Richard is very excited. He is going to Downton for the weekend. It has been a very long time since he has seen Thomas, and he is looking forward to it.

Thomas hinted in his letter that he has a bit of a surprise for Richard, and Richard's mind has gone wild with fantasies of what this surprise could possibly be.

When the train arrives in the station, Thomas is waiting patiently on the platform for him, as usual.

Richard smiles. Thomas is so thoughtful. He says he was very unkind at one time, but imagining such a Thomas is quite difficult.

Richard has never arrived alone to this platform since the royal visit. Even if Thomas is very busy, he always seems to make time to come and meet Richard on the train. He works immensely hard afterward to make up the work he missed, but he never lets Richard arrive here with him on the platform.

As Richard clambers down from the train, Thomas extends him a hand as help. Richard takes hold of Thomas's hand and steps down onto the platform. They shake hands, and Thomas uses the same phrase he always does to greet Richard.

"Three words, Richard."

"Three words, Thomas." Richard replies, smiling broadly.

Thomas picks up Richard's luggage and begin carrying it out of the station to the car. If anyone ever asks questions, Thomas's excuse is that his guest is very tired after a long journey and Thomas simply felt like carrying the bags to the car. Then again, Richard only ever brings one handbag.

Thomas isn't sure if this is because Richard has never been able to visit long enough to need several bags, of which he is wistful. But Thomas feels it is more likely that Richard has a modest number of belongings overall, and simply travels light in general.

"So, Thomas. You wrote of a surprise. I haven't been able to think of anything since. Care to tell me what?" Richard asks, nearly bursting with curiosity.

"Not so fast, Richard." Thomas replies over his shoulder. "You'll see. I'm planning to let you rest today and then tomorrow we'll get into the surprise."

"Thomas….." Richard groans in mock irritation.

When they get to Downton, Thomas leads Richard to his room and sets his bags on the floor. "But the surprise isn't this, so I suppose I can give it to you now."

And with that, Thomas presses a kiss on Richard. Richard responds quickly, realizing just how much he has missed Thomas since his last visit.

And Richard is glad for Downton. Thomas came up to London once to meet Richard, but working in the palace invites a lot of gossip among servants and others. Thomas and Richard were hard-pressed to find a moment alone to spend with one another without drawing suspicion. Downton, in the Yorkshire countryside, is much more relaxed, and Richard much prefers it to London.

When they finally pull apart for need to breathe, Thomas stares at Richard intensely.

"Thomas, what are you doing?" Richard asks confusedly.

"I'm trying to decide whether the surprise was a good idea, since I realize that I've never actually asked your opinion. And you live in London, and….oh no this is a bad idea." Thomas seems to be talking himself into a hole.

"No, no, Thomas! I'm sure I'll love it once I figure out what it is, since you haven't exactly told me yet." Richard rushes to comfort Thomas.

"Okay. Then please join us for dinner, and I'll see you tomorrow." Thomas says, hurrying out of the room.

Richard wonders what this surprise could possibly be, and why it is making Thomas so upset.

X

The next day, Richard rises bright and early out of habit, climbing out of bed and getting ready quickly.

He heads down to the Servants' Hall, where Thomas is making last-minute checks before leaving for his half-day that he has set aside for a chance to share this surprise with Richard.

Thomas looks up to see Richard settling into the table and catches his eye. Richard notices that Thomas looks very wistful of kissing him, which any couple in the servants' hall could just do, but they are the unfortunate exception.

Richard acknowledges Thomas's wish with his eyes, promising him a kiss later. Thomas visibly relaxes.

"Well, that's everything!" Thomas says enthusiastically, sitting down to eat breakfast.

Following breakfast, Thomas and Richard put on their coats and hats and head out.

Thomas and Richard go for a walk in the park. They sit on a bench, and Thomas turns to face Richard for the first time since they left.

"What is it, Thomas?" Richard asks gently.

"Okay. So, Richard...I'm the Downton butler, and the family has given me a cottage."

"That's lovely, Thomas! Shall we go check it out and make sure it is ship-shape for my favorite person?" Richard wonders why Thomas was so concerned.

"Yes, but there's more. I have always wanted children, but you of all people know why I will never have any children. So, I have undertaken custody of a young girl. I'm going to collect her later; I love her so much. I realize that we are together now, though, and I forgot to ask you if you wanted children…" Thomas trails off.

Richard breathes out. "A girl, Thomas? That's lovely! I would be so happy to take care of this young girl with you! Why are you so nervous? I'm definitely not as fond of children as you, but I wouldn't mind having a daughter."

"And a tabby." Thomas adds.

"Pardon?" Richard asks, confused.

"I'm thinking of getting a tabby cat too." Thomas elaborates randomly.

"I'm not too fond of cats, but anything for you, Thomas." Richard smiles.

"Richard, you are the most amazing person ever. You know what I would do if we weren't in the park." Thomas seems so relieved.

"Yes I do. But now I have a surprise for you, too." Richard says mysteriously, deciding to tell Thomas something that he had been holding off on.

"Oh?"

"Being valet to the King is lovely and gets people out of tough places. I'm sure you remember." Richard says pointedly.

Thomas looks away, a slight blush coloring his cheeks. "I do."

"But London is a very chaotic city, and service is no longer a prestigious career." Richard continues.

Thomas waits for Richard to tell him what he means.

"My parents are elderly and in York, so it makes sense to now leave service and move closer to my parents." Richard says.

Thomas realizes what Richard might be insinuating, and he feels his excitement climb.

"Or at least, that's what I told the King. The truth is, my sweetheart lives in Yorkshire, and I want to live closer to him instead of having to travel from London every time. I want to see him every day." Richard elaborates.

"Me?" Thomas asks incredulously.

"No, Mr. Tom Branson." Richard teases. "Of course you, silly. I am going to go back to London and hand in my notice; there is a cloth shop that my uncle owned that now belongs to me, I will take up work there. Now that you have a cottage, it would be the perfect space for us to have some quality time without prying eyes."

Thomas gestures for Richard to stand, and they walk back toward Downton. Behind one of the trees, Thomas presses a kiss on Richard, and they embrace firmly.

"I love you." Thomas whispers.

"I love you too, Thomas." Richard whispers back. "Now let's go check out that cottage. It better be fit for me."

Thomas and Richard laugh as they walk down the path together, hands interlocked.


I have graduated past one-shots! This is the first part of a two-shot. I imagine this is how Richard would leave his job and come join Thomas in Yorkshire. The second part will be the view of the cottage and the adoption of their daughter and a tabby cat. Suggestions are welcome!

Please be safe. I do not own anything except the grammar or spelling mistakes. Please let me know if you find any, and I'll be happy to correct them. Reviews are appreciated!

-HamiltonAsparagus