Characters or Pairing: Richard/Alec
Summary: Alec has something special to show Richard.
Notes: The poem that Richard recites is "Autumn Song", by Sarojini Naidu.
Their arrival at the Tremontaine MidWinter ball caused a stir, even before the majordomo's announcement of Lord David Alexander Tielman Campion, Mr. Richard St Vier. Richard knew that gossip and rumors about his exact relationship with the Tremontaine family had been swirling about the Hill for weeks. His appearance at the season's premiere social event, elegantly attired in silver-gray brocade, with an Tremontaine ruby at his throat, made it clear that he was the Duchess's welcome guest. Alec, in contrast, stood glaring by Richard's side, like an oversized, ill-natured bat.
"I absolutely cannot bear another moment of this," Alec hissed.
"Tell me again, would you, why we came?"
"First, to annoy my grandmother. She never believed we'd actually show up. Second, to send a clear message to these mamas and grandmamas, all circling hopefully around the Long Lost Campion Grandson: I. Am. Not. Interested. And third, to give me an opportunity to show you something wondrous."
"No. The treasure of the Tremontaine library." He dragged Richard off by the arm as their fellow partygoers tried not to stare.
"Have you read all of these?" Richard asked, awe-struck. Shelves of books covered each of the five walls, floor to ceiling, with a mammoth fireplace taking up all of the sixth. There was even a wheeled ladder for retrieving volumes from the highest shelves. The whole thing seemed a glaring demonstration of the utter uselessness of the nobility, who spent their days reading books in overheated rooms while others, out in the cold, did the work that kept them rich.
"Of course not, no one has. This collection was started, oh, two hundred years ago at least, right after the fall of the kings and the ascension of the nobles. There are some first editions here, I think, somewhere, but nobody's ever categorized them. Several volumes about map-making - I think that's how they lured my father into marrying my mother, since he was more interested in cartography than public administration. Probably a good thing. There's a lot of poetry, too, the good stuff, translated from the Taborene or Elysian."
"A golden storm of glittering sheaves,
Of fair and frail and fluttering leaves,
The wild wind blows in a cloud..." Richard murmured, spinning around slowly, bedazzled by the warmth and lushness and luxury, leather and gold leaf and fine beeswax candles.
"Yes, that sort of thing, exactly. Did your mother teach you that? How do you remember it so well? You amaze me. Now, where is...I'm sure they wouldn't have moved it, and I can't imagine....ah! Here we are!"
Sprawled out next to Alec by the fire, Richard was spellbound. It didn't matter one whit that he couldn't read; the illustrations themselves made words completely superfluous. The rich colors, the intricate details, the utter inventiveness of the postures - the book was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen.
"How did you ever find this?"
"I was fourteen, hiding from some tea party or religious confabulation or something of my mother's. It had slipped down between the cushions of the sofa. I don't even want to imagine how it got there. It was months before I could even sit on that sofa again. Look at this!" Alec pointed to a particularly intricate pose, arms and legs all twined together like braided topiary. "I didn't think it was possible for humans to bend like that. And what about this one, with the fruit? We should have brought some from the dining room. No one would have missed a few apricots."
"It wouldn't be very comfortable if any of the pits got stuck. I'll gladly try any of these, but perhaps we should lock the door first?"
"No, if anyone comes in, they'll think we're part of the entertainment. Too bad we didn't bring a hat, they could toss in some coins. "
Alec was taller, but Richard was more limber. Their discarded silks and velvets served nicely as pillows and bolsters, rolled and adjusted as necessary. Alec's long body glowed warm as ivory in the firelight, his customary lassitude belying the strength underneath, while Richard's adaptability spurred Alec's inventiveness.
"I don't remember that in the picture," Richard gasped.
"It wasn't, but underneath it says, 'Pleasure can be enhanced by adding your preferred embellishments'."
"Embellishments, indeed," Richard purred, somewhat later, bending his head to nuzzle Alec's perfect skin. "Shall we bring that book home with us?"
"By all means," Alec murmured. "I'll consider it the first installment of my inheritance. It might be all we'll ever see of it."