A suggestion on Tumblr about how Thomas & Jimmy would deal with the children led me here.
Thomas looked down when he felt a tug at his finger.
"Now, Miss Sybbie, where did you come from. You're a quiet little beggar."
" 'm a beggaw?" she asked.
Thomas looked around quickly to make sure no one had heard that.
"No, no." Lord I hope she doesn't use that word.
"Up, Thomas." This was followed by another tug on his finger.
"Oh, all right, but those hands better be clean." He bent down, lifting the little girl into his arms. "And you should call me Barrow."
"Bawwow?" she repeated as one arm encircled his neck.
"Hmm," Thomas considered, "perhaps not. It makes me sound like Isis. I'll tell you what, let's stick to Thomas, at least for a while. Now, where's Nanny?"
"Don't know," she answered, wrinkling her nose. "Want you."
"So I'm to look after you then?"
"Yes." The answer didn't allow for discussion.
"Fine, but just this once." As she put her head against his cheek, Thomas hoisted her higher and began walking toward the door into the gardens. Or any time you want.
Jimmy looked up to find the little boy staring at him - again. He had come outside for a break and a smoke, wanting some time alone, but apparently that wasn't going to happen.
"What would you like now, Master George?" he asked, trying to keep the annoyance from his voice.
"I'm hungry. I'd like a sandwich."
Jesus, last time he was thirsty. "Shouldn't you ask Nanny? Or even Mrs. Patmore? She likes you, you know."
George looked at his feet, shuffling them in the dirt. "Don't you like me?"
What? Jimmy didn't really think much about the children. Like their elders, they seemed to be there just so he could look after them, but something in the boy's voice hit home. Jimmy's father would go off for days at a time and he always wanted to go with him, but any time he asked, his father just ignored him or dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He would have given anything, just once, to tag along, to find out what he was up to. He realised he asked himself the same question that George was asking now.
"Of course I like you." But he wasn't exactly good at making sandwiches, or making anything other than tea. And if Patmore finds me in that kitchen with bread and a knife, I don't think I can stand the screeching. He sighed and gave in anyway.
"All right then," he agreed, reaching out to ruffle the boy's hair despite himself. "What would you like?" he asked as they turned toward the house.
George looked up at him with a broad smile. "Jam and bread, please."
"Perhaps jam isn't such a good idea."
"Why? I like it."
"I'll tell you some day when you're older." Damn, did I just promise him something? Maybe he won't notice.
Jimmy laughed and shook his head as he put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Never mind that for now, let's get you that sandwich."
"Yes, milk. Anything else?"
"No. As long as you stay while I eat."
"I can't promise, but I'll try."
"Good." George reach back and grabbed Jimmy's hand. "I like you too."