Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
No sex, yet
Title: To the End of the World
Length: 7 chapters

Chapter One

Jimmy Kent sat down wearily on the bed, took off his shoes and pushed them underneath it. He stood up again, pulled off his shirt and threw it towards the hamper. Settling down again, he sat back against the wall and stretched out. He was tired. It had been a long day, like all the days at Downton, his feet were aching and his knee was still sore where he had banged it earlier against one of the hall tables. He had muttered "Shit!" under his breath, but the ever-alert Carson had heard and glared at him. Oh well, his day wasn't complete until Carson had glared at him at least once. Usually what Carson did or said didn't bother him, but today it just seemed to be the last straw. It seemed he wasn't cut out for service after all. At least soon he could . . . A knock at the door interrupted.

"Yes?"

The door opened and Thomas Barrow leaned into the room.

"Can I come in?"

"Of course, Mr. Barrow."

Despite his words, Jimmy could feel his jaw tighten. It had been over two years since that night and Jimmy thought it was all water under the bridge. Apparently not. This was the first time Thomas had been in his room since then.

As if sensing this, Thomas came in but left the door ajar behind him. Crossing the room toward the bed, Thomas smiled, "Jimmy, I've said you can call me Thomas when we aren't working."

"I know. It's just a hard habit to break".

Thomas pulled the only chair away from the wall and closer to the bed. But not too close.

"I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday before I went to bed."

Birthday? It was his birthday. Jimmy had completely forgotten.

"And I wanted to give you this."

Thomas reached out a small paper bag and a book.

"Mr. Barr . . . Thomas, you didn't have to do that, but thank you."

"I know, but I couldn't let your birthday go by. Besides it's not much. Some of that soap I saw you looking at in the village and that new novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Links. I know you like a mystery."

Jimmy opened the bag and lightly sniffed its contents. It was the smell that had caught his attention in the shop, but he couldn't afford to buy it.

"How did you know it was my birthday?"

"I wasn't snooping. Don't you remember? We talked about how old we were and when we were born a while back."

"And you didn't forget?"

"Can't always trust my memory, so I wrote it down."

"I never seem to do that and . . . Damn! Did I miss yours?"

"Don't worry. It's not for a few months."

Jimmy put the bag and the book on his nightstand.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to tell me when it is again."

"I can do that."

Thomas looked at Jimmy more closely.

"Are you all right? You look really tired."

"No more than usual. You know what it can be like working here. It's just that today, Carson really got up my arse."

Jimmy suddenly realised what he had said and blushed bright red.

"Sorry."

To his relief, Thomas just laughed, "Carson gets up everyone's arse."

"I suppose he does. Part of the job I guess. Though it made me think that maybe I should be doing something else."

In the dim light, Jimmy thought he saw a shadow flicker across Thomas' eyes.

"Really? What?"

"I don't know. Just something different." Jimmy sighed. "Maybe there's nothing else I can do. Wishful thinking I guess."

"Well," Thomas said as he stood up, "I think that we'll have to see if we can do something about that. But for now, we both need to get some sleep. Goodnight."

" 'Night, Thomas."

Thomas left, closing the door behind him. Jimmy reached over and picked up the bag of soap, smelling it once again. That was nice of Thomas. He wondered if Thomas could have guessed that he hadn't had a birthday gift in years; not since he left home to go into service, long before his mother had died. It was surprising how he now realised that he missed those little things. He also realised that having Thomas in his room hadn't been as bad as he feared it might be. Thomas seemed to understand there were boundaries that he wasn't ready to cross. Thomas had become a friend, someone he could talk to, but not yet someone he could really confide in. It was nice, though, to have someone to ease the loneliness.

Jimmy got up, pulled off his pants and hung them carefully in the wardrobe. He scooped his shirt off the floor and tossed it into the hamper. Shivering slightly, he climbed back into bed, pulling the covers up around his chin. Despite his tiredness, he couldn't get to sleep.

He caught himself wondering what might have happened that night if Alfred hadn't come in. What if Thomas had wakened him rather than surprising him with the kiss? Would he have let anything happen? Would he now? After all it wouldn't be the first time.

He knew what Thomas was from the minute they met and he was afraid Thomas saw the same in him. He couldn't take the chance. Life had taught him that taking chances only ended in disaster and he couldn't go through that again. So he let it get out of control. The whole thing became like a boulder rolling down a hill and the only way to stop it was to throw himself in front of it. He was now ashamed to admit that he knew that was never going to happen.

He had to pretend that he was uncomfortable with the familiarity, the touching, hoping that Thomas would pick up on it and back away. When that didn't work, he had to let other people know how he supposedly felt. Then he thought about what he had put Thomas through because of that, the lies that had almost cost him his job and sent him to prison. After all, he knew what O'Brien was doing, but he went along. If he hadn't, knowing the vindictive bitch that she was, she would have spread rumours; rumours she would make sure everyone believed. He wasn't sure why he just hadn't told Thomas to leave him alone. That would have been easy and it would have worked, but foolishly, he never seemed to choose the easy way to do things. And he had to admit that he did like the attention no matter the consequences.

He was too afraid to tell Thomas the truth; too afraid his secret would get out if he did. Looking back, he knew that was stupid. He maybe could have trusted him, but Thomas's reputation among the other staff made him unsure. He couldn't chance having someone knowing, someone who might use the knowledge for his own purpose. So he just let it all happen, no matter what the harm. But even he thought his fake outrage demanding that Thomas be let go without a good reference went too far. Still, it didn't stop him. He had to protect himself. As he had told Thomas earlier, some habits are hard to break.

The beating. He most regretted the beating. But even afterwards, when Thomas was safe, he still had to keep him at arm's length. First faking disdain and then saying being friends was all he could manage. All part of the act, all part of the lying. Lying was a way of life; his way of life. No one would understand that better than Thomas. But understanding and forgiving were two different things.

Just as he was finally drifting off, he thought, "Shit! I really am a coward. I really fucked this up."