Thomas Barrow, Andy Parker, Daisy Mason/Parker, Original Characters, Downton Abbey AU
Title: Christmas at Yew Tree Farm
Length: 5 Chapters

Chapter Five

December 27, 1953
Ronnie spoke for the first time as they pulled out onto the road heading to Ripon. His silence had worried Thomas.

"You're loaning Da the money."


When Ronnie didn't say anything else Thomas decided he had to ask, "Is there a problem with that?"

"No. It's just that I don't know how to thank you properly. I mean they've never said outright but it's obvious they're doing this for me so I should be the one doing the thanking."

"Tell you what, you help make a success of this and that will be enough."

"It's a deal." He glanced at Thomas and smiled before turning his eyes back to the road and beginning to hum some unrecognisable tune.

Thomas was glad the drive only took fifteen minutes because as far as he was concerned Ronnie was going too fast and he found himself gripping the armrest more than once.

"So where to?" Ronnie asked as he pulled into an empty space.

"I thought maybe a pint first. How about that pub? The Stag is it?"

"Oh, I don't think that's a good idea."

"Why? You don't want me to meet this young man?"

"Is that what this is all about? I told you it's over."

"Do you want it to be? Does he?"

"It doesn't matter what either of us might want. He'll move on somewhere else once the work here dries up."

"Why does he have to? You're going to need a hired man. Think, Ronnie, think. Was Andy pleased with his work? If so then he already has an advantage."

"He certainly has the right experience with pigs. And he knows about feed crops and harvesting."

"And he would be living just down the road. By himself. For God's sake Ronnie, wake up! Here's your chance for some happiness. And trust me, those chances don’t come along very often for men like us."

"We would have to be careful."

"Don't let that stop you."

"I don't know if he would go for it."

"Standing here by the truck in the cold isn't going to get you the answer. Take me to the pub so you can buy us a pint and find out."

As they started down the street Thomas briefly gripped Ronnie's shoulder. Of course he'll go for it.

The warmth of the fire welcomed them as they stepped through the door into the almost empty pub.

"I don't see him," Ronnie said as he looked around. "Maybe …"

At that someone stood up from behind the bar. He was good-looking, as tall as Thomas, as fair as Ronnie was dark, with a mop of untamed dark red hair that he ran his hand through to straighten.

"Dammit, that better… Ronnie! Sorry, I'm having trouble with the barrel." He nodded toward the room and laughed. "Got to keep up with all these thirsty customers." He reached across the bar to shake his hand, then looked questioningly at Thomas.

"Oh. Sean this is Thomas Barrow. Uncle Thomas, Sean O'Daly."

"Uncle Thomas?" Sean asked as he shook hands. "Are you Mrs. Parker's brother?" Thomas heard that he hadn't lost any of his Irish accent; it reminded him so much of his mother's.

"No, he's not really my uncle. It's just … well, it's a story for later I guess."

"So a couple of pints?” Sean asked. "I think I've got that damn thing working."

"Yes, please. Ronnie set his money on the counter. "You all alone today?"

Sean looked up at the clock as he slid the beers across the bar.

"Fifteen minutes more then the landlord's back and I'm off early. It's dead as you can see. Has been since we opened."

Thomas noticed that Sean's hand lingered as he gave Ronnie his change.

"It's good to see you. Thought you might have come in before Christmas."

"You know that getting away isn't always easy for me."

Thomas nudged him with the toe of his shoe.

"Uh … can the three of us go somewhere when you're done? That tea room across the street maybe. I have some news."

"Of course." Sean looked at Thomas wondering why he was included. "There's nothing wrong is there?"

"No, no. I just want to talk about something," Ronnie assured him before they took their glasses to an empty table.

"I don't have to go with you two," Thomas said as they sat down. I mean if you want to talk to him alone that is."

"I'd like you there. This could be the start of the most important thing I've ever done, maybe that I'll ever do." He took a drink and set the glass down, turning it round and round on the table. "And you're the main reason I'm able even able to consider it."

As they waited, Ronnie talked about the work that would have to be done to get the new farms up and running, but he also worried if Sean would be happy with the house. He knew Daisy planned on making sure it was clean, but there was no furniture, not even a bed.

"He'll need cups too. And a kettle. And somewhere to boil water. I can't even remember if there's a stove."

Thomas reached over and grabbed the empty glass, fearing it was going to end up on the floor. "Slow down. Of course there's a stove. The rest will all fall into place."

Ronnie laughed. "See, that's also why I want you there. You can stop me when I start to make a bloody fool of myself." He looked up as Sean approached.

"I'm ready to go."

Like the pub, the tea room wasn't busy so they were able to order right away. As they waited, Ronnie quickly explained what was happening. When he finished, Sean sat and said nothing for a moment.

"I didn't know you were going to buy another farm."

"It all started after you left, but there's more."

He was interrupted by the arrival of their tea.

"More?" Sean asked when the waitress had left.

"We're going to need a full time man. There'll be a free house and Mum's cooking. Da will even make sure the house is kept heated."

"Do you think that …"

"That you can have the job," Ronnie finished for him. "Da was sorry to lose you. Mum treated you like she treated Danny. You're all but there." He stopped and glanced at Thomas. "And you know how I feel," he added quietly.

Thomas could have sworn that he saw the pieces drop into place as Sean listened, but when Ronnie cautiously touched the back of his hand he also saw the quick, worried look that he gave him. Ronnie noticed too.

"Don't worry about Uncle Thomas."

At first Sean looked puzzled then he smiled quickly in realisation.

"Of course I want it. Something told me to stay around, but I was starting to lose hope. When would I start?"

"I … uh." Ronnie looked at Thomas in desperation. "I didn't ask."

"Then it's a good thing I'm here because I did. Andy's seeing the Crawley's land agent early next week. He dropped by his house Boxing Day to confirm he had the money and that the farms were still available. He thinks title should clear in about ten days. So I expect he would hire almost immediately after that because he wants the first of the pigs by mid-February. Although better you than me starting work outside in winter."

Sean winked at Ronnie. "You've never been a farmer then."

"Good point."

"I'll talk to them when I get home. Da saw you a couple of weeks ago so he knows you're still around. I'm sure they'll say yes so maybe I can come and get you tonight after we've finished dinner and we could look at the house. See what you think."

"I'd like that. I'm boarding on Turner Lane, big white place with a sign out front. You can't miss it."

"Not interested in the wages?" Thomas asked as they stood to leave.

"I know what I'm worth and I know Mr. Parker's fair. I'm not worried."

Thomas insisted on paying and then met them in the street where they walked to the truck. Before they pulled away Ronnie rolled down his window so Sean could lean it.

"I'll see you tonight. Still can't believe this is going to happen."

"I don't know, Sean, maybe we have a guardian angel. A Christmas one at that."

Ronnie rolled up the window as they drove off.

"You said that things sometimes have a way of working out, Uncle Thomas, but you're the reason they have. Seems you weren't just satisfied with giving me two gifts this year."

About a minute later he started to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"I suddenly imagined you with a halo."

~~~ End ~~~
My intention was that Ronnie's slowness to grasp the idea of Sean as the hired man was the result of the other things going on in his life that have him preoccupied. Besides I needed it as part of "Thomas the guardian angel" :)

I see a few other stories spinning out of this. Ronnie and Sean five years on. Danny sends money for Daisy and Andy to visit New Zealand at Christmas to see their first grandchild. Thomas and Allan (from The Lonely Sea) visit the farm for Christmas. Maybe separate stories, maybe all one.