Gaunt exhaled heavily as he scanned the letter from Calais for the seventh time and finally acknowledged the decision, he’d made the moment he first saw the contents.
The King needed to be informed.
Gaunt folded the letter back up and stowed it in his belt as he rose to his feet, bones creaking, and set off in search of his oldest nephew. At a few hours’ past noon, on a Tuesday…he’d be wrapping up an informal council meeting with his minions. What happened in informal council meetings with Richard’s minions, he didn’t really want to speculate but whatever it was, it always seemed to leave Richard scarily well prepared for the formal meetings to which he- and other, more reputable magnates than Sir John Bushy, Sir Henry Green, and Sir William Bagot - were allowed to grace with their presence…the competence with which Richard managed to be mediocre was infuriating. If the boy would only pull himself together-perhaps, Gaunt thought, he should be grateful for the mess Mowbray had sent him. Whatever shit Thomas was stirring up now, perhaps it would be the wakeup call Richard needed, fire him to really prove himself…
Odd, perhaps, to be cautiously optimistic about the consequences of treason- but then again, Richard had seemed more mellow of late; more patient, more inclined to listen, less melancholy. Perhaps he was finally thawing out after Anne, God rest her soul- he certainly seemed to care a great deal for the French girl and maybe, now Queen Isabelle was almost twenty…
A child for the King would be a fine thing. For the Kingdom- and for Richard, personally. Perhaps, Gaunt hoped, it would ease the tension between Richard and Henry- he doubted whether his son was aware of the Look that crossed the King’s face whenever Henry mentioned any of his children, but Gaunt had: it was the same mix of bitterness and longing he knew probably used to cross his own when he was with Edward and his older brother wasn’t really there as his older brother, but in his capacity as the Prince of Wales and their father’s heir: jealousy, bitterness, longing, not enough to spark hatred, but enough to make love difficult at times. The strained amiability between his royal nephew and his son worried him- he’d had such hopes, when he and his brother had had sons in quick succession, that the boys would grow up as close as brothers. Of course, they had done, to a degree, and if Henry hadn’t got himself mixed up with those thrice-damned appellants maybe-
“My Lord Lancaster!”
Gaunt’s pleasant musings were interrupted by the realisation he arrived at the King’s antechamber while distracted, and that he’d disturbed the minions in the midst of…wine, cakes, and lute-strumming? He glowered. as they all hastily scrambled- no, Green and Bagot hastily scrambled, Bushy carefully began to pack his lute back in to its case. “You’re looking for the King,” Green guessed, “he’s not here. We’re- not here either, we were just leaving,” He and Bagot vanished like a pair of startled pigeons. Bushy smiled up at him.
“You make them nervous,” he said, stating the bloody obvious; Gaunt snorted and said: “Good. “You don’t like us much, do you, my lord?” Bushy said cheerfully, standing and slipping the lute over his shoulder. “You know, we do care about the King. Quite a bit. We’re not just trying to use him- well, not any more than anybody else in this place- including your grace-
”“Where is the King?” Gaunt interrupted, willing the man to shut up before his inane babble drove him to murder- or worse, actually starting to like the man
.“He’s asleep.” Bushy said, eyes flicking to the closed bedroom door. Asleep. It was barely mid-afternoon! Gaunt harrumphed in annoyance and started towards the door-
“No don’t go in there! “Bushy started forward to stop him as he opened it, but all that meant was they were both in the doorway as Gaunt took in the sight of the King in bed…along with…“You’re other nephew’s sleeping with him.” Bushy finished. Gaunt’s lips thinned as he moved into the room properly, eyes fixed on Richard, and Edmund’s boy snuggled up to him, the bedsheet barely pulled up to their bare midriffs and their clothes scattered about the room.
“When you say, ‘sleeping with’, he said, through gritted teeth. “I don’ t supposes there’s even a remote possibility that it can’t be taken euphemistically?” Minor gentry- even Oxford- was one thing…but his cousin? Edmund’s boy- had Richard no care for York, at all? Still, there was a chance- he could only see shirts and Richard’s robe, not breeches-
“None whatsoever,” Bushy said, ”Look, I know you needed Richard for something, but please don’t wake them up, they’re so cute when they’re asleep- look at them! The King looks so calm and peaceful like that- and you’ve got to admit he’s been happier since-”
“Go away.” Gaunt said. Bushy opened his mouth, then closed it again. “Right,” he said, and vanished. Gaunt shut the door behind him, and strode towards the bed, fully intending to make his feelings on the matter known. At least, he supposed, he knew now why Richard was so very much fonder of Edward than Harry-
Edward frowned in his sleep, and tightened his grip on Richard as Gaunt approached in a way that seemed…protective? Richard turned his face to nuzzle Edward, and he, too, tightened his embrace, smiling, in his sleep, as Edward relaxed again.
An argument wasn’t going to solve this, he reasoned. Better to have a quiet word with Edmund, get him to send the boy home…the news that Thomas was, once again, being a moron could also wait- why disturb the king, who was clearly tired…
And besides, Gaunt thought, as he pulled the sheet up and over the two young men, tucking them in so the King wouldn’t catch a chill and die of pneumonia before providing the rest of them with a replacement. Bushy was right-they were sort of sweet when sleeping…