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Summer Storms

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The heavens were open, rain lashed down and the sky grumbled. The pitter patter of rain soothed most within the abbey, playing the role of a gentle white noise. Alas, the rain was accompanied by rumbles of low thunder, giving the soft rhythm of the rain an irregular beat to play against. For the most part it only added to the white noise of the weather, allowing the servants and family alike to lull asleep to a constant gentle sound. Everyone rested peacefully to the tune of the rain; all except one. The one miserable footman, Jimmy Kent. For him the noises of the current weather was stirring him wake with every rumble, every deep noise or small flash of lightning. It forced him to just stare at his discoloured ceiling, hoping desperately that it would calm outside and the storm would subside, allowing him to sleep peacefully. Unfortunately, with each passing moment it seemed less and less likely that it would do so, causing tried frustration to bubble in him. He would try and reassure himself, ‘it was only for tonight’ he’d repeat in his head.

There were moments where he would just about drop off, a whisker off sleeping and suddenly the thunder would growl like a lion, causing Jimmy to jolt awake and go terribly stiff. His stomach would flip and swirl with each low noise, and he would feel his blood run cold for a second when his small room would be touched briefly by the flash of lightning. He couldn’t bare any of it. Even the smaller noises and flashes made him want to crawl under his bed and curl up. It was a disposition that he had always possessed, whenever a storm stirred when he was an adolescent, he’d take refuge in his closet or, in his considerably younger years, with his parents in their bed. Jimmy would never admit, however, to feeling at all similar how he did then; petrified by the aggressive growls of thunder and the striking lights and form of lightning. When he was a child it was different, children are allowed to be scared of such things, but men like him? Not at all; a strong man like himself could never be scared of something as silly as stormy weather. Even then, Jimmy would tell himself that he wasn’t scared, he was just being disturbed by the noise. It was the noise that was keeping him awake.

Eventually Jimmy would be tired enough to fall asleep despite all the going ons of the weather outside, too tired to react to it. However, this eventuality would occur only a couple of hours before he had to wake up again and start his day. He was far from an adequate amount sleep as a result, leaving him fatigued and irritable in the morning. This resulting mood was less than ideal, he already got terribly annoyed by those around him on a normal day, today that irritation would go up tenfold. Not to mention, he wasn’t appreciating the effect his late night was taking on his appearance, somewhat haggard was not a good look on him at all. Jimmy’s vanity was struggling already with the tiny additions that one night’s lack of sleep brought, he dreaded to think what would occur if last night’s performance was repeated.

Despite his qualms with his appearance, Jimmy nonetheless prepared himself for today’s work. Like normal he was neatly groomed as dressed in his well-kept uniform; an almost brilliant cover for his already partly drained being. There was nothing he wouldn’t give to crawl back into bed right now, sleep for next eight hours or so. Alas, there was no rest for the wicked and he had to get on as usual. Breakfast in the servant’s hall was in the most part an easy affair, just about everyone seemed a little tired there so he could get away with his yawns. He struggled a few moments however to stay alert; Mr. Carson’s voice turning into nothing more that a blank noise as he fought the urge to nod off for a second. Jimmy hesitated to consider that this might become the theme of the day, the constant struggle to stay focused and totally awake. He didn’t think that he’d be able to handle it if it were the case.

Luckily however, it wasn’t the case for him. By mid-morning he was alert enough to manage himself well and he wasn’t having to fight off the urge to sleep in the same way as earlier. Although, that all seemed to come at a price, since he was now aware of his surroundings again which then meant that he was aware for everyone around him and how horribly annoying they were. This reawakened awareness would have been bearable if he was any other duty besides polishing silver with Alfred. The other’s voice seemed to grind as it reached his ears, his head just about throbbed from the irritation. He tried to ignore Alfred and his unusually annoying voice, but it seemed that the harder he tried the more the other talked, and none of what he was saying was interesting. In fact, Alfred had just been droning on and on about Ivy; a boring girl made for a boring subject. Soon the sound of his voice became unbearable to the overly sensitive Jimmy and he seemed to snap.

“I swear Alfred, if you don’t shut up, I will smack you with this silver” he threatened.

Alfred understandably looked offended just Jimmy’s outburst. While such irritation wasn’t uncharacteristic, a threat like that however wasn’t overly normal behaviour for him. There was a low mutter from Alfred, now going quiet after that over the top reaction. Jimmy took a deep breath, telling himself to cool it and focus, he didn’t want to start people asking what was going because he couldn’t keep himself together. The silver polishing was silently resumed and neither of them said a word to the other until it had finished, even then it was a short exchange.

Jimmy had worked hard to keep himself composed from then on, he couldn’t let every tiny annoying thing around him get to him right now. It was a difficult feat though, especially once he was in the kitchen, waiting on the food with Alfred. He kept himself largely quiet while Alfred trying hopelessly to garner some level of affection from Ivy. It was a pathetic display, and Jimmy had to stop himself from commenting on it. Eventually his silence became a source of attention, it being brought by Ivy who was centring the focus on him now, as normal.

“Jimmy, what has you so quiet?” Ivy asked, “you’re normally talk a lot when you’re here”

Jimmy rolled his eyes, “I don’t have to entertain you all the time. Besides, I couldn’t get a word in edge ways”

Ivy frowned a little, just enough to get Alfred on his case. Anything to trigger he white knighting.

“Don’t be so nasty to her. Just ‘cause you’re moody today” Alfred nipped.

“Bloody hell, just shut up” Jimmy groaned, “I’m not moody, I’m just tired”

Fortunately, before they could wage any further wars, Mrs. Patmore entered the fray and rushed Daisy and Ivy to plate up the meals. Once they were ready, the pair took them up. Finally, Jimmy could have a moment to not hear Alfred’s stupid voice blabbing on or his noble endeavours to defend Ivy. Instead he could try to just listen into the upstairs gossip, have a much-needed change of tone. Alas, listening to them brought little entertainment or respite in the case of annoyance; their problems were so insignificant yet they whined and whined, why annoying. At this horrid point Jimmy simply longed for his bed and the potential silence of the night.

The evening in the servant’s hall was arguably the easiest part of his day, everyone was caught up in their own conversation and such, letting him slink aside and play a quiet game of card. There need be no conversation, just cards, he could have it his way if he asked. Jimmy got his silence, he played a slow, quiet game of cards with Thomas. He focused on the cards wholly until the pitter patter of the rain became apparent in the hall and a thought emerged, if it’s raining again then it’ll probably be stormy again. It was a thought he wanted to brush aside but it bothered him, he wasn’t up to lose sleep again. The thought lingered in his mind a little longer, going on to the point that he wanted to saying something about it, although he had no clue what he was going to say. Coming out with some nonsense about being worried about the weather didn’t seem much good to him, perhaps posing a question would ease him more.

“Do you think we’ll have bad weather again?” Jimmy casually asked as he placed a card down.

Thomas was quiet for a second, picking a card up before he responded, “Maybe, it’s hard to tell”

Jimmy nodded, that was enough for him. However, his question was overheard and was now on the fast track to becoming a public point of conversation. Daisy had caught his question and felt that she had a more concise response to it, one trumping Thomas’ maybe.

“I heard it’s going to be stormy all week” she informed him, her slightly louder voice travelling to the ears of the others.

“That’s not too bad, I like listening the rain and the thunder. It’s relaxing” Baxter joined in.

Jimmy huffed to himself quietly, silently disagreeing with the sentiment. He wasn’t about to get too crabby about it though, not like this afternoon. Instead he just continued his game, only listening a little to what was still being spoken about. It was the same bland kind of agreement until Alfred decided to share his thoughts, which prompted him to rave about the brilliance of stormy weather. Jimmy could of swore he could feel a headache coming on once the other gotten going, that grating voice. He was getting a bit on edge, his sore head and irritation not mixing too well. Just at the moment Jimmy thought he was about to burst and make a distasteful, Thomas spoke to him and moved his attention away. Maybe his frustration had been showing on his face a tad since he’d been asked if something was bothering him.

“I’m fine, just tired as all” Jimmy answered, shaking his head, “I’m a light sleeper, an’ I was kept up last night because of this bloody weather”

His sole response was a nod, and again that seemed to be enough. Jimmy’s attention went back to his cards, his irritation had been somewhat distinguished, proving the volatility of his mood at the moment. After a couple more hands, Jimmy decided it was time to turn in. He may as well try and get a little bit of sleep if the thunder does decide to roll again tonight. Fortunately, his plan worked a little, he got about an hour or so of sleep before he was stirred awake by the starling noise. It was obvious from the first roll that he was in for another disturbed night.

 

This patterned carried on for another, totalling three nights of next to no sleep. It was obvious on his features at this point, Jimmy sporting a pair of bags under his eyes. The visible markers of his sleeplessness were widely commented on, much to his displeasure. He’d fallen into the habit of insisting that he was just a light sleeper and he’d be over it all soon; telling them all a half truth. Jimmy just tried to brush off people as much as possible, he wasn’t at all in the mood to deal with anyone. All he wanted to do was get through the day and try to sleep, that was the gist of it for him.

In quiet, isolated moments though, Jimmy found a little respite. His little moment to himself amounted to a tiny nap in the boot room, he wasn’t too busy so he felt he could afford it. Using his crossed arms as a pillow, Jimmy slept. The nap had arguably been the best sleep had gotten in the last 72 hours. However, as the theme of his week would have it, his sleep was disturbed. It hadn’t been disturbed purposefully though. A giggle and the noise of the door being opened had been enough for him it seemed. Groggy eyes opened to the sight of a somewhat embarrassed Anna and an obviously ticked off Bates. Jimmy may have been half asleep at the time, but he was still coherent enough to realise that his presence had spoiled something. He rubbed his eyes and got up slowly, otherwise he knew he would have fumbled in some-way. It had been his hope to just leave quietly, not wanting to address his slacking off nor what he had just spoiled by accident. But that hope was diminished when Anna spoke to him as he tried to go by.

“Were you asleep?” she asked, her question seeming to be leading to something more since it was quite clear that he had been sleeping.

“Just dozed off…” He answered, rubbing his face carefully.

Anna opened her mouth to continue the thought but Jimmy decided that he didn’t want to be there to hear it, moving to leave the boot room quickly. He’d rather they didn’t speak; they could get back to whatever and he could just crawl on with his day. Besides, he had chores waiting for him and he didn’t want to skimp on them in case that caused more questions about his well-being. Jimmy was tired of people caring oddly enough, for once he didn’t want the attention. His lack of sleep was his business.

In a twistedly fortunate way, Jimmy’s crabby attitude had managed to discourage conversation between him and the likes of Alfred and Ivy. It meant he wasn’t bothered; however, he did object to the mutters from Alfred, he’d prefer that Alfred said what he needed to to his face and be done with it. It made for a somewhat awkward atmosphere when waiting for upstairs food to take up, the silence having a layer of tension. Daisy wasn’t totally privy to action to not speak to Jimmy so she tried to make some degree of conversation. She managed to stir up talk between Ivy and Alfred exclusively, not exactly her goal. There were attempts to include Jimmy but Alfred seemed to veto most of them, changing the line of conversation or blatantly just saying that Jimmy wouldn’t be interested. Rightly enough he wasn’t interested but it still bothered him the way the prat would be so tactless. In an attempt to tune them out, Jimmy looked for something to focus on. His eyes roamed around, looking for something, eventually catching sight of Thomas and Anna in the narrow hall. He watched as Anna spoke to the under butler, noting that it must be something somewhat private as he watched her lead in to seemingly speak quietly to him. Jimmy’s eyes narrowed, he struggled to come up with something of a private nature that they could be talking about. There wasn’t a lot of crossover between them, he’d expect this sort of thing between Thomas and Baxter, but not Anna.

What he had seen in the hall played on his mind over dinner as he stood there. Jimmy tried to come up with something, some sort of story that he could accept for the situation. In the end he knew he would only be content with knowing the truth of the situation, although he wasn’t certain that he’d get the details for sure. Him and Thomas here close, best mates. Occasionally, he’d entertain the notion that they were closer than best friends, that their bond went above that. The notion would be shut down the instant that he tried to consider what their bond was suited to; they weren’t like that. He couldn’t think of a better equivalent, but at the same time he wouldn’t let himself accept that; Thomas and his relationship wasn’t like that. They were close enough though, that he felt they could trade slightly more sensitive information, he had enough certainty in that.

Anticipation was at boiling point as he sat across from Thomas. The question was on his lips, he just couldn’t bring himself to ask so soon. He fiddled with the pack of cards, trying to distract himself from jumping into his intent to ask about the hall. However, it soon struck Jimmy that Thomas’ gaze seemed harsh upon, as if he was intently focusing on him. Jimmy felt as if he could wither under the strict watch of his arctic blue hues.

“Anna spoke to me this evening” Thomas started slowly.

Jimmy’s eyes widened a little, he didn’t think he’d have the subject just handed to him like this. Although, there was something about the way Thomas was speaking that made him uneasy. He subconsciously went on the defensive in response to the tone.

“She’s worried ya know” Thomas continued with a small nod, “you were sleeping in boot room and seemed a bit- squiffy”

“I’m fine” Jimmy said quickly, as if he was answering a question that Thomas was yet to ask.

“I don’t think so, the others don’t think so” he tried to clarify. “What’s wrong?”

The pack of cards were doing cartwheels in Jimmy’s hands, his eyes tracing the motion instead of looking at Thomas. He figured if he looked at Thomas he might spill, he might reveal his secret. Jimmy didn’t want to; he didn’t want him to seem less of a man because of some damned fear.

“I’m tired, I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m a light sleeper…” Jimmy answered in more of mutter.

Thomas was hardly satisfied with that answer. While he couldn’t exactly claim to be able to read Jimmy like a book, he knew that he could read Jimmy in a way that no one else quite could, he had a special sort of insight. He wanted to use that insight to coax the problem out of Jimmy.

"What's really wrong?" Thomas prodded, making Jimmy grumble in frustration.

He didn’t want Thomas pushing. If he kept it up Jimmy wasn’t certain he could keep himself for opening up; Thomas just seemed to have an effect on that way. There was plenty of trust between them after all, and Jimmy knew that he was aware of more private and vulnerable facts about Thomas.

"I won't tell ya, Thomas. You'll just have a right laugh at me" Jimmy defended.

Thomas gave him a look and he shifted. He felt like his shield had been pierced and he couldn't quite hold up his defences as before.

"Look, I can't sleep because I'm bloody scared of the thunder 'n lightning" he hissed lowly to avoid being heard, "You happy now?"

Thomas gazed at him for a moment, "Nothin' to be ashamed of... Everyone is scared of something"

Jimmy huffed and rolled his eyes. Truthfully, he was glad that Thomas didn't mock him in any way, it wasn't exactly a subject he was very secure about. He didn't want to admit it totally to himself, but he was happy that Thomas seemed to understand because to some degree it only really mattered if he did. It was funny how Jimmy valued Thomas’ view of him more than anyone else’s, he would have never thought he’d feel this way about anyone. Jimmy was confident in himself and more often than not cared little about what other thought of him. He didn’t anticipate caring so much about what one person thought of him.

There was silence afterwards, it was a comfortable silence however. Neither of them seemed to have much to say after that admission, they just sat together. It wasn’t unusual for them to simply enjoy one another’s company, however this time their shared company felt different. Jimmy struggled to properly acknowledge it, but it felt more intimate, as if him and Thomas were closer because of this. Upon acknowledging it though, a kind of warmth swirled inside him, teasing him to smile because of it. It complicated his feelings this warmth, it made it harder to tackle them and push everything away again. These days it seemed that he was doing a lot more pushing and ignoring.

Turning in for the night, Jimmy had managed to get everything under wraps again. His focus could be devoted to his quest to achieve what little sleep he could get. Especially since the storm was as strong as last night and equally as disruptive. He thought maybe to try and distract himself from the noise, perhaps it would ease him a little if he did it well. Jimmy squeezed his eyes shut, he desperately cast his mind back to his childhood. He replayed scenes in his head, anything to try and calm his nerves and distract himself. A particular memory surfaced, one that reminded him of a time in which he was at his calmest. His mother had coaxed him out of the closet that he had been hiding in, she sat him on the bed and whispered softly to him whilst holding him in her arms. He'd rest his head on her chest and listen to her heart beat, soothing him and drowning out the storm outside. At that moment he had felt so safe in her arms, so at peace listening to the steady beat of her heart.

He rued the fact that he couldn't feel that now. There was no one to calm him, no one he trusted to make him feel safe in their arms, no one's heart beat he'd listen to. At least no one that he'd let himself consciously consider. As at the back of his mind he saw Thomas holding on to him, keeping him safe and sound in his arms, telling him he'd be okay, letting him rest his head to listen to his heart. He was anchored by Thomas; it was the undeniable truth that he would so desperately try to deny. The wraps he had believed that his feelings were under had obviously unravelled with the tender imagery of him and his close friend. Alas, friend was a word he was now struggling with in the light of this, every time something like this cropped up in his head, he felt that calling him his ‘friend’ wasn’t right. But then, what was right? What were they? What could they be? He had questions to keep him up tonight, the weather no longer being the major issue for him.

 

The morning was difficult, hardly different from the last few ones. He was tired and seemingly miserable as well. Last night’s deliberations and confrontational musings had left Jimmy feeling strange. Having been left with so many questions and so few answers, he didn’t feel comfortable with himself. He didn’t understand himself or his feelings right now, and that seemed to make him miserable. Jimmy could hardly dwell on it though, he didn’t have the luxury of wallowing; no, he had work to do.

Entering the servant’s hall, he wasn’t overly surprised that he had already drawn the attention of Anna. She looked at him with her normal sympathetic eyes and a part of him hoped that it would remain a look and nothing else. As much as he valued her caring concern for him, he didn’t want to talk about himself or his well-being. At the precise moment all Jimmy wanted was his breakfast, no talk, just food. Fortunately, it appeared that he was being granted that leisure, enjoying his meal in peace. The small luxury of silence went a long way, it let him think. The opportunity to think lead to him actually looking forward work, he’d likely have a few moments to stop and muse.

Jimmy’s all-consuming emotional turmoil seemed to distract him from his mounting sleep deprivation. It was as if his focus was keeping him going, and the moment it slipped his fatigue would come crashing down. That played to his advantage however, since it appeared that Jimmy wouldn’t be letting up whatsoever on his musings. His relationship with Thomas was at the constant forefront of his mind. While he went about his chores, he processed what they shared, how they acted, every little detail of the relationship. In a strange way he felt like he owed their relationship this much thought, it wasn’t something he could take lightly anymore. Especially not now that he was tangoing with the possibility that their friendship could be more than what it is. As difficult as it seemed to him, he had to consider the possibility that he would be going back on his word.

The frightening potential their future had now was working against Thomas however, as Jimmy had ended up avoiding him as much as he could. It wasn’t out malice or cruelty; Jimmy was just overwhelmed by it all and seeing Thomas just made that all much harder to cope with. There had been moments in which he’d wanted to stop and talk to him about all these complicated thoughts but then that meant articulating it and he wasn’t sure he could manage that, not yet at least. Instead of speaking to Thomas, the one idiot who he could speak to about this, he instead dedicated more time to talking to Alfred. Of course, he didn’t hold off on being a bastard towards the other footman, he tired to emulate his normal attitude towards him and that seemed to fit just right. Jimmy was terribly tired still, but he felt he could manage the effects of his deprivation if he willed himself enough. That was at least what he told himself in order to tide him over. It worked for the most part, he made it through serving dinner and he was doing well enough when he returned to the servant’s hall. The moment he could relax it was like an avalanche of fatigue and boarder-line stress hit him, he was floored. Jimmy rubbed his temples, god did he need a rest.

It was easy enough to excuse himself, everyone seemed understanding about it. Jimmy hesitated to think just how tired he appeared to them. That wasn’t much of a problem at the precise moment, it just meant that he could get away to bed without much bother. Alas, in another stroke of brilliant luck however, the moment he crossed the fresh-hold of his room the sky erupted. Jimmy held his forehead and grumbled; not again, not another night. His mood soured beyond belief, he haphazardly got undressed and promptly tossed himself onto his bed. The misery of this morning seemed to rear its head again, the awful cold feeling prickling inside him.

Hours of fruitless tossing and turning passed. The claps and growls of the dark grey outside sending what felt like a bolt through him each and every time. Jimmy felt like he could be on the brink of insanity at this point, the fear and the fatigue together was unbearable. Desperately he craved comfort, in any from, he just wanted some comfort. Perhaps it was the charge of emotions that were being pumped through him every moment, or perhaps his inhibitions were being drown out by his almost crippling need for comfort; whatever it was driving him, Jimmy found himself leaving his room and venturing down the hall. He couldn’t knock on the door, not at this time of the night, he had to just go in. As quietly as possible, Jimmy slinking into the room. There was a distinct creak of the door when he closed it, it made him wince.

“Hmm?”

Jimmy’s eyes widened, he rushed to hush them, “Sush Thomas, just be quiet for a second”

Half awake and confused, Thomas sat up in his bed. Jimmy ended up perching on the end of the bed, he gave Thomas a nervous look. He quirked a brow, it wasn’t every day that Jimmy would sneak into his room in the middle of night. They shared a second of silence before Jimmy ended up spilling his guts in a series of whispers. He explained, with what seemed to be a great deal of difficulty, that he was scared and needed someone to talk to. Thomas wasn’t overly surprised at his reasoning, not since their talk. But he was quite flattered by this, he really felt that Jimmy trusted him now.

Conversation didn’t come too easily; it took a while to find a subject that actually distracted Jimmy enough to be of any help. The comfort of them talking wasn’t exactly what Jimmy had wanted, but then again, he wasn’t to sure what that comfort was in the end. Nonetheless, talking helped. It was more than enough until everything outside started up again. The first relatively loud noise shook him, it was like a knock to the head.

It felt like a recipe for disaster in Jimmy's head at that point. All the sleepless nights before were really catching up now, his deprived body more vulnerable to the shaking anxiety that his reawakened fear brought. He was a boiling pot of fatigue and stress, and now he felt as if he was going to boil over. His body trembled while he covered his ears, his nerves were frayed and it was all becoming too much now. Jimmy’s emotions were in a rush, the noise seemed insignificant but it was the last drop to break the dam. And amidst the rush inside, he found himself asking- begging -Thomas to do something to distract him again, to drag him away from it all for even a second.

Thomas' mind scrambled for suggestions, having little time to address his options fully and Jimmy was reeling. In a moment of rush and adrenaline, Thomas kissed Jimmy. The move felt drastic but nothing came to mind, talking won’t work when Jimmy was worked up like this. Although, it seemingly worked in the case of distracting him. He saw Jimmy freeze as pulled back. Thomas' heart raced at the intense realisation of his actions in the flash of clarity he received from Jimmy’s stillness, instantly reprimanding himself for his stupidity, thinking that was at all a good move to make. As he did so, Jimmy let out a shaky breath, his hands slipping away from his ears. For a second or two his brain felt like static, he needed a moment to let it set in. A harsh swallow followed him finally acknowledging the kiss that dragged him away from his sharp panic. Jimmy's gaze focused on Thomas from then, him seeing the other's own fear flickering in his eyes. A similar clarity had been bestowed upon Jimmy just then, he had been anchored once more and he knew perfectly well that no one else could have done that. Another indescribable emotion joined Jimmy's boiling pot and overwhelmed in a completely different manner; he was compelled by it. In a moment’s notice, he reciprocated the gesture of washing away the fear for a second and pressed a soft kiss on Thomas' lips in return. It was brief kiss, and once it was over Thomas would only open his mouth to be quietly shushed.

"Don't... Not yet" Jimmy whispered, a tremor being heard in his voice. "Please... Just hold me... For a while, please"

Arms wrapped around him at his request despite the fact that Thomas' feelings were now going haywire. He was tremendously confused by Jimmy's actions, and even though he didn't want to be, he was cautiously hopeful as well. Although, his hope soared rapidly as he felt Jimmy resting his head carefully on his chest. If he could, Thomas would will his heart to stop beating so fast but alas he could not and Jimmy would just have to settle to a faster rhythm; a task he'd soon prove he could manage. Eventually, Jimmy would drop off asleep, nothing able to disturb him as his sleep appeared to be a product wholly of exhaustion. He would sleep whether he wanted to or not, something that proved to be a considerate comfort for him but little for Thomas, who was still trying to understand what had transpired just then.

 

Light seeped into the room from outside, the sun was peaking over the horizon. Jimmy was sleeping like a baby still, curled up all snug. This had been arguably the best sleep he had gotten all week. While, Thomas on the other hand had had the worst night sleep; tossing and turning the night away as a million questions fluttered around his head. His sleep had also been fragile, so when the sun poured in, he woke up. Everything was so quiet, enough so that Thomas could just lay there for a moment and listen to Jimmy breathing softly. This whole moment, every single part of it was perfect, like something out of his dreams. But why wasn’t he enjoying it? Thomas felt strange about it, like Jimmy wasn’t here on honest terms. He thought it was kind of pathetic in a way, him stopping himself from enjoying this tiny moment. It was something he had always wanted but he couldn’t even let himself revel in it for even a second.

“Jimmy, wake up” he whispered giving him a little shake.

Jimmy mumbled incoherently as he rolled onto his back, his shoulder pressing against Thomas’ chest. The small contact reminded him just how close they were last night given the small stature of his bed. That notion made a level of anxiety stir in his stomach, he worried that once he woke up and realised what was going on, he might react badly. Last night had been such a rush of emotions, Thomas could reasonably assume that Jimmy hadn’t been in the right mind and he didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t dare let himself think that Jimmy could have possibly known precisely what he was doing and that he was fully aware that he had kissed him. If he let himself think that then he might hope and the hope would only hurt him in the end.

“Jimmy, come on. You need to get back to your room before anyone wakes up” Thomas whispered again, his shake a little rougher.

Another mumbled escaped his lips, however this time he was half awake so it was a little more understandable. He said something along the lines of ‘just a little longer’, but that was responded to with another little shake and urge to get up. Jimmy grumbled and moved to sit up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Thomas bit his lip as he looked at the other, it was amazing how Jimmy even looked gorgeous while half-awake with bed head. He honestly wished that Jimmy wouldn’t enchant him as much as he did, his heart can’t take this kind of toying.

“Come on, best you get back to your room” Thomas said as he looked away from him, “You can probably get a little sleep in your own bed before you have to get up, no one will be the wiser”

Jimmy stayed quiet for a moment or two after he spoke. He was hardly awake but seemingly deep in thought. A hand went through his messy golden locks, and his gaze shifted on to Thomas. In a second a frown appeared, nothing like being rushed out. Jimmy didn’t move quite yet, there was something he had to say, words longing to escape. However, Jimmy stifled them and replaced them with something far lighter.

“Alright, alright…” he sighed shuffling out of the bed, “don’t be such a fuss”

Thomas didn’t say much after, he just watched the other leave. A part of him yearned to ask him to stay instead, to call him back. He wished they could stay together, sit in bed together, talk for a while perhaps. Thomas had more wishes than he knew what to do with...

The walk to his room was a short one but to Jimmy it seemed like miles. He looked back at the door to Thomas’ room, he wanted to slip back inside. A part him wasn’t to disregard it all, to ignore the repercussions that would likely occur if he was seen leaving Thomas’ room in the morning. Yet he knew he couldn’t, especially since he knew that only Thomas would really suffer the consequences; it would be painted as him having been lured in and taken advantage of no matter what he’d say. The cards were always stacked in such a manner, he just hadn’t realised that until recently. Half way to his room, Jimmy stepped on a board that squeaked loudly. It felt almost deafening in the silence of hall. He looked around; nothing had changed. Jimmy had momentarily been filled by a paralyzing kind of fear, he hadn’t felt something like that before. He slipped into his room eventually, feeling like he could faint the moment the door was closed. Jimmy fell back onto his bed; it was a little bit of solace.

His bed was cold and it felt massive somehow. Jimmy always used to feel that the beds were criminally small but now that he was laying there it felt ten times the size, not to mention it was so empty. There was no way he could fall asleep again, not in this empty pit of a bed. Jimmy sat up and buried his face in his hands, he couldn’t stick this. To no degree was he tired, and he had his suspicions about why exactly that was. Obviously, he knew that he wasn’t tired because he slept well, but the cause of his luxurious rest was quite clear and he was weighing up whether he could freely admit it to himself. Jimmy unfortunately couldn’t directly admit it but he could do so in a roundabout way, levelling that only a few things had changed in his sleeping situation and he couldn’t hide from those key changes. He wasn’t that foolish after all…

Jimmy sat in his bed wishing he could reason with himself, be a bit braver than he was. He wanted get up and crawl back to Thomas’ room, pretend that nothing could go wrong if he did so. But he couldn’t for so many reasons, one part he just couldn’t bring himself to and on another he was worried that he’d cause trouble if he did. Every move he though to make seemed to have a hundred consequences. And much to Jimmy’s annoyance now, he wasn’t normally in the business of thinking before acting. But now he had to think, he had to be very careful about his movements now, he had to consider what could happen with each action he made in this new, strange area he was in.

The small time he had until the working day started were whiled away just thinking about everything, about how he had had his world turned on its head in the space of one night. Jimmy couldn’t shake his all-consuming thoughts, they followed him like a grey cloud even when his morning had started. Desperately however, he attempted to hide behind his uniform, be footman Jimmy and not amidst-a-horrid-crisis Jimmy. Breakfast in the servant’s hall would be his first opportunity to project his normal cool self, see if footman Jimmy would pass. He tried to not make his presence too obvious at breakfast however, keeping to simple and subtle was his best bet.

“You’re looking better, Jimmy” Anna commented, drawing Jimmy out of his thoughts giving him his opportunity to play his part.

“I feel better” Jimmy replied with a nod, “I slept well so I’m in better spirits”

A smile was exchanged and Jimmy was flooded with relief. This was manageable. He kept his smile in his lips as he glanced around the table, no one was looking his way which was excellent, he was hidden again like normal. However, there was one person looking his way and that one look had him thrown. Thomas was looking at him, his features soft and contained. His eyes communicated it all in Jimmy’s mind, he could see all that he was feeling in those icy hues. Tearing himself away, Jimmy felt his heart flip and beat a little faster. Thomas was going to make his perfect little act so much harder; every time he so much as looked at him, he felt that crisis creep back in. And in light of this revelation, Jimmy decided that maybe avoiding Thomas would be wise for the time being.

 

In a strange way it was terribly easy yet horribly difficult to avoid Thomas. Jimmy’s chores kept him quite busy and he made certain that when he passed the other, he’d either not make eye contact or keep interactions curt and short. But at same time he could only think of Thomas as he worked and when they passed, he wanted to smile and stop for a moment to talk idly. He hated himself for being like this, wanting to have his cake and eat it. It was obviously to him that this balancing act wasn’t going to work out, he’d slip up and spoil it before he knew it. He’d opened his own Pandora’s box and he have to deal with all he’d released now, and that meant he couldn’t pretend that he hadn’t had a strange awakening last night in Thomas’ room. Jimmy had to either do something or nothing, and something looked a lot better than nothing. However, it wasn’t so simple, he wanted to do something but how was he supposed to do that something? He couldn’t exactly trot up to Thomas and pour himself out, telling him about all these complicated feelings. But at the same time, Jimmy felt like holding onto these feelings was akin to drowning himself, his head was bobbing under it all and he couldn’t breath properly. Why did such affections feel like death?

Jimmy’s evasions hardly ceased in the day; he couldn’t suddenly let up on it. He was successful though; he didn’t give Thomas more that a second of his time and that wasn’t something that was taken too lightly by Thomas. On his end it was precisely as he thought would happen, that Jimmy had seen his senses and was stepping away. He tried not to feel hurt over it, it wasn’t like he didn’t see it coming. Nonetheless, Thomas had had a glimmer of hope in him, a small part of him thought that perhaps Jimmy did feel the same about him. That glimmer made everything hurt much more, it magnified the heart ache that had reappeared. Because of that ache, Thomas removed himself as much as he could. In the first instance Thomas made his exit from the servant’s hall, heading to the yard to smoke by himself. He thought he could manage this, putting that wall back up between them, smoking by himself of an evening instead of socialising and playing cards with him.

Thomas had gotten through about a single cigarette before he was disturbed. He didn’t even have to turn and look to know who it was, only one idiot would ever come out to see him when he smoked outside. It did strike him as odd, why was he visiting him now after avoiding him all day? Thomas didn’t acknowledge his presence in anyway, he just lit himself another cigarette and got on with it.

“Thomas, are you alright?” Jimmy asked, “I didn’t even see you leave… Is something the matter?”

He took a long drag as he considered an answer, some way to precisely convey how he felt in a sentence.

“Why would it bother you?” he replied in a low voice.

There was silence between them after that. Jimmy’s features were covered in confusion, he could fathom Thomas’ response. Stepping closer he tried to make himself more visible to Thomas, as if that made a difference in the situation.

“Thomas, I care about you. That’s why it bothers me” Jimmy told him, trying to persuade Thomas that he was genuine.

His words hung in the air; Thomas eyed him as if considering what he’d said. Jimmy appeared pretty resolute however, nothing about him was disingenuous. While that was a good, it only complicated everything. The signals were mixing and confusing him, he couldn’t tell what he was playing at all.

“Are you having fun?” Thomas asked, his voice coming out in a hiss. “Is it entertain you? Toying with me like you got nothin’ better to day”

Jimmy frowned, “What are you going on about, Thomas?”

Thomas dropped his cigarette, stepping on it to stub it out. His eyes searched for Jimmy’s in the evening light, catching them and holding his gaze. The tension in the air thickened as the silence carried on. Jimmy shifted where he stood, not breaking the eye contact that he was locked into. It was as if there was something on the line right now, neither of them wanted to break their gaze and lose it. Although after long enough, Thomas looked away and rubbed his face, an exasperated laugh escaping his lips.

“This is ridiculous…” He laughed lightly, “I don’t know why I humour you like this”

Jimmy sighed and brought his hand to his forehead, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t know what you mean Thomas! Can you just explain what you’re talking about?”

Thomas scoffed, “You don’t know? Bloody hell Jimmy, are you pretending to be thick or something?”

Jimmy was about to protest to that remark when Thomas cut him off and went on, explain himself as requested.

“You come into my room, looking for my comfort in the middle of the night and you kiss me. Then suddenly you act like I don’t exist; you don’t even look at me… I don’t bloody understand you, Jimmy. Do you want me, or am I only here went it suits you? Because if that’s the case I want none of it”

Another bout of silence fell. Thomas was now wearing his hurt and Jimmy felt like he had just become the crowned prince of fools. It was never his intention to hurt Thomas, he just had to work himself out before he gave himself away. It would have only hurt more if Jimmy had gone head first into this then sudden got cold feet and backed off, that would be giving him what he wanted then snatching it away and it seemed oh so much crueller. At least this way he had to address this all, he had to voice his feelings if he wanted to fix things with Thomas.

“Thomas, I know I’ve been class act fool, but I swear to you I’m not trying to mess with you” Jimmy told him, putting on his best air of confidence, “Last night, I went to you because I knew that you could help me, I couldn’t think of anything else. And the kiss, that was genuine, it was in the moment but I’d do it again all the same. That’s also why I’ve been avoiding you”

Jimmy seemingly became embarrassed, his hands moving together to intertwine his fingers awkwardly. He didn’t find anything he was about to say overly easy to admit. A lifetime of being told to be opposed didn’t make it easy for him to say that he was that way, that he was now to be supposedly opposed. But this was how he was, he knew that know. Girls were fine and good, he liked them, but they paled in comparison now. Something Jimmy couldn’t change now, not that he wanted to anymore.

“When I went back to my room I was confused, last night confused me. It brought up a lot of feelings I haven’t been able to deal with and I needed today to deal with them finally. I didn’t want to do anything without being sure, because you deserve certainty. I wasn’t going to mess you about, not knowing how I felt about you. But I know now, and all I can say is that I’m sorry that I’ve upset you and I really do want you”

Thomas looked at him, as if he was waiting for Jimmy to suddenly break out in laughter and reveal that this had all been some big trick. The disbelief he was experiencing was phenomenal, he felt like he had just entered an imaginary world. Jimmy watched as Thomas just stood there looking sort of dumbfounded. While he understood this was a lot for him as well, he wanted some kind of reply, the quiet made him nervous. Nonetheless, Jimmy gave him time and let him gather himself, he deserved it after all.

Eventually Thomas came out with a response, “I don’t know what say… I’m glad- I’m more than glad actually, but Christ this doesn’t feel real. I feel like I’m through the looking glass”

Jimmy gave him a sympathetic smile, “If you need time, I can give you that”

His sympathy was met with a scoff and a light laugh, “Not in your dreams, James Kent. I’m not planning on wasting a second more now I know how you feel”

A warmth spread through Jimmy, he thought he was probably blushing right now. It just felt good though, it felt good being accepted, it felt good seeing Thomas happy. This was quite possibly the happiest he had been in a long time. This happiness was of course the special kind, the kind you felt when you were in love. And Jimmy can’t remember the last time he had felt this way, if he had ever felt this way in fact. He looked to Thomas, he was wearing such a genuine smile, it had his heart fluttering. In all honesty he could stay out here forever, just looking at Thomas’ gorgeous and feeling helplessly in love. Alas, the summer sky had gotten as dark as it was going to get and it would soon seem like they’d disappeared in the night if they stayed out much long.

“I think it’s about time we retired for evening” Jimmy suggested with a small tone of disappointment.

“You’re right” Thomas nodded before looking up at the sky for a second, “I think you might need to come by again tonight, don’t like the look of the sky”

A shock of concern went through Jimmy momentarily, he wasn’t about to have an encore of last night. He looked up to see a clear sky, not a single cloud present. His gaze then snapped to a grinning Thomas and he laughed.

“I think you’re right, Thomas” Jimmy smiled, “I’ll have to make a return visit, just to be safe”

“I’ll keep you safe again”

“I know you will”