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Christmas as it should be

Chapter Text

“And of course Mr Drummond must accompany us in case of urgent government business” said Victoria

“Of course ma’am” Alfred made a final note in his book not that he needed anyone to remind him to invite Drummond

It wasn’t long before Drummond arrived at the palace to deliver some papers as usual

“Drummond” Alfred nodded at him politely trying not to let a huge smile break out on his face as he remembered their kiss in Scotland “more papers for Her Majesty?”

“Lord Alfred” Drummond returned the nod and then looked at him with one of those looks; immediately Alfred’s heart already beating faster at the sight of Drummond skipped a beat “as you see” he gestured to the folder in his hand

They stood there in silence smiling at each other before Alfred remembered where he was and that Drummond was not going to be able to dive in for a kiss

“The Government do seem to generate a lot of papers for Her Majesty” he said in an effort to say something “you are here several times a day”

“Government is a tireless business Lord Alfred” said Drummond loudly for the benefit of a passing servant and then leaning in he whispered “I could bring them all at once but I come to see you”

This time Alfred couldn’t keep the smile off his face “then you will be delighted to know that Her Majesty has requested that you accompany us to Scotland for Christmas in case of urgent government business”

Drummond looked at him, his eyes dropping down and then coming to rest on Alfred’s mouth “I am very delighted” he murmured “I believe I have very urgent business to attend to there” and he grinned that wide boyish grin that made Alfred melt.

 

It was almost as if nothing had changed thought Drummond as the carriage rattled along. The Duchess was complaining, Miss Coke was chattering & Alfred was gazing at him with wanton eyes. He looked over at Alfred and gave him a smile of pure happiness. 

“It is so cold” said the Duchess sniffing “the wind whistles right through the glass”

“I believe there are rugs under the seat Duchess” said Alfred, “perhaps I could get you one”

“That would be most kind, Lord Alfred I would have thought we would have been given them as we started but everything is so hasty & slapdash these days”

Alfred groped about under the seat and pulled out 2 large rugs 

“I am cold too Lord Alfred” said Miss Coke “perhaps you would share one with me Aunt? That is if Mr. Drummond doest mind exchanging places?

“Of course not Miss Coke, I find myself rather chilly too, perhaps Lord Alfred and I can share the other one” and he sent Alfred one of his special looks, Alfred fluttered his eyes at him and grinned 

“Of course Drummond, the weather is rather inclement” 

Solicitously he tucked the rug around the Duchess and Miss Coke before pulling the other over Drummond & himself 

“I’m sure we will soon warm up Drummond” he said looking sideways at Edward with a little smirk

Under the rug, Drummond immediately shifted his leg so it was pressed against Alfred’s and slid his hand down to interlace their fingers.

The Duchess was still not happy “we are like a travelling circus these days, children, servant’s government officials” she glared at Drummond “in my day children were left at home with a nanny”

“Things have changed now Aunt” said Miss Coke “I think it’s lovely that Her Majesty and the Prince wish to be with their children so much, don’t you Lord Alfred?”

“Indeed Miss Coke” he said, his body thrilling to the feel of Drummond’s leg pressed against him “one should always strive to be with those they love” and he looked sideways at Drummond “don’t you agree Drummond?”

“I do” he said squeezing Alfred’s hand under the rug “we must always take advantage of any opportunity to be with them” and he squeezed Alfred’s hand again.

It was all Alfred could do to stop himself from laughing aloud with joy, was Drummond saying he loved him?

Outside the snow was beginning to fall, coating everything with a powder puff of white

“How pretty the snow makes everything look” exclaimed Miss Coke

“So pretty Miss Coke” echoed Drummond gravely before shifting his eyes to Alfred “indeed really quite beautiful”

Alfred looked down so no one would see him blushing; oh how he longed to be alone with Drummond again to see if he would kiss him.

 

Alfred and Drummond could happily have stayed there under the rug forever but much sooner than they would have wanted they were arriving at their destination.

There was a mass of confusion as the Queen, Prince Albert, several children, even more dogs, servants and courtiers milled around in the snow

“Brrrrr it is freezing!” said Alfred, the tip of his nose was already red with the cold and Drummond was seized with the urge to kiss it and hug Alfred to keep him warm. Instead he unwrapped his scarf and gave it to Alfred just about restraining himself from wrapping it around Alfred’s neck himself

“I was brought up in Scotland” said Drummond “this is but a light chill” Alfred took the scarf gratefully.

Eventually, a form of order was restored and people began to go inside the castle

Drummond looked at Alfred “would you care to explore the grounds with me?”

“I don’t see why not” he said hugging himself inside at what that might mean “but I must find something warmer to put on”

He dashed into the castle trying to hurry and not catch anyone’s eye just in case he was asked to do something or be somewhere

He spied the butler “Penge where is my room? he asked

“On the first floor your lordship next to Mr Drummond’s”

“Thank you” he hurried up the stairs and opened his trunk which had not yet been unpacked and pulled out a heavier coat before almost running downstairs and outside

He wondered if Drummond would find the midwinter evenings as enchanting as the midsummer ones

 

 

Chapter Text

Drummond was waiting for Alfred outside. As always, Alfred felt his heart race just that little bit faster when he saw him, even though it had been only a few minutes since he went upstairs.

“Alfred” Drummond smiled at him, he always looked so happy to see him that Alfred’s heart turned over “shall we?”

Alfred nodded “with pleasure” and they began tramping through the snow

There was a stillness in the bitingly cold air; the pine trees they were heading towards had a thick covering of snow that shimmered in the strange half light and the blanket of snow on the ground was already beginning to crystalise and freeze. As they walked away from the castle, there was complete silence other than the sound of their feet crunching through the snow.

As soon as they got far enough away from the castle, Drummond took Alfred’s hand

“I have missed you” he said simply

“and I you Edward” said Alfred softly knowing exactly what he meant. Oh of course they had seen each other at palace meetings and formal court functions but their time alone had been so limited, just a few snatched moments in corridors or after dinner when almost inevitably someone would turn up and interrupt them. Honestly thought Drummond, the Houses of Parliament afforded a man more privacy than Buckingham Palace. So they had had to resort to yearning looks made all the more intense because now every time either of them closed their eyes they could recall that kiss that had changed everything.

Drummond stole a sideways look at Alfred just as he looked at him and then they both burst out laughing

“come on” said Drummond speeding up as they neared the trees

“I do not have your surety of footing” said Alfred trying to hurry as well, slipping and almost falling in the snow

“here” Drummond put his arm round him “now I have you”

A burst of warmth flooded Alfred as he felt Drummond’s arm encircle his shoulder and together they made it into the shelter of the pine trees

Under the branches of the trees, the silence seemed to envelope them completely. The moon was starting to appear in the clear sky and its light pierced the trees and reflected back up from the snow.

Drummond dropped his arm from around Alfred’s shoulder and turned to face him. His breath was visible in the freezing air as he cupped Alfred’s face looking at him searchingly. Just as Alfred thought his knees might actually give way from the intensity of the look in Drummond’s eyes, Drummond leaned in and kissed him. His lips were initially cold but as their kiss intensified, they became warm and soft. Drummond’s hands were still cupping his face, his thumbs caressing his cheeks and then he was licking gently at Alfred’s bottom lip so he could slide his tongue in.

Alfred sighed softly and clung onto him as their lips crushed together and their tongues entwined, if he hadn't, he believed he would simply have collapsed into the snow.

Drummond was fighting the urge not to kiss Alfred even harder. He had fantasised so many times about the next time they would kiss, wondering at times if he would go out of his mind with frustration that they could never be alone but this made it all worth it. Alfred tasted as good as he remembered, of wine and sugar and love. There was no better taste in the world he decided. He felt Alfred press against him, burrowing deeper into the kiss until his head was spinning.

Eventually they pulled apart; just dropping light feather kisses until they rested their foreheads together

“these midwinter evenings are so enchanting don’t you think?”  said Drummond with a smile that almost lit up the forest

Alfred laughed with delight “as enchanting as midsummer ones”

“we should…” began Drummond but was cut off by Alfred wanting another kiss. Drummond wondered why he’d worried about kissing Alfred too hard as he found his mouth being plundered by Alfred as if he were a drowning man seeking air. He shivered and pulled Alfred harder against him, heat flaring up around his body

“Edward, are you cold?” Alfred had felt him shiver and pulled away

“No, I find I am very warm indeed” he said panting slightly

Alfred grinned at him but then his face dropped a little “I fear we ought to be getting back Edward, we don’t want search parties sent out for us”

Drummond sighed “alas I fear you are right”

With great reluctance they set off back to the castle, by unspoken agreement walking apart this time, though every now and then they would reach over and brush each other’s hands.

Inside the castle, things appeared to have calmed down somewhat though Alfred felt his eyes being assaulted by the colour scheme, was there a need for quite so many different tartans?

“ah Lord Alfred, Drummond” said Victoria “we were quite wondering what had become of you”

“we were just taking in the Scottish air ma’am” said Alfred smoothly “such a beautiful evening”

“yes indeed it is although somewhat cold, you must both be freezing”

“In such a place as this ma’am, one barely feels the cold” said Drummond “especially on such an enchanting evening” he looked sideways at Alfred who gave him a little smile so full of love Drummond wanted to shout it aloud.

“we shall be dining soon so I suggest you make haste to change and then after dinner we shall decorate the tree”

“Very good ma’am” said Alfred inclining his head slightly

They hurried off to their rooms to change; the Queen did not like to be kept waiting

In his room, Alfred pulled off his gloves and coat and unwrapped the scarf Drummond had given him. He went to put it down on the bed next to his evening clothes to remind himself to give it back but could not help bringing it close to his face to inhale the scent of Drummond first. He hesitated and then put the scarf under his pillow, he was sure Drummond would not mind if he didn’t give it back to him just yet. Then he dressed and went down to dinner.

 

And if anyone had been there to see at 2am in the morning, they would have seen Alfred snuggled under a quilt, his arms holding a pillow around which he had wrapped Drummond’s scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Alfred couldn't remember the last time he had slept so well. Just knowing Drummond did indeed care for him and wanted him (surely he would not have kissed him like that if he did not?) filled his heart with lightness. He looked out of the window, everything was blanketed white. It stirred in him a memory of his childhood at Plas Newydd in Anglesey when it had snowed and he and his brothers and sisters had staged a mass snowball fight. They had bombarded each other shouting with laughter until their Governess had herded them indoors to get them out of their wet things and in front of a fire.

He dressed quickly, desperate to make the most of the time he had to spend with Drummond. He bounded joyfully down the stairs, his spirits lifting even more as he saw he was already there. Was there ever a better sight, a more gloriously handsome sight,  in the morning than Drummond?

“Lord Alfred, I trust you slept well?” said the Queen

“Never better your Majesty” he said flashing a smile of pure happiness at Drummond

“Wonderful! Everyone needs to be well rested for today’s activities”

“What do you have planned ma’am?” asked Alfred hoping it would be something that enabled him to be with Drummond

“We are going to go sledging” said Prince Albert excitedly “just like I did as a child in Coburg”

Alfred exchanged a look with Drummond; the Prince appeared to be in his element in this snowy wonderland.

“That sounds most enjoyable our Royal Highness” said Drummond politely looking wryly at Alfred. Personally he wasn’t at all sure that sliding down a big snow covered hill on a contraption designed to go very fast was the safest way to spend a day but far more importantly, it meant that they would be en masse and therefore would he have anytime alone with Alfred?

He needn’t have worried. As they all went outside, thoroughly wrapped up against the cold, he saw the sledges lined up. They were all designed for 2 people except for some tiny child sized ones for the prince and princess. He had to confess they didn’t look the most stable mode of transport. There seemed very little to hold onto if one was at the back other than the person in front while they held onto what looked like reigns to steer the sledge in the desired direction.

Albert was already organising things

“Vicky, Bertie, you will stay with your mother on the little slope over there”

Alfred hid a smile at the look Victoria gave Albert “there is no reason I cannot go on the hill too Albert” she said “I’m quite capable”

“But who will look after the children my love?” asked Albert looking puzzled

“They have a nanny Albert”

“They do liebling but I would not like you to be hurt”

“Are you saying its dangerous?” asked Victoria worriedly

“No but it is not a suitable past time in case of your possible condition my dear”

“You are not going either Wilhelmina” said the Duchess eyeing the sledges with disdain “it is quite out of the question for an unmarried girl to share a sledge with a gentleman”

Wilhelmina’s face fell; she had really wanted to try it

“Surely Duchess” said Ernst gallantly “one small go wouldn’t hurt; if she is partnered with a married gentleman that would not be scandalous”

“Out of the question” snapped the duchess “you may watch Wilhelmina but that is all”

Alfred sent her a sympathetic look; poor Wilhelmina! The sooner she was married and out of the Duchesses hands the better!

“Would you care to share a sledge with me Lord Alfred?” asked Drummond

“I would be delighted” replied Alfred giving Drummond one of his special looks “though I confess I have not sledged for many a year”

“Neither have I but I am sure between us we can manage to get to the bottom without damaging ourselves”

 

They began to dag the sledge to the top of the hill taking their time so they fell behind the others.  Drummond stole a look at Alfred marvelling all over again at the perfection of his face; Alfred feeling him look, smiled at him so sweetly that Drummond wanted to hold him forever. They both had one hand on the rope and as the others got further ahead, Alfred moved his hand over so it was on top of Drummond’s

“Did you sleep well Drummond?” he asked, now that he was closer to him, he saw faint shadows under his eyes

“I confess I did not” he said “I found it most distracting thinking of you sleeping in the room next to mine” and he sent Alfred another of those intense looks which made his heart bounce in his chest

Alfred squeezed his hand “perhaps later we could take another walk to the forest?”

“I would find that most agreeable” said Drummond, actually what he would find most agreeable of all would be to kiss Alfred right there and then but alas he could not so he contented himself with grasping his fingers tightly for a few moments.

“We should catch up with the others” said Alfred regretfully “before our slow progress is commented upon”

 

At the top of the slope, Albert and Ernst were already seating on their sledge, Albert in front, and Ernst behind. They scooted their hands in the snow and then they were off down the slope at an enormously rapid pace leaving Alfred & Drummond at the top with Wilhelmina and the Duchess

“I think I should sit behind Lord Alfred” said Drummond “and you in front”

Alfred nodded trying to contain his delight at the fact that Drummond was going to be pressed up behind him on the sledge. Drummond sat down and gestured for Alfred to sit between his legs. Alfred willed his face not to betray him as he sat down, immediately feeling the warmth of Drummonds thighs and legs about him and the heat of his arms as he wrapped them around his waist.

“I believe you should take the ropes Lord Alfed” said Drummond “so that you may steer us”

Ropes, yes of course there were ropes but everything sensible had flooded out of Alfred’s mind to be replaced with the sheer bliss of having Drummond’s arms around him

“Would you like me to help you start Mr Drummond?” asked Wilhelmina joining in in the only way she could

“That would be most kind Miss Coke” replied Drummond trying to restrain himself from just pulling Alfred back against him and hugging him as hard as possible. He felt Wilhelmina push against his back, at first he thought they wouldn’t move but then slowly they began to edge forward and then suddenly they were off!

Alfred had the steering ropes in his hand but he was thinking of anything but the direction in which they were going. As soon as they had began to gather speed, Drummond had tightened his hold, squeezing him till he was almost breathless and then buried his face into the side of Alfred’s neck, kissing the tender skin under his ear before gently nipping it.

“Edward…..” Alfred gasped, he didn’t understand what was happening, how did the lightest of touches from Drummond do this to him?  Drummond was nuzzling into him slightly harder now and he closed his eyes, the sensation shooting lightning bolts around his body as he felt Drummond’s lips on his skin, his tongue tracing delicate patterns wherever it touched.

Suddenly Drummond tensed and sat back “Alfred” he called “I don’t wish to alarm you but…”

Alfred eyes snapped open; the sledge was heading straight for a tree! Swiftly he pulled on the right hand rope aiming to turn the sledge so they missed it, behind Drummond was leaning over to help with the turn; the sledge wobbled and bounced alarmingly as it skidded before overturning tipping them both into the snow.

Alfred sat up; a sudden dunking in wet snow had certainly calmed his body, at least for the time being anyway. Next to him Drummond was face down in the snow not moving

“Drummond?”

There was no answer and no movement either

“Drummond, are you hurt?

There was still no response and Alfred began to panic

“Drummond!” he shook him “Drummond answer me!”

Drummond rolled over, his body convulsing with laughter

Alfred breathed a sigh of relief

“you…you..!Edward I thought you were hurt!”

“no I am not hurt other than a mouthful of snow! You sounded so alarmed Alfred, I could not resist teasing you”

“I was alarmed! I thought…Edward don’t do that again!” Alfred’s heart was pounding, he thought Drummond had been hurt and even worse that it would have been his fault! He would have caused him to be hurt.

“I was only…”he stopped seeing the look on Alfred’s face

“I mean it Edward! I could not…if something happened to you….” he couldn’t go on, even thinking about it was too painful

“Alfred, Alfred! My love I am not hurt, you see I am perfectly well, come here”, he stretched out his arms and smiled that room lighting smile at him

Alfred looked up at him slowly, joy dawning across his face, had Drummond just called him his love?

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Of course he could not fall in Drummonds arms however much he wanted too, especially with Prince Albert and Prince Ernst hurrying up to see that they were unharmed. Drummond also realised what he was doing and dropped his arms forlornly. One day he swore he was going to take Alfred in his arms and keep him there and it didn’t matter what other people said!

Once they had established they were unhurt, Prince Albert had insisted that they only went down with either he or Prince Ernst which lessened their enjoyment considerably.

Alfred was desperate to get Drummond on his own again, the words resounded in his head “my love” “my love” he was Edward’s love! His love. He needed Edward to know he loved him  too, but he could not do so surrounded by so many people! He needed to find a way to get him alone so he could declare it properly.

Fortunately, it became clear that the Queen was getting somewhat bored by sledging with the children and called them all to order

“That’s quite enough for today I think Albert” she said “the children have had enough”

“But mama” began Princess Vicky, her face frowning out from under her red fur trimmed bonnet

“I said that we have all had enough; we can continue tomorrow if you wish. Now come inside, there is hot chocolate waiting”

“Hurrah” piped Prince Bertie and ran off, his sister calling for him to slow down in case he fell

Back inside the castle, steaming cups of hot chocolate with whipped cream were handed around. Alfred dug the delicate silver spoon that had been supplied with the cup into the cream, it tasted divine! He looked up to see that Drummond had forgotten to use his spoon and had taken a sip without it; adorably he had a blob of cream on the end of his nose which Alfred just yearned to lick off

Instead he coughed “Drummond you have some er…”and he pointed at his nose “you need to use the spoon”

“How clumsy of me” said Drummond, hastily removing the cream with his finger and then suruptiously licking it off with one deft sweep of his tongue “Alfred why are you staring at me like that? no one saw!”

Alfred rubbed his face and wondered how to tell Drummond that it wasn’t that what he had done was impolite (though it was), it was that it had sent the most peculiar sensations around his body.

Albert deprived of his sledging was moodily circling the room, checking the decorations from the previous night. The room was dominated by an enormous Christmas tree hung with baubles, candles in glass jars, ribbons and sugar cane sticks, Holly and ivy wreathed the mantelpiece and a wreath of holly hung on the door. Dishes piled high with nuts and sugared fruit were set about the room in gold dishes and under the tree, a pile of presents was already appearing.

Suddenly he stopped

“Ach no!” he cried “Victoria we have no mistletoe!”

“Mistletoe?” said the Queen

“The tradition of kissing under it is a very important part of Christmas my love”

“Kissing? Well then of course we must have some”

Alfred seized his chance “ma’am perhaps Mr Drummond and I could find some for you? We were near the forest yesterday and I am sure I spotted some”

“Well that would be most kind Lord Alfred” said the Queen “if you are sure you do not mind”

“Not at all ma’am” said Drummond “it would be a pleasure”

Trying very hard not to look like too eager, Alfred and Drumond scrambled into their outdoor things and set off.

 

As soon as they were away from the castle crunching through the snow, Drummond turned to Alfred

“You’re not still angry with me are you?”

“I wasn’t angry Edward, I was afraid that you may have suffered an injury, but you had not so….” His words petered out, what he really needed to do was ask Edward about what he’d said

“Edward, after we had established that you were not hurt you um said something and I wanted to ask you about it”

“That sounds very serious” said Drummond lightly wondering what on earth Alfred was talking about

“I don’t know if it serious or not” said Alfred “that is why I wanted to ascertain the truth”

Drummond waited

“You called me ‘your love? And I just wanted…I needed to know…” he stopped feeling his face flaming redder and redder; Drummond was staring at him in bafflement

“But Alfred of course you are my love! Ever since we met I have known it”

“Oh” Alfred blinked at him “but you have not said it before”

“How could you have thought otherwise? Does not my every action convey it?”

“I….”

Drummond stopped dead and gripped him by the shoulders looking into his eyes “you doubted it?”

“No! I dreamed it was true every day but I didn’t dare hope that it was, that by some miracle you loved me too”

Drummond laughed and took Alfred in his arms “you think it’s a miracle I love you when every day I wake up I cannot believe that fortune has smiled on me so much to give me you”

Alfred held on to him tightly overwhelmed with happiness, he loved and was loved by, in his eyes, the most perfect being in the world. It didn’t matter what happened now, nothing could ever take this away from him

“Alfred” Edward’s voice was low “we are not far from the forest and….”

“And we must get her Majesty’s mistletoe” Alfred grinned

“Indeed we must” and they hurried into the shelter of the trees

 

This time they had barely made through the first line of fir trees before they were kissing each slowly at first but then with rising passion and intensity. All the trees seemed festoned with mistletoe as if to encourage them, the whole forest sheltering over them whispering as the wind very gently shook the branches and the mistletoe swayed in time. Drummond did not know what came over him when he began to kiss Alfred; it was certainly nothing like the few chaste kisses he’d shared with women, no more than little pecks with dry lips. With Alfred he just wanted to plunder his mouth until he could barely breathe, to kiss and lick and taste him until he couldn’t even think. Alfred seemed as eager as he was; he had one hand in Drummond’s hair, the other on his waist pulling him closer as he melted against him.

Alfred was in heaven as their lips crushed together over and over and their tongues entwined; his hand left Drummonds waist and pushed its way under Drummond’s coat and up to stroke his back. Suddenly he was seized with an urge, no a compulsion, to touch Drummond’s skin. His hand searched for a way under Drummond’s jacket and then slid down to his hip. He wriggled his fingers into the waistband of Drummond’s breeches and began to untuck his shirt, finally freeing enough of it that he could touch just an inch, no more, of Drummonds skin. It felt warm and soft under his fingers and he stroked it, burrowing deeper into the kiss, eyes closed, lost in the sensations flaring up around his body.

His touch seemed to inflame Drummond who pressed up against him harder so that Alfred nearly fell backwards but was saved by the tree behind him. Drummond pushed him up against it panting, he was not sure what was happening to his body but desire was washing over him in waves.

Suddenly he pulled back leaving Alfred, his eyes still closed, searching for more kisses

“Edward?”Alfred’s eyes flickered open to see Drummond staring at him with such intensity that he felt boneless and would have slid to the floor without the tree to hold him up. Still staring into his eyes, Drummond reached forward and very slowly, very slowly, untied the cravat circling Alfred’s neck and pulled it off, putting into his pocket, and unbuttoned the studs holding Alfred’s collar together. He folded it back baring Alfred’s throat and neck to his gaze.

Alfred swallowed; he was unaccustomed to being looked at in the way Drummond was looking at him now. Drummond leaned forward and began to feather kisses from under Alfred’s ear, along under his jaw line and down his neck.

Alfred had never felt anything close to the feelings flooding his body, every inch of him seemed to be lit on fire as Drummond mouthed and licked at his skin. He heard himself moan with desire, a sound he’d never heard fall from his lips before as he leant his head back against the tree making things easier for Drummond which encouraged him all the more as he moved to the other side and began to do the same there.

“Edward” Alfred gasped clinging to him, pushing against him. He didn’t really understand what was happening to him, only that he wanted something, he didn’t know what it was but that if he didn’t get it or Drummond didn’t stop, he might go mad. He squirmed as Drummond nipped at his ear, twisting against the bark and then

“argh”

Alfred’s wriggling had disturbed one of the snow covered branches which had deposited a shower of snow on them, most of which seemed to Alfred, to go down his back. He caught his breath and winced as it slid down his spine

“So cold” he gasped

Drummond was busily wiping the snow from his face and calming himself down. Really he didn’t know what was about him these days. A few minutes more and he would have been trying to remove Alfred’s clothing.

They looked at each other “we should probably be heading back” said Alfred at last “at least I would like to change my shirt now it’s all damp” and he shivered

Drummond nodded “we should”; he looked at Alfred and blushed “I hope you did not find me too” he groped for a word “forceful, it is just...the feelings I have...”

“I did not Edward and I understand, I have them too” he smiled “come let us return”

Drummond nodded and turned to leave

“Wait Edward, the mistletoe!” in their absorption in each other they had nearly forgotten it! Edward reached up and pulled a bundle of it down, twisting to snap the stem off. He then plucked a sprig of it and put it in his inside coat pocket over his heart and smiled at Alfred

“Now I will be able to kiss you whenever I want”

 

The mistletoe was received with much gratitude and laughter as Albert hung it over the doorway.

“Thank you so much gentleman” he said “now all the decorations are complete” and he beamed “now I suggest we change for dinner”

In his room, Alfred undressed still trying to comprehend the feelings Drummond was engendering in him. Love you, yes always love, but these other sensations, these needs he seemed to feel, physical urges of the kind he knew others would think were shameful but to him were not. Nothing he and Edward did could ever be shameful he decided and other people could go hang!

He redressed in his dinner clothes and waited for Drummond so they could go downstairs together. Just as they were enjoying an aperitif, the butler appeared

“There is a visitor ma’am”

“A visitor? here?” frowned Victoria “who on earth is it?”

The butler straightened up and intoned

“Lord Septimus Paget”

Chapter Text

Alfred leapt up “Septimus! What on earth are you doing here?” he embraced his brother

“I have important military information for Her Majesty” replied Septimus “for Her Majesty’s ears only”

“Surely there is time for you to refresh yourself first Lord Septimus?” said the queen “I am most intrigued to meet you and your likeness to Lord Alfred is quite astounding”

“We are twins’ ma’am” said Septimus smiling

“Twins? Lord Alfred you never told me you had a twin brother!”

Alfred shrugged and smiled “it did not seem relevant ma’am, after all one has so many brothers” and he smiled affectionately at Septimus

“Indeed and truth be told ma’am we always fought as children though now Alfred is my favourite brother”

“Well we are delighted to meet you” Alfred took that as his cue to carry out introductions

“Septimus may I introduce you to his Royal Highness Prince Albert and his Serene Highness Prince Ernst”

Septimus bowed, he had all the Paget charm “your servant sirs”

“The duchess of Bucchluech” who sniffed at him disdainfully

“Your Grace” Septimus bowed “I know your brother by reputation. A very fine soldier!”

The Duchess looked taken aback and then bestowed the smallest of smiles on him

“And this is her niece Miss Coke”

Septimus took Miss Coke’s hand and kissed it flashing her smile “I am most delighted to make your acquaintance madam”

“And this” said Alfred proudly, feeling himself blushing despite his best efforts “is Edward Drummond private secretary to the Prime Minister”

Septimus smiled at him and nodded “I have heard much about you Sir”

For his part, Drummond was finding it more than a little surreal to have two sets of identical blue eyes fixed on him.

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance Lord Septimus”

“Well then” the Queen clapped her hands “perhaps we can resume our entertainments_ Miss Coke I believe it is your turn at the piano?”

Miss Coke rose, Septimus was at once by her side “madam, may I turn your music for you? I find it helps one concentrate when one does not have to do it oneself”

Miss Coke blushed deeply “that would be most kind sir”

Septimus smiled at her “after you” and he followed her to the piano

 

It had turned into a most merry evening thought Drummond. Alfred’s brother, his twin brother no less, arriving had thrown an unknown element into their little party, all of whom knew each other so well.

Miss Coke was clearly already smitten and Drummond hoped that perhaps this time, her affections might be returned. Certainly Septimus had been most attentive to her, insisting she dance a polka with him as Alfred played the piano

“But you must Miss Coke! I have so missed dancing, I would dance with Alfred but he steps on my feet and a humble soldier like myself cannot possibly dance with Her Majesty”

Alfred had poked his tongue out at him “you have such large feet Septimus that I could not help it! besides I was 7 at the time”

Then they had played Charades which the Duchess had turned out to be surprisingly good at, Pass the Slipper which Alfred had rather sweetly endeavoured to make sure that Drummond won every time he had the slipper and Musical Chairs with turned out to rather frenetic with Alfred and Septimus almost wrestling for a chair at one point.

Eventually Her Majesty and the Prince had retired along with the Duchess and a reluctant Wilhelmina leaving Alfred, Drummond, Ernst and Septimus alone downstairs

“I cannot remember when I have had so much fun” laughed Septimus “it is not like this is the officer’s mess”

Alfred chuckled and poured them all some more Port “not if memory serves, no”

“I see now why you like Court life so much” and he cast a fleeting look at Drummond

“It is good to see you Septimus” said Alfred “I have missed you”

“And it is good to see you too” he smiled at Alfred “we have much news to catch up on”

Ernst was staring sadly into the fire

“Does something ail you your Serene Highness?” asked Drummond

Ernst roused himself “no just thinking of absent friends, I fear I am not good company gentleman, I will will retire also”

Ah, Alfred and Drummond exchanged a look, they all knew of Ernst’s love for Harriet and how it seemed unlikely despite Harriet now being a widow that their relationship would be permitted. Drummond sighed inside with sympathy, he knew how that felt.

“I will retire too” said Septimus “I am rather tired after the journey and I wish to be fresh for tomorrow. Good night”

“Good night” the brothers embraced and Septimus withdrew leaving Alfred and Drummond alone downstairs

The castle was silent, the air heavy with the scent of cinnamon and cloves from the gluhwein they had drunk early, the tree shimmered in the candlelight and the fire crackled and spat

Drummond leant back in his chair stretching his legs out in front of him

“Your brother seems most agreeable Alfred” he smiled “though I am amazed you never mentioned he was your twin”

Alfred laughed “truth be told we hated being twins, always dressed alike, always together, never Alfred and Septimus but always“the twins”, as soon as we could we made our own ways. I love him dearly though” he added “do not think I do not”

“No your affection for him is clear”

Alfred grinned “as is his for Miss Coke I believe”

“Indeed, perhaps the poor girl may yet escape the Duchess!”

They both laughed

Drummond looked over at Alfred, the firelight dancing on his skin turning it to gold, and thought back to their kiss in the forest earlier. He had never felt such raw want in his entire life and he did not know how to proceed. Oh of course he knew with a woman how it was, when he had become engaged to Florence his father had taken him aside for a man to man talk explaining that respectable women did not enjoy copulation (no one should tell the Queen that he thought with amusement) and that once Florence was with child, he could if he chose frequent brothels or even set himself up with a mistress. He’d then shown Drummond a series of pornographic prints which had left him feeling embarrassed and disgusted. Even the memory of that night caused his entire body to clench with mortification. However, the thought of doing things with Alfred did not cause him to feel discomforted at all, in fact he found the thoughts very pleasant indeed but what did one do about it? Perhaps he thought he should do nothing and content himself with kisses and embraces but then his body had seemed to have a will of its own in the forest, that might not be possible. It was all most puzzling.

Watching him frown slightly as he thought, Alfred said “penny for your thoughts Edward?” and smiled his beautiful smile at him. Oh you thought Drummond, his heart flipping in his chest. He wanted, oh how he wanted to pull Alfred onto the rug in front of the fire, to lay down and kiss him in the firelight but he would not, not until he had sorted in his mind what he was to do

Instead he said “I was thinking that we ought to retire too Alfred, no doubt the Prince will have more activities planned for us tomorrow” he saw the disappointment in Alfred’s face and could not help going over to him and kissing him gently “we still have much time to be together”

“it is already tomorrow Edward” said Alfred kissing him just as gently, perhaps Edward had found their kissing in the forest earlier was not to his taste after all he thought, well he would not force the issue with him, that would not be right

“Then we must to bed”

Chapter Text

“Ice skating?”

Alfred looked at the skates being proffered by Prince Albert with undisguised reluctance; he couldn’t believe that a person was meant to balance on those!

“Do you not skate Lord Alfred?” asked the Prince

“I have never tried your Royal Highness”

Albert clapped him on the back “then it is time you did, don’t you agree Mr Drummond?” he added as Drummond appeared

“Indeed your Royal Highness, it is a most pleasant pastime”

Alfred turned over the skates in his hand; he was not at all convinced by this!

“You skate Drummond?” he asked

“I learned as a boy Lord Alfred” he paused “if you would like I could teach you the basics”

“I would be most grateful” replied Alfred thinking that it probably couldn't be that difficult 

Drummond nodded at him and then when Prince Albert turned away flashed him one of those smiles.

 

Alas it was as bad as Alfred had initially feared! He seemed to have no balance at all and every time he put a foot on the ice it slid away from him. The experience was only leavened by the fact that Drummond, entirely legitimately, had to hold on to him and no experience that required that could be completely bad. Drummond was as graceful on the ice as Alfred was clumsy, a contrast to how it was off the ice where Alfred was always in demand as a dancing partner because of his grace and elegance. Drummond’s face was rosy from the cold, the warmth suiting his colouring and the happiness was evident on his face every time he took Alfred’s hands.

“let us try again Alfred” said Drummond torn between wanting to help Alfred learn and doubling up with helpless laughter at how dreadful he was “give me your hands, now keep your head up don’t look at your feet, Alfred I said, don’t…” but it was too late as Alfred had already looked down and was only saved by going into a sprawling heap for the fifth time that afternoon by Drummond using all his strength to hold him up

“I am not yet convinced this is enjoyable Drummond” grumbled Alfred, irritated at the fact he couldn’t seem to do this simple thing which even Princess Vicky and Prince Bertie seemed able to do. Everyone was whirling around at various speeds on the ice against a backdrop of holly bushes speckled with bright red berries iced with snow brightening the bleakness of the stone grey sky. Particularly annoying was that Septimus was very good and was escorting Miss Coke around the ice with a practised hand under the beady eye of the duchess. Occasionally he would look over at Alfred and laugh at him which after the fourth made Alfred want to push him over, in fact he would have done if only he could stand up long enough!

Drummond bit his lip trying not to smile, Alfred looked rather like a cross kitten when he was annoyed. His face was flushed pink and there was a little frown on his face where he was concentrating so hard. Drummond just wanted to kiss him over and over again. Instead surrounded as they were by other people, he endeavoured to focus his attentions

“Just try again Alfred please, I promise that you will find it enjoyable if you give it time”

Alfred sighed, he would but only because Drummond seemed to love this infernal pastime so much

He put his hands in Drummond’s again and this time as instructed kept his head up and managed to glide forward a few steps without falling

“Excellent Alfred! Exactly like that” beamed Drummond holding onto his hands and urging him forward

Alfred managed a few more steps; possibly this wasn’t as bad as he thought

“now I’m going to let go of your hands” said Drummond “lets see if…” but it was too late, the moment Drummond released them Alfred slipped again grabbing at Drummond as he went down so  they both ended up on the ice, Alfred flat on his back with Drummond on top of him their noses almost touching.

Alfred was slightly winded both by the fall and then with Drummond landing on top of him but that didn’t account for the sudden butterflies in his stomach or the dryness in his mouth

“Drummond….”his voice sounded strange even to his ears but what was he supposed to do when Drummond was on top of him, his lips inches away.

“My goodness, Lord Alfred, Mr Drummond I hope you are not injured” exclaimed Miss Coke skating up with Septimus at her side. She looked particularly pretty; her skating dress being of a fetching pale pink rather than the greens and yellows which did not do justice to her complexion

Alfred groaned inside, damn them! Could he not have at least enjoyed the sensation of Drummond being so close to him for a few seconds more? Alas, Drummond was already levering himself up

“I am quite well Miss Coke, I had something to break my fall, Lord Alfred I trust you are not harmed?” despite the lightness of his tone, Drummond looked anxiously at him

“No I am not harmed expect possibly my dignity” he said trying to laugh off the sensations Drummond being on top of him had set off and the fact that he was actually feeling very cold and wet and rather sore!

“I’m surprised you are so bad Alfred” said Septimus “I hope you do not fall off your horse this much”

“I never fall off my horse” said Alfred petulantly “you know that”

Septimus just laughed and patted him on the shoulder which infuriated Alfred even more, ‘brothers!!!’ he thought

“I think perhaps I should leave you to it Drummond I fear this is not my sport”

“Perhaps you would take a turn around the ice with us Mr. Drummond, it seems a shame for you to miss out on something you enjoy so much” said Miss Coke eagerly

“of course miss Coke” said Drummond trapped by the demands of politeness “if you are sure you no longer wish to continue Lord Alfred?” he telegraphed a plea with his eyes ‘don’t go’ but even for Drummond, Alfred wouldn’t stay, he needed to get onto ground where he could control his feet and examine his bruises!

Drummond watched Alfred go dejectedly, now he was stuck here feeling very much a third wheel with Miss Coke and Septimus rather than with Alfred where he wanted to be

 

Drummond managed to extricate himself from them after half an hour and hurried back to the castle to look for Alfred

“Have you seen Lord Alfred?” he asked a passing footman

“I believe he is in his room sir”

“Thank you”

He hurried up the stairs, he was only reassuring himself Alfred was unhurt he told himself

That felt much better thought Alfred as he eased his aching body into the hot water. Thank goodness that they had brought a number of travelling baths with them. A bath was definitely the thing to warm one up after spending what felt like eternity falling over on cold hard ice. The elaborate screen the bath was behind both shielded him from draughts and the gaze of any housemaid who might inadvertently come in though he trusted the servants of the house were well trained enough to knock. He looked down at himself, he had bruises on his knees, his elbow, his stomach (how had he managed that?) his hip, and judging by how it felt when he moved one at the base of his spine probably from Drummond thudding into him when he was on his back. Ridiculous sport he thought grumpily even if Drummond had looked rather heavenly doing it. There was a knock at the door, probably a footman with more water

“Come in” he called and then nearly slipped under the water when he heard Drummond’s voice

“Alfred? I have come to reassure myself that you’re not hurt”

Alfred didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed that his bath was actually behind a screen so that Drummond couldn’t actually see him. He knew etiquette would dictate that Drummond would not come around the screen

“Drummond?” his voice was hesitant; he wasn’t entirely sure what the etiquette was for addressing your friend? Prospective lover? Other half of your soul? Whilst naked in ones bath

“that is most kind of you but I am not hurt aside from a few bruises”

“I am relieved to hear it”

There was an awkward silence while Drummond willed himself not to walk around the screen and Alfred tried not to think of Drummond bathing with him

“I should um wash” he groped about for the soap and then realised he had left it on the dressing table. Sometimes the gods really were against him!

“Yes absolutely I should err go” said Drummond wondering what on earth had possessed him to come here in the first place

“Drummond?”

“Yes?”

“I appear to have foolishly left the soap on the dressing table, could you hand it to me please?”

“Of course” absolutely thought Drummond what on earth would be the difficulty in doing that? It wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen Alfred naked before when they went swimming in France, all he had to do was walk around the screen; drop the soap in Alfred’s hand and leave.

He found the soap and went around the screen. Alfred was in the bath, his hair sleeked to his head and water droplets glistening on his skin, although he was slighter than Drummond, his body was still hard and taut, Drummond swallowed; this had after all turned out to be an exceedingly bad idea especially when Alfred looked up at him with those eyes

“Here” he said almost throwing the soap at Alfred in his haste to get away before he did something entirely inappropriate “I will see you at dinner” and he fled.

 

Chapter Text

Drummond threw himself down on his bed and banged his head into the pillow. His body temperature felt it had gone up by 10 degrees and for the first time he felt constricted by his many layers of clothing. He struggled out of his jacket and threw it on the floor. All he could think about was how much he had wanted to just haul Alfred out of the bath, lay him down on the bed and gently kiss the pain away of the bruises he’d seen blooming on his skin. In fact! Damn it to hell, he was just going to do it, he was going to march right back in there and do it!

Setting his jaw determinedly he left his room and slammed open the door of Alfred’s room

“Alfred” his voice died away ending in a squeak; Alfred was no longer in the bath, he was standing there with just a towel around his waist

“Drummond!” Alfred telegraphed frantically with his eyes, he wasn’t alone “do you have something urgent to convey?” he said loudly

Drummond followed the line of Alfred’s eyes to see Septimus leaning against the dresser, an amused smile on his lips

 “A message from the Prime Minister I wanted to discuss with you before approaching her Majesty” he said thinking frantically on his feet

“Ah well then perhaps we can discuss it before dinner, as you see I am not yet dressed”

Yes thought Drummond I had noticed that

“No indeed, I will ah see you before dinner then” and he withdrew with as much dignity as possible

Septimus raised his eyebrows at Alfred “it must have been a very urgent message to come crashing in like that”

“Drummond has a very important job Septimus, he often has to discuss things with me” he said feeling himself go red

“Mmmmm” said Septimus his head on one side deciding to say nothing further “I am sure he does. Now Alfred I want you to tell me of Miss Coke! What do you know of her?”

Now Alfred was on safer ground “she is charming Septimus, kind and thoroughly unspoilt. Alas her aunt rather browbeats her which is such a pity”

Septimus nodded eagerly “yes that was exactly how she seemed to me. Tell me, is she spoken for?”

Alfred laughed “you seem most keen Septimus”

Septimus smiled bashfully “I do have a very high regard for her even though I have known her so little time” he paused “and she speaks very highly of you which means she must have good judgement”

“You are rather scaring me Septimus with your kind words” joked Alfred “and now perhaps if you would allow me? I am feeling rather chilly” he indicated the towel

“Of course, I shall see you at dinner”

 

Dinner was another splendid affair. Miss Coke was almost a different person thought Alfred as she shone in the company of Septimus. The firelight and candles made the crystal of the glasses sparkle and lit up the silver cutlery.  The only problem was that Albert, almost beside himself with excitement that it was Christmas Eve the following day, had hung a Christmas tree upside down from the chandelier above the dining table meaning everyone was having to lean round it to catch a glimpse of the person on the opposite side of the table. The arrival of Septimus had thrown the seating arrangements out somewhat and Alfred found himself seated next to Drummond rather than opposite him as was usual.

“Lord Alfred” Drummond had bowed politely as they sat down

“Drummond” he returned as the first course was brought in

“Did you have a chance to discuss your urgent business?” asked Septimus as they began to eat

“What urgent business?” asked the Queen

“Drummond had a message from the Prime Minister ma’am” replied Septimus

“A message from the prime minister?” asked the queen “is it something I should be informed of?”

Septimus opened his mouth but a glare from Alfred made him shut it again

“It is nothing worth spoiling Christmas with ma’am” said Drummond glaring at Septimus as well

“But you said…ouch” Septimus winced Alfred had kicked him under the table

“Are you well Lord Septimus?” asked Wilhelmina anxiously

“I just banged my foot against the table leg” said Septimus “so very clumsy of me. Miss Coke tell me what novels have you been reading? I am most anxious to learn what is fashionable these days”

Under the table Alfred twinned his fingers around Drummond’s and gently stroked his hand with feather light touches before moving his fingers up to lightly trace patterns on his wrist under the cuff of his shirt. It was always hardest when Drummond was close to him like this in company, close enough to reach out and touch and yet he could not do so, not publicly. Drummond shot him a sideways smile.

“Lord Alfred” it was the Duchess, “tell me more of your brother” she inclined her head to where Septimus and MIss Coke ignoring the rules of polite society were deep in exclusive conversation

“Septimus has extremely good prospects your grace” said Alfred judging correctly that that was what the duchess meant “he has a commission in the army and his godfather is the Duke of wellington, you know he and my father are old friends”

“And he is of good character?”

Alfred smiled “the best duchess, absolutely the best”

 

When dinner was over, the ladies withdrew

Drummond got up and walked to the window staring out unseeing as he thought about Alfred in the bath earlier

He heard footsteps and he thought at first Alfred had come to stand beside him before he realised it was Septimus, they were so alike and yet Drummond knew he would never have fallen in love with Septimus no matter how much he looked like Alfred

Septimus smiled at him “you seem deep in thought”

“One has many responsibilities” said Drummond thinking he could hardly say ‘I was just thinking of your brother naked in the bath’

“So I believe” Septimus paused “I hear that you are engaged Mr. Drummond”

Drummond looked at him warily; he was most definitely trying to put that out of his mind

“That is so” he said

“Ah” Septimus looked down and then back at him “I must ask therefore what your intentions are regarding my brother”

Fear leapt into Drummond’s throat “I do not know what you mean”

Septimus smiled sadly “oh I believe you do. Alfred is….” he hesitated “different. I’ve always known that, you are different too are you not?”

Drummond looked at him unable to reply

Septimus continued “I love my brother very much; I will not see his heartbroken sir”

“I…”

Septimus looked at him with his head on one side “nor would I see yours broken either. To marry where ones…... inclinations do not lie, that is a sad fate, I pity you”

Drummond looked down, tears suddenly pricking the back of his eyes. To have sympathy expressed for his situation was new to him, he couldn’t really discuss it with Alfred, he got far too upset when it was mentioned and no one else knew. He didn’t want to marry Florence; he couldn’t even imagine how he would get through the wedding night.

“What can I do?” he whispered “I am trapped”

“Perhaps” Septimus smiled  “and perhaps not. You know my father was married and fell in love with another, he divorced them to marry mine and Alfred’s mother, the scandal was enormous, he even had to fight a duel. I asked him about it once, why he’d done it and he said that a life without love is no life at all. I would not have Alfred live a life without love and he loves you does he not?”

Seeing Drummond’s confusion at how he just seemed to know things, he added “Alfred is my twin; you think I do not know when he feels these things? And you love him too” he laughed “it was written all over your face when you came hurtling into the bedroom earlier”

Drummond said nothing but nodded quickly

Suddenly Septimus grasped his wrist “then for both your sakes and for the girl you are engaged too, do what you know you have to do. It’s Christmas man, time to set things right”

He turned to go

“Septimus?”

Drummond seized his hand and shook it vigorously “thank you sir for your kindness and your advice”

Septimus inclined his head “you are welcome sir but remember! if you do break my brothers heart I will come and find you” and he laughed but something in his face said to Drummond that he just might do it….

 

They joined the ladies for coffee and Albert soon had everyone singing Christmas carols as Ernst played the piano and Albert handed round song sheets.

Drummond found himself looking almost constantly at Alfred who was singing (in a very low key) a 2 parter with Septimus. Seeing him look, Alfred glanced up and smiled at him, his eyes alight with love. Drummond tried to imagine being without him and was unable to. He then tried to imagine being married to Florence and the wedding night and that was even worse

Septimus was right, it was Christmas and he needed to do the right thing.

Chapter Text

Drummond awoke feeling much lighter after his talk with Septimus. He was resolved to set things right as soon as they returned to London and in the meantime he would enjoy the time with Alfred while it was there.

He dressed quickly and went down to breakfast, his heart speeding up as it always did when he saw Alfred was already there. He never ceased to be amazed how the merest sight of Alfred quickened his pulse.

“Drummond” Alfred broke into his usual shy smile at the sight of him “I trust you slept well?”

“Very well indeed” he said

“I am delighted to hear it” said Alfred “I wonder what thePrince has planned for us today?”

“I wonder” replied Drummond feeling ridiculously happy now he had made his decision and he whispered “let us hope something that means we can spend time together” smiling as Alfred looked down and then back up at him with one of those looks

 

The morning also brought another unexpected guest to the castle; the sound of bells jingling was heard, at first faintly, and then louder and louder.

Prince Bertie and Princess Vicky grew round eyed

“Do you hear the bells Vicky?”

“Papa papa, is it Father Christmas?”

“I do not believe so” said Albert “he will only come tonight”

“Then who is it?”

The question was soon answered as the butler intoned

“Her Grace, the Duchess of Sutherland”

“Harriet” exclaimed Victoria as Harriet curtsied “we did not expect you until Boxing Day”

“Forgive me your Majesty” said Harriet “the first Christmas as a widow is proving very hard and I thought…” she stopped “I hope that your Majesty does not disapprove of my early arrival”

“Of course she does not” said Ernst springing up “we are delighted to see you are we not everyone?”

Albert looked like he was about to say something and then thought better of it, he got up and bowed stiffly “of course we are delighted to see you”

“Please Harriet, sit and rest” said Ernst urging her to the fireside “you must be cold and tired”

“Thank you your Serene Highness” she smiled up at him

“But not for too long” said Albert “we have the snowman building contest to start”

Harriet looked askance at Ernst who whispered “ I will tell you all but suffice to say that my dear brother is most excited this Christmas”

 

“The rules are simple” said Albert striding up and down in front of the company, paper in hand and eyes alight with enthusiasm. The sleigh Harriet had arrived in was standing off to one side behind him; an envious Miss Coke had already examined it declaring it the most charming thing she had ever seen. Septimus seeing her delight in it resolved to ensure she took a ride in it with him before Harriet returned home. In the meantime though it was time to listen to the Prince

“Each snowman must be at last 4ft tall but no more than 6ft tall”

Princess Vicky put up her hand

“Yes Vicky?”

“Will you be measuring them papa?”

“Indeed I will, I have made this special measuring rod to do so”

 

Alfred and Drummond looked sideways at each other, if Albert got any more organised about Christmas, he might start wearing his army uniform. Alfred had said as much to Drummond earlier who had laughed and then muttered quietly

“Did you bring yours?”

“Did I bring my what Drummond?”

“Uniform”

Alfred looked at him puzzled, “I think so, just in case the queen took it into her head to go visiting, why?”

“No reason” said Drummond coughing “I rather wondered that was all”

Alfred grinned at him “I do believe you like my uniform Drummond”

Drummond went red “it’s very becoming on you” he had mumbled

Alfred winked at him “well then let us hope I get the opportunity to wear it”

 

Ernst put his hand up

“You do not need to put your hand up Ernst” said Albert wearily

Ernst grinned “well I was not sure if that was in the rules; tell me Albert what is the prize if we win?”

“The prize? There is no prize Ernst other than winning”

Ernst smiled fondly at Albert “then it is all for the glory, I see”

“Mama?” piped up Bertie

“Yes Bertie”

“What is glory? Can I eat it?”

“No my darling” said Victoria “it means that it is all for being the best you can”

 

They divided into teams of 2

Ernst and Harriet

Septimus and Miss Coke

Alfred and Drummond

Victoria and the children (2 half size people counting as one was fair said Albert)

The Duchess of Buccleuch had been invited to participate but had refused

“Quite ridiculous! Grown people gallivanting about in the snow building men, in my day we would have gone for a nice long walk rather than this tomfoolery!”

If you had asked them, Ernst, Harriet, Alfred, Drummond and Victoria would all have said of course they were not taking it at all seriously but the fact remained that as soon as Albert blew his whistle (“you have one hour”), they immediately split up and paced off looking for the best spot

 

“Now what you need to do” said Drummond after he had spent at least 10 minutes identifying an area with what he believed to be just the right amount of snow “Is to make a snowball and roll it along the ground”

Alfred nodded his mouth twitching; he just adored how Drummond was always so organised about everything, no slap dash last minute planning for him!

Drummond was oblivious to Alfred’s smile as he gathered some snow into his hand and began to roll it along, and then suddenly he was hit squarely on the side of the head by a snowball

“Ooof” he spluttered “Alfred” he began and then he was thumped in the face by another. He rubbed the snow off his face as Alfred shook with laughter

“I see that you intend to misbehave” said Drummond bending down to gather his own snow and being hit by another two snowballs in the process

He straightened up “prepare to defend yourself!” and hurled the first ball at Alfred who dodged it

“Missed” he called out laughing

“I shall not miss again sir” said Drummond gathering another and advancing towards him Alfred moved away giggling as Drummond threw one that hit him right on the shoulder

Can you do no bette...” he said impishly and then was cut off by a snowball hitting him in the face

“Blurgh” he coughed as he swallowed some snow

Drummond was now chasing after him, mercilessly pelting him with snowballs as Alfred ran away

“Pax Drummond” he shouted but Drummond was having none of it as he ran after him laughing; he hadn’t felt this free in years! He caught up with Alfred, grabbing at him

“Drummond be care….

But it was too late, they had reached the top of a snowy bank and Alfred slipped pulling Drummond with him and they both went rolling down the slope ending up in an undignified heap at the bottom

Drummond lay flat on his back still laughing as Alfred sat up and spat snow out of his mouth

“I believe you did not fight fairly ” he pouted looking at Drummond and trying to gather his breath from the unexpected slide into a snow drift in the bottom “and….” but his voice faded away from the look in Drummond eyes

“Alfred” Drummond said in a low voice “come here” and he reached out, grabbing Alfred’s wrist and pulling him over

Alfred barely had time to think before he was being dragged on top of Drummond and thoroughly kissed until he was panting against his mouth.

“Edward” he gasped and then he was being rolled over and Drummond was on top of him kissing him urgently, the heat of his body evident through the many layers of clothing. Drummond had his hands in Alfred’s hair holding him in place as he kissed him feeling Alfred wriggle beneath him sending all sorts of sensations shooting around his body.

“Edward” Alfred was trying to fight his mouth free “Edward we can’t do this here”

“I don’t want to stop” he whispered against Alfred lips “not ever”

“We must my love, it’s not safe to do this here, what if we are seen?” Alfred eyes were midnight blue with want but this was not the time or the place

Drummond rested his head in the curve of Alfred’s neck for a moment and then pushed himself up “I know” he said and extended his hand to pull Alfred up

 “Don’t be sad Edward” said Alfred when he was on his feet “perhaps a walk to the forest later?

“No” said Drummond firmly

Oh! Had he horribly misread everything? thought Alfred but surely Drummonds kisses???

“Alfred it’s not enough just to kiss you” said Drummond  “I want more than that….” he broke off “I would like to come to your room tonight if I may”

Alfred’s eyes went wide and then he nodded “yes” he said “you may Edward”

Drummond let out a breath he hadn’t really realised he was holding and embraced Alfred resting his forehead against his “thank you” he murmured. Alfred squeezed him hard and then released him

“Come Edward” he said “we need to build this snowman, we do not want to be explaining to the Prince what we’ve been doing if it doesn’t materialise”

 

Chapter Text

Alfred didn’t quite know how to wait for Drummond which seemed both silly to him as he and Drummond had been together (as he saw it) for 3 years, and exactly as it should be given what tonight would mean.

Should he wait in bed? Possibly a little too forward, what if Drummond didn’t really have that in mind?

How about leaning casually against the fireplace? He practised looking nonchalant and then caught sight of himself in the mirror so that was the end of that! Honestly he looked quite ridiculous

Hmmm what about in bed but with his clothes on? Now you’re just getting stupid Alfred he admonished himself but actually what should he wear? Drummond liked his uniform but he could hardly sit here trussed up in that, perhaps he should change though? But then what to wear instead?

In the end he took off his jacket, waistcoat and cravat and seated himself in a chair by the fire. He would just wait here till Drummond arrived; he glanced at the clock, 11.30pm, Drummond said he’d be there at 1am just to be sure that everyone was safe in their rooms and slumbering.

Alfred yawned, he’d been careful to avoid too much wine this evening but it had been a long day, the chair was very comfortable, the fire was warm and he was tired. Eventually he fell asleep.

 

In his room, Drummond was pacing around nervously; he’d barely eaten a thing at dinner. Fortunately everyone was too full of the Christmas spirit to notice. Miss Coke and Septimus had once again been wrapped up in each other and Harriet had graciously given permission for the two of them to take a sleigh ride on Christmas Day. Harriet herself had been much in the company of Prince Ernst who was completely changed from the melancholic figure of the previous day and was back to his usual light hearted dashing self. Even the Duchess having satisfied herself that Septimus was of good character seemed happy and even agreed that Miss Coke and Septimus could have their sleigh ride unchaperoned.

Alfred and Drummond were sat opposite each other and for once Drummond was finding it hard to meet Alfred’s eyes. His mind was whirring nineteen to the dozen about what might happen later. He was finding it hard to swallow and his stomach trembled at the thought of being in bed with Alfred. Three years he thought, three long years of looking and staring and wanting and needing and now finally tonight, the waiting was going to be over.

Drummond eyes slid to the clock in his room, 12.15, the time was just dragging past. He sat down on the bed and then immediately stood up again, far too edgy to sit still. He washed his face and hands again and then peered in the mirror to be sure he looked presentable, pushing back some strands of hair and then he resumed his pacing. His heart was banging in his chest and his palms were sweating. He wondered if Alfred was as nervous as he was. Eventually at 12.45 he could stand it no longer, everyone seemed to have gone to bed; he hard Ernst wishing Harriet a good night some 10 minutes earlier. All was quiet and still. He crept out of his room into the moonlit corridor looking around for any sign that anyone was awake or about this hour. Every creak of wood sounded like a canon shot to him as he tiptoed the few feet to Alfred’s room. They had agreed that Alfred would leave the door open; he hardly wanted to be knocking on it in the middle of the night in case someone heard. Grasping the door handle he took a deep breath and then another and then cautiously pushed the door open wincing at the slight squeak.

“Alfred” he whispered but there was no answer, instead there was a soft little snore and then another, Alfred was asleep. Drummond came over quietly and stood looking down at him. How peaceful he looked, thought Drummond and how beautiful. The dying flames of the fire cast golden shadows onto his skin and his eyelashes fluttered against his cheek as he slept. Drummond’s heart contracted with a love so powerful it almost overwhelmed him. Tomorrow he would write the letter that would change both their lives forever but he was worth it, they were worth it.

He knelt down next to the chair

“Alfred” he whispered nuzzling his nose and softly kissing his lips “Alfred”

Alfred twitched in his sleep and then slowly blinked awake

“Edward” he smiled sleepily “you came” and he stretched out his arms to enfold him. Drummond buried himself in the embrace, closing his eyes and just losing himself in the feel of having Alfred in his arms. Turning his head, he gently kissed his way up Alfred’s neck before returning to his lips again. Their kiss this time was more lingering

“Alfred” Drummond pulled away “I would like, that is to say, if you don’t mind, of course if you feel that it is too soon then we don’t have” he broke off feeling more tongue tied than he would have thought possible

“Edward” said Alfred quietly with “are you asking me if I would like to go to the bed with you? If so the answer is yes”

Oh! and then it came that wonderful wide life affirming grin of Drummond’s that never failed to light up Alfred’s heart. He stood up and took Alfred’s hands in his as he stood up too. They looked at each other wordlessly and then kissed again slowly and deeply. Drummond began to move his way backwards towards the bed until his legs hit the edge and he fell back pulling Alfred with him.

 

Afterwards when he thought of the night as he very often did, it was the little things that Drummond remembered. How warm Alfred had felt, how soft his skin was, how the hair on his chest had tickled his nose as he nuzzled into it. He’d turned him on his front and kissed his way down his spine hearing him giggle softly at the ticklish sensation and how his breath had hitched as Drummond had then turned him back and begun the same journey  down his body with his mouth.

He remembered their limbs entwined with each other, the taste of Alfred’s skin, how the muscles of his stomach had trembled beneath his lips and the wonder in Alfred’s eyes as new sensation piled onto new sensation and he plainly adored every single minute of them. They had kissed and licked and stroked and touched until at last he was gripping the sheets and it was “yes yes please, more please, ohgodohgodohgodohgod”; he heard Alfred whimpering as he unravelled and then he was crying out and falling apart too, his body crashing out to sea on a tidal wave of bliss before he floated back in Alfred’s arms.

They lay there staring into each other’s eyes. Alfred reached up and stroked back a stray curl that had fallen across Drummond’s forehead, he smiled

“We should have done that before Edward” he whispered

Drummond stroked his face “why didn’t we meet a lifetime ago?” he said “years of my life wasted without you in them”

Alfred ran his thumb across Drummond’s lips “I loved you before I even knew you. It was as if all my life I was only half alive waiting for you to come along”

They kissed gently

Drummond tangled his fingers in the hair on Alfred’s chest fascinated at how soft it felt

“Can we stop time my love?” he said “stay here like this forever?”

“If it were possible Edward I would halt the sands of time for you”

They kissed again with rising passion both conscious that they might only get this one night

“Love me again Edward” whispered Alfred  urgently, pulling Drummond  on top of him “love me one more time”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tick tick tick, Drummond had never been so conscious of time, how it ran away from him and Alfred, how he couldn’t stay much longer

Alfred was wrapped in his arms, head against his shoulder, his soft rhythmic breathing suggesting he was asleep if it hadnt been for his hand gently stroking across Drummond’s chest.

“Alfred I will have to leave soon” said Drummond quietly kissing the top of Alfred’s head, how it hurt to say those words

Alfred went still for a moment and then nodded “I know Edward, I know you would stay if you could” he looked up at him “these moments we have, we have to steal them when we can and I know they can never last”

Drummond felt a lump rise in his throat, why shouldn’t their moments last he thought? Why was their love wrong but Victoria and Albert’s right when he did not believe they loved any more or better than he and Alfred did

Alfred was moving out of the circle of his arms “before you go I have a present for you”

“A present?” Drummond was puzzled, he was sure he had seen a present for him from Alfred wrapped up downstairs. Seeing his expression Alfred smiled gently “a present not to be opened in front of others”

“Oh”

Alfred slid over to the edge of the bed and rummaged underneath the mattress, returning with a simply wrapped small box.

“Here” he said “Happy Christmas Edward” he paused Drummond was still staring at the box “well then open it”

Drummond nodded and undid the ribbon and the silver paper surrounding it; inside was a small velvet box, he opened it up and inside was a locket

“Alfred….”

“You need to open that too”

Drummond clicked the tiny latch and opened it up; inside was a miniature drawing of himself in one side and Alfred in the other

“I drew them” said Alfred “I think it’s quite a good likeness don’t you?” he smiled at Drummond, eyes full of love and expectation “I do not see you as much as I would wish and I thought perhaps you felt the same and a picture might help”

Drummond was still staring at the locket in his hand

“Edward?” said Alfred nervously “does it not please you?”

“I….” said Drummond and then his shoulders were heaving and he convulsed with sobs.

“Edward!” Alfred was horrified “whatever is the matter?” he put his arms around him “you do not have to keep it if you do not like it”

But Drummond kept crying, holding on to Alfred, hot tears raining down on his shoulder weeping for them both and what they had and what they could never have publicly “shhhhhhh” Alfred soothed him “ssshhhh Edward, whatever it is, it cannot be that bad”

Drummond made a huge effort to get a hold of himself wiping his eyes with his hand

“I am sorry Alfred” he said “forgive me for being so unmanned”

“Do you not like it?” asked Alfred

“Its…”his face crumpled again and he took a huge breath “it’s the most perfect thing I’ve ever been given”

Alfred smiled delightedly “thank goodness Edward, I was concerned that it was not to your liking”

Drummond looked down “and I have nothing for you”

“But that does not matter Edward! I have you, what else could I need?”

Drummond pushed him down on the bed kissing him feverishly “you do have me” he whispered fiercely “for always”

The whirring of the clock speeded up and it struck 5am

They both stilled, “I must go” said Drummond aching at the thought of leaving

“Yes” said Alfred sadly wishing more than anything that Edward could stay

Drummond sighed heavily and began to slide out of the bed

“Edward” Alfred seized him and dragged him back for another deep long kiss

“I have to go” Drummond drew away so very reluctantly and got out of the bed. He quickly pulled on his clothes not wanting to prolong saying goodbye any more than was necessary

“Edward” Alfred was sat up in bed watching him, his arms around his knees “I love you” he said; Drummond came over and kissed him one last time “I love you too” he said and then turning, he crept cautiously out of the room, giving one last sad little wave and then he was gone

Alfred slid down into the bed, the bed clothes smelt of Drummond and he inhaled them deeply before the sobs rose in his throat and he too wept

Chapter Text

“Merry Christmas sir” said the butler as Drummond sat down for breakfast

“Thank you” said Drummond “and the same to you”

He felt strangely awake despite having had less than 2 hours sleep. Today was the day he was going to take back ownership of his life. He’d always done the correct thing, taken the sensible action, been measured and judged and look where that had got him. Now for once he was going to do what he wanted.

He looked up to see Alfred enter the room who blushed beautifully when he saw Drummond already seated there

Good morning Drummond” he said “a Merry Christmas to you”

“A Merry Christmas to you too Lord Alfred” said Drummond, his mind flooded with images of Alfred twisting beneath him moaning his name

The butler appeared at Drummond’s side again “excuse me sir, there is a letter for you” and he handed it over. Drummond heart dropped like a stone when he saw the handwriting on it, it was from Florence. Seeing the stricken expression on Drummond’s face, Alfred leant forward

“Is anything the matter Drummond?”

“It’s from Florence” said Drummond willing his other life to go away

“Flo…” began Alfred and then they were interrupted by the arrival of Septimus and Miss Coke handing their coats to the maid and shaking off their shoes

“Good morning Lord Alfred, Mr Drummond, a Merry Christmas to you” Miss Coke’ face was flushed pink and on her face was an expression of pure happiness.

“Good morning, merry Christmas” replied Alfred realising that he would have to carry the conversation as Drummond looked thoroughly distracted by the letter “I trust you are both well?”

“Never better” beamed Septimus “never better” and he smiled at Miss Coke “we have had a most enjoyable early morning walk”

"Merry Christmas Mr Drummond" repeated Miss Coke "are you quite well?"

Drummond stood up abruptly “excuse me” he said “I have something I need to attend too”

Septimus raised his eyebrows “how very mysterious! Now Miss Coke can I tempt you to some bacon?”

 

Alfred stayed at the breakfast table for as short a time as politeness allowed before making his excuses and rushing off to find Drummond. He eventually ran him to ground in the library standing staring out of the window at the snowy landscape

“Edward” Alfred came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder “has anything happened?”

Drummond didn’t reply but handed Alfred the letter from Florence “read it” he said simply

“Edward, I do not believe I am comfortable reading a letter from your intended” said Alfred frowning

“Read it” said Drummond “please”, his voice sounded very strange thought Alfred, as if it was being forced out of him

Alfred sighed and braced himself to read the endearments interspaced with wedding plans

My dear Mr. Drummond

(A peculiar way to start a letter to your fiancé thought Alfred)

It is with a great sadness but also some relief that I write this letter to you. I have for some time now been aware that your enthusiasm for our marriage has waned. I had hoped that it was the pressure of your many responsibilities weighing heavily upon you but alas I no longer believe that to be so. It is my belief that you have fallen out of love with me and have in fact felt this way for some time. I have also found my affections pursued by another who I believe feels far more deeply for me than you do now or possibly ever did. With that being the case, I release you from our engagement.

I wish you nothing but the best in your future life and hope that you find happiness with another

Yours with affection

Florence

 

Alfred looked at Drummond the wild happiness within him fighting with concern for Drummond and how he would react to such a letter

“Drummond I do not know what to say”

Drummond turned to look at him, a wide gorgeous smile bursting across his face

“I am free Alfred” he said “free!”

“You are” the enormity of what this meant hitting Alfred like a sandbag, Drummond wasn’t getting married! He no longer had to fight those feelings of burning jealousy when he even thought  about him kissing another. If Drummond had only known how many many nights he had lain awake almost biting the pillow with frustration at the thought of Drummond bedding Florence or indeed anyone who wasn’t him. Drummond was free, free!

Drummond looked around and then put his hand in Alfred’s and squeezed it “I will not let my family try and marry me off again. I don’t know how Alfred but we will find a way for us to be together.

Alfred wanted to hurl himself into Drummond's arms but given where they were contented himself with returning the squeeze “I wonder” he said “moistening his lips with his tongue whether you may be available for a visit to your bedchamber this night”

Drummond’s huge happy grin said it all; oh he was most definitely available

 

When they returned it was to see Septimus talking earnestly with the Duchess beside the enormous Christmas tree in the hall with Miss Coke at his side. Whatever it was Septimus was telling her, it seemed to please her as she smiled and then hugged Wilhelmina

“Alfred” Septimus gestured excitedly to him “come here, I want you to be the first to know, Miss Coke and I are to marry!”

“Septimus!” Alfred embraced him “I’m so happy for you” he turned to Miss Coke “May I?” she nodded and he embraced her too “I am delighted for you, my brother could not have found a more charming wife”

“What is this?” Ernst arrived with Harriet who was bundled up most becomingly in a fur trimmed green bonnet and hat

“Miss Coke and I are to be married your Serene Highness” laughed Septimus

“I am delighted to hear that” smiled Ernst shaking his hand “and I hope you permit me” he bent down and dropped a gentle kiss on Miss Coke’s cheek “you deserve great happiness Miss Coke” he said

She smiled up at him “thank you sir” she said

 

“And now it is time for presents” declared Albert after a very large and elaborate Christmas dinner featuring more meat than Alfred and Drummond had ever seen in their lives and considering how often they ate at the palace, that was a lot!  The crowning glory had been a huge Christmas pudding with a spring of holly which the cook had brought in and Albert had insisted on flaming himself. The children were round eyed

“Mama the food will burn!”

“No it will not, your papa knows what he is doing! You do know what you are doing Albert I hope" added the Queen

“Of course” he beamed “I have flamed many puddings to practice”

And he deftly set alight to the brandy in the ladle which he then poured over the pudding.

The presents under the tree were divided up carefully by the children who handed them round with as much care as if they had been Father Christmas themselves

“you see” explained Princess Vicky earnestly to Drummond “we get our presents from father Christmas but you are too big because he only brings presents to children so we have to give these to you instead”

Drummond nodded gravely “thank you for explaining your Royal Highness”

Drummond had brought Alfred a new tinderbox and Alfred had brought Drummond a copy of the Iliad in the original. They thanked each other politely and then Drummond smiled at him secretively and surruptiously pulled the locket from his inside pocket

“I keep it over my heart” he whispered and Alfred’s own heart fluttered with love.

After gifts were exchanged, they sang carols gathered around the piano as Victoria played. Then as more champagne was consumed there was dancing with Harriet attempting to teach them a Scots reel which had them all cannoning into each other as the continual changes in direction caught them off guard. Toasts were drunk to all present and most especially Miss Coke and Septimus on their engagement.

 

Eventually, one by one the company retired. The children first

“This was the best Christmas ever papa”

Then the Duchess and Victoria and Albert, followed by Miss Coke and Septimus though Alfred was sure he caught sight of them 10 minutes later slipping out of a side door and towards the forest, he smiled to himself, he certainly hoped that’s where they were going. Ernst and Harriet were next leaving himself and Drummond alone by the fire

Drummond hair was rumpled from the dancing and he had undone his cravat, he looked so happy, as if the weight of the world had been taken from him

“Edward” Alfred knelt next to his chair “I have never had a merrier Christmas”

“Neither have I Alfred” Drummond stroked his hair “and we will have many more of them I assure you”

Alfred smiled at him fondly “it is my dearest wish that we do”

Drummond smiled back and pulled the sprig of mistletoe from his pocket and held it above their heads

“Merry Christmas Alfred” he said and then he kissed him with all the joy in his heart

 

The end

 

 

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve

Alfred smiled as he hugged his favourite nephew "it is delightful to be here Fred, thank you for inviting us"

"Of course!" He grinned "come on, mama and papa are dying to see you as is Clara"

Fred led the way into the house "my dear look who is here" Clara Paget, Fred's new and very beautiful young wife rose eagerly to meet them

"Uncle Alfred and uncle Drummond, it means so much to us that you are here"

"Alfred" Septimus embraced his brother and shook hands with Drummmond "Edward, I'm so pleased you could both come"

"We are so happy to be here" said Drummond and he smiled at Alfred and them at the assembled company

"Let me show you where you are sleeping" said Fred

He bounded up the stairs ahead of them and round the landing

"Here" he threw open the door to show a cosy warm room hung in various shades of blue with a roaring fire, holly wreaths and a Christmas tree in the corner "your room uncle"

Alfred and Drummond hesitated "and where erm am I sleeping?" Asked Drummond after Fred made no move

"In here with uncle Alfred of course" said Fred "I think at your age you would prefer not to creep around corridors" he laughed at their shocked faces and then grew serious

"In MY house unle Alfred and uncle Drummond you sleep together as any man and wife would"

 

It had been 25 years since that first Christmas together, 25 years of love and joy and caring. Of course there had been downs as well as ups, Alfred's decision to run for parliament as a Whig MP after he left the royal household had caused a week of heated arguments and at least one episode of storming out of the room (though of course they had always made up, sometimes that was the best part!) Drummond in his turn had had a crisis about wasting his life and when he'd turned 40 had suggested to Alfred they went to India, an idea Alfred had firmly negated leading to Drummond insisting he would go alone. He didn't of course, instead he took up golf with a single mindedness that saw Alfred dragged all over Scotland to seek out the best courses.

Of course now they were past 50, they fell asleep sooner after dinner than they used to and rose somewhat later. Drummond still had a full head of thick wavy hair but it was now mostly grey and Alfred's golden hair had become distinctly whiter. Alfred needed spectacles to read the morning paper and Drummond was somewhat stouter than he had been in his youth. Their love however burned as brightly as it had since the day they met, eternally young.

Alfred had left the royal household a year after the death of Prince Albert. That dreadful day he had eventually arrived home looking a shadow of himself. Drummond had taken one look at him, given him a whiskey and suggested immediate bed. He'd meant alone but Alfred insisted he came too

He'd made love to Drummond fiercely, almost hurting him he held him so tight. Afterwards he told him of the day

"It was beyond terrible Drummond, I believe I will hear the queens howls of grief in my sleep"

"She loved him so much" said Drummond sadly "how will she cope?"

" I know not" said Alfred he paused "Edward, it made me think of what I would do if you...when you..." His eyes were bright with tears "and I cannot even imagine it"

"Then don't my love" Drummond strained Alfred too him "do not think of it"

 


Christmas dinner was a very jolly affair with turkey, crackers, pudding and a considerable amount of wine. Afterwards Clara pressed Alfred to dance with her

"My mother in law tells me you were once the queens dancing partner"

Alfred smiled at the memory

"Yes I was, though alas I don't dance as much as I used to"

Then there were parlour games, singing and a final late supper before Alfred and Drummond excused themselves to bed

In their room Drummond looked around smiling

"I am so moved by this Alfred" he said softly "what a wonderful boy Fred is"

Alfred nodded and then looking out of the window gave a cry of delight

"Look Edward it is snowing!"

Drummond joined him at the window

"So it is"

Alfred laughed happily "do you remember my love that Christmas long ago in Scotland?"

"How could I forget?" Drummond put his arms around Alfred "I pledged myself to you then and it was the best Christmas I could have had"

Alfred lent into his embrace and then looked up

"Edward look"

Drummond looked up, there was a spring of mistletoe hanging from the curtain rail

They smiled at one another and then Drummond bent down to kiss Alfred

"Merry Christmas my love"

"Merry Christmas Edward "