Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: The Christmas Angel
Warning: Season 5 spoilers

A bit of sweetness to go with your figgy pudding. And like St. Nick himself, it requires you to believe.

As he did every night, Thomas sat smoking at the servants' table, knowing he would be the last to go to bed. He and Jimmy had gotten into the habit of playing cards or just talking until long after the other servants had gone upstairs. Even though Jimmy was no longer there he still couldn't bring himself to leave any earlier. He wondered if somehow it was the last link he had to Jimmy and he just didn't want to break it.

"I see you're still up as usual, Thomas."

Beryl Patmore's voice from the door took him by surprise and he half-turned to face her.

"You know me, Mrs. Patmore, ever the night owl."

"Yes, so it seems." She sat down beside him. "You're feeling better though? I mean it's not that business from earlier this year that's still bothering you."

Thomas looked at her carefully. She bloody seems to know everything. "No. That's all water under the bridge."

"I'm glad to hear that. She paused as if considering her next words. "So, he hasn't written lately then."

Thomas felt his mouth drop open slightly. She does know everything. "I'm not sure what you mean."

Beryl just shook her head.

"Remember who you're talking to Thomas. I've known you since you were a hall boy and, to be honest, I can usually read you like a book." She sighed. "But if you insist. Jimmy hasn't written lately. Satisfied?"

Thomas thought about continuing to pretend, but realised it was useless.

"No, not in a while; actually, not since September. I thought I might get at least a note for Christmas, but that's tomorrow and there's been nothing."

Beryl reached over and patted the back of his hand.

"I'm sorry. I know how much he means to you. I can always tell when you get a letter from him. You're eyes take on that look; it's like you feel that you're no longer alone." She drew back her hand and stood up. "You're not alone. There are some of us here who would care if you would only give us a chance, but I know that we're a poor substitute. Still, don't forget that."

She turned and headed toward the door. "Good night, Thomas. Don't stay up too much longer." "Happy Christmas," she called from the hallway.

"Happy Christmas," Thomas muttered, more to himself than to her. Not really very happy. Although that was a bit of surprise. Never thought much about what she felt about me; guess I just took it for granted that she was like most of the rest. He was reaching toward his cigarettes to take another one when he heard a knock at the door back. What the hell? He pulled out his watch. It's after eleven. I was sure everyone was in before I locked up.

He walked quickly down the hallway, drew the bolt and opened the door, peering into the darkness. "Who the hell are you and where have you been?"

Jimmy stepped into the light cast by the hallway lamp. "Is that anyway to talk to a friend on Christmas Eve?"

"Jimmy? What ?"

"It's cold out here. Do you think you could invite me in and then ask questions?"

"Uh... of course." He stood back to let Jimmy pass and bolted the door behind him. Jimmy continued down the hall while Thomas trailed after him, still confused about what was going on.

Jimmy sat in his usual chair. "I don't suppose you've got a cup of tea by any chance."

"No. I mean, I could make some." Thomas moved toward the kitchen doorway without thinking.

"Or," as he pulled a flask from his coat pocket, "how about just some glasses. Better to toast Christmas with this than tea any time."

Thomas nodded and got glasses from the kitchen, setting them down in front of Jimmy before taking his seat beside him. Jimmy poured them each half a glass, sliding one towards him. Thomas reached for his glass, then stopped.

"What are you doing here?"

"It's Christmas," Jimmy took a sip, "and I wanted to see you."

"Yes, but I mean it's very late. The last train was around eight. Have you been outside all that time?"

Jimmy laughed. "Lord no. What kind of fool do you think I am? I got a room at the pub."

Thomas swallowed down most of his drink. "And you waited until now? What if no one had been up?"

"I would have gone back to the pub, but I knew it was a good chance that you wouldn't be in bed. Always the last, that was us. I didn't think you would change even if I wasn't here." Jimmy emptied his glass and poured another. "And I was right of course."

Thomas finished his drink and held out his glass. "Why haven't you written in months?"

"What's this? No 'I'm glad to see you, Jimmy. How have you been? I missed you.' Instead you want to know why I haven't written."

"Yes, let's start there." Thomas was more upset than he felt he should have been, but Jimmy's silence had hurt him and he wasn't going to let that slip by.

"All right. Things have been busy."

"That's it?"

"Yes."

"Well that's not good enough, Jimmy. I've written you four times since September and you didn't take the time to send me one single word. I didn't know if you were alive or dead. Do you know how that made me feel? I was going to telephone that butler Clark, right?"

"You wouldn't have, would you? Truth is I got into a bit of bother and had to leave."

"Horses, cards or a woman?"

Jimmy laughed. "You know me well, don't you? Cards. I've pretty well given up women."

Thomas remembered the mess that Andy got into, but Andy was young and nave, while Jimmy Jimmy was older and just as nave sometimes. He didn't know when to stop, when he was getting in too deep, and Lady Anstruther was a perfect example of that, so it didn't surprise him that something like this happened.

"So, that meant you couldn't write? How considerate of you."

The smile on Jimmy's face disappeared. "Do you want me to leave, then? I just thought that since it's Christmas you might ..." His voice trailed off.

"What? Forgive you? For being a thoughtless arsehole?" He sighed and massaged the bridge of his nose. "You always seem to find a way of hurting me, even when you don't mean to. I'm not sure why I thought you might change."

"I'm sorry." Jimmy mumbled as he got up. "I'll go back to the pub."

"Oh for Christ's sake, sit down. And before you get any ideas, this isn't fucking over and you're not forgiven. But it is Christmas." Jesus, I'm stupid. He knew I wouldn't let him go. Oh well, I get what I deserve. "Do you want me to see what I can sneak from Mrs. Patmore's Christmas baking?"

Jimmy's smile returned. "Of course I "

"And what makes you think I'll let you sneak anything?" Beryl Patmore's voice almost boomed from behind them, causing them both to jump.

"How long have you been there?" Thomas asked when he caught his breath. "I thought you went to bed."

"Long enough," she answered, ignoring the rest of his question as she pulled up a chair across from them. "Well, Jimmy, imagine finding you here. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Happy Christmas, Mrs. Patmore. It's nice to see you again."

"Always the smooth and slippery one," Beryl chuckled. "Have you come to put our Thomas out of his misery then?"

"Mrs. Patmore!" Thomas objected.

"What? It's about time isn't it? Maybe you'll stop sitting here late into the night moping."

"I do not mope. Don't listen to her, Jimmy."

Beryl began to laugh. "Well, it seems my job here is done." She stood and nodded toward the kitchen. "You know where the baking is, Thomas. Just don't take too much." She turned to Jimmy. "And it is good to see you. Are you planning on sleeping in the kitchen tonight? Do I need to warn the maids?"

"No, I'm at the pub for the night. And tomorrow."

"Ah, that's nice. So, Thomas, are you going to the pub tonight?"

"What?" Thomas wasn't sure where that came from. "No, of course not."

"You could, you know," Jimmy suggested. "Then we could get caught up without anyone interrupting." He nodded towards Mrs. Patmore.

"No I couldn't. Can you imagine if Mr. Carson were to find me missing tomorrow morning."

"Well," Beryl prompted, "Daisy & I are the first ones up. If you can rouse yourself early enough, we'll let you in and no one will be the wiser.

"Come on, Thomas," Jimmy urged. "It will be like last Christmas; the two of us together again."

Thomas considered for a moment. "All right, why not. Let me get my coat."

"I'll wait and bolt the door after you've left," Beryl added.

After he had gone upstairs, Beryl turned to Jimmy.

"You cut that close. I thought you weren't coming."

"You know, Mrs. Patmore, I still don't know how you found me."

"I have my ways, young man. That's all you need to know. And besides you really didn't take much convincing, did you?"

"No, I suppose not."

"Now you listen to me, Jimmy," Beryl warned. "You make sure he has a good time tonight. You broke his heart when you left and made it even worse, if that's possible, when you stopped writing."

"I told you why I stopped in my letter."

"Yes, well it's time to face the truth and to put an end to running away, wouldn't you agree?"

"I don't think you know what you're saying, what you're asking."

"Don't I now? You're here aren't you? That's the first step. The other thing I know is that Thomas deserves some happiness and you're the one who will give it to him as soon as you stop being afraid."

Jimmy shrugged. "But what about the future? Will we have any?"

"The only way you'll find out, Jimmy, is if you try. Wouldn't it be a wasted life if you refused to do even that?"

"I suppose so." Jimmy paused. "I'm still not sure why you care though."

"It's the time of the year, Jimmy. Just think of me as a Christmas angel watching over the two of you." Something about the image must have caught her fancy because she began to laugh. She was still laughing when she closed the door behind them.

~~~ End ~~~