Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey, AU
Title: The Ghost Of Christmas Past
Jimmy can't understand Thomas when it comes to Christmas.
Warning: Non-consensual sex

"Get up!"

Thomas opened one eye, then muttered something under his breath as he rolled over, turning his back on Jimmy and wrapping himself in his blanket.

"So help me if you don't get up, I'll pull you out of bed." Jimmy grabbed at the blanket and tugged.

"You wouldn't dar ... Ow." Thomas glared up at Jimmy from the floor. "What the hell? That hurt."

"I warned you."

Thomas struggled to his feet, blanket draped around his waist.

"Sometimes I swear you're only five."

"Oh c'mon, Thomas. It's Christmas. Don't be grouchy."

"Yes, Jimmy, I know it's Christmas," Thomas grumbled as he sat on the bed. "Living with a bratty five-year-old means you can't forget it."

It was Jimmy's turn to glare.

"And living with a grouchy, inconsiderate old man can be a real pain in the arse." He turned and stomped from the room, calling back over his shoulder. "Satisfied now?"

Thomas sighed as he pulled clothing from the drawers. Every year I do this. I know he enjoys Christmas and I have to spoil it. It's just ... What difference does it make why I don't like Christmas. I have no right to take it away from him. This year was going to be different. His present ... He pulled on his trousers. And yet, here I've done it again.

He buttoned his shirt as he walked into the front room. Their flat was large and comfortable. Since leaving Downton they had done quite well. Thomas's knowledge of clocks, although not as extensive as he had pretended in his interview, had gotten him into a large shop in London that specialised in timepieces of all kinds. He had moved from counter help to assistant manager to manager. Jimmy hadn't thought that he had any similar expertise to offer but he found a popular shop selling sheet music and records. His gift of the gab, and a quick tune on the piano sat in the front window, brought him through the door and his ability to charm the customers kept him there. He too was no longer shop help, but was now responsible for all the stock selection and ordering, essentially running the place.

Thomas prepared himself to make the inevitable apology as he walked up behind Jimmy standing at the counter in the kitchen and put his arms around his waist.

"Mornin'," he whispered as his kissed his cheek.

"Mornin'." Jimmy's answer was more of a grunt than a word.

"Look, Jimmy, I'm ..."

Jimmy shook him off and moved to the table, teapot in hand

"Yes, Thomas, I know - you're sorry. You're always sorry." He finally looked at him. "Now, do you want toast?"

"What, no special Christmas breakfast? I was looking forward to helping you make it."

"Well, we all look forward to things that we don't always get."

"Guess toast will do then." Thomas sighed as he turned to the breadbox. Happy fucking Christmas Thomas, you arsehole.

They didn't speak again until they sat at the table opposite each other.

"How long have we been together?" Jimmy asked, staring down at his plate.

The question caught Thomas with a mouthful of toast which he quickly washed down with his tea.

"Eleven years. But you know that."

"And we don't have any secrets, right?"

"No, not really."

Jimmy looked up at him. His eyes were sad, not angry.

"That's right, 'not really.' And yet I still don't know what it is about Christmas that makes you so disagreeable." He reached across the table and took Thomas's hand. "Once, just once, I wish you could see it the way I do."

Thomas's free hand covered his. This has to stop. He's the one person I should never hurt for any reason.

"I know I'm a miserable old Scrooge and I hate myself for doing that to you. I'll tell you about the one Christmas, the one I can't forget, but let's leave it until tomorrow. You're going to have Christmas Day the way you deserve to, not overshadowed by my story. So tell me. What have you got planned?"

Thomas half-listened to the details of their day, nodding at the right times he hoped, but his mind wandered to his first Christmas away from home.

---

When Thomas climbed into his bed it was almost midnight. His hands were raw and every muscle ached. He lay staring at the ceiling before grabbing his pillow and covering his face so neither of his roommates would hear him cry. He wasn't successful.

"For Christ's sake Thomas, shut up! I'm trying to sleep."

Thomas snuffled and choked before taking the pillow away.

"Sorry, Richard."

"You're such a cry baby. Missing Mommy are you?"

"N ... no."

"We know that's what the problem is, right Dave?"

A groan from the other bed was all the answer he got.

"Maybe we should tell old Barkley. I'm sure he'd understand and send you home for Christmas."

"Would he?" Thomas's voice was edged with hope.

Richard laughed. "God, you really are a dolt. Isn't he Dave?"

"Leave him alone, Richard."

"Oh, all right." There was silence for a few seconds. "Why don't you come over and join me Thomas"

"What?"

"We can stay warm together and I can give you your Christmas present."

"You got me a present?" Thomas asked, wiping at his eyes with his sleeve.

"Of course. A special one you'll really enjoy."

"Richard," Dave warned.

"Go to sleep, Dave. This has nothing to do with you. Or do you want me to tell Barkley about you and that slutty maid and the wine."

If Thomas had been paying attention he would have known something was wrong. But all he heard was that Richard had a present for him. Maybe Christmas won't be so bad after all.

"Fine, fine." Dave spoke just above a whisper as he turned to face the wall, pulling the pillow over his head.

"So, Thomas, do you want your present or not?"

Thomas smiled for the first time in days as he got out of bed.

---

"Are you listening, Thomas?"

Thomas jumped, startled by the question. "Yes. It all sounds great. And our presents?" He could feel his heart quicken at the word. "We'll open them with dinner?"

"As always." Jimmy looked out from the kitchen at the small tree tucked in the window. "By the way, I don't see mine under there."

"That's because they're not. Each year you prowl around like a burglar, shaking and squeezing, so this year Mr. Creelton downstairs has them. I'll pick them up later."

"You bugger!" Jimmy laughed. "And here I thought you had no Christmas spirit at all. Let's clean up these dishes and go for a walk. There's just enough snow to make it enjoyable."

Thomas stood in silence, drying as Jimmy washed. Even after all these years that one miserable Christmas haunted him, had poisoned every other one after it. Logic told him it made no sense, still suffering because of something that happened almost thirty-five years ago, but apparently logic had nothing to do with it. It wasn't what they did because Thomas knew now that if Richard had taken his time, if he had asked, he would have agreed. But Richard had done neither. He had been rough and cruel, almost choking him into submission, threatening to break his arm if he didn't keep quiet - 'and what use is a hall boy with a broken arm'. When he was finished he shoved him onto the floor where he laid whimpering before crawling back to his own bed with Richard's warning ringing in his ears. 'Don't you try to tell anyone because no one will believe you. You can't count on Dave to back you up. He didn't help you tonight, did he? And even if you do tell I'll make sure it was you who climbed into my bed when I was asleep and when I woke up I was so disgusted with what you were trying to do I kicked you out.'

"I think that plate is dry. As a matter of fact, it was dry a couple of minutes ago." Jimmy was standing beside him searching his face intently. "You need a Christmas drink before we brave the outdoors. Go sit by the fire and I'll bring you something, m'lord."

Thomas laughed. "Good to hear you're finally recognising my rightful place in our little household. But isn't it a bit early?"

"It's Christmas. Never too early on Christmas."

Thomas propped his feet up on the ottoman, watching the flames of the fire curl around the coal.

Jimmy handed him a drink before plopping down beside him and snuggling against his chest. "Scotch good enough? Better be because I've done being a servant for the day."

Thomas reached over with his glass to touch Jimmy's. "Happy Christmas, love." He sighed as he pulled him closer. "This is the way I wanted your Christmas to be. Sorry I spoilt it."

"No Christmas with you can ever be really spoilt."

They sat quietly, sipping at their drinks, until Jimmy stirred.

"So, what did you get me for Christmas?"

"At dinner, remember. It's your rule."

"Well, if it's my rule I can break it. Do you want yours now?"

Thomas chuckled Yep, like a five-year-old. "No, I want to give you yours first. Sit here and don't move."

"Yes, sir." Jimmy gave him a half-hearted salute. He threw his arm over the back of the sofa and turned to watch Thomas leave. I never want to have a Christmas without you. He turned back to the fire to wait. He was starting to wonder what was taking so long when he heard the door open behind him.

"Did you have to wrap it? I was ..."

"Don't turn around and close your eyes."

"All right." He heard Thomas move to stand in front of him.

"Okay, you can look now."

Jimmy opened his eyes, then just sat without a word.

"So do you like it?"

"You got me a dog!" Jimmy stretched out his arms to take the struggling pup from Thomas. "You said you never wanted a dog," Jimmy reminded him as the pup leapt up to lick at his face.

"My rule, I can break it if I want. Beside this isn't just any old dog I'll have you know. He's one of Isis's ... uh, great grandchildren, I guess you could say."

"What? Isis from Downton?"

"No, Isis from Egypt. Of course from Downton, you ninny."

"But how ...?"

"I have my ways." Thomas smiled down at him. "You still haven't said if you like him."

Jimmy buried his face in the pup's neck. "You ... you got me a dog."

Thomas started to laugh. "I guess that answers my question. So can I have my gifts now?"

---

After Thomas cleared away the wrapping paper and put the open gifts back under the tree, he sat down on the sofa again, patting the sleeping Noël - 'it's Christmas so why not' - as he shifted him closer to Jimmy.

"He'll need to go out soon."

"Yeah, so it'll be the three of us walking in the snow. A family of sorts." Jimmy leant over and kissed Thomas on the cheek before getting up to get their coats. "You're full of surprises."

Beside him the dog rolled over onto his back and yawned. Thomas absentmindedly scratched the exposed belly. As he did, it was as if he could feel the vice-like grip of that terrible Christmas loosen. He knew that was just the first step in putting it to rest and that telling Jimmy tomorrow would finally bury it forever.

"Happy Christmas, Noël"

~~End~~