Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: Renewal

Chapter Two

Jimmy was almost late for dinner, entering the servant's hall just a few steps ahead of Carson. As he stood behind his chair he noticed that Thomas wasn't in his usual place opposite him. That's no reason for concern, is it? After they took their seats, Carson cleared his throat, but Jimmy interrupted before he could say anything.

"Mr. Carson, where's Mr. Barrow?"

Carson's frowned as he briefly closed his eyes. Jimmy knew that expression of mild exasperation very well.

"If you had let me speak, James, I was about to inform everyone." The slight pinking of Jimmy's cheeks told him that his point had been made. He looked around the table. "Dr. Clarkson has seen Mr. Barrow and there is nothing to worry about. He has recommended that he rest for today, and perhaps tomorrow, but he will be fine."

"Thank you, Mr. Carson," Jimmy broke in, hoping his thin politeness would do. "I'm sure we're all pleased to hear that." He knew that no one other than himself likely gave a damn. "But where is he?"

"He's in his room, James."


Carson shook his head slightly. "No, Lord Grantham is with him."

"What?" Jimmy's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.

The hint of a smile crossed Carson's lips. "Of course he's alone, James."

"Is that wise?" Jimmy asked worriedly. "I mean he might have a concussion." That possibility had been nagging at him from the minute he first thought it.

"Do you have a medical degree of which I am not aware, James?" Carson asked, but didn't wait for a reply. "No, you do not, whereas Dr. Clarkson does. And he obviously doesn't have that concern. Now, enough of this or we'll not have time to eat."

Conversation at the table moved on, but Jimmy ate in silence, seldom lifting his eyes from his plate. Once when he did look up he caught Mrs. Hughes watching him. She immediately turned and began speaking quietly to Mr. Carson. When everyone had finished and begun to go their separate ways, Carson stopped him.

"James, Mr. Barrow hasn't eaten, take his tray up to him will you."

"His tray?" Jimmy asked. A hallboy could do that. What's going on?

The pause allowed Mrs. Hughes who was standing to one side to slip in. "And perhaps you can stay with him for a while."

"Pardon?" Carson's eyebrows almost met his hairline. "We didn't . . . I didn't intend for that."

"Oh, I'm sure you can spare James for a few minutes or perhaps even half an hour. I know Mr. Barrow would probably like the company. Most of the family have retired early and I'm sure Mr. Molesley is more than capable of looking after the one or two who remain."

Carson quickly understood that he had been outmaneuvered; something that he recognised happened frequently when Mrs. Hughes was involved. He sighed.

"Very well. But no more than a half hour," he warned, trying to recover some control.

"Yes, Mr. Carson. A half hour." Jimmy tried to hide his smile as he turned toward the kitchen.

"James," Mrs. Hughes called as she followed and stopped him by putting her hand on his arm.

"Yes, Mrs. Hughes."

"I wouldn't be too concerned about the half hour," she said quietly as she cast a look over her shoulder at Carson who was busy with Molesley. "Mr. Carson can get distracted sometimes and not notice the time passing." She released his arm. "Now, off you go. I'm sure Mr. Barrow will be hungry."

Jimmy picked up the tray and climbed the stairs. Why would she do that? I didn't think she even liked him. There must be something I don't know. He hesitated briefly in front of Thomas's door as what Lady Rose had said came to mind. 'Tell him why.' Easier said than done. Jimmy wasn't one to show his feelings - not his true ones, not the ones that mattered, not the ones that made him vulnerable. And when it came to Thomas he wasn't exactly sure what those feelings were any more, which made things worse.

What he did know was that the risk of losing Thomas forever was all too real. It had already begun; they were little more than two people who worked in the same place. But Jimmy sensed something when he was massaging Thomas's shoulder; a change in his attitude, in his voice. Perhaps it wasn't too late. Asking Thomas what was wrong was not the way to stop it. Lady Rose was right - he had to make Thomas see what his friendship meant to him, but more importantly what Thomas meant to him

He tapped at the door then took a deep breath and walked in. Thomas was propped up in bed looking so much like the first time Jimmy had been in his room that he stopped dead in his tracks.

"Is that my dinner?" Thomas asked when Jimmy made no effort to bring him the tray.

"Yes, yes. Sorry." Jimmy crossed the room, setting the tray on Thomas's lap. "Stitches?" he asked glancing at Thomas's forehead.

"Three, so not too bad." Thomas reached up and gingerly ran his forefinger along them. "Won't spoil my good looks too much I guess."

Jimmy pulled up a chair and sat down. "Do you mind if I stay?" Thomas's look told him that no matter what he might think he knew Jimmy was going to stay anyway.

"Not at all. I'll enjoy the company. Bloody boring up here."

"So did Dr. Clarkson say what happened? I mean the fall."

"He doesn't know," Thomas mumbled around a spoonful of soup. "It amounted to 'We'll run some tests, but let's see if it happens again'." He laughed quietly. "If there is a next time, I hope I'm not serving the Dowager something. Imagine me falling into her lap."

"Probably hasn't had a man in her lap in a long time. She might not complain."

Thomas spluttered a bit of soup and wiped at his mouth with a napkin. "Yes, but I might. Waking up to Molesley staring at me was bad enough."

"Oh, don't worry, I'd take care of you. You could look at me instead." Right, Kent, how obvious can you be?

Thomas set down his spoon and stared at the bowl for a moment. "Would you, Jimmy?" He looked up, locking his eyes on Jimmy's.

"Of course." Time to grasp the bull by the balls and pray it doesn't kick me too far. "Look, no matter what you say, we've practically become strangers." He waved his hand at Thomas when he tried to interrupt. "I know you cared for me at one time." He stopped. Why beat around the bush? "I know you loved me, so if you still feel any of that, let me talk. I'm not going to ask you what happened, if you want to tell me some time, then fine.

"If I still feel any of that?" Thomas repeated. That's the fucking problem. He sat for a few seconds, then set his tray to one side and swung his legs out of the bed so he could sit facing Jimmy directly. "All right."

~~to be continued~~