Because Thomas has, and always will be, my favourite Downton character, and because I cried buckets at this scene. Probably full of mistakes, and it was written in a few emotional hours, straight after watching the episode, through tear-stung eyes.

An Evening Stroll

Thomas exhaled from his cigarette slowly, letting the pearly smoke waft away into the crisp evening air. Edward let out a choky cough as the soft wind whirled it into his throat, and Thomas instantly apologised. 'S-Sorry!' he stammered, close to blushing. 'It's fine, honestly' Edward retorted, and Thomas cleared his throat with a sheepish nod. It was hard to be sympathetic without coddling Edward. Still, the fact that he had asked Thomas to accompany him on his walk was a good sign; it meant he knew his limits. He was making good progress too, Thomas noticed. He was feeling for tree roots and stones in the path that they walked through, tapping his cane to judge the distance from one place to another. Thomas couldn't help but smile. He'd never had someone to care for in this way, someone to look after. But he was enjoying it more than he'd ever thought possible.

Thomas flicked his cigarette to the ground, staring upwards. The stars were just beginning to show, flickering gently behind dusty clouds. He was close to smiling, before he remembered that Edward couldn't see it too. He would just see darkness now, every day, and Thomas couldn't lie to him that one day he might miraculously recover. As Thomas was contemplating this, Edward misjudged a dip in the path and stumbled forward. Thomas jolted forward, catching Edward's arm before he fell.

'Easy!' Thomas muttered, pulling him back up.

'I'm fine, I'm fine' Edward mumbled, quickly shaking it off. Thomas knew he was progressing well, but he could see that Edward was straining himself. He was still quite weak, and he'd already walked far that day.

'I could do with a sit down…There's a tree trunk that I'm pretty sure we could both fit onto…' Thomas said, but Edward sniffed.

'What you're really asking if I need a rest' he retorted. Thomas was about to retort with a lie, when Edward sighed gently. 'But yes. Yes, I need to sit' he said, wrapping his arm around Thomas'. Thomas smiled at the contact, leading Edward to the tree trunk. Edward was a very proud man, but Thomas was glad he didn't feel like he had to put on an act around him. Thomas helped Edward to sit down, and they relaxed against the trunk; feeling the old knotted wood against them. For a few moments they said nothing, until Edward suddenly spoke, his words choking in his throat.

'I…Don't want to leave' he said, and Thomas frowned with despair. They had been ignoring the issue all evening. Edward was to leave the Hospital tomorrow; his bandages had been removed, and he had made good progress. He was walking, recovering. But as much as Thomas was glad of this, he didn't want him to leave; not after the talks they'd had, the laughs and secrets and smiles they'd shared. Thomas gulped gently. He wasn't good at comforting speeches. How could he tell Edward that things would be fine when he went, when he didn't want him to go away? Thomas slid his hand over to Edward's, wrapping their fingers together. He hoped it would compensate for words. Edward nodded gently, his lips curving upwards into a small smile.

'You never did tell me' Edward suddenly said, his sharp voice incompatible with the calmness of the evening.

'You what?' Thomas replied.

'You said you were different. But you never said why' he replied.

Thomas looked at the floor, frowning sadly. He was about to diverge the subject into something easier to answer, when he let out a small moan of surprise. Edward was stroking the hairs on the back of Thomas' hand, leaning ever closer to him. Thomas could feel himself panting, his chest heaving gently as he leant towards Edward.

The next moment they were kissing, Thomas let his eyelids flicker down as Edward moved his free hand to Thomas' neck, running his hands through the soft hairs that had escaped the pomade. There was no force between them, it was simple, and it was soft.

After a few moments, Edward pulled away and Thomas opened his eyes, chuckling gently. He hadn't kissed anyone since the Duke, and he couldn't remember when he'd kissed someone that softly. Thomas was about to smirk with a quip, when he noticed Edward was crying. Thomas twitched, fearful. Shit. They shouldn't have kissed. Edward would tell, everyone would know, he'd be kicked out and-

'I didn't think I'd ever be kissed again, after the gas' Edward said, and Thomas stopped. Edward wasn't regretful. He was…happy. 'I-I know you shouldn't be depressed, it's the same as being a coward. Stupid, really' Edward continued, frantically wiping his eyes.

'Well, it must be…hard…' Thomas replied, trying his hardest to be comforting.

'It's horrible. I miss seeing things, as stupid as it sounds. I miss seeing peoples' faces, the most. Their reactions. It's what you get to love about someone, isn't it? The way you can make them smile, or laugh, or murmur. I never realised what power we had over other peoples' expressions before. Until the gas' he choked, close to crying again.

'C-C'mon, don't say that...It's just because you're not used to it' Thomas replied, patting Edward's shoulder gently.

'You shouldn't be so kind to me when I can't even see you' Edward replied, and Thomas was surprised at how cruelly Edward thought of himself.

'There's nothing wrong with it. It doesn't matter to me.' Thomas retorted, and for once, he believed himself. Edward looked up, surprised.

'C-Come away with me then!' Edward suddenly babbled, practically clutching at Thomas.

'What?' Thomas replied, shaking his head with disbelief.

'I only want to leave if I can leave with you. Please. Don't let me go away, on my own. I can't, I just can't' Edward cried. Thomas stopped moving, stopped breathing. He couldn't…Could he? Leave everything behind? Leave the Hospital and Donwton Abbey and run away with a man he'd only known for a few days?

'Come to me, tonight. I've already packed. Just come and tell me your decision. Please. If you don't come by midnight, I…I'll know…' Edward trailed off, sadly.

'I…I don't…Well…I'll…I'll come and see you, tonight then' Thomas replied, still bewildered. Perhaps he'd know what to say when he got there. Perhaps.

'We…Need to get back' Thomas eventually said after a few moments. It was getting late, and all patients had a strict routine and schedule. Edward shakily stood up, wrapping his arm around Thomas'. Thomas barely heard Edward as they walked back to the Hospital, he was wrapped too deeply in his own thoughts.

Could he really make a fresh start? Go back to the way things used to be, before Thomas had to start hiding behind sneers? When his laugh wasn't out of spite, but out of joy? When he was smiling because he was happy, and not because someone was in pain? Could Edward be the one who would help him start again? Perhaps caring for someone…Maybe even loving them one day…Could help Thomas.

He put Edward to bed, resisting a strong urge to kiss him goodnight, but he was aware of the other patients' watching eyes. Edward simply gave him a whispered 'Tonight', before Thomas left. To watchful eyes, he was simply a patient being supervised. But oh, how much more had happened between them.

As Thomas slipped back outside, he realised that this could be his only chance. His only chance to be…happy. He was scared about plunging into the unknown, but he realised Edward did it every day. Every day he woke up to the unknown. Thomas would be selfish if he declined for that reason, and he was starting to be sick of being selfish. Just as Thomas was coming to a decision in his head, he heard his name being called. Sybil was calling for him, outside. She was knelt by a man on the ground, and the urgency in her voice made Thomas run to them. He could see immediately that the man was having some kind of fit, and Sybil was struggling.

'Thomas…Please, I-I didn't know what to do!' she stammered, but Thomas reassured her that he would help. He made a decision in his head. This would be his first deed as a new man. The first stepping stone on the path to a new life. He nodded, made a decision in his head, and rolled up his sleeves. Him and Sybil worked long into the night to help the man, they tore through bandages, uncapped countless medicine bottles, and by the end of it, their hands were stained with blood, but they had saved him. He was alive, and he would recover. 'George Thornhill, Lieutenant' Sybil scrawled onto her clipboard, as Thomas pulled the sheets over him. She smiled with tired eyes, and Thomas nodded to her as he collapsed into a chair with fatigue. ' I don't know how to thank you, Thomas. For sticking with him. And me. I can't believe it's past midnight' Sybil said. 'I'll just go and check on the other ward, and then I must be heading home!' Thomas panted on the chair as she scurried away, smiling at George. He was alive; Thomas would have never thought it possible when he first saw him, colourless, spread out awkwardly on the ground.

But Thomas' smile faded as his tiredness washed away, and Sybil's words finally washed over his mind. Past midnight. Past midnight. No, surely not? Edward must've known he would come? Surely he'd still be waiting? He had to. He had to. Sybil's sudden scream echoed Thomas' worst fears, and he ran to see his nightmares exposed.

Edward lay draped across his bed, blood seeping from his wrists. He wasn't moving, and Thomas choked up as he realised Edward wasn't breathing either. Not that. Please,not that. He couldn't have done it to himself. Thomas clasped a hand to his mouth as he realised what had happened, and Sybil ran away, calling for the Doctor. Thomas couldn't help but imagine Edward, feeling for the blade as he cursed Thomas, the bastard. His last thoughts were probably of how much he despised Thomas, how cruel of a man he was.

Thomas let himself collapse against the side of Edward's bed, tears running down his cheeks. He didn't care about the blood staining his face; he didn't care about anything except Edward. It couldn't have happened, it couldn't end like this. Not when everything was looking so perfect, surely not? It seemed like a terrible dream, he wanted Edward to wake him from it and comfort him with an embrace. It hadn't even begun properly, how could it end? Thomas wanted to scream, but he was too choked up with tears to make more than a few whimpering sounds as he clutched at the bedsheets. For the first time, Thomas felt real guilt scrape at his insides. He had done this. He had ended it before it had even begun.

Through streaky tears, Thomas suddenly noticed a note with his name on it. He pocketed it shakily just before Sybil and the Doctor came running in, and he walked away quickly, rubbing his coarse sleeve against his eyes to hide his feelings. He walked to his room, opening the note. He closed to door, and read it:

'Thomas, I'm sorry. I'd imagined you smiling when you were with me, but I guess I got that wrong. I'll always have the memories I made up inside my head, at least. Farewell.'

Thomas sank down against his door then, tears sliding down his cheeks again. He didn't care who heard any more. Nothing mattered any more. Everything suddenly seemed so meaningless. He used to pride himself about getting one over on Bates back at Downton, but how petty that all seemed now. He let out a cry, throwing his fist at the door in frustration as he cried. He hit it until beads of blood appeared on his knuckles, but the sight of it eventually made him stop. He didn't care about the pain, but he'd seen enough blood for one night. He stood, and shakily sat on his bed.

Thomas sank against his pillow, closing his eyes. He tried to imagine what it would be like to see nothing but darkness all day, and he realised how awful it must've been for Edward. He cursed the War. So much blood and death and pain, for what? For a few politicians to smugly claim that they won something.

Thomas prayed for the first night in many then, clutching his fingers together and imagining it was Edward's hand against his. But he didn't pray to any God, he knew better than that. He prayed to Edward. He apologised over and over, until his throat was rough and his words were a croaky whisper. He could feel the cool evening air waft gently through his window, brushing against the cold tears that covered his face. And the glittering stars that peeked over the dark clouds mocked him as he slipped into an eventual slumber.