“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.”
Note: This is a sequel to a another story called “1921“ which you can read here. I know for a fact that at least one person in the universe really wanted a sequel and I hope to hell this is not wretchedly disappointing. SURPRISE! (heh, I told her I’d never write a sequel cause I never thought I would)
Rated: A dash mature.
Summary: After the train…
Thomas did not realize he was married to Jimmy until it was too late. Having never been the sort to consider marrying while enjoying the company of men on the side, he had never thought much about the mechanics of marriage, and didn’t know what it looked like.
He realized Jimmy was in love with him late on Christmas Eve in 1921. They had stayed up later than the others, playing cards and drinking mulled wine. It was amazing, Jimmy’s turnaround after he had agreed to be friends. As soon as Thomas had assured him that he expected nothing, Jimmy had relaxed. They gossiped and spoke of the war and did the things that casual mates do. But that particular night as Thomas made jokes at Alfred’s expense (because apparently nothing amused Jimmy more than jokes at Alfred’s expense), Thomas saw Jimmy continually glance up at him and fidget and tap his fingers. In that moment Thomas realized that Jimmy was not being friendly, flirtatious, or tense. He was all of those things and more. In fact, he was nervous.
He’s in love with me, Thomas thought. No, not thought. He knew it. Though he argued with himself for a long while. But it wasn’t like before. He wasn’t attempting to read signs- there was no need. It was right there in front of him.
Jimmy was in love.
It only got worse.
Thomas knew because people would mention it. Fortunately they only did so quietly. Thomas did his best to dissuade them.
On Valentine’s Day in 1922, Patmore watched Jimmy throwing off Ivy’s every subtle advance and said quietly to Thomas, “I think we know who Jimmy’s true valentine is, aye Mr. Barrow?”
Thomas did not give an inch and innocently said, “Isis?”
The others couldn’t fail to notice the way Jimmy stuttered and smiled when he talked to Thomas. Eyebrows were raised. Thomas remained stoic and scowling towards the onlookers.
And nothing could be done about it, he decided. He had become a man of a certain age. He had to be sensible. Jimmy was obviously not talented at being careful, if he was even aware of what he was doing.
If there had been the slightest doubt of Jimmy’s love, it was put to rest one otherwise ordinary July afternoon in 1923 as Thomas drank tea and browsed a men’s wear catalogue while they waited for luncheon to begin. Jimmy was reading the paper at the end of the table.
“Have you ever thought of being a valet?” Thomas said suddenly. It was only because he was staring at cufflinks and it occurred to him that Jimmy probably deserved a better position.
“I might do,” Jimmy said vaguely. “Now Molesley’s moved on. If Lady Mary ever remarries, might put myself in the ring.”
“What about at another house?” It seemed like an obvious question to him. He hadn’t meant anything by it.
Jimmy did not respond and finally Thomas stared at the expanse of newspaper and the squarish hands gripping it.
“Would you ever take a position at another house?” Thomas asked again, now very curious.
“No,” Jimmy said quietly.
“Only…” Jimmy paused and said, “Only I th-think we make a good team, you and I. If you left I’d expect it would be because you found something for the both of us. I’d do the same. ‘Fraid you’re rather stuck with me, Mr. Barrow.”
It could have passed for a deep sort of friendship- if the newspaper had not been shivering, the top of it flopping over.
Thomas had taken a long drag on his cigarette and said, “I see. Well…that’s agreeable.”
“Glad you think so,” Jimmy said.
Then Thomas was forced to excuse for himself for a moment as he was moved to tears.
The marriage bit didn’t enter in until around 1924. Thomas didn’t like being sensible. It was obvious they were in love with each other. What was the point in denying themselves that one last measure of affection?
So he had tried to scheme his way into Jimmy revealing himself.
Thomas had not been remotely interested in Mr. Meadows. It was only a strategy. He spent two evenings with the grocer at a pub. Mr. Meadows had flirted. Thomas had remained aloof. Nothing came of it. And it only made Jimmy miserable from what Thomas could see. When Mr. Meadows invited him out again, Thomas rather coldly turned him down.
It was Mr. Frederick that made Thomas realize he may as well have exchanged vows with Jimmy Kent.
Mr. Frederick had been too good to be true; handsome, worldly, cultured, and rich. A younger Thomas Barrow could only have dreamed of such a catch. Thomas had, admittedly, tried to talk himself into it.
You could go off with him, he told himself after Frederick kept slipping notes requesting a private meeting. No one would dare challenge a Mr. Frederick. The adventures they could have. Paris, New York, the Riviera…
Mr. Frederick, who reminded him rather of Kemal Pamuk and was nearly as handsome, had sauntered over to Thomas stark naked, erect, and holding a glass of wine. But Thomas had only been able to think:
No. I can’t. How is this possible?
The sense of betrayal was almost physically painful.
Mr. Frederick had kissed his neck and muttered, “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in service. What a waste. I could give you whatever you desire.” He slipped his arms around Thomas’s waist.
Thomas had never had to struggle with remaining faithful before. No one had ever required his fidelity.
“I…can’t,” Thomas said, even as his own cock took great umbrage at that claim.
Mr. Frederick leaned back and fluttered his pretty golden eyelashes. “I’m sorry?”
“Why ever not?”
“I’m…taken,” Thomas said, and rolled his eyes at his own predicament. “Taken for everything I’ve got.”
The next day Jimmy was falling to pieces in front of him. Somehow he must have gotten wind of the rendezvous. He nearly had a nervous breakdown serving at luncheon. Stricken with a terrible guilt, Thomas stopped by his room to clarify things. Jimmy seemed relieved.
Sometimes the way things had to be made Thomas so angry he wanted to throw wine bottles at the wall. Then Jimmy would save him an extra dessert, or remind him to wear his gloves when it snowed, or surprise him by playing a song on the piano that Thomas had mentioned liking once in passing, and he forgot what reason he had to be angry. Here was a love larger than any that a younger Thomas Barrow might have dreamed. All he ever need do was look in Jimmy eyes and nearly anything could be made right it seemed.
Sometimes Jimmy looked at him as if he were asking the question and Thomas tried to say with all the power of his thought and feeling: Yes, yes, of course. I love you always.
He was musing over his life with Jimmy Kent on that train in September of 1925. Jimmy had a certain way of laughing when Thomas told a joke that was only for him and it was echoing in Thomas’s mind as he smoked in the dining car, when the grinding of metal interrupted him. The train lurched and a great thunder sounded as if the world was crashing in on itself. But Thomas hadn’t the time to process fear before the carriage was tipping over.
Oh, this is how I die, he thought. And then he heard the echo of Jimmy’s laugh again just as he and the other passengers in the dining car were thrown against the ceiling as they rolled, and he heard the crunch of his own leg as it caught on a table and turned the wrong way. He lost consciousness then, until he was pulled out of the wreckage. It wasn’t until he was sitting quietly in a dim room among sleeping patients in the depths of the crowded hospital that he could begin to comprehend that something catastrophic had just happened and that once again, Thomas Barrow had lived to tell the tale. That was followed by hours of the same demanding thought: Jimmy. Where’s Jimmy? I need Jimmy.
And finally, as if sent by the gods, there was Jimmy Kent throwing the door open and sweeping in…
“I’ve got you, Mr. Barrow,” Jimmy said. Thomas had to put his arm around Jimmy’s shoulder. Jimmy held him around the waist as they hobbled up the stairs back at Downton. The homecoming had been tearful. Even ruddy Carson was relieved to see him alive.
The ride home had been quiet and full of the notion that things had changed considerably. True enough, for the whole way back, Jimmy had clutched Thomas’s hand in both of his as if he were afraid it might try to escape. Lord Grantham had a fractured arm, but he would get through it, they said. Though he wasn’t up to a long car ride and remained, for now, in Manchester.
Thomas couldn’t put the slightest bit of weight on his right leg and hopped from step to step beside Jimmy. “Mr. Barrow is it?” Thomas smirked.
He glanced at Jimmy who turned bright red, but smiled and said, “Thomas. Come along, Thomas.”
It took them ages to get as far as the bed and Jimmy grunted with the effort of lowering Thomas down carefully. He helped Thomas get situated and muttered about pain killers.
“I’d like to avoid it just now unless it’s unbearable,” Thomas said, leaning back against his pillows. “I should rather have my wits about me. Jimmy?”
“I’ll get you more pillows,” Jimmy said, his brow was furrowed. His eyes skittered about the room. “The leg should be elevated. I’ll get you dinner too, you must be starved. Oh, and cigarettes…” Jimmy found them in Thomas’s bureau. He already knew where to look.
“Jimmy, would you close the door?” Thomas said.
Jimmy looked up at him with wide eyes and nodded once. He shut the door and ambled over to Thomas, hesitating.
“Will you sit with me a minute?” Thomas said. “Before you go back down.”
Thomas patted the bed and Jimmy sat, careful of the leg. Thomas took his hand- those strong squarish hands that had trembled holding the newspaper so long ago. “Thank you for coming to the hospital.”
“Always,” Jimmy said in a very low voice, and held Thomas’s hand in both of his yet again. “Are you sure you’re alright? Sometimes there’s something wrong inside and they don’t find it-”
“Jimmy, I’m fine. I promise,” Thomas said. “I’m not even bruised around my stomach. It was really just the leg.”
Jimmy traced the bandage on Thomas’s forehead. “And here,” Jimmy said. “It’s all Bates’s fault, ya know. You took his place. Should have been him on that train.”
Thomas chuckled, “I’m sure he feels unsufferably guilty. Be sure to mention it from time to time.”
Jimmy grinned and they were quiet for a moment until he said, “I…I want to kiss you again.”
“You’ll get no arguments from me.” Thomas didn’t wait and leaned forward to give Jimmy the gentlest of kisses. He felt an overwhelming rush of affection and took Jimmy’s bottom lip between his own. Jimmy squeezed his hand and open his mouth slightly. When their tongues touched he made a little noise of surprise that startled Thomas and he pulled away. “I’m sorry,” Thomas said quickly. “Too much?”
Jimmy just looked at him for a moment; his hair tousled (funny, Thomas didn’t even remember tousling his hair) and his lips pink and slick. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, no. Not at all. I’ve just…never felt anyone’s tongue before.” He pushed Thomas back against the pillows and rested his ear against Thomas’s heart. Thomas stroked his hair. Oh…yes, he had tousled it, hadn’t he? It was hard not to once you had the option. Jimmy laughed and Thomas felt it in his chest. “Your heart’s beating like a rabbit’s.”
“Oh shut up,” Thomas murmured.
“No…so is mine. I just wanted to hear.” He kissed Thomas’s shirt, the spot right over his heart. “It’s strange, isn’t it? After all this time?”
Despite Jimmy’s claim of five seconds ago that it had not been too much, Thomas couldn’t help but feel a jolt of fear even as Jimmy was almost lying on top of him. “Strange?”
“Yes, isn’t it?” Jimmy spoke slowly and with wonder, as if he were a scientist making some discovery. “Strange and wonderful. To…to touch you like this. I used to count how many times I’d touched you in a day. At first I only let myself touch you once. In the beginning, I mean. Unless there was some special reason. Once a day. That’s when I started steadying your wrist when you were lighting my cigarette, do you remember? But a special reason was just you handin’ me a bottle of wine, say. And I’d let our fingers brush. Then steadying your wrist, I decided that was a reason. So that didn’t count anymore. I’d do it every time. Then it was taking your elbow when I’d tell you something in confidence and whisper in your ear. That one was quite dangerous. I could smell your cologne. Made me dizzy. And sometimes my lips might touch your ear. Then that became normal. That hardly counted at all. So I’d let my knee touch yours under the table. I’d grab your hand to lead you somewhere or lean on you when when we smoked… All kinds of things. Remember my birthday? When I turned thirty? I put my arm around your shoulder when I was singin’ in the pub. I found any excuse I could to touch your hands that night, I didn’t ever want to let go I…I wanted to be this close to you though. And closer still. But those little things…they were my treasures. You know? Those and…and the things I could think of to make you happy. How funny…I always thought love made you happy because someone else was loving you. But it’s loving someone else that does it. When I sussed that out, I was shocked. And I have been. Very happy. Not that it hasn’t been difficult and sometimes painful. But I have been happier with you than I ever thought I would be in my life. So it is strange now to think there’s yet more. And strange to think I can kiss you when we’re alone and call you Thomas and say silly things it’s…” He laughed again, finally at a loss for words and raised his head. Thomas wasn’t weeping but he was struck dumb. It was the longest speech he’d ever heard out of Jimmy Kent, nevermind the feelings behind it.
“I love you too,” Thomas said. It was all he could think to say.
“Yes,” Jimmy said, and turned his head to kiss Thomas’s hand. He sat up then and cleared his throat. “I should go down now though. I’ll get you a tray. I’ll be back as soon as I can. And don’t smoke too much because you’re bored, you’ll make yourself sick. Anything else you need?”
“No, I’ve got everything,” Thomas said. Jimmy nodded and smiled again on his way out.
Thomas thought again: I’ve got everything.
Thomas would have preferred Jimmy never leave the room, because in the interim he was accosted by visitors, including a weepy Mrs. Hughes. He smiled tightly and nodded his thanks at her concern. But Mr. Bates was the worst. He was, of course, blaming himself for entire incident as if he had caused the accident himself. Which was amusing and also infuriating, because all his comments were about his own guilt.
Oh, of course, I got injured in a train wreck and it’s still about him somehow, Thomas thought.
But his ears perked up when Bates said, “Is there anything I can get you at all?”
“Ah, yes,” Thomas said, and smiled his smuggest smile. “Cigarettes, perhaps?”
“Certainly,” Bates said. He stood stoically, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Liquor, a couple of newspapers, perhaps some chocolates-”
“Yes, yes certainly.”
When Bates was gone, Thomas laughed to himself for a good ten minutes. But soon enough he was bored and Jimmy had not yet returned. He fidgeted with his lighter and held out as long as he could before he smoked another cigarette.
It was Jimmy’s voice in Thomas’s mind. Jimmy, the third time he had smoked one of Thomas’s cigarettes and the first time he’d reached up and held Thomas’s wrist still when he flicked his lighter. Jimmy had ducked his head down, the corner of his mouth turned up…
Jimmy finally returned to the room, carrying a tray laden with food (mostly sweets, Thomas noted) and tea.
“Sorry, I took so long,” Jimmy said. “Everyone wanted news. They wouldn’t leave me alone. Are you in pain?”
His leg ached something awful but Thomas shook his head. “It’s fine.” Not that he frowned on painkillers at all, but he was afraid his senses would be dulled and he wanted to remember keenly every moment since Jimmy had taken his hand in the hospital.
“I have something to give you,” Thomas said, without thinking for one moment about what he was saying.
Jimmy frowned at him, setting the tray down on his nightstand. “What…from London? No, your bags are still in the wreck. Do you ever get your bag back? How does that work?”
“Ugh,” Thomas said and leaned back. He nearly forgotten. “I doubt I’ll ever see my valise again. My favorite hat was in that bag.”
“Good,” Jimmy said with a snort. “I hated that hat. I’ll help you pick out a better one.”
“Excuse me, Frederick Scholte,” Thomas cracked. “You still dress like you should be slinging late editions on a street corner.”
“So witty,” Jimmy said, standing casually by the bed, his hands in his pockets.
“Is that why you love me?” Thomas said, and nudged him with his good leg.
Jimmy took a quick breath, his eyes flicking about the room. “One reason,” he muttered.
“Well, anyhow I’ve gotten somethin’ to give you,” Thomas said. “It’s important.”
“Oh.” Jimmy smiled widely. “Oh…so have I then! I’ve got something to!”
He turned on his heel to leave the room again and Thomas said, “You’re just trying to one up me! You’re always doing that!” He laughed at the affronted expression on Jimmy’s face.
“I most certainly am not,” Jimmy said. “I’ve never tried to one up you.”
“Oh, not at cricket or cards or carnival games? You must be joking.”
Jimmy shuffled his feet and before dashing out of the room, he said, “I wasn’t trying to one up you, I was trying to impress you.”
Jimmy once again took ages with whatever he was doing, and Thomas had time to eat half the food on his tray and think about what he was going to say. When Jimmy came back, he wasn’t carrying anything, but he had taken off his jacket. He sat on the bed and frowned at Thomas. “You didn’t get out of bed, didja?”
“No,” Thomas said.
Jimmy seemed wary. “Am I getting something out of your bureau?”
“Well…what are you goin’ to give me then?” He nodded at the tray. “An apple tart? A cigarette?”
“No,” Thomas said, having fun.
“A kiss?” Jimmy bit his lip.
“I’ll always give you a kiss,” Thomas said. Jimmy leaned in for his kiss and Thomas placed his silver lighter in Jimmy’s hand and held it there.
Jimmy’s breath hitched and he pulled away to looked down at the lighter, surprised. “Y-you don’t mean-”
“I stole it off a dead man,” Thomas said softly, keeping Jimmy close. “My first week in the Somme. An officer, Captain Wills. I was always runnin’ out of matches and anyway they’d get wet in the rain and when I couldn’t smoke. It drove me mad. But I saw Captain Wills flicking that lighter all the time when he was nervous. At least if I was sitting around coveting that lighter, I wasn’t thinkin’ about how a mortar could blow my head off at any time. I wanted it so badly. Not that I wanted the poor sop dead. Not like that. Fact, I’d rather have bought it myself. Just to show off. Ha…I did think of seducing it off of him though. If things ever got desperate enough. Didn’t come to that. Instead he returned from an ambush missing half his guts. We did what we could for him but he was finished. So I took the lighter. Just that. Nothin’ else. Things only got worse in the trenches after that, sometimes I thought I’d cursed myself. Then…then one day, I held it up…” Jimmy stroked Thomas’s cheek with his free hand and Thomas gazed up at him. These new little gestures were all so surprising. “It got me out of the war though. Then it was my lucky lighter. At the fair, when those men beat me, I was afraid they’d take it. When I felt it in my pocket I was so relieved… Then it was the lighter I used to light your cigarettes when you’d steady my wrist… Got me through the train wreck too, it seems. It’s the most valuable thing I have. Or it was. Now it’s yours. So I’ll have to steady your wrist.”
“Mr. Barrow, it’s…Thomas,” Jimmy said, in his husky voice. ”I…don’t rightly know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything,” Thomas said. “Just give me my present. Impress me.”
Jimmy swallowed and pocketed his new lighter. He leaned in and kissed Thomas, pressing a ring into his gloved hand, mimicking Thomas’s gesture. It was a signet ring; silver and worn. A letter D was just barely visible.
“As it happens, this ring was stolen too,” Jimmy said. “It was stolen by my great great aunt Margaret on my father’s side, who apparently had a torrid love affair with…a viscount. I think it was a viscount. I can never exactly remember the name, but I’d know it in Debrette’s. Apparently, he threw her over and she nicked it as revenge. Dark secret of the family ever since, but we liked the story. My father was a bit of a character, see. He used to wear it to town and pretend to be a gentleman. Made up all sorts of tales. Once he got invited to tea at a great house. In fact…yes, I believe it was the Napiers. But when he went to war my mum made him take it. She made a big show of how she liked the ring as much as she liked him, so he had to wear it to war and if he knew what was good for him he’d bring it back safely. He didn’t though. But I did. The ring found me in the trenches sent by his captain. With the news that he’d died. So I wore it home. Soon enough I was the only one left to keep it. Not that I ever wear it now. Fancy a footman wearing a signet ring. It’s…” Jimmy’s voice shook and he cleared his throat, composing himself. “It’s the most valuable thing I have. Or it was. Now it’s yours.”
Thomas found that if he wore the signet ring on his left hand under his glove, no one else would ever know.
When Thomas finally went to sleep that night he dreamed he was on the train again. Except this time it kept rolling and tumbling, tossing him around like a rag doll. He would die, surely he would, and he would never see Jimmy again-
When he jerked awake he found Jimmy’s arms around him.
“I’ve got you, Thomas,” Jimmy whispered. “It’s alright now.”
Thomas had taken painkillers before bed. They had likely made the nightmare worse and they were definitely making him sluggish and slow now as he turned over, feeling leaden, and hugged Jimmy tight, twisted a little funny because he couldn’t move his leg over. He buried his face in Jimmy’s belly. A shaft of moonlight fell on Jimmy’s shy smile when Thomas looked up at him.
“I…thought you were in your room,” Thomas mumbled.
“I was,” Jimmy said, and Thomas felt a hand stroking his hair. “Couldn’t sleep in there after everything that’s happened though.
Thomas’s head was fuzzy and he said, “Mmmm…don’t get on the train.”
“You’re dreamin’. Everything’s fine now. We’re alright.”
“Mmgood. I didn’t dream the hospital, did I?” He remembered Jimmy weeping and admitting that he had fallen in love with Thomas a long time ago. They had kissed. And now they were cuddled up under the covers. Would that make this a dream too? It was all mixed up.
“Lord, that stuff’s strong,” Jimmy said. “No, you didn’t dream the hospital.”
“You came and found me,” Thomas said, his voice muffled by Jimmy’s shirt.
“Yeah, I always will,” Jimmy said simply. “Go back to sleep.”
“And you’ll stay here…”
He thought Jimmy said something else but sleep was already pulling him under again as fingers gently combed his hair. He had no more nightmares about the train.
Jimmy took care of Thomas as tenderly as a nursemaid takes care of a newborn- except for the times when he barked at Thomas that he was smoking too much or chided him for hopping about the room without his crutches. For weeks they went no further than heated kisses and grasping at shirtsleeves (this had been discussed and both parties agreed that for the first “time” they should both be in good health).
For a few painful weeks…they succeeded.
But one sunny spring day, Jimmy insisted that Thomas go outside for some exercise. Thomas had been doing as much work in his room as could be managed; sorting of accounts, managing inventories, and the like. He wasn’t sorry for it. Reading the newspaper only got one so far and Jimmy was busy with his own work. It got so that Thomas’s room became an office- papers and accounting books stacked and scattered about. Jimmy finally complained that Thomas was working too hard. Thus the outing, as it was Jimmy’s afternoon off.
“I’ve got a broken leg, so you’re taking me for a walk,” Thomas grumbled. “Fantastic.”
“You need exercise, don’t you?” Jimmy said brightly, as they made their way out into the pretty wilderness of the estate. “You’ve got the crutches, you ought to use em’.”
“Do you know Anna called Bates and I twins because of this blasted leg?” Thomas said, spitting the words. “And Bates smiled. Put me off my breakfast.”
Jimmy laughed at that, in the special way he had when he laughed at Thomas’s jokes.
They found a willow tree far away from any beaten path. The canopy was thick and draped like curtains around them so that when they had been sitting and chatting a while and Jimmy lit Thomas’s cigarette and Thomas took his wrist to steady it and Jimmy looked at him and put the lighter away and took the cigarette out of his mouth so he could kiss Thomas as he pressed him into the long soft grass, there was no one to see. Jimmy was careful of Thomas’s leg, but he lay half atop him and pulled his braces down and tasted the salty skin of his neck.
“I don’t want to wait anymore,” Jimmy whispered. “Do you?”
Thomas shook his head and said, “Will you tell me about the counting again?”
“How you used to count how many times a day you’d touched me? Tell me again?” Thomas sat up a little and kissed Jimmy’s cheek.
“Ah…yes. I…used to count how many times I touched you everyday…” Thomas went about taking Jimmy’s jacket off his he spoke. And took his braces down. “First it was only once. Just once a day when I would steady your wrist while you lit my cigarette. “ Thomas begin to unbutton Jimmy’s shirt. “And um…then it was when I’d hand you somethin’ like a plate or a wine bottle and I’d let our fingers brush. I’d still feel it for a long time after. And other things like once I said you had a leaf in your hair and I pretended to look for it. Or I said your collar was crooked when it wasn’t so I could straighten it…” Thomas took off Jimmy’s shirt. Jimmy shook his head suddenly as if just waking from a dream and went about undressing Thomas. “And I’d take your elbow and whisper in your ear…” Thomas held him close and kissed his way up Jimmy’s neck to the spot just under his ear and nibbled at him there. “And it m-made me…dizzy. Like…like now for instance. Dizzy.” He had Thomas’s shirt off now and he mouthed his way along Thomas’s shoulder and mumbled into his skin. “And I’d let our knees touch under the table…”
“And your birthday…” Thomas reminded him, and wrapped his arms around Jimmy.
“And on my birthday I didn’t want to let go…” He tugged on Thomas’s trousers and pulled them off and over his plastered leg. Jimmy took his own trousers off quickly and then they were laying side by side in the grass and touching each other everywhere. “And I wanted you…for so long I wanted you…”
They took off their pants and Thomas rolled over so he was on top of Jimmy, who wrapped his legs around Thomas’s back, and when their erections rubbed together Thomas cried out, and he was shivering and shuddering, which was odd because he thought Jimmy would be the ball of nerves, but Thomas felt like a virgin hallboy again and Jimmy kissed him sweetly as they writhed there under the leaves and said, “I’ve got you, Thomas. We’ll be alright.”
This is my last fill and I apologize that it’s so late. I had started writing this fic over the summer and shared it with shadegarden but then abandoned it. Then, I wanted to finish it for gigitrek’s birthday and my writer’s block was too much. So, shade requested that I finish it for the drive. Thank you, shade, you are the biggest sweetheart I know. <3 <3 <3
TITLE: All’s Fair
PAIRING: Thommy starring Drunken Jammies
RATING: T for language
WARNINGS: Drunken vomiting but nothing graphic
SUMMARY: Thomas stops Jimmy before he runs into the thugs at the Thirsk fair. Jimmy repays him by revealing a bit too much about his feelings.
Jimmy was tired.
It was exhausting. Simply exhausting to actively dislike someone.
Someone like Thomas.
After Thomas had crept into Jimmy’s room that night, and after the ugly business with the police, Jimmy had gone out of his way to be especially rude to the newly appointed underbutler to distance himself from being associated with that sort of deviance.
A nasty aside here, an eye roll there. At first, the others thought it was a bit funny to see Thomas—their hopelessly vain, conniving Thomas—silently seethe or blush in response to Jimmy’s comments. But soon after, Ivy and Daisy started looking at him increasingly with looks of disdain on their faces. Bates would sit and shake his head. Anna would purse her lips and glance down at her hands. Mrs. Patmore had smacked him with a towel after one particularly public exchange which resulted in a scolding from Carson. Even Alfred was getting tired of the tension between the two men, and had on more than one occasion pulled Jimmy aside and told him to give it a rest.
Jimmy soon he found himself increasingly outside of the circle of laughter whenever Thomas made a snide comment about the Crawleys or Carson (when he was out of the room), or read a humorous story from the papers. He would get up and leave, and then stand outside the doorway until the merriment had died down.
Jimmy had dug himself completely into a hole. A lonely place where he was isolated from the people with whom he had begun to feel a sense of family (even crusty old Carson had become to warm up to him a bit). It was something he had been sorely lacking in recent years. He was tired, but simply didn’t know how to make it right.
So at the Thirsk fair, seeing Thomas embraced by Tom and clapped on the back by ALFRED, of all people—acceptedeven—after winning the tug-of-war was enough to make Jimmy’s stomach churn as a lump of regret rose in his throat. He had managed to avoid an awkward interaction with Thomas, instead acknowledging the victory by exchanging a curt nod of the head.
Jimmy had walked away from the crowd, flashing his cash a bit too much and drinking way too much. He had gotten sick of the fair, of the laughter and screams of delight. Of the sight of the rest of the staff having a good time without him, and with Thomas instead. It wasn’t fair; he had been the one who was violated and yet he had painted himself into a corner. It made him want to go back to the Abbey alone and lie down in his room and sulk.
Jimmy was stumbling toward the river, barely missing the rocks along the banks when one finally caught up with him, sending him tumbling, sliding and sprawling down a small hill into a low-hanging tree branch … which he hit forehead first.
Jimmy lay there motionless, too drunk and too stunned to move. He felt the trickle of warm blood ooze down his face. He blinked several times and thought that his spot in the mud would make a fine place to either sleep or die when an unmistakable voice–smooth as ice and just as tingling–broke through his alcohol-infused haze.
“You alright, Jimmy?”
Jimmy turned his head (which felt as though it was packed with glass shards) to see Thomas standing over him, his black hair hanging loose from its pomade prison, his suit jacket rumpled and open, and a genuine expression of concern etched onto his face.
Jimmy raised his hand to block out the suddenly evil sun so he could adjust his eyes. He huffed and then sneered, “Have you come to my rescue, Sir Barrow? The gallant knight in stupid lavender armor?”
Thomas crouched down next to him and said, “Just keeping an eye out. That’s all.”
Jimmy blew a raspberry into the air and snapped, “Pull the other one. You were hoping to get me alone.”
Thomas sighed. Not again.
“You’re drunk,” he said flatly.
Jimmy slowly sat up, ready to stand and prove his sobriety.
“I am not DRUNK,” he declared.
Thomas shook his head and tried not to laugh, “The only people who ever say they’re not drunk are the ones who are drunk.”
Jimmy swung a weak fist at Thomas’ knees and spat, “Fuck. You. Mister. Barrel. Hah. Barrel. A wheel barrel FULL. OF. SHITE.”
Thomas raised his eyebrows and decided to let Jimmy’s ridiculousness go unacknowledged.
“Alright, let’s get you home,” he said with a slightly patronizing edge, and reached out to grab Jimmy under his arms but the footman was having none of it.
“Why should you care? What does an under butler do anyway except live to take the piss out of me?” Jimmy yelped as he tried to get up on his own.
“By the look of your face, I had good reason. Let me see that cut,” Thomas said as his fingertips lightly touched Jimmy’s hair, brushing it out of his eyes.
Jimmy pushed Thomas’ hand away and started slapping at him fruitlessly like a child against a bigger foe. Thomas stood and backed away from Jimmy’s sad line of fire.
“No. Get offffffa me!”
“Jimmy, I was a medic …”
Jimmy threw his hands up into the air and rolled his eyes.
“I bloody know! I GET IT! Everyone gets it! ‘Alfred stubbed his toe! Oh go find Thomas he was a medic during the war, you know.’ YES. I. KNOW. YOU. WERE. A. MED. ICK. JESUS CHRIST enough already!” He grabbed his hair in both hands and looked down to see blood dripping onto his best suit, shook his head at his luck and groaned.
Thomas leaned down and squinted into the footman’s face.
“I don’t think you’ll need stitches but you have to stop moving so I can get a proper look.”
“Well, doctor. Let me just lie down. Is that better?” Jimmy said with as much sarcasm as he could muster before reclaiming his resting place in the soft mud, spreading his legs and arms so he could be at his most vulnerable.
“Does this ring any bells? Maybe I should close me eyes.”
Thomas bit his lips shut in embarrassment and muttered, “Stop.”
“I’m sorry I’m not in me underclothes at the moment! Or would you prefer me to be naked?”
Thomas’ cheeks reddened.
“I said STOP IT.”
“Of course you do!” Jimmy shrieked like a damsel in distress in a panto and sat up again. “Alfred … Alfeeeeee!!!”
“Goddamnit Jimmy!” Thomas hissed, looking around to see if anyone was nearby.
“Where’s bloody Alfie when you need him to save you from being touched by a dirtyold man?”
Thomas slapped him across the face. Not too hard, but hard enough to snap Jimmy out of his state.
The footman stared wide-eyed at Thomas, his mouth hanging open in shock.
“Whyda have to HIT me?” he wailed like a wounded animal as he reached up to his rapidly reddening cheek.
Thomas’ hand stung more than Jimmy’s face. He clenched his fist to fight the pain and the anger he felt at himself for touching Jimmy in that way—and in ANY way at all. Ever.
“You’re such … you’re such an … AN INFANT!” Thomas spluttered at himself just as much as to Jimmy. “I’d of done it harder but I don’t fight drunks. Unfair advantage being sober.”
Jimmy’s face fell and his chin began to tremble. He looked at Thomas and began to sob, his shoulders heaving, and buried his face in his hands.
Thomas was heartbroken. Drunk or not, he never wanted to see Jimmy sad much less be the cause of Jimmy’s sadness. The underbutler ached to reach out and reassure him, to touch his cheek and softly wipe away the tears and blood.
Thomas watched Jimmy for a moment and was frozen, then decided he needed to say something … anything … to hopefully stop the agonizing sight of his unrequited love crumbling before him.
“Look, I’m SORRY. Can we please, PLEASE just start over, Jimmy?” Thomas blurted out.
His words managed to silence Jimmy’s cries. The footman thought for a few seconds, hung his head low and began to mumble, “I wanted to turn around. I wanted to turn around so badly. And I didn’t. I should have.”
Thomas looked confused.
Jimmy raised his eyes to him with an expression of disgust.
“Winding the damn clock. Don’t you remember, you arsehole? You were SO close. So close … your smell. Jesus. I should have turned around.”
Jimmy wiped his nose sloppily on his sleeve. Thomas was afraid to breathe or speak. He felt a lump rise in his throat and found it hard to swallow.
“And what would you have done?” Thomas almost croaked. “If … if you had turned around.”
(Years later, they would continue to argue as to whether or not this very moment should count as their first kiss. Because it was bad. Very bad.)
Jimmy leaned forward, grabbed Thomas’ face in both hands, and planted a loud, sloppy-with-tears-and-snot smooch on Thomas’ lips. As soon as their mouths made contact, Jimmy’s eyes flew open in horror. He pulled away violently and vomited the evidence of the past two hours all over Thomas’ chest.
Jimmy froze in shame and began to cry again, “I am so sorry. It’s not you. It’s not you at all.”
Thomas put his hand lightly on Jimmy’s back. His eyes flickered down to what he hoped wasn’t his ruined suit and tried to say soothingly, “It’s alright, Jimmy. It happens.” (He also mentally thanked God for what felt like the millionth time that he had such a strong stomach.)
“No … it’ … disgusting!” Jimmy stuttered in between huge gasping sobs. He pulled out his handkerchief and attempted to dab Thomas’ jacket.
Thomas tried not to laugh and gently pushed Jimmy’s hand away.
“Never you mind that. I’ve seen worse and … hell, I’ve done worse.” Thomas said.
They sat together, and then Jimmy’s cries escalated into a wail, “Why’d you have to be so bloody STUPID and OBVIOUS all the time?”
Thomas closed his eyes and steeled himself for what he feared would be a painful barrage of insults—and it wasn’t the first time in his life that it happened. He waited in silence.
Jimmy continued, “In my bed? While I was sleeping? In what ladies’ magazine did you read that fine advice?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know why. I just … wasn’t thinking. It was so stupid of me. So bloody stupid.” Thomas cried.
Jimmy snorted in agreement.
“I would take it back if I could. I would take everything back. God, you have NO idea how much I’d love to turn back the clock.”
Thomas pulled out a handful of grass and threw it listlessly. Jimmy tried to but his hands felt numb.
“I’ve never been good with people and their feelings. I push people away because I’m afraid of mucking it up. Like I always do.”
Jimmy’s face was eager, “So why me? Why didn’t you do that with me?”
“I don’t want to talk about this right now. Can we please just forget it?”
“No I want to know.”
“I can’t talk to you now. You’re DRUNK.”
“And you’re a … a … HORSE FACE so we’re even.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.” Why am I arguing with you when you’re like THIS? Thomas thought.
“Don’t you shut me out. Don’t you dare do it. Tell me now or I’ll start screaming again I will!” Jimmy’s voice began to rise with every word.
“Jesus, Jimmy. Calm down, please,” Thomas begged. “I just … I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone and I tried to tell you and show you.”
“You’re bloody awful at flirting.” Jimmy sniffed.
“I know I am. I KNOW. But the house is so huge but we’re never alone in it and I just care so much for you that it makes my heart hurt. I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”
“How do you think I feel? Everyone knows you love me and no one knows how I feel. What I feel. I have to pretend like it didn’t happen and that you disgust me,” Jimmy said ruefully, then angrily poked Thomas. “You don’t have to do a damn thing except be your stupid moony self with your stupid cigarettes and your stupid hair.”
Thomas touched his hair as if it were wounded. He thought he had lovely hair, and ran his hand through it reassuringly.
“Do you know how hard it is for me to sit across from you every day? I can’t even … I can’t allow myself to look you in the eye. I’m afraid they’ll know. I’m afraid you’ll know.”
Thomas inhaled, paused for a second and then exhaled, both terrified and thrilled at the thought of Jimmy’s answer.
“Know what, Jimmy?” Thomas said softly.
“That I love you, you big stupid fucking arse.” Jimmy shouted and weakly tried to punch Thomas in the chest. “There I said it! I hope you’re happy now. Got what you wanted.”
Thomas steadied himself and said, “You don’t know what you’re saying! You’re not going to remember this and if you do, you’re going to think it was a huge mistake.”
“I don’t make mistakes. That’s your specialty. ”
Thomas winced at that verbal jab but decided to take a bold step. (Chances were he wouldn’t even remember anything about the past few minutes anyway.) He took Jimmy’s hand in his, waiting for the footman to pull away. They both stared down at their entwined fingers.
“I’m going to ask you this once, Thomas said slowly and evenly. “Is this what you want?”
Jimmy sighed, “I don’t know. Yes, yes it is. No no no no no no. I mean YES. YES.”
Please just pick one, Thomas prayed silently.
“I’m so tired. I don’t know. I just need to have a lie down.”
Before Thomas could open his mouth in protest, Jimmy had removed his hand from Thomas’ and plopped his head down in Thomas’ lap. Thomas could feel Jimmy’s even breath through the fabric of his trousers. He was sleeping so deeply.
Thomas stroked his curls for a moment and thought, Even if don’t remember, even if you change your mind tomorrow, at least today you said you love me.You. Love. Me.You are so beautiful… god those lips … so lovely. All the things I could do to those lips. All the things you could do with those lips …
The sound of footsteps above him snapped Thomas out of his reverie and quickly pulled his hand away from Jimmy’s hair.
“What on earth is going on here? We heard shouting.” Mrs. Crawley said as she gingerly made her way down the hill, then stopped short and gasped at the condition of the two men before her.
Thomas cleared his throat and said, “It’s Jimmy. He’s had a bit too much to drink and is feeling rather poorly.”
Alfred shook his head and winced at the sight and the smell.
“I’ll fetch the wagon,” said Tom.
Thomas looked down at Jimmy who had one deep blue eye open and was dreamily gazing upwards at him.
“Talk later?” the footman whispered. He smiled weakly and lightly touched the underbutler’s cheek.
Note: For the Sometimes When it Snows series following “A Respite in Winter.” NOT as long as that or the last few though… Just a ficlet. Uh…also I used the premise in a role play I did with Thomasthenoodle, fyi. Oh well.