A/N: I've been working on another story, bridging some of the gaps between 3x06 and 3x08, but, after seeing the S/B challenge (anywhere but bed) I caved and put it aside for this. Admittedly, it's not as steamy as others I've read, so apologies in advance. Also, it's late, it's been a long week at work, and this is entirely unedited, so all the errors are mine and mine alone.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, and Sybil is alive and well here (damn you, Julian Fellowes, for making this non-canon).
Tom never got used to life at Downton, at least not upstairs. The formality, the clothes, the structured conversations, and strained politeness were more ritual than reality. In his exile at the estate, he had ably learned to play the part of an Earl's son-in-law and somehow managed to tolerate the polite pretenses, much to his wife's approval. They both knew their shelter there was temporary until Ireland became a free state and they could return home. It was their promise to each other. But, in the meantime, they played the hand they were dealt, which included her giving birth to their son in the posh bedroom in which she grew up and him agreeing to manage the estate when old Jarvis objected to and fled from Matthew's modern ideas for Downton. And, to everyone's surprise, including his own, Tom proved an able resident agent. He was a hard worker and was determined to put all of his talents and energy into helping his brother-in-law transition the estate into a new and profitable era.
He had compromised, but not to the extent of attending lavish parties out of town. Three months after Bobby's birth, he and Sybil were left alone at Downton while the rest of the family, including the Dowager Countess and curious Cousin Isobel, ventured to London to attend the wedding celebrations of Lady Rosamond Painswick's late husband's favorite niece to the Prime Minister's youngest son. It was the sort of affair Tom dreaded as a member of the Crawley family. He fashioned the (somewhat plausible) excuse that the estate's business took priority. Sybil silently supported him, particularly since the Home Secretary was sure to be in attendance and would certainly be eager to meet the couple he had secured a safe exile for. She told her parents that she didn't feel up to traveling just yet and didn't want to subject Bobby to hours on a train. She assured her parents they would be fine, left behind at Downton. And, in truth, with most of the staff given leave for a few days while the family was away, she was glad to have the big house to themselves for a change.
Ironically, at Downton, they felt suffocated by the palatial surroundings, the constant attention, and the insistence of a nanny to care for the baby, which they had so far successfully resisted. If all had gone according to their original plan, they would be back home in their snug Dublin flat, just the three of them, in blissful solitude. But, Downton had become an adjustment to their dreams, and they coped as best they could, and the new family addition kept them occupied with little time for wishful thinking. The past three months had been spent learning the differences in Bobby's cries, how to settle him down, what his sleeping patterns were, and most importantly that if they wanted to rest at all, they had to sleep when he did. Tom even quickly overcame the revolting practice of changing the child's soiled clothes, stubbornly insisting that there was no need to wake the staff in the middle of the night.
During his first six weeks, they found themselves up and down all during the night, exhausted, until one morning when Anna pulled back the curtains. The new parents awoke with a start under the glaring sunlight and simultaneously bolted out of bed, converging at the bassinet in the corner.
"Is he alright?" Tom asked, petrified, as his wife wrestled the baby from his blankets and hugged him to her.
Sybil almost cried tears of relief when Bobby started whimpering, disgruntled that he had been awakened after a peaceful night's rest.
"Thank God," he sighed, then placed gentle hand on his son's warm back, reassuring himself with every breath beneath his palm.
"Nothing to worry about, Anna," she said, shaking her head. "He's never slept through the night before. It just took us a little by surprise."
By then, Bobby himself was reminded why he typically awoke in the middle of the night and began nuzzling his mother's chest.
Sybil's cheeks pinked suddenly. "Lord, but you're an impatient one," she said. "Just like your father."
Fortunately, after their son adjusted to his post-womb environment, he proved to be a sound and reliable sleeper. And, at three months old, Bobby had become the delight of the family. Even his grandfather proudly presented his first, albeit Irish Catholic, grandchild at a recent cricket match.
The week of solitude in the old house had given them a renewed sense of freedom, with private mealtime conversations, escapes beyond town in (their) old Renault, and lazy hand-linked strolls through the fields he inspected on the far reaches of the estate. But, the family would arrive on the morrow's morning train, signaling a return of the formality and customs.
Their last evening meal alone together had been taken in the small family dining room, with just Carson to attend them. Mid-way through, Sybil excused herself upon hearing Bobby's hungry cries. Tom politely asked the butler to prepare the remainder of his wife's meal on a tray.
Tray in hand, Tom nudged opened the door to their room with his toe and smiled at the now familiar sound of his son's snuffling as he feasted on his own supper, lulled into contentment by his mother's soft voice. "You look so like your father," he heard her say.
Too preoccupied with the nursing baby in her arms, she didn't notice her husband when he paused at the door. "Isn't he the lucky one," Tom said with a smirk. "Supper in bed."
She glanced up, smiling, as he eased the door closed.
He placed the tray on the bedside table and sank down beside her, placing a soft kiss on her lips. "He may not appreciate it now, but someday he'll realize that there's nothing more satisfying than lying in the arms of a beautiful woman." It wasn't often he could make her blush, but it pleased him to no end when it happened.
They watched as Bobby's tiny hand popped out of his blanket, his fingers curling and grasping his mother's ivory skin. Though he was still intently concentrated on the task at hand, he directed his eyes, brilliant blue and alert, from one parent to the other. Tom leaned down and brushed a gentle kiss against the baby's cheek, then turned to press his lips against the warm swell of his wife's nursing breast. Closing his eyes, he thanked God for them both, a nightly prayer given the difficulty she had bringing their son into the world.
He pressed another kiss to her brow before moving to rummage for his pajamas in the wardrobe. "I promised Matthew I would have some figures worked up for him, so I'll be in the library for a bit. Don't wait up for me."
Sybil watched as he changed on the other side of the room. The familiar ache had returned. She wondered if it would ever come back after Bobby's birth, or if her body had simply transformed to celibate motherhood, thinking of nothing but caring for their child. But, she remembered the individual moments, the kisses, the touches, and the hot flush of her skin as his fingers traced the unencumbered path left by discarded buttons. She closed her eyes, praying that this wasn't some unfair fleeting moment of desire. As Tom tied the belt of his dressing gown, he stopped briefly at her side. He smiled proudly at the baby and leaned down to kiss him goodnight. "Oíche mhaith," he whispered against his son's downy hair.
No, she thought, watching as he closed the door behind him. I've never wanted him more.
After a half-hour hunched over the large table staring at multi-colored maps and scribbling in a ledger, his shoulder muscles began to revolt. He scrubbed one palm against his eye to quell the sudden fatigue and cursed his procrastination from the previous week. He had promised Matthew some hard figures on restoring the cottages at the far eastern end of the estate, along with how to diversify the corresponding fields, but his brain refused to cooperate. As he shook his head to clear it, he felt a warm pair of slim arms lazily capture his waist. He sighed with a contented smile, covering her hands with his own.
She nodded against his back. "Sometimes, it's like a dream," she said. "I can't believe we made something so perfect and beautiful."
He turned in her arms, noting with a raised brow that she had yet to fully button her gown. He reached down to button it up and she stopped his hand, slowly moving it to cup her breast, her other arm snaking around his neck as she kissed him. His eyes closed against the old, but familiar sensation; her breast was decidedly fuller than the last time they made love, some two months before the baby was born. He felt an immediate tightening in his groin and he couldn't help but crush his mouth against hers in return. Despite his caution when molding the soft flesh in his hand, he felt her wince against his lips. He pulled back quickly, out of breath. "I'm sorry," he gasped.
"No, don't be. Sometimes I'm just a little sore if he doesn't get completely full."
"Does that happen often? Why haven't you told me?"
She laughed as he rattled off his concern, "Darling, its normal. I'm perfectly fine," she assured him, pressing a kiss to his chest before moving up to nip at the underside of his jaw. "It's been quite long enough, don't you think?"
He squeezed his eyes and swallowed, hard. "I can't believe I'm going to say this, but perhaps we should wait. I don't want this to be uncomfortable for you."
She slipped her hands beneath the hem of his shirt, her fingers trailing upward, sifting through the soft mat of hair on his chest. "It won't be," she whispered, touched by his concern, but impatience finally creeping into her tone. "I've seen Doctor Clarkson, and we've well passed all that as long as I feel up to it."
"And do you?" He knew that was a stupid question as soon as he said it.
"Feel up to it?" she replied, nodding with a sly grin on her face. "I think that's a question better aimed at you." One hand slipped through the waist of his pajama bottoms and began to stroke him, a tantalizingly slow movement with her supple fingers.
His eyes fairly lolled back in his head as she began to work an old familiar magic on him. Jesus, it's been too long, he thought.
Reluctantly, she released her grip on him and began unfettering the remaining buttons of her nightgown. His eyes drifted down as the garment slowly parted, exposing her body, now beautifully carved with the vestiges of motherhood. The silk slipped from her shoulders and pooled around her feet in a whisper. She tugged at the drawstring of his pajamas, drawing him back with her toward the fireplace on the opposite wall.
Tom's slippered feet followed as if in a trance, his eyes unwavering from her naked form silhouetted against the warm glow of the fire. How many nights had he woken in the old chauffer's cottage, in a cold sweat, dreaming of her just like this, in the library, with him? He though it only a fantasy, but then again, the thought of them finally married, happy parents of a beautiful baby boy had also been a fantasy. And, yet, here they were, with a healthy start on the life they both dreamed of, still incomplete, but perfectly content.
She pulled him down with her to the floor, and quickly divested him of his nightshirt and made short work of his pajama bottoms before sitting astride his hips, leaning down to kiss him. Her tongue hungrily sought his, and caught it playfully between her teeth with a smile. Instinctively, even though this part of her seemed to have been on holiday for the last few months, she ground her center, warm and throbbing with renewed desire against him. His breath came in short shallow gasps, and he closed his eyes, focused on staying his release, but their last time together had become a distant and hazy memory. He reached down to guide himself into her, but she quickly replaced his hand with her own, and her simple touch nearly drove him over the edge as she sank down on him.
The warm sheath of her body was a familiar feeling that had been abandoned too long. She took him in slowly at first, and deep, much deeper than he remembered possible, before setting an all too familiar and rhythmic pace. His thumbs brushed gently against her nipples, mindful of her role as a mother, before sneaking one between them where they joined to tease her. He smiled at her then, watching as she threw her head back, waiting patiently as her release built into a tight coil. Her hands sought his as she came, her fingers clutching weakly as wave after wave consumed her.
He pulled her palms to his mouth, stroking her skin with his lips as she came down. He could feel his own release building, triggered by the sensation of her core wrapped around him, warm and soft as silk, clutching him in rhythmic patterns. His hands suddenly clutched at her hips, urging her to quicken the pace. She complied with a teasing laugh, bending down to press a kiss against his brow, and then his mouth, capturing a loud moan as he arched his back and spilled into her. She continued to rock against him, savoring every last spasm. He finally laid back, relaxed, his eyes pinned to the ceiling as his body effectively became a dead weight on the floor.
She bent to kiss him again, but he was too exhausted to do anything except close his eyes and relish the feel of her lips against his neck, cheeks, and finally against his mouth. He felt her smile against his lips, and beneath heavy lidded eyes, he responded with a lazy grin of his own.
Later, they laid back, toes warming against the embers of the dying fire, their bare feet peeking from under a thin blanket she brought with her. Satiated, he rested comfortably against a pile of plush red pillows borrowed from the nearby sofa, his wife snuggled into his side. He waited, recognizing the sound of her deep heavy breaths as she drifted off to sleep. The sound had become a balm to him in their exile at Downton and he realized that as long as they were together, they were home, and he smiled in anticipation of the contentment morning would bring.
The keys jangling from her waist, Mrs. Hughes began opening the rooms downstairs in preparation of the family's return by luncheon. As she strolled into the library, her feet skidded to a halt, her eyes wide in shock at the sight on the floor. She popped a hand against her mouth to prevent the audible gasp threatening to escape. She turned to leave discretely, but then realized that one of the maids, if they were meeting their schedule, would be right on her heels to light the morning fire and begin the daily chores of dusting and cleaning, not to mention fluffing the pillows now wedged beneath the Earl's youngest daughter and her husband. She backed out of the room, slowly, slamming the door behind her in a not-so-subtle attempt to wake the two decidedly naked young lovers.
Momentarily, Mr. Carson thudded across the oriental rug and met her in the hall. "Good Heavens, Mrs. Hughes, what was that?"
She shrugged innocently as the library door inched open behind her.
Mr. Carson stood, ramrod straight and mouth agape, as two robed figures appeared in the threshold, hair disheveled, and a suspicious blanket poorly hidden behind them.
Mrs. Hughes smiled, the expression on her face somewhere in the no-man's-land between apology and embarrassment. "I imagine young Master Branson is waiting for his breakfast, wouldn't you say?"
"Most likely," Sybil replied, her features aglow with a satisfied smile. She pecked a quick kiss on her husband's reddened cheek before heading for the stairwell.
Abandoned by his beautiful wife in the palatial foyer, Tom glanced first at Mrs. Hughes and then to Mr. Carson, who glowered at him as if he was a naughty boy caught in the pie safe. He cleared his throat awkwardly before padding quickly in Sybil's wake.
Mr. Carson shook his head, slowly, the shame washing over him as the bare-footed former chauffer scampered up the carpeted stairway. "If his Lordship had been here…."
"If his Lordship had been here, you wouldn't have said a thing, Mr. Carson."
"That is the type of behavior that will bring disgrace on this household."
She tut-tutted. "They're young, in love, and don't forget, they're married. Leave them be," she rebuked, and then smiled at the echoes of playful laughter cascading down from the gallery above.
A/N 2: Oíche mhaith – "Goodnight" (thank God for Google)