O Perfect Love (Downton Abbey fanfic)

I will post my review of Downton Season 4 in a while, but until then I thought I’d write some fan fiction about Thomas. SEASON 3 SPOILER WARNING (well, a minor one). I got “The Chronicles of Downton Abbey” for Christmas, a fabulous book with lots of photos and even more background information. In it, I came across the hymns that were sung at Lady Mary’s wedding – the first being “O perfect love”. It made me wonder how Thomas would feel about those words. Enjoy! (By the way, I haven’t watched the 2013 Christmas special yet, so any deviation from the canon is entirely my fault).

O Perfect Love (Downton Abbey fanfic)

O perfect love, all human thought transcending,

Of course Lady Mary was beautiful. She always was. No matter which dress she chose, she always shone brighter than any other woman in the room. Thomas knew that secretly, everyone was jealous of her. And now she got to marry the equally handsome heir. Yes, it was a perfect love.

Thomas’ life paled in comparison. When was the last time someone told him he was beautiful? Had it really been that lousy cheater of a duke? Thomas bit his lip. As much as he hated to admit it, when loneliness hit him hard in the middle of the night, it was still that London summer his thoughts returned to. The shy smile. The knowing looks. The one night they spent together. The many letters they exchanged.

But that was all gone now. And what was he left with? A respected job in the middle of nowhere. His parents would have been proud.

The truth was, every sundown reminded him that he was running out of time. The trenches had been the first place where he had realized it. Covered in mud and blood, and too often soaked in rain, it had dawned to him that if he’d die now, he would die alone. And nobody would mourn for him. Not even O’Brien, despite the letters he sent her every now and then. The other soldiers would show him the photographs of their brides and brides-to-be and every single time it felt like a punch in the gut – knowing that he had no one, and that it was more than likely that he would never have one.

Back at Downton, he saw it again, the affection, the tenderness, the unconditional love, made even stronger by the knowledge that they had survived. And once again, he was deprived of it. He didn’t know how much he craved this intimacy until the young blind Lieutenant Courtenay had patted his leg. It wasn’t meant to be affectionate, but for Thomas this touch meant the world and everything else. In another time, another place, he would have kissed Courtenay right there on the spot, or at least held his hand. Alas, all those idle dreams were drowned in the pool of blood beneath Courtenay’s bed.

Perfect love – such a thing didn’t exist in his world. Maybe in Lady Mary’s, but he wasn’t too sure about that.

Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,

Would praying change anything, Thomas wondered. If he would pray to God every night to send him someone to love him, would God actually do that? Thomas had given up on praying a long time ago, sometime between the deaths of his parents and the first time he fell in love with another man.

He had been second footman by then, working in a house that was much smaller than Downton, but with a countess who liked to pretend otherwise. She had been particularly proud of her gardens, and the gardening staff were practically around every day. John had been one of the younger gardeners, usually running around and helping wherever he was needed with tearing out weed and trimming hedges.

Thomas didn’t remember what exactly he had liked about John. Maybe that blond hair? The youthful grin? His deep green eyes? Or was it just the sight of him drowning a large glass of water after having worked for hours under the burning August sun?

When John had suggested Thomas join him and some friends in the pub that evening, his heart had skipped a beat. He hadn’t hesitated a moment to ask Hampton the butler to give him the evening off. He didn’t remember what they talked about that night. He must have spent a fortune on all the pints, but it didn’t matter when he could sit right there next to John. And John didn’t mind. Or so Thomas thought when his fingers accidentally brushed over John’s hand.

He was excited by walking back to the estate with John, alone in the middle of the night. Never mind that he would have to get up again in a few hours if he could just spend those hours together with John. When the house finally came into sight, John had stopped and said something about wanting to run away from this place. That was the first time Thomas had misinterpreted the signs. He leaned over and kissed John. That was the first time he was met with that look of shock and utter disgust.

That night, he decided to keep his feelings to himself in the future. He wanted to be strong on his own. He didn’t need anyone. Especially not God.

That theirs may be the love which knows no ending

Of course love knows an ending. Everything does. The Duke of Crowborough had only been the last in a long line of utter disappointments. Well, maybe not that long.

Everyone in this church was happy for Lady Mary and Mr Matthew. And Thomas wanted to be too, if only not be frowned upon by his lordship. But as much as he tried, he couldn’t make himself to. Why were they allowed to hold hands and exchange kisses in public? Why was the threat of being thrown into jail constantly hanging above his head but not above theirs?

Apart from Lady Edith, he was probably the only unhappy person at this wedding. And Lady Edith was very likely to walk down the aisle herself in the near future.

Of course Thomas wasn’t dreaming about getting married. If he wanted to replace Carson once the old man retired – and that couldn’t be very far in the future – he had to stay alone. If Carson could manage well on his own, so could he. And who had ever heard of a married butler?

But maybe a kiss here and there? Surely nobody expected a butler to live the life of a monk. Thomas didn’t want to think about it too much, but even Carson had to have his needs. And London was the perfect place to find the fulfillment one craved for the rest of the year. At Downton, it was always distinguished gentlemen who smiled and pretended to care until they had to leave two days later. But in London, there were so many more choices, so many more places to discover.

Of course you didn’t find love there, but Thomas could live with that. It was a feeble illusion of affection, but usually one that lasted for at least a few weeks.

Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

One couple, one love, one unit, one eternity. Another feeble illusion. Sometimes, when it was really dark and really cold, Thomas was grateful that he would eventually have to die and not have to feel the pain anymore. Wouldn’t have to search anymore, wouldn’t have to interpret every gesture, every smile, every look, every word anymore. It would just stop.

Lady Mary and Mr Matthew would be buried next to each other, many years from now. Their children and grandchildren would stand at their grave shedding many tears and Thomas would stand next to them and hold the umbrella because it was already settled that it would rain on that day. Or maybe he would already be dead by then, buried somewhere in the shadows where nobody would ever care to visit, right next to the meanest bully in town.

He would go straight to hell where the devil would delight in tormenting his wounded hand for the rest of eternity. He would if Thomas would believe in hell. Or heaven, for that matter. He was quite sure that it was all a big lie, but he kept that to himself. He had heard Mrs. Patmore trying to soothe Daisy, telling her that William had gone to heaven and that they would meet again there. He had resisted the urge to make a snarky remark at that.

When his parents had died, he had been told that he would meet them again in heaven and that they would watch out over him while they were waiting. Thomas was glad it was just a fairytale. He didn’t want anyone to witness the thousands of wrong decisions he kept making every day. No matter how many times he told himself to carefully consider every option, he never did it.

Even if that perfect love existed, Thomas was sure that he would miss it.


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