Death, in the end, is a lot quicker than life.
Just one final close of his eyes, one final glimpse of the fire crackling before him, and it’s over. No thirty three years of fearing and loving his father in equal measure, no nineteen years (at least) of lusting after Richard while knowing he could never have him, no long dark night of the soul when Mary (and later Richard, again) died, no thirteen odd years of clinging and loathing and knowing that everybody not so secretly hated him, nothing.
One final close of his eyes and every single thing just fades away. It’s the happiest moment of his life (or death, or wherever he is now).
…And so, of course, something (somebody) just has to tramp along and merrily ruin it.
He sighs in an entirely heartfelt manner, reluctantly reopens his eyes.
…And Richard hasn’t changed a bit in those thirteen odd years. His hair is still reddish blonde and fluffed carelessly around his head, he still looks far too bony to be healthy – his long fingers tap out an infuriating rhythm on the floor, one two one two over and over again.
“Henry,” and he finds his voice first as always, of course. Soft and scornful and exactly the same as ever, “you’ve grown old.”
He stares for another, entirely justified, moment.
“What do you expect?” Speaks slowly when he finally does, sits up a little and is pleasantly surprised to find that the urge to vomit blood has completely vanished, “It’s been thirteen years, Richard, I’m… God, I’m only forty-six now.”
“I noticed,” Richard purrs wryly, doesn’t reach out to steady him for a single moment, “we’re exactly the same age, remember? I would’ve been forty-six-”
“Do we have to do this already?”
“-And possibly, just possibly, ready to go on for another twenty years instead of slumping pathetically after a mere thirteen,” Richard just grins with sharp teeth. It’s almost comforting to know that death hasn’t robbed him of his sting, “just saying. If you hadn’t murdered me…”
“Don’t what?” Almost. For it’s insane to miss the only person who could worm under you skin, absolutely mad to miss the only bastard who knew how to scrape his claws over the innards, completely and utterly… “I’m the murdered party here, aren’t I? Shouldn’t I, as a result of that, be able to go wherever I like?”
“Over, for example, how you murdered all my supporters and stole my crown and had me killed and then had the daring to cry crocodile tears over my body and then, after you’d cried those tears, did nothing further and instead worked on being generally loathed by everybody and-“
“I hate the murderer, love him murdered!” He yells, and can barely take any pleasure in shutting Richard up for the first time ever, “Didn’t you hear that, Richard, didn’t you know that? I never wanted you dead!”
There’s a long pause before the man can speak again, neither of them spend it relaxing “…Then what did you want?”
“I-“ He stutters over air for a moment, refuses to stutter and slaps his hands over his eyes instead, “I don’t know, alright? I never bloody knew. Not once in the entire time that we knew each other, not a single damned time!”
…Richard remains silent.
“I hated you,” a pity that it’s only the encouraging sort of silence, the type that makes him want to rip out his own eyeballs just to do something, “yes, fine, I hated you at times: you were so high and mighty, so untouchable even when you were supposedly falling apart.
“But I also wanted you,” he rears his head up, before Richard can even mutter a word, “which was why I hated you. I needed you to see me, to acknowledge me, to be over me and under me and besides me and everywhere. There were some days where I would want to be your everything, to wrap myself around your heart and never ever let go.
“…But I couldn’t.”
“You know,” Richard murmurs, trying his very best not to look the slightest bit shaken, “you aren’t doing a very good job convincing me of your innocence-”
“I loathed you, you bastard!” He only yells in reply – rearing higher, so high that it’s a miracle his back isn’t screaming out in protest, “but I adored you, but I was disgusted by you, but I was obsessed with you, but I could’ve actually killed you, but I loved you!”
There’s a long pause.
“…I love you.”
They stare at each other for another moment.
“…How,” he manages eventually, sounding hollow and defeated even to himself (but, then, he’s been sounding like that for thirteen odd years by now), “how do you crawl under my skin and manage all of that at once?”
“It’s a skill, I guess,” Richard sighs almost indifferently, his fingers smoothing slowly over the cold stone floor.
A moment of complete silence.
He’s barely managed to turn his head to the fireplace when Richard finally chooses to speak again, “even if you didn’t murder me, or give the order for me to be murdered, I still died. Cold, alone, choking on my own blood while spread across a stone floor much worse than this one.”
“I know,” he says quietly, closing his eyes briefly and almost wishing for life (so painful and endless) again.
“Do you?” …Richard only presses, quietly with his hands still in his lap.
“I mourned you,” and so he says it to the fireplace, opening his eyes again and tilting his head just the slightest bit, “you may not believe me, you may be justified in not believing me, but I did. It… It was like Mary all over again, but worse because I wasn’t supposed to be sad. I was supposed to be dancing, laughing, singing songs to cement my great triumph.”
“’The tyrant is dead’,” Richard hums slowly, and a quick glance confirms that he’s also looking into the empty fireplace, “’long live the righteous king.’”
“I didn’t feel very righteous.”
“But at least you knew it, I suppose,” a slight smile is the only thing that Richard gives away, he’s always been so terribly unreadable like that, “and at least you knew, or started to know, that no kings are. That, under that crown, we’re just weak flesh and blood like any other man – easy to hurt, easy to maim, easy to wipe from the books entirely with one single word.”
He nods slightly, it seems the only thing he can do in the face of such sudden solemnity.
“Easier to erase than ordinary men, actually: uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, and all that.”
“…I said that.”
“And it was the first sensible thing that you’ve said in all your life,” Richard chuckles slightly, softly as if he doesn’t quite realize that he’s doing it, “we could’ve been happy without the crown… Well: not happy together, since I doubt that we would’ve ever managed to be happy together, but happy in general. Maybe we would’ve lived longer, done greater things, been better people. Maybe-“
He waits for Richard to finish with bated breath.
“…Maybe,” the man only chuckles again, and drops his hands back into his lap, “I suppose it’s not really worth thinking about now.”
“No,” he echoes quietly, finally turning back fully, “ancient history, really.”
…There’s another long moment, which he spends looking at his hands, before he gets up the energy to speak again – and it’s sort of odd, really, how this actually almost civil conversation with Richard can drain quite so much, “you’ve been watching me, then?”
“Only sometimes,” Richard only smiles slightly, bounces on his knees, looks actually relieved to get back to a subject where they don’t have to be so horrifically open to each other, “honestly, Henry, you never change – you’ve always thought that you’re the exact centre of the universe with all the stars and planets revolving around you.”
“Look who’s talking,” he snorts - just as pleased as that smirking, bouncing bastard “…Sometimes?”
“Death is surprisingly boring,” Richard offers archly, raising his eyebrow like it’s an entirely obvious point that he should be perfectly ashamed over, “you’ll watch anybody to get rid of the boredom: even usurping cousins who seem to spend all their time angsting.”
“Justifiably ‘angsting’!” He cries, since such a term deserves at least a bit of protesting, “and how do you know that it was all the time, Richard? Are you sure that you only watched me sometimes?”
“And who did I learn it from?”
“And bad at retorts,” Richard simply continues, with his eyebrow still raised in that generally scornful way, “and stupid, and with the permanent look of a disliked child whose parents keep trying to abandon it on various mountaintops.”
“And by that I mean: you probably learnt it from your father, he was very good at making inappropriate moments all about him. His dying day, for instance – that was such a bore, it went on for absolutely forever…” Richard just continues continuing until he’s actually starting to twitch, gives that familiar little smirk and looks quite openly like he’s about to chuckle, “fine, fine - maybe I watched you more than sometimes.”
Aw, and yet another old Richard trick, tacking an actual confession onto the end of a horrible insult just so everybody involved will be too angry to actually spot it.
…Just a pity that he’s missed it for so long that he actually notices immediately, “often?”
“Uh,” Richard, to his credit, only looks completely stunned for about a minute – a glorious, gratifying one with his mouth gaping so wide that he practically expects to see innards popping out, “often may, quite possibly, be about right. On a full moon, in a parallel universe.”
…That familiar little smirk returns, perhaps a touch smaller than before. They somehow manage to keep staring at each other this time, almost steady and almost calm and almost open yet again (which, for them, is a miracle of the highest order).
“I suppose I’m like you now, then,” he says eventually, resisting the poisonous urge to reach out and take Richard’s hand (it’ll never end well, knowing them it’ll probably involve actually ending the universe), “reduced… Well, relocated to only being able to watch people often.”
“We were always alike, Henry, you were just far too stubborn to realize it,” Richard answers breezily, completely ignoring the fact that he was just as stubborn and possibly more difficult, “and it’s not so bad.”
“…I got the impression that it’s fairly bad.”
“Was fairly bad,” Richard just corrects, by now so breezy that he’s practically a gale, “but looks to be getting a lot better, now that I actually have somebody to lie to over how bad things can be.”
He stares disbelievingly, holds back a laugh because it’s Richard and the man needs no further ways to worm steadily into his brain, “did that actually make any sense?”
Richard only smirks, still blowing away.
“Stupid question, really,” he only grumbles, keeps holding back that laugh and a smile besides and ducks his head to think things over “…And I’m about to get stupider: Who should we watch now? I mean, we obviously can’t watch me unless we indulge in a mirror and some extremely unhealthy manoeuvring-“
Ah, he’s missed that bored roll of Richard’s eyes – it always heated up his evenings (with annoyance, but that’s besides the point), “Edward, perhaps? I’ve missed dearest Edward, after all. How has he been?”
“…About as alright as me-“
“Centre of the universe.”
“Not my fault,” he retorts almost irritably, folding his hands in his lap and shaking his head, “who else?”
“There’s a certain man in Cheapside that I’ve grown quite fond of… Oh, not in that way – stop looking like such a damned prune,” Richard laughs a little, “Sir John Falstaff is his name, you might’ve heard of him. He’s an old, fat liar with drinking habits that make even my excesses look like teenage trifles – it’s hilarious.”
He nods slowly, carefully, unwilling to look like a ‘damned prune’ again.
“…Though your darling son may have broken his heart, I’m afraid.”
Just a pity that such a state is apparently unavoidable, since he is apparently an unpopular fruit associated with constipation under his seemingly human skin, “my darling son?”
“Your darling Hal,” Richard says easily, giving him a bored look that screams knowledge of the fruit lurking underneath, “now king Henry V, upon your very timely death. We can watch him too, if you want.”
“Succeed,” and interrupts just as easily, all prunes and worries and guilt and ridiculous jealously falling away as he finally reaches out one pale hand and covers his upon the floor, “succeed and conquer and thrive. And maybe, just maybe, be greater than the both of us put together.”
…He smiles for a moment.
“Or greater than you, at any rate.”
Chuckles, before he can quite stop himself. Ducks his head before the unseemly expression of glee upon Richard’s face can have him turning bright, burning red “…That’s the plan, then: we watch all of those people.”
“Mm,” he keeps his head ducked, pretty sure that he’s blushing a little anyway for this is most unfortunately his… Well, death, “eternity together.”
“What a hardship,” Richard smiles sincerely, and squeezes his hand ever so lightly upon the floor.