any part of Downton Abbey. If I did, a certain character would still be around.

Author's Note: Major spoilers for season 3. I was considering a fic along these lines near the end of the season, but the scene near the end where Tom sees Mary and Matthew with his little girl sealed the deal. It was just too perfect.

Here to Stay

In the end it's Mary who convinces Tom to stay at Downton. It isn't anything that she says, really. But it's her just the same. He supposes he should have known it would be. When Sybil had finally admitted her love for the chauffer, Mary had been one of their strongest opponents. Tom knows now that it wasn't because she disliked him. She was just trying to protect her little sister. Ever since the wedding, ever since they saw how happy he and Sybil were, Mary and Matthew have been his strongest supporters. They've fought his corner when no one else would. Since Sybil's death, they've only fought harder for him. He owes them both a great deal.

Mary has suggested more than once that Tom should stay at Downton, at least for a while. For a long time he keeps turning her down. The house reminds him so much of Sybil and almost every dinner serves as proof that he doesn't belong in this world. It's Kieran's arrival that starts to change his mind. His brother has always been a bit rough around the edges. While he says some nice things about baby Sybil, he more or less ignores her the rest of the time. It makes Tom start to question the wisdom of raising his daughter above a garage with an uncle who will probably only tolerate her at best. But what other options does he have?

Then Matthew brings him onboard to help with Downton. It doesn't take Tom long to realize that he's actually quite good at it. He knows farming and he gets along brilliantly with Matthew. He knows in his heart that Sybil would far rather he be working here with her brother-in-law than in a garage in Liverpool. She wanted him to move forward. And as time goes on he's starting to feel less and less like an outsider in her family.

But it's the way they all treat his baby girl that really begins to change his mind. The way Mary protects her so fiercely. The way Matthew makes a fool of himself to get her to laugh. The way Edith lights up when someone brings Sybil into the room. The way Lady Grantham holds her for hours on end and Lord Grantham talks to her about anything and everything when he thinks no one is listening. The way the Dowager Countess and Mrs. Crawley compete with each other to give him the best parenting advice. The way the entire staff asks about her and does whatever they can to help Tom. Mr. Bates helps build up his confidence, Anna makes Sybil a baby blanket, Thomas buys her a wooden toy car, Mrs. Hughes offers to watch her when the nurse takes a day off, and a teddy bear appears in the basinet one day that Tom is fairly certain came from Mr. Carson. As Tom sits and holds his little girl one night, he starts to wonder if she'd be better off at Downton surrounded by people who love her than being raised by her father and questionable uncle. Because, like every father, Tom wants the very best for his little girl. And wouldn't she be better off as the granddaughter of an earl than the daughter of a mechanic? If he stays, she could have a proper governess to teach her. She could have anything she wanted, become anything she wanted. And as much as Tom values his pride, he knows he'll lay it down in a heartbeat for his little girl.

Even so, he doesn't realize that he's made up his mind until after the annual cricket match. When he sees Mary holding Sybil in her arms with her face so full of love and Matthew sitting protectively behind her with a wide smile, he knows that he's here to stay. He tells them all that it's only temporary, only until Sybil's older, but in his heart he knows better. This is what his wife would have wanted. This is where his baby girl deserves to be. She belongs here.

And maybe, just maybe, it's possible that Tom belongs here too.

So how was it? Please leave a review and let me know!