Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: The First Christmas
Length: 6 chapters
Warning: Season 5 spoilers
A persistent rapping at the door woke Jimmy. He sat up groggily, taking a few seconds to figure out where he was. The knocking stopped, then started again.
"Just a minute," he managed to croak as he stood up unsteadily from the bed. "I'm coming. Stop knocking." He muttered grumpily as he opened the door, "Yes, Mrs. Clark, what do you …" He stopped mid-sentence, his mouth dropping open. "Thomas?" he finally managed to get out.
Thomas smiled at him. "In the flesh."
"But … what are you doing here?"
"I came to see you, of course. Are you going to invite me in or not?"
"Uh … yes." Jimmy opened the door wider and stepped aside to let Thomas pass. "Look, I'm sorry about the place. It's a mess." He hurried over to the bed and straightened it quickly. He grimaced as he looked around. "And I don't have a chair. Sorry."
"That's all right. We can both sit on the bed. At least if you don't mind."
"Mind?" Jimmy asked. "It's you who should mind." He sank onto the bed waiting for Thomas to join him. They were silent for a moment until Jimmy sighed. "I suppose it's sort of obvious that things aren't good."
"I guessed as much. I could pretty well tell from your address," Thomas answered in reply to Jimmy's questioning look. "I know this city, Jimmy, and I know where you're living. It's not a slum, but it's not far from it." Thomas looked around the room. "It's bloody cold in here too."
"Yes," Jimmy snapped. "Why not tell me something I don't know." He stood up and went to the window to look out. He was embarrassed that Thomas had found him like this and he was mad at himself for being angry. He turned back. "Look, I'm sorry."
"Stop apologising, Jimmy. You can't control these things. There but for the grace of God and all that."
"That's the thing you see, I could have controlled this. But no, I just had to climb into bed with that old bitch. I wanted to prove something to myself and I was so sure I was being smart about it. Get my leg over and no one would be the wiser."
"I didn't try to stop you, did I?"
"No, but you can't take the blame. I chose to do it."
They fell silent again as Jimmy returned to the bed.
"Fine," Thomas finally said, "but there's absolutely nothing that either of us can do about that."
"Don't you think I know that, Thomas?" Jimmy answered bitterly. "Don't you think that I live with that each day? I finally managed to fuck up my life and I can't seem to get past it."
This time Thomas stood and went to the window. "It's starting to snow. That will be nice for Christmas Day."
"I suppose," Jimmy muttered unenthusiastically.
Thomas turned and leant against the sill. "So what are your plans for tomorrow?"
"I don't have any." Jimmy still refused to admit to Thomas how desperate he truly was, although he knew he was only fooling himself.
"So, why don't you come with me? I've booked a hotel in the city centre, The Royal, for tonight through to Boxing Day."
"I couldn't. I… How did you get away from Downton for so long at this time of the year?"
"Let's just say that Lady Mary is appreciative."
"Should I ask?"
"No, not right now." Thomas hesitated. "You aren't afraid that I'll try something, are you?"
"What? God no."
"Good, because I made sure to get two beds. So, why not come? Maybe you think that sitting here alone, freezing your arse off is better."
"I don't want charity, Thomas." Jimmy winced at his own words considering his thoughts earlier that night about Mrs. Clark.
"I'm not offering charity, Jimmy. You're my friend. I don't want to be alone over Christmas and I don't think my friend should be either." Thomas looked around again. "And I sure as hell am not staying here."
Jimmy laughed despite himself. Why am I being so stubborn? And it would be nice to be warm.
"I can't pay for anything," Jimmy murmured as he looked down at his feet. That confession hurt more than anything else had that night. He had put into words exactly how bad things were and there would be no taking them back.
"It's my Christmas gift, Jimmy. Why would I expect you to pay for that?"
"I mean nothing." He almost felt like crying. "Not the room, not food, not a bloody drink." He looked up. "Nothing. I won't even be able to give you a gift."
"That doesn't matter. I've missed you. We'll be together again on Christmas and that's enough." When Jimmy didn't answer right away, Thomas pulled out his watch to check the time. "All right, let's go. I made dinner reservations for seven o'clock; we've only got an hour and a half."
"Ha!" Jimmy snorted. "Sorta taking things for granted weren't you?"
"Are you saying you don't want a nice meal with wine and an enjoyable few days with me?"
"No, I … uh. Aw shit, of course I do."
"Then shake a leg. Get your coat."
"It's just I need some clean clothes."
"So, you do have clean clothes, right?"
Jimmy nodded, then blushed. "And a bath."
"You can get a bath at the hotel." Thomas checked his watch again. "At least you can if you get a move on."
He strode over to the small wardrobe and opened it, pulling out the suitcase he found, which he reached over to Jimmy.
"Here, pack this with what you need. There are toiletries at the hotel so don't worry about them."
Jimmy took the case and pulled open a drawer in a rickety chest, layering in pants, undershirts and socks. In the wardrobe he found three fairly decent shirts and the suit he wore for interviews. Thank God I had sense enough to save it. He carefully folded them on top of the rest and closed the case.
He quickly found his tie and pulled on his jacket and coat. "Right, I'm all set."
"Well need to go west a few blocks to get a bus," Jimmy mentioned as they reached the first floor.
"We're going to take a taxi."
"Same thing. Taxis seldom come down this way."
"I know. The driver who dropped me off told me that."