So, yes, this is the next update according to the poll I posted. The poll is still up. I might close it in a day or so though. I was unsure of where to take this, but I tried guys. Also, someone asked if same-gender marriages are okay or common. Well, in this time period that I am winging/making up, they are not common. Neither Francis nor Matthew are the first sons, thus neither really needs to carry on the family name. Their marriage is more to strengthen the bond between the two families (though distantly related) and to strengthen each family so in future generations, more marriages can occur. So, no one will explicitly speak out against it, there are people who don't like it but, so far, its accepted. However, it is unacceptable for first sons because they inherit the most from their fathers. I hope that answers that question.

Pairing: Francis/Matthew, eventual Alfred/Matthew

Warnings: slash, AU

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership.

Matthew sighed, for perhaps the thousandth time, as he strolled down the ornate hallway of his husband-to-be. Golden fleur-de-lys on the walls glowed in the bright sunlight and the blond nobleman idly traced the designs as he walked slowly, steps barely making a noise on the marble floor.

Francis was away on business in the Capital and, despite Matthew's readiness to follow, had merely given his betrothed a chaste kiss before departing, leaving the younger man without company in the large manor.

Well, perhaps not without company, Matthew conceded, coming to a stop before one of the large windows. Pale hand pressed against the warm glass, he regarded the painter down in the garden.

The blond—Alfred—was scribbling away on one of the many canvases Francis had provided him. The older blond had presented the young artist with an excess of supplies and an advance on his payment.

"Just paint whatever my Mathieu wants." Francis had stated simply, taking his fiancé's hand in his with an affectionate smile. "If it pleases him, it will please me."

Matthew had blushed faintly, embarrassed at the slight twisting of his name, when Alfred's bright eyes had flickered towards him, studying him in that way only an artist can, and he had been quick to squeeze Francis's hand before letting go entirely.

Biting his lip in thought, Matthew weighed his options. He could either continue to waste away indoors for another day or he could find out if this new painter was pleasant company.

The decision was fairly easy.

Alfred huffed in frustration, almost ready to throw down his piece of charcoal into the lush grass. He hadn't caught a glimpse of Matthew during the entire week he was here, he had already painted several simple watercolors of the rose bushes, he hadn't seen Matthew, and he was already bored of sketching landscapes.

"There's not much out here, is there?" A soft voice interrupted his sulking and Alfred looked back hurriedly, nearly knocking over his easel.

"My lord!" He chirped, before wincing at his over-excitedness. "There's plenty out here. I was just thinking that the roses—"

"You've painted enough roses." Matthew interrupted lightly with a smile. "Francis will appreciate having those in his study." He frowned then, purple eyes squinting in the sunlight.

"Then, what would you rather I paint?" Alfred asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Matthew opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by an indignant squawk as a maid rushed outside with a parasol.

"My lord!" She looked panicked, holding the parasol above the pale nobleman to shield him from the sun. "We'll set up a table and some shade, sir. Perhaps some tea as well?"

"It's a little too hot for tea." Matthew mused.

"Lemonade then." The maid nodded decisively, leading the nobleman to sit as the table had quickly been set up shortly following her arrival.

Alfred watched the proceedings with wide eyes, secretly wondering just what the big deal was about a little sun.

"Its just sun." He muttered, turning back to his blank canvas.

"Its more of a hazard than you'd assume Alfred." Matthew said with a slight smile when the painter seemed to freeze. "I'm afraid I burn fairly easily." The nobleman sighed. "I was actually born in the North." He explained as Alfred listened. "This heat doesn't really agree with me."

"What was it like? In the North?" Alfred asked, blue eyes curious.

Matthew looked surprised by his question and the other blond's brain suddenly caught up with his mouth.

"I mean, if you wouldn't mind answering, my lord." He rushed, a little breathlessly.

"Not at all." The nobleman said, surprise leaving his face. "Its just not often when someone expresses interest in my home."

"Well, I've never been outside the village, really." Alfred admitted with a little laugh. "I've always wanted…" He trailed off, feeling a little silly.

Matthew looked at him expectantly and gave him an encouraging little smile. "Yes?"

Alfred laughed sheepishly before continuing. "I've always wanted to travel. And I like hearing about other places…"

The other blond appraised him with those indigo eyes and he felt fairly self-conscious.

'I must sound like such a backwoods ass.' Alfred thought. 'Travel. He's probably been everywhere—'

"It snowed a lot." Matthew began, a faraway look settling on his face. "I remember mountains with little snow-capped peaks. I could see them from my window. And you could see the stars perfectly."

Alfred listened, enraptured, as the other blond weaved descriptions of a cold that could silently kill and delicate snowflakes that dusted clothing and strange ribbons of color that danced in the midnight sky.

Unbidden, his hand began to move, dragging the piece of charcoal softly across the canvas. Matthew's wisp of a voice in his ear and mind filled with the thought of a heavy blanket of snow, he drew like a man inspired.

"And then we moved to the Capital." Matthew ended softly, voice a touch wistful. He looked up, seeing the strong lines of Alfred's back that blocked the canvas. "What are you drawing?" he stood up, curious, trying to catch a peak.

"Uh-uh!" Alfred said quickly, whirling around and holding out his arms childishly. "It's a surprise~" He grinned widely at the nobleman, unmindful of how familiar he was behaving with the other.

Matthew, noting the casualness with which he was treated, could find no insult in the treatment. Alfred was close to his age, without a doubt, and it was nice to find someone so friendly and cheerful and eager to listen to his ramblings.

So he laughed softly and shrugged. "Fine. But I hope it'll be a nice surprise."

"Oh you'll love it." Alfred swore, winking.

Matthew, feeling more at home with the other's cavalier attitude (such a refreshing change from the cleverly hidden disdain of the Court), sat back down, much lighter in spirit now than previous days.

"How was your day?" Arthur asked briskly, sliding a plate of charred and smoking food towards his brother as the younger boy slid into an empty seat.

Alfred, with fingers smudged black and blue and purple and green, gave him an exuberant smile. "Probably better than yours." He teased, picking up the fork and stabbing at his meal experimentally.

"Git." Arthur responded easily, green eyes carrying no malice. "What was today's grand painting?"

"A mountain scene." Alfred explained, a little distracted by the fact that his fork refused to leave the burnt food. "Did you know Matthew used to live near mountains?"

Arthur, who was drying a glass and waving in some new customers, rolled his eyes. "How would I know of Lord Williams' personal life?"

"Well he did." Alfred sniped moodily before cheerfully adding. "He's pretty chill."

"Alfred…" The sandy-haired man sighed, setting down the glass. "Please do not shame me by behaving…inappropriately."

Alfred snorted, washing down his first bite with half a glass of milk.

"I mean it." Arthur snapped, tapping the wooden counter to get his brother's attention. "You think you have the devil's luck, but you don't—"

"Aw, you're worrying too much Artie."

Arthur quieted, pursing his lips together in displeasure at the other's devil-may-care attitude.

Alfred, however, was too busy thinking of snowy landscapes and how exactly the shadow of an evergreen should fall.

"—and my nurse was furious!" Matthew related, chuckling. "The entire room—rug and blankets and furniture—was soaked and the little bear just sat on the cushion and looked around."

"What was its name?" Alfred asked, smiling as he watched the noblemen devolve into another fit of laughter.

"K-kuma…" the purple-eyed man looked thoughtful. "Kumajirou, I believe."

"You're not sure?" Alfred looked surprised.

"Well I changed his name a lot when I was younger." Matthew defended, a small pout playing on his lips.

"And he just followed you around?"

"All the time. He slept in my bed and ate from my plate." The other blond smiled fondly. "He was so darling, Alfred. He was my best friend."

Alfred nodded, blue eyes focused on the colors he was mixing as Matthew continued to speak. "What happened to him?"

"We had to leave him with some friends when we moved." Matthew sounded so sad, Alfred's heart clenched painfully. "Sometimes he'd look so confused, as though he wasn't sure who I was."

The painter's brush skimmed the surface of the canvas lovingly.

Dark brown.

Slate grey.

Icy blue.

Alfred breathed out slowly, not noticing when Matthew quieted.

"I didn't know you could be so focused." Matthew teased, at ease with the other boy.

"There's a lot you don't know about me." Alfred retorted jokingly before sobering up, quickly adding, "My lord."

"Then educate me, Alfred." Matthew said with a smile, chin perched in his hand as he leaned his elbow on the table. "So that when you become a Master, I can say 'Yes, I knew Master Jones. He's a fine fellow'."

There was no teasing in the nobleman's voice, only genuine belief and kindness. It was so unlike the tones of the other villagers who either only humored or mocked his aspirations.

Ducking his head a bit shyly, the normally boisterous blond felt a little anxious. What would he say? What could he say? Was there any way to impress the other boy?

"Um…" Alfred began, intelligently. "My favorite colors are red, white, and blue." Then he promptly kicked himself mentally.

"I'm quite fond of red, myself." Matthew looked thoughtful before a somewhat sly look flitted across his face. "But why white? Is it not the absence of color?"

"Its not just that." Alfred insisted, putting down the paintbrush and turning to face the other. "Its beautiful and pure. Its as fierce as red and as definite as black. And you always need it."

"You're very opinionated." Matthew noted softly, a bit struck by the vehemence the other displayed. "That's a good quality to have."

Alfred shrugged. "Not all think so, my lord."

"If you live according to how others want, you'll never be happy." The blond nobleman continued in that soft voice, indigo eyes flickering away.

Alfred, ignoring his inner voice that sounded too much like Arthur, turned back around and queried, "Aren't you happy, my lord?"

Matthew didn't answer immediately and when he did, he didn't look at Alfred. "I am content."

"You shouldn't settle for content, my lord, you—"

"You're being a little too bold, are you not Alfred?" Matthew interrupted coldly, eyes darkening to a rich shade of plum and flecked with displeasure.

"My apologies." Alfred bowed stiffly. Then he immediately added, "I just think you deserve to be happy."

Matthew looked torn between looking touched and sending Alfred away. The emotions warred for a moment on his face, before an easy mask slipped over the indecision and the annoyance lifted from his body language.

Alfred, feeling now, that maybe he had pushed the boundaries of propriety too much for the day, quietly turned back to the painting and concentrated on the fine lines of the fir trees.

The two sat in near silence, with the only sound the soft noises of the brush scratching the canvas.

"I live with my brother." Alfred shared, breaking the silence that was starting to grate on him.

"Your parents?" Matthew asked, in a disinterested voice.

"They've passed on." Alfred said curtly.

There was a pause and then Matthew, sounding more like the Matthew that had been keeping Alfred company said, "I'm sorry."

Alfred shrugged. "It was a long time ago. But I remember, my dad used to take me along whenever he went to sketch."

He didn't need to look back he could easily imagine Matthew leaning forward in interest, all traces of untouchable aristocrat gone from his demeanor. He could see the way the light played with his golden hair and he could envision those eyes—swirling blues and purples—and he could imagine the delicate lines of the other's brow and sharp nose.

Instead, he continued to talk and Matthew was more than happy to listen.

Guys, remember Matthew is a noble and Alfred is a commoner. Matthew was taught that he was somewhat better. Yes, he is humble and kind and down-to-earth, but he is still a noble and Alfred cannot just be buddy-buddy with him. Alfred has to watch himself, even if Matthew was the one to initiate their companionship. ITS LIKE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN DUDES. kind of.

Anyways, to be honest, I didn't think this story was that popular. :| So it took a backseat to other stuff. Then I saw the poll results. So, I am genuinely curious, how many people want to see this continued?