Windsor Castle, Winter 1363; shortly before Prince Edward of Woodstock travels to France with his wife, Joan of Kent, to take possession of his principality.
There were benefits to being a personified country, England thought to himself as he walked the east terrace - among others, he knew exactly where to find any of his people. Edward was standing with a group of his father's knights, and smiled when he saw England. England tilted his head sideways, toward the sunken garden; Edward gave the barest of nods, and looked back to his companions as England passed, descended the stone staircase.
England was ambling around the first corner when Edward caught up to him, not even out of breath. "I didn't expect to see you at Windsor," he said to his prince.
"I had some things to discuss with my father before I depart for Gascony." His mouth quirked. "You sound displeased."
He flicked Edward's sleeve. "Surprised, more like. You usually send word ahead when you and Joan visit."
"Usually," he confirmed. Pause, then: "Will I see you at my court in Bordeaux?"
"No, it's still too French for me to easily travel to, and His Majesty has work I should be doing. The frog may show up, though."
Edward let the second sentence pass. "And if I anglicise it, make it yours in more than the legal sense?"
"Then I could visit whenever we wished." Edward smiled; England frowned. "Don't go biting off more than you can chew, boy."
He laughed. "I look twice your age, my lord, yet you still call me 'boy.'"
"I've called you 'boy' since the day you were born, and I'll continue calling you that until I die. Get used to it."
"I never shall. Still, I'll make you a grand English court, in a grand English countryside. Make it splendid and the envy of Europe." And in a smaller voice, "Make you proud."
"You've already made me proud, my prince," he said, looking away into the hedgerow. "The Crécy campaign, Poitiers, your treatment of the idiot frog's King John as your hostage. You've done nothing but bring honour to me and my name."
Edward glanced back toward the castle windows, hesitated.
"What? No one is watching; even if they were, all they would see is a country and his crown prince. Nothing to gossip about." He raised an eyebrow when Edward looked at his feet. "Do you doubt me, Edward of Woodstock?"
"Never, I merely question my own judgement."
"Why would you do something like that?"
"Because I'm about to be sentimental, and that is something to gossip about."
And there it was, that slightly rakish light in Edward's eyes that England had fallen for so long ago; his ears pinkened. "Then you'd best get it over with."
They were in the far corner of the garden, away from the terrace, when Edward knelt on the dirt path, took England's hand. "Ich dien," he said. I serve. "Eich dyn." Your man.
"Wales would cringe to hear you mangle his language like that," England murmured. Good god, he was blushing.
"Then it's good that he is not here to hear it." He rested his thumb on England's ring. "I swore to you. Not my father, not my wife, not my house - I gave you this sapphire and swore on it to honour and serve you above all others, and no matter how far away I may be, I will hold to it."
"... I know."
Edward kissed the jewel, moustache tickling against England's fingers. "Although," he said, looking up at England, "I'm surprised you still wear it."
The trees were starting to turn a lovely shade of green, weren't they? "Perhaps you are not the only sentimental one," he said.
"Perhaps." He let England's hand slip from his fingers and stood, wiped the dust from his hose. "We should return to the castle, soon."
And he did, standing quietly while England dug inside his tunic and pulled out a cloth-wrapped package.
"Here," he said, thrusting it at Edward.
Edward opened it carefully, England watching out of the corner of his eye. "Garters?" he asked, running a finger over the red-on-white zigzag stitches, not quite even.
"They're rather too small for girdles, don't you think?"
"I do, but-" He looked from England, to the garters, and back again; began to smile. "You made these, didn't you?"
Don't look at him, don't look at him- "Her Majesty was very helpful."
"Yes, Mother would be. Has she invited you to her embroidery parties yet?"
"'Invited' is a mild word."
"And did you attend?"
He turned away. "It was very interesting," he said.
Edward chuckled, and England heard rustling as he re-wrapped the garters, tied the pouch to his belt. "Thank you," he said.
"Before you ask, no I wasn't carrying them around all day, yes I felt you enter the castle."
"Why would I ask? Is a man not allowed to leave his lord some secrets?"
They were silent a moment, before Edward ran his fingers over the twigs of the hedge. "Shall I give Joan your greetings?"
"Please," he said. "And remind the frog, if he appears, that he still owes me a cask of red wine."
Another awkward pause, then England sighed and reached to kiss Edward's cheek. "Take care of yourself," he murmured against his skin.
"I'll bring you honour," he promised as England settled back onto his heels.
"I am honoured," England corrected. Then he turned down the path toward the castle, and hoped that his cheeks would be cool by the time he returned to the king.