Notes: Thanks as always to my plot boy, Mikey. Feedback goes to Everything I’ve done is on my new site, Apple Asterisk.

Disclaimer: Don’t know ‘em. Am fairly sure they were not fifteenth century nobility.

King and Country 6 -Linen
by Schuyler

Earl Robert had been two days in Bilbao when Lady Leighanne finally arrived under cover of night. Robert had met her two or three times before; he and Joshua had handled the affair of Jessica’s marriage, Leighanne had been the competition. She removed her plain cloak and hood, introduced Lord Howard, then sat at the table in Robert’s quarters. Something about Howard bothered the light-hearted Englishman, something sad, something defeated. “Earl Robert, we come to ask for passage to London.”

He scoffed, crossing his arms and leaning against a post. “Take the two of you, favorites of the Cardinal of Madrid, to London? This had better be good.”

“Of course, Your Honor. The Cardinal is doing terrible things, with the King’s knowledge and assistance. His actions could spark war between England, France, and Rome.”

He looked at them, a bit wary. No confidence was inspired by Lord Howard’s convulsive twitching. They’d need to be under guard day and night. “I hope you’re ready. We leave on the morning.”

The going-away party that had begun in the banquet hall had now spilled into the private chambers of the palace. Lance had somehow ended up in Joshua’s chambers with the Prince. And the poor boy was hopelessly drunk. He was sort of laid across the sofa beside Lance, so happy he purred. “Joshua will return soon.” Lance sighed. Now the Prince was babbling. “Joshua is the greatest lover in all England,” he mumbled, falling asleep.

Lance stood, finally free, and set off to find Christopher, needing to feel his lover’s arms around him. He found Christopher in the sitting room, he could see him through the linen curtain from where he stood in the bedroom. But Chris wasn’t alone. Sir Joshua sat beside him on the sofa. The greatest lover in all England. Lance felt his heart sink into a pool of tears. Everyone at court knew of the relationship the two had once shared. They were doing nothing, nothing to suspect. But Christopher was a king, and kings could have anyone they wanted, despite who they already had.

Christopher looked up, his eyes glittering even through the linen and Lance wanted to cry. “Lance, I was wondering where you’d gone off to. Joshua was just keeping me company until it was time to retire.”

Joshua stood, ready to leave. “Have you seen Justin?”

Lance spoke through the pale curtain, afraid that the two would see the water in his green eyes. “He’s asleep on your sofa.”

“I’ll put him to bed,then. Good night, Christopher.” He turned and raised a hand to Lance. “Good night, Lance.”

When the door thudded shut, Lance turned on his heels went to his side of the bed and began to undress. Christopher pushed the curtain aside and strode in. And at that sight, Lance’s sadness turned to anger. “You’re terribly happy.”

“Of course, I’ve been missing you all night.” He sidled up behind Lance and held him, his cheek pressed to Lance’s shoulder.

Lance just shrugged him off. “You had Joshua to amuse you.”

Christopher fell back, hurt. “What?” He’d never heard Lance’s tongue turn sharp.

“I know that kings can have whoever they want, and you know first-hand how remarkable a lover Joshua is.” Christopher fell to sitting on the bed, downed by the force of the blow. “But I thought you were different.”

By the time Christopher had regained his ability to speak, Lance was gone.

Lance heard a shuffle of feet in the dark of his bedroom and a smile formed on his lips. His own sweet, strong, wonderful monarch, whom he’d missed these last hours, come to make up. He kept his eyes closed as he felt the dip of weight on his bed. His ears pricked up, waiting for the voice. “You gave my Lord too much trouble last time.” Before Lance could open his eyes, before he could figure out whose voice that was, there was the resounding clang of metal against bone (his skull?) and then. Nothing.

Christopher stood at the gates, the carriages loaded. Lance had not yet arrived. Aaron, whom Justin kept beside him always now, ran back to his master and, after Justin had bent to him, whispered in his ear. Justin stood, trying not to appear sad. “Lance is gone, and all of his things with him.”

Christopher turned to Christina, looking six again. “We fought last night.”

She smiled and petted his hair. “Then he’s probably gone to Dorset, just to settle down.” Christopher only nodded slowly as Joshua bundled him into the carriage. He looked out at Justin, staying behind to pretend to rule the country, Joshua, staying behind to rule the country, and Joseph and Christina, who could not recall ever having seen him so sad.

Christina’s maid, unofficial head of the household staff, came into Joshua’s bedchamber just as the people of the house were going to bed. Justin already sat in bed, Sir Joshua stood, fully clothed, beside him. “My Lords, there are...”

Before she could finish her sentence, Lady Leighanne burst past her, dragging Lord Howard. Joshua stepped forward. “My Lady, surely this can wait until morning.”

“No.” She looked to Justin. “Your Highness, there are traitors in England.”