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A Country Lad

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"Good afternoon, Maurice," Alec spoke in a cool, detached voice. He smoothed down the lapels of his jacket, twisting about to admire the sharp lines his body cut in the new suit. He almost looked like a different person, shedding his usual drab colors for dark blue and a red, red tie.

"Maurice, it's a pleasure to see you," he said, but frowned lightly at his reflection in the mirror. It felt odd to address a gentleman in such friendly terms, as if they were old friends. However, he refused to call the man 'sir' after the night they had shared. He had asked Alec to call him by his name after all. He straightened his shoulders and tried again--"Maurice,"--with his right hand out-thrust, but started at a knock.

"Licky? You finished?" Mrs. Scudder bowled into the dressing room without waiting for an answer. She tutted at the sight of him and moved to fuss over his person.

"C'mon, Ma," Alec batted her hands away from the hair he had meticulously combed not two minutes ago. "It looks fine."

Fred stuck his head around the door, looking his younger brother up and down. "I'm not sure why you bother," he sneered at whatever he saw lacking, which was probably everything. "You're not taking the wilderness out of this one no matter how smart you dress him. Just look at his hands! When's the last time you washed?"

"Don't see nothing wrong with my hands, they're clean enough."

"Clean enough, he says," Fred snorted in derision. Alec opened his mouth to retort, but his mother tugged his chin to look down at her.

"All right, all right," she said, brushing imaginary lint from his shoulders. "Are you sure this fits right? I could ask the--"

"Stop babying him," Fred rolled his eyes. "It's no wonder he's so lazy when he's got you to do everything for him."

"Shut it, Fred!"

"Alec, don't talk to your brother that way. He's gone through all this trouble to get you a good job."

"As far away from England as he could manage," Alec grumbled. Less than a week ago, he couldn't wait for the ship that would take him far, far away from everything he had ever known. He would start a new life without anyone to look down at him, no more Mrs. Durhams that couldn't be bothered to remember his name. However, this sentiment changed overnight when he crept through Maurice's window. How ironic that the thing he only dared to do because he was leaving had potentially become a reason to stay.

"I thought you'd be happy. It's not like England was ever good enough for the likes of you. Who do you think you are, anyway? Duke of the rough and ugly?"

"I'm just as good as anybody else!"

"How you got so high and mighty--"

"That's enough, boys! We've a lot to do today, so you'd best not carry on with this bickering. I can't even think about what's to happen with you two in the Argentine."

"Don't worry, Ma," said Fred, glaring in an almost menacing manner at his younger brother. "He ain't gonna forget his place while I have my eye on him."

Alec fought back the urge to flash a rude gesture over his mother's shoulder. The way Fred talked down to him never failed to make him feel like he was still a skinned-kneed boy of ten. He was constantly insinuating the worst in Alec as though he were no better than those half-starved pick-pockets on the city streets.

However, it wasn't worth the effort to kick up a fuss as he had other matters to think about. After those lonesome nights in the boathouse, Alec went home only to find that there was no comfort even in the bed of his childhood. The questions and wild imaginings circled in his mind, like dogs chasing their tails. It was then he decided that if Maurice would not come to the boathouse, then Alec would have to go to him. Having taken a great gamble, he himself had been played, but come Tuesday, Alec would wear his new suit and they'd meet again as equals. He only needed to figure out how to get away to the city with no one the wiser.