"The family will be visiting Scotland. The staff has the week off." Thomas announces to the mostly empty London servants' hall.
Only Miss Baxter, Andy, Daisy, Mrs Patmore, Mrs Carson, Mr Mason, and a handful of hallboys and housemaids are left. Mr Carson has come as well, but only to be with Mrs Carson, not to be the butler (to Thomas's relief). It is slightly disheartening that Thomas has taken over a sinking ship as opposed to the one Mr Carson took over from the previous butler.
Nonetheless, Thomas knows that some servants prefer group holidays, as he does, and notes one particular holiday that went down well with the staff under Mr Carson.
"The staff will have a group outing to the beach. But if any of you have other plans, by all means, go out and enjoy London!" He concludes.
That is something that was not allowed by Mr Carson. Thomas is elated to be in London and looking forward to spending time with Richard, being so close. However, as butler, he is expected to lead the group outing. As is his way, Thomas has managed to combine the two occasions. Richard is coming to join the group on the beach and spend time with Thomas, and has planned his half-day accordingly.
The staff has noticed a pronounced change in the butler since the royal visit, and they think it might have something to do with a certain royal valet who has visited a few times since then and spent considerable time with Mr Barrow.
Miss Baxter smiles at Mr Barrow's generosity with holidays. He has much improved in Richard's company. She likes seeing him happy, and has made it a point to check on him since the last time, when her neglect almost cost him his life.
"Mr Barrow, if you would like to spend your holiday with Mr Ellis, I know he lives in London, I will be happy to take over the group outing." She offers generously, allowing him to stay with Richard, not knowing that Richard will be joining them.
"No need. But thank you, Miss Baxter." Thomas says, still smiling.
Miss Baxter takes this as a good sign, since there is no hint of sadness in Mr Barrow's actions at all. Perhaps Mr Barrow and Mr Ellis have made some arrangement of which she is unaware. No matter, as long as Mr Barrow is happy, all is well.
When the week of the outing arrives, Thomas makes an announcement that makes some of the staff members blush.
"I know most of you were trained to be polite and posh, but we are going to a beach, so I would suggest that you all bring your swimsuits. there are only a few of us, after all."
Miss Baxter comes over to Thomas. "Mr Barrow, are you certain about this? It is rather improper. And I do not own a swimsuit like I have seen modern women wearing."
Mr Barrow smiles in a secretive sort of way as he whispers,"No matter, Miss Baxter. You are more than welcome to take part of your time off to find a swimsuit, as we will be leaving on the second day of our holidays. You do not have to wear one, but I'm sure Mr Molesley is excited to see those curves."
He grins and laughs quietly as Miss Baxter blushes and gently slaps his arm in mock frustration.
Thomas continues smiling as Miss Baxter walks away, thinking of how he owns a modern swimsuit and how his love will like to see him like that as well, though there will certainly not be any curves.
On the day of the outing, Thomas gathers the staff together and they head off to the beach. Before long, they have arrived at the same time as a bus pulls up beside the beach as well.
As Thomas counts to make sure that all the members who were coming have arrived, which means Daisy, Andy, Miss Baxter, Mrs Patmore, Mr Mason, and a few hall boys and housemaids are present.
Andy turns to the people departing from the bus as one person in particular approaches the Downton crowd.
"Mr Ellis! What a surprise! We did not expect you here!" Andy exclaims, although this is not entirely true.
Richard casts a knowing look toward Thomas, who smiles in return.
"Mr Barrow wrote to me and told me that you lot would be here today, so I figured I would spend my half-day with you all, if you don't mind my presence." Richard replies to Andy.
Miss Baxter smiles to herself. Of course Thomas wrote to him. Nothing less can be expected of Thomas Barrow.
"Well, now you are here, Mr Ellis. You might as well spend some time with us." Thomas hurries to suggest.
"Right you are, Mr Barrow. Now, let's get to the beach!" Richard says enthusiastically as the rest of the staff smile to themselves.
When they get to the beach, Thomas instructs each member the group to go and change into his or her swimsuit, provided that he or she has brought one.
To Thomas's slight amusement, Miss Baxter has purchased a swimsuit. To his dismay, so has Mr Molesley.
Deciding to ignore them, Thomas changes quickly into his swim trousers and emerges onto the beach, where he feels considerably less ridiculous than he did while buying the trousers, since everyone here is dressed in a similar fashion.
A few moments later, Richard emerges as well, wearing swim trousers and smiling broadly. All of his perfectly toned muscles are visible in his back and shoulders, and he is quite a sight.
A shock seems to go through the beach as several of the ladies and Thomas, loathe as he is to admit it, swoon slightly.
Thomas's knees weaken and he almost collapses onto the sand before he regains control of his body.
Only one thought makes its way though the momentary haze. Oh goodness, Richard is so sexy and handsome.
Although Thomas has seen Richard with even less clothing on, there is a significance to his current state of dress that makes his look absolutely stunning and handsome.
Thomas almost wants to push Richard back into the changing rooms. But he remembers that he must set an example for the rest of staff and of course be circumspect, as Richard has reminded him countless times. Instead, Thomas chooses to walk over and clap Richard on the back in order to prompt Richard into walking toward the ocean with Thomas.
Richard leaves the changing rooms after looking briefly at Mr Molesley in his swim trousers. He is evidently trying to impress Miss Baxter, but Richard wonders how much the trousers further his intentions.
Shaking his head, Richard walks out onto the sand, feeling less embarrassed about his clothing by the second.
He looks around for Thomas, excited to see how the trousers look on him. His eyes finally land on Thomas walking toward him on the sand.
He feels a pleasant shiver go through his body. Thomas looks so handsome, with those toned muscles, pale skin, and perfectly cut trousers.
Thomas evidently feels the same, and Richard has to take care to adjust his facial features to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.
Richard smiles as Thomas comes over and claps him gently on the back, pulling him toward the ocean.
When they are far enough to be out of earshot from everyone else, Thomas leans to the side to whisper in Richard's ear. "You are so handsome. I didn't think it was possible for you to become even more attractive, but apparently you have that secret skill."
Richard smiles mischievously. "I have many more secret skills, Mr Barrow. Do you wish to learn them?"
"Absolutely." Thomas replies enthusiastically.
"Then I will be happy to teach you. But not here. Maybe later? Using my skills as a valet?" Richard teases Thomas.
"Certainly." Thomas grins at Richard before the two of them rejoin the group from Downton, which is already frolicking around in the water.
Thomas's eyes are drawn momentarily to Miss Baxter and then to Mr Molesley, who is watching her with a flushed face.
Thomas smiles and laughs quietly before pointing them out to Richard. Richard has much of the same reaction, which is a comfort to Thomas.
Throughout the day, Thomas wishes several times that he owned a camera with which to take pictures of Richard in his swim trousers. But alas, he does not, so he must take as many mental pictures as possible.
Before they know it, the day is at its close, and Thomas invites Richard back to the London house. Richard readily accepts, although requiring that they set an alarm for Richard to return to the palace on time without being caught. Circumspection is everything.
As Thomas and Richard lie next to one another almost asleep after setting the alarm as promised, Thomas whispers to Richard, who he assumes is asleep already. "You looked amazing today. I am jealous."
To his great surprise, Richard whispers back. "I could say the same. And don't worry, I will love you for as long as you will have me, no need to be jealous."
"I love you too, Richard." Thomas mumbles sleepily into Richard's arm. Finally at peace, Thomas drifts off into a pleasant dream.
A/N: Thank you all for reading! I just wanted an excuse to write Thomas and a Richard in swim clothing, despite the likely impropriety at the time.
Please be safe. I own nothing but the grammar and spelling mistakes. Reviews are appreciated!