Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, OMC, Downton Abbey
Title: Everything I Need


Jimmy woke up shivering. It was early summer, but the weather for the last week had been cold and he was only covered with a sheet. He turned onto his back and glanced to his side. Of course he has. He elbowed Thomas in the ribs, waking him.

"Share the blanket will you. I'm fucking freezing."

Thomas looked at him groggily as he attempted to unroll himself, only partially succeeding before giving up and just lifting up the side closest to Jimmy.

"Sorry. Come here."

Jimmy rolled in and Thomas dropped the blanket over him. Their feet tangled.

"Jesus, your feet are cold."

In response, Jimmy moved them higher up his legs.

"Don't!" Thomas shivered and tried to pull away.

"Yeah. So now you know how I feel."

Thomas rolled onto his side and wrapped one arm around him.

"You know, they say if someone's suffering from hypothermia the best thing is to take off your clothes and theirs and lie with them naked. It shares your body heat."

"Hmmm. Well, neither of us is wearing anything, so we're half way there." Jimmy slid his hand to Thomas's chest, grazing his nipple. He watched the little shock of surprise in his eyes when the coldness hit. "All you have to do now is share that heat." He shifted closer, slipping one knee between Thomas's legs.

"Oh, I think that can be arranged." Thomas smiled as his fingers traced intricate designs across the small of his back and up his spine, causing him to shudder slightly. "Still cold?"

"Much better."

Thomas's hand moved higher, caressing the nape of his neck, massaging his shoulders.

"And now?"

Jimmy's eyes closed and his breathing deepened slightly.

"Yeah. Just keep doing that." His head snuggled into the hollow at Thomas's throat.

"Your wish is my command." He usually gave Jimmy a real massage every week or so, working out the kinks that always seemed to build up. This wasn't one of those, but he could still feel him relaxing against his body. He worked his fingers along the top of his shoulder blades, using his thumb to gently push at the muscle. Jimmy gave a contented sigh as his hand slid down his back to the top of his hips, its heel rocking back and forth softly, applying just enough pressure. Thomas kept at it for a minute or so until he heard Jimmy's quiet snores. Well. So much for sex. We must be getting old. Thomas stopped his massage and raised his hand to stroke Jimmy's hair, pushing it off his forehead, careful not to wake him

In the years since they had left Downton they really had become a couple. Things weren't always easy, but somehow they had managed. Jobs had been scarce, so they moved around a lot. First to Manchester for six months, then Liverpool for two years. Up to Aberdeen for a year; back to Blackpool for a few summers when the crowds meant that temporary jobs were on the go. Then York, London, Portsmouth. Once they had put a bit of money aside they even considered emigrating, but they couldn't agree where. Jimmy wanted to go to Australia, Thomas to America. They eventually gave up on the idea. There were other places they had lived that Thomas tended to forget because they had been there for only a few months. Once Jimmy had made a list and came up with sixteen; it averaged more than one a year They spent two years in Ireland before finally coming back and settling once again in York about two years ago. We're so close to Downton; so close to home again Not that I've ever really had a home. I don't need one as long as I've got you.

They both had steady jobs now, not that they were all that much. A far cry from the "exalted" position of butler that Thomas had once expected to reach. But they had a decent flat, food on the table, friends. And each other. These days Thomas was concerned about the talk of war, wondering what would happen, but Jimmy just shrugged it off. Don't fret about it until it's on your doorstep. They were a good pair. Thomas the worrier and Jimmy the voice of reason, even though he still managed to get into trouble. Funny, I always thought I would be the voice of reason. Jimmy stirred in his sleep. Tomorrow was Saturday and they were going to spend it by themselves. It was finally supposed to be a nice day so Jimmy's suggested trip to the country would be good. They still had to watch their money, but this would be an inexpensive outing. Besides, he had just gotten a new position as manager with a good raise. So they were going to celebrate. Jimmy's rhythmic breathing against his chest began to lull him to sleep. Damn, life is good. Never thought I'd say that.

The next morning they got ready around each other, taking turns washing and shaving. While Jimmy finished dressing, Thomas made breakfast. Just toast and tea, but they would have a good pub lunch. Jimmy walked up behind him and kissed his ear.

"Smells good."

"Really? It's toast. I can't mess that up."

"Oh, I don't know. Remember..."

"Shut up and eat."

Jimmy sat down opposite him at the small table in their front window. He liked where they had placed it because from their flat on the second floor he could look out to the park beyond without having to see the street. He could even get a glimpse of the city walls in the distance

"So, where should we go?" Thomas asked between bites of toast.

Jimmy took a sip of tea.

"Now don't bite my head off, but I was thinking Downton."

Thomas almost choked on his toast. Jimmy hurried on before he had a chance to object.

"C'mon. We've never been back. Aren't you curious?"

"Not really. I mean we left on good terms I guess, but I've never thought of going back. Besides I didn't think you ever wanted to."

Jimmy ignored that. Yes, I know what I said.

"I called and found out Alfred's still at the house. I said we'd meet him in the pub."

This time the tea spluttered from Thomas's mouth. He wiped at his chin and then the table with his napkin.

"You what? When?"

"A few weeks ago and he thought it was a nice idea."

"He remembered who you were?"

"I'm unforgettable."

That's true enough.

"So he can get the time off?"

"He's butler now so I don't think that's a problem."

Thomas tried to imagine Alfred as a butler, but all he could see was the gangly redhead who was still pining after Ivy who had gone off and married some merchant in Ripon just before they had left. He thought for a moment.

"And he doesn't have a problem with 'us'?"

"I guess not. After all it's been years. People change."

Thomas frowned. Do they?

Jimmy swallowed his final bite of toast and washed it down with the last of his tea. He reached over and took Thomas's empty dishes, rinsed them and set them in the sink.

"So, what do you say? Ready to visit the past?"

I need a cigarette. Too bad I quit.

"And I suppose you've already found out the train times."

"There are only three now. We can catch the eleven o'clock and come back on the three."

Thomas just looked at him and shook his head. None of this should surprise me.

"Alright. But if this all goes to shit, you'll pay."

"That's okay. As long as I get to choose how."

Jimmy avoided the slap aimed at his ass and dodged around Thomas, heading for the door. He grabbed their jackets, tossing Thomas's to him.

"Jimmy, the dishes ..."

Jimmy smiled. Thomas never liked to leave things sitting.

"I'll do them when we get back. You won't even have to dry."

It was only a fifteen minute walk to the station so they arrived in plenty of time to get tickets. Jimmy insisted on first class even though Thomas thought it was a bit extravagant.

"We're going to do this right."

As they settled side by side into their seats Thomas noticed the car was empty, except for a young man and a girl sitting at the other end. They held hands, deep in conversation, neither of them noticing that they were no longer alone. He nudged Jimmy.

"Young love? What do you think?"

Jimmy slipped his hand down between them, taking Thomas's, holding it only for a few seconds before letting go

"I think I prefer some not-so-young love."

The train jolted as it pulled away, throwing them against one another. Thomas leaned over to look out the window as the houses started to slip by. Soon they were in the countryside.

"How long?"

"About a half hour. Why? Are you anxious to get there?"

Thomas sat back.

"Oh, I can hardly wait."

Jimmy looked worried.

"I'm sorry if this isn't what you want. I just thought ..."

"I'm only joking."

"Sometimes I still can't tell with you."

"My air of mystery keeps me interesting."

Jimmy laughed and tilted his head back against the cushion.

"Yes, dear, it does."

They didn't say much for the rest of the trip, but it passed quickly anyway. When they got out at the Downton station, Thomas noticed the couple followed them. The station hadn't changed much, except it was looking a little old - peeling paint, loose platform boards, something scrawled on one of the walls. They headed for the exit as a man approached.

"Lord Grantham. The car is waiting."

They both looked around expecting to see Robert Crawley, only to find the young man from the train.

"Andrew. Thank you, but I told my mother that Nancy and I would spend some time in the village and then walk to the house since it promised to be a lovely day. I'm sorry she sent you. Please go back and remind her."

He noticed Thomas and Jimmy staring.

"May I help you?"

Thomas found his tongue first.

"I'm sorry. That was impolite. It's just that ..."

"Yes?"

"You're George Crawley. Am I right?"

"Yes. Do I know you? I'm sorry but I don't recognise you."

Jimmy spoke up.

"No, you wouldn't. Last we saw you, you were only about two."

That didn't seem to clear up anything for George.

"We used to work at Downton," Thomas explained. "I was under-butler and Jimmy was first footman."

"So, you knew my father and grandfather."

"Yes. And your great grandmother as well as most of the rest of your family ." Perhaps 'know' isn't the right word, but I'm not the one who used it first.

George reached out his hand, but Thomas hesitated before shaking it. Jimmy saved the day by stepping forward.

"I'm Jimmy Kent. He's Thomas Barrow." He shook his hand. "It's nice to meet you again after all these years." He nudged Thomas with his elbow.

"Mr. Kent." And when Thomas finally shook his hand, "Mr. Barrow. Why are you back in Downton?"

"Well ..."

The girl standing beside George cleared her throat.

"I'm sorry. Where are my manners? This is my friend, Nancy Colson."

She flashed them both a broad smile and as if by reflex they both gave a slight bow in return.

"I've only met George's mother once." She winked at them. "So what can you tell me that they wouldn't want me to know?"

Thomas looked at her not sure if she was serious. Oh, do we have stories.

"Nancy, stop that," George laughed, turning briefly to look at her before returning to his question.

"You were saying about your return to Downton?"

All four started out the exit.

"Well," Jimmy replied, "we haven't been back in ... How long, Thomas?"

"Fourteen, no, fifteen years."

"Right, and since we're now living in York we thought it would be a nice to see how things were."

They headed into the main road leading to the village.

"Downton doesn't change much as you'll soon see. People come and go. There's the occasional new shop, but I think you'll find it much as you left it."

"And Downton Abbey itself?" Thomas asked.

"Well, there's only my mother and a few staff. Such a large house, as you know, and no one to fill it."

Thomas thought back to the days of the large parties and evenings crammed with talk and laughter.

"Much different than when you were both there," George continued as if reading his mind. "My mother has told me a bit about those days, but eventually she didn't like to talk about them."

By now they were in the centre of the village. George had been right. Everything looked the same.

"Well, we must go. I want to show Nancy around before we go to the house for luncheon. It was nice to see you agai..." He laughed and Jimmy heard Matthew Crawley. "I guess not again since I don't remember." He and Nancy started off toward the church, but he turned back. "What are you going to do here? Really. You'll see it all in ten minutes."

Thomas looked at Jimmy before answering. He just shrugged.

"We're going to meet Alfred Nugent for lunch as well."

"Alfred? Our Alfred?" George paused. "Of course, you know him. He's the only one left who would have been here long enough. Look, tell him I've asked you back to the house afterwards."

"Thank you, but I don't think so," Thomas said. Is he mad?

"No, seriously. I'm sure my mother would be glad to see you."

Thomas looked at Jimmy. It was all they both could do to stop from laughing. Mary Crawley glad to see us? Not unless her body has been taken over by some kind spirit. Or she's as mad as her son.

"We'll mention it to Alfred," Jimmy answered. "And if we have time before our train, we would be pleased to come." He watched as the girl took George's hand and they continued to the church.

"We would be pleased to come." Thomas mimicked Jimmy voice. "Bollocks!"

"Well, it got rid of him, didn't it." Secretly Jimmy wanted to go just so he could enter through the front doors - he assumed he wouldn't have to use the servants' entrance - and sit on one of the good chairs without fear of Mr. Carson's displeasure.

"Yes," Thomas replied begrudgingly, "but don't get any ideas. You don't fool me, Jimmy Kent."

"Oh, we're suspicious, aren't we."

"Yes, and with good reason."

Jimmy frowned. I'll think of something. "Alright, alright. Let's go to the pub. Alfred will be there soon."

They chose a table in the corner at a window so they could watch the comings and goings on the street. Jimmy glanced around the almost empty room and then at the menu on the chalkboard.

"The food's almost the same too. Do you want a pint?"

"Yes. Get one for Alfred too." He nodded at the slight bulge around Jimmy's middle. "If he doesn't want it, it won't be wasted."

"Hey. I don't mention your bald spot."

Thomas's hand self consciously flew to his head to smooth out his hair.

Jimmy sniggered. Yeah. I'm the vain one.

"Just get the beer before I smack you."

Jimmy leaned on the table, lowering his voice just in case. "Promises. Always promises." He gave him a wink and was off to the bar before Thomas could answer. Jimmy returned shortly, juggling three glasses before setting them on the table. He peered out the window and pointed.

"Isn't that him?"

Thomas followed his finger.

"Yes. I would recognise that walk anywhere."

A minute afterward the door opened and Alfred stood trying to accustom his eyes to the change in light.

"Alfred, over here," Jimmy called from across the room as they both stood up. Alfred broke into a big smile when he saw them. He covered the distance in what seemed to be two strides, grabbing each of their hands in a tight grip that made Thomas wince.

"Now aren't you two a sight for sore eyes." He took off his hat, dropping it on the spare chair with theirs, before taking a seat. "I never thought I would hear from either of you again. Then out of the blue Jimmy called." He leaned back in his chair looking at them carefully. "Can't say either of you have changed all that much. Life's been good?"

As he sipped at his beer, they took turns telling him about the last fifteen years. Neither of them talked much about the hard times, preferring to let those lie.

"That's enough about us for now," Thomas finally broke in. "How are things with you?"

"Well, I'm still here," Alfred chuckled. "Butler now, as you know. Not that it's the same as in the old days. But it's a good job and I'm happy with it."

"Anyone special?" Jimmy asked before Thomas knew it. If it hurt, Alfred didn't show it.

"No, afraid not. Who has the time? You know what the life is like. The hours are long and the time off is still scarce. Although, it's not nearly as bad as it used to be." He finished his beer. "How about you?" His mouth dropped and he blushed, his face almost matching his hair. "Oh, Christ. Sorry. That just came out of nowhere."

Both Thomas and Jimmy stared at him for a few seconds, then burst out laughing.

"I... I'll get us another pint," Alfred mumbled, hoping to escape to the bar before he made more of a fool of himself.

"Do that, please." Thomas nodded to Jimmy. "And when you come back I'll tell you about my special person."

Alfred almost tripped over his feet as he beat a hasty retreat.

"Now, that was cruel," Jimmy scolded, between giggles.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll apologise when he gets back. But, God, I thought we were back at Downton for a minute and I just had to get him. Seems I may not have changed all that much."

Jimmy smiled at him.

"Oh, you have. Trust me."

Alfred came back with the beer and started to apologise again, but Thomas stopped him.

"Alfred. It's alright. You didn't mean anything so who cares."

Alfred smiled at him, grateful for the reprieve. They ordered lunch and talked about nothing in particular while they waited for it. Just as it arrived, Thomas took off for the loo.

Alfred scowled at this plate, seemingly arguing with himself, before looking at Jimmy.

"Are you happy?" he asked in a quiet voice

"What?"

"Does he make you happy?" This time Alfred wasn't blushing. "I worried when you left with him. I thought that perhaps he was forcing you in some way. I mean after that night I found him ..." Alfred lowered his voice even more "... kissing you. I thought you would never ..." He stopped, waiting for an answer.

"Yes, he makes me happy. Almost every day. No matter where we are I can't imagine him not being with me. I've followed him ... No, that's not right. We've gone all over this country together, because that's where we belong."

It was Jimmy's turn to blush. Alfred couldn't understand. He shouldn't expect him to. But he was surprised. Alfred just nodded. "Well, that's all that matters then." No recrimination, no hell and damnation, no lecture about right and wrong. Jimmy felt his eyes start to sting. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a handkerchief so he could softly blow his nose. Thomas sat down beside him.

"What did I miss?"

"Nothing," Jimmy replied. Everything. He squeezed Thomas's knee discreetly, a gesture he knew he would understand. Later, I'll tell you later.

They finished their meals while Alfred talked about how things had changed at Downton. So much less rigid than before, but still standing on ceremony when necessary. The new Earl had a lot to do with that. Not much more than a boy really, he seemed to think it was time for the changes that happened; he didn't fight them. In that way he was so much more like his father than his mother.

As they finished drinking their beer, Alfred looked at his watch.

"It's getting late. I have to get back."

He stood up, taking his hat from the chair beside him as he reached for his billfold.

"Don't you dare," Thomas warned. "This is our treat."

"If you're sure."

They both nodded.

"What time are you coming to Downton?"

"What?" Thomas looked up from the bills he was counting.

"I met His Lordship on the way here and he told me to ask."

"Oh," Thomas started, "we won't be."

Alfred gave him a crooked grin.

"Lady Mary? Don't worry, the stick up her arse isn't half as big as it use to be."

"Alfred!" they said almost in unison.

"Yeah. I'm no Carson, am I? His Lordship will have already told her and if he wants something he gets it. The boy is spoiled, but he turned out alright. Better than alright actually.

Alfred put on his hat.

"Why not come at five. She won't serve you dinner; she's not that evolved. But you'll get tea. Nice little sandwiches, petits fours, what not."

"Still ...," Thomas began.

"We'll be there," Jimmy interrupted.

"Good. I'll see you later then."

After Alfred left, Thomas turned to Jimmy.

"I said I didn't want to go, but you ignored me. Don't do that. We make decisions together."

"Right, and you decided we wouldn't go. Where was my say in that." He jumped up from his chair and stalked out of the pub.

Thomas grabbed their hats and hastened to pay the bill so he could catch up with him. And you decided we would come to Downton without asking me. Ah, fuck it, that's not going to help. As he expected, Jimmy was just outside, leaning against the wall, hands stuck deep into his pockets.

"You forgot this." He handed him his hat which Jimmy took it without a word. They stood in silence for a moment.

"Why is this important to you? When we left you said you never wanted to look back."

"I don't know," Jimmy shrugged. "It just is."

"Sometimes you still confuse the hell out of me. You'd think I would understand you by now."

"At least I keep you guessing."

Thomas sighed. "And the train?"

"We can take the seven o'clock."

"Oh shit. What the hell are we going to do for the next ..." He pulled out his watch "... two and a half hours."

"Really? You'll go."

"Yes." Fuck you Jimmy, don't look so surprised. I'd do anything for you.

"Alright, then. Let's just walk around, check out some of the new shops. See if we recognise anyone."

"That sounds like fun."

"Yes, I think so."

"Sarcasm is lost on you, isn't it."

"No, I've just learned to ignore you." Jimmy started down the street toward the bookstore. "That's new. Lets' check it out."

Later Thomas insisted that they visit the cemetery. He wanted to see Lady Sybil's grave. When they were there, they passed George Mason's as well. Someone was obviously taking care of it because there were fresh flowers sitting in an urn. They made Thomas think of Daisy, of course. I forgot to ask after her. At least I'll get another chance to talk to Alfred. Surprisingly the time passed quickly and they found themselves at Downton's large front doors shortly before five. Thomas rang and waited. The door swung open and Alfred appeared.

"Yes." He looked down his nose at him. "Servants' entrance is at the back."

"Uh ..." Thomas stuttered out before Jimmy interrupted.

"Thomas, you dolt. He's pulling your leg."

Good one, Alfred. Got me back.

"Come in. They're in the library." He took their hats and set them to one side. Thomas looked around. Downton had fared better than he had expected. Alfred had said that a lot of the rooms had been closed since they were never used, but he hadn't mentioned anything else. Thomas was impressed. It appeared that Matthew Crawley's vision had lived on after him, helping to shape a Downton that more than survived. Still he wondered if the coming years would be as kind.

They followed Alfred into the library where they found George and Nancy waiting for them.

"Gentlemen, please take a seat. My mother will be down shortly." Then, sotto voce, "She still likes to make an entrance." As they sat, George motioned to Alfred. "Alfred, we'll have tea in about half an hour if you'll let Alice know."

Thomas and Jimmy exchanged glances. Neither of them could imagine anyone calling Mr. Carson "Charles." Perhaps things had changed.

"Yes, My Lord."

"And come back when you've done that. Mr. Kent and Mr. Barrow are you friends so I think it's appropriate that you should stay."

"Yes, My Lord."

After Alfred left, Nancy started to giggle. "I still can't get used to someone calling you 'My Lord'. It makes me think I should pray to you."

"It comes with the title. Some things will never change I'm afraid." He turned to Thomas. "So Mr. Barrow, how was your day."

"Very nice. We walked ..."

The door opened and Mary Crawley entered the room. All three men stood. Thomas remembered that Mary had always been beautiful. That had changed somewhat with age. No, not really, it's just a different type of beauty.

"Mother, I wondered where you were."

"Georgie, you know I must make an entrance." Her tone was half-joking, but underneath it was as if she knew what her son had said.

"Yes, yes" George hurried on, wanting to get past the implied unpleasantness. "This is Mr. Barrow, he nodded toward Thomas, "and Mr. Kent. Do you remember ..."

"Yes, George, I remember." She looked intently at them both. "Thomas and James, am I right? Although you prefer Jimmy. I remember that from your first night."

"Yes, My Lady." Thomas replied. Wait, is it My Lady or Mrs. Crawley now? Crap. I forget. Apparently he had guessed right since she motioned everyone to sit.

"You left fifteen years ago, if I'm not mistaken. I heard you went to Manchester."

Before either of them could answer, Alfred came back into the room. Mary looked in his direction.

"Ah, Nugent." Apparently some things don't change. "I know it's early, but would you pour us some drinks." She looked around at everyone. "Whiskey, I think." Her eyes seemed to dare anyone to object. Alfred poured five glasses and handed them around, before returning to stand behind Mary's chair. He was facing Thomas and Jimmy and stood far enough back so only they could see his face. He grimaced and shook his head slightly.

"So, was I correct then," Mary continued. "You went to Manchester."

"Yes, My Lady," Jimmy confirmed. "Then several other places including Ireland."

"Ireland? Why would you go there? Dreary place. Sybil said she liked it but I think that was just to please Tom."

She took an un-ladylike gulp of her whiskey.

"You know dear Carson is dead?"

"No, we didn't ..." Thomas tried to answer.

"Yes, just last year. He left us five years ago. He was tired. And Mrs. Patmore went to live with her sister. I'm not sure if she is still alive though. Mrs. Hughes stayed in the village, living near Carson, but after his death she returned to Scotland. Daisy Mason was our cook for a while, but she left too, To run her father-in-law's farm just shortly before he too passed. She's doing quite well. Isn't she Nugent? You visit her quite often."

"Yes, My Lady" Alfred's cheeks flushed. Why you sly dog, Jimmy thought. No one special indeed.

She saw Thomas and Jimmy looking at her.

"You thought I wouldn't know about anyone, didn't you. Yes, of course. Always the cold witch."

"Mother! That's quite enough."

"Yes, George, I think it is." She drained her glass and stood. The men rose again. "It's been nice seeing you again, but I think I'll retire for a while." As she walked to the door, she spoke to Alfred.

"Will you have something sent up in a few hours. Perhaps I'll be hungry then."

"Yes, My Lady."

Unexpectedly she put her hand on Alfred's arm and offered him a sad smile. "I don't mean it you know. It's just sometimes the memories are too much."

"I understand, My Lady."

After they left the room there was dead silence for a moment. George coughed nervously.

"I must apologise for my mother." He looked at Alfred. "I'm not here very often and I didn't know.... Alfred?"

"This happens occasionally, My Lord. But she's her normal self in no time." He paused. "If I may?" George nodded. "She's correct. It is the memories. All the ghosts in this empty house. Your grandparents, Lady Sibyl. Your father, of course. Usually she can ignore them, but then something sets her off."

Jimmy spoke up. "It's us I'm sure. If we had known we wouldn't have come."

"Nonsense. I invited you, No one could have foreseen this. Now we will move on and enjoy the rest of the time." He looked at Nancy. "Do you agree?"

"Yes, by all means. But - and I don't want to drag this out, I'm just curious - why doesn't she move? Perhaps a smaller place."

"She would never go," Thomas blurted out without thinking. He looked at George. "I'm sorry. That wasn't my place to say."

"But you're correct, of course. She has already told me she won't move to the dower house when I marry. She said that whomever I marry will just have to put up with her."

George stopped. I'm saying too much to strangers. Alfred knows all this, but why would I think these two should. Just my luck, too, that I'll probably scare Nancy away.

A maid appeared at the door with a tray of sandwiches and an urn of coffee.

"Ah, just in time, Helen. Alfred, would you get some cups and saucers."

"They're on the back table, My Lord. I'll pour when you're ready."

"Meanwhile, I want you to sit with us."

Alfred looked shocked. "I couldn't, My Lord. It's not right."

"Alfred, it's right if I say it's right. These are you friends. I invited them here, but I also invited them because of that. I'll be put out if you don't do as I ask."

Jimmy watched as Alfred gingerly perched on the edge of a chair cushion. "Oh God, Alfred. Do you remember? Mrs. Hughes catching us?" Despite himself, Alfred started to laugh. "It were all your fault, Jimmy. I thought we were for it, but she never told Mr. Carson."

George reached for a sandwich. "And the story behind this is?" Alfred looked at Jimmy and nodded which was Jimmy's cue to continue. That led to Thomas talking about Miss O'Brien, leaving out the nastier parts for Alfred's benefit. Then Alfred about the foxtrot incident with Jimmy and Daisy. Things got a bit sad when they conversation turned to Sybil and Matthew, but George pressed them all for details. Alfred poured coffee for them all and then suddenly mentioned the fair.

"Remember when Thomas got beat up at the fair?"

George looked at Thomas.

"Really? At one of our fairs? What sort of people were you consorting with?"

Thomas hesitated, casting a sideways glance at Jimmy.

"The wrong sort it seems."

"It was my fault." Everyone turned to look at Jimmy. Thomas shook his head slightly. Don't. They don't need to know.

"He was protecting me." Thomas saw Alfred's eyes widen in realisation. "Yes, I did something foolish and he saved me. Like he always does."

"Yes, yes. You are a lost cause." Thomas interrupted before things got out of hand. He pulled his watch from his pocket. "It's almost six thirty. I'm afraid we have to go or we'll miss the train."

"Oh, but there's no train tonight," Alfred said. "The last one left at six. I thought you had a room at the pub for the night when you agreed to come here for five."

"But it's seven, isn't it. That's what Jimmy said."

"It used to be, but they changed it last week. The only train you'll get now will take you north."

"Well, that's unfortunate." He eyed Jimmy, half expecting that he had planned this, although he knew he wouldn't have. "We'll have to see if we can still get a room at the pub for the night."

"Or you could stay here. We always have two spares room made up. Isn't that right Alfred?"

By now Alfred had returned to his role as butler. "Yes, My Lord. We have the blue one two doors down from yours, and Miss Colson is in the yellow."

"We couldn't, My Lord," Thomas protested. "We'll go to the pub. Lady Mary ..."

"Let me worry about my mother. I insist. I assume you won't mind sharing a bed." His look was direct. Jimmy glanced at Alfred who merely raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "Well, it's settled then." He turned to Alfred. "Will you tell Alice that we will eat again around nine. Nothing fancy. She always has something that she can make more sandwiches with. That will be perfect."

"Yes, My Lord."

"And be sure to come back again. I want to hear more about Downton and my family if possible. I never knew my great grandmother Violet, but I understand she was quite the woman."

Thomas looked at Jimmy. "Yes, she was. You'll enjoy hearing about the servants' ball and the Black Bottom, then."

George turned to Nancy. "I hope this isn't boring."

"No. Far from it. The chance for family secrets and the Black Bottom. What more could a girl ask for?"

Jimmy smiled. You, my dear, are a keeper.

George stood up and went to the whiskey. "Right then, another drink anyone? What am I saying? Of course you'll have another drink. As a matter of fact, just help yourself I seem to have lost Alfred for the moment. Oh, hell, pour him one too."

The rest of the evening flew by. Stories of the family and their servants mingled with the tales of Thomas's and Jimmy's cross-country treks for work. George talked about his first year at Cambridge where he had met Nancy and about the death of his grandparents. About little Sibyl, although she wasn't little anymore and hated being called that. About the success of his aunt Edith's latest book. Alfred filled in the blanks about some of the other servants who had moved on and a few of the things that had happened since they had left. He remembered, when George didn't, that Tom Branson was still estate manager, but was in Ireland for his mother's funeral and how sorry he would be to have missed them. More death, Thomas thought. Finally around midnight they all climbed the stairs to their rooms. Thomas stopped Alfred before he went to the servant's stairs.

"Will you come and see us in York? We don't have a spare room, but we can get you a cot." He looked up at Alfred, trying to imagine him on a cot "Or you can have our bed and we'll get cots."

Alfred thought for a moment.

"I would like that." He made to go, but stopped. "You're lucky, you know. Both of you. I never thought you had a chance together. But now I know you made it because you were together. Good Night, Thomas. I'll see you both before you leave."

When Thomas reached the room. Jimmy was already out of his shirt and was in the process of struggling out of his trousers which were at his ankles.

"Need help with those?"

Jimmy dropped back onto the bed and raised his legs.

"Sure."

Thomas pulled the trousers over his feet and laid them on a chair, then started peeling off his own clothes.

"Did you ever think we'd end up actually sleeping in one of the bedrooms?"

Jimmy, legs still in the air, but now pulling off his pants, sniggered.

"Well, there was that time ..."

"I said sleep."

"Alright, if you want to be picky." His voice was muffled by his undershirt which soon flew past Thomas's ear. "Hurry up."

Thomas carefully folded his shirt and laid it on top of his trousers before pulling off his undershirt and pants.

"Hey. Nice ass." This was followed by a low whistle.

Thomas turned and walked toward the bed.

"You know, I really shouldn't let you drink. You lose all sense of decorum."

Jimmy reached up and grabbed his arm

"Shut up and get that nice ass in here beside me."

Thomas climbed in and Jimmy pulled him close. The bed was twice as big as theirs and their entire flat would probably fit into the bedroom with room to spare.

"How'd you like to live somewhere like this?"

Jimmy reached up to stroke his lower lip, letting his touch linger on the one faint scar that remained from the beating.

"Why? Do you have some money I don't know about?"

"No. I mean it might be nice, that's all."

Jimmy leaned up on one elbow

"You going to be there with me?"

"What do you think."

"I think ...," he leaned over and kissed him. "I think it doesn't matter where I live then. You're everything I need."

~~ End ~~