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Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
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Title: To the End of the World
Length: 7 chapters

Chapter Two

As Thomas walked to his room, he began to frown. Jimmy wasn't happy. That couldn’t be good. Still he knew he appreciated the presents, not by just his words but by his smile. He realised that hadn't seen that smile very often recently.

He was reaching for the door handle when Carson came around the corner.

"Are you still up?"

"Yes, Mr Carson. Just going in now."

"And the others?"

"I think everyone is in bed."

"Good."

He turned to go but stopped and turned back.

"Where were you coming from?"

Christ! Here we go again.

"I just went to wish Jimmy a happy birthday."

"That was all? I do not want a repeat, you know."

"Nor do I, Mr. Carson. " Meanwhile he was thinking, "What type of bloody fool do you think I am, you old twat."

"Fine, then. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Mr. Carson."

Thomas opened the door into his room, almost slammed it behnd him, and looked around for something to throw. He crossed to the washstand and picked up the pitcher. It was tempting, but he knew he wouldn't be able to explain pieces of it at the other side of the room so he just poured some water into the washbowl. He stood staring down at it. This is the way it had been for the last two years. While he still had his job, in fact much to his surprise a better one, all had neither been forgiven nor forgotten. He had seen the way Carson looked at him. When he first found out, he had called him foul and it was obvious that opinion hadn't changed. Alfred seemed to have moved on and Jimmy . . . well, Jimmy was now his friend. Not what he had hoped for, but he would take what he could get. But Carson was another matter. He sighed. There wasn't much he could do about it.

He pulled his shirt off over his head and bent down to splash some water on his face. When he raised his head he looked at his reflection in the mirror. The scars from the beating had all but disappeared, except for the one just beneath his lower lip. It wasn't that noticeable, but he could still see and feel it. He ran his finger over it. His badge of honour. He laughed to himself. While he liked the sound of that, he had done precious little honourable in his life. More like a souvenir of his foolishness, because falling for Jimmy and hoping that he felt the same had been foolish. He didn't regret intervening in the beating, but any time he needed a reminder to be careful, he just rubbed that scar.

He quickly toweled the water from his face and headed for the bed. Reaching underneath he pulled out a box and hoisted it onto the bed. From around his neck he lifted a silver chain with a key. His experience with the Duke of Crowborough's letters had taught him that if he wanted to keep something safe, away from prying eyes, then it needed to be locked. Not that he really had much to hide or protect.

Opening the box he lifted out a journal. He had started keeping one after the war. Sometimes he would go a couple of months without writing anything, but despite that he had filled one and was half way through another. The only other things in the box were his mother's locket - its chain was the one around his neck, a few pound notes, some old letters from home, a small photograph of his parents, and one of Jimmy's handkerchiefs. The thought crossed his mind that it wasn't much to show for a man who was nearly thirty. He probably shouldn't have kept the handkerchief; it was inane and sentimental. But somehow he found it comforting. Jimmy never missed it and even if someone else ever saw it there was no way to tell whose it was.

He knew he should sleep - 5:30 came quickly, too quickly if you didn't go to bed until after midnight – but he wanted to spend some time thinking about what had happened in Jimmy's room. Sitting down in the armchair beside his bed, he opened the journal. He had planned what to do tonight, not down to the last detail of course, but looking over what he had written he was pleased. Things had gone well. There was no ulterior motive to his plan; he was just afraid he would make a cock-up of it all. No matter how their friendship had grown, Jimmy's room was the symbol of what first went wrong and by his being there he felt he risked reminding Jimmy of that. So he had been careful.

Thomas yawned and stretched. It still bothered him that Jimmy wasn't happy, but was he unhappy enough to want to leave. He didn't think he could stand it if that were to happen. He wished they could spend more time together. If they did he knew he would be able to find out what was bothering him. Talking after meals and sometimes late at night wasn't enough. They did manage to go into the village together last month, but an under butler and a first footman seldom could be away at the same time. Particularly at Downton where that would really leave only Carson and Alfred. He quickly shook his head. Get a hold of yourself, Thomas. You know how to plot and plan. Think of something.

He stretched again and stood up. He didn't feel like writing anything tonight after all so he put the journal back in the box, locked it and shoved it under the bed. He pulled his suspenders off his shoulders letting his pants slip to the floor before picking them up and putting them away.

Climbing into bed, he considered that there was another village fair in a week's time. Maybe he could finally convince Carson that the servants should have another outing. He had been hinting at it for the last few months, but it still might be tough. He had already gotten Mrs. Hughes to work on him though. Tom Branson was always sympathetic and Tom might be able to get Robert Crawley on side. Thomas knew that Carson wouldn't turn down a request from "His Lordship" and he also knew that Robert Crawley could manipulate with the best of them if he wanted. Cora Crawley and her daughters would be in London, the babies were looked after, so there would only be Robert and Tom Branson to worry about. Carson could manage that for an afternoon. Maybe he could sell it as helping to make the house run better if the servants were happy. It would be good for morale. Bullshit, but still it might work. Carson didn't care about their happiness, but the others might if he went about it the right way. Everything was all about efficiency now and he knew that was his in.

Imagine. An entire afternoon with Jimmy. Everyone else would be there of course and Alfred would be sure to want to tag along with them, but Alfred still had a crush on Ivy and he could use that to his advantage. With Alfred out of the way, off mooning after Ivy, he and Jimmy would have time to themselves. He had seen what a few drinks did to him. Although they brought out his belligerent side, and that worried him, he would be buying since Jimmy never seemed to have any money so he could control how much he drank. He also didn't want anyone to be able to say he got him drunk. That wasn't his purpose nor was it something he would do to Jimmy. Just enough to make him talkative. Not that Jimmy was ever tongue-tied; it was just that he didn't necessarily talk about what mattered. That boy was still a bit of a closed book.

Thomas rolled onto his side and turned off the light. All in all and despite some worries, it had been a good night and with any luck by this time next week he would know what was really bothering Jimmy.