Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: Dance With Me
Length: 2 chapters
Their first two weeks were much busier than Thomas had expected. There were several guests for dinner every night, at least two of whom were meant for Lady Rose. They are desperate to marry her off. I suppose if Lady Grantham can't get her own daughters settled she has to have some project. Thomas also knew that Lady Rose wanted none of it. For some reason they had developed if not a friendship, then a recognition of something beyond upstairs and downstairs. At first Thomas had been taken aback when Lady Rose offhandedly confided something in him. The old Thomas would have relished having some snippet that he could hold over her. The new Thomas ... Well, the new Thomas stored it away just in case. Guess old habits are hard to break. Over time he grew to expect her sharing something out of the blue he thought was only fit for the family. Apparently she was less concerned about the delineation than he was and he dropped his guard on more than one occasion when she asked his opinion.
Surprisingly she was very observant. Thomas was used to being ignored by the family for the most part - it's what he expected – but Lady Rose was definitely the exception. On more than one occasion he found her looking at him when she should have been listening to her dinner companion ramble on. One night she had surprised Jimmy and him in one of the corridors. They hadn't been doing anything that couldn't be interpreted as an under butler talking to a footman, even though they had been standing a bit too close and Jimmy's hand was on his arm. After that he tried to avoid her, but she had a knack for tracking him down. And if she couldn't find him when she wanted, she would ring and have someone else hunt for him. As time went on Thomas was secretly flattered by the fact that someone was taking enough of an interest to seek him out and he relented.
The Friday of the second week turned out to be the first break. The entire family would be out for the evening and Thomas had asked Lord Grantham if he and Jimmy could have the time off.
"James has seldom been to London so I thought I might take him to see some of the sights."
"Well. I don't see a problem. Bates and the temporary footman we hired will be here so when we return we will be taken care of." A faint smile edged at his lips. "I assume, of course, you will not be returning all that early yourselves."
"You know what a night out in London can be like, Your Lordship."
"Alas, only from faint memory." He nodded at Thomas to indicate they were finished.
"Thank you, My Lord."
About an hour later Lady Rose found him.
"I understand you and James are out on the town tonight."
"Well, I wouldn't exactly say that, My Lady." As a matter of fact I have no idea what we'll do. I promised a surprise with no plan in mind. That's not like me.
"No? Two handsome men on a night in London? The theatre? Dinner somewhere? Or perhaps a club."
"Might I suggest here." She handed him a small card - la licorne noire printed in a refined script - with an exclusive address. "I think you'll both find it quite interesting."
"May I ask what it is?"
"A club. A very nice club. My favourite. They try to keep me on a tight leash here, but I'm nothing if not resourceful so I manage to slip the collar frequently. Jazz and such long into the night. Very lively, but after midnight equally as romantic with the right person."
"Oh, I don't think we could go. We don't have the correct clothes." What did she mean by romantic?
"Nonsense. They don't care. As long as you have a decent suit - just don't wear those horrid cloth caps."
I know that. Give me some credit. They both had fedoras, although he still had trouble getting used to Jimmy in a fedora.
"Still it sounds expensive."
"Not to worry, dear Barrow, not nearly so much as you would think. Take my card as well. Show it to the doorman - you'll need it anyway, they don't let just anyone inside - and have him give it to Monsieur LeClerc. I've already telephoned to tell him you'll be there."
"You what?" Thomas spluttered, forgetting himself.
"Does this mean you don't want to go?"
"No. I ... we..."
"Then it's settled, isn't it."
"Yes, My Lady. Thank you."
When she left he turned over her card. Cher Maurice. Take care of my friend Thomas and his companion as only you know how. Rose.
Odd. I don't understand why she's doing this. Bloody hell, she called me Thomas!
Thomas found Jimmy and told him what had a happened, showing him both of the cards.
"We're going, right?"
"I think we have to. After all, it is Lady Rose doing us a favour."
Jimmy started to laugh.
"Thomas, only you could make this sound like a burden. When was the last time we had a bit of fun?"
"The other night. Or wasn't that fun?"
"You know that's not what I mean." Thomas saw him put on his c'mon-Thomas-for-me face.
"Oh for God's sake, stop that. Of course we're going."
They saw the family off around seven and by eight-thirty they were ready to go. They sat in Thomas's room going over what money they had.
"I don't know, Jimmy. Just going by the location this could cost us a year's wages. I hate to say it, but we better take the tube and not a taxi just in case. How much have we got?"
"A little under ten quid. That's a lot, you know."
"Alright, but we have to watch we don't spend it all." Shit, I hate this. We can't even have a good night out without worrying about money.
"Never mind. The best part will be that we're together. In a club. In London."
Thomas smiled at his enthusiasm.
"You're right. Let's enjoy it."
The tube ride was only fifteen minutes and a short five minute walk to the address on the card. The building was one of several that dotted the street in a busy, upscale area. Most seemed to be clubs or restaurants of some sort. They approached the door and were stopped by a man, a rather large man.
"This is a private club, by invitation only."
"Yes, I am aware of that." Thomas reached into his pocket and handed him Lady Rose's card. "Would you give this to Monsieur LeClerc?"
The doorman glanced at it and opened the door to speak to someone inside and pass on the card.
"Henri, take these gentlemen to Maurice."
He waved them into a good-sized entrance hall where Henri took their hats and coats before leading them into an expansive, multi-tiered room where he asked to them to wait. The noise almost overwhelmed them. Music blared from a band on the raised stage at the front. People packed the floor, some dancing as couples, others dancing in what Thomas could only think was some ancient tribal ritual requiring that they be tangled and pressed against one another. On the fringes he saw a woman drifting along ignoring the rhythm of the music, holding aloft some type of stuffed animal. At least I hope it's stuffed. The music changed and everyone, save the stuffed animal lady, began something akin to the Charleston. Or so he thought. He watched as one man lifted a girl high over his head and lowered her so her legs wrapped around his neck as she fell backwards, hair just brushing the floor, until she somehow pushed off him and glided into the splits.
Thomas had to shout at Jimmy to be heard.
"What the hell is going on here?"
Jimmy just laughed as he shouted back.
"It's a bit of fun, Thomas, remember? Just listen to that piano!"
Thomas jumped when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Fortunately the music had eased into something less raucous.
"So, you are Lady Rose's Thomas. She failed to tell me how handsome you were." He nodded at Jimmy. "And your friend?
"I am Maurice LeClerc, proprietor of this wondrous establishment. You must call me Maurice. Your table is on the third tier. Please follow me."
As they passed a group of people, Thomas felt someone grab at his thigh.
"You're new aren't you?"
Maurice gently pushed her hand away.
"Beatrice, you must behave yourself. You promised not to frighten the other guests."
From the corner of his eye Thomas saw Jimmy smiling at his shock.
"Ah, do I frighten you, dear? I don't bite. Well, hardly ever."
The rest of her table burst into laughter as Maurice took Thomas's arm and guided him to the stairs.
"Come, come, my friend. You will get used to her."
I fucking doubt it.
Their table was at the centre of the tier, right against the railing, overlooking the band and the dance floor which had now settled into some semblance of a dance Thomas recognised. Maurice motioned to one of the waiters.
"This is André. He will look after you tonight. Your champagne awaits."
"We didn't order champagne." We can't bloody afford it.
"No, indeed, but Lady Rose did. That and anything else you want tonight." He motioned to André.
"But we ..."
"Oh, how could I forget. Lady Rose sent this for you." He handed Thomas a folded note.
My dear Thomas. Yes, 'Thomas'. This is my treat for you both. You took the time to listen to a silly girl prattle on about things she never should have. You smiled kindly through most of it all. Were you aware of that? Even though I'm sure you wanted to drown me in the pond at times. Enjoy. Dance. Fall in love if you haven't already. R.
He passed the note to Jimmy who looked up in surprise after reading it.
"Did you tell her about us?"
"Of course not."
The sound of a popping cork drew their attention.
"Gentlemen, Lady Rose has excellent taste in champagne so I'm sure you will enjoy this. I shall return with menus in a few minutes. Or would you prefer I choose a few samplings for you from our several specialties."
Thomas looked at Jimmy who simply shrugged.
"We'll leave the choice to you."
"So, do you think she knows?" Jimmy asked, returning to his question.
"Perhaps. Perhaps she's just guessing. I don't know. It's an open secret what I am. Maybe you're being tarred by association."
"I don't like that phrase. Don't use it."
"Sorry. It's just ..."
"I chose you, Thomas. That's the only association that matters. After all I put you through, I still chose you and you never once had a word of reproach." Jimmy lifted his glass. "What shall we toast."
"You already answered that. To us."
Jimmy half drained his glass and set it down.
"Now, Thomas, dance with me."
"Oh, I don't think so."
"It's a foxtrot. Surely you can handle that."
"Not that. Two men?"
"Really? Have you been paying attention to what's going on around here. Nobody will care."
"Alright. One dance."
Jimmy reached down and pulled him up by the hand
"One for now," Jimmy warned as he led him down the stairs and onto the floor. "It's a club. You aren't going to be a wallflower."
For a moment they both stood there. Who the fuck leads? Jimmy wondered. Thomas answered that by placing his right hand on the small of his back while their left hands intertwined as he stepped forward to guide him. It took a few steps for Jimmy to adapt but after that it was easy. The music finished and changed once again to a frenetic rhythm. Thomas shook his head and stepped away, thinking Jimmy would follow. When he turned he saw that Beatrice had taken his place. He was going to intervene, but Jimmy smiled and disappeared into the crowd, Beatrice in tow.
Well, I hadn't counted on that. Thomas made his way back to their table where he leant over the railing, searching for Jimmy on the dance floor. He spotted him near the middle, in a group of dancers that included most of the people from Beatrice's table. Safety in numbers I guess. He settled back and finished the rest of his champagne, knowing without question that Jimmy would be back. As the food arrived, Jimmy sat down opposite him.
"Well, that was an eye-opener."
"It turns out Beatrice is Bert, an accountant from Croydon."
"No, you dunce. Albert. His 'friend' is Lord Something-or-other. I couldn't catch his name over the din."
"Ah. Well, then."
"And you were worried about two men dancing together."
Thomas lifted his recently refilled glass.
"Here's to no more worries."
The hours flew by. Around midnight Maurice dropped by their table to ensure that Lady Rose would have no complaints. They danced many more times, although Thomas left most of the the more up tempo numbers to Jimmy and their collection of new friends, choosing to sit on the sidelines and watch. He even had a few dances with Beatrice. And as promised, she didn't bite. Around three they returned to their own table for their final glasses of champagne. As they sipped their drinks and looked down over the dance floor which had now thinned to a few couples, Jimmy reached over and took Thomas's hand.
"So, Mr. Barrow. One last dance? That's "Three O'Clock in the Morning" they just struck up. Beatrice told me that each night ends with that song.
Thomas once again followed Jimmy down the stairs to the dance floor. Beginning somewhat apart, they just gazed into each other's eyes until Jimmy pulled Thomas close. They paused for a heartbeat then moved on, oblivious to everyone else, continuing to dance even after the music faded. When they finally stopped Thomas murmured, "You're all I'll ever need." Jimmy didn't say anything because just holding Thomas was answer enough.
~~ End ~~
Three O'Clock in the Morning, in part:
It's three o'clock in the morning
We've danced the whole night through
And daylight soon will be dawning
Just one more waltz with you
That melody so entrancing
Seems to be made for us two
I could just keep on dancing forever dear with you
First recorded in 1922 by Paul Whiteman