Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Alfred Nugent, Downton Abbey
Title: Surprise
What is wrong with Jimmy?

By mid-morning Thomas suspected Jimmy was avoiding him. It had started at breakfast when Jimmy and Alfred had sat whispering and giggling like school boys, every now and then one of them glancing at him. Then instead of joining him outside as usual at the arranged time, Jimmy hadn't shown. By the afternoon, he knew for sure. Each time he had come near Jimmy during the day he had skittered away like a chicken running from a fox. If they approached each other in a hallway, he would purposely change direction.

What have I done now? Thomas had learned that when something went wrong in his life, no matter what, it was his fault. Getting tossed out by his father with his clothes and a couple of shillings, thinking that joining the medical corps would keep him from the front lines, the black market fiasco, kissing Jimmy ... I could go on, but why bother. He wracked his brain, looking for any clue that would help him, so he could apologise. For whatever it is. Finally he cornered Jimmy in the kitchen as he was talking to Mrs. Patmore - or so he thought. As he entered, he saw Mrs. Patmore nod at Jimmy and he was on the run again. Oh no you don't.

"Jimmy."

He didn't stop and was out the opposite door.

"Jimmy. Wait."

He started after him, but Mrs. Patmore blocked his way.

"Have you seen Mrs. Hughes?

"What?"

"Mrs. Hughes. Do you know where she is?"

"Uh ... She was on the second floor about ten minutes ago."

"Could you get her for me?"

What the hell? I'm not your messenger boy. "Can't you get one of the hall boys to do it?"

"Oh, yes, I suppose I could. Have you seen one?"

Good Lord. It's like a farce.

"If I do, I'll send him. Okay?"

He stepped around her and tried to follow Jimmy. Where did he go? If he's upstairs I could be hunting forever. Probably hiding in one of the guestrooms. He laughed at the absurdity of that. Jimmy wouldn't hide from him. Would he? As he entered the saloon he met Alfred on his way out.

"Have you seen Jimmy?"

"Not since lunch, Mr. Barrow."

As he tried to pass, Thomas put out his arm.

"What were you two on about at breakfast."

"Nothing much."

"Let me be the judge of that."

Alfred stepped back.

"I really don't think that's your concern. It was just us joking around. Nothing to do with work. We're allowed to have our own lives. You if anyone should know that."

Thomas couldn't find an answer for that. First because, surprisingly, it was Alfred who said it and then because he knew it was true. None of my business.

"Fine. But if you see him tell him this has to stop. He'll know what I mean."

Try as he might over the rest of the afternoon he didn't find him. When he wasn't serving at dinner, he started to panic. What the hell? Is he sick? Or is it so bad he can't bear to be near me? Once again he stopped Alfred.

"Where is he?"

"It's his half day."

"And you didn't think to mention that to me."

"Since you're friends I thought you would know."

I should have known, but he didn't tell me. We were going to try to get our half days together. "I probably did, but I guess I forgot."

He spent the rest of the evening in a foul mood, snarling at the hall boys, snapping at Ivy. As he sat alone in the servant's hall around ten thirty, he heard the back door open and soon after Jimmy appeared in the doorway.

"You're just under the wire. I was about to close up. Mr. Carson wouldn't be pleased if you got locked out and he found you sleeping on the doorstep tomorrow morning."

"But I made it, didn't I?"

So now you talk to me. I should just go to bed. He got up and walked by him without a word. After locking the door, he went to the stairs.

"Thomas, can I see you for a minute."

He turned back, his resolve completely gone. "Look, I'm sorry, just tell me what I did and ..." When he entered the servants' hall, Jimmy was on the other side of the table holding out a neatly wrapped package. In front of him was a small cake.

"Happy Birthday."

"What?"

"July 10th. Your birthday."

Thomas pulled out a chair and sat down. So it is. It's been so long since anyone cared.

Jimmy walked around and leant over, putting the package in front of him.

"Hope you like it."

Thomas hands shook a little as he untied the string and eased off the paper. Cufflinks.

"They're the ones you saw in Ripon. Said you couldn't afford them."

"You remembered? That was months ago."

They were silent for a moment.

"I thought I had done something to drive you away."

"Never. I just had to make to Ripon without you asking any questions. You're nosy, you know. When you saw me talking with Mrs. Patmore it was about the cake. Couldn't let you find out about that either."

"Alfred was in on it too?"

"Yes, for some of the cake."

"So you weren't really trying to get away from me?"

"No. Just trying to throw you off the scent. It's been murder all week trying to keep quiet. I couldn't take the chance that I would blurt something out today. You have that effect on me." Like when I told you I loved you.

He bent down and kissed his ear.

"Let's have some of this cake and then we'll see what else I have in store for you tonight."