Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: Dance With Me
Length: 2 chapters
Charles Carson looked between the bottle of wine on his desk and the wine book in front of him. Yes, that's right. And I counted fifteen. Good. When he had given Thomas the responsibility for the wine six months ago he hadn't been sure if it was the right move. Leopards and their spots. But part of being a butler was training those below him, particularly if one of those was an under butler. In the three years since Thomas had taken that position he had seen a remarkable, almost unbelievable, change in him. Still, the wine was another matter. So every week or so he would spot check the inventory, always picking a few different labels to inspect. Everything had always been correct.
He sat back in his chair, rubbing his forehead. It appears I've been worrying for nothing. Thomas is a smart lad, but he has never been trustworthy or honest. Elsie says the change is down to his friendship with James. Now, there's another one who has always worried me. Too glib and conceited for his own good. I'm not sure how he could bring about this. Of course, last night Elsie also said there's something more going on. I wish she wouldn't talk like that. It's fine if either of them are 'that way' I suppose, but together? No one seems to mind even if I still think it's wrong. I really don't want to know. Maybe if that's the case my idea isn't such a good one. He sighed and got up to return the bottle and lock the door to the cellar.
As he climbed the stairs he thought about his plan. For the first time in over thirty years he was not going to London for the season. He had spoken to Lord Grantham and suggested that Thomas take his place. After all the season definitely wasn't what it used to be. Lady Mary refused to go. Despite her mother's protestations, she said that since she was a mother and a widow, somehow the season seemed inappropriate right now. Lady Edith and Lady Rose of course would be there. He knew that Lady Edith was only going so she could see her editor - or whatever he was to her now - more easily. Lady Rose, on the other hand, was going precisely because it was the season, the highlight of her year. "Yorkshire be damned, London is where I want to be," he had heard her say to Lady Edith. Of course it is and why not. Lord and Lady Grantham would go if not just to try to keep an eye on Lady Rose, but to meet their obligations. So, as far as he was concerned, that left Lady Mary on her own. He couldn't have that.
He settled into the armchair in his room. Thomas had seemed the logical choice. He had been before as valet but this would be different. This would also prove whether or not Charles's new-found trust was well placed. At the same time he had also recommended that James go. As first footman that would also give him some experience in a different house with a different atmosphere. He and Alfred would be more than capable of handling things at a much quieter Downton. But now. Now Elsie believed there was something between Thomas and James? What excuse can I give though. They're leaving tomorrow. They've known for weeks; the whole house has known for weeks. He took off his jacket and hung it up. I suppose I'm worrying over nothing once again. If there is something going on it hasn't affected their work other than to improve it. He sat back down and picked up the book he had been reading. London could turn out to be the final test. Damn! They aren't my children, they're grown men who have to make their way on their own. He heard James and Thomas coming down the hall, their voices a little louder than usual, a little more animated.
"Are you ready?" Thomas asked.
"Almost, just have to pack my shaving gear tomorrow morning."
They stopped outside Jimmy's door, both glancing around, before Thomas leant in close to Jimmy's ear.
"Looking forward to this? London. Us in London. Never thought that would happen except maybe for a weekend every few years. But almost two months in the summer?"
"You know I've never been for the season. What's it like?"
"Not much different than here. Same things, same people - well, not the visitors - maybe a bit more free time. I'm sure it will be, I don't know, more sombre than before. Of course, Lady Rose will try to change that."
A noise on the stairs made them jump apart just before Alfred appeared around the corner.
"So Mr. Barrow, you two planning a big adventure. The British Museum? Kew Gardens? A stroll through Hyde Park?"
"It's work, Alfred, just like here." He has an odd concept of adventure. "But with any luck we might find something interesting."
Alfred looked at them both. Going to be quiet. Can't believe I'll miss them. Particularly Barrow, never in all my days. But Mr. Carson's here and we get along - sort of. And Ivy and Daisy all to myself. I'll manage quite well I guess.
"Good night then."
"Good night Alfred."
They waited until Alfred closed his door, then moved further down the hall closer to Thomas's room, away from possible eavesdropping, before quietly taking up their conversation again.
"What's 'something interesting'?"
"Just wait. I'll have a surprise."
Jimmy leant in and gave him a quick kiss. "You're full of those."
"You're a fine one to talk, Mr. I-can-never-give-you-what-you-want."
Jimmy laughed. "Never say never apparently." His hand trailed along Thomas's as he winked at him. "Good night, Mr. Barrow."
"Good night, Jimmy." Thomas watched him head to his room. Never say never indeed.
The next morning they arrived at the station early to see that all the luggage was safely stored. A few trunks had gone on ahead and Thomas had gone to London the week before to unpack them. Still there was a considerable number of cases in the baggage car. Between the two of them they rechecked that none were missing before finding seats in a third class compartment that they had to themselves. Bates and Anna and her Ladyship's new maid, Giselle, were in the one behind them, but there wasn't enough room for them both there. Lady Mary had insisted that Anna go since she would have both Lady Edith and Lady Rose to look after and she was quite happy with the new head housemaid as a lady's maid for the time they would be away.
The train pulled away on time and soon they were well out of Yorkshire. Jimmy dozed at Thomas's side, head leaning against the window. Thomas reached over and pulled him upright.
"You'll get a crick in your neck."
"But I want to sleep."
"God, you're cranky when you wake up." He got up and pulled a small pillow off the upper rack. "Here."
When he sat down, Jimmy propped the pillow against his upper arm and laid his head on it.
"I didn't say that was the solution."
"Tough. Now let me sleep." Soon he was snoring softly.
Thomas smiled as he looked down at him. Who knew that my luck would change after all this time. He leant his cheek against the top of his head. 'The old mistakes are all undone, All the old sins are purged and gone.' Between the clack of the train wheels and the rhythm of Jimmy's breathing he too was asleep in no time.
'The old mistakes are ...' from "Immortality" by Katharine Tynan 1861 – 1931