Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: The Plan
It was almost midnight when Thomas finally got to his room. He opened the door and walked straight to his armchair, almost throwing himself into it. Not bothering to undo his shoes, he pried them off with his feet. He grabbed a cigarette from the package, lighting it and inhaling deeply. Jesus. Eighteen hours. I'm Grantham's valet. I don't need to be waiting tables and standing around like a statue. I'm not a footman. Carson better hire another one soon. That Alfred is almost useless. He laughed quietly. I better not let O'Brien hear me say that. I'm in enough trouble with her already. Can't trust her. But I'll be able to handle her I guess. I know most of her tricks.
He looked around his room, his home. Some home this is. Hand-me-down furniture, that ugly lamp, a bed with an excuse for a mattress that sags like a sway-backed horse. Not that he had expected much more. He knew what a life of service meant. Never really owning much. His watch, a good suit - not an expensive one though - some photos, a few books. If he had to leave he could pack it all in one good-sized suitcase. Thirty-two years old and this is what I have to show for it. All my plans of getting away, being my own boss so I didn't have to worry if anyone found out. He shook his head. I was a fool to think any of that would happen. He stood up, peeled off his shirt and went to the washstand to clean up. As he towelled himself he looked in the mirror. Thirty-two. Yesterday was my birthday and there was no one to notice. Considering how he treated everyone, it really didn't surprise him, but it still hurt. He knew that if it had even been last year O'Brien would have said something. She always did. But now, after he had fucked around with Alfred's future, even she didn't care.
Taking off his trousers, he hung them up, then stripped off his pants so he could climb into his pyjama bottoms. He pulled a package of letters from his dresser drawer and settled down to read through a few. At least Gerald remembered. In Bombay, but he never forgets about me. Re-reading the recent letter didn't have the effect he thought it would. Instead of consoling him, it made him feel worse. Gerald had married a year ago. Some English governess for a local family. And now they had a son. The photo he had sent of the three of them stared back at him. This is what it's supposed to be like. Perfect little family. Even in the far-flung reaches of the empire he found happiness. He slid the photo into the folded letter, putting them back into the envelope and setting the pile on his desk.
He knew he didn't have much chance of happiness. Any time he thought it was within his grasp, it slipped away. Sometimes it was his own fault, sometimes it was beyond his control. The Duke of Crowborough and Edward Courtenay. Those had been his chances, no matter how remote, in the last ten years. The Duke never wanted him anyway, but his attempt at blackmail closed the door on that. Probably just as well. Edward. Maybe that could have worked. We hit it off. I know we did. But the only sign Edward had given him was when he placed his hand on top of his. He felt it, but Edward probably didn't. Then he fucking killed himself. He buried his head in his hands. Christ, I'm lonely. Never mind not being happy, I'd settle for feeling less alone. He knew that was his own fault though. When he treated people the way he did, he couldn't expect much else. It was just that the only way he knew how to deal with them, to keep his secret, was not to let them get close. He had decided that being cold, aloof and condescending, even cruel, was the only way. It was too late when he realised that made his life hell, that by trying to protect himself like that he had driven everyone away. And worse yet, it was too late to change. Even if he knew how. No one would believe him if he tried; they would expect a trick.
He got up and climbed into bed. Maybe if I go somewhere else. It would be a new start. No-one would know how much of an asshole I've been. I know Carson would be glad to be rid of me so I'm sure he would give me a good reference if only for that. I've been a footman - first footman - and a valet. That should count for something. There's nothing to keep me here. He reached over and turned off the light, before turning on his side, trying to find a comfortable spot in the bed. I'll see what's in the papers. There's always something on the go.
The next morning he felt much better. He even caught himself humming at one point early in the day.
"My, aren't we the cheerful one," Anna commented as she passed him.
"No use being glum. Life's too short."
"Where's Thomas? Who are you?"
"Funny. Very funny."
As he walked toward the servants' hall later in the afternoon he noticed everyone was standing and the maids seemed to be giggling. He soon realised why.
"Jimmy Kent, at your service."
"I'm Mr. Barrow, his Lordship's valet."
"And I'm hoping to be his Lordship's footman. Which is why I'm looking for Mr. Carson."
He looked him up and down. If that's the case then maybe I'll stay for while longer. You never know. Besides, what harm would it be?