Gloucester spared Buckingham only one look and nod when he entered the chamber, he was talking to some man about nonsense Buckingham did not quite catch. Duke send man back , rubbed his temples, sighted and then focused on Henry.
Richard was a gloomy man, always occupied with something that couldn’t wait, vastly different from his brothers.
His average height and slight build made him stand out between Edward and George, both well-built like their deceased father. This and delicate face structure, high cheekbones with elegant, long neck were reminder about his young age. People talked about his shoulders, one hanging higher than the other but he himself never thought of this as something defining for this man. It was last thing he noticed about him with first being the difference between him and the king.
But, to be fair, Buckingham never thought of any king’s brothers as similar to each other, without mentioning the king. And yet, it was Richard whom both king and Buckingham trusted most.
‘Well he doesn’t have a lot of options, only a fool would entrust gaby drunkard George anything’ skipped through his mind when his eyes met Richard’s blue ones looking up from the papers.
‘Yes? Does my dear cousin brings me good news?’ his words dripped with irony.
‘His Grace, your brother, requests your presence. I must disappoint you but I don’t believe this to be good news. It’s probably fixing Dorset’s mess’
‘Oh, maybe something good will come out of it. Woodviles are losing their credibility and dignity, little step by step.’ Richard briskly stood up and smoothed out his clothes.
‘So you believe in existence of those in first place, cousin?’ Buckingham smiled, turning his head to look back at Gloucester.
‘Of course! Haven’t you seen their delightful manners? How dare you doubt your cousin; queen!’ he laughed shortly but sincerely.
‘My wife’s manners were enough for me to doubt my own dignity’ this reminder made him nauseous. He rolled his eyes and held door for Richard.
‘How is our situation after Scots?’
‘Not that well as we pretend it is’ his cousin’s smile faded. ‘We have spent way too much money on campaign in France, it was foolish’
‘How come it is always you, who makes the dirty job? Money… Can’t he pick for this someone of those jiggling, foolish Woodviles? Someone who is not entirely corrupted’ Henry noticed bags under his eyes and his stiff shoulders. Both of them knew that by ‘he’, he meant the king.
‘That is the problem! All of them are corrupted, my brother may seem like he trusts others easily but in reality, he is paranoid and too lazy to do the work himself. I should spend more time in the North for him to see how it is to take care of it all by himself. York has problems too.’
‘I will be heading home after I finish most of my tasks. If you wish to leave court you could visit me in Buckingham. My wife would be delighted’ upon hearing this, Richard eyed him with something in his pupils he couldn’t name. Like he suspected something. He seemed startled and little taken aback with the proposition. But who knew what Duke of Gloucester had in his mind.
‘I will consider it, thank you for this proposition’ He said after a short moment of silence. ‘I am afraid I will have to discuss this with his Grace’ his voice was empty with blank courtesy when they stopped in front of the door of king’s chamber.
‘Buckingham’ Richard nodded as a sign of a good-bye.
‘Gloucester’ he returned gesture.
Henry’s eyes followed him while he grasped the door-knob. He did not know what to think.
‘I wish to leave court for some time. Buckingham invited me to visit him’ Richard immediately had Edward’s attention.
He seemed sick lately with his messy hair and hollowing cheeks. He rarely got out and now, with fever in his eyes and paranoia on his face he looked like a mad man. Yet, he still remained handsome even in this state.
Richard could feel his remaining strength when he grabbed him by shoulders, hovering over him. Edward’s thumbs dug uncomfortably into his collarbones.
‘Does he know?’
‘Of course not, how did that get into your head? Good Lord, sit down.’ Richard rolled his eyes. Edward flung an arm over his shoulders and pulled him down with him.
‘It’s not good for you. What would you do if he knew? Buckingham is ambitious and he schemes, all the time, I know you two are friends but… I think he suspects something, you know how he looks at people, like he suspects them of doing horrors.’ King said with a grim expression.
Richard felt anger bubble inside of his chest for treating him like a naïve little kid. ‘I know you two are friends…’ Who is the one not thinking clearly? Both of them have done much more dangerous things. And all of the people Buckingham! He couldn’t deny that there was a little bit of truth in his brother’s words; his cousin was one of the most ambitious and distrustful people on the court but he was loyal for sure.
Edward invited Woodviles to court and started getting paranoid, fearing their schemes but in the end, it was always other people, like Buckingham that seemed the worst. ‘We fear what we don’t know’ he thought ‘Edward is unfamiliar with people like Buckingham, people who are ambitious but do not thirst for power.’
‘You are getting paranoid. We’ve done much more dangerous things. Court tires me and I want to enjoy life a little bit.’ He decided to remind Edward that he always treated Buckingham like a funny younger relative. He always laughed a little bit at Buckingham’s snobbery and his animosity to fencing. ‘You know how Buckingham is. He loves the court, he doesn’t want to go home, he wants to take court home. I am the little souvenir he gets to take home and show to his wife as a symbol of ‘I am better than you and you know it.’
Edward smiled. He seemed a little bit relieved. He grabbed Richard’s hand and squeezed it.
‘I am just constantly worried, you know, Cecily. It is my duty to keep you safe, as your older brother. I promised mother to keep an eye on you, she still disagrees with us.’ He sighted and looked Richard in the eyes. ‘I sometimes doubt if this is what is the best for you.’
Richard stiffened at the use of his birth name.
‘I am certainly happier than I would be married. Didn’t I prove myself worthy, more worthy than most of your men? Of my title, of my duties?’ His chin rose up. He opened mouth to say more but Edward cut him off.
‘Yes, yes you did.’ Edward sighted again. ‘But don’t you miss man’s touch sometimes? When we long for touch, we become distracted. If Buckingham touched you…’
‘He never did nor he will. I don’t long for… that.’ He still was stiff when Edward embraced him, wrapping his long arms around him and covering him almost entirely with his huge body.
‘You can go.’ King whispered in his hair.
‘Mhm.’ Richard mumbled. Edward was older than him by 10 years and he never stopped treating him like a little sister, being overprotective and suspicious of any male friend. Especially when he himself was feeling lonely, he started being melancholic and touchy. His patronising behaviour irritated Richard but he actually didn’t mind his touch all that much though he would never admit how touch-starved he sometimes was.
He closed eyes and let himself to be a little sibling for once.
Buckingham was ridiculous. He made a show out of Richard, parading around with him, speaking with him about important (with big I) subjects, going hunting and on and on and on. Of course, someone who did not know him or situation would only see treating important guest with respect and fanfares but Richard knew what was going on. He suspected that Buckingham was doing this unconsciously but who knew what was in his head.
Buckingham despised the fact that he was forced to marry as a ten year old boy to a woman of much lower birth. Everybody knew this. He never missed opportunity to remind his wife of the class difference and that it will always be there and nothing is going to change that. And now he walked around with king’s beloved brother, calling him cousin and clinging to him like it is something he was born to do while she could barely open mouth in Richard’s presence. Buckingham was ashamed of her manners and kept her at home where she couldn’t become a problem.
Despite of her being queen’s sister, part of Woodville family, Richard pitied Catherine. She was stuck with a man unable to give his love to anyone beside court and politics. His cousin was often immature and insensitive. Catherine on the other hand bitterly tried and repeatedly failed to love him somehow.
Nonetheless sitting with them at the one table and eating breakfast seemed both surreal and familiar. It was hard to believe that Buckingham was father of the children on the other side of the table. They looked alien on his hands. Surprisingly, he did not avoid them and wasn’t the worst of fathers. The children were somehow the place when Catherine met Henry.
Meals side by side with them made him think about family and how he remembered it, before his father’s death. He missed that, oh so terribly! He didn’t feel old but it seemed like the rest of them did. They aged and became bitterly alien. He didn’t know them anymore. They died, they married, they walked away from him. Awareness of that made him feel so lonely that he had to take deep breath to come back from this realization. He knew that he will never come back to this, he can’t with this body and with this mind. He has no way of having new family.
How could he?
Richard eyes caught the sight at the entrance. Two men argued about something, one tried to enter the room but the other was holding him back. He could hear fragments of conversation; ‘it’s important’, ‘not about duke Buckingham!’, ‘don’t disturb…’. When the one trying to enter saw his gaze, his face lighten up and Richard could recognize him now; it was William Catesby who was waving at him desperately.
‘Lord Richard!’ he shouted. Now everybody was looking at the scene.
‘What is this? Do you know this man?’ Buckingham rose up, squinting his eyes in suspicion, trying to recognize the face.
‘It’s William Catesby’ Richard shrugged his shoulders, taken aback a little bit. ‘I didn’t expect him’
‘Let him in.’ Buckingham sighted, still up. He waited till Catesby come closer, arms folded on his chest, one feet bouncing on the ground.
‘I have important news’ in his hand was a sealed letter. Catesby opened his mouth to say something more but Buckingham bluffly took a letter from his hand.
He grabbed nearest clean butter knife and opened the letter roughly. His eyes skipped through the text and his face clouded. Without a word, he handed it to Richard and watched him anxiously while he was reading it.
Richard didn’t read the letter carefully, it was full of unnecessary words and pleasantries. He didn’t even read the half of it. One sentence was enough.
‘We request your presence because of King’s death.’