Matthew Crawley was running late. He sprinted through the busy atrium, darting between crowds of people arriving for the weekend. Over the buzzing of the arrivals, the welcome screen greeted them with the announcement:
“Welcome to Downton Abbey, a world of Edwardian elegance and style and a triumph of Artificial Intelligence, where you can live the life of the English nobility. Our AI Servants will attend to your needs, leaving you free to enjoy our 5’000 acre estate.”
A montage flashed across the screen, accompanied by soft piano and violin music, images of opulent rooms and ornate gardens, of regal guests and smartly-dressed Servants. Matthew paused for a moment, to watch with pride as the world he had created was brought vividly to life. On the screen, he saw Mr Carson barking orders at the assembled Servants, Mrs Hughes doing her rounds with her keys and then he saw him. Thomas…
The clock chimed 9am and jolted Matthew out of his revery.
“Oh shit!” He ran towards his office and, by some miracle, he arrived only five minutes late.
“Had a late one, have we?” Dr Clarkson’s amused voice greeted Matthew as he reached his desk. Matthew muttered an embarrassed ‘good morning.’ They had shared an office for the past three years, mainly for practical reasons, Matthew designed the Servants and Dr Clarkson engineered their construction.
“I’ve wiped the Servants’ memories from last night,” Dr Clarkson continued, “although I’ve left some of Anna, Jane and Thomas’ memories as they had company.”
Matthew stilled, his mouth had gone dry. He cleared his throat.
“Did it… Did it run smoothly?”
“There were no problems. All ready for a new day.”
*** *** ***
Thomas carried a tray to the breakfast table, bending down slightly to serve the guests. As he reached Philip, he smiled at the leer Philip gave him. Wordlessly, he bent down and offered him the tray. Philip leaned in close and whispered.
“I’m surprised you can still walk after last night.” He glanced around the table at the other guests, none of them seemed to have heard, so he continued, “meet me in my room after breakfast.” He gave Thomas’ bottom a quick pat, before turning to his neighbour and engaging them in conversation.
Thomas glanced over at Mr Carson, who had, thankfully, not not caught the exchange between him and Philip, and carried on serving breakfast. Only when the guests left did he steal another glance at Philip, who winked at Thomas as he passed by.
After his visit to Philip’s room, Thomas left for the Servants’ Hall, stopping outside to check his appearance. O’Brien eyed him suspiciously as he entered.
“Ah, Mr Barrow, decided to grace us with your presence, I see.” Mr Carson growled as Thomas took his place at the table.
“There’s still some breakfast if you want it.” Mrs Hughes said more gently, with a smile.
“Mr Foyle, Mr Blake and Mr Crowborough will be leaving shortly to go riding with Miss Lane Fox, Miss Allsopp and Miss Acland, see to it that they have everything they need.” With that, Mr Carson stood up and left the room, dismissing the Servants. Anna went upstairs to attend to Miss Mabel Lane Fox, Bates to Mr Anthony Foyle, Gwen and Jane left to clean the upstairs rooms, Mrs Patmore, Daisy and Ivy went back to the kitchens with Alfred and Mrs Hughes left to check the wine store, leaving Thomas and O’Brien at the table.
“What were all that about?” O’Brien didn’t look up from her sewing.
“Philip… Mr Crowborough needed assistance with his wardrobe.”
“That all he needed ‘assistance’ with?” O’Brien’s gaze met Thomas’ and he smirked.
“Well, you know what they say, if you want to get a *head*…”
O’Brien’s eyes widened for a moment, but she regained her composure before Mr Carson re-entered the Servants’ Hall. He glowered at the pair of them and they took this as their cue to return to work.
*** *** ***
Matthew watched the screens as the stag and hen party rode out into the bright, sunny morning, his knuckles clenched white on the desk. Seeing that smarmy git with his hands all over Thomas made his blood boil. He barely noticed Dr Clarkson coming back into the office, carrying a binder.
“Cheer up, it might never happen.” He quipped.
Matthew scowled into his coffee. Dr Clarkson opened the binder.
“We have check-ups to do on a few of the Servants this evening.” He checked the list.”Sarah O’Brien and Thomas Barrow are both due to be updated. Matthew perked up a bit at the mention of Thomas’ name. Dr Clarkson gave Matthew and amused smile. “I know he’s your special favourite.” Matthew his his face behind his laptop.
Thomas had been the first character he had created on the Downton Abbey staff. Thomas was Matthew’s ideal man, tall, dark and handsome, with silvery grey eyes and pale, almost translucent skin. He was fond of all of his creations, but Thomas was his favourite.
Dr Clarkson sat down next to him and they watched the screens. So far, slimy guests aside, everything was going well.
*** *** ***
“Daisy! Get that gravy on before I grow old and die!” Mrs Patmore’s voice carried loudly across the small Kitchen. Daisy scurried towards the stove, glaring at Ivy, who was standing in the doorway, flirting with Alfred. “And Ivy, if it’s not inconvenient, the vegetables are almost done!” Ivy jumped and busied herself with the vegetables. Daisy smugly retuned to the gravy.
The other Servants milled around the Servants’ Hall. Anna and Bates held hands on the table.
“Miss Mabel is so looking forward to the wedding.” Anna stroked her husbands’ hand with her thumb, smiling wistfully.
“Love’s young dream.” Bates beamed at his wife, his eyes crinkling. “Mr Foyle is already planning to remodel one of his rooms into a nursery.” Anna’s smile faltered, Bates squeezed her hand, “and soon, so will we.” Anna squeezed back, with a hopeful smile.
The bell for Bedroom Number 2 rang.
“That will be Miss Mabel.” Anna got up to answer it. Mr Carson entered the Servants’ Hall, carrying a bottle of wine as the bell for Bedroom Number 5 rang. Thomas sprang out of his chair, Mr Carson frowned, surprised by his enthusiasm.
“That will be Mr Crowborough.” Thomas shared a look with O’Brien as he passed her, her face impassive, but her gaze calculating.
Thomas knocked on Philip’s door, his heart racing, without missing a beat, Philip’s drawling voice answered for him to come in. Thomas had barely crossed the threshold when he felt Philip’s arms around him. He closed the door awkwardly, his lover’s lips tracing his jawline, fingers unbuttoning his livery. Philip’s voice growled into his ear.
“What are you playing at, Thomas? Are you trying to drive me mad?” He pressed their bodies together his excitement already obvious. He dragged Thomas towards the bed and they fell onto it, Philip’s tongue delved into Thomas’ mouth, Thomas ardently reciprocated.
*** *** ***
Matthew glared daggers at the monitor. All of the rooms had CCTV installed, strictly for security and monitoring purposes, of course. The guests were informed, it was there to ensure the safety of both the guests and the Servants, but it wasn’t Downton Abbey’s fault if the guests didn’t read that far into the small print. Matthew mostly ignored it, but he was always compelled to follow Thomas when he moved around the house. He switched it off in disgust, his stomach churning.
There was a knock at the door and without waiting for an answer, his mother burst in.
“Only me.” She smiled brightly. “I got here about 20 minutes ago, the others should be arriving tomorrow morning, I’ve just been speaking to Dr Clarkson, I’m so pleased he’s looking after you…”
“Hello, Mother.” Matthew murmured, still gazing into the distance.