Coming Into His Own Ch. 06byPhantomOp©
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Választott awakened.
LEGALESE: Don't read this if you are underage, if it is illegal in your area, if it is offensive to you, or if you cannot distinguish fiction from reality.
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NOTE: This chapter is more plot development, and not as much heat. Don't worry, Thomas is not going to become celibate, but this was a necessary step to advance the story.
Coming Into His Own, Chapter 6
Copyright (c) 2013 by PhantomOp
Thomas looked around at the manor house, scarcely believing that it belonged to him. After the day's meeting at Browne, Holt, Banks and Simmons had finished, Harry escorted Thomas and Angie to the limousine, and gave the chauffeur directions to the home that was one part of the inheritance. Harry turned to Thomas, and said, "I'll be along directly, Mr. Crawford. I am just going to settle the account at the hotel and gather your luggage and effects."
As Thomas walked through the library, he gently tossed the ring and caught it in the palm of his hand, turning it and looking at the seal. Grandpa, I wish you were here to help me deal with all these changes. I don't even feel like my life is ever going to be the same. I wish I didn't have to adjust to everything all at once. Thomas shook his head, trying to dislodge those thoughts. "No point in getting all depressed about how things are, buddy -- it won't change a thing," he said to himself softly.
Thomas picked up a book from one of the shelves at random, and looked at the title on the spine: Essays On Freedom And Power. Opening the book, he paged through several chapters, until his eyes fell across a phrase that speared directly into Thomas' soul. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority...." Thomas snapped the book closed, and turning it over in his hands, saw that the author was none other than Lord Acton. From the very beginning of my learning about these abilities, those words have haunted me. I'm not a bad man, am I? I can't tell any more. I just know that this power to influence others makes me feel like I am well on the path to corruption.
Placing the book back on the shelf, Thomas left the library and went to find something to drink. As he made his way through the house, he realized he had no idea where the kitchen was, let alone anything other than the entry and the library. Lost in thought as he explored the house, Thomas was startled when he nearly tripped over the maid. She was dusting the table in the main hallway, when Thomas bumped into her and snapped himself out of his introspective mood. "I'm so sorry, miss, I was not paying attention to where I was going," he said.
"Oh, Sir, it is I that should apologize. I was supposed to have the house hoovered and sorted before you arrived! I'll be finished in a tick and be out of your way."
Thomas smiled at the maid. "No worries, miss, I was just trying to find the kitchen. I haven't eaten anything since lunch, and I thought I'd see if there's anything I can throw together."
The maid seemed a bit surprised to hear this. "You needn't worry with fixing anything, Sir. If you're a bit peckish, I'm sure that Kieran will be happy to fix something. He is rather territorial about -his- kitchen." Her face grew red as she realized what she had just said to Thomas. "I mean... umm... well, he thinks it's his kitchen, even though it really is yours, and you have every right to go...." Her voice trailed off as she began to feel like she was making a fool of herself. "Sir, please forgive me, I did not mean to be cheeky with you. I'm just not used to anyone but the staff being around, and so I spoke without thinking!"
Thomas decided this was a good time to practice using some of the things that Mr. Browne had shared with him at the meeting. Closing his eyes briefly, he tuned in on the woman's thoughts, wanting to learn about her, as well as test how well he could control his abilities. In a moment, he heard her thoughts as clearly as if she was speaking. Nice going, Allie, making a proper fool of yourself to the new owner. Don't be surprised if you're sacked before the day is out at this rate. And what a pity it would be, too, between this being a good job and him so easy on the eyes. He looks a lot like his grandfather. I sure miss him, he was such a nice man.
Thomas withdrew his awareness from her thoughts and struggled with his own for a bit. She actually knew Grandpa. I don't know whether to be happy to meet someone that can tell me more about him, or jealous of the fact that she got to have time with him and I didn't. He then reached out mentally and tapped into her thoughts again.
--have to be sure to tell Kieran and the others that the new owner has arrived, so they don't blunder about like I did. It's a good thing the new owner isn't like Ethan, or he'd already know what a twit I've been just by skimming my thoughts. Oh, gods, what if he IS like his grandfather? Sir, are you already in here, reading me? Thomas detected a note of panic in her thoughts, and felt guilty about his intrusion. As calmly as he was able, Thomas projected his thoughts to the maid. Yes, Allie, and I am sorry that I did not say something earlier. You have not been a 'proper fool', nor are you in any immediate danger of being sacked. I have only newly been awakened to the range of these abilities I inherited, and was testing them on you. Please forgive my intrusion. With that, Thomas broke his mental link to the maid and asked, "Would you show me the way to the kitchen, please?"
Alicia smiled nervously at him as she started walking down the hallway. "It's just down this wing, Sir, if you will follow me." She did her best to remain calm and collected, given that she had just had such a large shock. "Kieran should have something ready, as afternoon tea is usually ready about half-four. Will the lady be joining you, Sir?"
Thomas realized that he hadn't seen Angie for a while, then remembered that she had said she was tired, and wanted to take a short nap. "Allie, if you would check in on her I would appreciate it. If she has awakened from her nap, then ask her to join me. Otherwise, let her rest -- it's been a long day for her."
"Very good, Sir. Here is the dining area, and as I suspected, Kieran has already laid out sandwiches and tea. If you will excuse me, I shall go see if the lady is ready to join you." With that, Alicia turned and walked back the way they had come, the quiet clicking of her shoes on the marble fading as she got further away. Thomas picked up a plate from the buffet table, and began filling it with sandwiches and fruit. As he turned to seat himself at the table, a booming voice rang out, "Beggin' yer pardon, boyo, but it's common practice around here to wait until the lord of the manor arrives before tucking into the food." Thomas, who by this point was becoming a bit shaky and irritable from being so hungry, set down his plate and turned to face the owner of that voice with the intent of tearing into him verbally. As he looked, Thomas saw the man's face go pale, and his mouth started working like a fish removed from water. "Well, if you aren't just the spitting image of Mr. Ethan! I'm so sorry, boyo, I had no idea you were to be here this early. I mistook you for... one of the lads what was to help get the place ready for you."
Thomas sat down, keeping his eyes on the older man as he began to eat, his hunger winning out over sense of decorum. Kieran chuckled for a moment, then fixed his own plate and joined Thomas at the table. "Boyo, you look like you've survived on naught but rat packs the way you're wolfing that down. I know my cooking is good, but go easy, or you'll get sick. Perhaps you'd care for a cuppa?"
Thomas looked at Kieran quizzically. "A cup of what?"
Kieran rolled his eyes, then gazed upwards in supplication. "Please show mercy to a poor, unenlightened barbarian, Saint Earl of Grey. Do not strike the boyo dead for his unintentional disrespect for the trappings of true civilisation; instead, guide him to an awareness of the sanctity of the beverage what bears your name." Kieran then turned to look at Thomas, favoring him with a sly wink. "Perhaps that will appease the saints enough that you can learn to drink tea like a proper gentleman, instead of consuming the rubbish most of today's generation call 'energy drinks'."
Thomas watched as Kieran poured a cup of tea, added milk and sugar to it, and after stirring it, placed it on the table in front of the young man. Encouraged by Kieran's studied gaze, Thomas picked up the cup, blowing on the liquid a bit to cool it, then took a sip. While it was quite a bit different than the coffeehouse drinks he was accustomed to, Thomas found that he quite enjoyed the taste of the beverage.
"Ah, there we go! I'll make a proper gent out of you yet, mark my words." Kieran laughed as he prepared his own tea. "And to think you bloody gits dumped bales of this ambrosial substance into the ocean. Now, boyo, where's that pretty lass what accompanied you here? I caught a glimpse of her when she first came in, and I would wager she's likely to be almost as hungry as you, though I'm sure quite a bit more delicate about her manners. Probably easier on the eyes than you, too."
Thomas finished the mouthful of sandwich before replying. "She went upstairs to take a nap. I hadn't planned to wake her; I thought it would be best to let her sleep until she woke on her own." Kieran shrugged acceptance, then took a bite of his own sandwich. Thomas extended his thoughts towards Kieran, wondering what he would learn.
--seems a nice enough lad. I wonder if he's as smart as his grandfather said he was. Now there was a man's man! And a real shark in business, too -- always seemed to have this instinct about the best deals to make, the best way to influence others. Thomas smiled to himself, knowing that it was more than instincts, as well as coming to the realization that apparently not everyone in Ethan's orbit knew about his abilities. He resumed eavesdropping on the man's thoughts. --doesn't want to make too many changes to the staff here. Some of these folks are more like family than co-workers. Hell, one of them is family. I suppose the lad needs to know about that, too.
Kieran took a long sip of his tea, and studied Thomas for a moment. "Well, boyo, I should probably give you a little background on the rabble we refer to as the staff around here. To start, there's yours truly, Kieran Briggs. I've been the cook here for almost 25 years. Before that, I served with the Royal Marines. Beggin' yer pardon once again, as I know the manor is yours, but the kitchen is mine. As long as we come to that understanding, I can assure you that excellent victuals will flow forth from it regularly.
"Next we have Cueball -- or Dominic Marsden, as he had the misfortune of being named. He's an all right sort, though he's as vain as the day is long, can't drive worth a damn, and thinks the sun rises and sets on the arses of the almighty SAS, even though one out of three of those blokes is a bleedin' knob jockey, and the other two SAS chaps I know are straight, so take your guesses about Cueball."
A new voice chimed in. "Don't believe a word that alcoholic, washed-up scullery maid tells you, sir. I'll have you know that only one in four of us are knob jockeys. Dominic at your service, sir, or Dom to my friends, and to you as well, sir, if you like. I let the old man here call me Cueball, because he's just too thick to remember anything else. It's been my privilege to be Mr. Ethan's driver and occasional bodyguard, and I hope to provide the same services to you." Dom grabbed a plate of sandwiches and joined the two men at the table.
Thomas saw from the exchange that the two men had a friendly rivalry, and relaxed more as he listened to the banter between the two men. Although the manor and its staff were all new to him, it all felt quite comfortable. Thomas wondered what his life might have been like had he actually grown up knowing his grandfather, and thought that he would have enjoyed it here very much.
Kieran continued his listing of the staff. "You already met Alicia, who has been here even longer than I have. She's a sweet lady, and not only works as the maid, but has also helped Mr. Ethan find and obtain most of the books in his library. Your father, God rest his soul, loved her very much. It broke her heart when Jonathan stormed out on Mr. Ethan the day he left. If they hadn't been so much like brother and sister, we'd all have expected that they would one day get married.
"Next is Brandon Lucas, our groundskeeper. He generally runs the day-to-day operations here, maintenance and purchasing, payroll and interviewing. A good man -- you can't miss him, he's tall and ginger-headed. Runs the place like a proper squad should be run. Anything needs looking after, he's the man to see."
As Kieran was speaking, a young man about Thomas' age entered the room and began filling a plate. Kieran nodded at the new arrival and said to Thomas, "I was wondering when the little bastard would be making his appearance. This strapping lad is our mechanic, and a finer one I've not seen. He was born Robert Higgins, but those of us what have known him all his life just call him the little bastard."
Thomas looked the young man over, wondering why anyone would permit themselves to be called a bastard. He found the term somewhat offensive, and seemed surprised that Robert showed no hostility towards the appellation. Kieran continued, "Robert really is a bastard, you know. Alicia was young when she had him, and he's grown up around the place. Mr. Ethan was a good man, and wanted to help Alicia give the lad have a good chance in life, so he helped see that the little bastard got a good education, and helped him become whatever he wanted to be. The lad always had a thing for cars and taking things apart, so Mr. Ethan pulled a few strings for training, and Bob's yer uncle, the little bastard became a mechanic."
Robert favored Thomas with a studying gaze. "So, what's your vehicular poison?"
Thomas pondered for a moment, then said, "Well, for sports cars, nothing beats a Mustang. Otherwise, I'd have to go with an Escalade for comfort."
Robert clutched at his chest as though in the grip of a heart attack. "Do you believe this, Kieran? The heathen knows nothing about true refinement and automotive excellence! I'll take a Range Rover any day over an Escalade, and you haven't known the thrill of driving until you've been in the cockpit of a Lotus Evora S. Bloody Yanks know fuck-all about decent motorcars." Robert winked at Thomas to show that it was all good-natured ribbing.
"Robert Connor Higgins! Your father would have had a fit if he heard you talking that way at his table." Alicia's eyes flashed with a hint of irritation as she joined the group for tea.
Thomas sprayed the mouthful of tea he had been drinking, and started to choke a bit.
Kieran slapped him on the back a couple times to help him start breathing properly. "Like I said, Bob's yer uncle. I guess I forgot to mention that Alicia's yer aunt. Well, technically great-aunt."
"Shut your gob, Kieran! You make me sound old!" Alicia sputtered.
Thomas sat in the library, drink in hand, thinking about what he had learned at tea. He began to wonder if the reason for Jonathan's fight with Ethan, and departure to the States, had anything to do with Alicia. Kieran had said that Jonathan was in love with her. As he sat deep in thought, Alicia entered the library. "Master Thomas, I know that learning about me and my son has been a lot to take in. I'm sure that you have questions about your grandfather and your father, and I would like to help answer any that I am able to answer."
"Yes, I do have a lot of questions. So many, in fact, that I almost don't know where to begin asking. I want to learn more about my grandfather. I want to know what happened with my father, and why the two of them fought. I just want to learn everything I can, so I can try to make some sense of what I have become, and where I should go from here."
"Master Thomas, perhaps it would be easier if you were to skim my thoughts, as you were doing earlier, and I can share my memories with you of Ethan, Jonathan, and everything else."
Thomas considered this, and realized he would probably be able to learn more in a shorter time by sharing her memories. He nodded, then sat back in the chair, relaxed, and extended his thoughts, tapping into Alicia's memories. I'm here, Alicia. Please show me.
A flood of memories began to wash over Thomas. Through them all, he could hear Alicia's voice, narrating the events. I grew up at the manor. My mother was the maid here when Ethan and Jonathan first moved here. There were very few children around, so having someone close to my age was great fun for me. With his father often very immersed in his work, Jonathan often spent time around the staff quarters, becoming friendly with Kieran, and learning about the history of the manor from the groundskeeper. I told Jonathan one day about a tree fort that was back in the woods a bit, and he insisted that I show it to him. We would often play games on the grounds, until Mother would call out that supper was ready at the manor house. Jonathan and I quickly became inseparable, and most of the staff took to calling us brother and sister. I enjoyed that pleasant fiction, but I learned over the years that Jonathan felt more than a brotherly love for me.
Ethan tried to get Jonathan to learn more about his abilities, but Jonathan did not put any stock in things he couldn't see or measure for himself. He was a very practical person, and anything that had the feel of the supernatural did not fit into Jonathan's world view. On Jonathan's eighteenth birthday, Ethan handed him the ring you now possess, and told him it was time to put away his childish arguments and learn about his birthright. Jonathan got angry, and threw the ring at his father, shouting that he would not become a freak in anyone's sideshow. Ethan's heart was hurt by his son's words. The father could feel his son slipping away from him.
The final straw that drove the two of them apart was when Jonathan learned that his father had become intimate with me. Jonathan did not want to hear that I had pursued Ethan as much as he pursued me, that I had fallen for him, and chose to become his. Jonathan's last words to his father were angry and hurtful. He said that he didn't know what bothered him more, learning that his father was fucking his "sister", or learning that his father had stolen his first love. With those words, Jonathan packed his things and left. Within a month he had transferred to his company's New York office, and within two months after that, he had met, courted and married your mother.
I can't really say that it was a true courtship, because it was the one and only time that Jonathan ever used his abilities, albeit unknowingly. Julie Andover became so tightly bound to him, that they were nearly inseparable. The courtship and wedding between Jonathan Scott Crawford and Julia Allison Andover was as rapid and powerful as a tsunami, sweeping away things in Jonathan's past and leaving him a new landscape upon which he hoped to build his life away from Ethan.
Thomas rubbed his temples as he sat back and tried to absorb everything he had just learned. While it explained why he had never really known his grandfather, it didn't make Thomas feel any better. If anything, it caused Thomas to resent his father just a bit. He was slightly angry that his father's stand on the abilities that Thomas now possessed not only caused a rift in the family, but very likely got Jonathan killed in the accident. If Dad had accepted his abilities, he would have sensed that train coming instead of getting blind-sided by it. Hell, if he had accepted them, there would never have been a split between him and Grandpa. Then again, if he had accepted his abilities, he'd have never met Mom.