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Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart

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Edward had heard people talking of soulbonds his entire life. The songs and stories of high romance and high tragedy. He was always a sensible lad and knew that he'd marry a woman of good breeding and good character to make his father and his family happy, but secretly he longed to feel that sudden spark, the uncontrolled yearning that the poets spoke about. When he turned twelve he spent hours just daydreaming and watching men and women walk across the grounds of his father's estate, hoping that one of them would be the one, the other half of his living soul.

He remembered exactly the moment it happened, when he was presented at court and saw Richard for the first time. When he felt his heart constrict at his king's beauty, and at the fragility of the man beneath the crown. When it felt like his world would break apart if not for Richard inside of it.

And then the next moment when cousin Henry was brought forward, and one of them--Edward was pretty sure it was Richard--went "Oh, bugger."

"It's so romantic," Henry's little sister said over supper.

"Shut up," he rebutted, stabbing at his roast elk with his knife.

"Do you feel what he's thinking? Do you need to be with him? Ohh, I can't believe it..."

Henry gritted his teeth and tried to convince himself not to dump wine on his sister's lap. "No, Elizabeth," he said politely. "I don't feel anything."

Which wasn't entirely true; he'd felt a number of things from Richard, all of them incredibly embarrassing, most of them revolving around a naked Robert DeVere.

"This is like my favorite poem in the whole world, about Cour de Leon and that French king, it's soooooo tragic," Elizabeth was saying. "And it's soooo ironic that Richard's also the King, you know? You can't even be together for the good of the kingdom but the soulbond is soooo special..." She beamed at him and her eyes were like giant round pools of the shallowest nature imaginable. "Tell me it's a terrible romantic curse and that you can't bear being apart for a second."

"I want to stab him in the head," Henry said truthfully.

"I love it," Elizabeth said. "I'm going to write all of this in my diary."

"It's not that I don't like him," Richard said.

"Right," Edward said.

"And it's not that I don't respect him," Richard continued.

Edward nodded. "Right."

"I'm just of the opinion," Richard said, "That the distance between London and Jerusalem isn't quite far enough." He eyed Edward. "If you get my meaning."

Edward slapped his hand across his eyes. "Richard," he said soothingly. "Henry is two thousand miles away, and I'm lying here naked in your bed. Can we please stop discussing him for a few minutes?"

Richard actually looked startled for a moment. "Oh? Oh, I suppose we can." He grinned, suddenly all golden and wicked. "Hey, want to know what we can do that really bothers him?"

Henry's life went from farce to tragedy every time he left England. Jerusalem was no exception.

Every step he'd taken away from London, every mile he'd trod, had felt as though he were leaving footprints in his own blood, tracing back to Richard, bloody Richard, other bloody half of his own heart. He'd only hoped that Richard had felt the same way, that his pilgrimage had been as much of a punishment for his king as his own conscience. But when he returned to kneel at Richard's feet, the king seemed as completely unruffled by his presence as by his absence.

His Majesty Richard II, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland had taken Henry's news and thanked him for his service to the Crown. Richard had commanded a private audience and dismissed the lords and retainers and now stood staring at him, golden and shining in his regalia, eyes stripping Henry to the bone.

Henry cleared his throat. "Those... afflicted with the bond," he said, "Are not supposed to go unchaperoned."

Richard raised an eyebrow. "Are you doubting your self-restraint, or mine?"

Yes, both, Henry thought.

"In any case," Richard said, "There's no question that the both of us are married and can channel our impulses in a more fertile direction." He quirked an eyebrow in Henry's direction and Henry coughed to keep from choking at the image.

"Why..." he asked, "why did you bring me here?"

Richard stepped forward and raised his hand, and for one terrifying instant Henry thought that Richard was going to put his hand to Henry's face. They hadn't touched each other. Not since that day, not since the bond had snapped into place. It was as though a wall of their own making had sprung up to keep them apart, but like Pyramus and Thisbe they stood and stared through the cracks and mouthed desperate pleas through the mortar.

Henry idly wondered which of them would be first to be eaten by a lion, in this metaphor.

"I wanted to see you," Richard finally said.

Henry knew about Richard's lovers. He'd felt their skin on his, their desperate mouths, their selfish hands. He'd lain there in the dark every night to and from Jerusalem and cursed them and cursed Richard and wished himself dead and wished himself in Richard's bed, which was worse.

"I can't live without you," Henry admitted.

Richard snatched his hand back, and there was the fury of the storm in his eyes. "I have done," he hissed, and the audience was over.

Edward mounted the steps to the throne and sat on one of the small stools reserved for Richard's favorites. He looked over the field to where the two antagonists were arrayed in full armor, then back to Richard, who was watching, stony-faced. "Let me get this straight, my liege," he said.

"Mmm?" Richard asked.

"We're about to watch Henry and Thomas Mowbray try to kill each other."

"That's the idea, yes," Richard said, unconcerned.

Edward closed his eyes for a moment, then looked up to the cheerfully unencumbered sky. "I understand that this is a possibility not worth thinking of," he said, "But what happens if Henry dies?"

Richard shrugged. "I suppose we'll have to have someone coordinate a state funeral." At Edward's disbelieving expression, the king chuckled. "Oh, don't worry, Ned," he said. "I won't make you do it."

"Thank you, your majesty," Edward said, feeling slightly ill.

There were stories--just stories, of course--of one person surviving the death of their soulbonded. Stories of them going mad with grief and haunting their former friends and family as living shades. They were ridiculous stories, of course, because there had never been a confirmed case of anyone living past their soul's mate dying.

The lists were set, the combatants armed. The challenges were spoken as per rote. Then Henry tilted up his visor and said clearly to the Lord Marshal, "I beg leave to kiss my sovereign's hand and bend my knee before him. For my enemy and myself are setting forth on a pilgrimage," and here he flicked his eyes to Richard, and Edward couldn't tell what was in his expression besides a sharp anger. "And we would say farewell to our several friends."

The Lord Marshall cleared his throat and turned to Richard. "The appellant--"

"We have heard what he said," Richard said. "We are thinking it over."

Edward felt as though every man on the field was holding his breath. Finally Richard stood and descended, his eyes never leaving Henry's, until he stood before his cousin and held out one gloved hand.

Henry knelt and with the most delicate of motions pressed his lips to the silken fabric of Richard's glove, and Edward felt himself finally exhale.

"Believe me," he heard Bushy say from the other side of Richard's throne, "there is going to be so much epic poetry written about this moment."

"Girlfriend, I am already way ahead of you," Greene replied.

Mowbray's farewell to his king was far less emotionally charged. Soon after, Richard had retaken his throne and was watching the two men prepare for battle.

"Oh, I can't watch," Bagot breathed. Edward wanted to go to the other side of the throne and slap him.

"Sound trumpets!" The Lord Marshal ordered, and Richard closed his eyes briefly, then stood and signaled an end.

"Oh, I knew it," Mowbray yelled as Henry turned and walked back to the throne. "I fucking knew it."

"That's enough, both of you," Richard said curtly. "Get out of our sight. Get out of our kingdom. Both of you."

"But..." Mowbray said. Henry had knelt on the grass and was looking at Richard with that faraway gaze that Edward couldn't read.

"Henry of Hereford," Richard said, and how he sounded regal, and magisterial, and also as though he were taking a sword to his own stomach, Edward didn't know. "You are hereby banished from our sight for a term of no less than ten years."

"But..." Mowbray said again.

"Thomas Mowbray, you are banished for life or until we see fit to pardon you," Richard snapped. He hadn't taken his eyes off Henry's, but now he turned his face toward Thomas and whatever Mowbray saw there made him flinch. "Do not try our patience or our mercy by remaining here further."

Henry remained on his knee. Richard lifted his gaze to the horizon, visibly ignoring the eyes that he had been unable to look away from just moments earlier. "Uncle," he said.

Gaunt started, then stepped forward from his place among the spectators. "Yes, my liege?"

"I can tell by the echoes of your heart in your expression that you are grieved by the loss of your son for so long," Richard said.

Gaunt looked, startled, over at Edward, who shrugged. Henry was still watching Richard, expressionless. "Yes, my liege," Gaunt agreed, hesitantly.

"Well, then. Your sorrow has moved me to shorten his banishment." Richard looked back at Henry. No change. "By... four years."

"I am moved by your majesty's generosity," Gaunt said when his son made no motion to respond. "But six years or sixty, I fear I will not live to see his return."

Richard smiled. "Why, uncle, you have time yet," he said. "And a king can be moved by reason... a man can be moved by compassion, if necessary."

Henry bowed his head. "I take my leave of your majesty and my home," he said.

"Very well," Richard said, and turned and left. Bushy, Bagot, and Greene stumbled after him, Bagot turning and mouthing 'EPIC!' at Edward before he followed.

Gaunt bowed until Richard had left, then smacked his son on the head. "Ouch! Father, what--"

"Idiot," Gaunt said. "It would have been nice to have my son at my bedside when I died, but no, you can't bring yourself to ask for anything, can you--"

"What was I supposed to do?" Henry snapped. "Beg? Flutter my eyelashes? I was already on my knees, maybe I could have asked him for his prick--"

Gaunt hit him again. "He was looking for an excuse to cancel your banishment. Even a word would have done it."

Henry sighed, and closed his eyes. "Not if that word was 'please.'"

It was as though Henry had been moving in a dream since he returned to England. He only wanted to plead his case to Richard (to see Richard) and to be possessed of his own inheritance again (and to see Richard) and to be revenged for the indignity of being forced to ask for what was rightly his (and to see Richard)--

And when he reached Flint castle, something was wrong. Something had changed, in those scant months between when he would not ask for Richard's pity and when he set foot again on Richard's land. He had changed, demanding an upper hand.

"I have come but for mine own," he told Richard, keeping himself from looking at Aumerle's accusing gaze, the tight expressions on his own allies.

Richard smiled, and held out his hands. "Your own is yours," he said, "And I am yours, and all."

And it tugged at him, the way it had when he'd bound up Bushy and Greene and finally been unable to kill the men who had put their hands all over Richard's (his) body. It was impossible to kill the men who'd loved the king, and it was impossible to love the king as he did and not feel at least partly dead.

"I don't understand," he said.

"But I finally do, cousin," Richard said. He smiled, and it was a million shards of ice in Henry's heart. "To London, then?"

By some small miracle, Edward was able to reach Pomfret and talk his way in to see Richard. Even with the words of treason against... King Henry burning against his breast.

Richard was sitting at the window of his cell, staring out at the horizon. He barely looked up when Edward came into the room.

"Well," Edward said, "You're possibly the only man in England having a worse day than I am, so I wanted to stop by and see if I could cheer you up."

"He's not coming, is he?" Richard said.

Edward shook his head, thinking he'd misheard. "What, Henry? No, I don't think our new king is going to be free for a visit for a few days. He's a bit busy with taking over and re-tasking all the committees and de-banishing Mowbray so that he and I can try to kill each other." He cleared his throat. "Speaking of which, I think I can get you out of here, but it would be nice to know you're going to support us afterwards."

Richard looked up and spread his hands. "Why bother? Henry and I are two halves of the same person. Why put me back on the throne I've relinquished to myself?"

Edward sighed and dragged a stool over to sit next to Richard. "I don't understand you," he said. "Why did you feel you needed to give everything up to him? You had support, you had a fighting chance."

"No," Richard said. "Not a fighting chance. A kingdom fighting itself cannot stand, and a man fighting himself?" He laughed. "Henry would have destroyed us before he gave up. No."

Richard looked up, and Edward's expression must have been terrible, because Richard's vacant look softened to one of compassion. "Oh, Ned," he said, reaching out to stroke Edward's cheek. "Everything will be all right. You'll see."

Edward left him there at the window, the words he'd signed his honor to crumpled beneath his vest.

Henry took the stairs to Richard's cell two at a time, ignoring the burning feeling in his chest and the searing pain from what couldn't possibly be mortal wounds--phantom pain from injuries he had never received, that he couldn't have believed would be done under his watch that oh please God Richard please don't be dying please--

He slammed open the ajar cell door to see Richard sitting calmly, wounds being tended by a physician, Exton dead at his feet. "Now really, Henry," Richard said calmly. "One would think you actually cared about me."

Henry would have fallen to his knees. Even in the blood. But the physician was standing to leave and Henry was able to take his seat. "Please tell me you'll be all right," he said.

Richard's expression perked up. "Say that again?"

"Tell me that you--"

"No, the first part."

Henry blinked. "Richard--"

Richard rolled his eyes. "Honestly, Henry, I didn't think you were this difficult to communicate with."

Henry closed his mouth, then leaned forward, cupped Richard's face with his hands, and kissed him.

And it was as though the clouds parted and sunlight burst forth straight into his heart, as with a clash something finally connected and oh, OH, if it wouldn't have been straight down onto Richard's injured arm he would have collapsed right where he was standing. He held his feet very shakily until he could step back and sit down again, and when he looked up everything was different.

Richard raised his hand to his lips, and he was shaking slightly. "You realize what this means," he said.


"You'll have a hard time remarrying," Richard continued, "And the court will hate you."

"Doesn't matter," Henry said.

"We've just been kissing over Exton's dead body," Richard mused. "I'm sure that's bad luck somehow."

"Fuck him," Henry said bluntly. "He tried to stab you. What was he even thinking?"

"I'm not sure. Oh, and what's this Mowbray thing? Ned was furious."

"We are not," Henry said, pushing himself to his feet, "going to have our first argument right now. You're coming with me back to London, and damn anyone who complains about it."

Richard stood and took Henry's arm, and he led the way out of the cell. "I told you I knew what I was doing," Richard said as they left. "Next time, just trust me."

"Not on your life," Henry said, and Richard laughed.

Edward didn't know what to expect when he visited Richard's chambers that evening. Depression, perhaps. Drink, maybe. A beaming Richard informing him that since his soulmate had accepted him, he was giving up his favorites... more likely, which would of necessity lead to drinking.

He was not expecting to be pushed back against the door the moment he stepped inside, Richard's hands and mouth all over him. "What..." he tried to ask when he was able to breathe.

"I have, you know," Richard said. "Missed you."

Edward stared at him. "I thought I heard... well."

"Oh, you heard," Richard said.

Edward's mind cast itself unwillingly back to the sight of Bagot and Bushy swooning over each other while Greene gleefully chanted "Most! Epic! Love!" to himself. "Yes, I... heard," Edward said. "So..."

"Come on," Richard said, lacing his fingers with Edward's and drawing him in. "With your help, I want to show you something Henry is going to love."