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DV Fic - The Tudor Rose

Frank and Tom and some other familiar characters in Plymouth.
Fluffy m/m


For those with even a passing interest in Elizabethan England, the name of Plymouth may conjure visions of square rigged sailing ships and intrepid explorers. Sadly, today very little remains of the old Tudor town of Plymouth which was once a bustling home port of famous mariners, traders and seadogs of many nationalities. With the old centre of the town being almost completely obliterated during the blitz of 1941, new, practical, but somewhat soulless developments have, for the most part, replaced the narrow, untidy streets of old Plymouth. But in just few quiet corners of the city a trace of that history can still be found. In places like Looe Street, near the Barbican, some older buildings have managed to survive the relentless push to modernization, and sometimes, when the damp grey fog envelopes these little streets, and blots out the reality of modern life, time itself seems to retreat and then the ghosts of ages past may be reunited in the places where they once dwelt in life.

The Tudor Rose is one such survivor. Now owned and operated by the sole proprietor, Elizabeth Rose, assisted by her most constant friend, the bar tender, Chris Hatton, The Rose has clung tenaciously to its existence for over 400 years. It’s tiny - barely large enough for two dozen people at a time, but the inn is cosy and has a friendly atmosphere; the beer is good and the meals are always generous and hearty. The clientele is an unusual mix of older working class locals, fresh faced young university students and the odd tourist seeking to soak up some traditional Tudor atmosphere. In Plymouth’s chill winters the fire burns brightly and gives a warm glow to the room beyond the anachronistic snug which was added in the 18th century.

Though structurally sound, the architecture of the inn is quite idiosyncratic, in parts the floor runs off at disturbing slopes and the low ceilings, with exposed oak beams, create a hazard for many of the customers of modern day Plymouth who exceed their 16th century ancestors in height. The focal point of the inn, the long oak bar marked by centuries of use and abuse, forms the line of demarcation between the proprietor and her customers. Out back, the somewhat unkempt walled garden is popular in summer, and young lovers may be found sitting in fragrant seclusion under the rose arbour. Not originally owned by the inn, the garden had been part of a nearby Tudor house reportedly once the home of a famous Elizabethan navigator. Here, some say, on soft summer evenings, the whispers of those long dead may at times still be heard in the shadowy corners of the little garden.

The Rose was built in sometime before 1540 when Plymouth was a hub for seafaring adventurers, and the inn had been a favorite watering hole of many notable mariners and salty rogues at that time. Elizabeth Rose took on the running of the pub after her long estranged father had surprisingly left it to her in his will. After years of neglect The Rose was in a poor state when it came into Elizabeth’s hands and her advisor, the crusty old William Cecil, of Burghley & Burghley, Chartered Accountants of London, had advised her to have it demolished and to sell the land off to developers. Elizabeth, however, had fallen immediately in love with the gracious, if tired, old inn and set about to restore it to its former glory. There was something about the inn that spoke to Elizabeth’s soul.

Elizabeth had had no previous experience in operating licensed premises, but she ran The Rose in her own distinctive manner; she could be sweet and charming and flirtatious when she wished, but also tough and uncompromising when necessary. Much to Cecil’s surprise, she had made quite a success of the tiny business. Liz, as she was known to her friends, was ‘une femme d’une certaine age’, strong willed and striking in appearance, her hair still a fiery red; her green eyes sharp and penetrating. She had a good many male admirers and had herself an eye for handsome young men. Liz entertained, however, no thoughts of sharing her little realm with any man. She happily played off her suitors, one against the other, so that none would have an advantage. Chris Hatton had been a long time admirer, and though he knew she would never marry him, he was content to remain by her side.

One cold winter’s afternoon when the sky had turned a bruised shade of green, a well dressed young gentleman with dark hair and a brooding, handsome face entered The Rose seeking shelter from an impending storm gathering ominously in the Sound. He appeared nervous and looked about furtively as he approached the bar.

Elizabeth was quick to notice him and moved to serve the young man and engage him in some conversation. While he looked quite well-to-do and spoke with a cultured accent, he had to scrape together the change to pay for a pint. Elizabeth thought him utterly charming and when he unexpectedly asked if he could do some work to earn a meal she found herself unable to refuse him.

Later, as she watched him eat the meal he had earned she wondered what circumstances had brought this extraordinary young man to her door looking so vulnerable. She was quite taken by his comely appearance, and, though she really has sufficient staff for the small pub, she offered the young man a job clearing tables and washing up glasses in exchange for room and board at The Rose. She had rather expected him to refuse such a lowly position but the young man, though obviously embarrassed, accepted the offer with good grace.

Being of a proud nature, and used to succeeding in all his previous undertakings, he determined to make a good impression on his new employer and from the first day applied himself diligently to his tasks. After a week of closely observing him, Hatton was still cautious of the newcomer.

“Really Liz, we’ve no need for extra staff, I can’t think why you’ve put him on”.

Well, actually he could, but he didn’t want to think about that.

“And, just who is he anyway; those clothes and his manner suggest a privileged background. Why would he want to work here?”

Elizabeth nodded distractedly as she eyed the young man moving deftly around the crowded bar collecting empty glasses and passing pleasant comments with the drinkers.

“I don’t know, Chris. There’s just something about him.”

“Oh yes, the large puppy dog eyes, the impossibly long lashes, the slender legs and pert little arse that look like they’ve been poured into those tight black jeans, might have something to do with it,” Chris said, half jokingly.

“Well yes, there is all that,” Elizabeth replied with a grin, “but, there’s something else: a certain melancholy, an air of tragedy that’s never far away. It’s strange, but I almost feel I owe a debt to this young man.”

“Well then, perhaps you should adopt him,” Chris quipped, keen to remind Liz of the considerable age difference between herself and her young employee, just in case her mind, or her heart, had other intentions. Elizabeth was not in the least amused.

Tom Doughty had good cause to be melancholy; a previously high flying share trader working for a renowned London stock broking firm, he had fallen on hard times after being accused of insider trading: a cardinal sin in his profession. Doughty had come to Plymouth seeking sanctuary from the relentless attentions of the press and to find work to maintain himself while he awaited the formal charges that he expected to be laid against him.

Tom missed his old life. He had been, until recently, one of the most eligible young men on the London social scene; feted by society ladies to attend their charity functions, he had mingled with ease with lords and ladies, knights and dames, captains of industry and the idle rich. He had quickly found, however, after his fall from grace that he had become a social pariah and all doors were closed to him.

All doors save one: his old friend Len Vicary had stood by him and offered him shelter from the prying eyes of the Fleet Street press. But Len had been unable to fully protect him from the marauding pack in London and so arranged for Tom to quietly leave the city and seek anonymity in Devon, leaving Len to try to collect evidence that would counter the accusations being made against his friend.

Tom and Len had been friends for many years having spent time at Cambridge together. Len had moved on into law, but Tom, seeking more excitement than conveyancing or corporate law would afford him, had sought his fortune on the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange.

Tom proved to be a successful trader too; he was bright, charming and intuitive. He had established an excellent portfolio of shares for himself and had a growing stable of clients who trusted him to invest their considerable funds for them. Doughty was living the high life, and loving it. Unfortunately for Tom, the principals of his Stock Broking house were somewhat less than scrupulous in all their dealings and, when the old established firm of Devereux, Dudley & Mountjoy was accused of insider trading, a scapegoat was needed to take the fall. Doughty, they decided, would fit the role of sacrifice perfectly; he had developed such a high social profile that Fleet Street would delight in chronicling his demise in lurid detail. His name was blackened, his assets frozen and the once confident, carefree young man about town was cast adrift, leaving him depressed and desperately lonely.

Coming to Plymouth had been a godsend. He didn’t know why Vicary had chosen such a place, although he recalled that Len’s family was originally from the county. Tom found he enjoyed the work at The Rose and he continued to impress Elizabeth. She saw that he was able to engage easily with any of her customers. He had taken on the role of serving the clients, pulling the beers and then taking them to the tables. In the short time he had been working there he had established an easy rapport with many of the locals, the less literate he would even help with troublesome paperwork; the well to do tourists he would entertain with anecdotes of London society.

Hatton was a little jealous of Elizabeth’s attentions to Doughty. He knew there was nothing serious between them, but still he thought it prudent to limit the young man’s access to her and so decided to help Tom into a new career.

Enter Frank Drake: owner and operator of Plymouth Harbour Cruises, a company that was not all that well regarded in polite society in Plymouth, but one that was nevertheless quite successful. Chris Hatton had always suspected that Drake robbed his clients blind after he’d plied them with excessive amounts of cheap grog, but Drake also supplied The Rose with a good many recommendations to tourists, so Chris kept his suspicions to himself. Drake, after all, was renowned for having large fists and a fiery temper, and of being quick to take offense.

Drake had made it known that he was looking for a new crew that could add a little more prestige and respectability to his venture, so Hatton wasted no time in introducing Liz’s new boy to the ‘Captain’ when Drake was next in The Rose. Drake was a coarse and rather anti social man, he came from a large, poor family and had received little formal education, but what he lacked in social graces he’d made up for with ruthless ambition and some would say a callous disregard for others. Hatton was delighted to see that, despite their very different backgrounds, Frank and Tom seemed to hit it off immediately. Drake was impressed with Doughty’s sophisticated, easy manner and Tom found Frank’s tales of sea going life engaging. It was not long before Drake offered Tom a position on his newest cruise boat.

Tom was sorely tempted, but he felt an obligation to Liz and so spoke with her about the offer. Knowing Drake to be a difficult and sometimes dangerous man to deal with, Elizabeth had an uneasy feeling about the arrangement, but she could sense Tom’s excitement and seeing a smile on his lips that, for the first time since she met him, carried right through to his dark eyes, she voiced no objection to his going to crew with Drake, with the proviso that Tom continued to board at The Rose.

Since coming to Plymouth Tom had exchanged emails with Len about The Rose and Liz and Chris, and now Drake. Len had despaired at sending Tom off on his own when he was so despondent but he could see no other solution. He was pleased to hear that Tom’s mood was improving, as he hoped it would once he was away from London. Mention of The Rose brought back fond memories for Len; he’d had his first beer at that bar and his first fumbling romance in the garden as a teenager. He dearly wished to go and see Tom and share his new experiences but he knew he was too well observed by the some members of the London Press who were still seeking their prey. One tabloid hack in particular, a nasty piece of work called John Brewer, seemed to have made it a personal vendetta to get Doughty. Len was afraid to call Tom directly, and their emails were kept cryptic and short on detail as Len had a suspicious nature when it came to underhand dealings of corporate executives.

With Elizabeth’s blessing Doughty fronted up to the docks at Plymouth to take on the role of first officer on Drake’s new cruiser “The Sea Dragon”. Drake was delighted. Doughty was perfect. In the uniform which Frank had provided, Tom’s trim physique could not fail to capture the attention of even the most jaded tourist. In a very short time Tom’s charm and wit was enchanting Drake’s customers and business was booming as word spread of this new team.

Tom and Frank worked together all summer; two cruises each day, with Tuesdays off. Tom still lodged at The Rose and he spent any spare time at the local library when he could use the computers to keep in touch with Len. One day, at the end of the afternoon cruise, Frank abruptly asked Tom if he’d like to have a drink with him. Until this time they’re relationship has been strictly business, cordial, but somewhat detached. Despite their initial mutual affinity, there seemed between them a shared reluctance to become too close, but after long consideration Frank had a proposal he wanted to put to Doughty; he was unaware of Tom’s notoriety in London.

The two walked together along the narrow streets from the docks to The Rose and found a quiet corner where they could talk. Small talk at first, but after a time and a few drinks, Frank asked, “So, d’you have a special lady somewhere, Tom?”

Ah, the inevitable question Tom had been dreading. Tom was not a good liar. He was also gay, and he suspected, from the aggressive reaction the captain had to a certain male customer on his boat who had made some less than subtle advances to Tom, that Drake was probably homophobic. Now he feared Drake may well sack him if he told the truth. Damn it, he liked this job; he was beginning to enjoy life again. And he liked Drake, despite the negative stories he’d heard about him. Before that recent outburst by Drake he had thought if it weren’t for the sword hanging over his head he may even consider testing the waters with a little gentle seduction. Drake was looking at him hard; he had to make an answer.

“No, no one special, I’m afraid,” he said at last, lowering his eyes so they would not betray him. Well, it wasn’t a lie; he’d had many friends, male and female before he found himself so isolated, but there really was no one special person in his life in a romantic way.

Drake looked searchingly at him with sharp, cool blue eyes, and for a while made no further comment. Later, bringing back another drink from the bar, Frank sat next to Tom.

“I’m looking for a partner ...” Drake began slowly in his deep, coarse voice.

Tom blushed and looked abashed; and before Drake could finish his sentence Tom was telling him of his reason for leaving London. Frank listened in stunned silence.

“So, you see, I’m a poor choice when it comes to a business partner. By the time the courts are finished with me I will be certain to face a lengthy jail sentence,” Tom said when he came to the end of his story.

“But surely Tom, white collar criminals don’t go to jail, not real jail at least; weekend detention, voluntary work, that sort of thing?”

Tom shook his head. “These days they do indeed go to jail, particularly if they’re without influential friends. I’m afraid I’m perfectly set up to provide the courts with someone of whom they can make a proper example.”

Frank was shocked and genuinely outraged that Doughty has been treated so poorly by his employers. The thought of Tom languishing in a common prison distressed him more than he cared to admit. He wanted to know how he could help. Did Doughty have a lawyer? Did he need cash? Tom told Frank about Len and how things were stacking up against him. He had been set up; there were at least two employees of DD&M who would testify against him, probably they had been coerced into doing so.

Tom seemed resigned to his fate, but Drake was not inclined to give in so easily. It seemed a confession from the guilty would be needed. Frank decided to confide in Elizabeth and Chris, and also to contact Vicary. Drake was a man of action and not without influence in his own particular sphere. He had some unconventional friends, who had some unconventional methods of persuasion.

No more was said by Drake or Doughty about the offer of a partnership. Tom continued his work on The Sea Dragon and quietly awaited the call he knew would eventually come to face the courts. Some weeks later however, Tom was surprised to receive a call at The Rose from Len. It was good news: Devereux had inexplicably confessed to the insider trading and cleared Tom of any involvement. Dudley and Mountjoy were expected to soon corroborate his story. Tom would be completely exonerated. He was speechless. With his good name restored he could go back to London and reclaim his old life, but he found himself strangely reticent; what he’d thought was his greatest desire now appeared quite trivial.

That evening Tom joined Frank, Liz and Chris at The Rose for a celebration. When Len arrived from London, Tom’s joy was complete. Seeing Len at the door of the inn, Tom was overcome with emotion and flew into his arms. Len, though somewhat embarrassed by the curious looks of some of the patrons, maintained the embrace and spoke to Tom quietly while the other friends looked on. Frank watched the two men with particular interest.

Composure returned, Tom made the introductions, Frank and Len acknowledging, to Tom’s surprise, that they had been in contact. The friends were in high spirits and the little pub was aglow with laughter and good cheer. Tom couldn’t believe how quickly has life has changed again; this time for the better.

“Now, about that partnership, Frank …” Tom said jovially; “shall we say 50/50? I have some great ideas for changing the course and commentary of the tours.” He beamed at Frank and was expecting a gruff response to this audacious suggestion, but instead Drake roared with laughter, and put a strong hand on Tom’s shoulder.

“Oh, I had something quite different in mind,” Frank answered with a smile and a wink to the other friends. Tom looked puzzled; there was obviously something going about which he was unaware.

Finally, Frank decided to enlighten him. “Doughty, for someone so damn clever you really can be very dim.” Frank laughed again, and with that he leaned forward and whispered in Doughty’s ear. Tom turned a very appealing shade of pink; it was his turn to be embarrassed and for some time the two men stood just looking at each other in silence.

“Oh, for pity sake Frank,” cried old Tom Moone, a long time employee of Drake’s and one of the regular patrons of The Rose, “just kiss ‘im will ye, so’s we can all ‘ave another round!”

Frank obligingly slid his arm around Doughty’s waist and pulled him in for a lingering kiss, to the applause, cheers and catcalls of the patrons of The Rose.

“Well, I’ll be damned; I had no idea,” exclaimed Chris, standing next to Elizabeth behind the bar. Liz looked across at an opened mouthed Hatton and winked. Chris was really a very endearingly, if naïve man, she thought, but only for a moment.

The fire in the little inn flared and glowed ever brighter and as Elizabeth looked back at the two men still embracing, she had an overwhelming sense that a wrong, an ancient, tragic wrong, had in some way been redeemed by this pairing and that somehow The Rose had been the catalyst that had brought them altogether to make the remedy come to pass.



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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
entropy_house
Feb. 20th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
YYAYYAYYYAYAYAYAY. *hugz the boyz* I am so very fond of happy endings. And I LOVE the Tudor Rose. :^)
shimere277
Feb. 21st, 2010 04:54 am (UTC)
Awwwww...I love this. It makes me happy.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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