A Kind of Alchemy

by London Lampy

Chapter 10

"Not until after Midwinter week?" Victor protested, pressing his body hard up against Sam and holding Sam's hands over his head to stop him from moving away, not that he wanted to. They were in the small storage room that Victor used to keep his painting things in, Victor had called Sam in on the pretext of a broken cupboard shelf, then had shut the door and pinned him against the wall.

"Sorry." Sam murmured as Victor grazed his teeth down the side of his neck. "Fran says it's our busiest time of year and he can't spare me for even half a day."

"Bullshit." Victor sucked hard at a point just below Sam's left ear. "He just doesn't want me to get my hands on you again."

"He...he promised me...after Midwinter I could have...a day off." Victor had let go of one of Sam hand's and was now fondling his cock through the fabric of his trousers, which was making it difficult for him to think. He'd already decided that if Fran didn't let him have time off to sit for Victor again after the festivities were over he was simply going to take himself off to the painter's studio regardless and face the consequences when he got home. Hell, if Victor didn't stop what he was doing soon Sam was pretty sure that he was going to end up with his underwear round his ankles and bent over the small table in the corner. Victor was clearly thinking the same thing because he was fumbling with Sam's fly buttons whilst kissing him on the mouth hard.

"Sam...you in here?" The door to the store room suddenly flew open, making the pair of them look round. Fudge was standing in the doorway staring at them, her large eyes wide.

"Did you want something?" Victor snapped after a few seconds.

"Uncle Fran's looking for Sam, he needs him to help bring in a drinks delivery."

"I'll be there in a minute." Sam said, still stood behind Victor, not wanting Fudge to see that his trousers were partially unbuttoned.

"After Midwinter." Victor whispered hotly into his ear.

"I promise." Sam replied.

"Does it hurt?" Fudge poked Sam just under his ear where Victor had left a large purple mark.

"No, but if it did that would have just made it hurt even more." They were in Fudge's bedroom, it was the attic of the house and therefore took up the entire top floor so it was fairly large, although the ceiling sloped in places, meaning that Sam had to be careful not to hit his head. He was currently sat on a small stool that was part of Fudge's dressing table set watching her try on a seemingly never ending series of dresses.

"It looks like it should hurt. What do you think of this one." She twirled in a blue frilled creation. "I think it's a bit childish, but Uncle Fran likes it."

She was trying to decide what to wear for their Midwinter's eve party, apparently Fran hosted one every year for all the theatre's staff and any acts who happened to be staying in the city over the holiday. Fudge was convinced that her mother was going to make it to Parnell in time for the party and wanted to look her best. Sam was getting very bored of looking at dresses, all of them appeared much the same to him and for a girl who rarely ever wore anything other than coveralls she had an awful lot of frocks.

"It's nice too. What's the time?" He asked as casually as he could.

"Twenty past five." She glanced at her watch. "Why?"

"Just wondered how long we had until we have to be back at the theatre, that's all."

Sam managed to extricate himself from Fudge's fashion show and made his way downstairs to the hallway where he put on his overcoat and wrapped a scarf tightly around his neck to cover up Victor's handiwork of that morning. He then let himself out into the freezing evening air to wait on the front steps. It wasn't long before in the light of the street lamps he saw a bicycle coming up the road that was being ridden by Ed, who stopped outside his own house and dismounted.

"Evening." He greeted Sam with a grin, carefully climbing up his own front steps as they were slick with ice.

"You should put some salt on them." Sam suggested.

"On what?" Ed questioned.

"The steps, then they won't ice up like that."

"Thanks, I will. How's the theatre?"

This had become a fairly regular routine. Sam had discovered that Ed got home from work at around the same time every day and he usually came outside to chat to him. "Busy." He replied to Ed's question. "How's the...what is it you do again?"

"I'm an apprentice draughtsman."

"How's the...er...drafting?" Ed had explained it to him, it was something to do with drawing plans for industrial machinery.

"Fine, it's better that being..." Ed glanced at his house. "You know."

"At home with your grandmother?"

"Yeah, that." He sighed, and Sam could tell that he was reluctant to go in. "She's getting worse."

"How's Bob?" He asked, not knowing what to say about Mrs Anglemol.

"Noisy." Ed laughed. "And saner than Gran...speaking of who." Mrs Anglemol had suddenly appeared at the front window and was tapping on the glass to get Ed's attention. "I'd better go."

"Do you want to come to Fran's Midwinter's eve party?" Sam asked quickly.

"Yeah." Ed suddenly grinned again, making Sam's stomach flip. "I'd love to, but I'll have to wait until Gran's asleep to go out so I might be late, is that all right?"

"That's fine." Sam replied as he watched Ed unlocking the door then lifting his bike up the steps to take inside. "See you then."

"I know what she'll do, she'll turn up just as the party is getting going and make a grand entrance, that's just like Mama." Fudge uttered, a shade too brightly.

"Sweetheart, will you please accept the fact that she may not make it for tonight." Fran said gently to his niece.

"She'll be here!" She insisted.

Before he could once again attempt to get her to believe that her mother might not show up the doorbell rang. Fudge leapt up off the couch to answer it then came back into the living room with a disappointed expression on her face, it was just the man from the grocer's delivering the party food. They'd all finished work an hour ago, on Midwinter's eve they only performed a matinee and everyone had the evening off, which was a real luxury in their line of work.

As Fran took the food downstairs to the kitchen he thought about Fudge and Sam. There was little to be done about Fudge, she'd had many disappointments before where her mother was concerned and all he could was cushion the blow when it came. Meanwhile for some reason that he couldn't fathom Sam was in an extremely good mood, he'd even caught him singing to himself on several occasions, which was very unlike the boy indeed. Fran had been congratulating himself on managing to keep him busy and away from Victor until the other day when the boy had suddenly appeared with a very large love bite just below his left ear, but he wasn't convinced that Sam's mood change was connected with the painter. If anything he would have thought Sam might be feeling a bit sad over the fact that he would be spending what was meant to be a time for families to come together without his own family for the first time, but that didn't seem to be the case.

As for Fran he hoped that his sister would show, mostly for his niece's sake, but he hadn't seen Ava in a long while and it would be good to catch up, however most of all he wished that Mulligan had been able to get to Parnell for Midwinter.

Fran missed him when he was away, which was most of the time, but he was usually too busy to mope about the man's absence. He stared out of the kitchen window into the yard beyond, there had been a light snowfall in the night and everything was covered with a dusting of white, and for once the bare concrete looked almost attractive. He stared at the snow and longed for his lover to come home, and he stayed like that until he heard the doorbell ring again, followed swiftly by Fudge running to answer it. He then heard a male voice, clearly not his sister's, followed by a disappointed sounding Fudge shouting down the stairs that the man was there with the champagne.

Fran's house wasn't particularly small, but Sam was surprised that it was capable of holding quite so many people. He was sat on the hallway stairs with Fudge and Earnest the apprentice lampy. Sam and Fudge had positioned themselves there so that they could monitor the front door, although both for different people, and Earnest was sat there because Fudge was.

"See Mama bought it for me for my last birthday." Fudge said to Earnest, touching the jewelled butterfly barrette that she was using to hold her hair back for the party. "I have to wear it tonight so she's sees me in it."

This was the fourth time Sam had heard her tell Earnest that piece of information. Fran had made a very large bowl of punch that he'd told them to go easy with as it was mostly pure spirits with a dash of fruit juice. Sam had grown up drinking fearfully strong locally made apple brandy so he had a good tolerance for alcohol, but one glass of the punch had left his head spinning and he'd moved onto lemonade after that, however as far as he knew Fudge had downed three glasses and was onto her fourth, and almost totally inebriated.

The doorbell rang and the pair of them looked up in unison, as soon as Fudge realised that it wasn't her mother she slumped against Earnest, who took this as an opportunity to put his arm around her shoulders, but Sam watched the newcomer with interest. It was Victor, and he'd brought a guest, a young man that Sam thought he recognised from several of the paintings in the studio. He wasn't quite sure how he felt about this, on one hand there was nothing more between the two of them than a single afternoon of admittedly intense sex, but on the other hand he was a little perturbed by the young man's arm draped casually around Victor's waist. Sam wondered if Victor did the same kinds of things with this man as he had with him, he supposed that he did, and it was an odd and not entirely pleasant thought.

"My father...the prince...she's going to take me to meet him..." Fudge was slurring to Earnest, who just looked happy that she hadn't removed his arm, even though she was clearly drunk.

A few minutes later the doorbell rang once more and it was answered by one of a troop of ballet dancers who were stood around in the hallway smoking furiously, eating nothing and sipping at glasses of champagne, and Sam couldn't keep the grin off his face when he saw that this time it was Ed stood on the doorstep.

"Hello, you came." He greeted Ed as he descended the stairs carefully, picking his way around a fair few other people who were using them as a place to sit.

"Yeah. Gods there's a lot of people in here." Ed looked around at the crush.

"Do you want a drink?" Sam asked, and when Ed nodded to say that he did he lead him off happily through the crowd.

As Fran attempted to get across the hallway and back into the living room he spotted his niece on the stairs with Earnest's arm wrapped around her. He supposed if the girl had to have a boyfriend, and it was a very big if in his mind, Earnest wasn't a bad choice. He was a nice boy but more importantly he worked for Fran so that when Fran took him aside and warned him not to take liberties with Fudge, which he would be doing sometime very soon, it was in Earnest's best interests to listen to him. He had to concede that they looked happy enough sat there together, even if Fudge did seem a little unfocused. At the very least a budding romance might take her mind off her mother's absence.

Back in the living room Fran found that Ozzy and his wife had arrived and as he chatted to them he noticed an unexpected guest out of the corner of his eye. Was that really Edmund Anglemol talking talking to a happy looking Sam? A second glance confirmed that indeed it was. He didn't know the boy well although he'd always had a lot of sympathy with him over being stuck as the sole carer for his grandmother. It seemed that somehow Edmund and Sam had struck up a friendship and that Sam must have invited him, and it dawned on Fran that this was possibly at the root of Sam's recent good mood.

As he watched Sam and Edmund he realised that someone else was watching them too, from the opposite side of the room he could see Victor frequently glancing in their direction with a look of curiosity on his face. Fran doubted that Victor was in any way jealous, after all he'd brought someone with him and it wasn't like he was in a relationship with Sam, but he did look interested in what was going on. Fran felt rather concerned for Sam, Victor's interest in him was far too predatory, however he was fairly sure that where Ed was concerned he might be setting himself up for a fall.

"What the hell is in this stuff?" Ed asked Sam as he followed him into Sam's basement bedroom.

"Rum and brandy mostly." Sam replied, looking at the glass in Ed's hand. They had decided to move downstairs when a sing song had started up around Fran's slightly off key piano. Sam had been a little concerned that he might find party overspill people in his room, but it was mercifully empty.

"Gran would have a fit if she saw me drinking this." Ed said, taking another tentative sip and sitting himself down on the edge of the bed.

"It's really strong, Fudge is totally plastered on it." Sam replied as he joined him.

"Don't you mind that bloke having his arm around her?" Ed asked.

"No, why would I mind? Earnest really likes her."

"But I thought that she was your girlfriend."

"No!...I mean we're friends and she's a girl, but she's not my girlfriend." Sam shook his head, wondering how Ed could have possibly come to that conclusion.

"I thought that's why you lived here." Ed frowned.

"No, I live here because...well I'm Fran's lodger and I work for him, but I am not Fudge's boyfriend."

"Oh, I see." Ed said, but he still looked slightly puzzled.

"I don't like Fudge like that." He gave Ed a small smile. "I like someone else."

"Who?" Ed asked.

In reply Sam lent over and kissed Ed on the mouth and for a tiny moment he thought he felt Ed kissing him back, but then the other boy jerked away and looked at him in horror.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Ed shouted.

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