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Random snippets of AU ickle Francis LOL

Francis Kirke

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So these are just several random AU scenes I have floating around in my head. They're random scenes from all "what-if" scenarios Francis has had floating around his head of what life would be like if his father lived, if Buckingham knew about him from various points, so they're not all the same AU.


They're just fun little things surrounding Francis as a boy.


From Francis V's POV if he lived and married Bess


It was always a lively event whenever his elder brother decided to grace them with his grace-ly presence; never one to stay overly long in one spot, and determined that if no one else would do something to advance the King's cause, he surely would. That was their dear Bucks.


It always left him as the mediator in exile. They had all be raised with their roles to fulfill and Francis was gentler than George and had more patience. George was the protector, the one to be fully honest with the King and speak his mind, and Francis was the one to smooth it all over when this caused quarrels. Though he had gone back to England with his brother a few times, he largely stayed near the King and kept the mantle of watching over what little they had and heading the family; the arrangement suited them well enough. George could not handle Hyde, and Francis had a family, made larger by his mother in law and little brothers-in-law.


So the moment Buckingham came through the door, exuding some strange finery despite his rag-tag and worn clothes (for a Duke's standards), he had the interest of every small child in the house as their favorite plaything. Everyday playthings like Francis were not such commodities.


Little Frank (as his boy was called) was walking, amusingly so when he tried to run, which he did, without any pause for a greeting. He pulled on the Duke's breeches and reached his little hands up high.


"Up Bax! Up!" Bucks, Buckingham, or anything sophisticated was quite out of the range of his tongue.


"My my Brother, you have raised quite the rude little minion!" Buckingham declared gaily.


Francis gave another little tug and then clenched his fingers open and closed expectantly.


"My little lordling, tell me, are you a Duke," Buckingham asked, squatting down some and trying to put on some sort of serious face, though he was clearly enjoying this little game.


"Duke!" the boy proudly declared, pointing right toward his uncle's nose. Then he blinked sweetly and said, "Now up?"


Francis chuckled, "Stop teasing him, George." He pat the little blond head, ruffling his hair. "What do we call dukes, Frank?"


Quite insistent, the little blond cherub bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, "Yo Grays, up! Uppppp! Peasss~!" He reached his arms up again.


Chuckling he finally plucked his nephew up and stood again.


The boy promptly rewarded him by kissing his cheek sweetly and declaring, "Yo Grays have a big head."


Francis roared with laughter, several things that wanted to rip from his mouth, but he was unable to breathe for the hilarity. Thankfully, with her perfectly apt timing, Bess declared, "I think your nephew just commented on your massive ego, George."


"Har har," Buckingham said, to the pair of them.


"Big head," the boy in his arms echoed, holding his hands up far apart to indicate the width of the Duke's head. What he was really commenting on was that his head seemed bigger being so close to it when in comparison it seemed much smaller from his former spot much further away, but a child's words were often quite funny that way.

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  • 1 year later...

(sometimes, I just need a little bit of cute.)


More randomness if everyone had lived. From Bucky's perspective during exile times)




Buckingham had arrived back late and settled on the chaise with a glass of cognac, mostly in the dark, with just the flicker of a low-burning fire in the hearth. When he was in England, the three boys used his room in their cramped little suite in exile. He figured to get some sleep when they awoke in a few hours, because he had no desire to either deal with waking them or sharing the bed with them. The floor would be more comfortable, and he was simply too tired for any of it.


Instead of waiting out morning, though, he fell asleep from sheer fatigue before he'd even finished the glass. His valet had taken it from him and thrown a blanket over him, and that was where he sleep quite peacefully.


He stirred only when the dog settled on him, almost a welcome addition of warmth, really.


We do not have a dog... his half asleep mind supplied.


The smell of cinnamon was his answer. His nephew loved hunks of bread soaked with milk and sprinkled with cinnamon, mostly peasant fare but for the addition of the spice.


"What are you doing, Francis?" he sleepily whispered to the boy, half opening one eye.


The high voice of a small boy whispered back half-asleep, "Mama and Papa are...making noise...and Will snores." There was a pause for a yawn.


"Making noise?" The duke fought back a chuckle.


"...as man and wife..." the boy supplied, taking the lack of 'get off me' as an invitation to get comfortable, pushing up further and laying a curly head against the crook of the duke's neck and sneaking a little hand inside the neck of his shirt.


"How lucky for me," the duke chortled sleepily. How was the world so on its head that a duke ended up in simple clothes sleeping on a chaise for a lack of a bed, with a toddler on top of him! He had to laugh at the domesticity of it as he laid there with both eyes closed and a small smile on his face. Such was the life of poverty and exile!


"Happy to..home...May I sleep...tomorrow...too?" the boy was obviously falling back asleep.


What luck he had, indeed! His welcome party was a little, blond cub, who not only wished to sleep with him at that moment but the next night as well! Buckingham was unsure if it was simply because he was a far preferable sleeping companion (for the lack of 'noises'), the bed was simply less populated, or if the boy really missed him so greatly.


The alternative thought was that the boy was getting to the age where he more properly understood that, sometimes, one did not return. The Duke hoped Francis was still far too young to fully understand that.


Soft breaths announced he did not need to answer. The boy was already asleep again.

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  • 10 months later...

(This is a random little thing that came to me as the result of wondering what might have happened if Francis' mother had told Bucky right away that she was pregnant. In this AU scene, Bucky married her in his brother's place)


The cacophony coming from down the hall was seriously disturbing his ability to write.


Must I banish them from this floor of the house?! He hated nothing more than being disturbed when things were flowing very well. He wished to have the next act ready for Sprat.


Unlike the silver-blond with shorn hair he would become, Buckingham still had a full head of loose, golden curls at thirty-three. Simply wearing his breeches, shirt sleeves, and a velvet robe, never having dressed fully that morning, he sauntered down the hallway and entered the parlour emanating the sounds.


The sight was bizarre, disconcerting, and amusing all at once. Elizabeth had young Francis by a fistful of hair and was hitting him wherever she could find purchase, a fine "SMACK!" resounding through the air as she finally got him in the cheek and mouth.


"What IS this!" He bellowed. God's Blood. Ugh, the theatrics.And when I wish to work!


"George!" Elizabeth said sharply, almost as if he had done something. Her breath was quick, her sharpness almost short of breath.


He was fairly sure he had not done anything despite her tone, he had not even had the hand in making the boy, whatever the youth had done! He raised an eyebrow as if to dare her to blame him.


The moment of her shifting her attention was enough for Francis to extricate himself, and most of his hair, and take a few giant leaps closer to his father. George had (some days stupidly, some days intelligently) married her in his brother's place, so for all purposes, the boy was his. Francis knew no different and never would.


It was some sort of comedy of errors that a son was more afraid of his mother than his father, but Elizabeth was...a Villiers woman. Right now she did look far more frightening, especially as she dropped a long, blond ringlet to the parquet floor. Typically children feared their fathers more, and even at his tall height, Bess was more threatening than Buckingham. At least to the boy.


She's not going to calm down until the object of her ire is not here to stoke the flames. Buckingham was interested in getting this over with as quickly as possible, though he gave up the idea of writing, despite the temptation to not give a fig about this argument. Who could with the war-zone in his parlour. Or harpy lair? he thought, his lips shifting to the side. He could have thrown a sigh five leagues long at that moment.


He gave the wide-eyed twelve-year-old a nod and jut his head toward the open door, dismissing him. This seemed to increase the boy's terror momentarily, torn between the parent he knew to obey and the parent who had just torn a bit of his hair out.


Elizabeth seized the moment, "Oh no, do not you dare leave this room!"


"Frank," the Duke said sharply, repeating the gesture with his chin. That seemed to set the boy's feet to moving no matter the threat of his mother.


"Go practice Latin with your brother in his rooms," the Duke said in a surprisingly calm voice, as the boy came toward him to get to the door.


Those young blue eyes had the most grateful look at being allowed an escape with only a handprint across his face and a small bald patch.


George gave the boy a look as if to say if he truly deserved it, he truly was going to get it afterward. Disturbing a perfectly good stream of writing to boot! However, there was no reason to be assaulted by a harpy, and he could not let his dear duchess pull all their heir's hair out by the time he hit majority. It was better the boy left so he could ascertain just what was going on.


His head turned to watch Francis leave and the door close before he turned back to Bess.


"Why are you screaming so, there is no cause to rock the house with your screeching in such a way, whatever he has done!" he brazenly scolded her, still annoyed at being disrupted in his writing.


"As if you have never rocked it with your bellowing, you hypocrite! For matters far less worthy than your son!"


He huffed and abandoned that battle. Buckingham had rocked the house for idiocies numerous times. Instead, he tried a more reasonable tactic. "Well, what has he done that is so very bad? You know I am writing."


"Forbid anyone disturbs your legacy of words to make you deal with the legacy of your damned family, George."


He rolled his eyes, "What's he done that you are pulling his hair out? You look deranged."


It was a bit erotic in a way, where it not over Francis. Her chest was still heaving, her cheeks pink...


Now he truly had to focus.


"He was..." She seemed truly disconcerted in that she could not even say the words. George had heard Bess say many things he had never thought a woman could say or would say or dared say, so he was beginning to fear he was truly going to have to birch the boy silly for whatever it was. His wife was no timid, sequestered woman to not speak something. So there went the hunting later in the week if it was going to be thus. Inconvenient.


Finally, she finished, jolting him from his thoughts and moving his eyes from her heaving breasts.


"...going to...." she rolled her hand in front of her as if hoping him to guess the word. Her loudness quieted a bit as she said, "...with the servant girl!"


Buckingham was perplexed for a moment. She could have used a more apt mimicry than rolling her hand if she expected him to guess swiving immediately from all that, but it did come.


"Swiving? You are tearing his hair out, because he's a boy, and he was diddling about with the maid!" the booming laugh that escaped him might have actually reached the boys. He tried to breathe and stop laughing if only not to make her more angry.


Meanwhile, his eyes were forced shut with hilarity, she had closed ranks against him, and he opened his eyes to a whizz.




Ooohh, she slapped me! Had he been quicker, he might have grabbed her hand and trapped her against the wall, too bad he had missed it. Opportunity wasted... he lamented.


"I do NOT want grandchildren sired out of scullery maids and stable-boy's sisters and whores!" she harped at him, with a stomp and a look that dared him to ask for another slap. His look replied that he might just want one. He would not miss it this time.


George noted immediately she did not say that she did not want bastards, because that was what Francis technically would have been had they not married before he was born. He knew far better than to say that. Not precisely because he would not say it to her, but because he would never risk Francis overhearing. That entire situation had forced the duke to grow up a little, foolish or fortuitous it was still his mental pennance for his beloved brother's death.


George had lived his entire life not knowing what it was like to have an actual father and had oft wondered what a regular father, instead of a king as a foster father, would have been like. He would not risk taking that from Francis just because his mother could be a Siren.


"He is twelve, Bess. He is becoming a man. You cannot stop that. Let us be real." It was not like this was too crass for her. George knew better. Besides, she had swived his brother before they were married, so she could hardly claim NOT to understand what the impulses of youth did to one's better senses. "How old were you when you first wished to see more of my brother? Better yet, how old do you think my brother was before he wished to see more of you? Shall I tell you?" George chuckled, and then licked his lips.


His brother probably would not have found this all quite as entertaining, but alas, his brother had the easier fate.


Buckingham continued, "Did you think it was a coincidence the age we were when we were sent to Cambridge for much of the year?" He was tittering at her even more. THey had been Little Frank's age.


"NOT the maids, George!" she hissed in protest. "YOU might have your parties and your whores, and I understand..."


He held up his hand to stop her before she went into a monologue about his deeds or, God forbid, his example. "I understand you as well."


He sure did understand. Bess was very accommodating in a variety of ways, and that was likely why they had a number of their own children. And unlike the King, who spread his seed far and wide, Buckingham was a bit more selective over who he might allow to carry his illustrious seed. It was likely more ego than any sort of propriety, because he was far from monogamous, but still. He did not want his twelve-year-old popping out babies with the help; not only was it just unsavory, but it created a manipulation and political dynamic in the house he was not about to invite. Nor did he wish his wife such silly distress. How she mistrusted him! "You feel I must give the boy his limits, but there is a far better way of gaining my attention that sounding bloody murder to me." He paused. "Darling," he added, with a smarmy smile.


"You had better give him a whipping," she demanded. "He was a hair's width away, in the hallway." She crossed her arms over her chest.


"In the hallway!" He had to bite his lip not to laugh again. Oh Frank!


"George, this is not funny. Do you want me..."


He held up his hand again, "Oh no, no. Truly, I am not the one who did wrong here, save me your punishing tongue if you please. I shall handle it. You shall not have such in the house again, yes?" He smiled at her and tilted his head down as if to ask if that was what she wished.


"Yes, and his mother need not hear of it," she reiterated, raising an eyebrow to his attempt at a look of boyish accommodation to her demands. He was so dramatic. Is he drunk?


"Indeed, and then his mother had best leave his bedchamber to privacy lest she see him cock in hand doing another thing youth are very prone to," he said, sweetly, with the most benign smile.


He IS drunk!"Oh George," she sighed, and then laughed. "Do not play, I am serious, and you are in your cups." He oft added drama to his words like an actor. It served him well at court, and George always was amusing.


At the first hint of calm from her, he moved in for his disarming move: the embrace. He was much larger, though she was tall, and he easily enveloped her.


"Seriously then, rest assured, none of our other sons shall ever make that mistake, because after this he will tell ALL of his brothers every last horrid detail of his discomfort in ways we can never imagine," the Duke joked. He knew how it worked with brothers. He was the eldest, he knew. The eldest appraised all the rest of everything, right down to masturbation technique. He saved Bess that description. There were very good reasons he and Charles were so close.


"Thankfully, I was alone, but what if there was company..." she muttered from his shoulder.


Buckingham snorted. Well, the King would have found that insanely amusing. The King found most things involving sex insanely amusing. However, his wife's friends were probably not similarly crass in their sense of humour.


"Yes, yes, I get it, Bess. Forgive me if I sympathize with him. Being raised with the expectation of a great household is both necessary but stifling." He had lived it more than she. Exile, too, made it difficult to transition back. "He knows to act his part, but I will remind him seriously. Now, let him stew over what you are telling me. He shall imagine all the more doom. It will make my piece far easier. Besides, my dear lady wife, I am more concerned by your distress than putting him back in line. One is far easier than the other." There was a hint of seduction in his voice. "What shall I do to calm you?"


It did not take very long for the notion to find purchase, so it was some hours later before he finally emerged the victor of one battle and went to squish the mini-rebellion in his heir's breeches that was so offensive to his mother.


Fatherhood was a comical thing. You said and enforced a great many things that you did not give much a fig about. Buckingham did not care at all if Francis wanted to fuck his brains out. He was the heir to a duke, let him be one with all the perks. Blind obedience and strict, moral formality were not Buckingham's ways. Yet, it did give him some degree of pleasure to hear his valet's report that Francis was reading Latin together with his younger brother. Some degree of obedience was a necessary constriction to exist at court, so the duke did not fall into the pit of negligent parenting, if only because he was too ambitious for it. Plus, his only blueprint for fathering was from an overly formal, highly religious and intelligent king.


The culprit of the day soon appeared after being summoned, bowing with that perfect deferential deepness that was a confession of itself that the boy knew he had been very stupid and was going to have to answer for it.


"I think you know better than to set your lady mother to screaming, Frank," he said, with the hint of an amused smile.


"Am I going to get a beating?" his cub blurted out.


Buckingham chuckled, "My you are direct." He looked at the very twin of his younger brother but with his own blond hair and his mannerisms. He would have the boy think he was staring him down.


After a few minutes, he let out an amused huff and then sat.


"You will learn, my boy, ladies get upset by men much of the time. It doesn't always mean very much, although it must seem so, because that is gallant. If you are to stay at court, you must be more responsible over your actions. I do not have time to mediate squabbles between you and your lady mother, nor to find my day disturbed because you wish to dip your wick. If you are not smart enough to hide it, you should not be doing it, and never with the help. I swear I shan't repeat myself to you on this."


And the boy nodded at him.


"Do not tempt me to send you and your mama to the country," he added. Threats, even empty ones could be well-employed. The boy was still somewhat gullible.


"No, Your Grace." Francis' tone sounded as if he had just been told he'd be sent to one of Dante's circles!


Buckingham almost laughed at the gravity of the response. He could not blame the boy for not wishing to be stuck in the country with his mother.


"Now, have you laid with a woman yet?"


Francis looked at him with wider, cautious eyes. "No..."


"But you wish to?"


The boy seemed to think it might be too good to be true by the shock on his face, "...Yes?"


"Then there is a way to go about it that is not under your lady mother's nose, so if you ever let her see you that way again, I shall tell your grandpapa and let him beat you. The ball is thus in your court as to whether you someday earn a good birching or not. Up to you."


Dinnerplate eyes were a good sign of complete understanding. The Colonel was far more apt at discipline than he was, but sometimes he did it himself out of pity for the boy.


"Now, when we go back, we will go have a drink in my study, I will have the birch brought, and when I send you back out, you shall pretend to be very discountenanced like I gave you a sound beating."


The boy blinked. The duke raised an eyebrow and waited for it to all sink in.




"Truly," the elder promised. "There is nothing wrong with needing a fuck as a man, but spare your mother's presence so I need not hear her." He would have to find the boy some nice, young widow who wished to give Francis the proper education in the bedchamber. One day he wanted heirs, not ginger-haired freckled things with the housemaids that were only a drain on the purse-strings and of little use at all.


The duke then added, "And do not forget to live up to the act so that your dear Mama does not go harpy on us both, again, for deceiving her about your punishment. You shall find you have no need to act if that happens."

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  • 5 years later...

In which our Francis has a dream and like many dreams he realizes he's dreaming at first but then that fades off...


Francis opened his eyes to a light that seemed far too bright. Cascades of yellow and stars as he blinked his surroundings into focus. It was his room at Buckingham’s, but it was not his room as it should be. Artifacts of him were gone. He felt himself gape in an awkward way before he spit out a mouthful of hair. He had a terrific hard-on! Where is my hair! He was not thinking about the hair on his head.


A servant scurried over. He pulled his shirt down and covered himself.


That is not John…


“Are you all right, my lord? It is late for you.”


His face was still gaping some. This is not right. None of this is right. “Might I…have my robe.” He licked his lower lip.


A few short minutes later, he padded down a familiar hallway that was now strange to him in a way he could not place. He stared at his fingers as he flexed and unflexed them. His body was too young for him.


I must be dreaming.


“Why are you not dressed, Hart? Father is outside, he was already asking after you,” said a girl with his blue eyes and dark brown hair.


His feet did not touch the gravel although he heard it crunch under his feet.


“You are not going out there in your robe!” the same voice called after him before the door shut completely.


“Francis! What! What are you still doing in your robe?” The man that turned to face Francis and speak was Francis Villiers. His father. He knew because it, well, looked like himself with a few more wrinkles, a scar across his cheek going up to his ear, and dark hair.


Francis was too startled to speak. He himself was nearly thirty years old. This was not his body. He and his father had never even been alive at the same time.


“Are you ill?” The elder asked. There was a bell of concern to the question. “Son?”


“No,” was all that came out of Francis’ mouth, dry, confused.


An eyebrow of concern and shock went up on the elder. “It is no wonder the Duke is so angry with you, Hartley. Is that how you speak to him? Is that how you speak to your father?”


Francis found himself answering more politely, “No, my lord, I’m not ill.” Then he whispered under his breath, “Just dreaming I think.”


“Dreaming! You are not dreaming! In a daze, more like. Have you been into your uncle’s liquor again?” The elder Francis put his hands on his hips.


What? “No, I was just…up late reading is all.” The words were not truly even his! He recognized the face of an elder who was sorely tempted to slap him.


“Hartley, so help me, if you are lying to me in your house clothes, in the yard, when your uncle is due to return in not even an hour!”


“I’m not.”


“Then why are you out here speaking to me in your house clothes when you should be dressed and ready to greet your uncle when he returns back to his home which you call your home for most of the year, hmm?”


“I…don’t know, sir…one of the girls told me you were asking after me?” He had to say something that was not barking mad.


“Get dressed! Now!” his father hissed at him. “Or have you forgotten why he left you here to begin with!”


He had not forgotten. Francis looked to the side for a moment, totally off balance mentally.




He was jolted by a smack to the side of his head.


“Wake up, boy! What is wrong with you?” The elder put a hand on his hip again and glared. “Powders? Was it your uncle’s powders?”


“Powders?” Francis parroted, dumb founded. He had thought first about the kind of powders for one’s face. “Oh, no, no. I’m just, erm, tired.” His mind then wandered to the more illicit powders his uncle must clearly use for recreation…




He jumped and turned back to go into the house.







Francis had never gotten dressed so fast. He had actually gotten dressed by a handful of servants who all seemed to know that he should not still be in his nightclothes. It started with frantically washing his hands and ended with a jaunty hat on his head and far, FAR too many hands touching him.


When he found himself outside again, fully dressed, with copious lace, his mother gave him the stare down. There was a veritable horde of similarly dressed siblings already present when he stopped to stand next to the elder Francis.


“Sorry,” he whispered.


“It is not to me that you should be very sorry,” came the confusing reply. “And if you had not been here to greet your uncle when he arrives home, you would be sorrier yet.”


His own reply was swallowed up by the approaching sounds of hoofbeats. Buckingham’s grand form coming into the courtyard followed by a typical throng of hangers on.


“Go hold his horse while he dismounts if you know what’s good for you,” the elder hissed.


Francis sprung forward to do so. He took hold of the oiled leather, and said, “Welcome home, Your Grace.”


When the Duke dismounted, he pointedly ignored the greeting and walked right by him without a glance. Francis handed the reins to waiting groom and trailed along behind. The only indication that his uncle even knew he was there was having gloves tossed back at him.


“Ahh, Dear Brother, your family makes for quite the welcome committee,” Buckingham hailed as he walked up. “And a pretty one at that, Bess.” He leaned down and gave her a kiss.


“Ours, not just mine,” said brother clarified.


Francis watched rather dumbfounded as each of his siblings was greeted happily by their uncle. And he just stood there behind, holding the gloves in one hand and his own hat in the other, ignored.


They then mounted the steps to go inside. A traveling cloak also thrust at him. He was in some very heavy disfavor. He knew better than to say a word. He followed the Duke and his father upstairs, carting more garments as they went and finally passing them off to his uncle’s valet.


He stood there a bit stupidly. Not sure if he was dismissed now that he was empty-handed, for they surely had not acknowledged him at all.


His father was clearly annoyed enough with him too and hissed, “Make certain the servants have the bath the way he likes.”


The room was adjoining, and Francis could still somewhat hear what was being said as his uncle readied to wash the road off. With a sigh, he plunked his hand in the water and the leaned over it a bit more to take in a whiff. His uncle preferred a stronger vapor to his bath after travels, from breathing in all that dust, so he started to crumple and toss in more rosemary and citrus peel.


“Fetch more hot water,” he instructed. It was then that the words of the other room caught his attention.


“I wish you to take this one back with you and to leave me the other, the second eldest.” It was Buckingham’s voice.


“Take Hart back with me? Are you still that angry that you will not have him at all?”


Francis’ young eyes about bugged out of his head. His own uncle was going to dismiss him! Entirely. From his household. Dismiss him! The heir to the duke after his own father! He was dismissable?!? He suddenly could not breathe and almost forgot to keep listening.


“Angry? I. Am. Disgusted. He is a preening, spoiled, lazy boy who must think me the most unobservant uncle and master to ever walk the earth. And I shall not have an idiot in the house.”


“Of course, if you wish me to take him, or send him home with his mother and the girls and younger boys, I will-.”


“Or best yet, send him alone with his tutors to Helmsley to see how he likes freezing in York, where his only amusement shall be in supervising the work to restore her,” Buckingham interjected.


In the adjoining room, Francis felt tears prick his eyes. His uncle did not just want to send him away from his own person, he wanted him sent away entirely!




“Frank, you always tell me I indulge him, and perhaps in many ways I have, but I have one very strict rule that Francis has known from the beginning that he flagrantly broke in the most ridiculously insulting of ways.”


“That you do not suffer fools and that he must take his learning and studies seriously, I know---.”


“That little shit was preening on a platform in clothes I purchased for him for a court event, with your wife’s two brothers looking on and another handful of little toadies admiring, and what do I come home to but work that could have been his five years ago waiting for me. And when I come in to ask him why his work is not done to his capability, he does not even get off his platform to greet me properly!”


“You have contributed by spoiling him and giving him a grandiose model,” his father defended. “And now you blame him alone. He is just a boy.”


“Perhaps Yorkshire will teach him some humility and manners, and remind him of his place. He needs to understand how easy it is to lose favor, Frank; one day he will have to pander to a king that is not Charlie. Monarchs are not known for being indulgent, generally. You do recall who fathered us!”


“How could one forget.”


“I shall have one of the other boys to invest my time into. Francis shall one day inherit my titles and everything that goes with, but there is plenty that is unentailed for me to place elsewhere if one of the others proves worthy.”


They were going to make one of his younger brothers the favorite above him!


He hardly had time to think more about what he was hearing for the servant came back with more hot water. He barely had time to swipe at his eyes before his uncle and father came in from the other door and ignored him some more aside from handing him a robe.





It was quite difficult to keep a straight face having this conversation, knowing that the offender would surely overhear from the next room. Buckingham only had a fleeting desire to send Little Frank away and had left him there at the house alone for a few weeks both to scare the boy and also to give himself a chance to calm down. He had been irate. He had slapped the boy silly. He had recruited the Colonel to give him the birching of a lifetime (since George & William were already likely recipient of one too for their part in it).


He had also realized that now that Francis had entered his youth he was going to need a more constant hand to keep in line. The Duke did realize that this was, partially, his responsibility, but it had been far easier to keep a six-year-old obedient and diligent than a thirteen-year-old. Even Master Hobbes had warned him of impending youth. The poor, old man was now on his second generation of Villiers and had reminded George that he had been caught out masturbating in his lessons in his own youth.


While said boy was in the other room fighting back tears, Buckingham and his brother were making faces at each other and stifling amusement as they spoke of the boy’s ‘intended’ fate while the duke readied for his bath.


“I think that likely enough,” Francis whispered.


“So long as he is on his knees begging me not to send him away by the end of the night,” the Duke responded with a smarmy grin and a wink.


“With tears and snot, I’m sure.”


“You and your snotty children!” He snorted, covering it with his hand.


“Let’s see if his eyes are all red.”


The boy might think he was being utterly ignored as the pair walked in, but Buckingham did chance a sideways crook of his eyes as he thrust the robe at the poor idiot. His eyes were red and glossy as could be, and he was quite sure the boy was holding his breath to rein himself in.


Mission soundly accomplished.


“I shall have to commend Parker on the perfection of the bath,” he said, just to dig it in some. He knew Little Frank had done it and not his valet.


He heard a chink of glasses but paid it no mind until a steamy cup was handed to him. Little Frank did know him well! It seemed his little trip had helped matters immensely. Not that he intended to let that on.


The older Francis observed, “Your eyes are all red, are you unwell?”


There was satisfying swell of red on the boy’s cheeks as he was caught out.


Buckingham craned his head back to finally take a look and see what the boy would say, as if it was only then that he even noticed the offender’s presence.


“No, my lord. I accidentally splashed water on my face and then rubbed it off after touching the rosemary.”


What a very good liar! Though in such instances, that sort of lie was required. One did not say, ‘No, I was eavesdropping and crying.’ Buckingham narrowed his eyes and then said balefully, “Do you not have studies to be doing?” He waved a hand dismissively and watched with immense satisfaction as the little shit bowed quite a bit deeper and longer than he usually would before escaping out the door.


The pair listened to the steps down the hall before snorting nearly in unison.


Buckingham threw a sprig of wet rosemary at his brother and then took a long sip of his café correto.


“Besides, if I sent Hartley away, Charles would need to learn all my quirks, and that is far too tedious for me to endure. The boy does know what I like and how I like it.”


“And I doubt you wish to go back to a ten-year-old, either.”







Francis went back to his rooms and sat down at his writing desk, staring out the window. He could already hear his siblings playing outside. With a sigh, he picked up his quill, dipped it into the ink well, and set about his work. Having spent the better part of two weeks alone with his tutors, he had gotten much done, and he felt pangs with every scratch on the parchment that he was being purposefully excluded.


The notion was further reinforced when he was informed that he was to also dine in his rooms, alone. Presumably while the rest of the family all sat down together without him.


That was the straw that finally broke his proverbial back. One tear came and before he knew it, he was bawling face down on his bed and his poor valet was attempting to console him. He sniffed and snorkeled, making a veritable mess of his pillows.


He was still at it, nearly an hour later, when his mother came in. She had just told off her husband and brother-in-law, for pushing it just a little too far. Her Francis had always been more sensitive than George, and Little Frank was no different. Hartley was quite a perfect courtesy title for the boy, because Hart was about the most apt name anyone could have ascribed to her eldest son.


“Are your plans to simply cry like a little boy, Hart?” she asked him softly, but firmly.


He had not even heard her come in and startled at the sudden words and weight on his bed. Her words settled like fresh censure on him and another quake of sobbing overtook him.


“Come now. Use some words.” She attempted to part some of the mass of blonde curls from the side of his face, but ultimately settled for rubbing his back.


“Uncle hates me! Papa hates me!” he sobbed.


“Hartley, there is a strong difference between hate and disappointment. They are disappointed in you.”


“They won’t even look at me!”


“So you are going to lay here, feeling sorry for yourself, and crying? That shall help matters?”


“No…I don’t know.”


“Sit up and have a handkerchief. They are going to have to change all your bed linens again.”


 He blinked and sniffled.  “His Grace is going to send me to Helmsley.” He let out one last lurch of a sob before he pushed himself up, rolled onto his back, and sat up. “In Yorkshire! With the moors and horses and sheep!”


“I know where Helmsley is, and sobbing is not going to help or change that, and it’s very childish. That is certain not to impress your uncle, either. Much less change his mind.”


“Change his mind, Mama…he won’t even look at me, let alone speak to me. I’m not even allowed down for dinner!”


“I know.” She was going to slap George for being so cruel. They had gone too far. The pair of them.


“I’ve ruined everything,” he sniffled. “He’s thinking about breaking up the estate and giving the unentailed portion to Charlie eventually!”


“Francis, now truly, that’s enough catastrophizing and crying. You are not a little boy anymore. Take a deep breath and let us talk with our wits about us.”


He swiped at his eyes.


“The Duke of Buckingham is absolutely not going to break up anything piecemeal, and it is silly of you to even consider that he would. That would break up the power of the Duchy, and he would certainly not do that.”


“No?” he said, raising his eyebrows with a little furrow.


“Of course not,” she replied, pushing his hair from his face and putting a hand on his cheek. “Are you not prone to hyberbole when you are upset? Where do you think you inherited that from?”


He shrugged.


“Now, if he is to send you to Helmsley, it is best that you accept that punishment with some dignity, rather than wailing about it on your bed like a baby. He will surely not want you back any the sooner if that is what you do, and you know that he will be told every detail of your deportment.”


He nodded.


“Breathe and use your words, Hartley. Stop letting your mind take you to the worst and bringing yourself there already!”


“But I….I do not want to go away.” He sniffled.


“I know. You have been with your uncle for more than half your life now. I daresay even His Grace does not remember what it was like before his Hart came to live with him, hmmm? You must think of how you brought yourself here. From his perspective. He is your uncle, yes, but he is the Duke of Buckingham, Hartley. You disobeyed him and then you stood on a box with your little friends looking on and gave him much less than he deserves by any measure or account.”


“I know, Mama. I did apologize. I---.”


“But did you really? What apology is there for such a thing? Those friends have fathers too. Fathers who are nowhere near the grand personage your uncle is, who will hear everything that transpired.”


He looked down. “I know…” he whispered.


“A son is his father’s best servant. You are that to your uncle. And you were a very bad servant, Hartley.” She paused to let that sink in before adding, “And you represented your father and your uncle very poorly. And you were a very unloving and disgracious nephew to act in such a way. He does not have to do anything for you or for any of us. What does your behavior mean for your siblings? If he did not love your father so very much, such a thing could ruin his patronage for all.”


And there were fresh tears. Quiet tears. She had struck her own chord.


“Now, I must go change for dinner. And once I have gone through with your brothers and sisters, and your papa goes to drink in the library with your uncle, I will come and tell you. The rest you must figure on your own, my dear. But no more crying into your linens and pillows, for that shall get you nowhere.”






It was quite a number of hours later that Lady Kingston had herded his siblings out of the dining room and to bed with the aid of a very exasperated governess. So when she alerted her son to the opportune moment, it was very near midnight. Still fully dressed, right up to his cravat pin and excessive lace, he made his way toward the library, heart pounding against his ribs. Pulse fluttering the lace of the cravat which now suddenly felt strangling.


He could see the door was open, the light from the fireplace dancing on the wall in the hallway. He took a breath, licked his lips, and then stepped forward into the doorway prettily.


It was a long moment before his uncle looked up from the conversation to acknowledge him. Francis bowed with all the perfection his sorry-ness could muster.


“What.” The tone was flat and annoyed, not even a question.


“May I attend you both, Your Grace? I do not oft get the opportunity to show my respect for my lord father…and I have not shown it to Your Grace as I should.”


He was not looking at their faces, so he did not see the wink shared between the two, nor the little smiles that flickered there for a moment.


“And your other duties?”


“Done, Your Grace.”


“And the missive from Master Hobbes I spied on my desk? What shall all your tutors say during my absence?”


“No complaint that I know.”


“Then stand here if it pleases you more than your bed.”


The elder Francis cleared his throat. “Apropos of that, I think there is another word with an A that you wish to do that does not involve me,” he said to his eldest son, before turning to the Duke, “So I will leave you, brother.”


A disgruntled, “Mmm,” was the Duke’s only reply to his brother.


A full ten minutes of silence passed as the Duke drank and Francis counted his own heartbeats, pausing only to refill his uncle’s glass once.  


“Is your father correct that there is another A you wish to deliver than just attending?” the Duke finally asked.


“If Your Grace will hear it?”


With a sigh, Buckingham waved him over, feigning an indifference to the situation that he felt only partially.


Francis knelt down by the chair and did his best to model the contrition he felt. He had planned a semi-speech, an impressive one at that, but he could not deliver it as his mouth suddenly went dry.


“Yessss.” The Duke wondered if the boy feared breathing would make him cry, because he sure appeared so.


Instead of some flowery apology, which the Duke would have enjoyed to a point, something else entirely came out. A bit more raw but quite sincere.


“Please…Your Grace…I’m so sorry I’d take fifty of grandfather’s worst birchings if you would let me stay.”


Fifty!!! the Duke just barely held in his snort of amusement. That was some unit of measurement.


“Fifty, my my. I do not think you would sit well for an entire year if that were the case. That is begging of something, but I am not quite sure it was the A.”


Oh, he breathed! Like a dying whale. But I need to get more out of him than an offer of sorries and endurance of pain.


“Do not be tedious, Hartley.” He tilted the boy’s chin up with a finger so he could stare at him. “Say what you wish me to hear, for all you’ve given is remorse, and last I checked that is an R.”


“I behaved very badly, I know. I am not your son, but you treat me as well as my father, and I...I repaid that very poorly. I served you badly. I do have the love and respect for you as much as any son, Uncle, truly. I know better. I forgot myself. If you give me another chance, my actions will be my apology.”


The Duke sighed again, but without the dramatic, annoyed exasperation. He pulled his feet off the posh stool in front of him, sitting forward. He pointed, “Sit.”


With wide eyes, Francis did so.


Pursing his lips for a moment, Buckingham stared him in the eye. “When you lower yourself, you lower me, and all of us too. If I tolerate you being an idiot, I allow you to lower this family. I am the highest non-royal peer of this realm, Hart. You will one day be the highest non-royal peer of this realm. This is not a game where you can make mistakes. Shall I unleash you on the King, my master, to maybe forget yourself? For you tell me, boy, what is so very much different between the two that it would happen with the Duke of Buckingham and not the King?”




“Very little, in the grand scheme of things. There is only enough vanity in this family for me, and you clearly think far too well of yourself. You are not the Duke of Buckingham. You cannot take such license. In private, you are my nephew and it is enough that you love me so well as you do. In public, the way you treat me is the model for what I expect and will accept, and what you did was very much worse than disrespectful, it was disgraceful. I must be able to trust you, Francis, and you are ultimately protecting the sanctity of the title for yourself and for your heirs one day.”


“I…Please, I beg Your Grace to forgive me. I am sorry. I know I forgot myself and deserve…to be…to be sent away, but I don’t wish to leave you. I do not remember what it was like before I stayed with you, and I could try and try and not do better than here, just for that alone.”


In truth, considering he was not actually planning on sending the boy away but rather reading him a strong lesson, he was quite touched. If he had not already forgiven the thirteen-year-old idiot in his mind, that surely would have inspired him to do so. But, he was a consummate actor, and there was still more to the role he needed to play.


He leaned down closer to his nephew’s face and pretended to give a hard look. The cub swallowed. It looked like there might be tears, and George didn’t want another ticking off from Bess.


“If I entertain your request for another chance and believe your words of devotion, you will do your lessons and work without complaint or slacking off, see to all your duties, and be an obedient nephew. No sneaking and misbehaving with your…little minions, Hartley.”


He knew the cub was incapable of never misbehaving again, but it was more the degree and egregiousness to his person that he was determined to squash.


“I swear, Sir.”


George nodded. There had been enough snot and tears for one day, but…


 “And Hart.” He took the boy’s chin in hand and said with deadly seriousness, “Do not stand on anything in my presence other than the ground, without leave, ever again.”


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