Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: Christmas 1947
Warning: Season 5 spoilers
There's a recurring theme here, as in some of my other fics - money and how either of the boys gets it. However, what's different, at least for me, is my take on their relationship.
Through the years Thomas and Jimmy kept in touch. It was true that Jimmy wasn't much for writing, but he made the effort and Thomas received six or seven letters a year; much better than he had expected. He in turn wrote much more often. It wasn't that he ever thought Jimmy would answer each one; he did it more for himself. It was as if he needed to ensure that Jimmy didn't forget him.
Jimmy never went back into service. He moved around for a few years, working at several jobs, but not finding anything he liked; that was until he got a position in a music store in London. It was near the West End and was frequented by many of the actors and musicians. He was in his element, making friends who invited him to the theatre and to parties. Although he continued to pursue, and be pursued by, women, he didn't take any of it seriously. He never married.
Thomas stayed at Downton until the end. He became butler in 1929 and weathered the depression, watching the estate dwindle. Mary Crawley did what she could after her father died, trying to preserve some of the heritage for George. However, George was sent off to Eton, then on to Cambridge and he simply lost interest. Ultimately the house went and Mary moved to the dower house; she and George sold off most of the estate. She was far from poor, but the glory days were gone. Thomas went with her and they grew into middle age together.
About five years after Jimmy left Downton, Thomas and he started a tradition. Each year around Christmas – choosing Christmas Eve whenever they could – they would meet. Sometimes it was in York, sometimes in London sometimes half way in between. A few times they even put more than a few days together so they could go to a bed and breakfast that they found in the Cotswolds; one year they even managed to get snowed in. No matter where they were, they spent the time enjoying each other's company and getting caught up on events that never made it into their letters.
When Mary died unexpectedly just after the war, Thomas found himself without a position. As she got older Mary mellowed somewhat. She had, for some reason, come to look on Thomas as a younger version of Carson; something that surprised and, if he were to be honest, pleased him. The bulk of her considerable personal estate, a lot of which came for her grandmother in America, went to George of course, but she made sure Thomas was well looked after. Thomas at first thought George might object until they met on the day of the reading of her will in September. Afterwards they stood in the parlour of the dower house.
"You were with mother a long time," George said as he sat down and motioned Thomas to the chair opposite him. "Although I should say you were with us for a long time. I can't ever remember you not being here."
"Yes, my Lord, since 1910. I started as a footman."
"You knew everyone, then; even those I can only vaguely remember." George paused. "In a way, you're much more the custodian of our recent history than I am. I'm sure that's how Mother saw you, as well as coming to look on you as more than just a servant." George made a face. "God I hate that word. I know it's the custom, but it just makes me feel uncomfortable."
"But that's what I was, really. You're correct, of course, it changed when her Ladyship and I moved here. It's something that neither of us chose to acknowledge, but we both knew it all the same."
George nodded. "That's why I'm glad she saw fit to leave you this house and the allowance. She couldn't leave you the house by herself, not without my agreement as you know, but I think it's only fitting that you have both. I was always a bit sad that she didn't remarry, but she told me she never found anyone that mattered as much as my father. In a way I think you made her life alone easier."
"She was hardly alone or lonely, my Lord," Thomas interrupted, "but I think I understand what you mean."
"So, will you keep the house?"
Thomas looked around. "I don't think so. It's much too large for one person."
"You could rent out rooms," George suggested.
"I suppose, but honestly, there are too many ghosts."
"Well," George stood and held out his hand, "you should do what you want. I know that's what Mother intended."
Thomas shook his hand. "Thank you, my Lord."
"And whatever you decide," George added as he followed Thomas toward the front door, "please keep in touch. I only have my Aunt Edith and Marigold and of course my cousin Sybbie in America, so I hope you don't mind if, like my mother, I consider you as family."
"I …," Thomas's voice broke as he answered. "Of course I will. Thank you and good-bye, my Lord."
Thomas closed the door behind George and turned to lean against it. Bloody hell! Who would have thought?
The following week Thomas put the house and contents on the market. He kept several pieces of furniture, ornaments, lamps and a couple of clocks; he was going to need those for his new home. As soon as he heard the will he had begun formulating a plan. He had no intention of staying in Downton or even Yorkshire. After checking with estate agents and with a few friends who understood antiques, he knew that the money from the sale would allow him to buy an exceptional flat. It went without saying that it would be in London.
He kept all this a secret from Jimmy, just saying in one of his letters that come Christmas he would have some good news. Because he was worried about what Thomas would do with no job, Jimmy tried to ferret out more information, but Thomas just told him it was going to be a surprise.
Thomas bought his flat in November and in early December he moved in. It was large and modern, on a quiet side street overlooking a park. There were two bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room and an enormous bathroom. The kitchen was roomy with more than enough room for a table as well. Thomas realised, though, that he knew so little about cooking that he would have to hire someone to do double duty as cook and cleaning lady. Fortunately the allowance Mary left him and the extra money from the sale meant he didn't have to worry about cost. He didn't fail to see the irony in a servant now having a servant of sorts; although he knew the comparison had little meaning.
For Christmas that year, Thomas told Jimmy that he would come to London and arranged to meet him at the music store as it closed on Christmas Eve. He arrived about half five, opening the door to the sound of Christmas carols. Jimmy, who was serving someone at the counter, look up and smiled.
"Is that everything, Bob? Sheet music, that bow we ordered for you, and you want this wireless. Jeannie will love it I'm sure."
"That's everything, Jimmy. I know you can't deliver the wireless tonight. Sorry for being late and in a rush as usual. The day after Boxing Day will have to do." He turned towards Thomas. "I'll let you go since you have another customer. It appears I'm not the only late one."
"No, that's Thomas."
"Ah, the Thomas? The one you told us about?"
"Yes." Jimmy blushed as he answered. He put the sheet music into a bag and handed him it and the already-wrapped bow. "Better hurry before I get a call from Jeannie looking for you."
As Bob passed Thomas he nodded. "No time for introductions, but you remind him that we're expecting you both on Boxing Day." He hurried out the door as Jimmy came over to drop the closed sign behind him.
"What's this about Boxing Day?" Thomas asked as Jimmy disappeared into the back of the shop to get his coat and hat.
"I told you about Bob and Jeannie. I mentioned you were going to be here and they wanted us to come over." Jimmy appeared from behind the curtain. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No. Of course I'm happy to meet your friends." He waited while Jimmy let them out and then locked the door behind them. "Although I am curious what you've been telling them about me. I mean, 'the Thomas'. What exactly does that mean?"
"It's just Bob's way. Ignore him." They began walking down the street. "Are we going back to my flat? Harry's away for a few days so the place is ours. It's a mess, mind you. Your hotel? First we need something to eat I guess."
"I thought Harry was moving out?"
"So did I. That's what he said in October, but he's still here. He's not that bad as flatmates go. Just sometimes he drives me mad."
"All right. Why not my place then we'll get something to eat."
"You at the usual hotel?" Jimmy asked as they walked toward the tube.
"No, actually I have a flat about fifteen minutes from here."
"You rented a flat? For two days?" Jimmy asked as they got to the entrance to the tube. He started down, but Thomas walked past to the taxi queue. "Thomas, where are you going?"
"We're taking a cab."
"Uh … all right, I guess." Jimmy settled into the seat beside Thomas. "Why the splurge?"
"It's Christmas, Jimmy. Remember I said I had a surprise? Well, this is part of it."
Jimmy didn't say much for the rest of the ride, choosing instead to try to figure out what Thomas was up to as he watched the crowds on the street as they passed, until they turned into a side street, pulling up in front of an imposing art deco building.
"Nice," was Jimmy's only comment as they entered the lobby and took the elevator to the seventh floor.
Thomas opened the door to let them in and flipped on the hallway light, taking Jimmy's coat and hanging it in the closet with his before following him into the sitting room. Jimmy let out a low whistle as Thomas turned on the table lamps.
"Bloody hell, this is posh," Jimmy said as he wandered over to the window to look out at the park.
"You like it?"
"Who wouldn't? But I still don't see why you rented this for such a short time. That hotel was perfectly fine."
"Maybe you should take a seat," Thomas suggested as he sat down in one of the chairs opposite the fireplace. When Jimmy joined him, he told his story. The entire time Jimmy just sat and listened.
"So, this is yours?" Jimmy asked when he finally broke his silence. "And it means we'll see each other more often?"
Thomas almost laughed. Of all things, Jimmy had latched onto the fact that Thomas would now be nearby, that they wouldn't be limited to a few days a year.
"Yes, if that's what you want. I mean, I know I do."
"Of course that's what I want, you idiot. After all this time I can't believe we'll be together again."
"Now that you mention it, this flat has two bedrooms. And you know I would be a far better flatmate than Harry."
"You want me to move in? I can't afford this, Thomas."
"Jesus, I don't need your money. I don't care if you pay me anything, but I know you wouldn't do that. So pay me what you're paying now."
He could see Jimmy hesitate.
"Look, you're fifteen minutes by tube from work, not the forty-five minutes you are now. You'll have as much privacy as you have now, more if you want it. You're paying for food too. So, if you want to, give me that money as well, because we'll have someone to prepare ours. You haven't seen the dining room yet. Imagine being able to entertain Bob and Jeannie or whomever here rather than always going to their place."
He paused to take a breath before continuing.
"And you just said my being here meant we would see each other more often. How about for breakfast every morning?"
"All right, all right," Jimmy laughed. "You can stop."
"So is that a yes?" Thomas asked.
"Can I see my room?"
Thomas eyes began to sting as he stood and led Jimmy down the hallway. Like Jimmy, he never imagined they would be together. He knew that it wasn't in the way he had hoped for all those years ago, but he was certain he would end his days with Jimmy. And that was all that mattered.
~~~ End ~~~