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The Country House

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Daegaer ( daegaer) wrote in yuletide, @ 2004-03-15 15:46:00
I've posted a New Year's Resolution fic for louiselux...
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The dour man who had collected them from the station helped Gedge unload the cases and stack them on the steps. Then he touched the brim of his hat to Bracy, collected his fee and wheeled his horse round. The trap made its way away from the house and back down the drive. Gedge carried the cases into the hallway, not letting Bracy help in case the man looked back at them. Having securely closed the door behind them, Gedge went into the kitchen and lit the fire laid ready in the range. It was the middle of summer, but he didn't much fancy eating just bread and cheese for supper.

'It'll take a while to heat up, sir,' he said as Bracy came in to the room after him, carrying the basket of food they had bought before they had set off, 'but then I can get you a cup of tea.'

'Let's have a look around,' said Bracy, smiling eagerly.

They started by examining the scullery and the pantry, well stocked with the food Bracy had ordered, then went into the dining room, where Bracy turned back the dust sheet over the table to admire the dark, glossy wood. In the dimly lit parlour he opened the shutters to let the sunlight pour in, and the whole room looked suddenly different, quite cheerful and bright. The drawing room, too, was as bright when its shutters were opened. Gedge trailed after Bracy, looking at the large rooms with a feeling of awe. They looked so much better now that the furniture had come. Before, they had been echoing and cold, and he had felt small and guilty as Bracy had marched round, thinking out loud about what each room needed. Now they were rooms in someone's home. Bracy flashed him a grin and ran up the stairs. 'His home,' thought Gedge, 'my home.' He ran up the stairs after Bracy, smiling.

The bedrooms were large and neat; two rooms for guests with fine matching beds and wardrobes, dressing tables and chairs, and armchairs by the fires. A large room, left empty, with two smaller rooms leading from it. 'A nursery,' laughed Bracy. 'The previous owner had a large family, I believe.' They peered into the bathroom, with its huge iron tub that looked to Gedge large enough to swim in, and then Bracy led the way to the final door and opened it, revealing the largest of the bedrooms. Gedge looked around at the cheerful paint and wallpaper, the massive chest of drawers and wardrobe, and the high, wide bed. He sat on the mattress and grinned up at Bracy who sat beside him, grinning widely as well. He put his arms round Bracy and kissed him, putting a hand on his face to stroke his cheek. He pulled back a little, mischievously, as Bracy started to press him down on the bed.

'D'you want that cup of tea now?' asked Gedge impishly.

'Never say no to a cup of tea,' said Bracy, 'that's my advice.' He smiled slyly down at Gedge's annoyance. 'Come on, let's see what they've done with the rest of the house,' he said, jumping up and laughing at Gedge's expression.

They strolled to the back landing and went up the stairs to the servants' rooms, small neat rooms with narrow beds and plain, fresh paint. Gedge nodded approvingly at the good quality furniture. 'He's a good, decent man, doesn't stint on anything or anybody,' he thought, happily following Bracy down the stairs once more to the kitchen. Gedge poked at the range, adding more coal, and then filled a kettle and put it on to boil. He found cups and saucers neatly stacked in one of the dressers, and soon had a tray set with china and silverware.

'Let's have it in here,' said Bracy, 'when I was a boy I always loved eating in the kitchen, it was so cosy - and Cook always spoiled me with extra biscuits. The dining room seemed so dark and forbidding to me.'

Gedge, who had never before had to think about whether it was more appropriate to eat and drink in one room more than another, smiled fondly at him, and poured his tea. He watched Bracy drink it and felt deeply happy to be able to do even such a small thing for him.

'Are you pleased with what the agent has done with the house, Gedge?' asked Bracy. 'We can change things if you'd like.'

'It's nice, sir,' said Gedge, 'are you pleased?'

'Yes,' said Bracy. 'I think we'll do very well here. We would have been looking a long time for a better property.' He looked down at the table as if gathering his thoughts and went on, 'I am sorry if I have not taken your wishes into account at any point. I - I hope you can be happy here, away from your friends and the army.'

'Happy, sir?' said Gedge. 'I'm happy. I wouldn't be happy nowhere else. Don't you worry, sir, I'm glad to be here with you.' He paused and spoke quietly. 'Do you miss it? You didn't want to leave, did you?'

Bracy reached out and covered one of Gedge's hands with his own. 'I made the right choice,' he said simply. They sat quietly for a while, and then Bracy cleared his throat. 'It will take us some time to settle in,' he said. 'I don't think we need anyone else for a while, do you?'

'No, sir,' said Gedge, smiling. 'We can shift for ourselves. I c'n cook, long as you don't want anything too fancy, and we're used to keeping ourselves neat and tidy. Speaking of which, sir, we should make the house more like a place that's lived in, taking the dustsheets off, and that.'

'Yes,' said Bracy eagerly. 'It will look much better when everything is made nice.'

'Well, you do that,' said Gedge, 'and I'll run upstairs and see where they put the bed linen. I'll make things proper for later.' He matched his actions to his words, and soon was admiring his handiwork and the neat corners he had turned on the sheets. 'All done here,' he thought, and opened the window so that the room would be well aired. Downstairs he found all the doors and windows open, and the warm summer breeze moving gently through the house. Bracy was folding the dustsheets, and looked over at him, a wide smile on his face. Gedge crossed over to him, and helped him finish up. They went out into the driveway and round to inspect the coach house while Bracy mused about the horses they would need and Gedge let his voice wash over him, happy at the light in Bracy's face.

They ate a simple dinner, using lamb chops Gedge had purchased earlier and some of the potatoes and carrots from the baskets in the scullery. He glowed at the appetite Bracy showed and piled more potatoes onto his plate until Bracy laughed and held up his hand in surrender. After, they stood at the back door in their shirt-sleeves, smoking and watching the sky darken. Finally, Bracy stubbed out his cigarillo and took Gedge's hand, leading him back inside and up the stairs. In the bedroom Gedge drew the curtains and leaned back against Bracy as he put his arms about him. He turned round and put his arms about Bracy's waist, raising his face to be kissed.

'I want you to know something,' said Bracy eventually, smoothing Gedge's hair down. 'This isn't my house, or my room, or my bed. It's ours. Yours as much as mine. You believe that, don't you, Bill?'

'Yes,' said Gedge, unbuttoning Bracy's shirt, 'yes.'

'Good,' said Bracy and kissed him again, pulling him back toward the bed.

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When Gedge awoke light was streaming into the room, the curtains dimming it only slightly. He sighed with pleasure and carefully slid from under Bracy's arm, slipped from the bed and drew the curtains to let the sunlight in unhindered. As quietly as he could he opened the window and leaned out, breathing the morning air deeply. All about he could see green leaves and bright flowers studding the ground. He sat on the window frame, twisting his body so that he could have his upper body in the cool morning air and his feet securely on the floor of the bedroom. He sat there looking at the trees and the flowers, and listening to the birds singing until he had heard his fill and at last turned away from the morning to creep back across the room and saw Bracy raise a sleepy hand to his eyes.

'What time is it?' murmured Bracy.

Gedge picked his watch up from the bedside table, smiling at the inscription as he always did, 'To B., from E.' and raised his eyebrows at the time the dial showed him. 'Half five,' he said.

'Hmm,' said Bracy, keeping his eyes stubbornly shut. 'Come back to bed.'

'It's already a lovely day, don't you want to be up?' asked Gedge.

'Back to bed, Sergeant Gedge,' said Bracy, smiling. 'You're not going to disobey an order from your superior officer, are you?'

Gedge leaned over him and tickled his ear. 'We ain't in the army no more, Captain,' he said cheekily.

'Good point,' said Bracy. 'Please come back to bed, Bill.'

'I'd be happy to, Edmund,' said Gedge and slid back under the covers. Bracy wrapped himself around him and kissed him, all without opening his eyes. 'Wakey wakey,' said Gedge, giggling.

'But I'm having the most lovely dream,' said Bracy, rolling on top of him. Gedge guided their lips together, opening his mouth for Bracy to kiss him deeply, and settling himself comfortably under Bracy's warm weight. After long, slow kisses Bracy smiled, slitted his eyes open and peered round. 'Where -- ah, there it is.' He reached back to the table at his side of the bed and plucked up the tin of Vaseline. Gedge closed his own eyes momentarily, catching his breath as Bracy touched him slowly and tenderly with slick fingers and turned him on his side. He held himself still as Bracy entered him and began to move with slow, lazy care. He groaned as Bracy took his member in his hand, stroking in a slow rhythm that matched his movement within Gedge.

'That's lovely,' whispered Gedge, 'lovely.' He watched the shadow of leaves thrown by the sunlight move on the floor and walls, feeling Bracy's touch on him and in him, wishing that the moment would never end. Bracy was kissing the side of his face and murmuring his name over and over, and Gedge knew all at once that he could not control himself a second more, and he shuddered all over and then Bracy tightened his arms about him and groaned and shook with his own finish. They lay quiet and spent, and then Bracy pulled Gedge round, taking his face in his hands.

'I love you,' he said urgently. 'I love you, Bill.'

'I know,' said Gedge, touching his face. 'I love you too. I always have, since I first saw you.'

Bracy grinned. 'I'm sure you thought "Annuvver bleedin' orficer,"' he said.

'No,' said Gedge, 'I thought, "Ay say, he looks like a jolly nayce chep."' They hung on to each other and laughed. Finally Gedge pushed Bracy out to stand on the floor and jumped out after him. 'I'll make breakfast,' he said, pulling on a dressing gown.

When they had eaten and tidied up they went out into the grounds, and walked hand-in-hand in the quiet of the early morning. Gedge looked at everything with interest, astonished that he should live in a house with gardens and a paddock and a little orchard. He looked up into the apple trees and wondered when he would be able to eat a crisp apple from them. He squeezed Bracy's hand and was pulled into an embrace. Leaning back against the trunk of a tree he looked up at the sunlight on Bracy's fair hair, and how it seemed to him that the blue of Bracy's eyes was better by far that that of the sky.

'This is too large for us to manage on our own. I'll have someone from the village come to do the gardening. We won't employ a gardener of our own just yet,' said Bracy. 'We can think about that when we're looking for servants.' He looked about him, his face calm and happy. 'It's so peaceful here,' he continued, tightening his arms around Gedge. 'You won't miss London, I hope?'

'No, sir,' said Gedge.

'You really have to stop calling me that,' laughed Bracy, stroking Gedge's face.

Gedge smiled ruefully. 'No, sir. I have to remember to call you that. People would talk. You said it yerself, we're going to need people to help run the place. We can't have a maid wondering why I call you by yer name.'

'Let them talk, let them wonder,' said Bracy, kissing him.

'Edmund,' Gedge said in between kisses. 'Edmund, you know we have to be careful.'

'Yes,' said Bracy forlornly, and stood back. 'I don't like it. I didn't think about this enough. I thought we'd be able to -- I don't want you pretending to be a servant.'

'S'honest work,' said Gedge, reaching out and pulling Bracy close again. 'And I can't jest live on your money, can I? I need to do something for my keep.' He laughed a little, saying, 'I'm not your wife.'

Bracy laughed at that. 'Thank heavens,' he said. He ran a hand through Gedge's hair. 'Bill. Listen to me, I meant it, this is your house as much as mine. I'm going to find a way to make that legally true, I'll talk to the solicitors, and we can draw up --'

'Doesn't matter,' said Gedge, catching Bracy's hand and kissing his fingers one by one. 'It's you I care about, not anything else. I ain't ashamed for people to think I'm yer servant, and I'll work and work gladly for you. Don't get upset about it, Edmund. We'll know the truth and that's enough. The only thing as I want is to not be parted from you.'

'Never,' said Bracy, kissing him again. 'Never. I promised.'

'That's enough, then,' said Gedge, smiling. 'We love each other, and it's enough.'

'And be damned to the world,' said Bracy.

'Here, anyway,' said Gedge, touching Bracy's face.

'Here,' agreed Bracy, a smile being coaxed from him by Gedge's caress.

They rested in each other's arms, looking at the bright grass and leaves of their new and quiet little world. It was going to be a beautiful day.

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