“Where is he?” Jimmy said, voice shaking. “I don’t care what Mr. Carson has to say I’m seeing him.”
“I don’t think Mr. Carson has much fight in him after all this,” Anna said, stepping aside so Jimmy could come in the servant’s entrance. “He’s sleeping but you can see him.”
“Thank you for your telegram,” he said quietly. “I had no idea things got so bad when I left.”
Anna looked at him sadly. She’d sent for him because she couldn’t think of anyone else Thomas might want to see.
He was still sleeping. She let him in and left quietly, giving them their privacy.
Thomas looked awful, pale and thin and frowning as if his mind was as tormented asleep as it was awake. Jimmy’s eyes lingered on his wrists, still bandaged from the shallow cuts. Oh Mr. Barrow’s hands, his war injury, the cuts and scraps and sore joints that came from a life in service, and now these scars. They’d be a constant reminder. Jimmy bit his lip to keep from crying.
“Why’d you do it Mr. Barrow? Did you forget you had a friend? Did you forget you had me? I know I haven’t written. I know and I’m sorry but…”
“It’s alright James,” his eyes fluttered open, focusing on him as if he thought he was a dream. “Is it really you?”
“Of course it’s me you daft…” He choked on the words. “I’m here.” He reached out to put a hand on top of Thomas’s but he sat up and pulled his hand away, pulling down his shirt sleeves.
“I don’t need your pity James. It’s kind of you to come but you don’t need to…”
“I came because I love you,” He said, clamoring out of his chair. “Why can’t you see that people care about you Thomas?”
“You love me?” Thomas’s eyes locked on his.
“Of course I love you. I never told you because…well I don’t know why I never did. I weren’t ready I suppose.”
Thomas shook, pulling back his sleeves to look at the horrible bandages, his shame out on display. How could Jimmy love a man like him? How could anyone? He didn’t have a friend in the world when he got in that bathtub. He didn’t have a friend now.
“I love you Thomas Barrow,” he repeated. He wished he would quit it. If he kept saying it he might believe it.
“You don’t mean it like that,” he said dismissively.
“I do too!”
Thomas flushed. “You can’t be serious.”
“Thomas I’ve come all this way are you going to let me kiss you or not?”
“I’m…” Before he could answer Jimmy’s lips were on his, a chaste, scared little kiss Thomas returned, deeper and more sure. Jimmy Kent, his friend, was kissing him.
He pulled away, looking at him smugly, well, he tried to look smug, Thomas could tell he was mostly scared.
“Well?” He asked softly. “Is that good enough proof?”
Thomas nodded dumbly, and before he could pull away Jimmy had his hands in his and was kissing his bandaged wrists. He did this gently, too gentle for Jimmy Kent, too gentle for anyone to touch Thomas Barrow.
When Jimmy looked up Thomas was crying.
“I didn’t mean to make you…”
“No, Jimmy thank you. I…” His voice caught. “I didn’t think I was going to wake up. I really thought I’d done it. I didn’t want to wake up,” he breathed. “Because I didn’t think I had any friends left. I couldn’t see any kind of future.”
Jimmy’s lip quivered like he was going to cry too. “Well you’ve got me. You’ve got me from now on.”
Jimmy fell asleep in the chair by his bed, hair draped across his forehead. It was dark in the room, but Thomas couldn’t sleep, not after everything.
“Are you awake? You should sleep,” Baxter slid into the room quietly, glancing at Jimmy and back to Thomas.
“So this is Mr. Kent,” she said, trace of a smile on her lips.
“Thank you,” he said. “I never properly thanked you.”
“I didn’t know you were thankful,” she said hesitantly. When he first woke up he wasn’t, but Jimmy wasn’t there when he woke up. He didn’t think he had any friends when he woke up.
“I am,” he said quietly. “How did you know? Why did you bother after all I’ve done to you?”
She looked him straight in the eye. “I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” she glanced to the sleeping boy. “And this is yours.”