|Fair is foul and foul is fair
Author: Renfields-Spider PM
Post Season 3 and Christmas Special *Spoilers* Thomas has been shown kindness, will it change him? Can he repair the damage he has caused in the house. Thomas is still trying to find his place in the world, can friendship help him along? Jimmy struggles with forgiving and forgetting, while learning the world is not what he thought it was and neither are the people in it.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - Thomas & Jimmy K. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 12,812 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 42 - Updated: 02-14-13 - Published: 01-31-13 - id: 8964532
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The scar had healed, a central white mass spiralling out into faint, white whispers of tissue. It was ugly and it insulted him every morning: this is your medal, coward. Every day he covered it up and went about his business until night, when it insulted him again. If he viewed it as something separate from himself, then it wasn't his deed or act that created it. In the summer, it itched and chafed; in the winter, the chill made it ache to the bone. The cold reminded him of the numbness he felt before and still felt now on occasion. Today was not one of those occasions.
Peering out from under the brim of his hat, Thomas watched as the coffin lowered and the priest uttered Latin. He had no idea what the words meant, but that didn't matter: God was no friend of his. The rain was summery and light, it speckled his suit with watery glitter. He made no attempt to hide the tears he felt join the rain on his face. Unlike Mary, who stood stoically throughout the ceremony, not one tear shed. People would say later that she was unfeeling, cold, but Thomas had seen enough of death to know different. She had not accepted it yet. He felt for her, he wished he could delay reality a little longer, but he'd always run hot under the surface of his calm.
A warm hand touched his for a moment and Thomas looked to see Anna beside him. He'd forgotten she was standing there, Bates on her other side. She met his eyes briefly and the pain she felt, evident. Thomas rested the back of his hand against hers momentarily as words gave little comfort. Anna was one of the few who saw through him, and despite everything, she was still kind to him. Anna had known Crawley well and had thrown herself into helping Lady Mary. Her grief, put on hold, manifested itself now. He pulled out his clean handkerchief and waited until she was able to accept it. Bates nodded in Thomas' direction. The day had been like Mr Crawley's death, brutal; if only it were as quick, he couldn't help thinking.
When Thomas had declared that he wanted to attend the funeral, to pay his respects, Mr Carson had forbidden it. He believed that 'under current circumstances, the injuries you've acquired might cause even more distress to the family'. Anna had spoken up for him, but Carson had shut her down. His was the last word. Except, the next morning Bates had come up to see him in his bedroom, and told him it was fine to attend. How he'd hated Bates and yet Bates still helped him, god knows why. He'd obviously had a word with Lord Grantham on Thomas' behalf. Now he owed Bates. Again.
When the funeral was over the guests would make their way back to Downton and Thomas would be expected to wait on them. He wasn't looking forward to it. He hung back from the others as they departed and walked past the Crawley grave. He came to a standstill at Lady Sybil's grave and stood for a moment. He took off his glove and touched the wet stone. It was when he thought of her kindness, that he really felt her death. That drab stone really didn't do her justice. It depressed him to think that in a hundred years, it would just be a name, nothing more. And he would be even less.
The mood in Downton hung darkly, nothing to see, everything felt. The only brightness in Thomas' days was that Jimmy didn't look at him with disgust anymore. It was a tentative start and he was grateful for it. He was careful at first, because the last thing he wanted to do was offend Jimmy again, or worse set tongues wagging. It was awful, people knowing, looking at him, and judging. He tried to hold his head up, weather it through, but at night, he felt the same as he always had, isolated. The problem for him was, it didn't feel wrong, feeling the way he did. It felt right. He desperately wished he could take back kissing Jimmy, the looks of repulsion at that time, turned his stomach upon reflection. How the day he'd been beaten had lifted him, despite the pain, at first. A bittersweet day.
Now the days were filled with trays of uneaten food being passed around. Mary had understood the finality eventually. Branson had surprised them all by being, 'An absolute bloody rock,' he'd overheard Lord Grantham saying. Branson had picked up the Estate management where Mr Crawley had let off and took some of the burden. Unfortunately, Branson did not have the education to back him up and Thomas overheard a conversation about drafting in help. Thomas didn't like the sound of a load of new people hanging around. However, he duly reported his findings at dinner with some delight at being the first to tell it.
'I heard his Lordship is looking to hire some people to help Mr Branson with the estate,' He says.
'Really, why's that, Mr Barrow?' O'Brien asks.
'I should imagine one man cannot do it alone, Miss O'Brien,' Carson answers.
'From what I heard, they're looking for a few people. Not local either, from all over,' Thomas adds.
'It is not for us to wonder, Mr Barrow,' Carson says.
'I thought you of all people would want to know about replacements, Mr Carson,' Thomas says.
'And what exactly do you infer with that statement?' Carson looks directly at him and Thomas knows a lecture is coming.
'I just thought you'd want to be kept appraised.'
'If his Lordship thinks I should be aware of something he will inform me in due course. Gossiping only causes confusion and conflict, something of which you are quite well informed of I gather, Mr Barrow,' Carson glares over his plate until Thomas looks down.
'He is right thought,' says Bates with a glint in his eye. 'Lord Grantham is planning a few lunches to find a suitable candidate to work with Branson.' When Carson glares, Bates adds, 'unofficially, of course'.
Thomas isn't exactly sure when the uneasy truce between Bates and himself was erected, but Thomas starts to find Bates' wry wit amusing when it's not aimed at him. It were even funnier when later that night Lord Grantham came down to inform Carson of the extra people staying in the coming weeks. Thomas deliberately lingered by the door to listen, smiling at Carson's silent fury. The smirk was wiped off his face when Mary was mentioned and he sloped off, not wanting to hear the grief in their voices.
Thomas rose early the next day, as was his habit. The mirror was kinder to him and reflected only a few patches of yellow dotted with khaki green mottling. He wished it were the same story for his midsection, but luckily, Carson had him on light duties. Next week it would be back to normal, all heart is Carson. He has breakfast and makes his way up to the dining room to set out for the family. After, he leaves to inform Lord Grantham breakfast is ready. As he approaches the study he hears raised voices, he slows, lingering to overhear.
'I do not think it is appropriate at this time.'
'I am sorry that you think the timing is unfortunate, Lord Grantham, but nothing about these circumstances changes the very real facts.'
'The facts can wait another week or two. I cannot have Mary, Cora or Mrs Crawley, or anyone really, knowing about this, it's just too abhorrent.'
'If I did not think it was important I would not mention it. I promise you; I will endeavour to be discrete in this matter.'
'That does not change the fact that you acted without speaking to me first, Murray.'
'I simply made a few inquiries where I left off previously. I assure you, I hope that it never happens, but we hoped that with Patrick and Matthew before him. Surely you understand the necessity?'
'I understand it but I don't have to bloody well like it do I?'
'No, Lord Grantham.'
'I am sorry, Murray, I do not mean to berate you.'
'It is a difficult matter; I would think there was something amiss if you didn't feel incensed.'
'Incensed? No. Aggrieved, yes. One should not have to discuss the likelihood of death of one so young.'
'I take it I can continue with my search?'
A long pause; Thomas strained to hear.
'Yes, you may continue to search the Crawley bloodline for the next in line to Matthew, God help us.'
'Thank you. I will be in touch.'
At the sound of approaching footsteps Thomas strides into the room, confidently.
'Breakfast is ready, my Lord.'
'Thank you, Thomas. Mr Murray was just leaving.'
Thomas escorts Mr Murray out and pondered what was said. He wanted to be the first to tell what he heard, but he held it in for the time being. Somehow, it didn't seem right to blab about it. These things had a way of making their own way out. And even he had his limits.
After serving, Thomas descended downstairs to hear some of the staff in the servant's hall. Again he slowed to hear what was said, but it was only Daisy harping on about some flick her and Ivy were going to see on their half day. Not being remotely interested in their wittering, Thomas moved swiftly into Mr Carson's office.
'Ah, there you are, Thomas. His Lordship has informed me that there will be visitors for today's luncheon, but you will have to serve it without me. I have an appointment.'
'Of course, Mr Carson. Do we know how many are attending?'
'Four, I believe. Please make sure that James' livery is up to scratch. Yesterday, it was not.'
'Yes, Mr Carson.'
'Be off with you, then.'
Thomas turned obediently and closed the door behind him. He'd long thought Carson had been born starched. The man did not waver for a second. He hoped to one day have Carson's job, but he knew the old codger would probably outlive him. He popped his head into the servant's hall looking for Jimmy, but he wasn't there. So, he went out the back, popping a cigarette into his mouth as he walked.
A cigarette glowed from the dark arch where Thomas liked to smoke and he could see O'Brien had beaten him to it. Not wanting to stand and smoke with her he turned his back and smoked near the door.
'You can have a smoke with me if you like, Thomas. I'll not bite,' O'Brien invites.
'It's not the bite I'm worried about,' Thomas says, taking two deep drags from his cigarette and throwing it to the ground to hiss in a puddle, 'the barks painful enough.'
He walks back into the house smirking to himself, so she wanted back into his good books, how unlikely. There must be something she wants, something she thinks he can do for her. He would need to keep a closer eye on her. He spots Jimmy on his way through to the hall and stops him. Any interaction with him made Thomas smile, a genuine mask-cracking grin.
'Jimmy, I was looking for you.'
'What have I done now,' he looks defensive and then quickly adds, 'Mr Barrow'.
'Nothing, just that Mr Carson made a comment about your livery.'
'Yes, I have a frayed edge and a mark on one cuff'.
'Do you need any help?'
'Yes please, if you don't mind Mr Barrow. I struggle with sewing.'
'Fetch it then; we'll have a look now and see what we can do'.
The thought of it still made him uncomfortable. He remembered the dark, the soft comfort of sleep and then the gently applied pressure on his lips. It woke him in more than one way; parts of him had stirred quicker from sleep than others. It was that which disgusted him the most, his physical response to being kissed. Of course, once the stark truth was revealed, he felt violated. Barrow was a pervert, plain and simple. Except, it wasn't that simple was it. After being egged on by O'Brien, he'd thought Barrow would leave, but he'd been stuck with him.
What he didn't understand was why Barrow continued to look out for him. Jimmy had kept his distance from the under butler wherever he could, he didn't want Barrow anywhere near him, lest anyone mistake their interaction. Yet, Barrow never told him off unduly, predominantly took his side in things, and was always polite. Alfred had told him how Barrow continued to defend his good name and wouldn't let a bad word be said about him. At the fair, Barrow had watched him, followed him, and then protected him. Put himself in harm's way for what? Jimmy didn't ever have a kind word for him. Jimmy had sat for a long time out the back alone considering these things, especially as now he had agreed to be friends. How could he not? He remembered the smile on Barrows face and Jimmy knew he'd done the right thing. Nevertheless, the other things about Barrow did linger in his mind, no matter how hard he tried to bury it.
To another degree, it was hard not to take advantage of Barrow. Jimmy knew he would offer to help him with the sewing of his livery. He was sure Barrow would have done it for him if he'd asked. Having the under butler on his side was an advantage he couldn't ignore. Perhaps he would come to relax in Barrow's company eventually; maybe they could be friends, if he could shake that feeling of discomfort around him.
Jimmy took his livery out of the wardrobe, grabbed the sewing box, and went to the servant's hall. Barrow has waited for him and he is sat smoking with a cup of tea beside him.
'There you are, Jimmy, I was beginning to think you'd gotten lost.'
'Sorry, Mr Barrow, I couldn't find the sewing box.'
'Well, let's have a look shall we,' Barrow reached across the table for Jimmy's jacket.
Jimmy handed it over and walked around the table to sit next to him. Jimmy tried not to think about how close he is to Thomas, but at the same time, hoped he didn't show his discomfort. He soon forgot about it though, as Barrow makes a joke and sets him at ease. Soon, Jimmy is repairing his coat in a competent way and is glad that Barrow offered to help.
'It's all very cosy in here, isn't it?' O'Brien smirks from the other side of the room.
'Warm enough till that chill blew in. Did you feel it Jimmy?'
'Aye, I did Mr Barrow.'
'It's nice to see you both getting on, all friendly like,' O'Brien sits at the table with her own darning. 'I think it's nice, is all.'
Jimmy felt the discomfort arise and suddenly Barrow was too close, but he daren't move lest he give O'Brien any satisfaction. Instead, he showed his work to Thomas who smiled a little and nodded encouragement to carry on. Then Barrow sat back away from him, creating the space Jimmy felt he needed. While he worked he felt O'Brien's eyes on him intermittently. When she left Jimmy breathed out a sigh of relief that had Barrow chuckling.
'I don't know why you're laughing; she is such a b-'
'Now, Jimmy, whatever Miss O'Brien is she is still your superior. You don't want Mr Carson or Mrs Hughes to overhear you using that word,' Thomas smiled and leaned in conspiratorially, 'even if you are right.' Jimmy liked the way Barrow opened up to him; the expression of his face was softer and somehow more genuine.
'She's been really friendly to me all week.'
Barrow looks round sharply at Jimmy, 'Has she? Saying what, exactly?'
'Nothing in particular, "You look smart today" that sort of thing'.
Thomas looked back as the space O'Brien had vacated and rolled his cigarette in his fingers thoughtfully. His expression hardened, the smile dropped away and Jimmy got the distinct impression Barrow's thoughts were far away from the now. He continued to sew silently letting Barrow think. Jimmy had known for a long time now that O'Brien's motives for things could sometimes be suspect and clearly that's what had Thomas thinking. She wouldn't be able to pull the wool over his eyes again, Barrow's actions had spoken well for him, and Jimmy thought it would be hard to convince him otherwise now. He finished the sewing and passed it over for inspection.
'Very good, Jimmy. Stitches are small and strong, keep practising and you'll get quicker.'
'Thanks,' Jimmy paused from a moment and then adds, 'Mr Barrow?'
'If I have trouble with something in the future, can I come to you for help?'
Thomas' face lit up, 'Of course you can, Jimmy, I'd be glad of it.'
'Well, I best go press this,' Jimmy said holding up his jacket, 'Otherwise Mr Carson will have something else to complain about.'
'Yes, he will,' rumbled Carson from the doorway of the hall. Jimmy looks up quickly and then scurries out of the hall without another word.
A few days later a disgruntled and unhappy Murray leaves a house in London. The door closes sharply and an older man, whose good clothes had frayed, sits down by the fireside holding an opened letter in him hand.
A young man, mid-twenties, enters the room.
'Is everything all right, Mr Mayhew, I heard the door shut but I wasn't summoned?'
'Yes, it's fine. You're not my butler; I don't expect you to see people out.'
'I don't mind.'
'Is there anything I can get you?'
'Yes, I want writing paper and a pen. I can't face getting up for the writing desk.'
The younger man leaves the room and the elder throws the letter he was holding into the fire. The name John Crawley lights up from the flame behind the paper and then blackens as it burns. The man comes back with everything that was asked of him and sets it down on the elder man's lap.
The older man pauses but says, 'No thank you, John.'