Jimmy Kent, Original Male Characters, Downton Abbey, WWI
Warning: Character death, Underage consensual sex
Title: Little Stars
Length: 8 chapters
When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun
Romeo and Juliet
Jimmy sat in the servants' hall, drumming his fingers nervously on the table. Lady Anstruther had never spoken individually to any of the servants before. The most she had ever said to him was to ask him to do something. It wasn't that she was unusual. That was just the way things worked. Nesbitt the butler was the intermediary when necessary. But not tonight. Nesbitt entered the room and Jimmy stood up.
"Her Ladyship has finished with Miss Farnby and would like to see you now. She is in the library."
"Mr. Nesbitt, do you know why?"
"That is for her to tell you. Mind that you behave yourself. Answer when spoken to and say only what is needed."
Jimmy nodded. He knew the rules. There was no reason to remind him.
As he climbed the stairs he worried about what was going to happen. He searched his memory to see if he had done something. If he had been found out. They had been careful so hopefully that wasn't it. Was he going to be let go for something he didn't know he had done? Surely he would have a chance to defend himself. He hesitated at the library door, then knocked cautiously.
As he closed the door behind him he saw that the dowager's grandson was also there. His heart sank. He desperately tried to catch his eye, but he was leaning over whispering in her ear.
"Yes, Daniel, I know."
She waved him away.
"How long have you worked here?"
"A little more than four years, Your Ladyship, including a year or so before the war."
"Ah yes, the war. How long were you away?"
"And we obviously held your position."
"Yes, Your Ladyship."
She paused, staring at him as if considering what she was going to say next. Jimmy could feel his palms start to sweat. She reminded him of the myth, Greek he thought, that Daniel had told him about. Medusa. He was just waiting for the snakes to appear.
"I suppose that is neither here nor there, but I did want to clarify. As you may know, my family is French, although I was born here. We originate from Saint-Quentin and I have decided I wish to go there to live. I will employ most of the servants locally, but will take a few with me. I would like you to be one of them."
Jimmy felt his knees sag.
"Yes, Your Ladyship."
"Was that an answer?"
"No, Your Ladyship."
She looked to her grandson.
"Daniel, do you understand this?"
"Yes, Grandmama. You've taken Jimmy by surprise. He will need some time to think about this. After all, it is quite a change. Isn't that right, Jimmy?
Jimmy looked at him helplessly and merely nodded.
"Oh, very well. You may have a few days, but Daniel will need your answer by Friday since he, not Nesbitt. will be handling this. I expect to leave within two weeks and let him deal with everything after that. I will want Nesbitt, Farnby, and you to accompany me. Everyone else will be let go with a month's wages and references after this is all settled."
She nodded to dismiss him. As he turned to leave, Daniel called after him
"Jimmy, wait in the hall for me. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Yes, Your Lordship."
Once outside, he leaned against the door jamb for support. Not France. He couldn't go back to France. That was all behind him. He couldn't bear to have the scars ripped open all over again. Why hadn't Daniel told him she was thinking about this? They had been at odds in the last few months, but this was important. It seemed that he didn't care after all.
"Jimmy, why are standing there?"
Jimmy bolted upright. It was Nesbitt.
"Daniel asked me to wait."
He realised what he had said as soon as the words left his lips. Too late though.
"Daniel? His Lordship? Who gave you permission to call him by his given name?"
He almost said, "He did." but knew that would make matters worse. Nesbitt wouldn't believe him anyway.
"I'm sorry, Mr Nesbitt. The news about France shocked me and I forgot myself."
Nesbitt looked at him. He didn't fool him; he knew what he was after a few weeks. But what he and His Lordship had gotten up to was none of his concern whether or not he understood or approved. He couldn't do anything about it without hurting the family. Besides he had to admit grudgingly that he had no complaints about Jimmy's work and attitude. Anyway he knew His Lordship would tire of him; he had seen it before. Now, though, it didn't matter. They were for France and Daniel would stay here.
"Yes. All right. Just watch yourself."
"Yes, Mr. Nesbitt. But France? Really?"
"I know. But we go where Her Ladyship goes."
Jimmy leaned back against the door as he watched him continue down the hall. Maybe you, but not me. The door opened suddenly behind him and he would have fallen into the library if Daniel hadn't grabbed him under the arms. Lady Anstruther's voice sounded irritated.
"Daniel, what are you doing?"
"Well, do it somewhere else."
Daniel pushed Jimmy into the hallway and closed the door
"God, she can be a bitch at times. Maybe France isn't far enough away."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Not here, not now. I'm staying tonight and I didn't bring my valet on purpose. I've asked Nesbitt to send you. We'll talk then."
"Yes, Your Lordship."
Daniel almost said something, but instead turned and went into the sitting room.
"Pompous ass," Jimmy muttered under his breath.
He tried to remember why he had ever gotten involved with him in the first place. Jimmy knew he had a type. Someone with a bit of evil about him, someone with a smile that made him edgy, someone whose touch left him uneasy but wanting more. Daniel was all of that. On the surface just another aristocratic layabout, but get to know him, get him in bed. He shivered slightly. Ah, yes, that was why.
Around nine Jimmy was in the servants' hall once again, hoping for a quick cup of tea before ending his night. Nesbitt came in just as he sat down and reached for one of the biscuits sitting in front of him. He jumped to his feet, almost spilling his tea in the process.
"His Lordship is ready for you."
"Shit, I forgot."
"Jimmy! Language. This isn't the trenches."
"Sorry, Mr. Nesbitt."
He took a quick sip of the tea then set it down. He deserved an explanation and he was going to get it. He knocked and opened the door to find Daniel sitting on the bed, already out of his jacket and tie, his shirt pulled out of his trousers.
"I thought you needed a valet."
"Do you really think that's why you're here?"
"That's the only thing I'm here for. No, not just that. That, and a fucking explanation."
"Take it easy, Jimmy. Take it easy. Sit down."
He patted the bed beside him, but he took a chair instead. He got up to join him, but Jimmy just shook his head. "Fair enough", Daniel thought.
"Listen. This was as big a surprise to me as it is to you."
"No, I mean it. She had her solicitor call me late last week and give me the details. Didn't even think that she should ask me or tell me herself. She's always been headstrong and as she's gotten older that is even more apparent. Once she decides on something, no matter how mad it may seem, it gets done. Hell, she doesn't even speak French. There's no family there. I don't know what has gotten into her."
"So there's no changing her mind?"
"No. The property is on the market. She doesn't care if it sells or not. She doesn't need the money anyway. She's taking some of the contents, but the rest will just sit here, be sold with the house, or given away."
Jimmy got up and went to sit beside him.
"Daniel, you know I can't go to France."
"But . . ."
"It's Saint-Quentin. You know how close that is, what that means to me. It took me this long to be able to sleep most nights without nightmares, without seeing their faces, without seeing him."
Daniel put his arm around him.
"I know. So the answer is no. What will you do?"
"Find something else. Do you need anyone?"
He felt Daniel stiffen. Apparently, even if he did, Jimmy wasn't the one. He sighed.
"I thought not."
"Jimmy, you know I would."
"No, you wouldn't. No need to lie. It wouldn't work anyway. What we had, if we ever had anything, is gone. I'm not sure why I asked."
He got up and picked up his jacket and tie.
"Let me help you get ready for bed."
"Will you stay?"
"That's not a good idea. Besides I need some time to think right now."
Daniel stood up, pulling off his shirt.
"I know things have been awkward between us, but I'm not a cold-hearted bastard. If you decide you need someone, I'm here. No strings attached."
Jimmy smiled briefly. No strings attached. It seemed that was how it always started . . . or ended. It was what happened in between that broke your heart.