He'd always resisted the idea of having to have a manservant when he grew up, as a boy. It seemed so /silly/ when he saw his father letting Ruperts dress him, or standing behind him, serving him as if he couldn't do it himself. He was too independent, his mother said. He had to learn how to fit into society, and part of that was learning to accept that it was proper to let servants do what they did best - serve - and that it would elevate him as a gentleman if he accepted it. He didn't quite understand that, but he thought his mother wonderful wise, so he tucked the information away as being something he didn't quite like, but thought he'd have to accept some day.
When he visited a friend who lived near school over Michaelmas vacation from Eton when he was fourteen, he was shocked to see that Laurence had a butler of his own already. Larry was a good chap, and was Going Places, according to the gossip whispered about in school, and so he paid attention to how Larry acted with his manservant. He was cordial, accepting the aid that was offered and asking for help when needed, but when not directly addressing the butler there was an invisible wall that separated the two so that the butler might as well have not been in the room. It was how Peter's father treated Ruperts. While it still seemed rather rude to Peter, especially as Ruperts was such a nice fellow and jolly good fun on the cricket field, even if he was an old boy and must be nearing fifty, he thought that Ruperts must not mind it, as he'd turned down employment at several grander houses to stay with Sir Woodhurst.
When Peter went home that year for Christmas, he pulled Ruperts aside to talk to him one evening in the hall. "Mister Ruperts, do you mind being a valet?" Ruperts raised one perfectly poised eyebrow, and in the kindest but quickest way possible he explained that he had been trained to do this job, just as his brother had trained in the repair of carriages and his sister had trained as a nurse. It was his job, his position, and he strived daily to do it to the best of his abilities. He had given the boy a smile, patted him on the head, and gone back to work, leaving Peter to ponder what he had said.
Six years later, having received his first at Oxford despite activities that should have had him sent down several times (he was ever so lucky that the Magdalene Dean was of a liberal and forgiving nature, and had been a great prankster in his own youth), he returned home to take a much needed rest before sorting out what he was to do with his life. His mother wished him to have a sort of coming out, to introduce him around, and his father did not object, simply wishing that he would take the Tour before deciding if he wished to go on to a career or further study. But one thing they both insisted on was that he have a proper manservant of his own, not just one of the upper footmen. So Ruperts brought in candidates, and his father vetted them and then one day Dalton was waiting for him in his rooms. And he'd wondered what he'd done to get such luck.
Dalton was young, he was incredibly good to the eyes, he was quick and quiet and didn't fuss over one too much, he had perfect fashion sense, he wasn't stuffy or silly or anything but calmly good natured. He was a bit more reserved than Peter would have liked, but then, that rather came with the job description.
Within three months he had developed quite a pash for the man, to the point where he had started to do things to make his life easier. Or so he thought. The bed he made himself had to be redone by Dalton's expert hands. The ash-tray he emptied out the window got Dalton a turning down by the housekeeper, Mrs Meadows, due to the ash having blown into a parlor maid's eyes. And so forth and so on, until he wondered why Dalton hadn't mentioned it... but perhaps he was just shy of discussing it.
Four months after Dalton had begun his service, Peter was introduced to the Decadents by a friend from university. One night in a salon full of what his father had, snarling, called the devil's paederists, and he was quite sure he knew what to do with his life - he would devote it to Art for the sake of Beauty. That, and hopefully develope a (or several) relationship with a similarly-minded aesthetic, after the manner of the greeks. He came home quite in a state of drunkenness that he could not remember having reached before, having been well-groped behind a Japanese screen by a man named "Bertie - but please do call me Raphael." And said as much to Dalton, not that he remembered it.
Another month passed, during which he was out almost every night to either a party with his mother or father or at least one they had suggested to him, or to a salon with his new found friends. He tasted the delights of la fee verte, the poppy of the orient, and wrote a great deal of truly rubbish poetry - in which frequently featured a tall, dark and handsome figure whose silence and slightly smirking mouth brought heart-pangs to his youthful admirer. He sometimes left these poems scattered about his rooms, but they were always where he had left them upon his return.
The All Hallow's Eve party that Peter attended (dressed as Sir Galahad At A Feast, in tunic and tights and with his hair mussed from its usual perfect curls, he was hailed as the perfect British specimen), he met a fellow named Kennings, a minor poet of the time, who had salons that were known to be wild and "the perfect breeding ground for creativity." Kennings invitation to the events he was holding throughout the holiday season made Peter quite faint with excitement - he would be among the creme de la creme of Decadence. He thought Dalton's look was quite a disapproving one when he told him about it the next day, but he steeled his heart against it. Dalton had practically turned him down numerous times, he knew he preferred men and had done nothing about it, despite everything Peter had tried. So he would go, and he would enjoy himself.
As the days neared Christmas, he was excited to learn that Lady Chadwick's grand party was to include him. Even Kennings' feast that night couldn't draw him away from the promises of elephants and a score of Hindi dancing boys. He had not been there an hour when Rajam caught his eye, the shimmying hips causing his pants to tighten against his will and the come-hither eyes making him flush. When his parents departed for home, leaving him to himself at last, it was a simple matter of 'taking the air' that let him follow Rajam out to the garden and press him into the garden wall. From there to the carriage it was even more simple, and from the carriage to bed there was only the obstacle of Dalton.
Dalton. Who had looked on Rajam as if he was the scum of the earth and his greatest enemy. It had sent thrills down Peter's spine to see that look, but he couldn't attribute things to his manservant that were clearly not true - the man probably just despised Rajam as being unfit due to his birth. The idea of Dalton being jealous was a lovely one, but not one he could entertain while Rajam was pressing his warm lips all over Peter's skin, and it was only when Dalton burst into the room, his face betraying him, that Peter again dared to hope.
And then Dalton was there, hot mouth and passionate hands and so overwhelmingly present that Peter could hardly breathe. Even the smoke at Kennings didn't make him as light headed as being kissed by Dalton. Before he could truly think he had been pushed into the bed, his hands caught up above his head, and pinned in place by Dalton's glorious body. Peter knew how strong his valet could be, and how gentle, and the fact that he could feel the proof of Dalton's desires against his thigh meant he was not just in the hands of someone who had a platonic devotion to him, but someone who wanted him. Dalton wanted him.
Peter was giddy, desperate, wanting to giggle from the delight like a school girl and to thrust up and show Dalton that he could be passionate, too. But he held still while Dalton accused him of playing him for a fool, and then tried to push the thoughts that gathered in his head out of his mouth, to reassure Dalton that he very much had done no such thing, never intended to, never would. And then - then Dalton caused him to swoon as fully as any heroine of the old fashioned Gothic novels his mother delighted in - Dalton promised Peter him whatever he needed, if he would forsake his Decadents and his Aesthetics and stay at home, with him.
He didn't have to think for a second. He had made some real friends among his London salons, but mostly he knew the others would drop him like an old hat if they were pressed. He could write poetry at home, and with Dalton as inspiration he would never lack for true Beauty in front of him. Or on top of him, as the case might be. And so he promised. He begged, point of fact, with all the ardor he possessed, and knew then that Dalton had won him over more fully than even he had guessed.