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The thought had better count! | Sun 2nd PM- Xmas 1677

Francis Kirke

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At the end of the Pall Mall street, wedged between St. James Park and St. James Square, stood a large mansion that in centuries to come would evolve to become far bigger with addition after addition until it was to be called Buckingham Palace.


Such a lofty name however was far in the future. The Buckingham mansion as it was now known was drawn up of fine white marble and sandstone, with clear Baroque geometry. Inside cherubs in a blue sky was fitted over the white plaster. Each room held a different color and nothing was short of lavish. The mansion was square, but inside the servants still had the habit to refer to the left as the west and right as the east wing; the west wing dedicated to the Duke's chambers, and the east wing deserted for he had send his wife to her father in the country, long since grown bored with her behavior which was an impediment on his fun. Paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt and Lely were displayed in the large hallway, created to impress the visitor, an enormous marble staircase drawing in the eye.


The front garden was filled with various flowers, although it was mostly greenery now. In the back there is a long walk designed by a garden architect, so that the duke could walk and find intimacy with his private guests at every turn. A large fountain in the middle sprouted moist into the air.


After visiting his mother, Francis arrived home with enough time to do something he had rarely gotten to do frequently as a captain: take a hot bath. Kingston was not far, not even five leagues away, but it was still unusually cold. There had been some flurries of snow on his way and the luxury of steamy baths in oversized tubs was one benefit of living with a duke as opposed to his previous abode.


All through dining there was some apprehension over what he had gotten for the duke. Having only met Buckingham as a cousin during Windsor, this was the first such gift.


Unlike many at court, gifts had meaning to Francis. They had not had money for much in exile, and he had only been around a few years before leaving for the Navy and then on his own. Gifts were rarities in his life. Much of what he had ever been given was personal more than extravagant. After hearing Buckingham's interrogation about his gift for His Majesty, well, Francis was feeling all the more nervous.


Thus, he drank liberally enough at dinner to take the edge off.


And since dinner was now coming to an end, there was a thick sense of foreboding. Francis might have become rather quiet as they neared that point.

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  • 2 months later...

The Duke had spent some of the day calling upon the King, never wanting the King to think of him anything but family.  There had been the brief visit to his sister, who claimed her joints ached and she had been unable to accept Buckingham's invitation for dinner.  George knew it to be her standard ploy to get him to call upon her, rather than the other way around.  Every year she seemed to take greater joy in seeing him climb out of his carriage in the cold.  He reciprocated by stating that he could not stay bit a few minutes, being so important as he was.  It was now a familiar tradition.  Gifts were exchanged, a hot cup of tea was shared and then he was bundled and sent back to his coach.

The rest of the afternoon was spent hearing the doorbell ring as one gift after another arrived at the front or rear doors.  There was every type of foul and game; every type of spirit, and every type of vice like snuff and tobacco.  The Duke of Buckingham was a man that was included on the gift list of most households in the realm.  To omit him was to do so at one's peril if he had done you a favor.

And so it was that dinner came; a quiet affair.  Not having much family in London, George was left to dine with Francis, in between receiving notes and letters from well-wishers.  The great man seemed to be in fine spirits as he devoured a bowl of dates reading one letter after another, or at least mentally noting the identity of every well-wisher.  The subject of gifts between them was not yet mentioned.  Was the Duke adding additional pressure on his illegitimate nephew?  Or was he just oblivious?


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The influx of gifts that day had done nothing to improve Francis' sense of anticipation. The first non-royal duke of any realm had far greater well-wishers than his nephew, and far richer ones too; that much had been keenly observed that day even if it had already been known. 


Now he was wishing he had sold off some belonging or another to buy the Duke some extravagant thing that Buckingham, no doubt, already had an even more extravagant version himself anyway! Mental hyperbole was fueled somewhat by the pleasant buzz of alcohol. His blue eyes flickered down at a dried apricot and then back at the Duke. If he put that in his mouth to have something to do, he was not sure he could ever swallow it. 


And yet another letter. And another. Francis was not quite sure he could stomach much longer, and he decided to break his uncle's game or obliviousness, whichever. 


"Are there any glaring omissions on your grace's mental list of well-wishers?" He raised a blond brow delicately. 


Could he be faulted for breaking it with a game of his own? 

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"Seventeen to be exact," Buckingham replied in a lazy fashion.  He sifted through a stack of letters that was deposited into his hand by his so-called "Christmas Clerk" that he retained to help with his correspondence this time of year.

"John, these are letters received today?  Yes?  There are some older letters methinks.  I do not wish to miss a single one.  Go and check all the places that someone might have deposited letters and look again.  I do not want to miss anyone."  The servant nodded his understanding.  "I shall check with each doorman again Your Grace."  He retreated appropriately.

Scanning one of several envelopes in his hand, George grunted.  "make it sixteen."  He looked up at Francis with an expectant smile.  "Surely you are not suggesting we wager on the most glaring omission this year?"

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Francis chuckled, "If I were, I would be stupid to do so, for the pool I have to choose from is only those I know are close to you. On the other hand, you have the benefit of knowing the entire pool of expectation." 


He took a sip of his drink and then said, "I would wager on knowing one of the sixteen, though, and since fifteen is my lucky number, I like Fortuna's smile in my favour." With a mischievous smile, he added, "If I am wrong, I'll have some freshly struck beauties to pay you with."

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"Oh really?"  He knew Francis was correct about his advantage.  The Duke liked games in which he had an advantage.

"So, tell me number 15, and just who are these freshly struck beauties of whom you speak?" he asked in an intrigued fashion.  Were they flesh or of a different variety?

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"As you do not tell me all your secrets, so too do I have my own secrets that I'll only share at the proper moment," Francis replied, with a tenor chuckle and a bite of his lower lip.


"Ahh, so I am number 15!" he purposefully misunderstood in an entirely transparent way, for Francis understood Buckingham's meanings, generally, very well. It was much more fun to misconstrue that Buckingham was calling him Number 15 and not asking to be told who was number 15. "But surely you cannot fault me for being remiss, as unfortunate and dependent as I am." Even facetious self-deprecation was a strong talent of Francis. He had never been unfortunate in comparison of relatives, and while Buckingham had taken on his expenses as a matter of course, he had not needed to do so.


"In all reality, it injures my vanity to know I cannot compete with a good majority of the expense of things showing up here over the last fortnight." It also injured his vanity to know that there were likely many who knew his own uncle far better than Francis, but that was a harder thing to say, even in the less than serious air of conversation. "I, of course, wish to be the best."


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Choosing not to correct the purposeful misconstruction of Francis, Buckingham was unfazed.  "I see."  He listened patiently as Francis made his excuses.

"A lady will tell you that size does not matter … but we both know that they are deceitful creatures.  But, even they know that it is the thought and preparation that transforms a number 15 into a number one."  The Duke, of course, was not just speaking of presents.  He had found an apt analogy.  Not everyone had the size to compete.  Buckingham had both the size, of resources, and the strategic mind, meaning that he was number one at court … at least in his own mind; but, that had little to do with gift giving.

"A thoughtful gift has a value that cannot be measured.  It is why I have made good on those wool mittens of yours.  They are awaiting you in your rooms tonight."  He could not help a smile from forming, and a pause to see his nephew's response before assuming his more favored role of a tutor in all things important.

"Yet, I confess that a gift of mittens alone would not show the requisite effort.  They are easily obtained, and show the thoughtfulness of one's mother or servant.  So, there is something else awaiting you in your rooms tonight.  It will be on your desk.  It has been personalized to you, hopefully having more value to you than a random gentleman."

If Francis was expecting a statement from the grand Duke of Buckingham that just any gift would do, he would be mistaken.  He would not let off so easily a man who wished to rise at court.  Instead, he observed his nephew's demeanor carefully to see how uncomfortable he became.  It would tell him all he needed to know. 

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They could hardly be excuses when lacking the necessary seriousness, but his words were rather a preamble of sorts. 


He was pleased with his gifts, although somewhat cowed by the others. He would do even more...if he could. He wanted his to surpass everyone's...because his gratitude did. He wanted his to be the most apropos because he should know his own uncle better than most all of these other people and he didn't. He had been rather robbed of that, and perhaps that was part impetus for one of his gifts to Buckingham. 


Smiling softly, he listened to what the duke said about women, smirked at his own understanding of the many meanings that statement could be applied to. He assumed the duke shared his love for double entendre or even triple or quadruple meanings. If Francis the 15 was one day a 1, then it would also be Buckingham's preparation as much as his own that would have gotten him there. It was as much about is innate ability as it was about the great lengths his uncle was actually going through to make up for a very, very long time. 


Francis chuckled at the mittens, blond brows going up merrily, "Very fine mittens I am sure they are. Your preoccupation with the required soft, courtly state of my hands is duly noted." He took another long sip of his drink.


"Ah, well, yes, I suppose you do have to attempt to outdo my mother," he then added, "The pressure must be immense!" Although it was true that Francis thought it far more difficult to attend a gift for the Duke than he believed it was for the Duke to attend to a gift for him. For all he knew, it could be that it was similarly difficult to choose a gift. 


His brows knit together as Buckingham told him it was personalized and on his desk. He blinked. Then he boldly declared, "You do not get to send me a gift via servant, Sir, we live in the same house! Do you not wish to...give it to me yourself?" There was a hint of confusion and perhaps a bit of offended rolled into the amusement. "How am I to thank you properly otherwise, with a letter sent to your study?" he chuckled some. 


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"Mothers are rather easy to outdo," the Duke offered in rebuttal, "at least in gift giving."

In a clever defensive move, Francis sought to put the Buckingham on the defensive, but the older man would have none of that.  "Very well, I shall escort you to your room, so that I might present it in person and judge your reaction.  A note via servant can wait until tomorrow," he added in feigned seriousness.  "Will that be acceptable?"  He asked nothing about the presentation of his own gift.

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Francis let out another chuckle, putting down his drink in the process, "You almost make that sound like a punishment, tromping me up to my bedchamber to lay judgement!" 


Nevertheless, he stood and fixed his cuffs before he offered his own feigned seriousness in a dramatic bow, "As your grace wishes."


Though when he straightened again, he added smarmily, "Although I think it would be far more comfortable to exchange our gifts in the library or your study or one of the larger parlours, but if you wish to descend your greatness to my corner of things, I am happy to obey." Eyes crinkling some, he looked to see if the Duke would change his mind on location before heading in that direction.



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"The library would be a fine place to exchange gifts ordinarily, but this is not an ordinary gift, and I fear that it might be broken, so I had it placed in your room carefully," the Duke explained confidently.  "Shall we go see it now?"  He supposed Francis would agree, but perhaps the young man wanted another drink first or wished to delay the surprise.

It was then that John re-entered, holding another letter in his hand, waiting to be acknowledged.  It seemed as if the two lords were deciding on another matter and did not need a correspondence interruption.

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"It is easily broken?" Francis could not help but query, surprised.


He did not precisely have many easily broken things. Now he was already worried about breaking it. Not suitable for the library! he thought. If it's not suitable for the library or parlour, how is it suitable for my rooms!.....Or my life! 


"My gift for Your Grace is not easily broken at all," he commented, grinning slyly as it came into his mind. Not easily broken, indeed! In more than one way.  "It is also conveniently in the same place." As in, it was also in his rooms.


Francis ignored John. In Buckingham's presence, it was the Duke that allowed or disallowed interruptions, not him, so it was not something for his attention. Instead, followed Buckingham out as he now grew more apprehensive about the present for him than the gifts he had for his uncle!


(OOC - I think you should take the lead on going into his rooms, bc I don't know what he should be seeing or if he should be seeing anything at all...)

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"Indeed it is," the Duke confirmed.  He ignored John and rose to lead Francis to his room.  "You may wish to play with it in your room as you otherwise play with yourself," he added as he led the way.  As always, there was more than one meaning.

Up the stairs they went in tandem.  John placed the letter beside the Duke's chair and withdrew.

A servant was just leaving Francis' bedroom as they arrived.  The gift had been placed successfully for the Duke's kin.  Once inside the room, a large model would be seen resting on the table in the outer room.  It was hard to miss.

"This is a model from the Orient," Buckingham began as he approached the ship model.  He had his own boyhood fascination with it.  "It is made of rare teakwood.  The sails are silk, the railing gold leaf, the cannon brass and the anchor is made of jade.  It is said to be a treasure ship from the Ming Dynasty.  Look at the number of sails.  I wonder how it maneuvers.  I thought of you once I laid eyes on it."  He did not supply a reason, awaiting his nephew's analysis of the ship and the reason the Duke had thought of him.  Of course, a model like this would be quite expensive.



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Francis was already in open-mouthed wonder before Buckingham even opened his to introduce the present. Such things were not flittering about all over the place, and models were very difficult to ship (as he well knew). His blue eyes were quite wide with boyish wonder, accentuated by golden curls and the fact that he still could pass for twenty.


"It is amazing!" he replied, his happy tenor making amazing sound like the skies had parted happily to sing. 


He did not hesitate to lean down and take a good look.  Ming Dynasty... Francis was not the same level scholar as Buckingham. Are the Mings still in power? He did not truly think so, although not long gone either, for the name was still familiar. The model did not look new, either, which only added to the value of such a thing. 


"With much coordination and skilled sailors," Francis observed, with a laugh. "Look at all that rigging!" He shook his head and then laughed, "Is it less than patriotic as an Englishman to say that one of our sailors would get stuck in all that?" He tittered. "I would like to be on such a ship," he commented wistfully. 


It was not likely to happen, and it was less likely to happen now that he had little to do with the sea-faring life. 

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"She's a beauty," the Duke supplied as Francis looked on in wonder.  How could a man not be captivated by such a model?  It was something to be passed down from father to son.  "I am told that it floats in water but I have not put that claim to the test."  The ship was too valuable to lose in a bath tub.

"Perhaps you could show it to Rupert and suggest that the English navy adopt the design," Buckingham chuckled.  "Shall I leave you to play with it then?" 

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"It is too singular to test such a thing. I shan't either," he replied. Momentarily, he wondered how long his uncle had it that he could say he had no tested the claim, but he was too easily distracted by contemplating the model itself.  


"But to try and make a model of the model in order to test that one..." He hmmed in contemplation for a moment. He had made models before but nothing of such an intricate and strange design. Even the underwater ship model the King had delivered for him to examine and replicate seemed far more simple. 


He chuckled along with his uncle at the suggestion about Rupert. He sighed and smiled, "It is breathtaking and far more than I deserve. Thank you." 


"And no, I keep the playing with myself to my more private hours," he added, as Buckingham asked if he should leave. "And I yet need to give you your gift. Or rather gifts."


There were chairs and a chaise by the fire if his uncle cared to sit. One of the books he had won at the auction was open on a side table. Francis went by his books and picked up a large parcel wrapped in silk and tied with pretty ribbon as well as a small decorative chest. He handed the silk parcel to his uncle first, holding the small chest under his other arm.


By it's size and weight in the Duke's hand, it was clearly a book. There was no name on the cover or spine. No Author. No Title. 


On the inside were vellum pages with writings, astrological symbols, pictograms, and diagrams that were rather indescribable. If Buckingham asked him what it was or what it meant, he was fully prepared to say he had absolutely no idea. To his understanding, nobody did. But something with that much effort, totally encrypted, and with those sorts of drawings was likely concealing something well-worth concealing. What it was, who knew, but it was interesting and perhaps the only one of such things in existence. 







(OOC - Aria okayed this as the result of a thread. It would not have been well-known or famous then, obviously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript )

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"You are welcome," Buckingham replied.  He decided not to make a point about Francis playing with himself in private, though he was sorely tempted.

"Very well."  At his kin's urging, he moved to tale a seat at the table.  The book was unwrapped and the cover opened.  "What on Earth?" Buckingham exclaimed as he turned the first several pages and examined the drawings of what appeared to be a madman, or were they?  He looked for further guidance from Francis before looking for markings as to the author.  "Alchemy perhaps," he muttered aloud as he moved closer to the page surface to study the etchings.  "Where on Earth did you find this?"

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Francis was pleased that he at least got an exclamation of surprise, for that at least meant the novelty of it was appreciated. When Buckingham looked to Francis, his nephew shrugged with a smile, "What on Earth, indeed." 


That was what he had thought the first time he had seen it as well. It was not like anything else - not alchemical, gnostic, esoteric, or otherwise - that he had ever come across. There were some similarities, like the pictures in margins and diagrams, but it was odd no matter which tradition one tried to view the book.


"There is no author or title, nor is there one attached to it orally," he explained. "I got it from Italy. It was at Collegio Romano for awhile. I came by it through the Grimanis. Supposedly, nobody has made any sense of any of it. If it is nonsense or a fraud, it is an elaborate one by someone learned enough to do it. It is no language I have ever seen. I have perused it and there's a Latin word rarely or maybe something Germanic. There are sections devoted to things of interest to alchemical traditions, so I thought it could be entirely enciphered somehow, and not simply either."


Masonic tradition made much use of concealing information, so learning basic cyphers was as required as knowing the symbology of the tradition, and got more complex the further one went. You could not participate without knowing, and that was rather the purpose. It was not anything Francis could divine, but Buckingham's superior knowledge might see more than Francis.


"I had been thumbing back through the Agrippa work I won at that auction, the same where Melville bought the painting. If this work is alchemical or occult, I thought perhaps being of the same tradition and having traveled Germany, Italy, and France there might be...something to jump off. But, I didn't find anything in what little time I had."

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"Where is that Scotsman when you need him," Buckingham laughed.  "Can you imagine how this would complicate his analysis of the painting?"

The older man scrutinized the book more.  "This is no fool.  He might be mad but he is educated.  There must be a cipher somewhere.  I cannot recognize the language.  It does not look Arabic or Hebrew.  Nor does it seem to be Greek.  Perhaps it is a language of the occult," he mused aloud.  "You purchased this from the witch, who was said to have a good library.  Might she have had an occult dictionary I wonder.  Perhaps it is in that small chest?"  He was referring to  the other item Francis was holding.


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Francis' head tilted  back as he laughed heartily. He was quite thankful he had not shown this gift for Buckingham to Melville, for there would have been hours, if not days of speculation. 


"I think he wished to impress the great Duke of Buckingham quite considerably...if impress is measured by sheer volume of theories." Francis wore a lopsided smile and let out a deep exhale. "You have the sort of intellect and presence that sends others' sense of the same scrambling," he added, trying to not titter too much. He was not immune to the effect. 


But he was a far cry less prone than the Scot!


"Yes, the Agrippa came from a witch I suppose, when you put it like that," he replied. He almost said he had not seen a chest there, but then he realized that Buckingham was speaking of the other chest. His made an 'oh.' "No, this chest is unrelated...well, mostly."


The ease at which he spoke about present number one rather disappeared when Buckingham put the attention on present number two. 


Francis blushed some, caught at not being ready for what to say, thinking the preoccupation would be on the book for awhile. He had light skin and he blushed easy, like his namesake.


"But there is certainly no occult dictionary in it..." He wanted to say something witty, and it was there...somewhere...but he just couldn't pull it out. Unless a crystal ball into my past is an occult dictionary... he mused.

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It would have been entertaining to see what Duncan would have conjured to connect the otherworldly drawings to places in London.  It was a pity that the Scot was not present.  "We shall need to find someone else to study it at length and come forth with a theory."  Buckingham's voice was uncertain, suggesting that he did not have a particular person in mind at present.

As for the other chest, the older man observed some discomfort on the part of Francis.  A kindly elder kinsman might come up with reassuring words to ease his nephews angst … but not the Duke.  He had enjoyed many decades of putting people in uncomfortable positions, so it was almost like a sport to use silence to see how Francis would respond.

"So, it is related in part," he began, and then grew silent.  George was more intrigued that something embarrassing might be in the box.

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Francis shared Buckingham's uncertainty. Who did one show such things to and could said person be trusted. They did not even have the first idea what the book contained.


As to the chest, he set it down on the table next to the duke and then moved the Agrippa book back to its place on the bookshelf. He took the moment to pour them both a brandy. He, at least, needed it. 


"Loosely related," he reiterated, as he handed Buckingham the brandy. "The truth of it is that in seeking for the perfect present for you, I was...increasingly stifled by the fact that I have not known you long enough to feel the sentiment would match the reality. It bothered me quite deeply to think I should know my own uncle far better and the thought kept reminding me that it was summarily taken, well, from us both. There is something about family that I believe resides there. In knowing the things nobody else knows."


Previously, Buckingham had (quite emotionally) spoken of what he would have done had he known from the start, that he would have raised him as his own, but time could not roll that way. Francis, then, had to improvise. 


"So, I wished to do that for you, about me," he explained. "I asked my mother and grandmother if they had saved letters I had written them or where anything was written about me as I grew up. I put together quite a stack chronologically. It includes my grand attempt to rid myself of my virginity...at twelve. And I also included the book I kept when I first went to war at sixteen; I was quite set on the possibilities of a glorious death and that the only trace of me that would be left was that book, so it is hilarious. Then my log from my first voyage with the ship named after the silver christening plate that began it all." He smiled, "At least now you will know something of the measure of me from the beginning, the way you should have been able to."


"And all the embarrassing tales an uncle should be privy to," he added, with a soft chuckle. 

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Buckingham listened quietly as Francis proved the source of his discontent.  His papers.

Taking the chest, he let his hands rest on it for a time while he maintained his silence,  At last he broke his silence, his judgment rendered.  "I appreciate the offer.  It is a most intimate gift to let someone know you through your letters.  However, I am a man that believes a man should be secure in his letters, revealed only after his death as a way of remembrance.  One day you may have my letters to read, and it shall be done properly.  Until then, it is best that you and I remain a mystery to be solved.  A puzzle to be navigated.  The best stories, my boy, are the ones that are told or discovered.  Not the ones that are written.  Papers are for historians."

Looking Francis in the eyes, the older man challenged, " if you wish to reveal intimate moments to me, tell me the story of which you are most proud.  And share with me a story of your shame.  I do not wish to read it.  I would hear it from your lips.  Personal tales are best told, not read."  Pushing back from the chest, the Duke sat back and offered his nephew a chance to tell him a story or two, rather than let the older man delve into letters chosen to share.

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Francis could not hide that he felt rather wounded, and nor would he have seen much point in trying.


Buckingham was a man that could make anything sound the way that he wished, and it all might have been quite steeped in appreciation...but the reality of the matter was that the entire idea had been lain to waste in the span of just a few moments. He felt as if he needed infinitely more spirits for all this business. Maybe there was good reason he had spent all of those years away or maybe he was simply bad at this because of all the years he had spent away. 


When Buckingham said to tell him said stories, Francis mustered a weak chuckle. He was rendered  quite speechless. He was certainly not inspired to tell a story


"I suppose I should have hotly considered that you would already have far more than enough to read over Christmastide," was what he finally said, exhaling the rest of his breath out at the end. I also suppose that I would have felt even worse if you had pretended that you would look at it and didn't... 


He was left thinking incoherent thoughts about how either pride or shame were related to who any man truly was on the inside. Neither, Francis felt, had shaped him very much, and that left him with a strangely empty sense. One that he filled by taking a long gulp from his drink.

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Buckingham was a man of letters.  He had one of the greatest minds at court and his letters would have been the most interesting to read.  Yet, he was not a man that wished to share those letters with anyone, other than a select few that might achieve a purpose for him.  The offer to share letters with the Duke carried with it an unspoken reciprocity.  As fond as he was of his nephew, there was no desire to open his soul, let alone correspondence to him.  By accepting and reading the letters, Buckingham would have felt an obligation.  This was the sort of obligation that he disliked.  

One might find it odd that an older man of such success would be so guarded; but, it was the man's nature to be.  If anything, George Villiers might attribute some of his success to being so guarded.  The man had a very colorful past.  The King knew much of it, including his darkest secrets, but even such a man did not fully appreciate the enigma that George thought himself to be. 

Had Francis offered him some dirty secrets on other courtiers and carefully filed reports in chronological order, they would be welcome reading.  A journal as to one's personal history was something different.  It was a violation, whether Francis welcomed it or not, or else it was staged, carefully choreographed promotional material that a sympathetic biographer might compile.  Either way was not to his taste.  Given the hurt look, it was likely that the younger man was sincere rather than a storyteller.  Francis seemed surprised and out of sorts at the moment.

"Those stories need not be told tonight.  They are best told with more wine or whiskey in front of a fireplace," he offered as a way to ease any tension.  "But you can save me the time and tell me if you were successful at losing your virginity at 12.  Masturbation does not count mind you," the man offered as a peace offering of sorts.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Francis, who had yet to sit down himself, removed the little chest and then put it back over by the books where he had retrieved it. 


He did not know what to say so in order to escape saying anything, he occupied the silence with taking out a handful of bundled letters and plopping them down. He took out the two small books and then did not do anything, his back turned and gaze fixed somewhere between the shelves and fireplace. 


Precariously, it might seem that his pause was to contemplate throwing them in the fire. If it was, his grandfather's proficiency with birching away his more mercurial and dramatic tendencies was to thank as he plunked those down too. No point in keeping them in their more festive containment, though he was now struck with the fact that if he gave the letters back, he would have to talk about this fiasco with his mother and grandmother. It appeared, then, that they would stay with him.


"Time...actually the one thing that cannot be saved...or resurrected or returned," he replied, quietly. "It can be stolen, though." Which was, ironically, the reason for the seemingly strange gift. Whatever was behind it was quite lost though. 


He sighed and then answered the question without any amusement or merriment, "I had two elder 'brothers,' so I imagine like His Majesty, I learned all sorts of things about my cock early...I did lose my virginity at twelve but not that particular time." He ventured a smile that did not make it up to his blue eyes. 

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The Duke attempt at humor did not salvage the younger man's humor.  The man seemed hurt by the failure to read his letters, more than George had thought initially.  Perhaps he had miscalculated, though that was something that Buckingham was ever loathe to admit.

"Francis," he began in a quiet and warmer tone.  "I know the measure of the man.  The measure of the boy might be entertaining, but it is the man that stands before me today.  Your story is still yet to be written and I will be here to help you write it.  The past, as you note, we cannot change.  Best to look forward.  I would have enjoyed watching Francis' son grow up.  No doubt.  I would give anything to have your father here right now to pat you on the back in pride and share a good laugh.  Thinking of him brings back both fond memories and terrible thoughts about his loss at the same time," he attempted to explain, better at oratory than sensitive personal feelings.

"Do not be hurt that I prefer to know you better from your own lips, or maybe of your mother, than I do from a stack of letters.  Kirke was a knave and neither your mother nor yourself deserved the purgatory you served with him.  No doubt it has left scars upon you, ones that I could have saved you from had I known earlier."  How might he convey that those years were more a reminder of both their loss and his nephew's exile than something to savor?  "I might be more interested in the letters of yours after you achieved freedom from the man that the world believes was your father.  Still, a glass of fine wine makes a good traveling companion for any earlier tales that you wish to share." 


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Francis wet his lips and listened as the duke spoke. A blink here, an eyebrow there, wheels turning clearly behind his blue eyes. 


Instead of responding directly to what the duke said, Francis instead contemplated while he poured another drink for them both. What, precisely, he was thinking about would have been hard to guess but from his expression, it was quite deep. He finally sat down and took a sip.The density of the air dissipated by the explanation, and Francis felt little need to address his hurt over the rejection of the gesture further.


"I did not know him, you know, Kirke," Francis replied. He thought he had shared that previously, but maybe he had not been specific enough. "I, perhaps, only saw him a handful of times. My mother fled with me to her parents only a few days after he had seen me for the first time as a baby. He found us only a few times during the eleven years after that, and had you known I doubt not that you would have dispatched him quickly and enthusiastically long before the worst of it happened. I think I was around fourteen when he died, but I had always been raised by my mother's family so it is not that I had a bad childhood other than it was the same exile everyone else endured. Albeit, we more moving about."


Kirke had attempted to terrorize them when he could find them in Francis' view, and he was quite sure Buckingham would have paid the cunt back in kind with the exponential ability that a duke could muster that a simple gentleman could not. 


Wetting his lips again, he continued, "Nor do I know much about my father, your brother." He knew the heroic stories, in general, as he did of Buckingham. Those were tales one could tell within family without giving away any dire secrets of potential parentage, but they were also things that were common knowledge like His Majesty's Oak Tree. His mother was not good at providing stories without tears, and one rather precluded him from seeking the other. "Though I wish he were here for that too, I at least never had an expectation to find him." An uncle, in that way, was just as good, though he had enough to drink that phrasing that thought aloud was not going to happen.  

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"I had thought him more involved in your life than that," Buckingham admitted almost sheepishly, silently chiding the oversight.  "So, if you turned out flawed, it is not Kirke's blame then?" he asked with wry humor.  

Returning to a more serious attitude, George noted that Francis knew nothing of his father.  He supposed that his mother had revealed some stories about his true father, but one could not be sure.  "I knew him best, your father that is," the older man revealed quietly.  "He was a year younger but it was hard to note.  I was blessed with the devil's looks and he was blessed with the angel's looks.  Those locks served him well mind you.  I was always getting into trouble and he never seemed to.  One look at him would convince anyone that he could hardly be guilty of anything.  Of course, he was not as mischievous as myself, but he had his moments.  I seduced women with my tongue while he would conquer them with his look and demeanor."  His eyes were unfocused on Kingston, seeing back in time instead.

Never was any humane plant that grew
More faire then this and acceptably new.
'Tis truth that beauty doth most men dispraise:
Prudence and valour their esteeme do raise.
But he that hath already these in store,
Can not be poorer sure for having more.
And his unimitable handsomenesse

"He was the type that you just knew was blessed by God.  He was an immortal wrapped in a mortal hide -- a Greek hero fearless of any beast.  It seemed that Fate protected him from harm, and it was this illusion that led to his death.  I could have died many times over in battle.  I was brave, but knew myself to be mortal.  He on the other hand had never known true fear or true danger, at least in his mind.  He did not retreat when another might, and it cost him his life.  I should have been there Francis.  When we were together, none could stop us.  He was the sun and I was the moon.  Together we conquered all.  It is one of my greatest regrets and God knows I have many." 

Yet dyed he not revengelesse: Much he did
Ere he could suffer. A who le Pyramid
Of Vulgar bodies he erected high:
Scorning without a Sepulcher to dye.
And with his steele which did whole troopes divide
He cut his Epitaph on either Side.

"The fact that your mother caught his eye is triumph enough.  He could have had anyone under the sun.  And now here you are, with locks to match his own, though I suspect your face carries the curse of your father's brother," he offered with a smile.

Such fell young Villiers in the chearfull heat
Of youth: his locks intangled all with sweat
And those eyes which the Sentinell did keep
Of love closed up in an eternall sleep.


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