For Henry, there was a before and an after. He supposed there was a little interlude between them, a few anxiety and terror filled hours on a plane shooting across the Atlantic, but he couldn’t recall it. There was a before, with Alex happy and smiling and well. And there was an after, with Alex pale and still and lying on a hospital bed. Henry wasn’t sure if he’d survive the after. Don’t go where I cannot follow, Alex .
Henry received the first email the second night after. It was nearly two in the morning, but he was wide awake from jet lag and trying to get some work done on his laptop. From the second bed, June and Nora’s soft breathing blended with the rhythmic beeping from hospital machinery. They’d insisted on staying despite President Claremont’s wishes, but Henry was glad for the company.
His breath hitched as he saw the familiar sender ID above a blank subject line.
He glanced at Alex who hadn’t moved a muscle since he’d arrived from London yesterday. His usually glowing complexion was drawn and dull, but Henry still wouldn’t put it past him to somehow send an email from his sickbed.
He opened it. Curiously, there was a video embedded in it, the thumbnail showing Alex sitting on his bed. He hastily pressed play and the heart-achingly familiar voice chased the ghosts from the room.
“Hey baby.” Video-Alex grinned and Henry felt like he’d been stabbed. What if he never saw Alex smile again? Or hear him call him baby? Unaware of Henry’s plight, video-Alex continued talking. “If you’re getting this, something bad happened to me. Or more likely I got drunk for two nights straight and forgot to reset the timer. If no news of an incident involving me has reached your ears, please disregard the rest of this video.”
Henry could tell Alex was nervous. His fingers were drumming against his knee in staccato patterns and he had his anxious smile on. “So… we had a security scare at the White House last week and it got me thinking- plenty of presidents have been assassinated before.” His hand darted out and knocked on a wooden bedpost. “I’m not sure if anyone would want to get rid of the most charismatic First Son this country has had in ages, but...it’s a possibility right? I think it’s stupid I haven’t considered it before.”
Suddenly, Video-Alex was swearing colorfully as the camera shook violently from the pillow someone had thrown from outside the frame. There was unintelligible female yelling. June perhaps? Video-Alex grimaced and straightened the camera. “That was June telling me how morbid I’m being. And to that I say FUCK OFF JUNO!”
Another pillow clocked Video-Alex right in the face. He swore again and picked up the camera. The screen went black. Heart hammering, Henry wiggled the mouse and was relieved to see there was still a minute left in the video. A few seconds later, Video-Alex’s face appeared again, this time a closeup seemingly shot on his phone. His back was to a blue tiled wall and Henry could imagine him all too well, curled up in the corner filming himself. “I’ve relocated to the bathroom so June can’t abuse me further,” he stage whispered. “Here’s the second part of what I want to say.”
He cleared his throat meaningfully and looked straight into the camera. At Henry. “There are so many things I want to tell you everyday that I don’t because I forget, or I don’t want to bother you, or because it’s classified and Zahra would murder me if she found out. And I don’t want those things to die with me because you deserve to know how much I love you. So I’m going to make these videos and hopefully never have to send them. Because everyone deserves a little more time with this adorable face.”
Christ, his smirk.
“Right now it’s...March 21st, 2021. Let’s see how long I can keep this up. I love you.” With a final wink, the video ends. Henry sat silently, stunned. It was just like Alex, to have so much, yet so little planned for the future. He exited out of the video and was about to close his laptop, but then he saw another block of text below the attachment.
Mark Twain to Olivia Langdon
“Out of the depths of my happy heart wells a great tide of love and prayer for this priceless treasure that is confined to my life-long keeping.
You cannot see its intangible waves as they flow towards you, darling, but in these lines you will hear, as it were, the distant beating of the surf .”
It has come to my attention that you are woefully uncultured in the realm of American music. Thus, I will be including one song rec per email so you can build a playlist courtesy of one Alexander Claremont-Diaz. On a side note, does the royal family have a Spotify Premium family plan? If so, can you add me?
Song of the email: Royals by Lorde (yet another rebellious subject of the British Empire!)
Sighing, he set his laptop aside and took Alex’s hand. “Why do you always have to be such a hero?” he muttered as he squeezed it. He was sure he imagined it, but Alex squeezed back.
Henry wasn’t sure what time it was, but the deep baritone of Oscar Diaz roused him from his uneasy slumber. He stayed still, not wanting to interrupt what sounded like a personal situation. Or maybe he should leave? At this point, it seemed awkward, so kept his eyes shut and continued breathing deeply.
The other bed creaked as Oscar took a seat. “It’s the third day since. You gonna wake up anytime soon?”
If Alex heard his father, there was no sign. Oscar let out a deep sigh. “We’re worried sick for you, mijo . You did good saving June like that, but you need to wake up, you hear? I’ll be back after I murder that slimy Nevadan bastard of a senator. Your mother’s swinging by later tonight after her speech.”
He whispered something in Spanish that Henry couldn’t pick up- a prayer perhaps? Then the hospital door was opened and shut again. Henry released a breath he’d been holding and finally opened his eyes. June and Nora were gone, in their place, a note left on the pillow of their bed. He got up and stretched, wincing as several joints popped loudly. He’d have thought that the First Family of the United States would pick a hospital room with comfortable chairs, but alas. He walked around Alex’s bed and picked up the note.
Out picking up pastries. Back soon.
He smiled at their combined names. The White House Trio always were overly concerned with their so called “ship names.”
He’d just put down the note when the door swung open again and he whirled around, startled. But it was only a nurse, with Amy trailing close behind to keep an eye on him. He paused when he saw Henry. “Pardon my interruption, Your Highness. Just need to change out the IV bag.”
Henry nodded distractedly and tried not to hover as the man did his job. What if he was secretly some kind of Soviet spy sent to finish Alex off, or- Amy seemed to notice his nervous energy and gave a firm shake of her head. Henry clenched his hands into fists. “Sir-”
The nurse looked up from the clipboard he’d been scribbling on. “Yes?”
Amy was making dramatic throat slitting motions with her thumb which Henry assumed was the charming American gesture for “ shut up or I’ll kill you .” He forged ahead anyways.
“How is...Is he…” He couldn’t find a way to phrase his question that would make the queasiness in his stomach go away. “How is Alex doing?”
“I uh…” the nurse trailed off. He looked at Amy behind him for permission and it was expressly denied. “Sorry, Your Highness.”
“It’s fine,” Henry muttered as he sank into the extra bed. The nurse had a surprisingly good poker face as he went over Alex’s vitals. His mouth twitched downwards and Henry tried to guess what was wrong. Blood poisoning? Internal bleeding? Permanent paralysis? He didn’t voice his findings and soon left again. Amy lingered near the door.
“Sorry kiddo,” she muttered. “Madame President asked for a media blackout, you included. I’ll petition for you, but no guarantees.”
“Thanks.” As soon as Amy left, he fired up his laptop and opened up google. His fingers paused over the keys before he hesitantly typed out his search.
ALEX CLAREMONT-DIAZ SHOOTING
The first result was from the New York Times, but it was nothing he hadn’t learned from the news report that had sent him flying over in the first place. Alex and June Claremont-Diaz were at a Planned Parenthood rally in California. Only one of the siblings made it out unscathed.
Henry suddenly felt exhausted despite his several hours of sleep. He chalked it up to more jet lag and curled up for a quick nap. His last thought before drifting off was whether he’d have a new email waiting for him when he woke up.
In the end, the girls had bullied Henry into taking a break at his hotel room to freshen up and get some rest. He brought his phone into the bathroom with him, checking it as soon as he got out of what was probably the quickest shower of his life. No email. He checked again after he threw on the first clothes he could find. No email. He forced down a cold dinner someone had left for him. Still no email.
He stood in the kitchen in his pajamas and the hotel’s complimentary slippers, drumming his fingers on the countertop and trying not to watch the minutes tick by on the wall clock. It was nearing two in the morning. The practical part of him told him he should go to bed and see if there was an email after he woke up, and as usual, it was right. He went through the motions mechanically and his head had just touched the pillow when his phone emitted a bright ping !
With no dignity befitting a royal whatsoever, he leapt out of bed and practically pounced on his phone. The blue mail notification blinked happily at him. He yanked the phone from its charging cord and flopped onto the bed. Moments later, video-Alex was greeting him.
“Hey baby.” Alex’s easy grin placated some sore spot deep in Henry’s heart. He pulled the covers over his head until it was just him and Alex, the outside world muffled and cut off.
“I hope you didn’t stay up too late for this one. We had some Canadian delegates over for dinner and it got a bit busy. Anyways, before we get to the good stuff, there’s some more stuff I forgot to include in the last video. Here they are.” Video-Alex cleared his throat and shuffled through a small stack of index cards.
“First. My one regret is that I won’t get to see you in all black for my funeral.” He sighed wistfully and Henry snorted. “Yum.”
“Second. I had Zahra and a team of lawyers go over my will and I left you my Jeep. My dad will give you the keys. Don’t fuck it up or I’ll haunt you.” Oh Alex, you’re always haunting me.
“Third and last. I expect you to be publicly mourning for at least a year a la Queen Victoria for Prince Albert before the tabloids start reporting on your scandalously younger and hot boyfriend.” He threw the cards over his shoulder. “Now, onto the main event.”
Henry couldn’t quite believe the flippancy Alex had about his own possible death. The nervousness he’d exhibited in last night’s video had seemingly evaporated. He watched as Video-Alex hoisted an acoustic guitar into his lap. He had no idea Alex could play, but from the way he quickly tuned it and played a few experimental chords, it was obvious. “I stole this guitar from Nora’s apartment, don’t tell her. I think one of the Jonas Brothers gave it to her as a birthday gift. Anyways I was listening to Taylor Swift- ironically, don’t give me that look I know you’re giving me- and I heard this song. I’ve been listening to it so much June has threatened to evict me even though I am clearly the backbone of this household. So here goes.”
“ I love my hometown…”
Alex’s voice was unfairly angelic as it swept over him. It was ridiculous how well this song fit them and how true it was. He did love Alex’s American smile. And he did rather fancy him.
“ But god I love the English ~” Alex drew out with an obscene wiggle of his eyebrows. Henry’s lips trembled involuntarily. It hurt to see Alex like that, so carelessly happy when it was possible that he would never wake up again. He tried to stifle a sob with his hand and failed miserably.
When the video ended, he rewound it to the beginning of the song. He did this over and over until Alex’s smooth voice lulled him to sleep.
Just wanna be with you.
Wanna be with you.
The emails kept coming. By this point, Henry had nearly been living in the hospital for the past two weeks. The only things that kept him going were the beeps that indicated a new email and the lukewarm coffee June brought him. It became his routine to rewatch each video before he went to bed, so every night he had a little more of Alex. He wasn’t sure what hurt more- seeing Alex alive and happy or seeing him lying still in bed.
He knew every video by heart. There was the London Boy, Come What May from Moulin Rouge, three quiet “I love you”s with nothing but black on the screen, the Senate run announcement speech he hadn’t told anyone about yet rehearsed in bed with his head framed by his blankets.
Henry even had all of the songs Alex had recommended added to a new Spotify playlist titled “The FirstPrince Mixtape” (as per Alex’s suggestion). It was silly and followed no coherent theme. Who would put something called “Old Town Road” in the same playlist as the classic “Someday My Prince Will Come”? But it was endearingly Alex, and when he wasn’t watching the videos, he was listening to the playlist.
Henry rose from the chair from where he had been beginning to drift off again and stretched his arms over his head. From the orange light filtering through the window shades, it had to be near sunset again. Another day gone.
He picked listlessly at the meal someone had left for him, the tastes not registering. It could have been flour and water for all he cared. As he ate, he watched Alex and tried to imagine what every little thing could mean. A sudden intake of breath- was he waking up? An odd beep of the machine- his heart skipped a beat?
He played that game until he was mentally exhausted. He refused to let his mind stray to the worst possibilities that all the news outlets couldn’t stop talking about. Alex would come back to him. He had to.
The air was starting to get stuffy, so Henry crossed the room and cracked open a window. The sounds of the outside world seemed unfamiliar and strange to him after being shut in for so long. He ran a hand along his jaw and wasn’t surprised to find that he needed a shave. He could almost feel Alex’s arms envelop him from behind and plant a kiss to his jaw. Keep it. It looks sexy.
He turned slowly, but as expected, all he saw was empty air. He fell back against the wall and slowly slid to the floor. Hallucinations were supposed to be bad, weren’t they? But even if Henry knew it wasn’t real, the false touch of Alex’s hands had sent his heart fluttering like the first time they’d met at Rio.
A beep from his phone had him scrambling to his feet and tearing through his bag. A heartbeat later, he was settled into his usual chair.
“Let’s see what you’re going to put me through this time,” he muttered at Alex. He might have imagined it, but the corner of Alex’s mouth twitched into the beginnings of a smirk.
The video was longer than most of the previous ones, about forty minutes. It began with Video-Alex fixing the camera, then sitting back onto his bed. He pulled Nora’s guitar onto his lap.
“I ran out of ideas because I was busy writing a speech for a Planned Parenthood rally with June, so you can just sit back and enjoy my beautiful voice. Please continue not telling Nora I have her Jo Bros guitar.”
He started strumming absentmindedly and it soon morphed into a soft rendition of London Boy. Henry let the words wash over him again. I saw the dimples first, then I heard the accent-...
Video-Alex seemed lost in the music, his gaze faraway as he continued playing. London Boy soon became Your Song, then The Star Spangled Banner, then just tuneless strumming and humming. It was as if he forgot the camera was still running. Henry closed his eyes. The moment seemed unbearably intimate, like he shouldn’t be watching.
He didn’t know how long it was before he heard a soft “sorry” from the video. He opened his eyes. Video-Alex had a sheepish smile on his face as he reached over and turned off the camera. Henry scrolled down.
Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas
“Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days.”
Song of the email: The Star Spangled Banner but Fergie’s cover
I love you, Henry George Edward James Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor.
There wasn’t an email the next night.
Or the night after that.
Henry rewatched the last video dozens of times until he noticed the suit that Alex had worn to the rally was hanging off the back of the chair. There weren’t any more videos because the Incident had only been several hours after Alex had shot the last one.
He still wasn’t quite sure how Alex was faring medically wise. The President hadn’t lifted the media blackout despite Amy reassuring Henry that she was petitioning for him nearly everyday. Nobody knew anything.
Henry had taken to reading Harry Potter out loud. Nora and June were usually his attentive audience, but they knew as well as he did that it was to reach Alex.
It was night now. June and Nora had gone out on one of their group bathroom trips. (Henry would never understand why girls felt the need to visit the loo in packs.) Sighing, he closed The Prisoner of Azkaban and set his reading glasses on the nightstand. He supposed he should go get some food and check in with Shaan.
He got up and brushed his fingers against Alex’s. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t go anywhere, okay?”
He winced at his own joke and drew his hand back. But as soon as his fingers left Alex’s skin, the monitors started going crazy. The cacophony made him jump and swear loudly as what was probably a dozen people rushed in. Amy shot him a look.
He held his hands in the air and hoped he wasn’t about to be tackled to the floor by Secret Service. “I didn’t do anything!” he protested.
Suddenly, it struck him how dire the potential situation could be. Was Alex okay?
“Call the President!” one of the doctors snapped. Was that bad? It could definitely be bad.
“What’s happening?!” June screeched into his ear as she practically barreled into him. Nora was half a step behind, her eyes wide and scared.
“I don’t fucking know! IS HE OKAY?” Henry yelled to the doctors. None of them responded. June’s fingernails dug into his arm.
“Someone call the President, now!”
Henry’s head spun as people rushed in and out of the room with vaguely sinister-looking equipment. If something happened to Alex- His breathing quickened. He, June, and Nora clung to each other like a lifeline in a stormy sea. Henry was never really one for religion, but he muttered what little he remembered of prayer under his breath as the chaos stretched on.
“Get over here.” Amy pushed them towards the bed. The doctors had fallen silent, and Henry initially feared the worst until they moved aside and he was staring into Alex’s eyes. His open, beautiful, blinking, brown eyes.
Henry’s white-knuckled grip on the bed’s guardrail was the only thing that kept him from hitting the floor. Beside him, June let out a sob. She seized one of Alex’s hands, but his gaze was still locked on Henry.
Alex parted his lips. His voice was hoarse from weeks of disuse. “Who… Who are you?”
“That wasn’t fucking funny, you arsehole.”
Alex let out a small non-committal noise as he sipped coffee and continued reading his newspaper. There a sizable stack next to his bed, one for each day he had been unconscious. Only Alex Claremont-Diaz would want to catch up on current events as soon as he came out of a three week coma.
“It was a little funny. I wasn’t about to waste a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Besides, I’m sure if I tried that on June or Nora they would have hit me hard enough to land me in another coma.”
“I almost had a heart attack. Imagine the headlines. English Prince Killed Immediately After Lover Wakes From Coma,” Henry grumbled. He still couldn’t believe Alex- the real one, not the 2D Video-Alex- was in front of him doing normal everything things. He had to stay in the hospital for another week so the doctors could monitor him, but that was nothing to Henry.
Alex was truly beautiful in the early morning light. He couldn’t help leaning over and giving Alex a quick peck on the lips.
“Be honest- did you try waking me up like Sleeping Beauty?”
“That’s a fairy tale,” Henry said matter-of-factly. “So no.”
“Literally or emotionally?”
“Both.” Alex tugged down the collar of his shirt and for the first time, Henry saw where the bullet had gone. He’d heard people talking about it of course- about an inch above the heart, only missing an artery because Alex had the luck of the devil. But hearing about it was nothing compared to seeing it. The entry wound was a puckered and discolored circle, a stark contrast to Alex’s smooth brown skin.
He swallowed hard and Alex noticed. He gave a hesitant smile. “Looks like I’m the James Bond of this relationship, doesn’t it?”
“I’m much more of a Bond girl anyways,” Henry finally managed. He hastily tried to change the subject. “So about those videos…”
Alex went red. “In my defense, it seemed like a really good idea while I was drunk.”
“No, they were perfect,” Henry said firmly. “Except for the Mixtape. I think you need to work on your music preferences.”
“Oh really?” A teasing glint entered his eyes. He scooted over and patted the spot on the bed next to him. Henry climbed over, careful to avoid all the wires and tubes. As soon as he was settled in amongst the pillows, Alex tucked his face into Henry’s neck.
“Where should I start?” Henry shivered at the warm breath against his skin.
“Do you know Vera Lynn? She has this one song you might like. ‘Bésame Mucho.’”
Alex drew back and gave Henry a mischievous look.
“Oh I think I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.”