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and tell me that you always hear my cries

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They all have their sacrilegious things--Richard’s sucked Ned off behind the altar while telling him Jesus was probably gay; Ned has personally witnessed at least two fistfights Henry was involved in; he knows Hal and that layabout Poins regularly do lines of coke in the confessionals; and one time, he and Richard caught Harry Percy and Hal necking in the supply room (Ned remembers it vividly, and the image seems to be permanently etched into his brain: Hal with his head back, neck bared, Percy with his hand closing around Hal’s throat, fingers digging into Hal’s trachea, both of them clearly drunk and Hal wearing Poins’s shirt with what appear to be bullet holes in places). But Ned--Ned knows he’s the worst offender, never mind that Hal’s strange friend Falstaff has literally cussed out the Trinity while standing at the altar--because while everyone is busy thinking (or trying to think) holy thoughts during service on Sundays, Ned prays to Richard.

It’s been that way since he was a child. When he thinks of God, he pictures Richard, with his long, reddish hair and his sloping nose, his regal carriage and his piercing, warm eyes. When Ned thinks of the word of Jesus he thinks it in Richard’s musical stutter. He thinks Richard knows. After all, one can only cry God so many times during sex.

The problem, Ned reflects, is that Richard has this habit of dressing like Jesus. Or maybe every painter also has the visage of Richard in their minds when they painted Jesus. The problem is--Richard just can’t dress like a normal person, is the problem. Ned wears shirtsleeves, Henry wears those grey ill-fitting suits, Hal alternates between ratty t-shirts that he probably stole from Poins and tuxedoes--there seems to be no in-between--but Richard dresses like he’s just come straight out of a Renaissance painting. It’s horribly distracting, and it makes Ned want to simultaneously push Richard down and lie there on the floor on top of him, chest-to-chest, and to drop down to his knees and confess his sins. It’s very confusing, and not at all a good image to have in one’s head when one is trying to focus on church.

In addition to all this, Ned thinks, in spite of himself, in spite of the chorus singing praises to the heavens, Richard has this infuriating habit of walking around in bare feet. It bothers Henry, of course--though, Ned privately thinks, what doesn’t bother Henry?--but it bothers Ned more, he’s sure. Henry just gets annoyed by it, and starts telling Richard all about how he’ll get splinters and walk on glass and all kinds of horrific accidents could happen to him. (Richard could probably walk on glass and not get cut, though, like some kind of modern-day landlocked Jesus.) Ned’s pretty sure, however, that Richard walking around the halls with his toes peeking out from his long, white nightgown (seriously? nightgown?) doesn’t make Henry want to bend over on himself and bring his face to the ground and begin kissing Richard’s feet. It’s such a filthy thing to want to do, and, honestly, it fills him with shame to think on it.

Stop thinking about it, Aumerle. So he concentrates on the words of the choir, and comes full circle back to his lord and savior.

Ned thinks of marriage, of the words he’d watched Henry and Mary say all those years ago. 'Til death do us part. A part of him died with the words, then when he knew there were a million reasons he and Richard will never get to say those words to each other. The rest of him thinks the feelings he has for Richard are more pure, more whole, than a lifetime of kisses and vows until death. Despite the hisses of he’s your cousin from Harry Percy, the quiet looks of disgust from Henry, loving Richard is the one part of him that will probably never change, not through torture, not through death. God help me, he thinks, and pictures the proud tilt of Richard’s chin.

And Richard--from across the room, Richard catches his eye and winks.