[Victoria] A Last Supper
Wednesday 27th December 2017
Summary: AU where Drummond doesn't save Peel's life. A week after Robert Peel is shot, Alfred and Drummond return to their interrupted dinner.
It's been a week since their interrupted dinner. Although Alfred is at the same restaurant at the same table, tonight there is no champagne. With Sir Robert Peel dead there is nothing to celebrate. Alfred hasn't seen Drummond in that time, but they have exchanged carefully worded messages, so he knows Drummond feels the loss keenly. When Drummond arrives it gives Alfred the opportunity to confirm it for himself. Drummond's eyes are red and he's grown thinner. He looks so tired that Alfred doubts he's slept for more than a few hours since Sir Robert was shot.
"How are you?" Alfred asks, not taking his eyes off Drummond as he sits down.
Drummond picks up his wine, takes a sip, moves to put the glass down, then swallows the remainder. Alfred refills his glass, which Drummond doesn't yet touch. "The party is still discussing the next leader. They want someone who supports the Corn Laws, of course." Drummond shakes his head. "I don't imagine it matters: I expect the Whigs will win the next election."
A politician himself, albeit one that spends much of his time in the Royal household, Alfred understands what that means for Drummond's career. Although Alfred is confident Drummond will find a new place and continue his rise in politics from there. He has already accomplished so much.
However, Drummond hasn't answered the question. Alfred waits until their food is in front of them before asking it again. Not oysters - they don't feel right for the occasion either. "But how are you?"
Although Drummond picks up his fork, he uses it to push his food around his plate. Alfred's hand twitches as he resists the temptation to rest it on Drummond's arm. He wants to tell Drummond he can relax here, but the truth is neither of them can, not when they're in public together.
"I see now what is important." Drummond is concentrating on his fish as he cuts a piece off it, but still Alfred's heart beats a little faster in anticipation. "Doing good for the people of this country is more important than my personal happiness."
Alfred's mouth feels dry. He picks up his glass for a sip, somehow managing to control his trembling hand. He doesn't speak until he's replaced the glass on the table. "I have thought about what is important too. And I believe it lies in one's happiness." His nights had been spent wondering what would have happened if M'Naghten had hit Drummond instead of Sir Robert. It often caused him to awake in a cold sweat.
Drummond rests his fork on the plate, the fish never making it to his mouth. Alfred has been too busy watching his dinner companion to consider his own meal.
"You were right before." Now Drummond looks up and there is fear in his eyes. "I will marry Florence and use my political career to change things for the better."
"You..." Alfred's voice cracks and he coughs to clear his throat. It's a moment before he moves his hand away from his mouth. "Now you are the practical one and I the romantic."
Drummond's hand makes a move towards Alfred's side of the table, but stops short of touching him. "We cannot be happy. Not in the way you mean." Drummond's gaze is intense.
Alfred knows he is correct, but it doesn't make the decision any easier. He takes a deep breath. "That sounds sensible." His voice doesn't sound like his, saying those words. The worst of it is that he knows Drummond is right: it is sensible. He knows that the two of them can never be more than friends. That they must move on, continue their careers, marry and have children. Appear to all society to be right and proper men."I know you will do great things." In that he is sincere and manages a small smile.
In return Drummond manages the ghost of a smile and a bite of his meal.
Alfred turns his attention to his plate and he tells of unimportant news from the Royal household, trying to find stories that will make Drummond smile properly. Some of them would have succeeded on any other night, but not tonight. Neither of them clear their plates, but both linger over the wine.
When they have to leave Alfred isn't keen to let Drummond go. They could see one another again, but he knows it's best they do not. "Come for a walk," he says. "The Thames is nice at this time of night."
Drummond agrees, although they both know the Thames is smelt rather than seen after dark. It is not an improvement on the senses.
It used to be so easy to talk, but now they're silent as they walk beside one another, enough of a distance between them that there could be no accidental touches. It's a distance they're both practised in keeping. They stop when they reach the Palace of Westminster, gazing across the river as if it was a beautiful building visible in the dark. "One day," Alfred says, "when you're Prime Minister, it will be in the new Commons Chamber."
Drummond turns to him, the gas lamp nearby lighting up the smile on his face. "You are more confident than I."
"I..." Alfred has to stop to swallow the lump in his throat. But he cannot say the words he wants to. What comes out instead is, "Don't get shot."
Drummond nods, his eyes shining. "You too." He puts out his hand. "Goodbye, Alfred."
Alfred clasps it and they shake hands, but neither lets go afterwards. "Goodbye, Edward."
Drummond's eyes widen slightly and he moves his fingers to brush them against Alfred's hand. Alfred's thumb makes circles on Drummond's.
They might have stood there all night, except they hear the sound of approaching voices from somewhere behind them. Although they both let go, they don't look away. Alfred tries to commit everything about Drummond to memory, but there is too much of him and it fills his heart before he is ready to leave.
When they both finally turn away, Alfred doesn't look back.
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