Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, AU, Fluff
This is the end of something. Unfortunately I'm not sure if there will be a beginning or a middle. To understand its inspiration you should read my blog post
The windows in the sitting room were open wide when Jimmy joined Thomas. It had been a surprisingly warm June in London and the breeze was more than welcome. Jimmy shifted Carson to one side, closer to Thomas, then settled onto the chesterfield with his cup of tea, setting it to one side on the end table. Carson opened one eye and groaned, then turned over onto his back and started to snore quietly. Jimmy reached over and snatched the cigarette from Thomas's lips, took a deep drag and handed it back.
"You told me you were giving up," Thomas chided as he continued reading his book. "As a matter of fact your exact words were 'Dirty habit. I'm quitting and so are you'."
"I did quit for a while, but you bloody wouldn't so …"
"Right," Thomas laughed, eyes still on the page, "blame me for your lack of will power."
"I don't see why not," Jimmy huffed. "You always lead me into temptation when you know damn well I'm weak."
"True, true," Thomas nodded. "Look how easy it was to get you into bed the first time."
"I am not easy …," Jimmy stopped when he could see Thomas almost choking as he held back another laugh. "All right, all right. You win."
"I usually do," Thomas looked up from his book and smirked. Thirty-five ... no, thirty-six years and Jimmy still hadn't learned. He knew just how to get him going, although he now suspected that Jimmy merely played along most of the time.
Jimmy took a sip of his tea and with his free hand reached over to scratch Carson's belly.
"I had lunch with Alex Garrison today."
"That's nice. How is he?" Alex was one of the friends Jimmy had made when he first came to London in 1925, a few years before Thomas and Jimmy finally got together; he had in fact found Jimmy his first job backstage at a theatre.
"Good. He and Maureen are off to the continent for the summer." Jimmy paused as if gathering his thoughts. "He wondered if we wanted to use their place in Bexhill for August."
Thomas flipped the book over onto his lap, turning to face him. They had been to Alex's summer home a few times. It was roomy and comfortable with a good-sized garden, within walking distance of the High Street and so close to the ocean that a couple of hundred unobstructed paces took you to its edge. He knew Jimmy loved it.
"For the entire month? Can you get away for that long?"
Jimmy swallowed the last of his tea and set the cup back on the saucer.
"Well, you know I've been banging on about retiring …"
Thomas's mouth opened slightly but at first no words came. "Uh, and?"
"I thought maybe this way I could sort of ease into it. You know, take August and come back for September. We can try to decide when were there if it makes sense. Maybe I'll only stay at work for a few months then leave at Christmas."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Why not? I'm not getting any younger," Jimmy reasoned," and I think I deserve to take it easy. With you."
"Well I'll be damned." Thomas pushed his glasses up onto his head
"Don't you want me here all the time?" Jimmy asked.
"I suppose I could get used to you," Thomas joked.
"If you're not used to me now, Thomas, you never will be. Besides, it's more likely a matter of my getting used to you. You can be a weird old codger."
"Talk about pot and kettle."
From Jimmy's look Thomas could tell there was more news to come. "And?"
"Well … Alex and Maureen want to sell Bexhill; stay in London permanently."
"Ah, I see."
"He's given us first refusal."
"Don't you mean you asked if we could have first refusal?"
"No, he … uh," Jimmy stammered. "All right, yes."
"And I suppose you already have a plan."
"Just some ideas. You know damn well I would never do anything by myself. We make decisions like this together."
"Fine. I only have two questions for now. First, can we afford it? Secondly, what do we do with the flat if we go ahead?"
"Seven thousand. I'll do some checking, but I think that may be damn good. We'll hardly notice it gone from our savings."
Thomas nodded. "That does seem reasonable. And the flat?"
"Why not keep it. It's paid for, we only have the rates and some upkeep to worry about. We can get Mrs. Bentley's boy from downstairs to check it daily. Pay him something. We can use it when we come to London either for work or for fun. You'll still want to go to the shop for a while and I'm pretty sure I can arrange something at the theatre to come in a few days a month if I want to. Or we can rent it out. There are all kinds of possibilities."
Jimmy finally paused to take a breath.
"Some ideas? God, I'd hate to imagine if you had an actual plan. And I suppose you want to drive down this weekend to have another look."
"Alex invited us."
Jimmy waited for Thomas's reply, but when it didn't come he continued.
"Remember the last time we were there and we walked to the beach at sunset with Carson."
Thomas knew full well what Jimmy was doing, but he had no plans to make it easy for him.
"And the storm that night? I definitely remember that."
"It storms in London too," Jimmy reminded him peevishly.
"Of course it does, love," Thomas relented. "You really want this, don't you."
"Not if you don't."
Thomas studied Jimmy's face. He had talked about a place by the sea for years and Thomas hadn't thought much about it, imagining that, like a lot of his plans, it was just that – talk. Apparently even after all their years together Jimmy could still surprise him. He had to admit that the idea of living there was appealing, especially if they could still escape to London when they felt like it. He reached over and took Jimmy's hand.
"I think," he said as he kissed the palm, "that you and I, and Carson of course, are going to love our new home."
Bexhill is Bexhill-on-Sea. Today by road it's about 70 miles (115 km) from London. I'm not sure what the route would have been in the 60's and what difference that would have made to the distance.