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Five times Sybil and Gwen were alone

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1. Late Night Tea

They all took late duty from time to time. Evenings spent mending in the servants area and waiting for a bell to ring. Most nights it came to nothing more than a short chat with any of the other staff who were still up, running the occasional tea tray as needed. Eventually Mrs. Hughes or Carson would dismiss all the staff, and the night would get lonelier until it was time for whomever was still there to make their own way to bed.

That night -- Gwen's night -- everything seemed to be the usual, it was the sort of night Gwen dreamed of. Quiet enough to catch up on her stitchery and mending, but quick enough that the time didn't drag. She'd almost finished packing up when Lady Sybil's bell rang.

It was late for that, Lady Sybil wasn't the sort to make night calls. The youngest, she also seemed the most self-sufficient to Gwen and to most of the staff. It was with a sigh that she filled a teapot, packing a tray to prevent a return trip to the kitchen. This late it seemed wise in case it was needed, and when she tapped at Lady Sybil's it was door expected.

"I brought tea, my Lady," she said as she walked in with the tray, setting it on the side table. "Is there anything else you need?"

The answer to that question could be varied. Gwen knew that Anna more than she had the confidence of the sisters, being a proper Lady's maid but still should they wish to talk of something she was always at their disposal.

Sybil had pulled up to the head of her bed, her sheets tugged close around her. "Could you stay for a moment?"

That she asked made Gwen fight a smile. It wasn't as if she'd ever say no to such a request, but it was still nice to hear it phrased in such a way. "Of course I might, should you want me to. Shall I make you a cup of tea?"

"No tea, thank you." Sybil said softly, her hands twisted in the edges of her sheets. "I've just had the most awful of dreams. I know it's nothing, but all I could see was Mary, Edith and I, and.... We were all still living at Downton, but we were old, frightfully old.” She stopped and shook her head, “I must sound so silly, frightfully silly. Would it be so bad to have lived our lives here, and have done nothing else?”

"I can't imagine it would, my Lady." Gwen wished that it had been Anna's night on as she stood and listened to Lady Sybil speak. Anyone else's night, really, but that wasn't the way of it.

"Listen to me," Sybil pushed down her sheet, folding her hands in her lap in near-exasperation with herself. "Going on to you this late at night. Surely you'd rather be abed yourself, not listening to my blathering."

"It's no bother at all," Gwen insisted, knowing that it was her place to listen if needed.

"No bother at all, you are being very kind," she had slipped out of her bed, padding toward the tea before Gwen could stop her.

"Let me, my Lady," Gwen tried, never sure how hard she should actually push to serve in these moments. She may have been a well-placed housemaid, but being a Lady's maid was not what she'd been trained for.

"Don't be silly. I can pour myself tea, even this late at night," Sybil's words bore an edge of friendly teasing as she shushed the servant, filling her cup and adding sugar to it. "I'd say you should have one with me, for having dragged you up here this late at night, but you only brought one cup."

"My Lady, I couldn't-"

Sybil cut Gwen off, "so you should have this cup, if you'd stay, and talk with me for a bit? I don't want to bother Mary and Edith, but I'm not ready to sleep again either. Would you, please?"

To have Sybil ask her in such a heartfelt manner made it hard for Gwen to refuse. "If my Lady insists," she said finally, not quite prepared for Sybil's bright smile at her response, nor the way the youngest of the Crawleys bounced back onto her bed after handing over the teacup.

"Good. Then come and sit here, and tell me something. A dream you had once, a nice one to try and wash the memory of this one away."

"A dream of mine?" Gwen sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, sure if Mrs Hughes found out about this she'd lose her place.

"Yes. Or anything really, I don't mind."

"Well, I suppose one time… one time I had a dream about a garden."

It was embarrassing and hard to talk about these things. It would have been with anyone, but especially with the family when she was just a housemaid. Sybil looked so eager and interested, that Gwen felt she had to speak, the tea still untouched in its cup. Nervously, she cleared her throat, cheeks warm as she tried again. "Only it wasn't like any garden I've seen. But there were flowers everywhere, some I couldn't even think I would have imagined."

There was something in the way Sybil listened, her head slightly cocked and eyes bright that gave Gwen confidence. Slowly, the tremble in her voice faded, and she turned to face Lady Sybil on her bed. "It was beautiful, and there were butterflies everywhere, and birds. They were calm and lovely, not flying away the moment you went near them. Oh- I'm sure I'm the one sounding silly, my Lady."

"Please," Sybil reached out to Gwen, touching the back of her hand, "don't stop. It's a lovely dream, truly it is. Tell me the rest then I'll go back to sleep."

Gwen nodded slowly, glancing down at Lady Sybil's fingers against her skin and the warmth it brought out in her cheeks again. For the first time she found herself not quite wanting to go, and her smile, whilst still shy, was genuine. "All right then. If you'd really like."

"I would."

2. Picnic

"Sybil, what is the point of going on a picnic by yourself?"

"Because I'd like it. It's a lovely day out and I've a new novel from Papa's library," Sybil explained to her mother. "There's been a basket packed and everything is ready. Is it so odd to want to go on my own?"

"Why don't you take Mary or Edith with you? Or wait until another day when they can accompany you," Lady Crawley asked, unsure it was the best of ideas for her youngest daughter to go off alone.

"I don't want to wait. Please Mama, let me?" She was nearly pleading with her mother, knowing she couldn't explain how she didn't want to take a picnic with her sisters. Not today at least. Today she wanted simply to enjoy herself, to read and be with her own thoughts. "If I take Anna for company might I?"

She could see her mother consider it, finally assenting with a sigh, "Fine, if you take one of the maids. But I believe Anna is seeing to some repairs on Mary's frock for the ball tomorrow. Why don't you take the girl who helps her. Gwen."

"Very well." Sybil said it as solemnly as she could manage, her smile bright as she rushed to her mother to kiss her cheek. "Thank you Mama."

"Now away with you, and let me get back to my letters," Lady Crawley's dismissal was warm and full of affection, "though I'll never understand why you wish to go alone, as you will."

Sybil nearly ran out of the drawing room, reminding herself to be respectable and walk as she hurried down to the kitchen herself rather than sending one of the footmen. "Gwen, good news, we can go on the picnic."

Gwen started, standing with the rest of the servants when Lady Sybil came into the room. "The picnic?"

"Yes, I asked Mrs Patmore to make me a basket so I could go on a picnic. Mama said I might, but that I must take someone with me. Can you come?"

Whenever Lady Sybil requested something rather than ordering it, Gwen found herself confused, especially when it was something like this. Not that any of the family were cruel or demanding, but Lady Sybil had a way of making many things seem an honest question, as if Gwen could simply answer no and be on her way. She looked to Mrs Hughes who nodded, and tried to not look at Anna who was fighting a smile, much more used to Sybil's ways and enthusiasm than Gwen herself was. "Shouldn't it be Anna-"

"Anna couldn't, not today," it was Mrs Hughes who answered, and Gwen could only nod and wonder just what this picnic would entail. Some of the staff had them sometimes, on their half-day off, but that was a very different thing. "Of course Gwen will accompany you."

"I'll get the basket and meet you upstairs," Gwen said knowing that Mrs Hughes' word was as much gospel in these rooms as the Family's.

"Oh good. It shall be such fun," Sybil determined before heading back to the house proper to gather her wrap and novel.

"Now Gwen, be sure and not be over-friendly with Lady Sybil," Mrs Hughes' reminder was kind yet firm, and Gwen appreciated the moment of normalcy after the whirlwind visit of the Crawleys youngest daughter. "I know you are not a Lady's maid yet, but you've enough experience with the girls that you will do just well. Remember your manners and decorum, and all will be well."

"Yes Mrs Hughes," she responded, excusing herself from the table. "I should go fetch my coat and the basket then."

“And see that you bring an extra blanket.” Mrs Hughes’ last words were met with a nervous smile, Gwen already thinking of all that could go wrong. Suppose she was too friendly or too forward? What if she dropped something or spilled on Lady Sybil? Why had she been chosen, she’d not spoken to Lady Sybil in months almost, not since the night of her bad dreams. Those thoughts distracted her the entire way to the door, Sybil waiting eagerly to be off. They consumed her most of the way to the chosen picnic site, a quiet spot near a stream that bisected the grounds. Distracted enough that Sybil noticed, commenting on it as Gwen unpacked the basket.

“Is everything quite all right?” She looked at Gwen with real concern, tugging one corner of the blanket out further before settling herself. “I thought you’d be pleased to come with me.”

“No- I mean, I am, my Lady. I just-” Gwen flushed, her skin pink she was sure, setting out the last of the plates.

“You just what?”

It was there again in the way Sybil asked it. A slight cock of the head, and real interest in her eyes. Edith barely noticed the maids, and whilst Mary knew them all, she never paid them any mind other than Anna. Sybil was the only one who talked to them as equals at times, and it was confusing for Gwen. “It’s just, I’m not a Lady’s maid. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say or do.”

“Oh, Gwen.” Sybil’s confused looked faded away, replaced by a gentle amusement. “There’s no reason you couldn’t be a Lady’s maid should you wish it. You’re polite, and kind, and discreet. All you’d need to do would be to learn a few things about dressing and styling of hair. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

“Oh, no, Miss, that isn’t for me,” Gwen shook her head, embarrassed now and wishing she’d not said anything at all. “Being a housemaid is fine. It’s more- I don’t want to do something wrong, and get in trouble, like.”

“You won’t do anything wrong.” Sybil’s belief in her words was obvious, but also her confusion as to what Gwen could do that wouldn’t be right. “It’s not a war you need to fight, just a picnic. You picnic with the other maids sometimes, don’t you? Well, just pretend it’s the same.”

“My Lady, I couldn’t do that,” Gwen had blanched at the last suggestion, wondering if Lady Sybil had just any idea of what she was suggesting. “It wouldn’t be proper.”

“Nonsense.” Sybil was determined, and it was a look that everyone at Downton knew. Whilst usually pleasant and the most amenable of the sisters, when Sybil decided something she was a force to be reckoned with. “There’s no harm in two young women sitting together and sharing a picnic. Now, sit, and we’ll have some tea.”

It was the sort of tone that Gwen knew there was no arguing with. And yet, the very fact that Sybil could order her in such a way showed why they would never be just two women having tea together.

3. Interviewing

"Why do you believe I can do it?" It was the question that Gwen had been wanting to ask, the entire drive there and then back. Now, with the horse lame and covered in mud, the question simply came out.

“What on earth do you mean?” Sybil looked up, confused, having paused in wiping the mud off her sleeves.

“My getting a job as a secretary.” Gwen paused, faltering for only a brief moment. She’d gotten this far and done this much, her resolve strengthened by these events. “You believe in it more than anyone else. More than I do, my Lady.”

Sybil considered it as she wrung a glove out, using it to wipe down the front of her dress as best she could. Her immediate answer might have been to simply say that of course she believed in Gwen, there was no reason not to. But it was a question that deserved more than such an immediate answer, she thought. “Because like I said to you, everyone deserves the chance to change their life should they choose it. You’ve been good to us, to me. You’re loyal, you work hard at what you do, harder than I’ve ever worked at anything. Why shouldn’t I believe in you?”

Dirty though her cheeks were, Gwen knew freckles must have stood out as her skin burned red. Honestly, she hadn’t known what to expect as an answer, only known that she had gained a steadfast champion in Lady Sybil and for no reason that she could have named. To hear it like that surprised her greatly. “My Lady, that’s very kind-”

“Gwen, we’re filthy and covered in muck. You might call me Sybil, at least for the moment.” Even muddy as she was, she was smiling as she interrupted Gwen.

“I couldn’t my Lady, it’s not proper. Besides we won’t always be covered in mud, will we?”

“I suppose that we won’t,” Sybil agreed as she held a hand out to Gwen, encouraging them to start moving again after their ride had bolted. “I didn’t say it to be kind. I said it because it’s true. You’ve been good to me, and if I weren’t to repay that kindness, what type of woman would I be?”

“I didn’t mean- I mean, you couldn’t be anything but-”

Sybil cut her off again, squeezing Gwen’s hand in her own. “Dear, dear Gwen. I’ll be sad when you leave Downton, you know. Sad and excited, because you’ll be starting another life, the life that you want.”

“You are too kind,” Gwen marvelled at it actually, the young woman who had pulled herself out of the mud, who’d walked miles already with further to go. The young woman who’d pushed Gwen when she would have given up. “Thank you. Sybil. M’Lady.”

Sybil’s smile brightened at the little victory. “You are very welcome.”

4. Packing

“It’ll be strange without you here,” Anna folded a shirt, packing it away into Gwen’s bag. “I know we have a new girl coming in, but it won’t be the same, will it?”

“Maybe it will, in time.” Gwen wouldn’t begrudge it, if it came to be true. After all, Anna was like a sister to her, but she was leaving the service of the House, and it wasn’t like the bed would stay free. “I wish you could come with me. Find a job of your own, outside of here?”

“No,” Anna’s smile was rueful as she picked up another blouse. “The life of a secretary might be for you, but I like service. This is a good house and besides, there are other reasons I couldn’t go.”

Gwen returned the smile, nodding as she took the blouse to put away, zipping the bag up. There wasn’t nearly as much in the bag as Gwen had thought there might be. Her maid uniforms were staying at Downtown, of course. She’d only the suit that Lady Sybil - Sybil - had given her, and two other real outfits and a few extra shirts. “Other reasons like Mr. Bates?”

“Perhaps-” Anna’s soft smile changed, straightening as a tap came on the door. “My Lady.”

“I hope I’m not interrupting?” Lady Sybil’s voice came from the hall. “I wanted to say good bye to Gwen.”

“Of course m’lady. I should go check to see Mrs Hughes doesn’t need me for anything.” Anna nodded, and Gwen had to stop herself from bobbing into the same half-curtsy they did whenever one of the Family entered a room.

Gwen and Sybil watched her go, Gwen only realising that Sybil was carrying something when she stepped into the room completely. “I brought you something. A going away gift.”

“My Lady, you shouldn’t have-” Gwen started to insist, but Sybil shook her head, hearing none of it.

“Yes, I should have, and you must stop calling me my Lady. It’s Sybil now,” she teased, holding out the packet she’d wrapped in old newsprint. “I’m sorry the wrapping isn’t any better, Papa says we must stop being so frivolous if the war is on. That we don’t know how long it might last.”

“Thank you, Sybil.” It sounded strange to say it, but Gwen did as she took the bundle, unwrapping it carefully. The jacket and skirt matched, a soft navy that was both respectable and beautiful. With it were two cream silk blouses, the lace at the collars more than she could have hoped of affording on even a good wage.

Gwen sank down onto the narrow bed, her lap filled with what she’d been given. “Oh, no, my Lady, this is too much. I couldn’t accept this.”

“Of course you must,” Sybil sat beside her, refuting her objections with her words and soft smile. “As my father said, with the war on we must all be practical. I’ve not worn these for some time, and you’re more likely to need them than I. You can’t wear the same suit every day, can you?”

Gwen couldn’t bear to tell Sybil that it had been what she’d planned, changing out blouses and perhaps the skirt to stay clean and neat. “Thank you my- Sybil.”

Sybil smiled wider when she corrected herself. “See, wasn’t that easy? Now, Branson will drive you to the station, I’ve organised that with Papa. Are you good to catch your train?”

“I am, my-” habits of years were hard to break, and Gwen flushed as she corrected herself yet again. “Sybil. I have the ticket and everything, and a room in a nice house near my work. With a widow, she lets the other room to a nurse.”

That had been an important detail for Gwen, living somewhere respectable and yet that she could afford. “You don’t need to hear about such things.”

“No, I want to hear about them. I want you to write me. Say that you will,” Sybil took Gwen’s hand in hers, turning to face her on the bed. “Let me know how you’re getting on, and perhaps once you’ve settled I’ll come visit.”

“Truly?” Gwen couldn’t believe Lady Sybil would want to do that, no matter how helpful she’d been. “I’ll be writing to Anna, of course, but if you wish, I’ll write you as well.”

“Oh, in some ways I am so envious of you Gwen. You’re off for such an adventure. A whole new stage in your life.” Sybil had perhaps romanticised her new life, Gwen thought, but then she’d never truly understand what it was like to be in service either.

“It is exciting, and a bit scary,” she admitted, near-whispering the last. Yet as frightened as she might have been for the future, Gwen was still bravely looking forward to it. “I suppose I’ve never known this. What it might be like, not knowing what would come with no housekeeper to tell me my way.”

“You won’t need that,” Sybil was willing to insist, her grip on Gwen’s hands tightening. “I know you’ll be just what they need. All you have to do is believe it too.”

For all that a part of Gwen might have wanted to object, she couldn’t. Not when Lady Sybil had done so much. “Thank you,” she repeated her words, “for all that you’ve done."

 

5. Visit

The door opened with a quiet swish and yet Gwen glanced up at the sound, well-tuned to it. This time it wasn’t a customer or her employer, but a woman she’d never truly expected to see come to her office.

“Lady Sybil,” even now she stood, the typing of files abandoned for the moment. She’d long since thought the offer forgotten over the two years since she’d left service. With the war, and everything else, Gwen had simply assumed it was a well-meant offer that never came to fruition. “My Lady, what are you doing here?”

“Gwen,” Sybil gave an exasperated sigh, her excitement only partly contained, “or perhaps I should call you Miss Dawson now? Of course I came to see you, I told you I would. I’m sorry it’s taken me forever, there’s no excuse for that.”

“My- Sybil,” she said finally, her smile shy. It was a pleasant surprise to see Sybil here, in fact Gwen was surprised at how pleased she was. “I’m nearly done for the day. I’ve just these ledgers to complete. Would you mind waiting? There’s a kettle, I can fetch you a tea.”

“Actually,” Sybil looked quite proud as she answered, “I can make the tea. I’ve been learning to cook things. Lessons from Mrs Patmore.”

That was even more a shock, Gwen blinking at the news. Anna hadn’t mentioned anything in her most recent letter, but it had been more than a month since Gwen had received one. “You’re learning to cook?”

She wanted to know more, and badly, but her work still needed finishing. Sybil waved her to sit, “you finish those, I’ll make us tea, and when you’re done you might show me where you live?”

Gwen nodded, biting back the urge to answer with a yes, my Lady. “I’d like that.”

“Good.”

Gwen watched as Sybil busied herself with the kettle, lighting the small stove with ease. Work, however, still had to be done she reminded herself, tearing her eyes away and returning to the ledgers she’d been completing. It was work she had to pay close attention to, and soon she was lost in recording the numbers in the proper columns. When the clock struck six she started, looking up to see Sybil reading a small book.

“Let me get my coat and the lights,” Gwen stood, grabbing her things and shutting doors, making sure the blinds were closed and the lights all off. “You’ve not been too bored I hope?”

“No,” Sybil insisted, slipping the book into her own bag and following Gwen from the office. “I’ve had so much to read and do lately, it was lovely just being able to sit. Truly, so much has happened since you’ve left Downton, and not just the war. I can’t wait to tell you.”

Gwen was cheered by Sybil’s excitement, the ease of their conversation as they walked the few blocks back to her rooms encouraging her. Sybil was telling her of little things, who had gone from the staff, about the new maid, mostly things she knew already from Anna. It was different to hear these things from Sybil’s perspective, and it surprised her again just how much the youngest Crawley took in.

Introductions made to her landlady, Gwen showed Sybil her room. Nearly the size of the room she had shared with Anna at Downtown, it seemed palatial to Gwen. Large enough that she could have a desk and two chairs as well as her bed and wardrobe.

“I like to read by the window in the summer. The light is good,” she explained as she moved a novel from one of the seats, motioning for Sybil to sit. “Can I get you more tea?”

“No, please, if I have another cup I may find myself swimming,” Sybil took the chair as Gwen pulled the other one closer. “Thank you though.”

It was strange to not be waiting on Sybil, but Gwen made herself sit, telling herself to relax. There was one thing that she absolutely needed to know. “Why were you taking lessons from Mrs Patmore?”

The way Sybil’s face lit up was amazing, barely able to contain her excitement. “I’ve been training to be a nurse. It’s hard work, of course, I’d never realised how hard. All of the standing and all of the work. The things that I need to remember. I’ve barely had a moment since training started, in fact, this was my first day off, and I thought I would stop in and see you, there was no time to go all the way back to Downton. You don’t mind, do you, me popping in like this? I really have been awful, haven’t I? Promising to visit but never coming. I don’t even know what I used to do every day, now that I’m so busy. Riding and visiting, mostly, I suppose, but that’s hardly enough to fill a life.”

“A nurse?” Sybil paused for a breath and Gwen blinked, both at the news and the steady stream of words. If any of the sisters were to have started work as hard as that, then Sybil was the most likely one. But it was still hard to believe, and to believe that she had been allowed to.

“I know, you can hardly believe it can you? You should have heard Papa and Mama go on about it,” Sybil smiled shyly as she leaned toward Gwen, as if sharing a confidence with a real friend. Which, in a way, Gwen supposed this visit made them that, at least of a sort. “Without Grandmama and Cousin Isobel I don’t think I ever would have been allowed.”

“That’s wonderful for you,” Gwen meant her words, sincerely. “Are you liking it? The training?”

“Yes. And no,” Sybil’s response was honest, her hands folded in her lap, “it’s exhausting, but worthwhile. I’m already making a difference, and I’ll only be able to do more. I have three more weeks, then I’ll be done. There’s so much to learn still.”

“I understand that,” Gwen agreed with Sybil. “I had so much to learn when I started here. Figures, and processes, and so much that I wasn’t ready for. It’s good work, but tough some days. I know more about installing telephones than I ever thought there was to know. Lines and cables and all sorts of things, I swear it fills my head sometimes I can barely think of anything else.”

“Still, that must be exciting for you. Think how lucky we are to have the telephone. Being able to call, to stay in touch, now with the war on it’s even more necessary.” Sybil reached out to touch Gwen’s hand, her words earnest. “Think, were we still dependent on telegrams how much more slowly things would run.”

Her reaction was the same that it always was whenever Sybil did that, warming and hoping she didn’t flush. “It’s not all like that. It isn’t so much like being a nurse-”

“Which I’ll be, for the war, and then I’ll go back to the life I lived before. Nothing but visiting, hunting, and planning to be married one day,” she frowned at the thought and for her future life.

For the first time Gwen wondered what it would be like to live that life and didn’t admire it. A life of leisure was something she’d always desired, but the extreme that the Crawleys lived in had its own difficulties. They was nothing to truly feel sorry for, not on any level, but she felt empathy for her in a way she’d not before. Turning her hand, she clasped Sybil’s, squeezing lightly. “It might not be the same. They’re saying things are changing. There’s been more talk of the vote-”

“Oh, I know, and I’m just being silly, aren’t I? So many advantages and I’m feeling sorry for myself. This war, it’s made me realise things that are important,” she squeezed Gwen’s hand back, brightening some, “but we shouldn’t talk of such things, not today. I’ve only a short time to visit, tell me more of your life. Is there anyone interesting, a suitor, perhaps?”

“No, no suitors,” she felt her cheeks warm again as she shook her head, all too aware of her hand still holding Sybil’s. “There’s little enough time with work, and with the war...”

Gwen shrugged, as if in excuse, Sybil’s words hanging in the forefront of her thoughts. Things that are important. There were things that were important, but they were things she’d not thought of a way to say, nor had any real reason to before this day. Had Sybil not appeared this day, she wouldn’t have ever needed to feel warm like this, or so flustered in a way she truly shouldn’t.

“Are you all right?” Lost in her thoughts, Gwen started when she realised how close Sybil was, worry filling the other woman’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to upset you-”

“You didn’t upset me,” Gwen shook her head quickly, “just lost in my thoughts for a moment.”

“Perhaps I should go-”

Sybil started to stand, and Gwen stood with her, “You don’t have to. Please, stay a bit longer?”

She’d not meant to sound quite as pleading as she did, realising belatedly that she’d reached out and held Sybil by the elbow. Gwen dropped her hand, looking back up to meet an expression she felt must mirror her own. Confused in part, with pink cheeks and widened eyes.

“The thing is, Gwen,” Sybil had taken a breath, speaking as if she’d practiced the words. “I’ve been debating whether to tell you something, only, now that I’m here it’s more difficult than I imagined. Nothing wrong or bad, not precisely, but- Oh, bother.”

What Gwen hadn’t expected was what came next. The distance between them closed, Sybil’s lips pressing to hers and her hand clasping Gwen’s again. When they broke apart she felt as if she couldn’t breathe, staring wide-eyed at Sybil. When it seemed Sybil was going to turn away and perhaps bolt, it was Gwen who stopped her, kissing her as she’d just been kissed.

“You don’t mind then?”

Gwen couldn’t say how long had passed between the start of that second kiss and Sybil speaking. Long enough for Gwen to have curled her hands together behind Sybil’s neck, and for Sybil to have twisted her fingers in Gwen’s shirt-front. “No,” she smiled, resting her forehead against the other woman’s, not wanting to move too far apart lest none of this been real. “No, I don’t mind at all.”