Actions

Work Header

Mnemosyne

Work Text:

 

 

No - it wasn't like that!

 

When Eleanor thought on the day that she first saw Henry, it was the memory of rain that she held to most desperately. Other details were dear to her too, of course, more dear than she would have liked to admit – dearer even than she had let on to Henry in those few frantic minutes in her old rooms in Chinon, themselves far too revealing, too generously given.

Truly, she remembered the colour of his stockings and the long stretch of his calves within them as they flexed around the steaming sides of his horse. The hands on the reins had been firm, square and - if she were honest - a little ugly, for his fingers were shorter than the ideal and the nails were badly chipped. Curled in on herself in front of the insufficient fire, Eleanor paused to wrap the bearskin a little tighter around herself – did she truly recall his nails? Surely, he should have been gloved, if he were riding. She rubbed her own icy hands together. Oh, the first press of his hands on hers and the roughness of his skin in contrast with her own; the breach of protocol was immense, she had heard murmurings of consternation behind her but she was Eleanor, who had bared her breasts to an army and he was Henry and together they were too magnificent for censure.

If the weather were foul, ought not her own hands to have been gloved?

She laughed at herself a little (all the world would soon be doing it, why should she not be first?), an old woman wrapped in furs, quibbling alone over stockings and horses and all the little things that did not matter. Where was the Queen in this? Be damned with it. To what end if he had been afoot or on horse, dressed in rich gold or arrayed from head to toe in pale lavender? What significance if she had foregone gloves, wanting no doubt to feel the freshness of the rain on the freshness of her skin? What mattered was that when he had approached her on that bleak morning he had not had the courage to look full into her face, not merely awed by her beauty but hurt by it.

I could hardly see you for the sunlight”

Absurd. For that day at least, before she had been sidelined by violet-eyed Rosalind or milky, biddable Alys, before Beckett and the whole horrible host of grabbing, forgettable others there had just been her, the centre, his Sun and she had blinded him to all else.

It was raining”

It had to have been. The world would not be so unkind as to have let her be outshone from the beginning.

 

You loved me.

 

Say it!”

Philip looked up as Richard burst into the room and smiled, lazily. He was seated still and in his nightclothes, as if he hadn't stirred since Richard's ignominious exit, his face showing neither the strain of a sleepless night not the befuddlement of new awakening.

Say what?” The smile widened, flowing effortlessly from languidness to passive geniality. A dangerous attitude, when Richard was so angry. He could feel his mother's dagger hanging heavy with temptation at his side, his pulse throbbed at his temples and fingertips. He wanted to cut that smile away, or to split those ivory cheeks and make it permanent.

Say that you lied! Say that you are an underhanded snake and a Judas!” He had crossed the room without knowing it, the knife was bare in his hands – had he drawn it?

You will say that you lied and that you loved me!” The knife was not only drawn but pressing against the long vein in Philip's neck. Philip looked up at him, still and careful but smiling yet.

I am outside of myself, Richard thought, this is not me. If I should kill him, I cannot be held to blame. He could feel his heartbeat in his teeth.

Say it.”

And Philip looked up at him, expression half amused even though the blade had scratched him and drawn several fine beads of blood. A sudden blaze in the hearth sparked glints of gold in his black hair and turned green eyes to amber, very beautiful.

Very well,” Philip turned away in favour of staring into the fire, leaning forward till he was all gold and ivory, like a statue “since you force me, it shall have to be yes, like always.”

Yes?” Richard shifted uneasily, the reply had been what he'd wanted and yet...

Philip was still refusing to look at him, Richard moved to tilt his chin with the knife but he must have sheathed it with the same unknowingness with which he had drawn it, for it was his bare hand that grasped and turned the other man's chin; the action more gentle than he had intended. Philip flinched anyway, as if he had been struck.

Yes.” Philip's gaze remained set somewhere over Richard's left shoulder. “Yes, I lied, yes, I loved you. Yes, to everything. Since you force me.”

Richard was drunk and weary but he was also a poet and a linguist and he knew something was wrong with Philip's words, this was too fast, too easy...

Get out, his sober self railed, get out before it is too late, get out whilst you are winning. You are in no state to tangle with Philip.

Even dry, Richard had never been wise. He was a fool, when he drank.

...What?”

Suddenly, spectacularly, Philip was angry with him , not the cold, contained wrath he had shown earlier that evening but with the passionate grief of a struck child.

Get out!” The desperation in the cry was a seeming echo of Richard's previous thoughts, “Get out at once! Where is your shame? To come here after everything you have done and demand my love a second time!” He rose from his chair as if to physically force Richard from his rooms and Richard backed away, his hands raised placatingly though he could have laid the youth out with a blow.

Hold, Philip, please, I do not understand.” The anger he had armed himself with had drained out of him like foul from a lanced wound - It is better this way, I was scaring him - “You can speak honestly, I won't hurt you.” He drew the knife from his belt and dropped it with a clatter on the flags.

Philip laughed, there was something of a shudder in it.

Oh, but that is what you said the last time.”

Something within Richard went cold and still at the words, he wished fervently he had not drunk so much during his incarceration in the cellars.

Leave now, or you will regret it.

What are you saying? I did not...I would never...”


...the boy was delightfully pliant underneath him, he ran a calloused hand over the strong
curve of his waist under the pretence of teasing but really it was to glory in the honour that he was being allowed to touch him at all, that Philip would permit him...

I didn't.” He protested, helplessly.

Philip sat down again, heavily, as if his legs had given out.

Remember it however you like, just get out and leave me in peace.” He turned away from Richard, dismissing him and hiding his face in his hands. “I won't begrudge you the memories , just go away and leave me alone.”

...sweat was pricking from both of their bodies, Richard felt it beading on his shoulders and pooling in the small of his back. He kissed Philip, earnestly, searchingly and tasted the salt of it on his lips and cheeks...

Philip's shoulders were shaking under the white cotton nightshirt and the muscles of his neck were taut. It cannot be possible, Richard thought, that he is weeping.

...Richard's control was ever fragile and when he moved, it was harder, faster than he had intended but the cry Philip gave was not one of pain...

The wine was a sullen tide in his belly, Richard swallowed bile and thought he might be sick. It surely was not pain; I am no novice, I would have known...

...he smothered the sound with his hand, for silence in this was a necessity, even for Princes and Philip writhed under the restraining fingers...

Oh, God...”

...“I wouldn't call out to Him if I were you,”... The boyish voice drifted up from his memories and he had thought there had been laughter in it ...“There is not a god out there who will condone what you have done”...

Richard doubled over and was sick, briefly, functionally, like a dog.

Philip...” he crossed the floor to where Philip was sitting and knelt at his feet and Philip, who had not looked up at the sound of Richard vomiting raised his head at this, his eyes as green and wet and hard as river stones.

Philip, you must believe me, it was never my intent to do you harm. I loved you and I thought...” He dared the cold stare to rest a cautious, chaste hand on Philip's knee, feeling him tremble under his fingers like a nervous horse.

You will, you must forgive me, Philip, please.”

I did love you, you know? Vividly, intensely. I should probably have said yes, if you had asked.”

Richard felt like he was going to be sick again and pressed his sweat slicked forehead against the hard line of Philip's thigh, half supplication and half faintness.

Philip...”

You thought you were gentle; you weren't.”

Philip, please ...” Richard was near tears himself now, though he hadn't cried since he was a child, his breath came uneasily, catching in his throat.

 

The faint brush of Philip's hand through his hair came as a blessing and benediction. The sudden capitulation was unexpected and Richard would have wondered at it had he not been so busy gasping his sour-breathed relief into the side of Philip's knee. Philip did not quite seem master of himself either; there was a tremor in the hand that rested lightly on Richard's head and it seemed only natural for Richard to catch it up and kiss it. Natural also, since this had been permitted, to half rise from the floor and take Philip's cold body in his arms and press it to himself, to still the tremors in them both.

Nothing shall ever cause you grief or harm again, I swear it.” He murmured into the blooded hollow of Philip's neck, his memory of the boy's fragility unshaken by the new rasp of stubble against his cheek or the hard muscles under his hands.

Philip, whose sense of timing had always been exquisite, let one last weary sigh escape him and a final shudder wrack him, before sliding from the chair to sink lax and quiescent in Richard's loving grasp.

I know it.” An almost imperceptible squirm was enough for him to hide his smiling mouth against Richard's shoulder and disguise bubbling mirth as a swallowed sob. He took a breath, calmed himself and slackened the muscles in his back and legs so as to appear half faint. “I know it.”

 

And Geoffrey - who had found that the concealing folds of Philip's bedcurtains made a fine observatory for a man who was willing to contort himself a little - had to smother a second laugh behind his fist.

He would remember this.