Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Sybil Branson, Downton Abbey
Title: Valentine's Day
Thomas leant against the crates that were stacked beside the door into the house and lit his cigarette. He inhaled deeply, relishing the slight burn he felt even after all these years. A few minutes is all I need before the whole thing starts again. His morning had been hectic with Carson in bed with some undisclosed illness. Dr. Clarkson had spoken to Mrs. Hughes before he left, but all she told Thomas was that it would take time. He went over the checklist in his mind, hoping he wasn't missing anything. This would be an opportunity to show that he was capable of being a butler – if not at Downtown, then somewhere else. Always good to have a backup plan.
The quiet voice took him by surprise and he jumped slightly.
"Miss Sybil. What are you doing out here?" He looked around. "Where's Miss Phillips?"
"Lessons are through for the day. I guess it's a holiday. Valentine's Day, you know." She looked puzzled. "It wasn't last year. Is this something new?"
"I think Miss Phillips has made up her own." He smiled down at her. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No. I hate lessons. I want to be out with Papa."
"Yes, I know." He bent down and picked her up, setting her gently on the crate beside him. Seven years since Lady Sybil died. It's hard to believe. God, she looks like her mother. "Your Papa will be back for dinner and I'll bet he brings you something."
"Why?" She coughed and waved her hand to chase the smoke from his cigarette away. Thomas dropped it on the ground and stubbed it out with his toe.
"It's Valentine's Day, remember."
"Oh." She thought for a few seconds. "I made him a Valentine's card. Miss Phillips helped. She wouldn't let me cut the paper, but I did the colouring."
"So he's your gentleman caller?" he teased.
"No. He's my Papa. I don't have a gentleman caller." She paused again. "Do you?"
"Do you get Valentines?"
"No, I'm too old."
"Are you older than Grandpapa?"
Despite himself, Thomas laughed.
"No, not that old."
"Well Grandmamma is giving him a Valentine." She scrunched up her face as she thought about that. "So you should have one too."
"Yes, I should." Thomas sighed slightly. Out of the mouths of babes. "But you have to have someone special to give you a card."
"Like Mr.& Mrs. Bates? Or Daisy and Alfred?"
Thomas stared at her. How does she know these things?
"Yes." He reached over and lifted her down. "Now, I've got to go back and you, Miss Sybil, will have to find someone else to talk to. I'll take you upstairs."
She followed him across the yard and up the stairs where he was lucky enough to find her grandmother.
"I'm sorry, Barrow. Was she much trouble?"
"She's never any trouble, Your Ladyship. More a ray of sunshine." He could have bitten his tongue as that slipped out. Crossing the line. Not a good idea. But Cora just smiled at him.
"Yes, she is. A lot like her mother."
Thomas bowed and turned to leave.
"Happy Valentine's Mr. Barrow. I'm sorry you don't have anyone special."
"Hush, Sybil dear," her grandmother admonished.
Thomas knew she really didn't know the effect her words would have and he was surprised how they actually hurt. After all these years something stupid like that. It wasn't that he didn't have anyone, it was that he couldn't tell. Jimmy meant more to him than anything else. To say he was special wasn't enough. But no one, other than Jimmy, could ever know that. And he hated that. He wanted people to know, but knew they never would. They had their own little Valentine's night planned for later. No card, of course. Guess that's the important thing, we get to share the day. That's assuming I can ever get through it.
He passed Jimmy on the second floor and pulled him to one side, pushing him into one of the alcoves before grabbing him by the collar and giving him a quick kiss.
"What's that for? Not that I'm complaining."
"It's Valentine's. Don't need an excuse."
"It's not like you, that's all. I mean, here, in the open. What if someone sees?"
Thomas stepped back a pace and began fiddling with Jimmy's shirt.
"I'm simply straightening your tie. It's a mess."
"Well it wasn't a few seconds ago," he countered, failing to hold back a smile. "I'll see you tonight."
"It will be late. With Carson out I have to deal with the things on his desk after everyone's settled."
"Doesn't matter. I'm not going anywhere." He looked quickly to his left and right, then took Thomas's hand and kissed it. "Never will." He let him go and moved off down the hall. Thomas could have sworn he was humming.
The afternoon went quickly and Thomas breathed a sigh of relief when dinner went off without a hitch. He left Jimmy and Alfred to take care of the after dinner drinks while he did a fast tour of the house checking that the bedrooms were in order. It wasn't that he expected there would be a problem, but he wasn't going to take a chance. Finally after his own dinner he left the few stragglers in the servants' hall and went to Carson's desk to sort through paperwork and to see what had to be done tomorrow.
By the time he was finished he glanced up at the clock and saw it was almost eleven. There were no sounds from the hall so he assumed everyone had gone up. He gathered the papers and was about to tuck them into the desk when he sensed rather than saw someone in the doorway.
"Miss Sybil, you gave me a fright. What are you doing down here at this time? You should be in bed."
"I was, but I wanted to give you something." She walked over and reached him a folded sheet of notepaper. He frowned as he opened it. All it said was 'I will be your' and then a large neatly drawn heart. He looked at her and she shrugged.
"I didn't know how to spell 'Valentine'."
Thomas was at a loss for words for a few seconds, not because he didn't have any, but because he was afraid if he spoke he would start to cry. He looked down for a moment, then cleared his throat.
"Thank you. That's the nicest Valentine I've ever gotten. But I didn't get you one."
"That's all right. I had lots. Even Mr. Carson sent one. Papa said something about wonders never ceasing." She smiled at him shyly. "Now you have someone special."
"I do, but I think she should go to bed." As he stood up and came around the desk, she lifted her arms.
"Carry me, please."
He scooped her up and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Anything for my Valentine."
~~ End ~~