A/N: Next chapter is here, folks! I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for all the favourites, follows and reviews :)
For the people guessing at Jon Hamm for the actor - it's not him, but I approve of your thinking it is! He's quite easy on the eye and could probably pull off my Harry! (Ok that was not supposed to sound as rude as it did!)
I'll let you read the chapter now! ;)
Thomas stood outside in the backyard, fidgeting nervously. It was early; the sun was barely rising on the horizon, but Thomas was having trouble sleeping, so he'd decided to get up and have a cigarette or two. He'd prefer something stronger – some whisky, perhaps. Anything to dull his senses to the prospect of having to dress Harry Levinson when he awoke.
He'd dreamt about Harry in the night – a blurring image of shapes and colours, but Harry was definitely present – surrounded by young girls all bearing a striking resemblance to Rose. Although the girls were concentrating on him, Harry was ignoring them all, and staring straight at Thomas. He made to walk towards Thomas, but suddenly the young girls all transformed into clones of Jimmy, and Harry was trying to get past them but he couldn't break through the group...
Thomas shook the picture from his head, feeling annoyed with himself for revisiting the dream.
"Penny for your thoughts."
O'Brien had snuck into the backyard, and was lighting up her first cigarette of the day before being summoned to take breakfast up to Lady Grantham.
"They're worth a damn sight more than that."
Thomas' reply was curt, but not as harsh as O'Brien had come to expect from her former friend.
"I daresay they are – thinking about a certain American visitor, are we?" O'Brien prompted, curiously.
"What's it to you?" Thomas asked, turning his head to look at her, and squinted at the brightness of her hair. I'm surprised I didn't see her coming.
"Only...I noticed he seems quite taken with you. I heard him say to Her Ladyship that he's enjoying the experience of having a valet. And he's not exactly uneasy on the eyes." O'Brien blew out a puff of smoke, looking Thomas directly in the eye.
Thomas scoffed. "Of course he is. Just like Jimmy was. I'll not fall for that again, Miss O'Brien. You must think I was born yesterday!"
"I mean it, Thomas. I know you have no reason to trust me after what happened with Jimmy, but this time – I really do think that he likes you. All that flirting with the ladies stuff is nonsense!" She said, rolling her eyes.
"You're only saying that because he's not taken a fancy to your – well, I want to call it a hairstyle, but I'm not really sure what it is!" Thomas quipped.
O'Brien winced at the harsh criticism. "Look, Thomas. I know we haven't really got on these past couple of years, and I know that we are both to blame for some of the things we have done. But I know things are hard for you, being the way you are, and I just wanted to offer a little friendly advice."
Thomas shook his head, still incredulous. "Seriously? After all that you put me through? You think I'm gonna take friendly advice from you? Is it cos of what I told Mr Bates about the soap?"
"No! It's nothing to do with that, although I hate to think of that man having a hold over me." O'Brien shuddered.
Thomas looked at her, trying to work out what her motives could be. "Don't worry. He doesn't know the whole story; he doesn't know anything really. I didn't tell him any more than what he said to you."
O'Brien almost looked relieved; but her facial expression gave nothing away. "Well, anyway. If you don't want my advice – don't take it. I'm only trying to help."
"Well don't. I don't need your help, and I don't need your friendship! You almost ruined me – I can never trust you again! I wish you'd just stay out of my life!" Thomas almost shouted, feelings of bitterness overwhelming him.
O'Brien threw her cigarette to the ground, defeated. She knew it was no use – Thomas was never going to forgive her. She turned on her heel, and said without looking back: "Be careful what you wish for, Thomas."
Thomas clenched his fists in frustration. O'Brien had deliberately caused him so much pain over the past two years. She had fooled him about Jimmy; she was not going to fool him again. He had almost lost his job, lost his life, lost his freedom. He couldn't take that risk again, not for Harry. Not for anyone.
The sound of the bell ringing awoke Thomas from his daydream. His heart started pounding as he turned his head to see who was ringing, and his insides tightened when he saw that the bell was being rung from Harry's room. He paused for a moment, thinking that maybe he could get away with sending Alfred, or even Jimmy, but they were nowhere to be seen.
"Come along, Mr Barrow! Don't keep our guest waiting!" Boomed Mr Carson, eyeing Thomas with a look of disdain.
Thomas slowly rose to his feet, his head lowered. He couldn't think of anywhere else he would rather not go at this moment in time. He traipsed up the stairs to the mens quarters, muttering to himself as he went.
"Don't let yourself think those thoughts! You hate him! He's ridiculous!" He's not Jimmy, he added in thought.
Reaching the room, he knocked reluctantly on the door.
"Come in!" The voice was loud and cheerful, and Thomas pushed the door slowly. Harry was standing in the middle of the room, in his undergarments. He couldn't look more ready to be dressed if he tried, thought Thomas.
"Ah! Barrow! Come to put my clothes on for me again, have you? Good man!"
Harry was grinning like a loon; Thomas kept his head slightly bowed and kept silent. He didn't trust himself to say anything at all; not knowing whether he would make an overly scathing remark or an overly complimentary one.
Thomas handed Harry his shirt, and jumped visibly when his fingers brushed against Harry's own hand, sending an electric current through his hand and up his arm to his chest. Harry looked at him and smiled, but Thomas looked mortified. Don't react, don't let him think you're attracted to him, whatever you do.
Much to Thomas' dismay, he knew that Harry could read him like a book - the blushed complexion, the shaky hands, the lack of eye-contact. He'd be a fool to think otherwise, thought Thomas. I was always such a good actor, except when it came to matters of the heart. It always lets me down.
Thomas turned to retrieve Harry's trousers from where they lay on the chair, and felt a strong hand grope his backside. What the...?
Thomas didn't move straight away. He let the hand caress him gently, and a bolt of lightning shot through his groin, his trousers tightening with alarming speed. It's a trick! He's trying to catch me out!
He spun around, accusingly. Harry stood there, his hand still outstretched, but a slightly more sincere smile on his face.
"You have such a lovely ass...I hoped you wouldn't mind me touching it...?" Harry said, almost apologetically. He glanced down at Thomas' bulge, and his suspicions were confirmed.
Thomas saw Harry's eyes wander south, and covered himself with the trousers he was holding. "Yes I do mind! Sir!" He added. "Don't touch me again!"
Harry looked confused. "But I thought...I thought you were..."
"You thought wrong! I'm nothing of the sort! Now, if you're quite finished, I've got work to do!" Thomas rushed out of the room, his face flaming red. He shut the door, and pressed his forehead to the wall to cool it. His thoughts all muddled; his feelings fighting a war with each other.
I'm attracted to Harry Levinson. My life is over.
"Are you all right, Thomas? You were awfully quiet today." Jimmy had come to see him in his room; something that Thomas had been cautious about at first, considering what had happened between them, but had welcomed when he could see that Jimmy was no longer awkward around him. They usually played cards, or read the papers, but today Thomas was just sitting on his bed, deep in thought.
"Just had a lot on my mind, is all," gave Thomas as a way of reply. He didn't think Jimmy would be a sympathetic ear to his tale of receiving unwanted sexual advances, given their history.
But Jimmy persisted. "Please tell me! You've been so down in the mouth – I'm worried about you. I might be able to help?"
Thomas' heart went out to the blond footman. He knew he wouldn't get rid of him until he told him something. It was one of the things that had made him fall in love with Jimmy in the first place; his ability to listen, and not judge. Well, not judge most things, anyway.
"It's...a long story...you wouldn't understand..." Thomas closed his eyes, worried that if he told Jimmy, it would scare him away. He valued their friendship far too much to go through that again.
"Is it about Mr Levinson? Has something happened between him and you?" Jimmy tried to hide his discomfort at talking about such an unorthodox relationship, but Thomas could sense it.
"Sort of...I didn't think you'd want to hear about it, of all people!"
Jimmy paused before he spoke. "Look, Thomas. I know it's a bit strange to talk about this with me, but we're friends now, and friends want each other to be happy, don't they? I'd like to think you'd listen to me, if I had a problem to talk about."
"That's very kind of you, Jimmy." Thomas opened his eyes, but kept his gaze to the floor. "Mr Levinson...he...well, he..." he looked up at Jimmy, who motioned for him to carry on. "...he kind of, touched...my...well, me. He touched me."
"Crikey!" Said Jimmy, in surprise. "And what did you do?"
"Nothing! Well, not exactly. I gave him what for and ran off. I'm sure you can imagine the scene!" Thomas said, quietly.
Jimmy thought back to that night in his room, and cringed inwardly. "Yes, I can imagine. Well, what are you going to do now? Are you going to report him to Lord G? You should, if he's crossing the line. I would!"
"Yes, I know you would. You'd be on the phone to the police in five minutes flat!" Thomas regretted the words as soon as they came out of his mouth. He knew Jimmy was sorry about that; he had apologised enough times. "Sorry, I didn't mean..."
"It's all right. I know why you said it. I just meant, you should tell someone if it's making you uncomfortable. You shouldn't have to put up with him if he's going to be a nuisance." Jimmy looked earnestly at his friend.
Thomas took a deep breath. Dare he...?
"But that's just it," Thomas said quietly. "I'm not so sure if he is being a nuisance..."
Jimmy took a few seconds to process Thomas' words. "What do you mean?" He said slowly.
"I mean...maybe I wanted him to touch me." Thomas couldn't believe he was having this conversation with anyone, let alone Jimmy. He half expected the footman to run kicking and screaming from his room immediately. It was a comfort when Jimmy remained in his chair.
"Do you...like...him?" Jimmy got straight to the point.
Thomas knew there was no going back now. "I think I do. Yes."
"Wow." Jimmy's response was short, as he leant back in his chair. "You know he likes you too, right? I mean, come on, it's so obvious."
"Is it? What about all that flirting with Rose? Winking at the maids? All those comments about fast yachts and fast women?" Thomas looked at Jimmy, desperate for him to contradict his statements.
Jimmy scoffed. "Flirting with Rose? Please! I've seen better flirting between Moseley and O'Brien. He pretends to be interested, but coming from a man who knows how to 'pretend flirt' – take it from me. He's not interested in her. I'm pretty sure he likes you."
"That's what O'Brien said."
"O'Brien said that?! No wonder you don't sound so sure! She's hardly cupid in disguise. But I agree with her, for once. I think you're onto something, there." Jimmy raised a smile; determined to support his friend, no matter how bizarre his interests.
"But what if it's a trick? To catch me out? I don't want to go through that again, I won't!" Thomas still felt the pain from the memory.
"I don't think it's a trick – after all, he touched you, didn't he? He's got just as much to lose as you have, if not more. Talk to him, at least. Find out what he wants."
"I think he's made it pretty obvious what he wants!" Said Thomas, raising a half smile. "And I bet he knows what he's doing with it, too."
Jimmy coughed, his cheeks flushing. Thomas noticed his discomfort and cursed himself for his courseness.
"Sorry, Jimmy, I forgot myself. You didn't need to hear about my sordid thoughts."
"I'd rather not, if you don't mind. But you never know, maybe he's looking for love this time."
"Love?! And what would a young whipper-snapper like you know about love?" Thomas laughed, feeling a little better now that he had talked about his predicament.
Is he ready to hear this? Thought Jimmy, studying Thomas' face. He looks a lot happier than five minutes ago, and if he's being honest with me about Mr Levinson, maybe I should be honest with him, too.
"Actually, Thomas, there is something I've been meaning to tell you, but I haven't been able to find the words until now. But you've just told me your secret, and now I have to tell you mine. I just hope you still want to be friends afterwards..."
A/N: What does Jimmy have to confess to Thomas? Stay tuned to find out! Thanks for reading!