Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Downton Abbey
Title: Another Chance
Length: 3 chapters
Sometimes all it takes is another chance to get it right.
Before reading this, you should read No Place For Me

Chapter One

Thomas was dying for cigarette. He had been so busy all day he had only managed to have two. With Carson in the hospital after a heart attack, he had temporarily become butler. Although he had overheard a conversation that Carson might not be coming back which could mean he would have the position permanently. Over the last few years Carson and he had called a truce of sorts and Carson, recognising he had the ability, had shown him most of the inner workings of Downton and what it took to keep it running. Thomas was sure he could do the job and just as sure that Carson would recommend him.

He still had Jimmy and Alfred, but at times they were overwhelmed. The addition of the two children was more work than anyone had suspected. Sybil was seven and George would be six in a few weeks. While the nanny looked after them, they still managed to cause more than their share of havoc. They were spoiled. Thomas supposed that was understandable, but still it could make for some surprising days. It wasn't that he didn't like children, it was just he didn't know how to deal with them. He had never been around any, had no nieces or nephews and he knew he would never have his own. He had gradually become more comfortable with them, but he still wasn't sure. Of course, they gravitated to him as if sensing he would give in rather than have to disappoint them.

"Thomas?"

"Yes, Miss Sybil."

"I can't find George."

George Crawley was always hiding and upsetting her. You would think she would have learned by now.

"Now, Miss Sybil, you know he's around here. Did you look in the library?"

"I've looked everywhere?"

In a house the size of Downton, he doubted it.

"Can you help me find him?"

"I'm very busy."

"Please, please."

"Why don't you get Nanny to help."

"I don't want her. I want you."

Anything to keep her quiet so he could get on with his day. Fortunately he had seen the little bugger sneak into the breakfast room about fifteen minutes ago. He was going to find out what he was up to but got sidetracked by Jimmy.

"Very well, let's look in the breakfast room."

"I already did."

"Everywhere?"

"Yes."

"Inside the sideboard?"

"Oh. No."

Thomas had Alfred empty the sideboard earlier in the week and knowing George it wouldn't have taken him long to find that out. The children seemed to wander the house at will and at odd hours. It was their house, of course, but their nanny really should take better control. He opened the door into the breakfast room and Sybil dashed over to the sideboard, flinging open the first door.

"He's not here."

"Try the next door."

As she opened it George sprung out.

"Boo!"

Sybil screamed and jumped back, hitting her head on one of the chairs. Thomas ran to her as she sat crying on the floor.

"Are you all right. Let me see."

He checked the back of her head, but there was no cut. He turned to glare at George, who immediately ran out of the room, leaving him with the sobbing Sybil. He bent and picked her up.

"It will be all right. Let's go find Nanny."

She buried her head in his shoulder and continued sobbing.

"Maybe we can get you something from Mrs. Patmore, too."

Sybil looked at him, wiping her tears.

"What?"

"I don't know, but she always has something special hidden away, doesn't she?"

And maybe we can get me a good stiff drink and a cigarette. He carried her out of the breakfast room and saw George coming down the hall with Miss Nelson, the nanny, in tow.

"Mr. Barrow, what happened."

"They were playing and Sybil hit her head. It's not bleeding and I don't think it was that hard, but I'm sure you'll be able to tell better than I can if there's anything else wrong."

As she took Sybil from Thomas and started away, Sybil wailed.

"What about Mrs. Patmore?"

That caught George's attention, of course.

"Mrs. Patmore?"

The nanny looked at him. Why hadn't he kept his mouth shut?

"I said that Mrs. Patmore might have a treat for her."

George piped up again.

"Me too. Me too."

The nanny looked at Thomas as if to say, "You started it, you finish it."

"Yes, yes. I'll have Alfred check and bring you both something. If Miss Nelson doesn't mind."

"No, I think that would be fine."

She walked away again, George running in front of her. Sybil looked back over her shoulder and smiled.

"Thank you, Thomas."

Now maybe he could get back to work. He found Alfred and told him what had happened, sending him in search of Mrs. Patmore. He would never hear the end of it if he forgot that. He came across Jimmy in the dining room.

"Is everything under control now?"

"Yes."

"Good. I'm going to go outside for a cigarette. You know where to find me if anything happens in the next ten minutes."

"I'll be able to handle it."

"Yes, I know."

"Don't worry. If Carson doesn't come back, the job is yours. You know that."

"Do I?"

"Of course. I can hardly wait to call you Barrow when you're not around to hear me."

"I'll bet you can't."

He left Jimmy and went downstairs.

"Mrs. Patmore, did Alfred get something for the children?"

"Yes, Mr. Barrow."

"Thank you."

It sounded odd to have her call him "Mr. Barrow" but it went with the position. Moving up like that might cause problems since everyone was used to him as Thomas. Still it wasn't something unusual for an under-butler to become butler so there really shouldn't be a problem with anyone. If there were, he wouldn't allow it to go on. The house had to run smoothly. As he reached for the door handle to the yard he shook his head. Shit, he sounded like Carson. He opened the door and almost walked into scaffolding. He forgot it was there.

As estate manager Tom Branson was responsible for the upkeep of the house itself, which could take quite a bit of work. This year he was having large areas of the stone cleaned and all the windows painted. Small jobs could be handled by his own workers, but not this large an undertaking, so he had hired an outside company. They had been there almost three weeks. Thomas waved one of the workers over.

"How much longer will you be here?"

"Don't know. You'll need to check with the boss."

"Is he here?"

"That's him coming down the scaffolding on the other side of the yard."

All Thomas could see was his back. He walked over and waited at the bottom, talking to him before he reached the ground.

"How much longer are you going to be in this area? It's inconvenient and I was sure you would be finished by now."

"It will take as much time as I need to do a good job."

He turned to face him.

"I'm sure you wouldn't want me to do anything else. I . . ."

He stopped mid-sentence and stepped forward.

"Thomas?"

Thomas struggled to put a name to the face, then it all flooded back.

"Charlie? Is that really you?"

Charlie grabbed him in a bear hug.

"Damn right. After all these years. What are you doing here?"

"Charlie, let me go. Not here."

He pushed him away, dusting himself off, and immediately regretted it when he saw his face.

"I'm sorry. You took me by surprise. Of course I'm glad to see you."

He reached out his hand. Charlie paused before shaking it. So that was how it was going to be. Two could play that game.

"Look, I've got to get back to work. These men are good, but someone still has to keep an eye on them."

"You?"

"Don't sound so surprised, Thomas. I'm the foreman. Been doing this for almost twenty years now. Not with this company but all over the place. I've been with them two weeks."

"That didn't come out right."

"Yes, I noticed."

"Can I start again? It's just that I never expected to see you again or to see how well you've gotten on."

"That's fair I suppose. Finding you here was a bit of a shock for me too."

He looked him up and down.

"Fancy outfit. What are you?"

"Butler. Well, acting butler."

"It's a long way from clock maker."

"And you're a long way from coal man."

He paused.

"I still have the cross."

"I never expected anything else."

"Look, I've got to get back. Can we meet?"

"I'm staying in a room over the pub until I find somewhere to live. We could meet there."

Thomas wasn't sure how he would be able to get away.

"It will be late. After nine, closer to ten."

"After twenty years, I don't think a few hours will matter."