"James, would you step in for a moment?" Jimmy stopped his tracks and pocketed his packet of cigarettes again. He hoped this wouldn’t take long. Following Mr Carson into his little office, he became a little wary. It wasn’t often that they had a chat in private. Usually, Carson would scold him in public. He couldn’t say which he preferred.
"Is there a problem, Mr Carson?" Jimmy folded his hands behind his back and let his weight alter between the balls of his feet to his heels and back. He’d always had a hard time being still.
"Not as much a problem as a-" A long deep sound of consideration exited Carson’s mouth. This could take a while. If there was a way around saying something, he would pick that instead of being straightforward. "A small matter," he finally decided. "It’s about your haircut- or lack thereof." Jimmy sighed. He instinctively ran a hand over his head. He quite liked his blond hair, it held a certain attraction for girls. Lately it had been growing in a little darker- probably due to his living in a dim cave.
"I see, Mr Carson," Jimmy muttered.
"Good. See that it gets taken care of on your nearest afternoon off." He nodded and waved his hand, dismissing Jimmy.
Jimmy left and closed the door behind him. He nearly bumped into Alfred in the hallway.
"Trouble?" Jimmy shrugged.
"Going out for a smoke, care to join me?" Jimmy tapped the pack in his pocket. Alfred wrinkled his nose.
"They damage your tastebuds," he shook his head. Jimmy huffed.
"You damage my earbuds," Jimmy countered.
"There’s no such-" Alfred began, but Jimmy had already left through the back door.
Outside, he found Mr Barrow. Normally it would have felt a little uncomfortable. He was working on the whole friend business, but it hadn’t been easy. He found it hard to find anything in common with Mr Barrow. They were civil, most of the time. It was fine now, Barrow was apparently entangled in an in-depth conversation with a hallboy. Jimmy still had trouble keeping them all apart, stupid little boys. He lit a cigarette and peered at the small courtyard. He could hear them talk, but he couldn’t make out the words. Every now and then, the boy laughed, and he would hear Thomas’ breathy laugh follow. The way he stood, almost bent over the young man, who was probably smoking his cigarettes… Was he flirting?
The sound of footsteps in the gravel made him turn. The boy had gone inside. Mr Barrow lit another cigarette, indicating he’d be there for a while.
"Not a bit young for your taste, Mr Barrow?" Jimmy shot him a sly smile. This was new to their friendship. As of late, he felt he was able to joke about their odd relationship. Also, he was genuinely intrigued. And maybe a tiny bit jealous.
"I’d say fourteen, fifteen. About a year younger than you then," Thomas shot back with the same smile. Jimmy shook his head, but couldn’t think of anything so quickly. Damn Barrow with his witty remarks. Jimmy always thought of them while he was already up in his room. "They all want the same thing. They all want to know how to become first footman." Mr Barrow turned to him now.
"Well they should ask me, I’m first footman." Jimmy wouldn’t be able to explain what to do. He just did as he was told and tried to keep himself tidy.
"Well, I’m a bit of a legend here, worked my way up," Thomas boasted. His pursed lips told Jimmy that he wasn’t being completely serious, even though he was telling the truth.
"You’re not… Interested then. In him," Jimmy managed. He felt a frown take shape on his forehead.
"Interested?" Thomas’ mouth hung open for a moment. "Do you honestly think I’d go for someone like that? He’s half my age," Thomas explained. "I like people I can actually have a conversation with," he went on.
"Really?" Really. Jimmy couldn’t believe the words that came out of his mouth. They were the first that came to mind though. He’d never thought of a relationship like the one Thomas was after would be so traditional. He was too curious for his own good.
"Really," Thomas assured him, and incredulous look on his face. "Men can have more than just a- a physical relationship," Thomas worded carefully. Jimmy nodded.
Thomas shook his head again, and tossed his cigarette bud in the gravel. “You’re an odd one, Kent.” He went back inside.
Jimmy took a long drag and burned his fingers, not having realised he was at the end of his cigarette.
A physical relationship. The words mulled over and over in his mind all day. He had to be careful not to blurt them out unintentionally. Of course, Jimmy knew what it meant. He knew what sex was. It was how you made babies. You couldn’t make babies when there wasn’t a girl. Over dinner, he shot a few glances at Thomas, as if the answer would be written on his forehead. He’d have to ask. After dinner; this wasn’t a topic he wanted to mix with mashed potatoes.
"What do you do, then?" Thomas raised an eyebrow. "What you said earlier. I mean- what do you do." It was the best he could describe it with a handful of people still at the other end of the table. He sat at the head, smoking like a chimney.
"Hold a conversation?"
"The other thing."
The dark haired man sat back with a smug pout. He wasn’t explaining though.
"You’re joking," he then said flatly. Jimmy shrugged. "You don’t expect me to explain." He’d asked two rhetorical questions, but when Jimmy had no answer, he was clearly unnerved. He cleared his throat.
"I’m serious," Jimmy insisted. He felt a blush creep to his cheekbones. Thomas apparently mistook it as Jimmy’s admittance of trepanning.
"This is a joke," Thomas tried again. "Is Alfred in on this? Alfred, did Jimmy and you think this up together?" Alfred’s head snapped up. He was putting spices in his hot chocolate again. One time, he’d put chilli in Jimmy’s as well. It’d tasted rancid. Despite Thomas’ odd preference, Alfred was still the weirdest person Jimmy had met in a long time. Naturally, he had no idea what Thomas was talking about.
"Mr Barrow," Jimmy hissed. "I’m not teasing you." He was embarrassed enough as it was, and he didn’t need any more witnesses. Although Jimmy didn’t imagine the mechanics of someone else’s sexual life were of interest to Alfred. Thomas snorted and burst out laughing, after which a frown appeared on his face. He’d probably realised that a) Jimmy had been thinking about this, and b) he needed to explain, in order to avoid c) Jimmy imagining the most incredible scenarios.
"Go to your room," Thomas then decided. At first, Jimmy felt like he was being scolded by a superior again. He hadn’t been sent to his room since he’d lived at home. Oh, and that one time Mrs Hughes had caught him very drunk and loitering in the library at night. "Just-" Thomas sighed, thinking hard. "Just wait a little bit? I’ll come up after and then we can talk."
Jimmy got up and put his chair under the table, stubbing out his half-smoked cigarette. Anna looked up from her sewing.
"Everything alright, Jimmy? You look a little flushed," she chimed. Jimmy swallowed. That was good though. Less suspicious.
"Uh- yeah. I feel like I’m maybe coming down with something so I thought I’d sleep it off," he lied. Anna nodded.
"Good night then, Jimmy."
"Night, Jimmy," Thomas hummed, looking up only briefly. He stayed put.
Jimmy sat on his bed and wiped his palms on his trousers. The alarm next to his bed read quarter past nine. They probably all thought he was coming down with the Spanish flu or something. Jimmy never went to bed before Carson explicitly told him to. Waiting in his bedroom had always been a bad omen. When both his parents were still alive and his mother sent him to his room, it meant his father would come in later to punish him accordingly. When his mother had sent him to his room while his dad was away during the war, he’d waited upstairs for what seemed like hours, the entire time hoping it wasn’t that message. It was.
He was feeling rather queasy now. Me and my big bloody mouth, Jimmy sighed. He wanted to hit himself. Maybe Mr Barrow had just sent him up to get rid of him, and he wouldn’t come over. Yes, that must be it. The thought contented him, so he got up to undress and wash his face. He didn’t get beyond taking his waistcoat and suspenders off before there were three curt knocks on his door. His alarm told him it had only been fifteen minutes. Maybe Anna was just bringing him some tea.
"Yes?" Please be Anna. Thomas’ head peeked through before he came inside completely. "Mr Barrow."
"Can you please call me Thomas? I said I wasn’t feeling good either," Thomas explained with a shy smile. He’d made Thomas bashful. Jimmy returned his smile, standing awkwardly in the middle of his room.
"There’s a-" Jimmy pointed. "Chair." He scratched the back of his head as Thomas took the chair. "D’you want a drink?" Thomas raised an eyebrow.
"Bootleg?" He crossed his arms over his chest, his shyness once again turning into smugness. Jimmy stared at the pout for a moment.
"I- take whisky when there’s less than a pinkie left in the bottle," Jimmy admitted, holding up his little finger, as if Thomas wouldn’t understand otherwise. He didn’t care for the taste, but it was nice to have a drink at the end of the week. He’d saved up about a quarter bottle over the last couple of months. He dug it up from his desk.
"Well, let’s have it then," Thomas agreed. He didn’t comment about the stealing, probably because he’d done worse. Thomas took the bottle and sniffed first, then drank. His nose wrinkled.
"There might be some brandy. I didn’t read all the labels," Jimmy admitted. Thomas took another swig.
"Sit," he then ordered, handing the bottle back. Jimmy obeyed and took a sip, feeling the alcohol burn its way down. If Jimmy had been coming down with something, it was dead now. He suppressed a cough. "So," Thomas started. There was no follow-up.
"Look, it was a silly thing to ask of you, just forget about it," Jimmy offered.
"No," Thomas shook his head. "We’re doing this now, or you’re gonna keep imagining things," he insisted. Jimmy didn’t know if explaining would rid him of that problem, but he nodded.
"First there’s hands," he started. Oh, so we’re doing this now. Jimmy nodded. Hands, he knew what that meant. "Then you can use your mouth," Thomas said matter-of-factly. Jimmy was surprised at his even tone, he wasn’t even talking and he could feel his heart practically in his mouth. Mouth, yes. He knew what that meant too. So far so good. He took another gulp from the bottle and handed it back to Thomas.
"Do you like that?"
"Do I like blow jobs? What do you think?" Jimmy was startled at the sudden crudeness, but nodded. Jimmy pressed his lips together into a straight line. Thomas chuckled and put the bottle back to his lips.
"Sorry, that was too forward of me."
"Oh, I think we’re long past that point." Jimmy nodded again. "Will you please lighten up a little? I’m actually enjoying myself," Thomas laughed. "Do you like blow jobs?"
"I don’t know," Jimmy admitted truthfully. He was convinced he’d enjoy it. He’d never dare ask a girl. There just hadn’t been an occasion like that. Thomas stared at him for a while.
"Alright. I’m sure you could follow all that," he assumed. Jimmy nodded. "The ‘act’ is not as complicated as you seem to think," Thomas then shrugged. The bottle went back and forth between them, and Jimmy had kicked off his shoes. Carson would probably complain he was stretching out the leather. Jimmy was feeling comfortably lightheaded. "You know how it works with a girl," Thomas went on, his hands making bold motions, as if that would clarify anything. The bottle sloshed in his right hand. Jimmy knew how it worked with a girl. He wasn’t that thick. "Well, girls have got hands and mouths as well, but they have two places where you can- you know." There was more abstract waving. Jimmy nodded.
"But men don’t have- oh." Jimmy winced. Oh. He felt his whole face burn. He had a hard time looking Thomas in the eye, still unable to believe he’d asked him. The first actual conversation he had with this man, in over a year, was about this. Somehow, it felt like his feet and calves had gone numb. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the alcohol or the embarrassment. Thomas handed him the bottle back, like ointment on a fresh burn. Jimmy took three big gulps and looked up again. The soft light in his room hit Thomas’ cheekbones. They were a deep pink, but nowhere near as dark as his lips. Jimmy was sure his face was darker than that.
"Does-" Jimmy tempted after a silent moment, only to be interrupted by Thomas.
"It’s- Sorry, you go ahead," Thomas offered.
"Doesn’t that hurt?" He couldn’t get the frown off his forehead. Two men probably had to love each other very much before they would let the other do that to them.
"Not really," Thomas shrugged again.
"You like it," Jimmy stated. He couldn’t see the pleasure of it, so he’d have to take Thomas’ word for it. Thomas nodded. There was a definite flush of pink on his cheekbones, now connecting over the bridge of his nose. "Is it good for the other one?" He hoped Thomas was getting all these sketchy questions.
"I assume so," Thomas replied evenly, though it came out sounding more like a question. Jimmy had no answer for him. That was that then. Jimmy knew everything there was to know, and would never again be able to look the neatly dressed man in front of him straight in the eye. It was probably mutual, since Jimmy had also admitted he had zilch experience along the way. And Jimmy knew exactly what kind of experience Thomas had. Mr Barrow, the man that kissed him in his sleep.
This should have been the conclusion to their conversation, but neither of them moved.
"Do you touch yourself, Jimmy?" Thomas’ tone was the same as before, but the content of his question was slightly more risqué.
"Do I- yes," Jimmy admitted. He wasn’t going to pretend he was an imbecile and didn’t understand.
"Good," Thomas decided.
"But," he started, not sure where he was going with this. "Girls are-" he searched for a word. It was hard when he didn’t know the end of his sentence yet. "There’s not a lot of opportunity when you’re in service," Jimmy then formulated, leaving the girl thing out altogether. They couldn’t help there was a locked door in the middle of the hallway. Clearly, Thomas had somehow found opportunity while in service.
Thomas was smiling again. It was the kind of smile Jimmy had wanted to slap off his pretty face many times before. If only Thomas weren’t four inches taller. He was sitting down now, so he could have done it. Easily, he told himself. He just sat on the bed. Instead, Thomas put the bottle down- there was only a pinkie left in this one now- and rose from his chair.
Jimmy understood. This was an opportunity. As Thomas leaned into him, Jimmy let his eyelids fall shut. He could feel Thomas’ breath hit his face in short gusts. He was ignoring the smug laugh, again.
"Just bloody do it," Jimmy mumbled. There was a firm hand against his chest, pushing him into the mattress. He was instantly disoriented, his heart throbbing in the back of his throat. No kissing then, this time. Maybe that was safer. One hand undid the buttons on his trousers while the other shoved his shirt up to his chest. Different kisses. Thomas’ lips dragged across his chest and down his abdomen. Jimmy’s trousers came down in one swift movement, and stayed bunched up around his ankles. That was alright for now, off was good.
It was strange how comfortable Jimmy was, naked, sprawled out across his bed, with a fully dressed man over him. He was more comfortable naked than in those tight trousers. Jimmy’s eyes shot open when warm air hit his skin, followed by an unfamiliar sensation. Through his eyelashes, he saw Thomas bent over him, drawing a line up his erection with his tongue. Thomas glanced up for a split second.
"Ohh- goodness," Jimmy hissed. He felt his cock twitch to meet Thomas’ tongue.
"Shh." Thomas sat back and worked Jimmy’s trousers off his ankles, before fanning his hands out over his thighs. There were more kisses. Then more hands, and Jimmy was spinning. Thomas’ fingers wrapped around him firmly. Jimmy knew how to do it himself, but Thomas knew better. It took five strokes to get him as hard as he could get. It was only when Thomas’ lips enveloped him that he realised he was wrong about that. So, so wrong.
"Nnh- Holy-" Jimmy clamped a hand over his own mouth. The door wasn’t locked, and the last thing they needed was spectators. Thomas’ tongue worked on him, around the tip of his cock and along the slit. All the while stroking him slowly. His free hand caressed Jimmy’s thigh in small circles. It was distracting, but not enough to take the attention away from his mouth. He gradually took in more, his cheeks hollowing. It was- a sight. Jimmy felt like he would burst. Combust, implode on himself, but nothing of the sort happened. He felt his toes crack. Thomas’ fingers closed in on his groin, eventually cupping his balls. Jimmy clenched his hand into a fist before pressing both hands against his eyes. It was the warmth and the wetness, the nimble fingers on the base of his shaft and the firm grip below. Jimmy was falling to pieces, embarrassingly quickly. His palms were pressing into his eye sockets with such force that he saw stars. "Please," he managed.
Thomas mouth was gone, and Jimmy took his hands away from his face. The stars stayed. Thomas got up from between his legs and onto the bed. He positioned himself over Jimmy's thighs, the taut trousers showing his arousal. It sent another jolt down to Jimmy's groin, as if he needed any more of those. Thomas' face hovered right above his.
"Please," he repeated, shamelessly begging. He didn't care. Thomas would never be able to repeat it to anyone. Thomas clicked his tongue.
'Now, Jimmy, when you're given an opportunity, you should take advantage of it, right?" Jimmy nodded mindlessly. He'd agree to anything, as his brain was probably close to gravel now. Jimmy got one kiss before Thomas fed him a finger, still stroking, though far too lazily for Jimmy's taste. Jimmy sucked it, looking for approval on the other man's face. It was only when Thomas took his hand away again, that Jimmy realised where this was going. Thomas' fingers grazed his balls again, but didn't stop there. His eyelids fluttered. "Look at me," Thomas ordered, the slicked finger slowly pressing into him. Jimmy nodded again. "Oh," he sighed, unsure why. The feeling was new. Odd, but not entirely uncomfortable.
"Oh, christ- Ah-" Thomas's finger curled inside him, switching the lights off altogether. Jimmy was still looking into Thomas' eyes as he was told, but he couldn't focus on them. He could see the clear grey around his blown pupils, the feathering of his lashes. With every flick of his wrist and curve of his finger, Thomas knocked the breath out of him. A low rumble seeped into his consciousness, and it escaped as a strangled moan when he parted his lips.
"Just bloody do it, then," Thomas mimicked. Jimmy shuddered at Thomas' breath on his face and allowed his eyes to close. The stars were back. His abdomen contracted as he rode Thomas' hand, his hips rolling and jerking up in uneven motions- whatever it took. It didn't take much. Jimmy didn't hold back when it hit finally hit him, arching up, bucking his hips and nearly tossing Thomas to the floor. His hand grappled Thomas' hair as he came between them, over himself, and over Thomas' shirt and hand.
The first thing he heard was Thomas' breathy laugh, the first thing he saw was Thomas' face an inch away from his, and the first thing he felt was another kiss. He wasn't sure this was all part of the education bargain, but he took it anyway. Thomas got up from the bed, but Jimmy couldn't muster up the strength. If his legs were numb before, they were useless now. Thomas sat back down with a washcloth and cleaned Jimmy off carefully. Jimmy shivered at the cold.
"I hope no one decided to go to bed ridiculously early," Thomas hummed casually. "I think we might be leaving with no reference if that's the case.' Jimmy chuckled and covered his face with his hands. He peeked up to see Thomas smiling. It was always a good thing when things between them didn't end up completely disastrous. They'd had enough of that. "Goodnight, Jimmy."
"Night, Thomas," Jimmy replied.
Jimmy turned on the mattress and rolled himself in his blanket. It only half-covered him, but it would have to do. He was heavy, but not in a bad way. It made him wonder why Thomas' kind of relationship was regarded as a sin, when he'd never felt closer to God, ironically. He ran a hand over his hair, reminded of his imminent haircut.
"Don't miss your next lesson," Thomas muttered before the pulled the door shut behind him.