Author's Note: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.


London: 1842. December. It is very late, and very cold, as a carriage clatters down the cobbled streets, carrying its noble charges home from one of the season's many society parties. Snow has fallen throughout the day, but the sky is clear now, and the stars glitter brilliantly in the crisp night air, as the carriage wheels splash through the slush. It is the Eve of Christmas Day, and the vast town is turning to its sleep, all revelries beginning to quiet now, as the moon sets and the clocks toll the earliest hours of morning.

~o~

As Axel stepped, somewhat wearily, into the foyer of his large London mansion, two maids and the butler came forward to welcome their Lord and Lady home.

The Lady Naminé stepped lightly forward, allowing one maid to help her out of her mantle while the other took her fan and gloves, then turned to the task of removing her hat. The Lord of the house, however, paid little attention to his wife and her maids. Stamping fresh mud from his boots, he allowed his butler to take his hat and gloves. The young man placed them on a table that stood off to the side and returned to unbutton his master's overcoat, helping the tall man out of the constricting garment.

"Will my Lord and my Lady take refreshment in the West Parlor tonight?" The demure voice of the butler questioned.

Naminé turned to face them, glancing with understanding at her husband. "I think…we shall retire directly, Roxas. Lord Axel is very tired, and so am I." The blond head nodded acquiescence, and gathered Axel's garments. Lady Naminé turned again to address her maids. "I will go directly to my chambers; you may send my usual tea tray there."

"Yes, my Lady," one replied with a small curtsy. "The fire is already lit in my Lady's chambers."

"Very good." Naminé nodded and turned again to Axel. "My Lord, I will now bid you good night." She dipped her head gently and curtsied slowly to him. Axel, in turn, bowed gracefully to her.

"I wish you a pleasant rest, my Lady." His voice was cordial, yet a weary undertone could be heard in it. As Lady Naminé turned to ascend to her chambers in her wing of the mansion, the waiting butler stepped forward, his face impassively concealing his concern for his tired master.

Glancing at the waiting youth, Axel nodded. "I think I will have a glass of port in my study before bed, Roxas."

"All is in readiness, Master," the butler quietly replied. "I have had a fire lit there in advance for you."

The slightest smile curved gently over Axel's lips at the words, yet he did not direct his gaze at the butler. Instead, he only nodded again, replying in an approving tone, "Excellent. You may have my port sent in then. And Roxas…" Axel was already on his way to the study, but paused and glanced back over his shoulder as he spoke. "I must speak with you. You will come yourself, soon, as usual?"

The blond only bowed his obedience, and the master left the foyer to seek the comfort of his study.

~o~

Axel wearily dropped into his large leather chair before the fire in his study, raising his feet to prop them on a nearby footstool as he untied his cravat with relief. He pried his feet free from their shoes and unbuttoned his vest, casting the garment over another nearby chair. More comfortable in his trousers and loose shirt, he turned to his long-awaited fireplace and comforting glass of port.

It had been a wretchedly long evening. The party, like all society parties, had been a tedious affair for him – a night spent smiling and making idle conversation with countless social acquaintances…and no friends. He was expected to stand about with the other married men and discuss politics or fashion or sport until his wife wanted him for a dance. Lord Axel fulfilled these expectations, as always.

He'd fulfilled his parents' expectations and made a good marriage. He'd been a more than excellent son and heir in that he had even let them choose the lady, without complaint. He had inherited the title and the holdings of his family, and managed them well now that he was the last Lord of Eversworth, now that his parents were gone. And he had always tried to continue to honor their memories by doing all that they would wish, including being an ideal husband to the Lady Naminé.

Regarding that matter, there were certain things he could do, and certain others he could not. And to make up for that area where he felt he had failed his wife, he made sure to always comply fully with her wishes. She wished that he not smoke so much; she never saw his pipe again after that. She wished to go to the country estate; they went. She wished to be in town again; they were duly there. She wished to attend every society gathering, party, and ball held by anyone within their social circle throughout the entire Christmas season, and Axel, though parties tired him terribly and bored him tremendously, cooperatively dressed in his best and smiled and discussed gentlemen's matters and danced and came home drained.

Not that Lady Naminé was a capricious wife, for she was the least whimsical and demanding lady to be found in London, and Axel bore that in mind and was always grateful to his parents for making such a wise choice – a lady with money, breeding, and sense. She only made very customary requests of Axel. She was not Lady Olette Drummonshire, who lay in a swoon for a week declaring to her husband, Lord Hayner, that without a coconut tree shipped straight from the tropics standing in her foyer, she could never be happy nor show her face again.

Happily, Lady Naminé was completely unlike that petulant creature, to Lord Axel's daily comfort. However, she did insist on the importance of these parties every year – the year-round parties being important, too, of course, but not enough to make up for the Christmas ones – and Axel accordingly went.

Thus, this night found the young lord gradually relaxing in his study after a late party. With a sigh and a glance at the clock, Axel consoled himself with the reminder that it was now the very beginning of Christmas Day, and soon, after another week or so of parties, affairs would quiet and he would have most evenings free again. Lifting a heavy hand to his hair, he tugged at the ribbon tying the red strands back in a ponytail. Only moments later, his brow creased and another hand joined the first, struggling to untangle the inadvertently formed knot.

Growing impatient as the struggle proved futile, Axel was interrupted by a soft knock on the study door.

"Enter." The door opened silently as the butler stepped in, shutting it again and stepping into the room.

"You wished to see me, my Lord." The young man spoke softly, as he customarily did in his role of household butler to a noble family.

"Yes, Roxas." Axel paused before speaking further as he tried again to loosen the knot. Roxas saw his difficulty and moved to close the distance between himself and Axel's desk, where he was seated.

"Allow me to help you with that, Master." Submitting to the assistance, Axel turned to allow Roxas to reach his hair. Gentle, confident fingers plucked at the ribbon, slowly freeing it.

Roxas glanced at the tired face of his master, weariness etching a few fine lines into that smooth forehead. "Are you…" He paused, then continued his soft question. "Are you very tired tonight, Master?"

The redhead's face softened. "Yes, Roxas. Very tired, I'm afraid."

The ribbon came free, and Roxas placed it on the desk, then turned back to run his fingers through the long red hair, straightening it from its slightly-tousled condition.

Feeling the gentle touch of Roxas' fingers combing through his hair, Axel immediately relaxed, sighing contentedly and leaning back slightly as Roxas continued.

"What time tomorrow would you like to be woken?" The reserved tone that the butler almost always spoke in made Axel frown, just slightly, with dissatisfaction. The hands also stopped their motions through his hair, for it was now straight. Roxas attempted to step back a pace.

He found one of his hands caught by his master and paused. Gently, Axel drew him closer again, pulling the captured fingers toward his lips. Roxas could feel Axel's warm breath on his fingers as the man whispered softly, "Don't stop." Then, a soft, barely-there kiss was pressed to the butler's hand.

Roxas held still a moment, his heart suddenly pounding heavily within his chest. Collecting himself, he complied, withdrawing his hand carefully and returning to his master's long red hair. With a murmur of, "Yes, my Lord," he began to run his fingers through the soft spikes again, this time more deeply as he caressed through the strands, feeling the man relax even further.

Axel sighed again, happily, and returned to Roxas' question. "I think the Lady Naminé would like breakfast in her room at 10. We shall have a late Christmas dinner – around 2, I believe – and then we must visit her sister in the afternoon. She plans to return around 8 for supper, however." Slight amusement now tinged the young Lord's voice. "She will not wish to stay long at her sister's house."

Roxas nodded his understanding as he agreed. "Yes, my Lord." Then he added another question. "What of my Lord? When will you rise?"

Axel's small smile was more warm now. "You never miss a detail, Roxas. Always the careful servant…perhaps the most attentive butler I have ever seen."

A light blush touched the blond's cheeks at the praise, and his hands hesitated a moment in his master's hair. When he spoke, his voice would only come out in a whisper. "I cannot be otherwise, when it comes to you. I am always thinking of you."

Axel's breath caught. Such words from his butler…he so rarely heard the like. Their sweetness in his ears carried happiness straight into his heart, and the man turned, impulsively, facing his servant who still stood oh, so near.

"Roxas…" He whispered, his arms encircling the young man's torso and drawing him close. Roxas did not resist, and Axel gently placed his forehead against the stomach of the butler's neat waistcoat.

Roxas hesitated, glancing over at the door – foolish, for he knew it was locked, he had turned the key himself – then checking the windows with swift glances around the room, making sure all shutters and curtains were fully latched and drawn. After a moment of verifying the secrecy of the room, he relented, slowly extending his arms and placing them gently on his master's shoulders, cradling Lord Axel's head against his body. "My Lord…" His voice was soft, filled with the insuppressible longing in his heart.

Lord Axel raised his head, gazing with adoring eyes upon the features of the young man, softened beyond their usual fairness by the flickering firelight. Oh, how he loved this face. The bliss of being with Roxas – so close, so intimate, and so secluded, free at last to relax his usual role of master – eased away all his weariness. He felt the ever-present burden of responsibility lift gently from his soul, its dragging, heavy weight carried away by the servant's touch, his nearness…only Roxas could give him peace and joy like this.

Axel gazed upward. Those priceless blue eyes were averted, shyly not daring to meet his master's stare. He adored this lovely hesitancy, yet he longed for those eyes to look into his. They always understood each other perfectly at those times.

Continuing to hold Roxas with one arm, Axel drew the other back, raising his large hand to cup a soft cheek. He held Roxas' face, his fingertips moving slowly, gently caressing as he moved the blond head to face him, drawing those eyes into his own.

Obeying the touch, Roxas looked down to his master, whose head was bent back to gaze up at him. It only took a moment for their eyes to speak, each seeing the other's heart laid open to his own.

Axel stretched silently upwards, his lids falling slowly over his emerald eyes. Wordlessly, his servant moved as well, bending low to meet his master's kiss, their lips connecting warmly as their eyes slipped closed.

Roxas felt his heart melt under the soft touch of his master's lips. He adored this man. This kind master, selflessly devoted, who hid his unhappiness to preserve the happiness of others. He had received only kind treatment from his first day of service to Lord Axel, and had admired the man from the very beginning. When the young Lord's kindness began to become…more than a master should show to his servant, Roxas had already been too weakened by his feelings for his master to put up a great deal of resistance.

Their relationship, their lives, everything had changed with a kiss just like this one, tender and open and filled with longing. From that day on, Roxas had loved his Lord in secret, cherishing their rare private encounters, yet suffering terrible guilt afterward. When the Lady Naminé was kind to him – for as a mistress, she was as patient as her husband, the master – the blond quietly suffered, mortally conscious of the lie he lived and the theft he had committed against her.

He had stolen Axel from her – poor, fair lady who had never wronged him – when he had submitted to her husband and become his lover.

And yet…he could not make another path for himself. His heart would not be severed from Axel's – not by guilt, nor any other power of Heaven or Hell. He loved him. Roxas…loved his master so completely.

His mind was filled with thoughts of Axel as Roxas' heart raced, the soft kiss growing more and more passionate as each young man yielded himself slowly to his lover. Axel's tongue against Roxas' lips begged to deepen the kiss, and the servant accepted the advance readily. Their caresses mingled, forging a sense of deep connection between them. The only sound in the study was the soft gasping for breath from both of them, and the pops and crackles from the fireplace.

Axel could feel his servant's fingers woven into his hair again, as his own hands busied themselves with the buttons of the butler's waistcoat, loosening the tidy garment. Roxas clearly did not notice the action, for, when Axel gently pushed the coat from his shoulders, the young butler seemed slightly surprised to find himself suddenly in his shirtsleeves.

The young Lord's hands remained busy, lifting now to untie and unwind the butler's cravat, while he tenderly kissed the young man's cheek, then his drooping eyelids, his nose, his temples…Axel touched every precious feature with his warm lips. As he kissed along the blond's smooth jaw line, from chin to ear, the cravat finally fell free in his hands. Roxas gasped softly as Axel lowered his kisses down the side of his throat.

"I love you, Roxas." The servant could feel the brush of his master's lips against his neck as he whispered the words – words that made his butler's eyes water with bliss; words that he was always so ready to give to his servant when they were alone like this. With these words, the master's hands dropped to the servant's waist, beginning to pull at the tucked-in shirt.

Compulsively, pangs of guilt striking his heart, Roxas grasped Lord Axel's hands and halted their movements. "My Lord, we cannot…the Lady Naminé…"

Axel looked at the blond with some confusion. "She has retired; she will not come."

The butler's expression had withdrawn somewhat, his usual detached gaze returning, yet still tainted, troubled.

"Yet she is here…she is within this very house. I cannot do such a thing…I cannot…with her husband…while she sleeps under the same roof!" The blue eyes were tortured; the gentle voice strained with misery.

Axel felt a twist of pain at the sight of Roxas' torment, and the young man's words brought to his memory a detail that he had not noticed hitherto. Their few precious, private encounters thus far had all been when Naminé was away – when they were in the country and she in town, or when she had been taking a short trip alone. He had not noticed how the opportunities to be with Roxas had come about; he had only been aware of the moment – the sweet, brief moment of paradise in Roxas' arms.

His brow crinkled with concern as he gazed up at the guilt-stricken face of the boy. Cupping that troubled face with both hands, he murmured, "Roxas…hush. It does not matter. Naminé and I have never been a proper husband and wife. She would not quarrel if she knew I had a lover."

Roxas' misery was unabated. "But…she does not know! And she is so kind to me, yet she has no idea what I've done to her…!" His voice was choked by tears. He silently cursed himself. He had not meant to show this weakness and regret to his master – certainly not on Christmas Day, of all days. A cold, hard stone of dread formed in the pit of his stomach. He suddenly grew terrified that, having seen his remorse, Lord Axel would consider it a rejection. He might think Roxas no longer wanted to be with him…he might break off their relationship…he might turn him away forever…he might…

"Hush, hush." The gentle voice spoke again, caressing his face softly. Roxas fearfully met his master's tender gaze, which was tinged with the slightest bit of sadness. "It truly does not matter, Roxas. I can explain…" The Lord hesitated. He had hoped to never speak of this event…yet his beloved was looking at him with such torture in his eyes…it gave Axel courage to continue.

"You came shortly after I was married, and you know," He looked firmly into blue eyes, reminding Roxas of the fact. "…You know, that in the time you have been here, I have never once gone to the Lady Naminé's chambers. What you do not know is that I only ever went there once, on my wedding night. It was…it was my duty to my parents to marry, and then to produce an heir. And it was also my duty to my new wife. I…I could not fulfill that duty." His expression had grown humiliated, ashamed at himself, and guilty, filled with remorse over his failure. Lord Axel had never shown these emotions to Roxas before, and the young man was in awe of them. He listened to the story, all the while cherishing the revelation of his master's innermost heart. Roxas knew with certainty that knowing this part of Axel brought them even closer than before…and the closeness was an overpowering happiness in the midst of his misery.

Axel continued, forcing himself onward for Roxas' sake. "I could not…with her. I struggled, I desperately tried to hide it, but in the end I failed. I ended by falling beside her, weeping…and…and confessing that I had never…never held a woman, nor had any desire to." He glanced at Roxas' face, noting the surprise that flitted over his expression, before continuing. "She was shocked, I think, but she is an angel. She merely listened quietly to me, and asked…asked if I had ever…had any experience apart from women. I told her I had not, and it was the truth – I had never dared to risk disgracing my parents thus. She…I could not leave the chamber without the servants knowing, so she offered me her settee for the night, and there I slept. In the morning, she…she told me that she did not understand, yet, but that she accepted this. And since then, we have lived together, but not as husband and wife. We are…I think we are more like brother and sister."

If Roxas had thought Lady Naminé was kind before this, he was certain she was a saint, now. Struggling for an answer to Lord Axel's story, he could not withhold himself from drawing the man close, into a tight embrace.

Axel spoke once more, low, close to Roxas' ear. "So you see…she would not be hurt to know of it."

The words washed Roxas in the sweetest relief, far beyond what he could have imagined. His guilt seemed to dissolve, leaving him overjoyed, drowning in uninhibited love for his master. Weak-legged with delight, Roxas slid forward, dropping onto Axel's lap, straddling his legs as they continued to embrace.

"My Lord…my master…I…oh, I thank you. You have given me…such relief." He gasped as a sob shook his frame slightly, tears trickling from his smiling eyes. Axel leaned his head slightly forward to kiss the tracks of salt water away.

"I would do anything to give you any happiness, Roxas. I love you."

The blond head dropped as Roxas pressed his face into his master's shoulder, holding him even more tightly. "I wish…if I could…I…I have nothing I can give you, nothing to offer you, for your happiness…"

"Oh, but you do," Axel softly replied, smiling and stroking his beloved's soft blond hair. "I have told you before. The thing that I long to hear from you…that would make me happier than I have ever been." His half-hopeful, half-hopeless smile widened as Roxas withdrew far enough to meet his eyes.

His servant blushed warmly in the firelight. His blue eyes were fixed on the carpet as he stammered, "How-how could I, my Lord? I c-could not…"

"Not 'my Lord,' Roxas." Axel's fingers touched the small chin, lifting it until the blond met his eyes again. "By name. 'Axel.' Please?" His voice fell to a whisper on the last word, and his green eyes begged the young man, breaking down Roxas' resistance. He couldn't refuse his master…no, Axel…

His voice shook, but the fear and hesitation had been driven from his sparkling blue gaze as Roxas softly spoke the name, the words he had never spoken before.

"Axel. I love you, Axel."

Green eyes slipped shut in bliss as the man treasured the sound of the declaration from his lover. "Roxas…" He moaned, drawing the blond forward again and kissing him with a kiss that was immediately passionate and devoted. And Roxas responded fully, no longer resisting when, a few minutes later, Axel's hands quickly and successfully removed his shirt, leaving his slender body naked from the waist up.

Axel's hands lovingly caressed the soft skin, while his heated kiss moved over Roxas' throat again. Then, at a particularly sensitive spot at the base of the young man's neck, the redhead opened his mouth against the supple flesh.

"Roxas…my Roxas…" He murmured, then sucked hard at the spot, eliciting a whimper from the blond, that melted into a moan. After a moment, he let go, but returned to place a soft, sweet kiss over the reddened spot. "My own Roxas…my love…please, say that too, I want to hear it…"

Roxas' fingers traced over Axel's features, his shyness slipping away, and he kissed him briefly, lovingly. "My love…Axel. My…my Axel."

Axel gasped, and his hot breath exhaled over Roxas' bare skin as the words burned ecstasy into his very soul. He felt Roxas shiver in his arms – the young man was similarly affected by hearing his beloved claim him.

They each thrilled at the other's voice and touch, each burned for more, more of the other – each desired his lover, with a passion that grew rapidly, possessing their minds and hearts and senses.

The cedar logs popped and burned and the air was slightly touched with the scent of pine from the boughs placed decoratively throughout the house, but neither the master nor the butler noticed anymore. They pressed close together, touching lovingly, touching heatedly, moaning together as they each helped the other to remove the clothing that stood between them.

And then Axel rose, lifting the precious body from his lap as they cast aside their last garments. Roxas felt himself lowered gently, his back pressing into the thick, soft Persian rug that was spread before the hearth.

And, in the dying light, as the fire slowly, slowly burned to embers, Roxas and Axel gave themselves to each other. Their bodies came together, merging the two into one, forging a vow of passion and love – a vow for an endless future together, always together.

When the study was nearly dark, only the glowing embers left in the fireplace, the two young men lay together, spent and sated, wrapped in darkness and one another's arms. Each lost in the other's eyes, they lay, breathing in unison, even their hearts seeming to beat as one. They had no need for words – their spirits communicated their happiness through their glowing eyes, and sometimes through the tenderest of kisses.

Axel's lips still lingered on Roxas' when he spoke, his low voice infinitely soft and adoring.

"Merry Christmas, Roxas."

A responding kiss joined their mouths again, before the servant replied, his blue eyes so large and so near that Axel felt wholly lost in them.

"Merry Christmas…Axel."

~o~

Note to readers! Hey guys! If you read this because you're into Axel and Roxas and that's pretty much it, well...thanks! I hope you liked it! :D But if you also wonder if this Kurosora1984 lady has anything else to entertain you, and if you are even a little interested in other guys getting their sexy romance on, check out my current original story on FP! Links in my profile! Thank you, dears! :D