Thomas had thought that he should at least see him off. It hurt so much that Dr. Clarkson had insisted on moving Edward to a facility more suited for rehabilitation. It bloody hurt. He’d tried to keep calm as he walked into the dormitory; he’s stifled his true inclinations many times before, so why should this be any different?
It didn’t help that he thought he heard something suspicious near Edward’s bed. Like stifled gasps punctuated by what sounded sickeningly like a blade against skin. It caught Thomas’ attention immediately. He rushed over as quietly as he could.
Thomas gaped. Even in the darkness, he could see Edward scratching his wrist, which already had a small trickle of blood.
He lunged for Edward’s arm, “What the bloody hell are you doing?!” Thomas whispered frantically as he extracted a razor blade from Edward’s hand, shaking in panic, “And where did you get this?!”
Edward was shaking with silent sobs, “I’m sorry…!” came his meek response. It was all that Thomas could do to keep himself from breaking down. Despite Edward’s hushed protests, Thomas half-dragged, half-carried him from the bed and hurried toward the door.
“Don’t ever bloody do that to me again-!” Thomas hissed as he tried to think about how to bind Edward’s wrists. As crazed as he was, he didn’t want to awaken anybody. Stumbling through the doorway, he almost collided with Nurse Sybil Crawley, who was making her rounds.
“What happened?!” Sybil gasped as she caught sight of Lieutenant Courtenay’s bloodied wrists, “Thomas, do you know-?”
“I found him trying to slash his wrists with a razor blade,” Thomas blurted as an answer. He could feel his own lower lip beginning to quiver, but he refused to break yet, “I have to bind his wrists-!”
“Shh, it’s all right, Thomas. This way, come-!” she gently chided him as she led Thomas to a supply cart. Grabbing a roll of gauze and hurriedly cutting a length while Thomas urged Edward into a chair and gently dabbed antiseptic onto his wounds, Sybil aided her footman in bandaging their patient’s wounds.
“Edward, whatever you were thinking in there, please don’t do this again,” Thomas found himself blurting as he and Sybil spoke soothingly to him.
He turned to face Lady Sybil, who wore a surprised but sympathetic expression, “Thomas, you’re crying…”
He was dumbfounded. His fingers touched tear-tracks on his cheeks. He hadn’t even noticed them.
“M’Lady, I’m sorry, I-!”
Sybil squeezed his hand, “It’s all right, Thomas. There’s nothing to apologize for. Sit with him for now.”
Thomas gazed at Edward, whose face was red and tear-stained but seemed calmer, “But doesn’t he need stitches for this-?”
Sybil shook her head, “They look shallow enough that he doesn’t need them, but Lt. Courtenay needs somebody to watch him.”
“I’ll do it,” Thomas offered hopefully, “I don’t mind.”
Sybil smiled as she nodded in agreement, “I’ll return if anything changes. Goodnight for now.”
“Thank you so much, M’Lady~!” Thomas gasped appreciatively.
“Thomas…!” Edward’s feeble voice drew his attention immediately.
“Edward, why did you do this?” Although Edward could not see, he could feel the pain resonating from Thomas’s voice. It was too much for Edward.
“Thomas, please come here,” he squeaked before collapsing against Thomas’s shoulder, “I’m so sorry for all of this…!”
Thomas instinctively squeezed Edward as his lithe frame shook with sobs, “I couldn’t let them send me away from you, Thomas… I can’t bear to leave you…!”
Thomas felt his lip trembling again as he held Edward, but a question nagged at his mind, “Then why did you try to kill yourself?”
Edward sobbed sharply at the question, “I don’t know how I’d find you if they’d send me away from you~! I can’t farm like I used to now that I’m blind, and it makes it all the more difficult that I can’t see you and I don’t know how I’d ever find you now… cutting myself distracts me-! I’m scared of this new life… scared to lose you… I’m just so scared… oh, Thomas I love you…!”
Thomas instantly lost any instinct to berate or chastise. Running his hand through Edward’s thick chestnut curls, he melted into the embrace as he felt warm wetness course down his cheeks. He’d never felt so relieved.
“I’ve waited to hear you say those words, Edward…! It’s so trite, but I knew that I loved you when I first met you…!
“This is what you meant when you said that you were different…?” Edward’s voice was brittle.
Thomas answered him with a gentle kiss to his lips, and Edward reflexively pulled him in for a more eager kiss, pressing their bodies together. They were overjoyed, although they remembered that they were not in a very private place.
Thomas gaped in amusement after their lips parted. His wandering eyes had seen that Edward had come in his bedclothes, “What’s this, then?” he gently teased as he tugged the waistband of the wet fabric. Edward blushed, which prompted Thomas to kiss him reassuringly on the cheek.
“But Doctor Clarkson…” Edward’s face fell, remembering the transfer, “We’ve found each other, but we’re about to be separated…!”
Thomas pulled him close, feeling new tears warm his neck.
“I’m here, darling. I don’t care what it takes now, I’m not going to lose you~!”
Edward gasped against Thomas’ neck, “But how will we do this~?”
Thomas raised Edward’s reddened face, kissing his eyelids, kissing away the tears that streaked his face, “I don’t know, love, but somehow we shall do this.”
“I beg your pardon, gentlemen,” Sybil’s tone was gentle, but it caught their attention like nothing else.
“M’Lady-!” Thomas gasped. Edward was petrified. “How much did you hear?” Thomas stammered, trying to avoid awakening anybody.
“I heard your declarations of love and everything after,” Sybil replied, although she was not unkind. Thomas was perplexed.
“It’s all right, Thomas,” Sybil spoke in a low, soothing voice, “I’m not about to tell anybody about this. It’s your own business, and I apologize for eavesdropping.”
“Eavesdropping?” Thomas was even more bemused.
“I remembered that I’d forgotten my scissors and I was returning to the cart when I heard your conversation. I didn’t want to surprise you in the midst of it, but I see that I have anyway. I’m sorry that I frightened you-!”
Thomas and Edward were awestruck. “You’re not respulsed by this, M’Lady…?”
Sybil sympathetically took Thomas’ good hand, “It’s your life, Thomas. If Lieutenant Courtenay makes you happy, then why should I judge either of you?”
“Truly?” Edward broke his silence.
“Of course, Edward,” Sybil squeezed his shoulder, “You cannot simply slip out of your skins and into different ones. I suppose that I have experienced something similar, myself.”
“You have?” Thomas could not be more wide-eyed, “Forgive me, M’Lady, I don’t wish to pry-!”
Sybil smiled and shook her head, “There’s nothing to forgive. Mr. Branson has made romantic overtures to me and, frankly, I am beginning to think that the feeling is mutual.”
Thomas gaped, “He’s told you of this?”
Sybil nodded, “He has made it plain to me that he’s serious. I don’t know yet whether I totally return the interest and I wish to be sensible about this, but he is a good man.”
Thomas was dumbstruck. Very few people had ever been kind to him, and Lady Sybil had long been one of them. But he’d been terrified that she, too, would turn against him if she ever learned his shameful secret. Now that he had witnessed for himself the true extent of her compassion and the beauty of her soul, he felt himself trembling in relief, fresh tears gathering in his eyes.
“Thomas? What’s wrong, you’re trembling?” Edward said meekly.
“Not many people have been kind to me in my life…” Thomas’ voice came out in a weak stammer, “You’ve always been so kind to me, M’Lady, but I thought that even you’d be horrified by my true nature… I can’t quite believe this is real…!”
Sybil reassuringly squeezed his shoulder, “Everybody has something, Thomas. It’s not my place to judge, especially not if this is your nature.”
Before he could stop himself, Thomas pulled her into an embrace, “M’Lady, Sybil- you’re an angel~!”
Sybil returned the embrace, blushing at the complement, “That’s debateable, Thomas, but I am so honoured thto know how much that it means to you-!”
Edward joined the embrace, “The world won’t be easy out there, but somehow I feel like both of you have made the journey ahead that much more bearable.”
Sybil gently broke from the huddle, “I’d best be off, gentlemen, but I cannot begin to say how relieved that I am that you’re safe and how happy that I am that you’ve found each other.”
“But what about Doctor Clarkson?” A cloud passed over Edward’s previously happy expression, “What will he say when he discovers what I’ve done to myself?”
“We’ll work that out, Edward,” Sybil soothed, “Both of you should get some rest. You deserve at least one night together… and many more, I hope.” She added with a wry smile.
Thomas and Edward blushed, smiling, “Whatever happens with Mr. Branson, I hope that everything works out for the best,” Edward encouraged.
“Yes,” Thomas remarked, “I hope that Tom Branson understands just how lucky he is to have found the favour of such an angelic woman.”
Smiling broadly, Sybil quietly padded out of the room, leaving the new couple to their devices.
“What happens now, Thomas?” Edward’s sightless blue eyes gazed toward Thomas.
Thomas ran a hand through Edward’s chestnut curls, kissing him chastely, “I don’t know, love,” both of them shivered as they heard the new pet name, “But I’m not giving up on you. If there is a God in Heaven, there must be a reason that we’ve found each other.”
“Thomas, darling…!” Edward gasped, both of them trembling in nervous delight at their newfound pet names, and Edward winced as he stroked Thomas’ cheek and felt the warm tracks of tears, “Oh, darling, I’m so sorry…!”
“Come to bed, let me hold you, Edward. Let’s just be together tonight.”
Thomas gingerly led Edward back to his bed, where they desperately embraced.
“I’m so sorry that I frightened you, darling,” Edward whispered into Thomas’ collar.
“Shhh…” Thomas soothed as they cuddled, “It scared me like I’ve not been scared in a long time…I’ve had my heart broken more than should ever be allowed, and this… I was terrified that I’d find myself alone again after thinking that I’ve found happiness…!”
Thomas found himself holding back sobs. He couldn’t help it.
Edward left the embrace and gently groped for Thomas’ face, kissing his new lover’s tears as he wrapped himself around Thomas once more, “Oh darling, my darling… shhh, it’s all right.”
“Please, just hold me..!” Thomas buried his face against Edward’s neck as he held Edward, hardly daring to believe that, for once, somebody was actually considering his feelings.
Edward gently ran his hands through Thomas's raven hair, savouring how silken it felt, savouring Thomas' scent as the sweetest fragrance that he had smelled in a long time, one that roused him and comforted him at the same time.
They held each other for the rest of the night, neither of them tired after everything that had transpired. Neither man knew what the morning would bring or how they would remain in contact, but their newfound romance seemed to revitalize their resolve and determination. If it meant leaving Downton Abbey, and Sybil’s kindness, to remain with Edward, Thomas was ready. Edward somehow felt like he could bring Thomas with him anyplace, even home with him to be a “valet”. Let everybody gossip, he didn’t care anymore. Neither of them cared anymore. If it meant that they could be together, they were prepared to make any sacrifice.