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[personal profile] jedishampoo
Title: Around the Lake Tonight
Author: [personal profile] jedishampoo
Recipient:[profile] just_a_fangirl
Pairing: UKUSUK
Rating/Warnings: R, brief smuts, Victorian language
Summary: The sons of dukes should never engage in lurid affairs with the help. That doesn't mean they don't.
Author's Notes: For the [community profile] usxuk comm's Secret Santa exchange! I'm sorry this is so late, requester, but I had some family issues around the holidays. Thanks for your fun prompts, and I chose the one for a Victorian nobleman and a man on his estate, complete with a happy ending. Thanks to my beta, [personal profile] whymzycal, for her always awesome work, and to the mods for their work organizing the exchange (and for the extension). Title is from a Toadies song, Possum Kingdom. So there's a boathouse in the song.

17th June, 1855

Dear Diary:

How shall I even begin to write about the last dozen or so days, and how my life has changed therein? And to whom else do I dare address my thoughts? Not to him, for he knows my inclinations and shares them, if only in some small way, but such may be naught to him, whilst it consumes my very being with its power to govern my loins and sow discontent in my heart.

If I divulge even half of what I feel in you, whom I suppose I should rather address as Cursed Diary, then I shall have to promptly lock and then burn you so that my longings and my heart and my sins do not betray me. Or him, whom I exalt twice again as much as I should allow myself to do.

But once allowed, and divulged if only through my pen, there it is! I may as well continue. So, to wit: Cursed Diary:

It all began not long after I came home.


Sweat dripped from Arthur's brow and stung his eyes, and he cursed himself yet again for choosing to walk the length of his father's estate rather than just ride it.

He'd simply wished to be out, gone from the stuffy great house and its preparations for a uselessly great party scheduled still two weeks hence, and gone from his father, who wished him to find a wife and settle down.

Arthur's eldest brother already had a lady and two brats, which should have satisfied their paterfamilias for heirs; Arthur had other plans for his own life that did not include such things, even had he been inclined towards the skirt. But no, Lady Alderton from the neighboring estate was there in place of Arthur's late mother, planning menus and decorations and dropping hints about naming young ladies he would like to be in attendance. So Arthur had chosen to escape, if only temporarily.

He'd dressed in his oldest clothing and taken off on foot. Foolishly, as it turned out. Curse his ancestors, anyway, for amassing such spreading tracts of land that a day's brisk walk would barely suffice to circumnavigate them.

As a boy Arthur had thought these woods and farms and lanes magical, that their wide spaces had encompassed more secrets then he could explore in a lifetime. But his schooling and then life in London had cured him of joy in the bucolic. Now he missed the grime and crowds of the city and the buildings that hugged one another along their narrow streets, guaranteeing that any excitement he wished to find was only a short stroll or hansom's ride away.

Even a town addict like himself, however, had to admit the occasional beauty of the country. Arthur halted atop a rise in the dusty lane and admired the stretch of flowery meadow before him, that rolled down to a tumbling creek. The gamekeeper's hut crouched in the shade of the trees that lined the creek-bed, its four walls rough-hewn and unassuming. Arthur wiped his sweaty hands on his old jacket and ambled down towards the hut.

It was tiny -- a place for the gamekeeper to rest as he traversed the estate, checking birds and traps and scouting out poachers -- but it would suffice for Arthur to have a quick rest out of the summer heat. It would also be unoccupied, as the gamekeeper, old Williams, had recently died.

But as Arthur approached he could see the door standing open; inside, a man was kneeling before a wooden chest, digging through it. He was a young man, judging by the shape of him, and well-formed, curse Arthur's inclinations that he should notice. The man was also a stranger. Arthur cleared his throat.

"What the blazes do you think you are doing?" he said.

The man started and turned to glance back and up at Arthur. He was indeed young and somewhat handsome, and wore spectacles under a fringe of yellow hair. He made as if to stand, but then his lens-obscured gaze took in Arthur's clothing, top to toe, and he merely nodded and looked back into the chest.

"Going through these things. I'll thank ya not to molest me in my work."

As if Arthur would, even supposing he did not have the right to do so! Which he did. "This is the gamekeeper's hut."

"I know that, ya noodle," the man said.

Arthur crossed his arms. He was unused to such insult on his own land. "The gamekeeper is dead."

"Ya don't say?" The man seemed singularly unsurprised. He stood and brushed off his shirt, then placed his hands on his hips and turned to Arthur. He was dressed tidily if simply, in a shirt and brown trousers and sturdy shoes. He was too well-dressed to be a poacher, but not well enough to be anyone of consequence. As if unaware of his lowly status, he cocked his head in a saucy attitude. "Well, I'm his nevvie, his only surviving kin. I got clearance from His Grace to be here."

Well, that explained things a bit. Old Williams had been unwed, though it had been rumored he had family out of the county. Still, Arthur had never heard of this fellow, and his father had not mentioned him. "My ... condolences. What is your name?"

"Thanks. Posh as a lord, ain't you?" the man said with a grin. The brief smile transformed him from merely fair to something more exceptionally comely. "Alfred Jones. Who are you?"

Arthur hesitated with a sudden perverse desire to continue to reserve his identity. As equals they could converse in this casual manner, and Arthur could continue to admire him out of selfishness. "I am Arthur," he said at last.

"Hello, Arthur," said Alfred, holding out his hand with that familiarity. He had lovely fingers, warm and callused as they gripped Arthur's all too briefly.

"Are you applyin' for the gamekeeper's job, then?" Arthur said, trying to coarsen his language.

"Lord, no," Alfred said. He pulled off his spectacles and wiped some dust from them with a handkerchief. Arthur caught a brief glimpse of his unshielded gaze in a flash of sunlight through the window. Alfred's eyes were blue. "I'm a gardener by trade, and I got no love for pheasant-kind. Foraging pests, all of 'em."

"Fine sport, though," Arthur protested.

"If you're a nobby sort with no real work to do."

"You think the nobs don't work, then?" Arthur said. He himself didn't work, of course, though that would change soon if his father's plans came to fruition. The work wasn't an issue; it was just that Arthur had a diplomatic career in mind, and Father wanted him to assist with the estates.

"Not like the common folk." Alfred bent over to pick up a tattered book from the edge of the wooden chest

"Where is it that you garden-- er, that is, where're you from?" Arthur said, distracted by the shape of Alfred's arse through his trousers.

"Baron Thomas Sotheby's grounds in Framingham," Alfred said. He stood again and looked back at Arthur. He seemed to catch Arthur's gaze and divine its somewhat prurient intent: his eyes widened, then narrowed. He looked Arthur up and down again, more slowly than the first time, a gaze that stopped only short of a caress. Then he glanced down at the book.

Arthur had seen that look before. His heart began to thump furiously, rushing his blood so that it heated his every extremity and made his knees tremble. It was the kind of look shared by certain young men in certain neighborhoods in London, a secret look that could be used to assess another man's intent and inclinations in a world where such were considered unnatural. It could also have been accidental, an extension of what seemed to be Alfred's natural insouciance. Arthur cleared his throat and looked around the hut.

"Old Williams didn't leave much, looks like."

"No. He was m'mother's brother -- she's been dead these five years, too -- and it'll only take a day or two to collect what His Grace don't want. Then I'm off to America."

Arthur swung his gaze back at that. "America!"

"Haha!" Alfred laughed. "You sound like everyone does when you say that."

"But ... America, pah. Are you going to work a plantation of slaves or some such?"

"No." Instead of scoffing at the oblique insult, Alfred gave him a half-smile that narrowed his eyes into slyness. "I'm to the west and adventure. Freedom."

"Wot, freedom from civilization?" Arthur said, shuddering a little. He hoped any postings he might acquire in Her Majesty's name would be on the Continent.

"It's plenty civilized, at least for me. I'll be a rancher. Or a gold miner. I'll wear buckskin breeches and drink whiskey."

Arthur pictured Alfred wearing buckskins and tilting his head back to gulp whiskey, his lips soft on the edge of a glass and the movement exposing his fine throat. His gaze must have gone somewhat dreamy, for Alfred took a step closer. He had an inch or so of height on Arthur, and he looked down with an intimate gaze. "Tight buckskin breeches, that hug you like a second skin."

Blood suffused Arthur's cheeks. So the attitude was no accident. It was up to him to douse pretensions, but he wasn't yet ready to do so; the moment had come upon him so quickly. So he just stood his ground and did not step back, nor invite further ... pretensions.

"Ah? Do you have your passage arranged, then?" he said, keeping his gaze steady even as his cheeks warmed further.

Alfred raised an eyebrow at such prying. "No. I was hoping Uncle would've left something, but his cottage looks full of just a bunch of stuffed foxes 'n such."

Up close Alfred smelled like gardens; green and earthy. Arthur indulged himself by breathing it for a moment before speaking again. "Well, there's to be a big party up at the manor in a fortnight. I'll wager they could use a temporary gardener for a pound or two's wages."

"An' I could stick around for an extra few days, eh?"

And Arthur could watch him work. That was all, of course, for such desires as his should not be exercised on his hereditary grounds. This game was lovely but it could not last. Arthur humphed and stretched to his full height, trying to gain back those inches. "I'm simply trying to help my fellow man. I could put in a word."

Alfred's eyes widened at that. "Oh? And who are you, then?"

Arthur waved his hand. "This is my land."

Like Arthur's words and gesture had been magical ones, Alfred stepped back and blinked, shuttering his questing gaze. "I've met the Duke and you ain't him," he said.

"I am Arthur Kirkland, his son."

It was a shame that Alfred's smile was trammeled into such a frown, but there was no help for it.

"Well, then. Thank you, my lord," he said, and tugged his forelock. He walked backwards until his calves brushed the old wooden chest full of junk. He was staring at the floor when Arthur nodded and left.


My Cursed Refuge, I thought about him all the walk home and could barely concentrate on the discussions between my father and brothers at dinner. I thought about the voluptuous invitation in his eyes, the idea that someone who warmed my blood was so close and shared my brand of desires in the institution of private life, and also perhaps wished for a closer acquaintance. Until he learned my name, that is.

Of course I must admit, if only in secret, that fact only fueled my dreams of him. Because, you see, invitation had been there before he knew I was anyone of name or means. I have lived my whole life being pursued for those things alone.

I have never thought myself anything special as a physical specimen, though I do not suppose myself unattractive. I have my family's unfortunate eyebrows, but otherwise all is unremarkable; fair hair, green eyes, physical form kept trim by regular exercise.

I also had been some time rather chaste, not having met anyone recently who interested me, and not being one to trade with the Mary-Annes in Covent Garden or the rent boys on Bond Street. Some of my compatriots in town thought me rather pompous, but I saw nothing wrong with being conscious of my own health and position.

Two days after that first meeting I'd thought Jones probably gone and the matter closed. But then, the idle chatter of my father revealed that Alfred Jones had indeed applied to Mister Brown for a temporary position in the gardens. Against my better judgment I spoke straight away to Brown. I learned that Alfred had been hired but had not mentioned my name. He'd been assigned to improvements to the boathouse and lakeshore, since Lady Alderton thought it a prime idea to let our soon-to-be-guests cavort about in rowboats on the ornamental lake.

I decided to visit the lake after luncheon.


By the glint of sunlight on fair hair and spectacles, Arthur easily spotted Alfred, perched a few steps up a ladder and trimming the tall shrubbery that surrounded the boathouse and obscured it from view of the great house. Upon closer inspection Arthur noticed Alfred's slender legs in his work breeches, being of course that they were at eye-level. Then he noticed the tanned forearms poking out from Alfred's rolled-up shirtsleeves.

Arthur knew himself rather besotted, that he should take what was a simple, passably attractive package and attribute such small beauties to it.

Alfred was attentive to his work and Arthur considered looking and not speaking, but knew he'd only stew about his reticence later. He ahemmed to bring attention to his presence and not startle a man on a ladder.

"Good afternoon, Alfred," he said.

Alfred looked down upon him and his eyes narrowed behind his spectacles. He nodded, sending his unruly blond forelock waving. "Same to ya, my lord. I'd give a proper obeisance, but my hands're full."

Indeed they were, with the large and pointy garden shears. "No need," Arthur said, trying to sound casual and not obliging. "I see you have made good use of my suggestion?"

"Some of us have little choice, milord."

Saucy bounder. Arthur frowned. "It was made in good faith," he couldn't help but say.

Alfred sighed. He swiped his forehead along the inside of his upper arm and then looked back down at Arthur. "Aye, and thank you."

Perhaps not a complete bounder? Arthur forced a note of good humor back into his voice. "The boathouse is in good repair, I take it?"

"Seems t'be. It'll need a good cleaning, but otherwise, it's just prettifying the outside. The sludge on the lake'll be a job."

"Ah, yes. The sludge," Arthur said. He couldn't think of anything else to say to drown that unromantic image.

After a silent minute or so, Alfred coughed. "Anything else, milord?" he said.

There was a smile in his voice and Arthur looked up to see the smile made tangible. Alfred's teeth were very satisfactory, rather white, and -- and there Arthur had gone and done it again. He inhaled deeply, wishing for courage to offer something hopeful of his own. His fingers shook and he hid them in the pockets of his waistcoat.

"No. I was just -- just thinking about how I used to hide here when I was small. When I am home like this, sometimes I still come down, in the quiet after dinner and port, and smoke a cigar in solitude."

"Must be very peaceful, milord." Alfred punctuated his emphasis on that last word with a very direct stare. Arthur curled his fingers inside his pockets and felt all his blood rush to his belly. It made him lightheaded.

"It is. Good day, Alfred," Arthur said, and managed to walk up the lawn at a steady, unconcerned pace.

Later that evening the weather was quite fine, still and warm with a half-moon to light the way down to the lake. Arthur leaned against the boathouse's outer wall, facing the silvered water. He'd just struck a match to light a cigar when he heard a rustle in the hedge.

He shook the flame from his match and willed the wild beating of his heart against his ribs to slow.

"Are you working late, Alfred?" he said.

He heard a quiet laugh in reply. "Just looking after things, milord. I'm a conscientious sort, you know."

"Glad to hear it," Arthur said. He pocketed his cigar, then stepped closer, feeling a moment's hesitation at Alfred's bemused expression.

Arthur rose to his toes and wavered still; there were many ways in which an intimate encounter could be a mistake. Alfred kissed him before he could count them all. Arthur more than welcomed the distraction, for Alfred's lips were as soft as promised. After a few moments, once they had ascertained mutual attraction and pleasure, the kiss blossomed into a rapturous sharing of breaths and tongues.

Being young, healthy men of a certain bent, matters between them were from there initiated with a minimum of fuss. A few minutes of groping against the boathouse and Arthur's rod was stiff with ardor, and Alfred displayed a matching eagerness by pressing his hardness against Arthur's thigh.

Even in the throes of such excitement Arthur was conscious of the possibility of prying eyes. Through grunts and gestures he conveyed that they should seek the shelter of the boathouse. If anything lived within, it scattered at their fumbling entry and arrangement of canvases upon the floor.

They hardly broke the breathy tenor of their kisses as they knelt face-to-face and pressed their hands to each other's cocks. Alfred's hand moved upon him with an unpracticed roughness that Arthur found charming as well as exciting, and soon they reached mutual satisfaction amid gasps and moans of delight.

In the moments afterwards they lay on the pile of canvases, stroking each other's skin under their shirts.

"Do you have another cigar?" Alfred asked, in a voice as quiet as the slide of their fingers.

"I have only one, but I will share it with you. I shall light it in a moment, when I have caught my breath," Arthur said, smiling at the shine on Alfred's cheeks, as well as the flush visible even in the scarce moonlight shining through the window.

"Of course, milord," Alfred said.

A chill crept through Arthur's bones at this reminder of their disparity in station and the dangers therein. "Please -- don't 'milord' me here," he said. "You are not the blackmailing sort, I trust?"

Arthur's chill transferred itself through his words to Alfred's thinned lips and hard stare. His fingers halted their movement. "No. Are you?"

"Of course not! Ah. I'm -- I apologize," Arthur said. His natural caution and reticence would be his downfall with one who had already shown fierce independence. "Shall we smoke and cry friends?"

Alfred sighed and sat up. He rocked back onto his arse to wriggle his trousers up. "Aye. I don't suppose it was a wrong thing to ask 'n all."

"No," Arthur agreed. He dug his cigar out of his discarded jacket and struck a match to light it. After a few puffs he passed it along.

They shared the cigar back and forth a few times before Alfred spoke again. "I've a question of my own. Are you wed?"

"No. But my father wishes me to be. Thus the party." At Alfred's raised eyebrows, Arthur continued. "He called me home to direct me in how to complete the rest of my life. He's a martinet, to be sure, but somehow I shall dissuade him, for I have other plans."

"I know the feelin'," Alfred said, puffing out a cloud of smoke. "But soon I'll be gone and living my own life."

Arthur's chest tightened at this reminder that their affair could only be short-lived. To think that only an hour or so ago he'd banked upon such a thing. He took back the cigar and tamped it upon a stone block.

"Then, shall I examine your prick? I wish to see to what uses it might be put before you leave our lands for good."

"If'n you must," Alfred said, leaning back with a wicked grin.


Oh, Diary, what lurid secrets I have revealed! Such might have me shunned, or apprehended, or worse. Keep these secrets, please, at least until the story is told. For the party is tomorrow and after that Alfred will leave. My father will hear my wishes and I will accept the consequences of my words. Disinheritance is quite likely, but I will always have my name and my education.

I have other thoughts that I fear even to reveal to you, Cursed One. My heart dreamt them up and they lurk there, in the back of my mind, threatening to spill and assure my future happiness or quell it forever.

At that time of our first meeting in the boathouse, of course, the affair between Alfred and me was merely physical. I had resolved that even that was too much, and that I should avoid him whenever possible. But instead I sought excuses to stray from the house and visit the gardens, or the lake, or various secluded places, and my perilous tongue would drop hints here and there as to where I might be found.

The threat of discovery is a double-edged curse; it makes one's romantic entanglements furtive and fearful, but it also heightens every moment, imbues each secret glance and shared breath with special meaning. I discovered to the dismay of my heart that I craved Alfred's company as much as his body.


"Are you -- ah -- quite sure that your fortune must be sought in A-- America?" Arthur asked, perhaps injudiciously, as he rode Alfred's arse with some vigor.

"Hah-- must ya still sound that way when you say it?" Alfred protested.

He was bent forward over the cedar chest in the gamekeeper's hut, the sweat-moistened skin of his hips trembling under Arthur's fingers. It was an act of love to which he'd been previously unindoctrinated, but which he'd taken to with enthusiasm. Every shiver of his fine, young body was exquisite friction to Arthur's prick, gloved within it. Soon heat swelled in Arthur's belly and he slowed his movements, hovering on the precipice of release.

"But it is so very far -- ah!" Arthur cried. His limbs froze with taut yearning for a moment, then release overtook him. When he had shuddered out the last of his spend, he fell against Alfred's back with a delicious languor, and grasped Alfred's rod to apologize with his fingers for his haste.

Alfred arched into his grip. "Want me to stay, do you?"

"Of -- of course not! I only wish to counsel against such risk." Arthur's fingers paused with his sudden panic, then resumed their task. It was just that this interlude was so pleasant for him that he hated to see it end, that was all. His body had enjoyed the last ten days too much.

Alfred's body clearly enjoyed Arthur's ministrations and soon he reached his apex, spilling onto Arthur's fingers. They spent a few quiet moments afterwards, laying side-by-side and watching the dust motes float about in the stray sunbeams that flickered through the trees and the dirty window.

"You're quite the lonely one, for all you're a lord and everythin'," Alfred murmured as he stroked Arthur's hair.

"Why do you say such a thing?" Arthur said.

He felt rather than saw Alfred's shrug. "'Cause I know how it is. My parents're dead and my friends are settled. No dreams of anything but their farms."

Arthur scowled. "There's nothing wrong with a farm. It's a very respectable life."

"Fer the one who owns it," Alfred said.

That was the way of the world. Arthur felt his position very strongly in that moment. "You're too young to be such a revolutionary."

"I'm twenty. Ya can't be much more'n that."

"I'm four and twenty," Arthur informed him.

"Ancient!" Alfred cried.

Not so, of course, Arthur knew. Yet many of his own friends had already married, even some of the "special" friends he'd had at school. They had done as had been expected of them and moved on with their lives. And still Arthur hesitated, afraid to give up what he'd always had for what he'd always wanted: to attend stupid parties and pour wine for ambassadors and whisper false secrets into their ears for no good reason. At least it was more concrete than a wish for nothing, in a nowhere halfway across the world.

"You've made no real plans, even," Arthur said before he could think better of it.

Alfred shrugged again. "I'll take what life throws me," he said, and then looked at Arthur. His spectacles had been discarded many minutes since and his gaze was blue and unclouded and ... and laughing. He was clearly unaffected by logic and ruled by dreams.

Arthur's future, which had hovered in the distance for so long, barreled down upon him.


We have had that talk, or a similar one, more than once, in our short time together. He believes me to be like my father. Can you credit how he tells me what he thinks without fear of consequence and without any consciousness of his position or mine?

Diary, telling you this, seeing my actions and thoughts written out so plainly, I am suddenly rolled over, flattened. Such foolishness, in dreams. Such foolishness in my soul! I wished to be out of my father's sphere of influence, but in truth I do not now how it shall ever be accomplished. If I did marry, would he accept my choice of career more readily? I know that I could never love a wife as she should deserve, and not only because of my inclinations but because the longings of my body and heart have found a focus elsewhere. I should just


I shall have to leave off for a while, My Curse, for Sally has come up to inform me that Rogers has Alfred Jones waiting in the back hallway. He asked for my father, bold as brass he is for all he came to the servant's entrance, but Father is from home, as is my brother, and I am required to see what it is he wants.

I suppose he means to leave. I wonder if he will tell me, or if he had hoped to be spared my further presence?


Arthur locked the journal and tucked it into his coat pocket before leaving the room. He could not leave it behind; there were so many risks he'd already taken that doing so only seemed to be courting disaster.

Though disaster was already waiting for him. He trod the hallway at a snail's pace and took the stairs carefully, slowly, one at a time, down and down. The house was so huge -- so confining! He longed for escape.

Rogers met him at the bottom sweep of the stairs. "May I put him out, milord? He should not--"

"Put him in the Blue Parlor, Rogers," Arthur instructed. "It is likely he is on a commission from me."

"But he asked -- er, yes, milord," Rogers said at Arthur's hard stare.

Arthur waited until he heard footsteps heading into the parlor, and then he slowly made his way thence. He patted the pocket holding his diary to be sure it resided there still.

In the parlor he found Alfred, hands in his pockets, glancing around at the room's rich appointments with eyebrows raised over the rim of his spectacles. At Arthur's entrance he turned; the pervasive blue of the draperies and upholsteries and carpet surrounding him enhanced the sky color of his wide eyes in their surprise. He pulled his hands from his pockets and gave a quick bow. He was dressed much like he'd been when Arthur had first seen him except he'd added a brown coat, and Arthur supposed those must be his traveling clothes. His heart stopped.

Alfred spoke. "My lord, I wasn't expecting to see you, but--"

"I will go with you," Arthur interrupted before he'd barely even known the words to be on his tongue. "To-- to America, that is."

Alfred's mouth gaped for moment. "What."

Arthur's heart continued not to beat, it seemed. "Unless you don't want--"

Alfred spoke again over Arthur's hurried rebuttal. "I was comin' here to thank His Grace, and ask 'im t'have a word with Mister Brown about a permanent job--"

"Oh. Oh!" Arthur cried, as his heart and lungs regained their functions, so furiously that there was a pounding rush in his ears. "So you perhaps feel as I do?"

Alfred shrugged and glanced down at his feet, which he shuffled upon the blue plush rug. "Depends on what yer feelin'?"

"You don't just ask to speak with a Duke, you know," Arthur said, rather than reveal too much at once.

"Did it before."

"I know that, foolish man," Arthur said. His feet, nay his entire body, felt lighter than air.

Alfred looked up, and a smile burgeoned and grew upon his face until the white of his teeth showed. "It'll be a hard life, I'm predicting," he said.

"Doubtless. How do you think I will look in buckskins?"

Alfred laughed. Arthur patted the diary in his pocket once more, to bring himself back down to Earth. He also vowed inwardly to burn it as quickly as possible. Poised before a future so exciting and uncertain, the past could be naught but a burden.


Thank you for reading, and please tell me what you thought!

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