"Are you sure it's okay?" Keith questioned even as Our Jane-- Jane reached for the nearest horse with a wide smile on her face. Before I could say anything, Troy was already reassuring them both.
"Of course. This is a set meant to be played with and there's nothing that can't be repaired if it gets damaged. Don't worry," he said. I wasn't sure if I should add that Troy would be the one to do the repairs. He'd made most of the set, after all, the gorgeous horses and their full stable, the riders, all the tiny saddles and tack... Though Keith and Jane were old enough that they probably suspected exactly where their Christmas gift came from.
I had, in the back of my mind, worried that they were a bit old for toys, but I was quickly proven wrong.
I'd almost forgotten about the Rawlingses, while watching my younger brother and sister. Christmas had been two days ago, but the weather had been miserable and this was the soonest they'd been able to get to Farthinggale. It didn't matter; everything was still extravagantly decorated and alight. A few friends had visited earlier in the week. Some of the toy company's executives had visited early on Christmas Eve for a festive brunch. But I hadn't been able to convince Fanny or Tom to come visit...
I'd already sent gifts to both of them, though with the weather I doubted either had received them yet. Likely, that would go on my list of offenses that Fanny seemed to cherish maintaining. Tom wouldn't mind at all and I knew that some sort of acknowledgement would arrive eventually.
"Thank you," Troy replied softly. I nodded and smiled. I'd also given both Keith and Jane some lovely new winter gear, and I'd handled choosing gifts for the Rawlingses as well, but I knew everything paled in comparison and I certainly didn't mind. I'd spent the last months watching Troy work on the set, enthralled, listening to him talk about horses, company business, and everything else that came to mind.
I never grew tired of watching him, listening to him... Really, I never grew tired of him and I knew I never would. He pushed away so much sadness that threatened to linger in my heart otherwise, and I knew I did the same for him.
Our need for each other, in every way, remained the foundation for our relationship. Even after everything that had happened, and Tony's revelation... It hadn't mattered. It would never matter.
A tray of treats and bottle of wine helped ease the four of us into conversation about the holidays, about how Keith and Jane were doing in school...
Nearby, the stable was getting disassembled by Keith and carefully reconstructed by Jane. Treasures and features received soft exclamations and at first it was hard to pay attention when honestly, I would have happily watched the pair find everything that I knew was hidden in their gift.
We sat on a pair of velvet sofas, with Troy just close enough for our legs to touch and our arms to brush until finally we both gave up and wove our hands together. The announcement of dinner was the only thing that pulled us apart some time later. Even though we'd had a lovely, intimate Christmas feast already, another one had been prepared. Though neither Keith nor Jane wanted to be pulled from their play, once they saw all the food, they were quickly convinced it was for the best.
I knew what they were thinking. I still had those thoughts, too. I knew how many people it would feed back in The Willies and though I hoped their memories of those days were fading, surely Keith and Jane thought about it too.
The whole family would stay with us for at least another day. I knew Lester had work to return to, but this was just so nice. Farthinggale seemed best with children's voices in it, something Troy agreed with. We had, however, decided that would wait til I'd finished university. Already, I'd invited everyone for a spring visit, and for summer...
I'd learned enough card games to not embarrass myself at social events, though I never had mastered Bridge. Troy offered a Tatterton game, however, and the four of us adults played it until we were all yawning. Keith and Jane had gone back to the stable toy, carefully naming all of the horses, and did not want to leave it.
"I promise it will be just as you left it come morning," Troy said with a smile. I knew I'd have to let the maids know not to touch it, even if a horse or two might be lurking on an end-table or elsewhere.
I hugged them both, and carefully, so did Troy. Then they, and Lester and Rita, were escorted to their rooms, leaving Troy and I surveying the remains of our second Christmas of the week.
"I hope I don't have to top that next year," Troy said softly, chuckling.
I let myself be pulled into his arms, laughing as well. He held me close, and though there was no mistletoe overhead, he kissed me deeply and certainly with more energy than I'd expected. I was not overly tired myself, despite the earlier fit of yawning, but...
"Troy, I don't know how you could!"
"Oh, Heaven, are you saying you don't believe in me?"
I blinked, but he laughed and kept me close.
"I mean it," I continued. "I can't imagine they'll stop playing with it before next Christmas."
"Then that's the highest praise a toymaker can receive." Troy took my hand as he let me go; neither of us needed an escort to our suite. It was still a little odd sometimes, to be master and mistress of the sprawling mansion, and we did steal away to Troy's cottage for weekends now and then.
While I did get to quickly let a maid know not to touch Keith and Jane's stable on our way, there was no further talk of toys once we were in our bedroom, not as his deft hands quickly found the tiny zipper of my dress.
I made equally short work of his shirt and slacks, between kisses. I never tired of seeing him, just as the expression on Troy's face suggested that he never tired of seeing me, either.
His hands always did things to me that I couldn't believe, without exception. By the time he entered me, I was desperate for him. He left me more than satisfied, my head on his chest afterward, listening to his heartbeat. One of his hands trailed through my hair, lulling me to sleep.
I wondered, briefly, if I'd dream of horses and happiness. And just as Keith and Jane's intricate stable would be waiting for them when the sun rose, Troy would be here with me, where he belonged.
I was where I belonged.