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Friendly Eyes

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Kent, 1393

Robert paces outside the chamber, trying not to show any concern. Richard was called in nearly three hours ago and he can't decide if the silence is good or bad. He's simply concerned for the queen, he rehearses in case anyone asks what he's doing here, and he worries for his friend the king.

Why is it taking so long?

The door opens a crack and one of the queen's ladies steps out. "Their majesties request your presence, your grace," she says, curtseying.

Robert nearly shoves the girl out of the way as he runs.

Inside the bedroom it's quiet. The queen is in bed, next to her is her husband and Robert's lover the king. Anne is bent over and Robert's heart sinks. Not again. Not this far-- not after Anne's recovery after her sickness at Corpus Christi last year--

"Well, are you coming in or not?" Anne asks, her sweet but tired voice jarring Robert from his fears.

"I think he intends to let in a draft," Richard says, his voice teasing.

"He must. Robert, do close the door, but stay on this side with us, Liebling."

As Robert steps forward, he sees why Anne looks doubled over. She's cradling a bundle in her lap.

She carefully shifts the bundle to one side, then holds out her arm on her free side to Robert. He accepts, tentatively, climbing up on the bed next to her. She's worn out but she's rarely looked so happy.

"Robert de Vere, meet Edward, Prince of Wales," Anne says, gently drawing back a bit of the blanket to reveal a sleeping baby.

"I was holding out for a girl," Richard says, feigning disappointment, "but I suppose this one will do..." He can barely contain his joy.

"Edward..." Robert repeats, dumbly. He reaches out and, when Anne doesn't pull the baby away, gently strokes the patch of hair on the child's head. The prince squirms a little, unsure of what's going on.

"Ssh, Neddy, that's just your other daddy," Anne says.

Robert looks up at Richard, who doesn't seem to mind. They hadn't discussed this, but if the queen says so it must be true. "Congratulations," he says, kissing Anne's temple and then leaning over to kiss Richard. "He's beautiful."

"Want to hold him?" Anne asks. "If we can get his lord father to release him, that is."

Richard laughs, but gestures to indicate his approval.

Robert nods, and Anne gently moves the baby into his arms, showing him how to support his head. Edward wakes and looks up with new, as yet unseeing eyes. Robert smiles.

Anne, rightfully exhausted, falls asleep soon, and Richard, worn out from worrying about her, follows her, holding her close. Robert sits up, watching over his king and queen and their prince.

"You know, Ned," he says quietly, gently rocking the baby, "I think you and I are going to be good friends."