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Viva La Revolution

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"Mrs Hughes, I wonder have you seen-" he stops, catching sight of the newspaper open on her desk. "Oh you have."

He is surprised, didn't think it would be something she would look at. It's obvious that it's his, no one else in the house would read a socialist paper, at least not now that Miss Bunting is gone. So he might have expected to find it folded beside his bed, or for her to have a Footman pass it back to him after dinner.

{He half expected to never see it again, for Mr Carson to have discovered it and thrown it on the fire.}

"I'm sorry, Mr Branson. I did mean to return it to you before you retired." She stood when he entered, as is her habit since he married Sybil, and she leans over her chair now to fold the paper back up, hands it to him.

He waves her away. "Finish it." He says and she smiles gratefully, places it carefully back on her desk.

"Thank you."

He can't bring himself to leave, not yet, not without learning more. He has come to depend on this woman over the years, for support, to help him fix his mistakes, but he realises now how little of her he knows.

He could not, before he stepped into her sitting room tonight, have imagined her enjoying the words of today's revolutionists and that feels like an oversight now. How can he claim not to have become one of Them, if he hasn't taken the time to know the staff beyond the surface of their day-to-day lives?

He realises he has been standing, staring at Mrs Hughes and he can't be sure what his expression has become, but she manages to look both concerned and uncomfortable with his continued presence.

"I didn't know you were a socialist, Mrs Hughes." He says eventually, tries to look casually interested and not like he is as fascinated by this as he is.

She laughs, and he remembers that sound, from the servants' hall at dinner, coming across the gardens to the garages when he would be working on the carriages and cars.

"Not quite, Mr Branson. At least not to your standard I'd imagine." She smiles at him, glances down at the paper, runs a finger across the headline. "But I'm not blind to the changes that are coming." She looks up at him then, her smile changing and he thinks, she might wink at him if this were a conversation years ago, and he just an idealistic Chauffeur. "And you'll remember, I'm not English either, Mr Branson. I'm not always so enamoured of their ideals."

"But Mr Carson—" he stops at the eyebrow she raises.

"Mr Carson and I are different people, Mr Branson. In agreement about a lot of things, but different all the same." She pauses, seems to be thinking if she should say more. He tries to make his expression as open as he can. "Change is coming, I do believe that. And it is fine to want to have others see it too, to want to be a part of it and have others join in your thinking, if they wish to."

He smiles, sees where this is heading. "I gather Miss Bunting was not a favourite here either."

"Daisy liked her sure enough." She says, which both is and is not an answer. "Be yourself, Mr Branson, but remember that all of us change." She pats his arm as she has many times before.

"Thank you again for the paper, I'll see it's returned to you when I'm done." She hesitates, but then continues. "Perhaps, if you've a spare moment we might discuss it, before we lose you to the American revolution."

He stares, surprised again and then smiles, smirks. "Downton's secret keeper." He says and she laughs.

"I'll keep yours, Mr Branson, so long as you keep mine."