WordPlay #8: “Spark”

Hi there! Did you miss me? You’d think I’d miss posting every day, but in fact I got used to it pretty (too?) quickly.

Anyway, as promised here is another WordPlay, which is also a piece of fan fiction. So yeah, you can blame Nika Harper for re-igniting my passion for writing fan fics… Her prompts were “inner demons” and “a failed delivery”. First posted on the Geek & Sundry forums, made a few adjustments for this blog version.

Oh yeah, and this is actually a crossover fic: Thomas from Downton Abbey meets Captain Jack Harkness. Because I couldn’t decide which series I should pick 😉 Set between series three and four of Downton Abbey, so beware of SPOILERS. (no particular spoilers for Torchwood or Doctor Who)

Spark

December 1921. The gray mist around Downton Abbey seemed to embody the grief that was enveloping the house and its residents. They hadn’t received many visitors since the tragic events of September, underbutler Thomas Barrow thought as he went to see who had rung the bell of the main door.

As he opened it, his heart skipped a beat. Standing outside was a tall, handsome man in a long dark coat. He smiled brightly at the sight of Thomas.

“Captain Jack Harkness. I’m looking for—” He took a piece of paper from his coat and read the name from it, “Mr. Thomas Barrow.”

Thomas couldn’t help but smile as the captain’s American accent wrapped itself around his name. “That would be me.”

“Excellent! Do you remember Edwyn Fforde? He served with you in the Medical Corps.”

“I do. Why?”

“Mr. Fforde has sent you a small package with something that didn’t belong to him. I’m here to get it back.”

“A package? I’m sorry, Captain Harkness, but I haven’t heard from Edwyn in years. Are you sure he sent it to me?”

The captain didn’t seem to like Thomas’ answer. “Can I use your phone? I’ll pay.”

Thomas knew that Mr. Carson wouldn’t want a stranger to use Downton’s precious phone. But how could you resist the wink of this handsome foreigner? Thomas silently cursed himself for always being so receptive to the charms of good-looking men.

“The Torchwood Institute Cardiff, please. … Yes, this is Jack. The package hasn’t arrived here. Is it possible we’re already too late? … You better check that again, I don’t wanna run into trouble with only one single gun. … All right. I’ll call you as soon as I have more information.”

Thomas frowned at this peculiar conversation. “Are we in danger?”

“No, don’t worry. Just a joke I like to tell.” The captain winked again, but it wasn’t as carefree as before.

“The mail can take quite a while to arrive in Downton – especially from Cardiff. Maybe you could… stay for a few days and see whether it arrives?” Thomas cursed himself immediately after the question had left his mouth. What was he thinking? Once again, wishful thinking was about to get him into trouble. Like it had with Jimmy, not too long ago.

Oddly enough, the captain didn’t seem at all appalled. He raised his left eyebrow and smiled. “Any recommendations?”

Thomas brushed away his unhappy memories. “The Grantham Arms in the village is quite nice. Not too expensive.”

The captain once again smiled brightly. “Well Mr. Barrow, if you should hear any news from Mr. Fforde, you can come visit me at the Grantham Arms.”

Before leaving Downton, the captain shook Thomas’ hand. The shake was firm, but warm. Thomas loved that the American ignored the unwritten rule to never shake a butler’s hand, and hated that he had to let him go. And had Carson not scolded him, he might have continued standing in the open door until the evening.

***

Of course, Thomas wanted to pay a visit to the captain. Make sure they treated him nicely at the Grantham Arms. Just a nice chat, maybe a beer, nothing too private. What would he say to him? “Good evening, Captain Harkness. I thought I might join you for dinner?” And the American would answer “Sure, why don’t you sit down?” And they would talk about that institute the captain was working for. And then…

Well, there was what Thomas wanted to happen, but of course that wouldn’t happen even if the sun would suddenly stop shining. The captain was just a nice man, and the flirting Thomas wanted to see had just been in his head. He had misread the signs with Jimmy and he was misreading them again. That’s what happens when you live in the countryside for too long.

But he still wanted to see the captain. The laughter at Downton seemed to have died with Mr. Matthew and Thomas craved for some relaxed chatter with someone who understood him. O’Brien’s mind was very absent these days and relaxed chatter wasn’t her kind of thing anyway.

Thomas thought about asking Carson whether he could get the evening off, go see a movie. Or whether he could go to the village, send a telegram. God, there were so many pretend-reasons for leaving Downton and on a normal day he wouldn’t have hesitated a single second to voice them – but at the thought of Captain Harkness, he lost all of his usual courage. And the very same thought kept him awake at night in his bed. Three days passed like this.

***

It was almost midnight. Everyone had gone to bed except Thomas who was sitting on a bench in the yard, freezing and smoking a cigarette. He was indulging in his misery when suddenly he saw a shadow. A shadow that became Captain Jack Harkness.

“I thought you’d come visit me.” It didn’t sound reproachful and Thomas wanted to believe that there was even a hint of sadness in the sentence.

“I… had to work.”

The captain sat down next to Thomas who once again noticed the peculiar smell that was accompanying the American.

“I came to say goodbye.” Thomas’ heart seemed to stop in that instance. Of course it was better for him if the captain left, but like all humans, he didn’t always want what was best for him. The captain seemed to be equally sad. “We found the package. Some post officer misread ‘Downton’ as ‘Downtown’, can you believe it? Anyway, I’ve been ordered to Manchester, so…”

“Can’t you at least wait until the morning?” Thomas’ heart had taken over control from his brain. He didn’t want the captain to go. Not so soon.

“Unfortunately not. It’s a dangerous package and I need to find it before something bad happens.”

Thomas started a last, desperate attempt. One that had failed before. “I could come with you. Be your valet. I’ve been working as Lord Grantham’s valet fo–”

“I’m sorry, but that’s impossible. Your place is here – where you’re safe.”

“Safe and alone. Everyone says times are changing, but they’re only changing for everyone else. I’ll be alone forever.” Thomas didn’t even try to stop the tear from running down his cheek. And then he felt the captain’s arm around him. Looked into those bright blue eyes. “At least tell me you were flirting with me or I’ll lose confidence in my own five senses.”

“I have a better idea.”

The captain leaned forward and kissed Thomas. It was a warm and gentle kiss, one that sent a shiver down Thomas’ spine. He couldn’t remember when he had felt so good for the last time. But alas, even this moment of bliss couldn’t last forever.

Thomas felt how Jack tucked something under his waistcoat.

“Write to me Thomas. Whenever you feel like it.” Jack kissed Thomas’ forehead and then got up.

As he left for the gate, Thomas finally dared to ask one final question. “What does the ‘Torchwood Institute’ do?”

Jack turned around. “Protect the future. Hopefully.” He winked one final time and then he was gone.

***

When Thomas awoke the next morning, he wasn’t sure whether that kiss with Jack had really happened, until he found a folded piece of paper, emblazoned with the red letter “T”.

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