Patrons were packed in tight around the bar, and flagging down the bartender was no small feat. Jimmy tried first, but his height, or lack thereof, left him lost among the masses. Thomas pushed his way up to the counter, catching the bartender’s attention with a sharp whistle.
“Been waiting longer than anyone here. We’re next,” Thomas shouted over the music and chatter while pointing to himself and Jimmy. The bartender responded with a nod, and Thomas and Jimmy got the drinks they both desperately desired, though they had separate reasons for needing a drink.
Jimmy’s guilt loomed over his shoulder as he searched for conversation topics. Though he admitted in the past that he wasn’t much at written correspondence, he hadn’t put in a single attempt to reach out to his friend. Thomas had written to Jimmy a few times, but when nothing came back, he eventually gave up. He thought he had given up his feelings, too, but as soon as he laid eyes on Jimmy, it was as if no time had passed. No man since then had interested Thomas in the least, let alone made his heart flutter like hummingbird wings against his ribs like it was doing that moment. He drank his liquor, hoping the burning sensation would quiet his heart on the way down.
When Thomas was made Butler of Downton, he couldn’t think of another soul to share the news with, and decided it was time to write to Jimmy again. Something compelled him to also include the fact that he had tried to complete suicide. He regretted including it in the letter as soon as it was in the post, but it was too late. He was shocked, but grateful, when a telegram came just days later that Jimmy planned to visit the village.
Jimmy’s pulse quickened when he made eye contact with Thomas, as the same heat burned behind Thomas’s grey eyes that Jimmy had felt from him years ago. Maybe I made a mistake, Jimmy thought. Maybe this visit will only hurt him more.
The bar filled up further with each passing minute, and Thomas and Jimmy were arm-to-arm, and then lip to ear in order to hear the other speak. They chose mundane topics; work, news, weather. Jimmy mentioned seeing a film with his friend the week before, and then changed the subject quickly when Thomas was noticeably jealous imagining Jimmy with a friend. During a lull in the conversation, Jimmy stood on his toes and looked around the bar, and spotted a pool table in the corner.
Thomas followed Jimmy to the table, snaking their way through the crowd of groups and couples. A game was in progress, and Thomas scoffed as he watched. None of the men seemed to know what they were doing, he told Jimmy. Jimmy knew he shouldn’t be surprised that Thomas was well versed in the game of pool; he seemed well versed at any game he played, both physically and strategically. Jimmy admitted to knowing nothing about pool, but encouraged Thomas to join. While Thomas interjected himself into the next round, Jimmy scurried back to the bar and returned with two full mugs of beer. He chugged half of his and raised the other to Thomas as he licked the foam from his lip. Thomas smiled back, flattered that Jimmy would buy the next round, and a little flustered by the sight of Jimmy’s tongue.
Jimmy cheered Thomas on silently, and laughed at the frustration of the other men when Thomas beat them easily. He didn’t notice any money changing hands. Perhaps Thomas hadn’t wagered anything and was just playing for sport, he thought. Jimmy finished his beer more quickly than he intended. He was tempted to drink the one he’d gotten for Thomas and then fetch another round, but he knew it would be better to pace himself.
The other men finally gave up, and Thomas sucked down half of the beer while new men joined in for the challenge of trying to beat him. They’ll be disappointed, Jimmy thought. He gave Thomas a few words of encouragement along with a few compliments, which were enough to motivate Thomas to leave the other men embarrassed in the wake of his game. Again, no money was exchanged; only pride.
Jimmy smiled the entire time, and the smile became more dreamy as his drinks kicked in. Thomas bent over the pool table to make a shot, and Jimmy looked away until he heard the crack of the cue against the ball. He remembered what those little, unintentional displays by Thomas had done to him when he worked at Downton. They led to intrusive thoughts, especially when he was in the bath or in bed. I fancy ladies, he said to himself. Why would my friend’s arse bent over a table make me think any thoughts at all, let alone this kind?
A determined man approached Thomas for the next game, and money was finally part of the exchange. Jimmy pulled a bar stool over and sat down. He handed Thomas his beer and watched him finish it, then held the empty glass for him while he played. He felt compelled to put his lips to the glass where Thomas’s had just been, but pushed that intrusive thought away, too. He noticed a bead of sweat on Thomas’s temple and offered to hold Thomas’s hat. Thomas tossed the hat to Jimmy, then decided to take off his jacket as well. He rolled up his sleeves and ran his fingers through his hair, pushing rogue raven strands away from his forehead.
The next drink was one of celebration, bought with some of Thomas’s winnings from the bet. Jimmy said Thomas should keep going, but Thomas knew how that sort of thing ended. The loser was good-natured; who knew if the next would be the same. Jimmy toasted to Thomas’s talents, and Thomas toasted to Jimmy’s warmth and friendship. Jimmy swallowed hard, then suggested they take a walk while the street lights were still lit, before the restaurants and bars closed and the village went to sleep.
Jimmy kept laughing about the looks on the other men’s faces when they lost, but really he was picturing Thomas over that pool table. It was just like when Thomas bent over the dining room table at Downton to light candles, and Jimmy, as much as he didn’t want to, couldn’t help imagining what Thomas would look like in the same position but without his livery. Jimmy had done such a good job not having those thoughts for so long, and here they were again, swimming in his foggy, tipsy brain while he was walking alongside the man who gave him those thoughts in the first place. He pointed out the bed and breakfast where he was staying as they passed by. Thomas shared the story of what happened with Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast, but unlike most of the others at Downton, Jimmy didn’t laugh. It sounded terrible, what had happened to her. Jimmy’s reaction made Thomas wonder in what other ways Jimmy had matured since they last spoke.
It was rare for Thomas to get a night away now that he was butler, and he didn’t want it to end, not just because he was with Jimmy, but because Jimmy brought him back to a lighter time in his life. The lightest time he’d experienced compared to the rest, at least. Cigarettes and card games after hours, jokes and snarky comments passing in the halls, silly gossip about the women in Jimmy’s life. He realized there hadn’t been any mention of women the entire evening. If Jimmy wanted to discuss it, he would, Thomas thought, and so he skipped over that particular topic.
They walked and chatted, smoked and laughed, and Thomas mentioned how much he missed their card games. Jimmy suggested Thomas come to the bed and breakfast for a little while to play one. Thomas noticed Jimmy stood a little straighter when he said it, and didn’t make eye contact. Maybe he’s just being polite asking me to come, Thomas thought. When Jimmy asked a second time, Thomas decided he could always leave if Jimmy seemed like he was ready to call it a night.
The bed and breakfast was quite large for such an establishment. The rooms downstairs were busy with people talking, drinking, and playing games themselves. Jimmy borrowed a pack of playing cards from the living room and suggested they play in his room since it was so busy. There were plenty of places to sit, but Thomas wasn’t about to turn down private time with Jimmy.
Jimmy’s room was on the top floor of the building, and was quite small. There was no table or chairs, and Jimmy thought about setting up the game on the floor, but realized that seemed silly and sat on the bed. He removed his shoes and jacket, and put the cards and an ashtray in the center of the bed. Thomas kicked off his shoes and took off his jacket as well. Jimmy played a lot of gin rummy at his current place of employment, and he offered to teach the game to Thomas. Thomas picked it up quickly, and by the second round was beating Jimmy easily.
Jimmy dropped his cards on the bed, lit a cigarette, and wondered aloud why he bothered playing with Thomas when he was always beaten so badly. Thomas chuckled, lit his own cigarette, and said it was because Jimmy liked a good spanking. Jimmy blushed at the comment, so deeply that Thomas said quickly he hadn’t meant to sound so cheeky. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached for his shoes, but Jimmy stopped him. Jimmy had come all this way, and he wasn’t about to end his night over an innocent comment, though he was relatively certain that it wasn’t meant innocently.
To show how comfortable he was with those kinds of jokes, Jimmy made one about how he could have spanked Thomas when he bent over the pool table if there hadn’t been so many other people there to witness the act. Now Thomas’s cheeks were the rosy ones, and his smile disappeared, not sure how to handle something that sounded like flirtation coming from Jimmy’s lips.
Both men apologized at the same time, then talked over each other, then laughed and went quiet. They played a few more rounds without much talking, and in the quiet Jimmy thought about what had driven Thomas to write. He took a deep breath and then asked Thomas if he was still feeling like hurting himself. Thomas took a deep breath as well, and admitted that while the feelings hadn’t gone away, he now knew what it would do to other people if he were to act on them. He thought constantly of Master George and what kind of explanation Lady Mary would have had to invent for Thomas’s sudden disappearance from the child’s life. At first, he pushed on for that reason, but with a little time, he began living for himself as well. He admitted that being Downton’s butler hadn’t been his life’s dream, but it was certainly an achievement, and he was happy to be with people who cared about him, like Miss Baxter and Master George.
Thomas looked at his pocket watch and remarked on the time. The street lights would be out soon, and it was better to walk back with some light. He bent over the bed to scoop up the cards and put them away for Jimmy. When he stood up and turned around, there was no doubt where Jimmy’s eyes had been resting. Thomas attempted to play it off, chuckling and saying that Jimmy must be a bit squiffy, tired, and a little spacey. Jimmy was spacing out a bit, but he had been imagining a world where Thomas completed his suicide after years of Jimmy’s not writing or reaching out. He was also picturing the pool game, and then their friendship at Downton, and then back to The Kiss that always caused a stabbing feeling in his stomach when he thought of it. He would always regret his behavior after The Kiss, even if things turned around later.
He realized in that moment that things hadn’t turned around for Thomas, and that’s why he felt so guilty himself. Things must have gotten worse, otherwise Thomas wouldn’t have been found bloodied in the bath by the other servants.
Jimmy asked Thomas to promise that he would call or send a telegram if he ever felt like hurting himself again, and patted Thomas’s shoulder for emphasis. Thomas straightened his spine, looked down at his feet, and agreed he would call if that were the case again. Jimmy walked him to the door and said good-bye. Thomas flashed as much of a smile he could muster, but the fire had given way to a sadness. Thomas put on his jacket, shook Jimmy’s hand, and left.
Jimmy looked down at his hand, the one that had been on Thomas’s shoulder, and wondered what it would have been like to keep his hand on Thomas. What it would have been like to let his hand travel to Thomas’s cheek. The feeling of their fingers intertwining, their lips meeting, their breath mixing, their bodies pressing together. Jimmy stepped forward until his forehead touched the door. He closed his eyes, wished for his mind to stop picturing events that would never be, or could never be, but all he could picture was touching Thomas until the sadness in Thomas’s eyes was gone and the fire burned brightly again.
He wondered if he could at least catch Thomas for one last drink. Maybe they could part on terms that felt better than following some awkward, failed flirtation. He grabbed his jacket, opened the door, and found Thomas standing behind it.
“I left my hat,” Thomas said, pointing at the bed behind Jimmy. He stayed in the hallway, not entering even though Jimmy stepped aside to let him past. Jimmy looked upset, and Thomas felt like he was intruding on something by coming back to the room.
Jimmy motioned for Thomas to come in, and shut the door behind him. Thomas stopped halfway between the door and the bed, confused why Jimmy shut the door. He was even more confused as Jimmy approached him, especially since Jimmy appeared almost pained looking up at Thomas.
Jimmy cleared and throat, and his lip twitched as he spoke. “What if I could give you what you wanted, just for one night?” he asked, his throat dry, his voice a bit distant.
Thomas chuckled bashfully. “I don’t know what that means,” he said. He knew what he hoped it meant, but was sure he just wasn’t understanding Jimmy properly.
Jimmy took three steps, enough to put him almost chest to chest with Thomas. His breathing was shallow as his eyes darted between Thomas’s, hunting for a hint of understanding so that he wouldn’t have to say it out loud. He looked down at Thomas’s lips for a quick moment before looking back up. When he met Thomas’s eyes again, the fire was there. It was unmistakably there, being fanned by Jimmy’s close proximity and ragged breathing. No more words were necessary, because Thomas could see the fire behind Jimmy’s eyes as well.
Jimmy closed his eyes and held his lips to Thomas’s cheek. He inhaled, taking in the scent of Thomas’s shaving foam. He remembered once smelling Thomas’s shaving brush when Thomas had forgotten it in the shared bathroom of the Downton dorms. Jimmy had been embarrassed by the act, and more embarrassed from then on, since every time he caught the scent of Thomas’s shaving foam it brought on a host of intrusive thoughts. The scent was definitely causing Jimmy to have many similar thoughts as he stood there with his lips nearly touching Thomas’s smooth, pale cheek.
“You don’t have to do this,” Thomas whispered.
“I know,” Jimmy whispered back before placing a delicate kiss on Thomas’s cheek.
Thomas squeezed his eyes shut and sighed.
“I want to,” Jimmy said, kissing Thomas’s jaw. “I’ve wanted to,” he whispered as he kissed Thomas’s lips.
Thomas pushed Jimmy’s shaggy blonde hair from his forehead and caressed his face, placing trembling lips against Jimmy’s. He willed desperately not to cry, but as Jimmy slid his arms under Thomas’s and around his back, tears gathered in Thomas’s lashes. He expected Jimmy to tell him not to cry, but instead, Jimmy kissed the tears that now ran down Thomas’s cheek, and then pressed his salty lips against Thomas’s. Jimmy’s kiss was harder and his breathing heavier this time as a low moan escaped his throat.
This is really happening, Thomas told himself. Don’t question it, another part of him said.
I bet he’ll be as good at this as he is at every other sport, Jimmy thought.
Jimmy had seen Thomas shirtless, briefly, a few times in the dorms as one door opened and another closed. Little moments that showed him Thomas was burlier than his livery or suits suggested. He wanted to feel Thomas’s broad shoulders without the jacket, run his fingers through the hair that traveled from Thomas’s chest, to his stomach, and beyond. He had once seen Thomas in a towel wrapped quite low on the hips. He wanted to see those hips. Needed to. He pulled off Thomas’s jacket, untucked Thomas’s shirt, pulled Thomas’s brace’s off his shoulders. He made every move without breaking the kiss. His lips pressed even harder against Thomas’s until Thomas’s tongue finally passed between them.
Thomas breathed Jimmy in as he kissed him, cradling Jimmy’s jaw in his hands as Jimmy’s hands continued relieving Thomas of his clothing. Jimmy’s tongue was sweet; a warm, honeyed flavor despite the cigarettes they had smoked. Thomas wondered a thousand times what Jimmy’s tongue tasted like, and it was more delectable than anything he had imagined. He began to feel lightheaded, lost and dizzy in the sensation of Jimmy’s kissing and busy hands. He moaned as Jimmy’s fingertips finally found the flesh beneath his shirt.
Jimmy ran his fingers up the barely-there, downy hair on Thomas’s sides, and then down the thick hair on Thomas’s chest and stomach. He brought his fingers to Thomas’s trousers and began undoing the buttons. Thomas shivered and groaned as Jimmy’s lips kissed their way to his neck, and then Jimmy’s tongue slowly worked its way from Thomas’s clavicle to his ear. Thomas’s trousers were undone, and Jimmy looked up at Thomas before going further.
“I don’t - I mean, I’ve never - I’m not sure what to do once… once these trousers are on the floor.”
Thomas gave Jimmy a warm, reassuring smile as he helped Jimmy out of his shirt. “You have one of your own, I think you’ll figure it out.”
Jimmy flexed his stomach muscles once his shirt was off, hoping Thomas wouldn’t be disappointed that his body had changed a little. On the contrary; Thomas thought Jimmy looked better than ever, and Jimmy knew it based on the response he could see through the crotch of Thomas’s trousers. He was proud he could elicit such a response from Thomas. He wanted a better look at exactly what his body was doing to Thomas under those clothes.
Both men took a step back and looked at each other shirtless. Thomas’s body was nothing like any other that had stood in front of Jimmy before, and yet, it was making him just as excited as any of those other bodies.
Before Jimmy, Thomas enjoyed the odd romp with a guest at Downton, or an old pal coming by for a visit. After Jimmy, he struggled to find pleasure with a man who didn’t make him feel inside the way he felt for Jimmy. There had been a few, but they left him feeling hollow.
Their eyes both drifted south, and Thomas stepped out of his trousers. He looked up at Jimmy as he unclipped his socks and rolled the garters from his legs. He stood again, fully exposed to the man he loved, and fully aroused.
Jimmy nodded in appreciation. “I hope I don’t disappoint compared to what you’ve been keeping in your trousers.”
With his head head down and shoulders back, Thomas walked to Jimmy like a determined cat. “Trust me, Jimmy,” he said as he dropped to his knees. “There’s nothing I’d rather lay my eyes on.” He kissed Jimmy’s stomach and began unbuttoning Jimmy’s trousers. “Or that I’d rather lay my lips on.”
Jimmy tapped his heel on the ground, eager for Thomas to pull down his trousers but anxious for everything that would unfold thereafter.
Thomas kissed Jimmy’s stomach again slowly, lightly, while looking up at Jimmy. He pulled Jimmy’s trousers and pants down to Jimmy’s cock and kissed it gently. Jimmy held Thomas’s cheek, then let his fingers grab hold of Thomas’s hair as Thomas freed him completely from his trousers. He stepped out of them, flexing his thighs as Thomas looked him over.
“Your body is incredible,” Thomas whispered as he kissed Jimmy’s thigh. He ran his hands from Jimmy’s ankles to his hips, and then poised his lips by Jimmy’s cock. “Every part of it,” Thomas breathed as he parted his lips and swallowed Jimmy from tip to base.
Jimmy gasped and gripped Thomas’s hair tighter, his eyes wide and locked on Thomas’s lips. Yes, Jimmy thought. He’s as good at this as I ever could have imagined. He worried he might be gripping too hard and held Thomas’s head in his hands instead. He thought Thomas looked beautiful on his knees, his mouth full, his cheeks hollow, and Thomas seemed to enjoy himself as much as Jimmy enjoyed what he was doing. Each time Thomas looked up at Jimmy, he felt himself get harder in Thomas’s mouth. Those eyes, Jimmy thought. Those bloody eyes.
“I want to bend you over like you were bent over that pool table,” Jimmy panted.
Thomas sat back his heels and pumped Jimmy with his hand as he spoke. “I’d prefer the first moments face to face.”
All of the times Jimmy daydreamed about Thomas, Thomas was bent over. It hadn’t even occurred to him that two men could have sex the way Thomas suggested. He let Thomas lead him to the bed, but stayed standing as Thomas laid down.
“You get between my legs just like everyone else you’ve bedded,” Thomas said with a smile.
“I told you I haven’t a clue,” Jimmy said as he climbed on top of Thomas, settling in between Thomas’s parted thighs. He kissed Thomas once more, then held his cock and moved his hips until he found the right spot. He was still slick from Thomas’s tongue, but Thomas licked his fingers and rubbed Jimmy before wrapping his arms around Jimmy’s back. Jimmy closed his eyes, his brow furrowing as he worried he might be causing Thomas pain trying to push his way inside. His fears were assuaged when he finally felt Thomas’s body give way, and in response, Thomas wrapped his legs around Jimmy and pulled him downward, pulling Jimmy’s cock inside completely.
Jimmy buried his face in Thomas’s neck and groaned as he raised and lowered his hips. Thomas moaned as his cock was massaged by their bodies coming together. Jimmy was just the right size and shape to hit Thomas in the most beautiful spot. He let Jimmy determine the pace, hoping it would allow him to last as long as possible. He wished the moment could go on forever, his body finally experiencing what his heart had desired for so long.
The tears wanted to present themselves again, but Thomas successfully fought them back. He traced the muscles in Jimmy’s back, feeling them flex beneath his fingertips. Jimmy lifted his head from Thomas’s shoulder and looked down at him, and a tear fell onto Thomas’s cheek from above. Neither man acknowledged it, they simply looked into each others eyes while moaning softly, their heartbeats and bodies in sync.
Thomas kissed Jimmy again, then held Jimmy’s hips steady and pushed until Jimmy was out of him. Jimmy’s look of concern quickly vanished when Thomas walked to the dresser on the other side of the small room, looked over his shoulder at Jimmy, and bent at the waist. Thomas rested his weight on his forearms and watched Jimmy approach in the dresser mirror. He etched the visual into his mind, the most lovely thing he thought he’d ever seen; a very hard, very eager, very happy Jimmy crossing the room to reach him.
Jimmy looked at Thomas in the mirror, and both men chuckled at their flushed faces and sweaty chests. Jimmy stood behind Thomas and stroked him from his shoulders to the small of his back. He slid his fingers over Thomas’s backside, and Thomas sighed and arched his back as he waited for Jimmy to slip inside once more. Jimmy teased Thomas with the tip of his cock, rubbing it along Thomas, pulling back when Thomas pushed toward him.
“Please, Jimmy,” Thomas panted. He moaned with relief as Jimmy slowly, carefully gave him what he craved. He gasped and licked his lips, his eyes closed and rolling back behind his eyelids.
“No one’s ever looked this excited to have me,” Jimmy said as he watched Thomas in the mirror.
“I can’t imagine anyone desiring someone as much as I desire you.”
Jimmy felt a guilty nudge from somewhere inside, wondering what if this event would end up breaking Thomas’s heart all over again. It’s a little late for that, he told himself. And look how happy Thomas is to have me. He’s never looked so happy before.
Despite every fiber of his being wanting to shout it out, Thomas refrained from saying “I love you.” He said it with his body, with every swivel of his hips against Jimmy, every lick of his lips, every moan, every whimper, but not with his words. Jimmy felt the same desire, but stayed silent, other than the raspy groans and deep moans that he couldn’t control even if he tried.
“I can’t last any longer, Thomas,” Jimmy panted. “Can I - can I finish inside you?”
Thomas looked over his shoulder at Jimmy and smiled. “Of course. Anything for you, Jimmy.”
Jimmy gripped Thomas’s waist and cried out, his moans of pleasure edging on a sob as his orgasm took control of his body. It started deep inside, but spread quickly, all the way to his toes. Unlike his typical orgasms, usually achieved playfully with a more than willing woman, Jimmy felt this one in more than just his body. The sob that wanted to escape wasn’t just pleasure. His heart got just as much joy from the experience as the rest of him.
He slid out of Thomas as soon as he regained himself and fell to his knees. He spun Thomas around, and though he was nervous he wouldn’t give Thomas a good go of it, he wrapped his fingers around Thomas, and then his lips. He figured he must be doing a fine job, since Thomas fell weak instantly and had to grab hold of the dresser behind him.
“I’ll tell you when I’m close so that I don’t finish in your mouth,” Thomas said as he petted Jimmy’s hair.
Jimmy nodded and tried to say “uh huh” with a full mouth. His busy lips and smiling eyes were finally too much. Thomas whimpered as he held Jimmy’s head in his hands, running his thumbs over Jimmy’s cheekbones.
“I'm almost there,” Thomas said, and held himself, expecting Jimmy to back away.
Instead, Jimmy pushed Thomas’s hand aside and sucked Thomas deeper into his mouth.
Thomas gasped and grabbed for the dresser again. “My god, my god, I love you,” he moaned as Jimmy brought him to climax. “I love you so much,” he repeated since the words had already escaped.
Jimmy swallowed, impressed with himself for being able to do so, and then rose to his feet with Thomas’s help. They embraced, each leaning onto the other as they came down from their shared high. Jimmy began swaying, and they danced slowly, each still adjusting to the idea of what had just taken place.
“I like dancing naked,” Thomas said. “Definitely a first for me.”
Jimmy looked up at Thomas, placed a quick kiss on his lips, and then put his head on Thomas’s shoulder. “There were a few firsts for me tonight, too.”
“A few, yes.”
“I have my own feelings for you, Thomas. You know that, don’t you?”
Thomas rested his cheek on Jimmy’s head as they continued slowly dancing. “I know, Jimmy.”
Thomas had no expectations of Jimmy after that night. He didn’t expect letters, or telephone calls, or least of all, visits. He was thankful for not setting expectations when weeks passed, and then months passed, with no word from Jimmy.
And then one day, in the second post, a letter came for Thomas. Jimmy’s employer was liquidating his assets and moving to America, unable to maintain his great home with the changing times. Jimmy wondered, since Thomas was the butler now, if he could give him a job, even if just temporarily. Time had passed, perhaps Lord Grantham would forgive the embarrassing night that sent Jimmy out the door.
Thomas knew how it would look if he used his position to get Jimmy back to Downton, but he was able to use that position to talk to the heads of other households, and got Jimmy a job just an hour from Downton.
Jimmy wrote another letter, thanking Thomas, and promised to visit now that he was only an hour away.
Maybe he will, maybe he won’t, Thomas thought, but now I know what’s in his heart, and I’ll still be happy, even if I never get to have a night like that with him again.