Before and After (4/4)
Title: Before and After
Fandom: Downton Abbey
Summary: Sybil and Tom's thoughts before and after they tell their family of their plans to marry.
Author's Notes: Last one. Sorry again!
He heard her say his name, his first name too, how long had he wanted her to call him that? Not that this was the first time but even after so many weeks it still gave him a little thrill to hear it from her lips.
He waited a moment, staring defiantly at them, before Lord Grantham started to move towards him and he made his exit. It was one thing to show them he wasn't afraid of them but it was quite another to have your fiancée's father kill you with his bare hands.
Sybil walked quickly, he didn't know where she was going but he followed her anyway because he felt like leaving her now was something he couldn't handle. She stopped suddenly and leaned against the wall, her eyes closed.
"I think that went rather well," he said lightly, trying to lighten the mood.
Sybil opened her eyes but didn't smile and he recalled her plea that he let her do all the talking, not to say anything out of turn, which was something he'd pretty much blown within the first few seconds.
"I'm sorry," he said, hoping she wasn't too upset, his mother always warned him of being too quick with his temper and he was trying, he really was, but faced with them all there, judging him because luck hadn't dealt him a set or rich or titled parents. "I didn't mean to be so – Your grandmother did have a right to hear it from us."
"No," interrupted him, placing a hand on his arm, "I needed that. You were right- though don't let it go to your head. And thank you for reminding them I have my own mind too."
He smiled, promising to keep his ego in check and pulling her into his arms. Inside though he was fighting down a scowl at the memory of her father suggesting he had seduced her, as if she didn't have her own mind or the ability to make her own decisions. Yes, he knew he could be over-confident at times and perhaps he had gotten impatient but if anyone was capable of putting him in his place it was Sybil. He had no doubt had she not wanted him like he wanted her she'd have asked him to leave Downton long ago.
He knew they could only speak briefly, someone may follow Sybil and Tom thought it best he was gone by the time that happened. He still had to be sure though, that she was certain.
He pulled away, even though he was reluctant to do so, so he could meet her gaze, "You really are sure about this?"
He never should have doubted her though, and before he knew it he had to kiss her, for all his grand speeches he was at a loss for words when she finally told him what he'd wanted to hear since he'd confessed his feelings to her in York. He simply poured all his feelings into his kiss, hoping it was enough because right now his words seemed far too inadequate to express his overwhelming joy.
"I love you," she told him again, breathlessly, after they had separated, her hands still tangled in his hair and Tom felt his heart soar. Perhaps he should be thinking about how to get out of the house alive, or the fact that telling her family was just the beginning but his mind had gone blank. He thought he'd been happy when she'd agreed to run away with him but even that paled in comparison to this moment.
"I love you too," he told her, though she probably already knew that as he said it every single day. Sybil laughed and kissed him again before they both seemed to remember he had to leave.
"There's a staircase over there that the maids use," she told him, "It should take you back to the servants' hall."
He nodded, then left before she said something else like that because then he might not leave her at all.
He kept to the narrow staircase, confident that if he followed it long enough he'd emerge somewhere in the servants quarters and it he was seen wandering around at night out of uniform now not much would happen aside from a few confused questions. No one had officially said it but he was rather certain he no longer worked at Downton.
He reached the bottom of the staircase and thankfully came out in a familiar hallway near the kitchen. He tried to school his face into a more appropriate expression than the stupid grin he was still wearing. He took a deep breath and fought it down to a simple smile which would have to be good enough.
Most of everyone else had already gone to bed, two hall boys were discussing something down the hallway but they paid no attention to Tom. He decided to head straight out and to the inn when he saw a familiar figure walk out of the servants' hall.
"Anna," he called quietly, surprised she was still awake.
"Oh, Mr. Branson." Anna jumped slightly, putting her hand to her chest. "You startled me. I'm glad to see you're still alive."
"Sorry, and it was a near thing," he told her and they shared a smile. "I've taken my things to a room at the Grantham Arms, I'll be staying there until after Mr. Matthew's wedding, when Sybil and I leave."
"Shall I tell Mr. Carson?"
"No, I'll come back tomorrow morning to tell him where to send my outstanding pay, if I'm still getting any, that is," he added with a small smile, "and to tell everyone myself. I know they'll most likely not understand but I'm not ashamed and I won't hide."
Anna smiled and her eyes unfocused for moment, her mind seeming to go elsewhere and Tom remembered that he and Sybil weren't the only people in Downton who faced obstacles to their happiness.
"You should get some rest," Tom told her, realising she had probably been heading to bed, "I'm sorry to have kept you up."
"I was up anyway," Anna told him, "Lady Sybil has given me some things to think about. She's very brave, to do this."
"She is," Tom agreed. He knew giving up his job was nothing compared to what Sybil was risking. "Goodnight, Anna," he said, not prying into what Sybil's actions had made her consider. He could guess, and he hoped that one day she and Mr. Bates could be as happy as he and Sybil were tonight.
He exited the house without meeting anyone else and spared his beloved garage one last glance before setting off to the village.
He'd packed and taken his things to his room at the Grantham Arms early that morning, he hadn't had much left, he'd been sending things back to Ireland since Sybil's sisters had convinced them to stay and tell her family first. They'd both agreed it would be easiest if he could leave the grounds as soon as possible after the announcement.
He was halfway to Downton village before he even realised it, but his mind was caught in a loop. One thought pushing all others out.
She loved him.
She loved him.
She loved him.
It didn't feel like he'd thought it would. He'd thought, after so long and even being so sure of them, actually hearing her return his feelings, would be an end to his waiting. Instead, it felt like a new beginning. One he was more than happy to start by her side.--
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