Stafford was staring at Henry again. This happened often. Henry would be engaging in important work, or discussing a complicated subject with a member of court, and Stafford couldn’t help but watch him. When Henry was deep in thought about important topics, Stafford was deep in thought about him. This particular instance, Henry was holding a banquet to celebrate his coronation, and Stafford had been placed at the far end of the table (by no choice of Henry’s of course). The two had attempted conversation with the guests sitting by them. Both had their ways of engaging. Stafford had his few childhood stories and Henry just discussed anything political. To your average unsuspecting guest, they were both having a lovely time. But in those strange silences between conversations, they would sneak longing glances at each other, only to see the other happily chatting away to the person next to them. Eventually Stafford grew bored and the glances had become simply admiring him. Henry was always easy on the eye to say the least, but today he was especially handsome. He’d pushed back his hair in a way Stafford had never seen him do and he was mesmerised. After a while, Henry finally snuck a glance at Stafford, only to see his dopey face grinning back.
Henry took his opportunity, shot Stafford a knowing look, and left the banquet hall. Stafford waited a few minutes, then left the table too and went out into the palace garden. He knew exactly where to find him. They had their own spot that nobody else in the palace knew about. On days like this when they hadn’t been able to spend time alone together, they liked to go to their spot in the garden and sit a while. When Stafford found him, Henry was sitting on a stone bench facing away from him, admiring the sunset. Stafford walked up behind him, silently wrapped his arms around Henry, and planted a kiss on the top of his head. It was so peaceful. The only sounds that filled the air were the hoots of owls and the river rushing past at the bottom of the garden... That was until Stafford released his arms from around Henry and started tickling him. Shrieks and giggles filled the air.
“Stop!” Henry cried through laughter. “No! Henry!”. Hearing his name stopped Stafford in his tracks. Henry was the only person that called him by his first name. Everyone else called him ‘Stafford’ to stop confusion. When Henry called him ‘Henry’ it was special. (After everything the two had been through, being so formal seemed ridiculous to them). Stafford finally gave in and sat beside him, resting his head in Henry’s lap. Henry always loved when he did that. Sometimes Stafford’s needs were simple. He just wanted to be close to and comforted by him, and Henry was always happy to oblige. Henry got to fidget with Stafford’s hair, and Stafford got to lie in Henry’s lap. It was a win-win on all accounts.
Stafford’s hair was endlessly fascinating to Henry. Was it naturally that colour? Nobody’s hair was naturally wine red. He must dye it, he concluded. But then how come no root colour ever showed. If he did dye it, how was it so soft? He could never crack it. Henry liked stroking Stafford’s hair. It was like he was brushing all of Stafford’s troubles away. When the war finally ended, everything didn’t suddenly get better. That day at the cathedral had left a lasting mark on both of them, a time neither wanted to remember. Stafford snuggled his head closer into Henry’s stomach and Henry rubbed his arm tenderly in return. There was a comforting familiarity about this private little routine they had. Both of them treasured these moments.
To Henry’s surprise, Stafford started plucking daisies from the grass, and was connecting them into one long chain. “What have you got there?” Henry inquired playfully.
“You’ll see” responded Stafford, mischievously. Henry grabbed one of Stafford’s small collection of flowers he’d laid on Henry’s lap. “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he-”
“Heeeey” interrupted Stafford, sitting up again indignantly. “You know I love you”
“I’m just messing. You know ...you’ve never actually said that to me before.” Stafford turned away, his cheeks glowing bright red. “I love you too Henry” he confessed softly as he shuffled closer towards him. His hand found Stafford’s and their fingers interlaced together. Resting his head on his shoulder, he continued “Sometimes I think it’s impossible to love anyone more than I love you”. Henry paused for a moment. “Please will you tell me again? I want to hear those words come out of your mouth another time.” Stafford tentatively turned back towards Henry again, reached for his other hand, and placed his forehead against his. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath in. “I love you, so much it terrifies me. You’re like ...this perfect dream that I never want to wake up from. I always lived for myself until I met you." He paused. "What do I do if I lose you again?” Henry opened his eyes to see tears rolling down Stafford’s face. He pulled him in close. “I’m not going anywhere”.
They stayed like that for a while. Not saying a word, until Stafford let go. He picked up the daisy chain he’d made off the ground, fiddled with the last few flowers, and placed it on Henry’s head. “A crown for the king” Stafford exclaimed.
“You idiot” mocked Henry lovingly.
“You love me though”
“Yes I do”