“Is this really necessary?” Alec drawled while the tailor fussed and measured.

Diane sipped daintily from a cup of chocolate. She was perched on the edge of a plush stool, set in the corner as a courtesy. The chocolate was from a cafe a few doors down, fetched by a young page as soon as the tailor had seen the Tremontaine carriage pull up. “If I hadn’t come, neither would you,” Diane said airily. “You’d show up to your grand performance in a suit six seasons old, and too short for you besides. No, that won’t do.”

“I hardly think my wardrobe will make much difference on the outcome.” Alec shifted uncomfortably, and was admonished by the tailor for it.

Diane tsked. “This is theatre, David,” she said, setting down her cup with a soft clink. “If you don’t look the part, no one will take you seriously.”

Alec smiled ruefully. “It won’t matter, because I am an appalling actor,” he said. “Even when I look the part, and live the part, it’s never quite convincing enough.” To this, the duchess had no response, or chose to answer with disinterested silence, Alec could only tell about half the time. It was true, though. The students, they had known. Richard had known, if not all of it then at least some, enough to realize from the moment they met that Alec did not belong in Riverside.

The tailor finished his measurements, and asked Alec to wait a moment. He stood, shoulders slouched, looking around the room while Diane rose to point out samples. “This green,” Alec heard her say, “and perhaps something in black…” Green with gold brocade, he could almost hear Richard say. It hadn’t been so long ago. They had stood just there, arguing over colors. Alec’s eyes fell on a bolt of bright blue cloth, draped elegantly across a table. It was still as captivating as the first time he had seen it, for the same reasons.

“Oh, David,” Diane clucked, the usual playful tone she took with him gone flat, “Is that really necessary? If you can’t make it through a simple fitting then we may as well call the whole thing off.”

For a moment, Alec hadn’t any idea what the duchess meant, but then he felt something on his cheeks, something warm. He pressed his fingers there, and they came away wet. Alec stared in disbelief, while Diane lost interest and went back to the samples.

“Have you still got Richard St Vier’s measurements?” Alec asked after a time, still staring at his hand.

“Yes, my lord.”

Alec looked up. “Make him something in the blue,” he said, pointing across the room at it. “Nothing too showy, or he’ll never put it on.”

Diane raised an eyebrow. “A good choice,” she said, letting Alec hear a note of pleasant surprise in her voice.

“Yes,” Alec said, letting his arms fall back to his sides. He thought of warm hands against his back in the dark, a kiss on the curve of his neck. “It matches his eyes.”

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