They were close; for the first time since before the War, the House Team stood a chance at winning the bloody cricket match, and one could only hope that if they did, the Earl of Grantham would finally cease his relentless talk about the sport.
So far Tom had played rather decently, especially for someone who wasn’t familiar with the game. He had yet to use his “secret weapon”, though Isis stood off to the side, looking eager and ready to participate if the need arose.
The Village Team had stepped up to bat, and Tom was dismissed to that place on the field where only the most unlikely of hits would go (but if his pride was supposed to be wounded by this placement, it didn’t show). He turned his gaze away from the man at bat to the tent just to his left. Sitting on the blanket on the ground, holding a precious bundle in her arms and smiling back at him was the most beautiful woman there, though granted he was biased. He was also biased about the beautiful child that she held, that he had earlier come to see when she was being rocked in the arms of her aunt. Matthew had joked with him that more people had come to see Lord and Lady Grantham’s granddaughter than to watch a cricket match, and Tom couldn’t help but feel his chest swell with pride as he nodded his head in agreement.
Not far from where Sybil and Saoirse sat was Isis, though the Labrador was on her feet, looking ready if he simply nodded his head to go chasing after a loose ball, if she had the chance. She was glancing over at Sybil and Saoirse as well, looking ready to sweep in and protect her charges if needs be. Ah, how he loved that dog.
He shifted his eyes to Matthew, who had the position of bowler. “If you or anyone catches this…that’s it, the game is over and we’ve won!”
Tom nodded his head, though he doubted he would be put into such a position; after all, wasn’t that why he had been banished to this corner of the pitch?
"Hooray for Da!"
He turned his head at the sound of his wife’s voice, and grinned back at the beautiful sight of Sybil holding little Saorise up so she could see her father. Sybil smiled back and kissed the baby’s cheek, before murmuring her cheer again. “Go Da, Go!”
Tom laughed as Sybil took one of Saoirse’s tiny fists, the child’s fingers holding tight to her mother’s thumb, and lifted it up to look as if she were waving. “I’ll catch it for you, my love!” he vowed. Even Isis seemed to bark in agreement.
"Hush, Isis!" Robert bellowed from where he stood. "And Tom, pay attention!"
Tom groaned and rolled his eyes, something only his wife took notice of and giggled.
Dr. Clarkson had stepped forward, and everyone on the House Team groaned (the doctor was the Village Team’s best hitter). “I’ll be sure to send it your way, Mr. Branson!” Clarkson threatened. It was said in humor, but Tom couldn’t help but swallow as he imagined the ball sailing his way, and him making a fool of himself by falling backwards and landing on his arse for all the world to see. Maybe he should call in Isis to catch it for him?
But there was no further time to think; Matthew threw, Clarkson swung, and the thunder-like clap of the bat hitting the ball seemed to echo everywhere. Robert and several others gasped as the ball went soaring overhead…heading just as Clarkson had threatened, towards Tom.
Sybil gasped and everyone held their breath as they watched the ball fly…and Tom, without any further thought, leapt up, his hand outstretched…and caught it.
He caught it.
He caught it!
He…HE…had won the game!
"WELL DONE!" Matthew shouted, before the rest of the House Team started to cheer. The Village Team groaned, but it was drowned out by the exuberant cheers of Tom’s in-laws and former work colleagues, and Isis’ bark. Yes, the first to greet him in victory was none other than the dog, herself, knocking him down on his arse, no doubt ruining his cricket whites, but Tom didn’t care. He was still far too stunned that he had caught the bloody thing!
"Three cheers for Tom Branson!" Matthew shouted, and before Tom realized what was happening, Robert was upon him, grabbing him by the hand and hauling him up to his feet, before slapping a hand onto his shoulder, and shouting over the cheers, "well done son!"
Son? Tom looked at Sybil, and her own eyes were wide with surprise; clearly she had heard the exchange as well. But she simply grinned and bounced the babe in her arms, who was giggling and waving her tiny fists, joining in the merriment along with the rest of them.
Tom disentangled himself from his well-wishers and made his way over to his wife and daughter, kissing Sybil eagerly, before dropping his lips reverently to his daughter’s head.
"I think you’re public is demanding your attention," Sybil laughed as the House Team, led by Robert, began to sing "For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow…"
Tom waved a dismissive hand. “Let them wait,” he leaned in and kissed her again, while one hand stroked Saoirse’s cheek, and the other fell down to stroke the soft, furry head of the Downton Labrador who was gazing up at the Bransons with a special fondness that she only gave to them. “This is the only public I care about.”