Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, and some of the Downton characters.
AU. Not really canon
Warning: Canonical Character Death
Length: 4 chapters
And the livin' is easy. Thomas is a lifeguard when he meets Jimmy.
I swear to God, this is the last year I do this. Thomas sat in his chair overlooking the pool. Of course if things keep going the way they are, there won't be a Grantham's next year anyway. This was his fifth summer as lifeguard, but only his first as head. When he started the place was teeming with people on good days and on weekends even if it threatened to rain. But today, like most of the days this year, it was almost empty. Thomas didnít blame them.
When Robert Crawley had bought Grantham's Waterpark four years ago, things went downhill quickly. Needed maintenance was ignored. Two of the big slides hadn't been opened at the beginning of the summer because the fibreglass had given way over the winter. Poor Alfred had plunged so many toilets this year that he had nicknamed him Shit Solver. The snack bar was a disgrace. Beryl Patmore bitched at the best of times, but he had to admit the selection was terrible and the quality of the most of the food was questionable. She said that there were far too many products that were past their expiry date and she was told to use them anyway. The Crawleys seemed to be made of money, given the cars, the house, the horse farm in the country, so perhaps Grantham's was a tax shelter of some sort. Ivy has taken Tax Law, maybe she would know if that makes sense.
Thomas stretched and sat up straighter, scanning the pool. I should have listened to Duke. He got that job at that factory his uncle owns, Downton's, and said there was one for me if I wanted it. The pay was a bit better too. Not that that Crawley was doing anything on the cheap there, which surprised Thomas given everything else. Could have used the extra money for university, but I couldn't have worked with him or owed for the favour though. He's an asshole. All of Thomas's exes were assholes. Well, maybe not Edward. But Edward had died when he ran his bike into a bridge abutment two years ago, high on God-knows-what. Just two weeks after we got together. Worse luck. Thought he might have been different.
He turned when out of the corner of his eye he saw Elsie Hughes, the assistant manager, heading towards him with a good-looking blond boy in tow. He was wearing a powder blue v-neck T-shirt, baggy white shorts and sandals, with a black backpack slung over his shoulder Seems young.
"Thomas, get someone to take your place."
"Sure, Elsie." He waved to one of the girls sitting with Alfred in the shade of a faded beach umbrella. "Daisy, take over, will ya."
He climbed down and waited until Daisy had settled into the chair.
"Thomas, this is Jimmy, the new hire. Show him the ropes."
"Okay. But doesn't Charlie usually take the new ones around?"
"Mr. Carson's busy, so he asked me to get you to."
Drunk more likely. He knew the manager, Charlie Carson, had seen much better days at Grantham's and he definitely wasn't dealing well with its decline.
"He'll be in good hands with me."
Elsie eyed him warily. She had heard about Thomas and his hands from William last year. I should have fired him, but William didn't want him to lose the job. He had punched him in the eye when he grabbed his ass and as far as he was concerned it was a misunderstanding and it was settled. Besides, she had to admit begrudgingly, Thomas was very good at his job and she didn't have time to worry about things she knew little about herself. She turned and as she passed Alfred she spoke to him quietly.
"Alfred, those trash cans don't empty themselves. Get up off your lazy butt."
"Okay ... uh, Jimmy, right? Thomas asked as he gave him the once over."
"Right. Jimmy Kent."
"Thomas Barrow. I'll give you the quick tour. Those buildings are the public change rooms. The staff break room is attached, but it's a pigsty so I would suggest you skip it." He pointed to a short line of people. "They're waiting to get some food. Also to be avoided unless you fancy the runs."
Jimmy gave him a shocked look.
"Just joking. The food is pretty bad though, just don't tell Beryl Patmore I said so. Stick to one of the prepackaged sandwiches if you have to. They're made by some place outside "
"Beryl Patmore. She's the snack bar cook, manager, whatever. I have a sneaky suspicion she's the one supplying the sandwiches, cutting out the middle man. Not a bad idea since I've had a couple of meals she's cooked on her own. She's wasting her time here."
"That red-headed layabout rooting around in the trash can is Alfred. Good enough guy. He and I share an apartment with Ivy. You'll meet her later. Don't get any ideas though. Alfred has the hots for her and he can be possessive, even though Ivy just ignores him."
"Now as for the pool ... You do have all your certificates, right?"
"Good. As for the pool. You can see it's not busy, but keep an eye on the kids that wander around in a pack. Little buggers seem to find each other. Parents drop them off in the morning and pick them up after five. We're a bloody babysitting service at times. Now, follow me."
Thomas led the way to the entrance where he opened the door to one of the cashier wickets.
"Ivy, my love, cigs?"
"In my purse as always." She turned to them. "And who's this?"
Thomas fished the cigarettes and lighter, plus something else, from her purse.
"That's Jimmy. New lifeguard. Say 'hi' Jimmy."
"So, another lamb for the slaughter. Cute lamb, though. Just how old are you? We wouldn't want anyone robbing the cradle you know."
Jimmy blushed. "Eighteen."
"Down girl. Jealousy. Don't want Miss O unhappy, do ya?."
A voice from behind them made them jump.
"And why would Miss O be unhappy?"
"Jimmy, this is Sarah O'Brien or Miss O as we lovingly call her. Head cashier. Rules the roost up here."
"That I do. And right now you're disturbing one of my chicks, so bugger off."
Thomas just smiled at her.
"Join me for a smoke, Miss O?"
"Later, Thomas." She looked at Jimmy. "We'll have something to talk about I'm sure."
Thomas turned away from the entrance and around the corner to the back of a building. He leant against the wall and lit up.
Jimmy settled beside him. "So that's Ivy. Alfred doesn't need to worry. Not my type."
"Right now Ivy and Miss O have this 'understanding'. Sort of a summer fling I guess. I know you didn't ask, but I like to share." He laughed and blew a smoke ring, watching it until it broke apart. "This." He tapped the building with the back of his head. "This is the admin building, which you probably already know. It's where Charlie Carson, who I'm sure you met - Jimmy nodded - and Elsie do whatever it is they do to run this place." He held out the package of cigarettes. "Want one?"
"No, thanks, I don't smoke."
"Well then." Thomas reached under the building and retrieved a backpack, pulling out a bottle of vodka. "How about some of this."
Jimmy shook his head.
"Suit yourself." Thomas unscrewed the top and took a quick swallow, which was followed almost immediately by a grimace. "Prefer beer or scotch myself, but both of those smell on your breath."
"Vodka does too. Just not as strong."
"And that's where this weird fruit gum comes in." He held out a pack. "Not many people know it and I can always pass off any alcohol smell as part of it." Crap, this sounds like I'm a drunk. "Don't get me wrong. I save my real drinking until after work." Right. That's so much better. "So, what brings you to this little piece of heaven?"
"I need the job to pay for school. Got a small scholarship, but that won't cover everything. I lifeguarded last year at a country club, but this pays more."
"Really? Me too. And Ivy and Alfred. I'm in Marketing, Ivy's in Commerce and Finance. Alfred's ... well, I'm not sure what Alfred's in now. Was some sort of management course, but he's switching this year. Or maybe not, knowing Alfred."
"This'll be my first year. Music. Piano mainly. Ripon has a great reputation."
Thomas stubbed out his cigarette.
"Have to get back. I'll show you the staff change room - at least it's clean - and then you can join me. You can take over one of the other chairs."
Thomas pointed out the door to the change room and waited while Jimmy went inside. Nice guy. Not very talkative though. Great smile. I wonder ... Nope, let's not go there. At least not yet.