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The many what ifs....


Francis Kirke
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(OOC - I thought it would be cute and refreshing to explore an AU where Francis' parentage was not kept a secret. Fluff made me feel bad for poor Bucky, never having the opportunity to know his brother's son, so I decided to just write some random cuteness with very ickle Francis.)

 

Catalogue of characters

George/Duke – Buckingham, Francis' uncle (this is not known on the real board)

Bess – Elizabeth Legge, Francis’ mother

Colonel – William Legge, Francis’ grandfather

Bess’ Mother – Elizabeth Legge, Francis grandmother

Will and George Legge – Francis’ brother-like uncles

 

 

 

When the door opened, all the occupants of the room looked up, frozen in that moment, a grip of fear like ice and stone silence. There were then gasps, and the smallest boy back against his mother. One of the older boys stepped forward as if ready to contest this man with the short hair.

 

The older woman then let out, “George!” His aunt’s daughter, much older than him, was the one to recognize him first.

 

The blond raised a hand up to his shorn hair and ruffled it, laughing. “Did I frighten you?” He was unrepentant. He was always abrupt to leave and abrupt to return, dictated much by his patience for dealing with Schoolmaster Hyde. Someone had to work for the King’s return. “Come boys, I am no Roundhead devil sent to hunt you down. Merely a merry cavalier in disguise.”

 

He ruffled the blond hair and dark hair of the two older boys, Legge’s sons and Bess’ baby brothers, after they bowed.

 

Francis, his nephew, looked up at him with wide eyes and then finally stepped away from his mother and bowed prettily too, finally realizing it was safe.

 

“Is that really you, your grace?” he asked, in a voice that reminded him of his own childhood, of his only blood brother who he had spent every day of his life with until a few years earlier. The elder brother was supposed to protect the younger brother and now he had to protect his brother’s son.

 

“Indeed it is,” he assured, in a soft voice, “You have grown much.” Was there a twinge of emotion in his voice as the little boy held his arms up to him.

 

“Lift me up, if you please, Sir.”

 

Buckingham chuckled and lifted him but instead threw him up and then swung him around under his armpits.

 

“Ha! No, it pleases me to swing you about!” Buckingham declared jovially.

 

Laughter was a good medicine, and he was surprised that he found a child’s laughter was sometimes a better medicine.

 

“Oh George, you shall make him throw up,” Bess cautioned him, making a bit of a face imagining it and the splatter it would make on his face. She held in a laugh at the thought.

 

“No, he is made of sturdier stuff than that, are you not, Francis?” Buckingham declared.

 

Still giggling, the blond boy nodded, “Yes, my lord duke! Swing me more if you please, Sir.”

 

Buckingham laughed and suspended him under the armpits in front of him so that he could give him a kiss on the forehead before swinging him around once more. “Since you asked so very politely, but I do like ‘Uncle’ too if you remember.” He settled his nephew on his hip. The boy touched his short hair and pouted.

 

“Now my hair is longer than yours, how will I know when I am big?” he asked, with a child’s logic, measuring his adulthood by the length of his cavalier locks.

 

“When you can look me in the eye boy,” the duke said with an amused smile.

 

“But I am looking you in the eye now, Uncle, and my hair is longer than yours.”

 

“Standing on your own two feet, Francis. Then you can come with me,” he promised, hoping it was a promise he would never have to keep. If the King still did not have a crown then…well, Buckingham did not wish to think of it. And Bess would never approve, even if the boy was thirty.

 

“Did you kill more of the men who killed my papa?” the little voice asked.

 

“I did.” He had to push out those two words more than he would have liked to.

 

“Good,” came the resolute answer, with a very serious push of his little brow down, and struck by his own feelings that he could not understand, wrapped his little arms tighter around the Duke’s neck, laying his head against his neck and shoulder.

 

“And you are well-enough ladies?” he asked. “I have heard word that the Colonel is making attempts with my cousin Sir George and a few others to steal away His Majesty’s other children and that he is well. I saw him not more than 3 months ago myself.”

 

“We are well,” the Colonel’s wife replied, which was only an impression of the truth. None of them were truly well, but they were as well as could be expected in the circumstances. Controlling three boys with only one servant and one maid and one irregular tutor would be difficult enough with a husband and normal circumstances, but in the circumstances of a poor exile with no men around, it was hard. It did not need to be said. Nor did the lack of money need to be repeated.

 

Said servant brought the duke a large mug of cider which he took with his free hand.

 

Bess smiled at Francis with George. It was something which gave her so many emotions that she tried not to contemplate much. It made her miss the Duke’s brother, but it also made her remember the time they had spent together in their childhood when they all were quite happy and very privileged. Little Francis had matching golden hair to George’s, and it had always seemed somewhat appropriate that he had something of George in him, being that George would be responsible for him in the absence of his own father.

 

She touched George’s short locks, “Such a shame.”

 

“God’s Blood, I know!” George replied, with a guffaw that made Francis lift up his head and grin just at the sound of a laugh. “What else shall they cleave from me, hm?” The Duke chuckled. Indeed, what would they cleave from him. Probably his head if they could.

 

“Oh George, do not say such things,” Bess said, “Given the circumstances, it is not very funny. To make Francis love you and then to go flouncing off into danger is one thing, but you need not make jokes of it.”

 

“I am not going to die, Bess,” the duke replied, with a roll of his eyes, somewhat still convinced of his invincibility and immortality like he was still a youth. It was only partially now, though. Too many of his friends and friends of his late father had been killed. He had to laugh and keep busy or fall into depression.

 

“But the Duke must go, Mama, because he is brave just like Papa. It is his duty, like Grandpapa.”

 

Buckingham then truly laughed, “See, madame, even your son understands well.” He looked proudly on his brother’s little legacy. “You are a very smart boy, Francis. I am glad you have not started thinking like a woman. I did not have my father as a boy either, nor did I have any uncles trusted with me, and I turned out quite fine, and you shall too.”

 

“I would prefer nothing to happen to you, Uncle.” Francis blinked those large blue eyes.

 

“Hm, assuredly?” the cropped-hair Duke asked. “Not even if it meant the King would be responsible for looking after you himself, then?” Perhaps he could tempt the boy to trade him up for Charles.

 

“Not even then,” the little boy said, solemnly. The Duke’s brother had been that way. The quieter sort of strong that was grounded in a strange sense of reality. Buckingham had never had that level of ability to regulate himself.

 

He appreciated his nephew’s answer, though, because anyone who would choose him over the King was quite trumps in his mind.

 

“Well, I shall tell you Francis, I am far more fun than His Majesty, so that is a very good choice.” He chuckled warmly, enjoying this innocent moment.

 

Long before much of the night had passed, the innocent moment turned doubly so when the Duke literally fell asleep mid sentence in a chaise, exhausted. The blond was entirely like that. He went until he passed out.

 

Francis had long since fallen asleep on the Duke’s chest, his little hand feeling for hair unconsciously that was no longer there with his uncle’s shorn locks. His own face was obscured by golden curls. Bess’ mother ushered the half-asleep elder boys to wash and get in the bed, but Bess watched the other two sleeping so peacefully, loathed to wake the clearly tired George and make sure he got into an actual bed. He might not have seen one for 48 hours or more.

 

She ran a hand down his shoulder to his chest and shaked him just slightly, “George, come.”

 

“I can just sleep here,” he murmured. “Go sleep, go on.”

 

“You shall have the other bed, now come,” she said, with a bit more force, taking up his warm hand and giving it a little pull, wrapping her fingers between his thumb and palm.

 

He squeezed it, opened an eye and said cheekily, “And where shall you sleep, shall you join me?”

 

Smarmy bastard. He even played with her fingers in his hand, making her raise a blonde eyebrow back at him.

 

The tired grin on his face showed he was not entirely serious, thankfully.

 

“No, Your Grace,” she replied, causing him to open the other eye with the formality, feigned of course. “I shall sleep with mother and the boys.”

 

“And the boys. God’s blood you seek to give me the royal treatment. Five of you and one of me. That will not do, I’m more disgrace right now anyway, and…well, it is just silly.” He let out a tired groan and a sigh, sitting up a bit more, causing Francis to secure himself, still asleep, with his arms around the Duke’s neck. He would not trouble them by sleeping alone; it was his fault he was too tired for other arrangements. “Send me the boys. I shall share with them.”

 

The Duke must have been tired and slept like the dead, because when Bess peeked into the room in the morning, Francis was sleeping somewhere under George’s arm, with his little cheek, nose, and mouth covered with blond ringlets peeping out on the Duke’s stomach. Will and his elder brother, also George, were a mess of arms and legs on his other side.

 

She never would have believed, when they were children, that she would ever see George, spoiled boy-duke, sharing a bed with her child and her baby brothers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it was time to leave, Buckingham gave Bess a familial kiss on the lips but it was also full of the cheeky sauce of flirtation, because that was the Duke’s personality. Bess swatted his shoulder and let out a huff, rolling her eyes.

 

“You do very well with him, Bess,” he told her, seriously. “I wish we could do more. Soon I shall. This cannot last forever. If it were not for Hyde’s cautions.” He trailed off, discontent then brewing just thinking of it.

 

“I know,” she replied, with a brave sort of smile. She pat his chest gently and laid her palms and head against it, sighing. “Do not be reckless. I could not bear it and neither could Francis. He needs you, George.”

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