A/N: So a whole chapter of SYBIL AND TOM. Many thanks to PiperHolmes for reminding me that I had this chapter written already and it just needed a bit of fixing up by giving my version of Tom and Sybil much love on Tumblr yesterday. Also, many thanks to Faeyero who read this once upon a time. A long time ago, as in literally before we said goodbye to Sybil on the show and in my grief I tossed it! I must thank her whenever Grace is involved. It is very much necessary. Also, I do hope this is okay. There are such great writers when it comes to Tom and Sybil that I get insecure when it is focused on them, like this chapter (I didn't feel that way in writing Grace) so be gentle with me. This chapter takes place just before Mary receives her letter from Sybil. So chronologically, this happened first. OH, we are rated M.
Sybil walked back into her shared bedroom with Tom on bare feet, in a nightgown gifted from her sister as blue as her husband's eyes, hair already braided, voluptuous lips thinned into a frown after rocking her daughter to sleep. She would have to wean Maggie soon, a thought she didn't relish, not only because of the pain because it meant Maggie was growing up, it meant that her little hand wouldn't rest on Sybil's breast, just the two of them rocking. On top of that, there was the subject of going back to work. Would she? Should she? When she chose Tom, she knew she wanted a family with him and she knew she wanted to work, to do something important together. But she certainly had not thought of the logistics of weaning a baby and deciding whether she wanted to go back to being a nurse. If she did, was it wrong? And if she didn't, was that wrong too? Would she be betraying her past self?
She could remember months and months ago, when Tom agreed to visit Downton, how Sybil passed through every room of the house and touched every piece of furniture, hard won with hard work. It was mis-matched in a lovely way. She loved it. She had pressed a pillow to her chest and nearly cried. This is where Robbie took his first steps. This is where he fell and hit the back of his head, six stitches and a nearly drunk Tom later ("It's the blood; it's always the blood. And don't look at me like that, like I'm not capable. I played midwife to our son, remember?"). She had to tuck them both in that night, push back their hair and while giving them a kiss on the forehead, thanking God they were hers. But she walked through the house before they left, holding a yellow pillow with a stain of something on the back, missing their home with it's thinly patched roof already. Now, looking back, she could blame the hormones induced by Maggie. But Sybil had not wanted to leave. She knew Tom definitely did not want to, though he would never say so. She loved their house. She loved their live. Pregnant, leaving for what would turn into months, Sybil had felt as if her life was changing and she had not liked it.
She liked to go forward, not back.
Now, they had been back in Ireland for just a week. Sybil still liked their mismatched furniture and it seemed Kieran had actually done as he promised and fixed the minor hole in the roof that leaked when it rained. It should have pleased her but it did not. She could remember rainy days, before Robbie, or perhaps Robbie had been results of those rainy days, where Tom's sighs and groans and the plunking of rain drops in a bucket were her whole world, just Tom's gasps, her own cries, and the rain–the three of them making the loveliest melody. It had been Sybil's version of a fairy tale.
And when she found out that she was pregnant with Robbie, it was Tom's voice, talking to her belly and the rain–the four of them. That's the way it was and that's the way it was. For all her talk in her adolescence of change and reform, it wasn't easy for her. It didn't take her five years to accept Tom; it took her five years to accept the changes that would come along with marrying Tom. And there had been so many changes in the last year.
It still was a fairy tale in some ways, she told herself as she walked towards the room she shared with Tom, where he was waiting. Maggie had been fussy. As she had been since they had returned to Ireland. The only home she knew had been the Dower House. Meanwhile, Robbie had staged a revolt–a hunger strike–because he missed his cousin, Gracie. Really, Tom and Sybil deserved it after all their rebellious attitudes and actions. But the little boy had taken up the cause again tonight, banging his silverware and demanding, "Gracie!" in a chant. Sybil was lucky that Tom was the kind of father who would wrangle Robbie and tell him in no uncertain terms, "You'll eat what's put in front of you or you'll go to bed, boy-o" and then marched the boy upstairs to his room as promised. The poor little boy was tired and cranky and sad from travel and change and went to sleep without much (more) trouble. Sybil could relate.
Tom was reading, as usual, but looked up as she entered. "That's a lovely nightgown," he murmured, taking in the skinny straps and silk and lace the color of the very bluest skies.
"Mary gave it to me," Sybil replied. She didn't mean to be short with him. It wasn't their way. But she felt just as testy as Robbie as she slipped into bed.
Tom wrapped his arm around her shoulder, setting his book aside. His nose found her hair as he whispered, "Still, it is a very lovely nightgown."
"Tom," Sybil snapped. She hadn't meant to nor had she meant what she said after. "I'm tired. Maggie was fussy. Don't get handsy." As an afterthought, she added, "Please."
The fact that they had not been intimate since before Maggie was born though the time had passed when they had to abstain loomed in front of them. It sat between them in their bed and their bed was not that large. But first she had been recuperating from the birth. Then, all the terrible trouble with Richard and Mary had taken place. She had not want to talk about it with Tom. She had only wanted to act, to do anything to make it better for Mary. And realizing what Mary had suffered was the exact opposite of an aphrodisiac for Sybil. And then there was the question, the possibility, the probability of another baby. She knew what the church said, what Tom's church said, and now hers too. But she knew about contraception too and she knew how to get it. They'd talked about it briefly because obviously it was very easy for them to make a baby and obviously they both enjoyed the process but ever since Mary...
She knew Tom was frustrated, not just with the lack of intimacy, although there was that, but with the fact that she would not talk to him about it–about her feelings over Mary's attack or leaving Downton. She'd closed up.
"Sybil," Tom sighed. "What can I do? How can I help?"
"Let's don't make a big deal of it. The baby was fussy. I'm tired." She turned over, away from him.
"I'm not talking about that," he sputtered, still sitting up. "I mean, that is part of it. But not the most important part. I'm worried about you."
"What's there to be worried about?" she intoned. "I have a wonderful husband and two children who are all healthy and well. We have a roof over our heads. There is nothing to complain over."
"I know it wasn't easy to leave them," he murmured, touching her shoulder.
"You don't," she retorted, shaking off his hand.
"I don't what?" he asked, cluelessly. The woman could still be an absolute mystery to him.
"You don't know," Sybil snapped, "You don't know what it felt like to leave my family. To leave my sister, Mary and Gracie and Jack."
"Don't be nasty, Sybil," Tom warned, snapping the sheets firmly in his hands. "It doesn't suit you."
"Right. I forgot. I'm the genial sister. I'm so sorry that I can't live up to–" She stopped, closing her eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Maggie was fussy. Robbie is...Robbie. I'm tired."
He put his hand back on her shoulder. This was why she loved him. That he would put his hand right back there after she shrugged him off. "And you said goodbye to your family. After we've gotten used to being with them. After just getting to know Gracie, and then Jack. After a long absence from your sister. I could go on."
Sybil bit her lip to keep from crying. "Please don't."
"Oh, Syb. Come here." She turned in his arms. He rarely called her that and only when they were alone. Oh, Syb, he would say, you make me so happy. Syb, of course I'm pleased your pregnant. And then that final time when she'd been in complete denial over her changing body, his hand warm against her still flat. Syb, I think we have another one growing in here. She had not heard him call her that in so long. She hadn't realized it but he only called her that in Ireland, not just in Ireland but in their home, not just in their home but in their bed, when it was only the two of them. Oh, Syb.
"Oh, Tom, I love you," she murmured into his neck. He never did wear pajamas to bed. She'd had to to buy him some when they had been staying with Granny. Her hands found his back and his hair and she pressed a small kiss to the corner of his mouth. "I miss her so badly."
"Of course you do, love." He whispered into her hair. "And it's perfectly all right to miss her."
"We almost lost her," she replied, shuddering. "I can't forget that." The use of the collective we proved they are back on even footing.
"We'll see them again," he promised.
She leaned back, her hand still in his hair, and looked up into his blue eyes–the eyes both their children shared. She bit her heavy bottom lip and shook her head a bit desperately. "When?"
Both his hands framed her face. He did not have an answer for her. They had two children. His book had just been published in Ireland and he'd become something of a local celebrity, even while abroad. There was work to be done here. And Matthew and Mary were tied to the estate. He did not have an answer to her desperate when so he kissed her, pressing his lips to hers. It wasn't meant to distract her from the ache of missing Mary. It wasn't meant to seduce her into finally jumping back on that horse again. It was to remind her. Me and you, Syb. We can do anything. We can overcome anything. You're for me and I'm for you. The rest is details. Me and you, Syb. He must have murmured it as they parted because she was nodding and leaning forward to capture his lips again, her hands tightening in his hair. Her leg snaked around his hip as his teeth found her voluptuous bottom lip. Still, it was very hard...perhaps difficult was a better choice of words to know what she wanted. Perhaps she only wanted a pat and a cuddle and he could oblige her though he was practically dying from going without her for so long.
Her hands slipped down his chest near his heart as she pressed herself close and her lips found his neck. His eyes crossed. "I know you liked this nightgown," she murmured against his skin. He could feel the vibration of her voice. He was dying. "But would you mind very much if I asked you to take it off?"
His hands were reaching down for the hem before she finished her questions, the silk feeling nearly as glorious as her skin. "Are you sure?" he murmured against her lips. "Please God be sure." His voice was as fervent as a prayer.
They both remembered the first time after Robbie. They had waited but they'd both been eager. And they'd both been surprised, well Sybil had been surprised with how much it, hurt. Though Tom knew–he could very well tell–she had not had the heart to tell him that it was worse than the first time ever between them.
The first time had happened to the sound of the raining hitting the bucket and Sybil could not stop biting her lip. She had wanted him. Badly. What a revelation to know she could feel that way. Ladies didn't feel that way. But she'd given up being a lady and she shed Lady Sybil along with her clothes, her fingers shaking not with nerves as Tom thought (Don't be nervous, Love. I promise. It will be all right) but with anticipation. He'd realized that when she'd uttered, "Oh, I do hate buttons very much!" They'd laughed together, winding towards the beds like drunks.
She wanted him now again. Here. With two children between them and a body that did not look the same. And she didn't want to talk about weaning the baby, or going back to work, or if there would be another baby. "Please God be sure," he repeated as his hands ran up her sides and then rubbed her nipples with her thumbs.
She hissed. "Tom."
"Ouch. I'm sorry. I forgot those belong to Maggie these days." His grin made her smile and laugh, lift her hand to trace her lips as his hands gentled and she began to ache.
"Perhaps they're just rented out to her currently," she replied. She pressed her bare feet to his shins. She knew it would hurt but she wanted him, now, with or without the rain. She wanted to remember that it was Tom and Syb against the world in the small bed in the mismatched house. And that it was as simple and as easy that. "And yes. I'm sure. Hurry. God."
"Thank you; thank you." His lips covered her collar bone. She felt the shape of his words rather than heard them. "I've tried to be patient and understanding."
"You've done very well," she told him as she lifted her arms for him to remove the nightgown.
His eyes were hungry, even in the darkened room. "Sybil, you have no idea."
Her cool hands wrapped around him and he stilled momentarily. "I have some idea."
He gulped, closing his eyes and moaning. "I have to have you or I'm going to die. I am literally going to die."
"Die?" she asked, stroking him. In the process his hands found her hips and then moved lower. She moaned low in her throat. "Oh," she groaned out in understanding.
It did hurt, though not as much as it had after Robbie, and not as badly as the first time either. It felt uncomfortable and Tom could tell. "Tell me how to make it better," he panted. They could always talk, about anything. "Just tell me and I'll do it, Syb."
She shifted on her elbows, rolling on top of him. "Just. Let. Me." Her breath blew out into his mouth and he reared up to kiss one hand in her hair the other balancing them as she set the pace, as she decided, when his hand left her hair to press between them, that she wanted him faster and deeper. "If you keep doing that–" she ground out.
"What?" he asked in her ear while he kept doing that.
She fell against him, with a long feline moan, pulsing around him so that second later he let out a shout that she silenced with her mouth to keep from waking the children. But she made sure he didn't pull out of her (as some men did to keep from making a baby, a sin they called it), clinging to him, holding him with strong arms that would not let go because in that moment, especially in that moment, she could not bear to part from him. She could not bear it for all the riches in the world.
Afterwards, she lie in a sprawled mess across his chest. They were both sweaty. "It's like riding a bicycle," Tom murmured into her hairline.
"I don't know how to ride a bicycle," Sybil replied.
"Well, you know how to do this." She heard his smile.
"I did have a good teacher," she laughed.
"Good?" he tickled her side. "Incredible. Amazing. These are all adjective better suited to my skills."
"I wouldn't know," she murmured and pressed a kiss to the skin above his heart. "I don't have anyone to compare it to. There's only ever been you."
There's only ever been you.
She felt him melting at her words, every muscle softening. Between the two of them, he was the one with the biggest, softest heart. The rest is detail. What a romantic. And yet in the end, in his arms, she realized he'd been right from the start. She'd made it complicated. It wasn't even complicated for Matthew and Mary. What happened was awful. It would haunt Sybil forever. But Matthew and Mary loved one another. The rest was detail.
After a few moments of silence, she started. "I missed her so much when she was in New York and I didn't know where she was. I missed her and I worried about her. But meanwhile, we were living our lives and having Robbie...I used to think that staying at Downton, not leaving with you, would be the worse thing that could happen to a person."
"Oh, Syb." He stroked her hair.
"What happened to her...It infuriates me. Not in the way the vote infuriated me or even the way Ireland's right to freedom infuriates me. Remember when you told me about your cousin? The one who was shot during the Easter Rising? You were so angry. It was a sad story. It was wrong what happened. But I didn't understand how it feels when something truly horrible happens to someone you love." She tilted her chin to look up at him, still on his chest. "What he did. The first time. What happened to her..." Sybil began to cry. "She used to let me slip into bed with her. She had to help me into it. We would lie with the covers over our heads and she would tell me all her secrets about different boys. It was so innocent. I mean, we were. We had no idea who we would end up with. We couldn't imagine it. But the future was this bright and shiny thing...And what he did. I just can't."
"There's nothing I can say to make it better," he replied.
"No," she agreed. "You can't. And I can't either. She's living her life. She's happy. She is loved and she loves. And if she can...move beyond it, then I can too." She shook her head. "I don't have a right to be upset."
"Yes, you do. You love her," he told her.
"She didn't tell on us," Sybil added, speaking of their plans so many years ago to marry. "She could have and she didn't. People thought she was cold hearted, cold blooded."
"I'm sorry to say I though that too."
"She taught me how to ride my first horse. With such patience. All I wanted to do was canter but she patiently took me through the paces. When things were bad, we could link pinkies between the folds of our dresses and no one would see. But we would know."
"And what would you know?"
"That we were in it together, whatever it was," Sybil wept. "And I did not link pinkies with her when he–"
"You didn't know. She didn't want you too. She was protecting you as much as herself."
"I know," she nodded and wiped her eyes with the her knuckles just like Robbie did. "But for the past few months, while you wrote your book, we've kept those pinkies locked together. We haven't let go."
"You still haven't," he insisted.
"People thought she was cold but I always knew she would be a wonderful mother because she was a wonderful older sister to me. She hugged me, you know. Not many people did, before you. She tapped my nose and linked pinkies with me. She let me read her letters from suitors. She did not let me cantor until I was ready." She paused, on the verge of weeping again. "I have loved seeing her as a mother."
"I think...I think what we have is a miracle, Syb. And Mary is a miracle, too. Her family with Matthew, too. We're so lucky," he told her.
"That's what she would say; that's what she says." Sybil sat up and held the sheet to her breasts. Tom followed and wrapped his arms around her, his chin on her shoulder. "She held that beautiful baby boy with that little girl tucked to her side and Matthew looking at them adoringly and she said, Aren't I lucky? Isn't this the most wonderful life? And then she took my pinky. It was hard because I'm holding Maggie and there's so many babies between us and she said, Don't I have the most wonderful sister?" Sybil wept silently.
"I love you," Tom kissed her shoulder.
"And I love you," she replied. Sybil would have to live with it, as Mary had, as Mary did. Sybil would have to let it make her better, as Mary did. Sybil would hold tighter to her children, to her husband, as Mary did, because there were worse things in the world than not being able to run away with the chauffeur. Who cared whether they had two babies or twelve? Whether she was a nurse again or not? Her family was safe and whole and she was in Tom's arms. And tomorrow, she would write Mary a letter. She would be strong. She would be the older sister because now Mary was the one who needed a bit of tending. "Will you read to me?" she asked. She asked him all the time, in Ireland, in their mismatched house. But now she wanted him to read his book and he wasn't as obliging. "From where you left off."
"Will you stay naked?" he replied with a grin and a wink.
"Marriage is about compromise," she returned with a nod.
So they settled against the pillows, her head on his shoulder, a single candle lighting the way of the words he himself had written.
The first time I saw her, I was in the front of the car driving and she needed a new frock. That was all I knew, as she and her mother talked and I realized she was everything I knew the aristocracy to be: rich, spoiled, entitled. I did not like her. I gave myself a pat on the back for expecting her (them) to be this way. I certainly never considered loving her or wanting her. She was only a girl in need of a new frock, when my people were crying out for freedom on the land they'd toiled on for centuries.
The next time I saw her, we were alone. I did not mean to speak. But I asked her if she would have her way with the frock. Her mother wanted one thing and the youngest daughter wanted another and I wanted that daughter to want something different, even if it was only a frock; even if it was a small and stupid rebellion, it was a spark of something. She'd mentioned the vote and I handed her pamphlets. I should not have done this but I did it anyway. I did not love her yet. I did not see her and think, there is the woman I want to marry. I looked at her and thought: there is a girl who could change the world if she decided to. But first she must decide to.
"It seems rather unlikely," she told me gently that day. "A revolutionary chauffeur."
It galled me that I was a chauffeur and in England too. I felt as if I sold out, given up. My brother wrote me letters and I read about what was happening and here I was trying to make a bit of money to put away for my ma and my brothers and if I was honest, for myself as well.
I told her I would not be a chauffeur forever.
And she believed me. It was as simple as that for her and suddenly became as simple as that for me. I lost a little piece of my heart to her that day because she had eased a manner of guilt without knowing. But I did not know I loved her yet.
I watched her work hard to find one of the maid's a position as a secretary. It was difficult and did not happen quickly. Her zeal did not waver. And still I did not look at her and think: well, that's the woman for me. I watched her, through the window, in her harem pants; I watched her helping the maid and I thought: there is a girl on the verge of becoming a woman who could change the world if she wanted to, if she decided to.
This is when I began to like her, as no chauffeur should like the daughter of his employer: when I told her the news that the maid had gotten the job and she squealed and jumped up and down and hugged me, like a child. I was a person to her. All those important rules and lines did not matter to her. And so I took her hand and I asked, I don't suppose you'd...
The head housemaid intercepted me and thankfully so, because I'd used the line with great success on a great number of girls back home. I only liked her, not enough to lose a job over but too much to take advantage of her and suppose anything. Somewhere along the line, she became a person to me, a real live person to me, not my employer's daughter, not a Lady, not an Englishwoman. I saw her heart laid bare and it was no different than the hearts I knew and loved in Ireland. But still, I did not love her. She changed me, changed how I thought of the "enemy," but I did not love her. I couldn't.
No, I loved her when she cried over a friend's death at the beginning of the war. His name was Tom, also. It surprised me that she knew my name at all but it shouldn't have. Of course she knew it. I was a person to her. I was a man who could be called up, who could die, made of flesh and blood. She let me see her cry that day and then she told me she was going to learn to be a nurse. And I thought: here is a woman who is changing the world; here is the woman I love and am meant to be with. She just has to decide to be with me in return.
I did not consider that she was English and titled. I did not think that one of her frocks cost a year's worth of my salary. I did not imagine how my own people would treat her and treat me for choosing her, when she finally came back home with me. I did not see how loving her, Lady Sybil, made me any less Irish or any less revolutionary–all things friends, family, and foes pointed out once she came to Ireland with me. I only considered what it would be like to change the world with her, the two of us together. And I found I liked that picture very much...I found I could base my life around it, changing the world with someone beside me. And not just someone. Lady Sybil Crawley. An Englishwoman.
"Are you asleep?" he asked her, pausing and setting the book down.
"No," she murmured and kissed his chest, her lips moving up and up to his lips. "It's our love story you've written."
"Well love and politics may seem an unlikely pair but apparently my understanding of one only deepened the other," he explained, smiling as she kissed his chin, his nose, pushed back his hair and kissed his forehead.
"That's what you told the newspaper when they interviewed you. That a love story can be political and politics are just a love story gone wrong." She shifted, her hips finding his. "Tell me something I don't know."
"Hmm." His hands began to untie her braid. Normally, she might swat him away but she didn't. "I miss your sister too. And Matthew. And Gracie. And Jack. And Baby, of course. And I promise, someway, somehow, we'll see them again. Just like someway, somehow I got you to marry me."
She smiled fully for the first time, her eyes widening as his hands traveled. "It seems rather unlikely."
"Don't you know by now to believe me," he whispered to her lips as just as she gasped at what he was doing...
Her hands tightened on his shoulders. "You know I always bet on you."
Afterwards, before she fell asleep, knowing Maggie would wake her soon again anyway, she hoped that Mary felt as happy and as loved as she did in that moment. In the small bed, her husband pressed against her, in the mismatched house, her pinky curved against the sheets. Be happy, she prayed silently for her sister. Then, since Tom, the visionary believed it, Sybil added confidently: and somehow I'll see you soon.
A/N: I hope it is up to snuff. Let me know. Xo to all you Tom and Sybil shippers. (Just because I have never written a whole story for them doesn't mean I am not one of you! ;) )