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dizzy_whore
02 November 2011 @ 08:53 pm
Characters/pairings: Sybil/Branson
Rating: T (some sexual references)


She would never, ever admit it but she did get jealous, sometimes. Especially when she noticed Ethel was coming around the garage and biting her lip and swaying left and right and laughing at every little thing he said. The feeling itself was silly, she reasoned, because only twelve year olds got jealous. She was above petty things like that. After all, he wasn't a toy. Other women were allowed to look at him, and should it surprise her?

She knew she found him attractive. She had always known that. It was the shoulders, mainly: studying them from the back seat as her sisters gossiped about Miss So and So and Mama fussed about something or other. Then gradually she became brave enough to study his profile (solid features, Classical), then finally the eyes (so blue, it made her think of clear water). And she knew he was studying her too and found herself wondering what he saw.

But Sybil was a high minded girl and knew this was natural, knew deep down that despite what the conduct books hinted at women did feel desire. She had spotted it in the corners of the Greek myths, of her beloved Jane and Mr Rochester, of paintings with women with round beautiful fat stomachs lazing in meadows eating pomegranate seeds.

And she was sure he felt it too, and it felt dangerous, because she felt at any moment she might snap and end up wanting him too much. And how could they stop, really, once they had started?

He had such a frantic, all-encompassing energy that she was afraid he might swallow her whole, and then what might be left of her after? She wondered if he made love the same way, consuming everything.

Oh God, she was such a child, though he was so very strange and she couldn't help but think of his past, of the ghosts of old lovers' lips on his skin. And then sometimes their eyes met and oh God, it was an electric current shooting through them both and she had to look away. And she saw his shadowy profile against the pane of a hotel window and the moonlight on his skin.

Between the sheets maybe she could make a home for them.

Between the sheets maybe they'd call each other by their first names ("Tom" she'd say, her lips in a small 'o', and she'd repeat it like a prayer "Tom Tom Tom")

Between the sheets they'd make up a future (a cottage somewhere, some babies, lots of books and summers spent eating strawberries)

Between the sheets she'd tell him she loved him (finally) and that, no matter what, the world outside of the sheets wouldn't stop her (a hope or a lie, she could never be sure)

Branson, Tom--

Stay between the sheets with me.


 
 
dizzy_whore
30 October 2011 @ 01:58 pm
Title: The Road
Rating: G
Pairings: Sybil/Branson
Notes: Set in 1916

They couldn't make out the sound properly at first. It sounded like a siren. It winded up and down, up and down. It broke through the unusual silence between them. He had noted how tired she looked and had enquired after her general well-being, but she had been snappy, unusually taciturn. He decided to leave it alone.

The car rolled to a stop when Branson spotted it; grey feathers, a twisted neck, a siren call.

"What is it?" Sybil asked quietly.

He got out of the car and she followed. He looked down at its black eyes, marbles. Sybil stood next to him.

"Poor thing." He murmured.

She swallowed, trying to stop the panic rising up, trying to stop the fear take over her body. "What do you think happened to it?"

"A car, most likely." Branson replied. The goose made irregular weak noises as it struggled to stand upwards.

Branson walked back to the car. Sybil stood, motionless. In her mind she could see it all again; the howls of pain, the blood, the black eyes; all merging together into an awful fog. And so she stood, silent, trying to control the storm within her.

When he had returned he had taken off his jacket and knelt beside the creature. He tentatively brought his hands around his neck and---

"Stop!" She croaked. He looked upwards, surprised. "There must be something we can do."

He looked even more confused. "But it's in pain."

"We can save it." She said, her voice cracking ever so slightly.

"No we can't."

"How do you know?" She said, and then she realised there were tears in her eyes, and he stood up, his face so gentle and so loving and oh she couldn't stand that look, couldn't stand him seeing her like this.

He went to touch her arm, before drawing it back, constantly aware. "Lady Sybil..."

She burst into tears. Oh God she felt sick and so tired and every nerve in her body was just screaming. And he stood and watched and let her cry. Because it was what she needed. He wasn't sure how long he stood there, before she stopped, her cheeks wet, her body bent over. Carefully he picked her up into his arms and slid her into the back seat of the car because he knew of those kind of tears, the kind of tears that drained you. She barely felt it, but was aware of the warmth of his body, the itch of his uniform against her cheek.

He looked at her. "I'm sorry, Lady Sybil." He paused, unsure of what to say.

"I saw a person die today."

"I know."

"I couldn't do anything."

He looked downwards. "You did everything you could, I'm sure."

"But it wasn't enough. I'm weak, powerless against death."

"We all are, Lady Sybil."

"Then what's the point?"

"The point is you're brave enough to try." He said, and her breath hitched a little. He paused, his brow knotting as he took in a deep breath. "I saw my Father die."

She looked up, trying to scan his face, and as usual his eyes spoke of everything.

"I'm sorry you had to see someone die, Lady Sybil." He said, smiling weakly. "I'd give anything to forget. But the fact you're doing this...well..." He stopped, suddenly shy.

"I understand." She offered after a long silence. "You don't have to say any more."

He swallowed. "I have to, you know."

"I know." She smiled sadly.  

He smiled at her, and when he turned back he saw she was slowly falling asleep. The sun filtered through the window of the car and warmed her skin and he knew then she would be okay. She always would be.

He wrapped his hands firmly around the goose's neck and in a single, fluid movement, the road became silent again.
 
 
dizzy_whore
29 October 2011 @ 12:22 pm

Thoughts about the Sybil/Branson spoilers for episode 8

Am
I the only one a bit disappointed that the Earl gives them his
blessing? It just seems totally unrealistic to me. Violet and Cora would
never forgive him for it, plus it places Edith's and Mary's prospects
in jeopardy***. I know because of what he does with Jane he would seem a
hypocrite, but let's face it, having a snog with the maid is a bit
different to getting married and having your daughter move to a country
that is soon to be ravaged by civil war (I mean at this point the Easter
Rising wasn't that long ago at all). Besides, sexual relationships between male family members and female domestic servants were surprisingly common.

Just seems a bit strange that a man who is so dedicated to
preserving the family line/his home would have such a complete sea
change. I mean, I know WWI did change things, but I can't imagine it
having a sudden effect (as opposed to an incremental, "drip drip" one) on a man who for all intents and purposes is a member of one of the most conservative part of society.

I
wanted more angst, I don't know. Maybe that's what we'll see with
Cora/Violet/Mary (but let's face it, they'll have to fall in line with
Robert). It's just a bit ludicrous if the whole family accept it so
soon. What is it going to be, Branson at the Christmas dinner table
getting served by his former colleagues? I don't think so.

Also,
Branson would probably end up being a journalist at the Irish
Citizen/Sinn Fein newspaper or something similar. Yes, being a
journalist has a degree of respectability to it, but I can't imagine
Branson working at a newspaper Robert would approve of.

Still super happy though :3 Let them be together, but I don't want Fellowes to make it all roses and happiness

Saying that, I'm worrying already about season 3 now, because you know no-one can be happy for long in DA.

***
Also say, for example, Mary doesn't marry Carlisle but he still lives.
Can you imagine the field day he'd have with this family? He'd have the
Pamuk scandal and have the chance to basically crucify Mary's baby sister all over the front pages.

**** And then him and Branson engage in a newspaper war which makes me happy
 
 
dizzy_whore
28 October 2011 @ 04:11 pm
Title: Bambrack
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Sybil/Branson
Summary: It's Branson's birthday
Notes: Set around 1915.  Also mild doses of fluff and angst

Branson bit gently into the sweet dough and had to stop himself from moaning in pleasure. The sultanas burst in his mouth, and all at once he was ten years old again and by the fire next to his Father. Bambrack with soft salty butter-- that was the memory of his birthday, which happened to fall on Halloween, and how his Mother would always bake him some bambrack after cooking him some skirts and kidneys and champ.

It wasn't quite the same as his Mother's, though nothing ever could be, that was one of the enchantments of childhood. And this was the cold, lonely garage of Downton Abbey was never going to be the cramped house of his youth with its splintered floor boards and thick, foggy glass windows. He tried to remember the last birthday he'd had where she'd been lucid, but couldn't. The last birthday with Jimmy he had been twenty. His Father, fourteen. All in all he'd spent two birthdays here on his own, eating bambrack wrapped in greaseproof paper that his sister-in-law and niece had made.

"Branson?"

He was shocked at how much her voice could still startle him. He turned around, wiping the crumbs from his mouth and trying to swallow his latest mouthful.

She laughed. "I'm sorry, did I disturb you?"

"No, it's--"

She moved forward. "What is it?"

"Báirín Breac." He said, and smiled a little at her confused expression. One day he would teach her Gaelic, he resolved. "Bambrack bread."

"It looks like tea-bread."

"Do you want some?" He said, holding it out. She inwardly smiled at his lack of decorum, the simple gesture of holding out food. She could just see Carson pale at Branson offering a lady a piece of food (which he was eating!) without even bothering with a plate or fork. It probably defied centuries of tradition, everything she had been brought up to believe, but it made her stupidly happy nonetheless. She ripped off a piece. She ate it delicately, with trepadation, in contrast to his ripping it liberally with his teeth, so homesick was he.

"It's sweet, but not too sweet." She said, before grimacing. "What on Earth?"

"Oh." He laughed. "You got the pea."

Her eyebrows knotted. "What? A pea?"

"It's a tradition, like fortune telling." He said. "It means you won't marry within the year."

She gave him a withering look. "Well I could have told you that." She paused. "Did you make it?"

He chortled. "Nah, I'm terrible at making bread. I can make a mean boxty, though."

"Then who did?"

"My sister-in-law and niece, most likely. Though Aunt Christine was probably there too, telling them they were doing it all wrong." He smiled a little at the scenario.

"You don't talk about them much."

"Hm?"

"Your family."

"You've  never asked."

"I thought it...rude, somehow."

He wilted a little. He knew so much about the Crawleys, as did all the servants. Their lives ran parallel but never equal. He could probably tell you who Mary had been flirting with you at dinner with the other week, Edith's latest dress fiasco, and he was fairly sure he knew a great deal about Sybil. But how many of them knew where their servants, the ones who shared in their lives so intimately, grew up? Did they know their dreams, their frustrations, their faults? Sybil tried, but there was only so much you could do to bridge over two lives like theirs'.

In the corners of his dreams he imagined taking her to Dublin, to the Rotundo to hear the political speeches where his Father had taken him to as a boy, to The Drunken Sailor pub to dance and to meet his family. He wanted to show her the veins that run through his city, the places of his memories: the fog curling in from Dublin Bay, Faithfull Place where he grew up with its slick cobbled streets and crumbling tenements. He'd show her the places where he and his brother played hide and seek, take her for a walk along Grattan Bridge when the sky was starry, and to Carnegie Free Library where he'd spent so many afternoons dreaming away.

But he couldn't shake the feeling it'd never happen. That his Dublin, their Dublin, would never happen. Where in the world could ever be theirs'? Not here. They created small spaces, but they were never big enough for what he felt, for what he was sure she felt.

She must have noted the change in his mood, so she brought herself a little closer.

"They must love you all very much." She said, her voice lower as she took another piece of the bread. "To make you something like this. God knows no one has ever made me a present in my life."

"Well, it is my birthday."

Her eyes widened.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"What did you think? You never asked. Servants don't just turn up without families or birthdays or pasts, you know."

She flushed and looked nervously to the floor, a mannerism of hers' he knew so well.

"I'm sorry." He said quietly. He dug his hands in his pockets and started to pace, before turning around."I just--" He looked at her face, the panic and fear running through his eyes, and stopped himself. This wasn't her fault. The truth was it was no one's fault.

She had to go all the way to Ripon Library to find it. "The Food of Ireland". She got "Customs of the Irish Peoples" as well, just to be careful.

She knew where to get a key to Branson's cottage. She went to the stationers and assembled colorful paper chains. She went to the sweet shop and ordered hard-boiled sweets of every colour, what seemed like endless lengths of liquorice, chocolate creams and Turkish delights.

He was out for all the day so she got to work cooking boxty, soda bread and stew, followed by a chocolate cake with green buttercream icing. The smells filled the cottage and Sybil found herself getting giddier with each passing hour, anxious for him to come home. It was an odd feeling, something that made her skin itch. She wanted to see his face, to see his smile when he saw his cottage, saw her.

Her hair was a mess, her cheeks white with flour, and she was fairly sure the smell of onions on her fingers would never wash off when he walked in an hour early. But at that point she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Because at once he saw their future- him coming home to her. And she looked totally unlike she ever had before: messy and imperfect, but more real and Earthly than ever, not the glass angel in an evening dress. And all at once they were in their small flat, wherever the hell they'd end up, and she was there to greet him. The future stretched out before him, bright, beautiful, possible.

"Happy birthday, Branson."
 
 
dizzy_whore
23 October 2011 @ 02:51 pm
Title: Blue and Violet
Rating: PG (very mild references to sex)
Pairings: Sybil/Branson
Notes: Set after the event in Ripon, but before the last episode of series one.

She smoothed over her hair and took a deep, sobering breath. She wouldn't be surprised if he slammed the door in her face: it was what she deserved. She had abused their tentative friendship, his trust. She hadn't considered him for a moment, considered his job (no, his livelihood) would be put in danger, and oh if it had--

The door opened before she had a chance to knock. They both jumped. He glanced nervously at the ground, and she had to puff up her chest and remind herself why she was here in order to fight her impulse to run away and avoid him forever.

"I owe you an apology." She said, trying to stop her voice from shaking. He didn't reply so she took another deep breath. "I was a silly little girl and I didn't think about the implications it might have for you. You didn't deserve it and I'll understand if you hate me forever."

She looked down at the floor and felt her cheeks burn. It was only when she heard a squeak of a laugh from him that she looked upwards.

"Your Ladyship." He said, grinning. "I appreciate your apology but it's not needed."

"What?"

"A little rebellion's a healthy thing, really." He said, shutting the door behind him. "I couldn't rightly lend you Das Kapital and then tell you off for attending a count, could I?"

She felt herself smile, and he smiled too, and they began a slow walk upwards towards the garage. The sun shone a cold light and the air had a bite to it- perfect walking weather, weather for getting lost in. Independently they thought of childhoods drowning in autumn leaves and skimming stones.

"I'm so relieved." She sighed. "I would never have forgvien myself if you'd have lost your job." She smiled a little smile to herself and added. "I even threatened to run away."

He looked at her profile for a minute, something swirling within him, something unfamiliar-- he was happy that she had--maybe?-- no.

"Where to?"

"Hm?"

"Where would you have run away to?"

"Oh, um, I'm not sure." She said. Again she felt that familiar sense of being very much the little girl in front of the worldly man. "I didn't really think it through."

"Well, I'd have been very sad." He said without hestitation. There was a somewhat awkward pause, but the chirping of the birds and soft crunch of the gravel beneath their feet filled it well enough.

"I suppose I should be getting back." She said, hands behind her back. There was a note of loss in her voice, of regret, or maybe he was imagining things. Maybe she was trained to talk that way, but he didn't like to think that of her, however uncomfortable the truth might be (the cold mask of the aristocracy can trick you into seeing things that aren't there, he warned himself).

"I suppose." He said.

"I'll see you soon." She said. He wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement or a demand from her. Once again he became acutely aware of the distance between them. How could this be a friendship, truly, when she held all the power? She wasn't aware of it, but with a flick of her wrist or a careless word she could devastate him. She held so much of him in her hands. He still felt her blood on his fingers, no matter how hard he tried to wash it away. In his dreams the limp weight of her in his arms crushed him, robbing him of all his breath. And he--

He was in love with her. He was in love with Sybil Crawley. 

Christ, he needed a drink.

That night he thought of all the women in his life. He remembered Nan , the girl he kissed in the park when he was six. Then Hattie and that humid summer spent kissing and feeling and screwing. Molly next (though he really didn't want to go there tonight) and Mrs Greene (again, he needed more drink before he even thought of her). Their images swirled together, all the sensations, the ups and downs in a blast of colour and sound.

Then the blast cleared, and there she was, smiling sweetly in shades of blue and violet.
 
 
Current Music: Live- Hold Me Up
 
 
 
dizzy_whore
21 October 2011 @ 08:38 pm
Title: Politics and Tea
Rating: G
Pairings: Sybil/Branson
Warnings: Potentially fluffy?
Notes: Set some time after their first meeting but before Ripon.

She twirled the pamphlet between her gloved hands and enjoyed the crunch of the gravel beneath her feet.

Everything was different here; very spartan and unfussy; yet these were the arteries of the house. This was where The Others lived. This was the other family that lurked in the corners and the shadows: the ones who emerged to dress and comb and clean and then dissipated into the air. She felt a twinge of shame at
realising the extent and wealth of the territory she had long thought it fine to go unexplored.

She reminded herself to walk confidently, though she couldn't help the feeling of trespassing. It was his home, after all, even though his home was a part of her home which meant...? She wondered if this how the moustached viceroys felt when they set foot in Calcutta or Lahore, a sense of uneasy ownership.

The door was open, anyway, and out rippled music (Dvorak, she mentally noted, a good choice). Gripping the pamphlet, she tentatively knocked on the door.

The cottage was small and smelt strongly of oak. Books spilled out of their shelves and onto chairs, the table, even the floor. Paper scattered like snow. She smiled a little. It was what she imagined from the little contact they had had.

"Oh, Lady Sybil I--"

She hadn't noticed him emerging from the small kitchen off the living room, cup of tea in hand. She started.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I didn't mean to intrude." She looked skittishly at her feet. He must think her very, well, posh and foolish. "I just came to return those leaflets you gave me the other day."

"Thank you." He said, taking them from her. Then an awkward silence, and she didn't move, and neither did he. "Would you like to come in?"

She snapped her head up. "Can I?" The note of surprise in her voice made him smile.

"It's your Father's cottage, isn't it?" He said, setting down his cup and saucer. She walked in hesitantly as he turned off the music. "Would you like some tea?"

"That'd be lovely, thank you."

They were both nervous, juvenile, aware that neither had any experience of this rather small act of rebellion over afternoon tea- the daring act of crossing over his threshold (she reasoned to herself- I am returning some pamphlets, all I am doing is returning some pamphlets. Already she was rehearsing the defenses against her Father's inevitable venom if he found her here).

She browsed the books and papers on his table (she noted "The Basics of Automobile Care and Repair" as well). Everywhere small notes in pencils were etched in margins in neat cursive. The spines of the books were worn with use. It added to the charm of the cottage.

She felt her shoulders roll back and her muscles slacken a little. There was something immediately familiar about this place.

He seemed a little alarmed to find her flipping through his copy of Mill, and she felt all at once very ashamed. How dare she feel this sense of ownership over him, over his things, his home? She placed the book down.

"I'm sorry, I'm just--"

"You can borrow it, if you like." He said, smiling, and she at once felt relieved.

"Are you sure you don't mind?"

"Not at all." He said, placing her tea in front of her. "Books are meant to be shared."

"I've seen your name on the library ledgers." She said, smiling. "You're rivalling my consumption of the written word."

They both laughed, and took a sip of their tea together.

"So what did you think of those pamphlets?"

"Very interesting." She said, placing her cup down. "Though I'm still to be converted to the benefits of militant tactics."

They went on to discuss this at length.

"Why are you intersted in women's rights?" She asked, leaning forward, a smile playing on her lips. "Forgive me for asking, it just seems odd for a man to be so involved."

"I got involved with the Women's Franchise League back in Dublin. Spent my time going to meetings, putting up posters, all that stuff." He leant forward as well. "I want a fair society and women should be a part of that and not just the franchise-- education, marriage law, medicine-- don't you think?"

She nodded in agreement.

"Women have been oppressed for too long, just like the Irish, just like the poor-- in a socialist society the sex of a person wouldn't matter-- it's a bourgeoisie concept and--" He stopped himself abruptly and leant back in his chair, making her blink in alarm.

"What is it?"

"Nothing. I just-- well--"

She placed her hand on top of his. "Please, Branson. Don't feel you have to censor yourself around me." She paused. "It might not occur to you but I don't have many people to talk to..."

They looked into each other's eyes: a warm ocean current, an understanding.

She snapped upwards and withdrew her hand.

"About politics, I mean."

"Yes, of course." He said, clearing his throat. "You can come talk to me any time, Lady Sybil."

"About politics." She added hesitantly.

"Yes, about politics." He said, taking a final sip of tea.

 
 
dizzy_whore
16 October 2011 @ 05:59 pm
i just wanted to show off
that is all
 
 
dizzy_whore
Set sometime in between Series 1 and 2.

1.
She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer
Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me
Oh no 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning


It had become, in a half-sad way, his home. This small cottage. Single bed. Bookshelf. An old gramophone (to drown out the silence). Papers scattered about the floor like stepping stones. The other servants called it a Cavern. In the night the dim orange light of his lamp shone through the smeared windows. He was a notorious night owl. There simply wasn't enough time to read during the day. And the solitude and silence of the night gave his mind freedom to roam over extraordinary places.

There was the pinpoint of light. She felt languid, a moth flapping its wings slowly in the night air. Drunk on too much wine and dancing. Hum, hum, hum. Her body spinned. The night was violet and full of promises. But a different promise emerged at that beacon of honey-spun light. To escape. To escape from identical men in identcal suits saying identical things. Men that looked to the floor and made excuses when she tried to talk about the Home Rule Bill or the women's franchise question-- heaven forbid.

He was exactly how she imagined him, bent over a book, so engrossed she wondered if he'd ever notice she was there. But he did.

"Lady Sybil." He shot up off his chair. "Is anything the matter?"

"No, no..." She laughed, her cheeks rosy. "I just started... walking and... ended up here."

"I see." He said, clearing his throat. "Would you like some tea, or for me to fetch Mrs Hughes--"

"I wanted, well, a...conversation. A proper..." She squeezed her eyes in frustration. She suddenly felt very stupid, very much the little girl she sometimes suspected she still was. "Conversation. About things that matter."

"Is your Ladyship talking about politics?"

"Yes!" She exclaimed, embarassed when she saw his startled expression. She rubbed her face. "I'm sorry. I've probably had a little too much wine."

"Sit down, your Ladyship." He said, motioning to a chair. "Do you want something to drink?"

"Stop acting like a servant for once, please." She said, draping her legs over her chair. "Do you have any whiskey?"

He laughed. "You presume because I'm Irish I'll have whiskey?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Well, do you?"

"Well...that's beside the point..." He said, blushing a little. "I'm not sure your Father would approve."

She gave him 'that' look. That strong, daring look that made his throat go a little dry. He opened the cupboard and poured out two small glasses of Jameson's.

"Cheers." He said, and raised his glass. She clinked it against his and took a swig, before twisting her face in disgust. He laughed. "First time?"

"That's disgusting." She said, sticking out her tongue. "Oh dear, you must think me very silly."

"Not at all."

She bit her lip. "Can I have another?" He poured her and himself another. It made her cheeks flush rose petal pink and it took all of his restraint not to kiss them. And she talked, and he talked, and they clinged to one another in the dark space, laughing and joking. He'd never seen her more relaxed and he began to drop "Lady" when he addressed her-- and she didn't seem to care, for right now she was Sybil and that was all she was. Sybil and Branson (he never much liked Tom, anyway, and when she said it it sounded lyrical, Branson. The distance seemed to erode).

"Oh and this man, oh he was odious, but I had to dance with him because he is Papa's friend's son--" She took another swig, grimaced, and then pointed. "He said women had no place in politics. No place in politics!"

"Why didn't you say no?"

"To what?"

"To dancing with him."

"Oh, Branson." She sighed, leaning back in her chair, and in the dim light he could make out the muscles and features of her neck. "Because a woman's place isn't to refuse a man. It's always to say yes."

"Sybil?"

"Yes?"

"You never have to do that with me."

They smiled ever so intimately at one another, and then looked down at their glasses, swirling the amber liquid laguindly around, in order to break the heat of the moment.

"Did you dance with many women in Ireland?"

He chuckled. "My fair share, but I doubt it's the kind of dancing you do."

"Oh?"

"Like-- Irish dancing." He tried to explain. "It's a tad more...well...lively."

"Show me." She said, sitting up suddenly.

He laughed once again. "Lady Sybil--- how?"

"Your records!"

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I'd have to touch you." He said, ever-so-quietly. Mrs Hughes' words echoed through him. Broken heart. To resist the urge to touch her all over. To keep every step and every smile miles apart from one another. But that stubborness of his wouldn't recede no matter how hard he tried.

She paused thoughtfully for the moment, before sliding out of her seat.

"Then let's not touch." She announced. "Let our hands float in the air." She paused, cocked her head at him, and her voice became silken, dreamy. "Branson, please. I want to have one good dance tonight."

He stood up and put one of his records on.

"OK, so your feet go like this..."

She looked down. "Like that?"

"Yeah. And then, we, well, we would...hold hands."

They both placed their hands up a few inches apart, and she giggled.

"And you turn and..."

He was surprised at how quickly she picked up the steps. How graceful she made the whole thing. Like painting the air with her limbs.

"You're awfully good, Branson." She said half way through, her laughter rippling through the air.

"You're not so bad yourself, Syb-- milady." He said, trying his best not to get caught in the moment, to let the lines blur into complete oblivion.

"I wish you could come to balls." She said, her body stopping, suddenly very sad. "It'd be much more fun to dance with a man I actually liked."

"Maybe one day." He said.

"Granny'd have your head. And mine."

"That means we could still dance, though." He said, and she bent over laughing, suddenly and without self-consciousness bridging the gap between them as she buried her mouth in his shoulder to try and stifle her laughter. He froze. She smelt of whiskey and promises. Rosy and fresh. Lovely and fair as the rose of the summer. Laughter tumbled out of her and it made his heart want to burst from the seams. Such a soft, lovely warm weight on his left shoulder. How he'd imagined it. Then he reached his hand out for hers' before he realised she had made the same move. Skin on skin, and it felt like fire and ice at the same time, not bordered by that ever present leather glove, or under the watchful eye of maids.

"Lady Sybil." A voice broke through the dream, shattering and sudden and cruel. Mrs Hughes stood there pale. Yet Sybil didn't move, just stood there laughing into his shoulder, and he had to smile too. He felt it through his uniform, that unmistakable impression of her lips, and they both pretended they hadn't been disturbed, just for a few moments.

"Lady Sybil." Her voice was sharper. "Your Mother is looking for you. Is this where you've been?"

"I was dancing." She said quietly, shutting her eyes and burying herself deeper into the material of his uniform. Just one more-

"I think it wise you both say good night now."

She peeled away from him. "Good night Branson, thank you for a lovely evening."

"Good night, Lady Sybil."

She left, still dreaming, smiling. He watched her leave, ignoring the fire in Mrs Hughes' eyes.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't give you the sack right now." She said, every word articulated, clipped by her now harsh seeming accent.

He smirked. "I was only following orders."

"You little--"

"We didn't actually do anything."

"That's not what it looks like."

"You have my word, and hers', most likely."

"Do you have any idea how it looked?"

"I'm sure it looked like two friends dancing."

"You were drinking and dancing with the youngest daughter of an Earl in your bedroom. You know what that is? Scandal."

"Oh Jesus."

"Now you look here." She said, sweeping towards him, eyes wide in fury and alarm. "I ignored the garden party, didn't I? I put my neck on the line. To trust you. What if it had been Mr Carson, hmm?"

"But it wasn't."

"What makes you think I won't tell him?"

"Because deep down you think this is all as silly as I do. That we share and live in their lives but we have to be so far apart."

She paused. Her lip quivered for a moment, her eyes waivered, before hardening again.

"She's using you, you know? I've seen it before. Grand ladies who find their amusement in toying with the feelings of servants."

"She's not toying with me."

"Oh?"

"Really."

"Then tell me you don't love her."


"... I can't do that."

"And you think she loves you, hmm? Her little act of rebellion?"

"Mrs Hughes, please stop, your lavish praise is going to make my head swell."

"Fool. Absolute fool."

"Tell me you've seen her happier with other men."

"What?"

"Go on, tell me. Tell me she's happy with those men who don't understand her. Who see her as a pretty thing on their arms. Who don't see her mind."

"Oh, and it's just her mind you appreciate, is it?"

"Don't make it all sound so cheap."

"Really? Because that's how it looks to me. And that's how it'd look to other people too. People far less generous than me."

"You still haven't answered my question."

She stood silent for a moment, staring at him with those cold hard eyes, that harsh pursed lip.

"...I like you, Tom, I really do." She said, her shoulders sinking. "Stop making it so hard for me."

Something rose up in his chest. "I think I can make her happy. I may not have the money, or the title..."

"Tom. Please. You know how this story ends? How it always ends? Badly."  And she left, a sweep of black.

He paused, shoved his hands in his pockets, looked at the now empty glasses in the light of his lamp,  at where her lips once lay,  and smiled.

"I think you're wrong."

















 
 
dizzy_whore
05 October 2011 @ 08:57 am
Branson: Truth is, I'll stay in Downton till you want to run away with me.
Sybil: Don't be ridiculous
Branson: You're too scared to admit it, but you're in love with me
Mary: Branson? Could you take me into Ripon at three? [to Sybil] I'mgetting some things for Mama. Is there anything you want?
Sybil: [leaving] No, nothing you can find in Ripon

This doesn't obviously carry across the intensity of the scene which is scary...er, intense. Also, Mary is approaching throughout the scene (but they don't notice her), obviously because Julian Fellowes wants to give us all heart attacks...
 
 
dizzy_whore
AN (verrryyy long but needed nonetheless)

The issue of Irish independence remains a problematic one. Whilst my family is Irish I have been raised in England and therefore do not claim to have much right to an opinion on the matter. Therefore, whilst the perspective in this fic is undoubtedly one that sees Irish independence as a positive thing (as befits Branson's character), it does not neccessarily reflect my own. Casting Branson's background as Catholic is also more a choice of convenience than anything else, considering my own Irish-Catholic background. I have also decided not to write it in an Irish dialect considering the shifting nature of dialect in itself, as well as issues over power relations for me as author writing about a people who for all accounts have been represented and to an extent fictionalised negatively or inaccurately by the English.

The "IRB" in the fic stands for the "Irish Republican Brotherhood". Please see more on them here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po17.shtml. The Dublin Union of Shipbuilders is to my knowledge my own fictional creation, as are all places. Whilst I am a history student I would not for a moment claim to be an expert on Irish history, or pretend to have all the time in the world to study it as in-depth as I'd like for this story, though I have tried my hardest to be as accurate to the time as possible.  This was a matter of convenience for me but also a conscious choice to make this more story than history essay (and considering all the history essays I've written the past three years, it's been a challenge not to slip back into it). This is one of my first attempts at doing a chaptered narrative and the chapters themselves have turned out quite short, so for that reason I am posting the first five here.

There is Gaelic in here with subtitles as the Gaelic revival was often tied in with the republican movement. Further information regarding Irish republicanism and nationalism pre-1917 can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/prelude/index.

I have no idea how old Branson is presented in 1913, but I guessed him to be twenty one, and all dates are based on that.

Warnings: Swearing, death, mental illness and what might be construed as an abusive sexual relationship between adults.

As usual, own nothing, only what I imagine to be the Bransons.

1.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high and lowly,
And order’d their estate

Hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848.

And when it rains here it rains so hard
But never hard enough to wash away the sorrow
I'll trade my love today for a greater love tomorrow
The lonely looks out and dreams of independence
From this family life sentence

Billy Bragg-- Home Front


Dublin, Autumn 1902

 At the age of ten Tommy's father Patrick gave him a worn copy of the Communist Manifesto and told him it'd be the most important book he'd ever read, and he was right. He and his Father were the only ones in the house who liked reading. Connie couldn't read but loved singing and songs. Jimmy, fourteen, had no like for the written word, instead preferring the outside, spending his days wrestling or playing football. Tess, five, loved flowers and dreaming up towers in the middle of the street. No, Tommy was Patrick's special child. The one with that special spirit.

Tommy was the one who sat in on the informal union meetings held in the small dining room of 17 Crawford Street, Dublin. His Father was the Shop Steward for the Dublin Union of Shipbuilders. Tommy sat in the bench in the corner, pretending to play but instead quietly listening to their discussions by candlelight. Every now and again he would sit on his Father's knee and breathe in that comforting smell of sweat, iron and tobacco. Some days he'd help at demonstrations and he'd smile until his cheeks felt numb. He would shout until his voice was hoarse, gather money, wave flags, even fetch mugs of tea. He felt special because he knew he was helping his Pa. But gradually he began to realise the good feeling also came from knowing he was doing the right thing, even though Ma would never stop fussing over him being out there, her baby boy.

It was the year Jimmy was to leave school and start work on the shipyard. Tommy wanted to go too, Pa said no.

"Knowledge is power, Tommy. Do you understand? It's the only tool we have against them. And you're smart, Tommy, smarter than I ever was. Go to school."

He always knew what he meant by "them". The rich people. The people who employed his Dad for scraps. Those who gave them funny looks if they crossed over into the nice part of town. The politicians, the merchants, the bosses. Not them. Not the people who lived on his street. They were good working people. Not like them.

He wasn't very good at school, though. He always argued with the teachers. They said he was too "sassy" for his own good, that he "backchatted" and "disrupted" everyone else's learning. Tommy learnt then that loads of people didn't like people to ask questions. Especially if they couldn't or didn't want to answer them. But then his Pa said the most important thing in life is to keep on asking "why?", even if it seemed obvious, because that way we can work out what's fair and what's not. His Mother tutted and said she just wish he'd stop getting the cane so much.

So he read. His Father got books from the library or second hand. He read about the French Revolution and the Tsars and Oliver Cromwell. Then his Father told him stories of Ireland. Magnificent stories of green pastures and warring saints and old kings. Then his Father started calling him a "little Fenian". He said that meant that like him he thought Ireland should be free. He handed him leaflets, pamphlets, and watched him drink it in eagerly by the fireplace. He picked up pieces of Gaelic. Soon there were new demonstrations, ones not at the shipyard, but with loads of other people. He heard people call his Pa "Captain" and his Pa's best friend O'Connoe, "Colonel" but had no idea why. Big words like "republic" were thrown around, but another one stuck in his mind-- "Brotherhood"-- not like the way he and Jimmy were brothers, but the way they were all brothers, Irish brothers, fighting together. A big family.

There was a buzz in the air that made Tommy's heart beat like a drum. He felt addicted. He felt a sense of direction, to do this, to make things right in the world, bit by bit.

2.

"I don't care what you say, Tommy. No man coud go on the moon, you hear?" Jimmy said, rattling his branch along the railings as they walked.

"But in the newspaper they said there's this film in America, and-and- all these astronomers go to the moon!"

"Yeah Tommy, it's a film, it's make-believe, like the Bible stories." He said, scoffing. Jimmy didn't have the imagination of his younger brother, seeing clouds as clouds and nothing more.

"The Bible ain't stories!" Tess shouted out from behind them. Tommy shot him a warning look.

"No sorry Tess, you're right." Jimmy shouted to her. Then, in a lowered tone, "Ugh. I hate taking her with us."

"Ma needs a lie down, Pa said"

"No, Pa just don't trust her with Tess. Not now she's had another one of her turns" Jimmy sighed. Tommy bristled a little. He wasn't used to it, didn't like to speak about what he felt should stay unspoken. Jimmy cleared his throat. "What do you reckon is in his lunch?"

"Beef pie." Tommy guessed.

"Reckon he'll mind if we have a bit? I haven't had anything all day."

"There's soup at home."

"Ugh, soup." Jimmy pulled a face and started opening the lunchbox. "Just one bite---"

Tommy snatched it off him. "Pa needs this. He works. He needs his strength."

"You little shit!" Jimmy said, smacking his younger brother's head and taking back the bag. "He ain't the only one working now."

"You ain't started yet. Give it back. I'll give you my share of the soup."

"Huh. Fine then." Jimmy said, tossing it back to Tommy. "If it bothers you that much."

They carried on walking, occassionally pausing to argue or to rough fight or to race one another. Soon they decided to pause by the lock in the river and skim stones while Tess played on quietly by herself. They were proud in their boyhood and had little to do with their sister, unless it involved a scraped knee or a bully. Instead they carried on arguing about the moon. Jimmy said you couldn't stand on it because it would be like standing on soft cheese, it'd suck you right in. Tommy called him an idiot and got a smack. Jimmy's smacks always hurt the worst. He didn't know his own strength. He was silly tall, too, almost as big as their Pa.

"The moon's made of rock, you idiot. Like Earth." Tommy strangled out as Jimmy had him in a headlock.

"Don't call me an idiot!"

"I'm not the one who thinks the moon's made of cheese, idiot!"

"That's it!"

He soon wrestled Tommy to the ground. Tommy began to taste grass and gravel in his mouth. Oh shit. Now his clothes were going to be all dirty and his Mother would huff and puff and stomp and swear. And--

"Where's Tess?" He choked out. Then again, louder. "Where's Tess?"

Jimmy jumped off him. They both span around. Something horrible tasting rose up in Tommy's throat. And Jimmy began to ran so he ran. She was little, so tiny, couldn't have gone too far. In Tommy's mind she was chasing a butterfly with her hands and laughing. Jimmy saw his parents' faces; a mixture of anger and anguish; when he told them how he had failed them, like always.

And something in the air changed when they heard voices.

In that second they both knew, and there was lead in his knees and fire in his blood but somehow Tommy managed to follow Jimmy to where the body of Tess lay pale and silent.

3.

It was the first and last time they'd see their Father cry. A big, heavy, choking sound. Like something dying. Their Mother lay in bed. They weren't even sure if she'd understood what they'd said. Soon the policeman left and it felt as if they'd left a world behind. The soup in the kitchen and the toys on the floor became relics, unfamiliar and cold. Their Father's friends came round and crushed his shoulder with their hands, drank whiskey with him, a few cried with him. The boys sat on the stairs and saw him fall apart for a while. But then he got up, heated the soup, told Tommy to take it to his Mother, and for Jimmy to fetch some more coal. Life went on.

For the first time Tommy was quiet in school. At home his Mother wailed upstairs. She'd broken out of her stupor, her nightmare, to find a new one facing her. His Father returned home from work and cooked, cleaned. Jimmy came home from work and shut himself upstairs. People came round with food, with flowers, with anything they could think of. In all their nightmares a cold, pale hand rose up from the deep of the river but they kept it to themselves. In the corners of the house her laughter hid and rung through their ears, taunting.

One night Tommy and his Pa were sat finishing off their food and discussing what they should include in the service.

"She liked flowers." Tommy answered, taking a final sip of his soup. "Like Ophelia."

"Ophelia?"

"We're reading it in school. Hamlet. She dies because she falls in the water picking flowers." He quickly fetched his copy from his bag. "I like this bit because it reminds me of her.

Lay her i' the earth:
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring!   

And Patrick began to cry. Tommy's face burned. He wondered if he should cry. He hadn't yet. Jimmy cried at night when he thought Tommy couldn't hear him. He was the only one that hadn't cried. What was wrong with him? He felt sad. He knew he did. He knew he would never forget her blue lips and the salt water in her hair. But there were no tears inside of him.

"She was beautiful, wasn't she Tommy? No, that's a fine quote, a fine quote." His Father said, eyes shining, a cry daring itself to escape as he tried his best to smile.

They sang O, Breathe on Me, Who is She Ascends so High? and Bring Flowers of the Rarest. It was their Mother's favourite.  His Father brought him close to him and Tommy revelled in the warmth, the familiarity, the security that he was loved. His Mother stared vacantly into space, mouth open, swaying back and forth. Jimmy looked as if he was ready to burst at the seams, his flushed and scarlet with anger and fists clenched white. His Father was a marble statue. The faces of everone else blurred: a nightmareish mass.

Their home was soon full of drink and smoke and people. The Union and IRB men brought flowers. His Father shook hands and drank drinks. Jimmy sat on the stairs, nursing his eighth pint, scowling at the people below him, his eyes tired and wild. And in the corner Tommy sat with his Mother, trying to calm her, to no avail.

"If the Devil takes her and I'll get down there and box his ears. She had such lovely black hair, like my Paddy, but my eyes-- those eyes all my children have, blue, baby blue he used to call them. I made that dress for her, you know? She loved it. Daisies. Her favourite flowers. She never liked soup, though. Not like my boys. Should I make her some stew? No carrots, though. Holy Communion next year. Little bride all in white. Why did God make me? Because he loves me. He must love her very much up there, her skipping round him and making daisy chains all day."

"Tommy, take your Mother upstairs." His Father whispered.

"No!" She shouted, and at once they all knew that threat of violence, like an electric shock through the spine. "I know who you are. You're just trying to take my little girl away from me. Well I know your tricks!"

The whole room paused. Candlelight yellowed the faces, the walls, the wild blue of Connie's eyes. She looked like an animal. Soon she was screaming, clawing at Patrick as he tried to restrain her. People watched her, tragic figure of the bereaved monster. Grendel's mother.

"You bastard! You fucking bastard! I'll have your fucking eyes out!"

She flew out the door. Patrick bolted after her. Tommy followed after. His Mother ran screaming down the rain slicked streets, tearing at her hair, screaming. How could one sound go on for so long? It pierced his ears. Soon Patrick caught her by her waist as she screamed at him, catching his cheek, a thin streak of blood from beneath his eye like the Virgin Mary crying ruby red.


4.
Five Years Later
Spring, 1907

Tommy stood staring at what seemed like an endless stream of algebra questions. He imagined how the first discoverer felt when he discovered hieroglyphs. It was no use. He needed this to stay on at school, but the more abstract and theoretical aspects of mathematics eluded him. What was the use? He knew how to add, subtract, divide, even to work out percentages. He devoured literature and history and geography and poetry like a hunger he could never sate because to him it spoke and moved and lived and breathed whilst mathematics sat there on the page all black and white and static.

His Father insisted on it, though. His and Jimmy's wages brought in enough to get them by. The weight of their sacrifices was always present upon him. If Mother was unwell or in the asylum he'd cook and clean and mend their clothes. Their family managed. Always managed. Tommy wasn't sure he knew a time when they weren't hovering somewhere above disaster. Sometimes he worried that the myths his Father fed him about education would turn out to be lies. If this was his Father's way of protecting his youngest son. That no matter what he was born into this life and there was no getting out of it. Thomas Seamus Branson of 17 Crawford Street, son of a shipbuilder and a sometimes seamstress.

He turned back to his work. No. "Always fight". That was his Father's mantra. Never give up. Fight the bastards. Learn, adapt, survive, thrive. Always always fight.

He'd begun to attend the Union meetings. He'd become conversant whereas before he'd been nothing more than a benign spectator. He had political debates with his Father's friends and held his own. He read Marx, Ruskin, Engels. He attended IRB meetings and people listened to him and argued with him and he argued back. He felt a sense of agency and autonomy than he had never felt except in those smoky meeting rooms.

"Oi, what the fuck you reading?" Jimmy asked one evening, snatching a leaflet that Tom (he no longer liked being called Tommy) had snuggled in between Dickens' Great Expectations.

"Hey!" Tom exclaimed.

"'Give Irish Women the Vote'" He read out mockingly. "The fuck is this?"

"It's a leaflet, Jimmy." He said dryly, snatching it back.

"OK, now I know you're nutty. Giving women the vote." He said, scoffing. "Never heard of such a thing."

"Mary Wostollencroft wrote abot it years ago, actually."

"Mary who? Jesus, Tom. You need to get your head out of books."

"That's enough, Jimmy." Patrick said from across the table where he was glued to his newspaper.

"Books won't help put bread on the table." Jimmy whispered. Tom rolled his eyes and decided to let it pass, even though it stirred up something cold and uncomfortable in his stomach. He returned to reading his leaflet, rapt. It was better than reading about Pip or whoever it was. Dickens' was so dense and sentimental and wrote about the working classes in only a way a rich man could. But now they were getting a voice, a chorus of angry men and women who would scream as loud as they needed.

At night he read to Ma. He read stories from magazines, soppy syrupy things about star-crossed lovers and cheap mystery serials. Then he brushed her hair while she hummed to herself the hymns and songs of her youth, a million miles away.

"Oh, you are a good boy Tommy." She said, sing-song. She said the same thing every night but still every night he smiled. Then he kissed her on her dry cheek and helped her into bed. It was as if her mind was getting more frail by the day, even in her moments of lucidity, which were getting more sporadic and short. But none of them wanted to say goodbye. Not yet.

"Tommy." She started. "Do you think Tessie's happy?"

He swallowed. She asked this often but it never seemed easier to answer. "I'm sure she's very happy."

"And she's safe?"

"Yes, she's safe."

"I wish I could have said goodbye."

A slight tug in the hairbrush. He closed his eyes, took a breath, started again. "I know, Ma."

"And she just fell?"

"She just fell."

"In the water?"

"In the water."

Ophelia in the water, picking flowers, gazing at her refection like Adonis, Echo calling out to her for company.

"Say goodnight to your sister, Tommy." She said, picking up the small photo she had of Tessie by her bedside.

"Goodnight Tessie." He stood up, extinguished the gas lamp. "Goodnight Ma."