Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: It's In The Cards
It was late and almost everyone else had gone up to bed when Thomas entered the hallway. He could hear Mr. Carson, his voice raised in anger and accusation.
"I will not have this filth in my house, do you hear me? Whatever possessed you?"
The answer was inaudible, little more than a mumble.
"It doesn't matter how I got them, James. They are vile and so apparently are you."
Thomas tapped lightly on the door and opened it without waiting for permission. Mr. Carson stood behind his desk, face flushed, mouth gaping, stopped in mid-word, before he recovered and glared at Thomas.
"Thomas. This is a private conversation. You should not be here."
"Perhaps, Mr. Carson, you didn't realise how loudly you were speaking. It made the conversation far from private. Something I'm sure you would not want based on the little I heard."
Mr. Carson looked surprised, then dismayed. That's right, you old goat, you were broadcasting to the whole house.
"I do apologise. My anger got the better of me. But these ... " He shook some cards in front of Jimmy's bowed head. "These are disgusting."
Great. Something else to disgust Mr. Carson.
"May I see them?" Mr. Carson hesitated. "Do you really think I might be shocked?" He took the cards that were thrust toward him. Oh for Christ's sake. Really? French photo postcards. He flipped through them. Hardly imaginative poses. One made him pause briefly. Now that's an interesting choice, Jimmy. He held onto the cards rather than giving them back.
"Did you look at them all, Mr. Carson?"
"I saw the first. That's as far as I needed to go."
"Yes, a very good decision. I can't understand why James would have given them to you in the first place. I mean, surely he could have guessed how foul you would consider them."
Thomas kept his face a pleasant mask as he saw Mr. Carson's scowl at recognising his reference to their own encounter two years ago.
"Someone else gave them to me."
"James, you mean you distributed these to another member of the household in an attempt to corrupt them as well?"
Jimmy looked up at him, face flushed and eyes flashing in anger. "I didn't give them to anyone. They were in my room."
Thomas tilted his head to one side and frowned.
"So, someone went into your room and took them? Is that right?"
"And Mr. Carson, you condoned this. I'm surprised."
"It's my business to ensure this house runs smoothly."
"But how were those cards affecting the running of Downton? James wasn't showing them around at the servant's table or slipping one onto the Dowager's plate a dinner."
"Of course not. Now you're being ridiculous."
"Perhaps. But don't you think that having someone in the household who's willing to go into another person's room and search it is more disruptive? I mean, there is such a thing as trust." Watch it, Thomas, don't make too fine a point about trust.
"Yes, I suppose ..."
"After all, it isn't like James went on the halls and did a cheerful song and dance about the cards. They were supposed to be private." He paused as he saw a glint of recognition light Mr. Carson's eyes. "And we all have things in our lives we want to keep private." Bless you, Lady Sybil, and those long tiring nights on the ward.
"Yes, well," Mr. Carson blustered, "I am still not happy." As he shifted uncomfortably on his feet, Thomas could see he was looking for a way out that didn't mean losing face.
"Nor should you be. But I think James has learned his lesson about what's acceptable under this roof. Haven't you?"
Thomas held Mr. Carson's gaze, almost daring him to take things further. When Mr. Carson looked away first, a faint smirk twisted at Thomas's lips.
"Very well. We'll say nothing more about this. But I am disappointed in you, James."
Thomas shook his head slightly. Couldn't leave it alone, could you. Fine, I'll give you that.
"Would you like me to dispose of these? Someone else other than us knows you have them and you wouldn't want any rumours to be spread, would you? I doubt that person can be trusted."
Mr. Carson nodded and waved them away.
"Shall we go, James?"
As he closed the door behind him Thomas stuffed the cards into his inside jacket pocket.
"I need a smoke. Care to join me?"
Jimmy followed him out to the yard without a word.
"Well," Thomas exhaled the word with the smoke, ""that was interesting." He took another drag. "Who did you piss off to make that happen?"
"Don't know," Jimmy shrugged.
"Let's find out. He, and it has to be one of the men, knows about these and I'll take care of him before he tries anything else."
Jimmy sighed. "I thought I was for the chop. The old bastard doesn't like me anyway."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry. He tears a strip off everyone at some point. Even the fair headed, red-headed, Alfred hasn't entirely escaped."
"Yeah, but not for 'low morals'."
"Why would you buy these?"
"Base carnality, apparently."
Thomas laughed. "He obviously had built up a head of steam before I got there."
"It was bloody embarrassing. It felt like my father had caught ..." Jimmy broke off. We're friends, but not that close. Not yet.
"Well, these," Thomas tapped the cards in his pocket, "are pretty sad."
Thomas was surprised by Jimmy's quick turn and to find his hands pushing him roughly against the wall.
"I am not sad." The shock on Thomas's face brought him back to reality and he stepped away. "Don't you ever call me sad."
Thomas straightened his jacket. "I didn't. I wouldn't. All I meant was that these represent the best you and I can seem to do. Little fantasies that take us nowhere. Lonely nights that we try to make less lonely but can't. You have your cards and I ..." He changed his direction before things got out of hand. "I don't understand. I mean, me, yes I get that. Not much chance. But you. Jesus, Jimmy, those maids are falling all over you."
"They aren't what I'm looking for."
"So you settle for photos of buxom women being fucked."
"And that's your type? A couple of them look like a young Mrs. Patmore."
Jimmy shuddered. "I don't want to talk about this."
"Fine." Thomas stubbed out his cigarette against the wall. "But there was one card ..." He saw Jimmy tense. "The one with the chair and the rope."
"You're right. None of my business. That's what this has been about. People minding their own business." For now. "Well, I'm off to bed." He started toward the door, but turned as he reached it. "Do you want the cards back?"
"No, I guess not."
"Then I'll burn them tonight."
When Thomas got to his room, he undressed and pulled on his pyjama bottoms. As he hung up his jacket, he pulled the cards from his pocket and went to the small chest on his dresser. Unlocking it - that's a lesson the Duke taught me - he planned to set the cards inside, but first he sorted through them once again. They were all in decent shape, except the one he wanted to ask Jimmy about. It was dog-eared and the edges were curved.
You should have kept these, Jimmy. You never should have let me take them. You knew I would look again. You knew ... He stopped in mid-thought. Unless you wanted me to. The card in question showed a man tied to a chair with someone kneeling in front of him, tongue licking at the head of his cock. He put the cards into the box and locked it. Explain to me, Jimmy, why this is two men.
~~ End ~~