Chapter 1: A Blue Dress Of Golden Embroidery, Part One
„I am busy, Sir Rollanz.“
Henry is bent over his royal paperwork, thinking deeply about his royal affairs and trying to find a royal solution to his problems. The administrator of one of his shires has decided to build himself an own monastery on the his ground without asking for permission from Henry, who is King coronated and chosen before and by God. So now Henry has to find, write, copy, translate and distribute the new law that will forbid such provocations under his crown. It is all very complicated, and he wishes he could have slept in and taken a nice soothing bubble bath instead.
His faithful knight, Sir Rollanz, clears his throat and speaks up again, hesitantly. “But your majesty. There is someone … I … I believe you should …”
Henry cups his ears and shakes his head. “Rollanz, no.” he commands, like you'd command a dog to sit down.
It takes a moment before a soft chuckle breaks the silence. “I really thought I'd be more welcomed. After all those years.”
Henry immediately recognizes the voice, jumps up and turns around, clasping his hands in front of his mouth. There stands, right next to his first knight, a man who's face he has dreamed of oh-so many times. Those black eyes, the black curls, the vibratingly beautiful smile, everything is exactly how he remembers it. And yet, though barely younger than Henry himself, maybe in his late-twenties, early-thirties, this man has changed over the course of the years. He is less boyish now , less pale, his cheekbones and jaws have lost their roundness, his shoulders have broadened, and so has his horizon surely, too. He looks indeed more … ripe.
“Thomas.” the King breathes and takes a few steps towards the man. But his eyes fall on his knight and he involuntarily steps back again. He straightens his shoulders. “What are you doing here?”
“Can the Archbishop of Canterbury not come visit his King and seat of the Empire, every now and then?”
“I was not aware that 'every now and then' means once in a decade.”
The man who feels as though he hasn't been called by his first name in years, laughs. It's the same, beautiful and quiet laugh Henry remembers. It's neither loud nor obnoxious, like his own. It's calm, thoughtful, almost melancholic. “Let us dine together tonight.”
Henry nods. “Sir Rollanz? Would you guide the Archbishop to his room? I am sure he will be pleased to hear that it has not been taken by anyone else since his departure in 1161.”
His knight snaps his heels together and bows. “Yes, your Majesty.” His eyebrows are arch up, and it's obvious that he notices the change in Henry's voice. In his mood, his smile, his posture. Even Henry himself recognises that in the split of the second in which he finally appeared his long-lost friend again, his entire inner being changed. Everything is more light now. Calmer, stronger. As if he has finally regained his force. And all that only by being reunited with his Archbishop. Well, if that isn't a miracle.
King Henry II chooses his favourite robe for the dinner with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas. Not his second favourite robe, not his least favourite robe, no, his absolute favourite robe. The blue one, with the golden embroidery. And then he presents it with pride, his head held high.
“You look marvellous.” Thomas smiles, his calm and nearly melancholic smile. He himself is dressed in a - quite unusual for him -, simple priest attire. It suits him, though.
“I know. And it is just for you.” Henry beams, sitting down at the other side of the long, rectangular table. “Tomorrow I will be giving a feast, to welcome you back. Everyone in the whole empire of Angevin shall know that the Church and the Monarchy are finally working together again.”
As if to hide the faint blush on his white cheeks, Thomas lets his head sink. “You speak like your grandfather.”
“My grandfather? Aren't you too young to know how my grandfather spoke?”
“I am. But I read books while I was away. And when I imagined King William and how he must have talked to his powerful people, the people he united as one when he brought the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans together, then I see you, and hear the tremble that lies in the voice you call your own, the tremble that comes when you're giving speeches.”
Henry laughs, holding the back of his hand over his mouth. He is not used to his shy Becket being so open-hearted about his opinion about him. “Let us eat.” he diverts the conversation.
And so they do. It's a wholesome supper, with many courses, just like the French like their supper to be, and Thomas, who has – as he confessed – only lived on bread, fruits, soup and water in the past decade, is soon too stuffed to continue.
“You will miss the dessert!” Henry exclaims.
“I shall miss it then.”
“You shall not miss it tomorrow. I will make your favourite dessert for the feast. You will finally be able to live like a King again.”
“Like a King.” he repeats, chuckling.
Thomas shakes his head. “Will you make the dessert yourself? With your own hands?” As he looks up a cheeky shimmer of wit lies in his eyes.
Henry gazes at him for a moment, barely able to stand all that beauty right in front of him, yet trying to take it all in. To burn it into his memory, so he will never have to live without it again. As moments pass, he realises that he didn't answer, and so he bows his head. “I will let it make for you.”
“So I thought.” Thomas smirks, holding his gaze the entire time.
“You know me too well.”
When the dessert is served, Thomas orders to give his plate to the person who cooked it. To the hesitation of the servant, he says: “It has not changed since I left this castle, has it? All the food you create is meant for no one but the nobles. And all the food the nobles reject, is meant for no one but the pigs?” The servant looks clearly troubled by Thomas' forward question, troubled for he is more than aware that his King will be listening to his answer. He shoots Henry a glance, who - with a nod of the head and a slightly impatient wave of his hand -, allows him to let the staff have the dessert instead.
As soon as they are alone again, Henry places the same, still in the air hovering hand over his chest and closes his eyes. “I missed the goodness in your soul.” The words climb into the air and disappear there, diffusing into the greatness of the hall like smoke, and leaving nothing behind but a faint scent of admiration. Only when they are nothing more than a memory anymore, Henry opens his eyes again. He is not alone on his side of the table anymore.
The tall figure of Thomas is crouched down next to him, slowly trailing his hand over Henry's arm until their fingers meet and intertwine. “The goodness in my soul was nothing more than desperation without you.” he murmurs, and for a moment it seems as though he has waited for the words to become memory, too. Henry gazes down to him. Down, although it has always felt as if he was looking up whenever they shared a room. How many of those memories were the two of them still sharing? Or has too much time passed and he is now the only one who carefully places his racing heart's ache close to Thomas' sweet answer?
Feeling the presence of Thomas becoming a nearly tasteable, touchable thing, and he clasps his hands over Thomas'. “Please don't leave me ever again.” He squeezes. Gently, yet with a begging urge.
Thomas smiles, lifts their intertwined hands up to his lips and presses a kiss to the white knuckles. Chastely. “God made us live together on this earth, and thus we shall guide the crown and the church of this empire to wealth and health together.”
Henry lets his head sink. He is known for being loud and always wearing his emotions on his sleeves, but the happiness that overcomes him in this very moment is so strong, so thick, so real, that he can't show it. He feels his chest, his soul, his heart drum with the unspeakable power of this joy, but can only carry a timid smile on his lips. Lips, that are suddenly met by Thomas'.
He accepts the gesture gratefully.
At first there are only his lips, his chaste, wise lips, gracing him with their softness, then there is his tongue, daring its way into Henry's mouth, making him want to pull, and press, and push their bodies closer together. And finally, later, as the priest's dress and the blue robe with golden embroidery fall to the ground of Henry's room, as both of them fall into the depth of his bed, heated body against heated body, there are Thomas' teeth that playfully, yet demandingly take Henry's lips in.
Much later that night, when Thomas stares into the darkness of the night, he remembers how everything began. He doesn't mean to, but the pictures, voices and feelings just come to him, like they have always tried to, like he has always kept them from doing so, they just come tonight, overwhelmingly clear and colourful, as if it had just been yesterday, as if thinking about all this now would finally not harm him. Now, that he is plunged in the ever so sweet scent of his beautiful King.
I was barely nineteen when I first met you, wasn't I, Henry? Barely nineteen when I stepped into Canterbury Cathedral for the first time. Years at the monastery in London prepared me for the work, the prayers, the language I would have to use around the other clergymen, but they could not have prepared me for the excitement I felt when the Archbishop himself came to welcome me at the altar. He introduced me to my duties, my chambers, and finally to the other clerks, who one of them was going to be the future Archbishop one day. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest head of the Church of the Anglo-Norman empire. Oh, how excited I was, Henry.
I remember that all my answers to the Archbishop were short and fluttered because I could barely control my tongue and its nervousness. And I remembered how it suddenly stuttered and froze when Theobald told me that it was time to be introduced to the King.
The King! Henry II, grandson of William the Conqueror, King William the Uniter, King William who had brought France and England together... What a grand man!
My hands were shaking as I kept stroking over my robes, again and again to get rid of all those disrespectful creases, while I waited for the guard to call me into the throne room. Was I worth that much attention? Me, who was nothing more than a small, unimportant clerk from the north of London?
And then, just as I heard my name being called, another thought came to my mind. What if I acted the wrong way in the next ten minutes and the King himself would order me to go home? What if he saw that I was not worthy to live at court with him, and thus rejected my application to work for him? Was that even possible? I didn't know, and I didn't want to know. My heart beat too fast.
The guard guided me into the throne room, which was, except for a few knights, completely empty. I stepped closer to the throne, unable to keep my eyes from gazing at the beautiful architecture. The Normans were known for being the greatest architects of our time, but the beauty of this room still overwhelmed me. Only when I reached the line behind which the guard had told me to wait, the line which I was forbidden to overstep without the King's permission, I redirected my glance to the empty throne. Waiting in silence.
Just as my mind was starting to drift off, trying to imagine the kingly majesty of our Majesty the King, I saw the small door behind the throne flinging open and three men coming in. One was dressed in a mail shirt, holding bow and arrows and followed the other two who were wearing simple page-boy's clothings.
I raised my eyebrows and watched how the page-boy, who had so quickly thrown the door open and entered the room first, took an apple from the big plate that the second young page was holding. He paused when he saw me.
Grinning, he skipped over to me.
I straightened my shoulders and frowned at him, subconsciously taking a step back.
“Look, a priest.” he smirked and walked around me, eyeing me shamelessly and curiously, biting into the apple. It was an offensively red apple.
“I came to introduce myself to the King.” I explained coldly, and felt my upper lip stiffing. I refused to follow his movements with my gaze, yet I did.
The page grinned a little wider. “Apple?” he asked, holding his apple right under my nose. When I looked away, he slowly turned the fruit in his hands, so that the part were he had bitten into it showed towards him instead of towards me. “You sure?”
I cleared my throat and nodded. The disgust in my face was probably fairly visible as I wondered whether this was a joke or a test.
The page laughed, shrugged, taking the apple between his teeth, and jumped over to the throne. With horror I watched how he sat down on it, one leg over the armrest. And with even greater horror I listened to the following words. “Fine. Introduce yourself to me, then.”
I stared at him, he grinned back at me, and from the corner of my eyes I could see how the knight slowly lifted his hand to place his palm on his forehead.
“Y-your Majesty.” I breathed, falling to my knees almost immediately, bowing my head, partly in an honouring gesture, partly out of shame.
The page, that is, the King, laughed. “Charming! Don't hurt your knees, though. Get up, it's fine.”
The calmness which had come with the entrance of the King, was still there, and I felt ashamed. There I was, kneeling down for my King, and the excitement in me did not want to return. Was this really a behaviour for a King? I hesitated, but followed the order. As I stood again, I noticed how easy it was to hold my head high.
“So?” the King asked when I kept silent. “What do you want, priest?”
Taking a deep breath and crossing my arms, I slipped my hands into the sleeves of my robe. “Sire, I'm Thomas Becket from London. I come here to introduce myself as the new clerk under Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
“From London!” the King whistled. “So you're English.”
“Born and bred, Sire.” I bit my tongue. There was no need to be too daring. It had always been one of my worst traits to insist dominating every conversation I had.
“Your French is flawless.”
“I studied my writing in Merton Priory, England, and my speaking in Paris, Sire.”
The King raised his eyebrows, pointing with his apple at me. “So you're highly educated. How come you're only a priest.”
“Clerk, Sire. And the reason is that men need food to survive, and money to feed.”
He snickered, driving his hand through his crown of blond curls, and I bowed my head. Never had I encountered a person of such authority who was so eased and relaxed, to say, who lacked this much authority. And surely never had I encountered anyone of his rank who was that handsome. His nose was long and slightly arched, his jaws though curved and round with youth, also strong and daring, and his skin was of such clear softness that one could not doubt the Norman blood within his veins. It seemed to me as if the heavy capes of red cloth and ermine fur Kings habitually wore, would have drowned the lightness with which his smile rested so peacefully on his lips, as though nothing could ever disturb it. His shoulders fell in the most elegant way, and me, who had never seen a monarch before for I had grown in the slums of dirt in London, wondered if this was why nobles were nobles. Because of their perfection.
“Paris, huh? How is it there? Are the women pretty?”
My heart sank. “Sire?” I asked calmly.
“Well, are they … plum and juicy?”
I felt my cheeks burning, and so I straightened my shoulders. Perhaps his shoulders were not worth a King's cape, but mine surely needed to at least look like it. “Sire, as a good Christian man you should know that-”
“Oh, but you weren't always a priest.”
“What was before you ran out of money? Did you have a girl?”
“Sire!” And this time, the King didn't insist. He bit into his apple again and while I felt the heated blood leaving my face again, I watched how his red lips encompassed the red skin of the apple, how his tongue licked the corners of his mouth wet before he dried his chin with the heel of his hand.
“Mine?” No, his, I hissed sarcastically in thoughts. Yes, of course /mine/. I called myself to concentration and replied: “A young clerk from London who had nothing as he grew up, no wealth, no health and surely no security, hoping every day that it just please wouldn't get any worse, and who is despite all that serving the Archbishop of Canterbury himself now, what could he aspire? A home and a job which will give him hope. If I were daring, I'd naturally speak of becoming the Archbishop myself, but I am not daring, and surely not foolish. So I will go with the nearest answer there is, Sire. Heaven, Sire. I want to live a life that will guarantee me a place in Heaven.”
The King smirked while I spoke, chewing his apple quietly. His eyes had not left me in what felt like minutes. “Nothing?”
“You had nothing growing up?”
“A home and a father.”
“Nothing, a home and a father. And yet you had enough to pay yourself education.”
“I was lucky and … favoured.” I bowed my head and closed my eyes. Favoured for all the wrong reasons.
It was silent. After a moment he snapped with his finger and ordered his page-boy – or who I suspected to be the real page, they were, after all, still wearing the same clothes - to walk over to me and offer me an apple. This time it was an order, and I didn't refure. Yet, I didn't lift it to my mouth. After the page-boy had taken his place next to the small, wooden door again, the king grinned mischievously at me.
“Put it on your head.” he commanded, in the same second as he swung to his feet and grabbed the bow and arrow from the knight in the mail shirt. I froze. “Now, go on, put it on your head.” he repeated, preparing to bend his bow.
Slowly my hand went up and placed the fruit on the shaved spot on my head. As my hand sank down back to my side, it didn't tremble. I wasn't nervous, nor scared. All the panic I had felt before entering this throne room was long gone, and my heart was beating in a calm, well-behaved manner. Who was I to fear? This King in a page's shirt? I did not need to respect him, for I knew that he would have to respect me one day. Expulsion from my new job? How? This was where I belonged.
The King laughed. “I warn you, I'm a terribly bad shooter.”
My eyebrows shot up, but I didn't jolt my head. The apple stayed where it was, and the King grinned a little wider.
Placing the arrow, he asked: “What if I miss the apple? What if I shoot right into your face?”
“You would at least have shot something that was not dead yet .”
With a serious expression on my face, my jaws clenched, I watched the King hide his mouth, muffling his laughs. “Do you trust me that much, priest?”
“What if I do actually shoot? What would you do? Would you flinch?”
Our eyes locked and a few, hauntingly silent seconds passed. Finally, I lifted my hand, took the apple and held it in front of my chest. The King frowned.
“If you did actually shoot, your Majesty, I would hold it in front of my heart. For if I die, I want to die in honour and not by a foolish man's mistake. I want to die by King's hand … if he considers it necessary. Only he can take and give life by will.”
The King let the bow sink, the laugh was erased from his face.
I was a sensible man, most of the times, and in this moment I realised that I had not played along to the King's game, that this could very well be the end to my dream of serving the Canterbury church, that I would be send back home now, with nothing. No security, no honour, no blessing. And yet. My eyes remained fixed upon the boy with the red lips. This was were I belonged.
“Give me the apple.” I blinked. The King's order had been clear, but it took me a moment to react. Watching how he gave back bow and arrow, then sat back on his throne, placing his legs neatly next to each other, so different to before, I didn't move. I remember fair well the line inches away from my feet, the line which I was not allowed to cross, no matter what. The hesitation was visible on my face, I knew so. “I … I mustn't-”
“Give me the apple?”
“Cross the line.” With doubts I glanced at the King's blue eyes, but with relief I saw his lips bending into a smirk.
I had never realised how much more beautiful a face could be when a smile graced its features. “You mustn't cross the line.”
“I'm sure you will find a way to give me the apple though, yes?”
The hesitation inside of me was so overwhelming, and the confusion so sharp that I barely noticed how my stare rested on his lips again. All of a sudden, I jerked my eyes up and threw the apple towards the throne's general direction.
Now, I had never been one of the most sportive boys at Merton Priory, but I could really not have guessed that the apple would fail its flight-path so tragically that it flew right up to meet the Knight's head and hit it with a thud.
The Knight barely ducked when the apple hit him, he just stared at me with great bewilderment and slight pity. Not daring to see how the King was looking at me now, I closed my eyes once more, holding my breath. “My dear priest-”
“Clerk.” I bit my tongue and shut my eyes even tighter. Becket!
"You've got some serious training to do."
“I … apologise. I really d-didn't mean to …” I could barely find words for this glorious debacle. “I really should exercise.”
“I'm sure Sir Rollanz will love to train you while you're here.”
I froze. Had I heard right? Shyly, and - even if I didn't dare admitting it -, hopefully, I raised my gaze. It met a pair sparkling blue eyes. The King was smiling. “Sire?”
“Well," he held his hand out as the Knight reached him the almost-escaped apple, "you still do plan on staying here, yes?” I couldn't reply; I didn't know how. He was getting up now, his steps light and skipping again. Oh, how dishonourable. Yet, each of his steps made my breath hitch, and when I suddenly felt his hands catching mine, I was holding it again, scared to inhale the same air as he did. The sleek apple's surface was strangely cold compared to the King's warm skin. "Yes?" he repeated, amused, eager.
I nodded, lips slightly parted before words managed to emerge. “Yes.”
“Then I'll see you soon, priest. Hopefully after you learn how to toss objects … safely. I don't want my whole royal household to tremble in fear everytime they see an apple.” And with that, the King turned around on his heels and left the room. The Knight shot another hurt glance at me before following; I barely noticed.
My hands felt too cold all of a sudden, and discomforting chills ran down my spine.
I was accepted to stay. I was going to serve under the Archbishop of Canterbury and King Henry II himself. I was not yet twenty years old and the King of the Angevin empire had already acknowledged my existence. My eyes darted down to the apple in my hands. I clutched it against my chest. What an odd feeling, to feel that this was where I belonged.
Who cares about Historical Accuracy, anyways.
Chapter 3: Useless Hands
The next time I saw the King, it was on one of those warm, stifling May mornings.
The humidity in the air made me wake up before the first chime of the bell. I was drenched in my own sweat and could barely breathe, my undergarments and linen seemed to stick to my skin, my hair glued to my forehead. It felt like suffocating. Every breath I took filled my lungs with nothing but hot, thick air. So before anyone was up, at the very dawn of the day, I went down to the river and took a cooling bath.
As the sun arose, still covered by enormous, grey clouds, I fled into the catacombs, the cellar of the Cathedral. At least, down here, enclosed by big walls and surrounded by nothing but the dead, I would be able to breathe and to work in peace.
Humming some songs they used to teach us at school, I unrolled the paper and set up my ink. Yesterday I had stopped my work with frustration because I had left a big splash of ink in the middle of the page, which forced me to recopy all the lines again now. It was a dull job, scratching line after line onto the papyrus, staring at the black and red ink for such a long time that either your eyes or your head started buzzing with boredom eventually, so dull that words seemed to slowly diffuse into nothing but blurred pictures, losing their meaning and losing their form. Your mind would doze off eventually, and that was when most commonly mistakes occured. You needed to stay absolutely concentrated and follow every verse with your sharpened eye, or you would accidentally add the same word twice, or forget a line at the “m”, writing Deus Neus instead of Deus Meus. I knew many monks who just ignored those mistakes, reassured by the fact that no one would notice them until it was long forgotten who had made them, but I was sadly too reasonable for such fraud. Thanks to my sense of duty, I would rather rather work extra hours than lie in bed and worry about future generations being confused about my copy of the old, English tales.
“You're singing for the corpses?”
I startled, nearly leaving a scratch of ink over my paper, and turned around. The King stood there, leaned against the door frame, his arms crossed, and grinned at me. He wore sturdy leather trousers, black, muddy boots and a deep-collared white linen shirt. If I hadn't known he was the King, if his skin hadn't looked so daringly bright, and if his hair hadn't been so royally blond, I would again have believed him to be a simple huntsman.
“I am … singing for myself. The corpses just happen to be here.” I cleared my throat, regaining my composure. "I felt it was disrespectful to ask them to leave."
“Corpses have such a bad attitude of never leaving when you need a moment to yourself, don't they?”
I nearly chuckled.
“I was praying upstairs," he motioned towards the ceiling, as though I could have forgotten where the Cathedral was, "when I heard a voice hum. At first I thought it was the Lord Jesus Christ himself lullabying me to sleep. I followed the voice, and it turns out it was really just you, Thomas Becket from London.”
“I apologise. I didn't think my voice would be heard in the Cathedral.”
The King laughed and walked past me to the stone benches under which lay monarchs of passed generations. “Don't you worry. I am sure my mother is very glad to have some company.”
A smile rested on my face as I saw him sitting down on the bench in the far right corner. It was barely possible but even in this only by candles illuminated place, his eyes blinked like sapphire blue diamonds through the dark. When he caught my glance, I quickly turned around, back towards my work. “I hope you do not mind, but I need to finish this by the end of the week.”
“No, it's perfectly fine.”
A few, silent minutes passed, in which I desperately tried to concentrate on my penmanship. It was unsurprisingly hard to keep my thoughts around the English text in front of me, and it did not become any less easy when I suddenly felt the King standing right behind me, looking over my shoulder. What was this supposed to be? Was he trying to correct me? To read my translation and tell me what I misunderstood? Was he going to laugh at me for the golden dragon I had painted on the top left part of the page? My hand started shaking. The first time since I had first met him, weeks ago.
“Am I troubling you?” he asked when I let out a quiet sigh.
Setting down my quill, I turned to look at him. “No, Sire. But is something the matter? May I help you in any way?”
The King smirked and shook his head. “No. I just like watching people write. It's very soothing. And so interesting.”
I frowned. “You're curious?”
“In some ways.”
“Why? Can't you write yourself?” I bit my tongue. This was once more not an appropriate question to ask a King.
But he just laughed. “Let's say I'm not very good at it. I know how to, of course, but my hand is not the calmest.” He lifted his hands and indeed, both were trembling ever so slightly. Why was I tempted to take them, to keep them safe? Instead, I just lift mine in return. “I'm useless.”
“Your presence, you Majesty, is making mine just as useless as yours.” I can't recall why I said this. Such an odd, unfitting thing to say, telling the King to leave in such a rude manner.
But the King merely resumed laughing. Inspecting my hand up close by bending a little closer, he said: “But yours aren't useless. They know how to write, to draw, to paint. They know how to stroke along the lines you read, and how to hold a quill.” He drew invisible pictures over the life lines of my hand, not touching them, barely touching them, almost touching them.
I looked at the blue eyes, unable to find the right words.
“Mine have never even worked a single day. They're useless. I can't really write, I'm terrible at making music, you should never trust me with a sword, and even less with a bow. Absolutely useless.” As bitter as those words were, they were accompanied by a chuckle.
Still incapable of detaching my eyes from him, I murmured: “Yet they hold the destiny of a whole empire.”
The King glanced back up at me and smiled. “Well, aren't we all thrilled about that?”
All of a sudden, he grasped my hand and pulled me closer, circling his free arm around my waist. I gasped in surprise.
“Dance with me.” he grinned.
“Dance with me!” Holding me tight, he let us turn around ourselves a few times, ignoring my arm pushing against his chest in refusal.
When he stopped, moments later, moments which still seemed like a few moments too long, I freed myself and stumbled back until my back met my pult of work. “Sire, I am not fitted to be dancing with you.” My eyes met nothing but his grin, and my hands were trembling with rage now, clenched into fists.
“Why do you always have to be so serious.”
“I fear that lies in the English blood of mine.” I straightened my robe, only to appear busy and to avoid his eyes.
“Does your English blood dislike my French one so much?”
“Why? Haven't our ancestors always been friends?”
“Believe me, there will one day be a time, when Englishmen and Frenchmen will hate each other to the blood.”
He smirked some more. “So, no dancing for us?”
“No.” I shook my head jerkily, still angry.
He gave it a shrug and sauntered back to the door, causing me to make a subconscious step forward. I don't know if he noticed, but if he did, he was gracious enough to ignore it, answering the question on my face without me having to phrase it. “You are busy, and I am bored. I see you at the elections for the new Archdeacon? In June? And if not there, at least at the feast? The party after the announcement, I mean?”
I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about, and even less how to respond.
“Wonderful.” He grinned and disappeared.
My hands kept shaking, and no matter how many baths I took in the river's water, no matter how long I stayed in the cellars of the Cathedral, no matter how many hours passed, I didn't manage to cool down that day.
Chapter 4: Useful Hands
But it did not take a whole month for our paths to cross again.
This time, I was working in the garden, scooping up the earth to plant autumn fruits, and the summer heat took its toll on me. Every few minutes I had to take a break to go drink some water and rest in the shade. It had never been this hot in London. I had brought a book with me to read, which happened to be so fascinating that my breaks became longer and longer with every time I let myself have one.
During one of those breaks, though, I saw the small and fine figure of the King skipping and running from the castle over to the Cathedral's garden. I sighed. I couldn't appear lazy around the King. So I got up again and grabbed the shovel, continuing to dig the earth.
“Good afternoon, Becket!” he shouted as he was still many feet away.
“Good day, Sire.” I replied calmly, seemingly busy, when he was close enough for me to keep my voice down.
He danced around me. “You should call me Henry, you know.”
“I would rather not, Sire.”
He ignored me. “What are you doing?”
My eyes followed the King's feet and how they trampled over all of the flowers I had planted this Spring, and my jaws clenched.
“What are you doing, Becket? Is there a way I can help? This looks like fun, what is it?”
“Ooh, that does look like fun!” he laughed.
Not replying, I kept doing my work, digging up the earth to create a small, long trench, preparing the field for the seeds later on.
Suddenly, just as I lunged out, the King stumbled into the aisle I had worked on for hours this morning, and ruined its entire form. The earth crumbled into the pits and got pressed together under the King's weight. I stared at him, unbelieving, stopping my work. He looked up at me, quickly getting to his feet again. I rammed the shovel into the earth and crossed my arms.
“Your Majesty.” I said firmly.
Our eyes locked for a few, long seconds, until his finger slowly reached out and tapped my nose. “What is it?” he asked, as innocent as a child.
I fumed. It was too hot and too sunny for this.
Monarchs! This was so typical for monarchs! They were so used to always take what they wanted! That was the difference to us Church people. We accepted what God gave us. Those monarchs, though, demanded that God gave them what they wanted! And that was so disrespectful to everyone and everything. I tightened the grip of my hands around my own arms.
The King probably saw the desperation and anger in my face, for he suddenly made himself very small. He pulled his shoulders up to his ears and widened his eyes. He really did look like an infant now. “I'm sorry?” he tentatively said.
“Don't be.” I gnashed my teeth and with a quick, determined motion I shoved the shovel into his arms. “You want to help? There you go. Help. There's an entire patch that needs to be scooped up. Have fun.” I twirled around - as best as I could with my bare feet in the scattered earth -, and stalked back towards the shade, where I sat down next to the tree's trunk. The second those words had left my lips, I regretted them. But it was too late and my stubbornness didn't let me believe that what I said was wrong. And even if that meant the end of my housing here. At least for once in his life, someone would have talked back to this childish, lawless King.
Naturally, I expected the King to look at me in confusion, in perplexity, or even in anger. Instead, when I turned around, I caught sight of him how he was starting to dig up the earth with a great beam of delight on his lips. And it was my face that took up the expression of confusion.
“Oh.” I hummed, and watched the King doing my poor peasant's work. I really hadn't expect this, and my surprise left me motionless for a long moment.
Nearly an hour passed and the King's motivation did not leave him for a single minute. He seemed so happy about being able to do this work that his quick motions didn't slow down a single time. In this little hour, he did twice as much work as I had achieved during the entire day. And me? I just stared the entire time. Stared at the golden locks shimmering under the summer's sun, stared at his legs tensing every time he lifted earth and shovel, stared at the sweat on his exposed forearms and collarbone. I tried to tear my eyes away more often than I cared to admit, but there was no hope for me. The sight of the flowers around me, the bees buzzing in the trees, even the majestic walls of the castle, all that could barely distract me from the King, this silly, silly King, doing my work in a such an eager manner, finding pleasure in being useful.
I was so baffled that I almost forgot getting up again, forgot picking up my book. When I finally did, I walked over to him to bring him a jug of water. I felt light, yet heavy.
He paused in his work, took it and threw it over himself, still grinning happily. “Ah, that's good.” he exhaled in a soft moan.
I blinked, breathing: “You were supposed to drink that.”
“You could have told me that!" he laughed. There was no sign of embarrassment. "Can you bring me another? Please.”
I did. But when I came back I had to halt my steps. There he was, still working, but now he had taken off his linen shirt.
“Oh, Jesus.” I mumbled, feeling the blood rushing into my face.
I came closer and handed him the water. He took the jug and emptied it quickly, some of the water spilling over the corner of his mouth, mingling with the sweat on his chest, and causing many little drops to trail down to his tight-fitting trousers. I tried not to swallow too blatantly. It seemed to be of no importance anyway, though. The King was distracted by the cold water and spared no thought for me.
As he handed me the jug back once more, my eyes fell on his hands. “You're bleeding!” I exclaimed.
The King looked down at his left hand, and indeed, the shovel had skinned and grazed his soft palm and fingers. “Oh, and I wondered why it hurt so much.” he mumbled, surprised.
“You need to go find someone to take care of your hand. You worked enough. More than I-..." More than I did. "More than I should have let you do. I'll continue now.”
“Aw, but it was so much fun!” the King chuckled and I frowned, looking sternly at him, which just caused another laugh to explode from his throat. It was the most beautiful chime I had ever heard. Oh, this idiot. I wanted to strangle him for his foolishness, wrap my hands around this beautifully exposed neck and – I did swallow now. I couldn't help it, my insides had turned to liquid at the sound of his happiness.
“Go cure your hand and you can help me again when it's healed.” I said calmly. Never had I been more glad about the sheer control I had over my body - and for my wide robe that hid most of it.
“I see you later then, priest.” he smirked.
“Clerk.” I retorted, fighting not to mirror the smirk.
He laughed and reached out his healthy hand and patted the blank, hairless spot on my head.
I pushed his arm away. “Don't.”
“No." The quizzical look he gave stayed, therefore I added with a reluctant sigh: "This is the only part of my body that belongs only to me and God. I don't like other people to touch it.”
His lips curled into a smile, small at first, then cheeky, wider. He handed me the shovel back, and throwing his wet shirt onto his shoulder, he winked. “The only part?”
And once more, he left me alone with alone with my wildly mixed and quite uncontrollable thoughts and emotions.
Chapter 5: 19 And 24, To Be Precise
In the course of the next month's events, it was the fourth month of my stationary at the Canterbury Church, I became the new Archdeacon. Was I too young for such responsibility? Yes. Was I too unimportant to be a person of such importance? Most definitely. But was I unfitted, not pure enough, not witted, kind or patient enough to carry this title? I surely wasn't.
The years of schooling in monasteries had taught me that the closer you got to God, the closer the Devil got to you, watching your every step. Never had there been more sinning than in a house of God and never had I witnessed more abuse of power than with those, who had the most of it. So when I got elected, named the new Archdeacon, I did not protest. At least I would not lose my righteous path.
During my stationary at the King's court, I had taught more children the stories of God, had fed more homeless beggars, had translated more epic poetry, had prayed more hours, than any of my fellow clerks. I deserved to be the next archdeacon, and I was proud to have been elected. Even though I was well aware of the fact that they only elected me because of my enthusiasm for the Archdeacon's duties, not because they considered me the best choice. They used me; They didn't admire me.
But I'd prove them wrong, and I think that in the calmness of my smile, as I put on the new robe, and covered my head with my new covering, they all saw that none of their practices and intrigues would affect me enough to give up my … aspirations.
“Are you proud?” the King asked me one evening as he came visiting me during my workshift of copying old tales again. It had become kind of his habit, disturbing me during my private hours.
Most of the times, although I made him leave by showing clear annoyance toward his presence, his last words were generally spoke with a laugh, or at least with a grin. It rubbed me the wrong way that I couldn't make him understand how he should spend his time doing important things, too. Accomplishing his duties, or fighting in war. Or whatever it was that kings did in their free time.
But sometimes it was him who, in the middle of the conversation, lost his interest in the time with me, and just skipped away. Although rare in their frequency, these were the moments which made me secretly crave for more opportunities to talk to him.
With a sigh I set down my quill and turned to look at him, hiding my hands in the sleeves of the opposite arm, as usually. Taking this posture usually made his lips twitch to this brief sincere smile, which I admired more than any of his loud, boasting laughs. “Only fools take pride in what they deserve.”
“So you believe you deserved it?”
He laughed. “I believe you deserve to be the Archbishop himself.”
I rolled my eyes. Taking place on my window sill, he propped up his feet on the opposite window frame and crossed his arms behind his head. The fact that he was still, again and always wearing the way-under-his-rank knave's cloth costume, distracted me. He hadn't been in the country for a fortnight. I had been careful not to show interest in it, so I had not asked where he had gone to. In any way, it seemed to me as though I would not understand the mission. Clerks were not supposed to comprehend a Monarch's earthly duties. But now that he was back - and the only one who didn't seem to be drained and exhausted from the long journey, so that he had perhaps hoped for me to entertain him instead of his habitual entourage -, I was inclined to ask him where he had been. How he had been. How he was. Instead, I shook my head. “Don't you dare kill off Theobald just to make me Archbishop, though.” And by way of exception, I allowed myself to smirk a little and turned back around to my quill, carefully dipping it into the red ink.
“You're also very handsome in your new attire.”
“Excuse me, but I am careful to accept this compliment from someone who doesn't know how to dress properly.”
He laughed. “What does that mean? Don't you like my tights?”
“Am I supposed to like them?”
This time, the both of us laughed. There was this smile of his again. Sincere, soft. “You'd be surprised how comfortable and freeing it is to wear a simple man's robe. You should try it sometimes.”
I shook my head and smiled, working silently on my writing. My hands weren't shaking in his presence anymore.
After a while he raised his voice again. “You don't believe me, do you?”
I frowned. “Yes, I do. As soon as I get the chance I will appear on a party with a simple priest's dress, I prom-”
“No, not that!” he laughed. “The other thing." With a vague gesture he motioned towards the ceiling. "That I do actually think you deserve to be next Archbishop. You don't believe me, do you? You think I'm joking.”
A huff escaped me, my cheeks burned red. “No, of course I don't believe you. Sire. I am way too young, and by far not educated enough to lead the Christianity of this empire.”
“Oh, educated!” he scoffed, his grin probably still present on his face. I didn't need to look at him to know that; His voice had this chime about it. “No Archbishop has ever worked to the deserve this position. I'm sure they all fucked their way up to the top.”
I nearly spilled my ink, freezing the next second. Out of all the things he could have said, this immature, least noble King Angevin had ever seen, he chose to pick those words. Not only did he insult his mother, but also the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald, who was wise, and good and kind, and too holy for this in such a vulgar, ungraceful manner of speaking. I was, and there was no other word for it, horrified.
“You know it's true. I'm sure my mother was a very fuckable princess.”
“How old are you?” I asked and faced him, cutting into a sentence he was just about to start.
This time it was him who paused, and his blue eyes looked up at me in the helpless, innocent manner, the manner he always acquired when I reprimanded him. Thus, I felt as if it was really not my fault when my voice softened as I continued.
“I believe you are older than me by a few, important years. Which means that you will have many, many years ahead of you to reign over this country. Am I correct?”
He gave me a small, sheepish nod.
“Then you better watch your language. Because I will be here just as long as you are. And I will work until I deserve to be the next Archbishop, I will be pure and sin-free, and I will prove you wrong. I will watch your every step and keep an eye on all of your words, and I will make sure that you never, ever, tell such lies about me. I will bother you as much as you bothered me over the course of the last three months, and if you're not careful, I will denounce and prosecute everyone who dares to speak badly about the Good, or whoever uses their power to do wrong." My voice was by no means as harsh as my words could have appeared. Maybe, if one had looked closely, they would have even seen the hint of a smile on my lips. "The Church is the institution which deserves to hold the power. We are given our right to exercise by God himself, and we should therefore be the first instance who executes his power. We, and not a simple faulty human person who dares to talk badly about his own mother.” As I spoke, the blue of his eyes had grown brighter, it seemed to me. I had not been able to detach my gaze from it. Until he blinked.
He sat up a little straighter, bringing his feet down to the ground, folding his hands in his lap, and cleared his voice. “Actually now I do really believe that you deserve to be the next Archbishop.”
“Excuse me?” I blinked in surprise.
But he merely shook his head, seemingly sunk in thoughts.
“No, no not now, Becket. I've got things to plan.” He motioned towards my pult. "Please keep on working, I need to think about stuff."
“Things to plan?” I repeated, but he was already too lost within his own world. Eventually I followed his suggestion and turned back to work. Yet, there is no other way to say this, I was mildly worried about Theobald's health.
“And thus, let us toast to our new Archdeacon, Thomas Becket from London.” Everyone stood up and raised their cups, cheering for me.
I had sunken deep into my chair while listening to the King's speech, and was now trying furiously to act normal and grateful. But it was a fact that my face was flushed bright red, thanks to the sweet words of the monarch, and that the King was very well aware of that. What had I expected when I agreed to attend my own congratulation party?
When he sat down next to me again I glared at him. “You could have warned me.” I hissed.
He merely grinned a little wider. Cheekily, handsomely, infuratingly. “Ah, I could have. But that would have been less funny.”
“I wasn't prepared for that. Now everyone thinks I'm insane. And I can't blame them; judging by my reaction I would think that too.”
“Your reaction was perfectly sane.” he smiled and placed his hand on my shoulder. His fingers softly brushed over my neck.
I scoffed, incapable to hide a little smile. “Maybe you can't judge because you're just as insane.”
When I took his hand away from my neck, he placed it on the table next to his spoon.
“I'm glad we've got a reason to work together now.”
“Oh, I'm sure you're very eager to work.” I smirked.
He shushed me quiet and laughed. “You're kidding but I am! The old Archdeacon was elected when my father was crowned!”
“Even older! I'm sure he was already Archdeacon when Noah built his arch!”
A laugh escaped me and I quickly covered my mouth, shaking my head. “You truly are insane.” The sincere smile on his lips was back; I felt weak. "Noah would have never taken two of those Archdeacons with him."
Our gazes were torn from each other when I turned my head to thank the servant for the soup. The King mirrored my polite gesture, hastily, as if he would have forgotten otherwise. For a few minutes we busied ourselves with our soups. “I am eager to work with you, you know." he then said. Whatever you think is best for our empire, I'll make it happen. And I know your ideas will be great! We'll be famous, Becket! You and me, just like my grandfather.”
I did not let our eyes lock again, feeling my skin burning with shame at the thought that someone might have heard us. “Our empire, hm?”
The King shrugged again. “You know what I mean. Just because I'm the King it doesn't mean that not all of my subjects belong to this empire, too.”
I couldn't help but smile a little more and let my head sink. “You better ask Theobald for the ideas, Sire. He's far more experienced than me, his ideas are surely more elaborated than mine, and he is the actual Head of Church, if I may remind you. Archbishop stands above Archdeacon.”
Suddenly I felt the King's hand, the same that I had shoved away a minute ago, on my leg. I glanced up at him and he leaned a little closer. “Maybe. But I don't want to work with the old rag Sir Theobald. Besides, as you said, he already has the position he wants. He can't become much more.” His hand slipped up my thigh and I quickly stopped it, furrowing my brows.
“Excuse me?” My voice was colder than I intended it to be, yet quieter than I wanted it to be. And yet I felt as if it was supposed to be much quieter still, and much, much, much colder.
“Oh come on.” he laughed, and I seemed to find nothing of his sincere smile anymore. “You want to be Archbishop. And what would be the easiest way to climb up that career ladder?”
My eyes widened in disbelief. “Working with you.”
“Well, yeah. Working.”
I slapped his hand away and got up. My mouth opened as if to say something, but I changed my mind, looking around the hall, lost, seeking help, then left. Brusquely. This was the King. Who was I supposed to ask for help? And how would I?
This couldn't be. This could, under no circumstances, be real.
All those small yet obvious touches, all those incidental yet willful approaches of his fingers meeting my bare skin, they drove me mad. I knew he was doing it on purpose, and it confused me. I had shown him many times that I renounced to all kinds of physical affection, that I was true to my vows, but he always acted as though he didn't know why I was being so defensive. I was baffled how I had let myself believe his actions to be honest.
A few weeks before I got elected as Archdeacon he had found me in the rose gardens playing the music I had copied on new, whiter paper the previous days. He had watched me for a long hour before sitting next to me and asking me to teach him how to play. It was only when he placed his hands over mine and breathed into my neck that I changed my mind. I got up and told him to stay away. His laugh made me doubt that my reaction had been appropriate. He told me to relax and not to always assume the worst.
At first I believed him, yes, but now I was certain that there was no innocence in his actions. And yet … I couldn't believe that this was the answer to the “why?”. Why would he seek contact, why would he want to tease me like that, why did he get so playfully offended every time I called him out on it?
He couldn't really be doing all that to … blackmail me?
I didn't want to believe that the King of my beloved Anglo-Saxon used my dream of becoming the Head of the Church to make me his whore. Oh, he would love that, wouldn't he? Getting his grabby, dirty, useless hands all over the Church and making it his own, making it yield under his power. Oh, he thought he was so clever, acting as if the mere shimmer of his sapphire blue eyes could make me fall for any of his sinful actions. He had understood that if I got any more power, I would raise the Church's influence to stand above the Monarchy again, back to how it used to be. I had told him of all my plans, I had showed him all of their weaknesses, and now he used it to destroy them. Destroy me. I felt sickness crawling up my throat. Repulsive. Such insincerity.
I stomped down the stairwell, clenching my jaws. Well, poor King, it would not be that easy for him, he had unfortunately chosen the wrong clerk to play his dirty games with. I had been taught well, both in London and in Paris, and I knew that it took more than a few insincere gestures and touches to make me forget all the years of training and education. No, I wouldn't run, I wouldn't yield, I wouldn't give in. I would show him that I didn't need lies and sins to become the Archbishop. Never.
Suddenly a hand wrapped around my wrist and as soon as I felt the ring on the middle and little finger, a wave of shivers ran through my body. I knew now why veins looked so much like thunderbolts. Certain touches shot through you with the energy of lightnings. Even though I didn't need to turn around and see to know who it was, I did so anyway. I needed to give the ache behind my collarbone a face.
“What?” I asked, coldly looking up to the King standing a few stairs above me. He was panting, and there was no grin on his lips.
“Why are you running away from me?”
“Why do you keep dragging me into your dirty pit?”
“Dragging you? How-”
“With you little touches, and breaths, your-... your bloody smiles and laughs!”
“I'm dragging you with my … breathing?” He seemed wanting to back away now, but his hand was still around my wrist, holding onto it as if terrified that I could disappear if he let go of me. He was right to think so; I would disappear if he let go. And yet. I didn't want him to let go.
“No, not your breathing, Christ. Your whole approaching me while I work. The way you distract me. Why do you do that? Do you want to disgust me?”
“Disgust? Disgust of what?” The panic in his eyes pierced through me. With a frown he asked: “Are you disgusted of me?”
I shook my head, and was quite surprised when my next words uttered the truth. “Of myself.” He looked concerned, and I told myself it was because he now realised that his plan wouldn't work. That he had made me Archdeacon for nothing. “You shouldn't bother me with your secular jokes or your-… your profane fun. I don't want to hear or think about your temporal breathing, I don't care, I don't want to care about any of that.”
“But you do care, or you wouldn't be so mad.”
“I'm not mad!”
“You look mad, though.”
I huffed. “I'm displeased because I don't understand why you want me to want you! Is it because you want me to leave Canterbury? Or because you want to stomp your kingly foot down on the Church and crush it with your power? Hm? Why? I don't understand! Answer, why?! Why do you keep acting like you want me?!”
“Because I do want you!”
I stared at him, and my face must have looked funny with all those mixed emotions glaring at him suspiciously through my narrowed eyes, because as he stepped down the few stairs to meet me on the one I was standing on, a breathless laugh escaped him.
“Now don't look at me like that. It is not my fault that you're so admirable.”
I scoffed, turning my arm so that the palm of my hand met his for the split of a second. His grip around my wrist loosened, only for me to grasp his instead. I pulled him closer, staring at him with the same disgust I had spoken of, and hissed my words - quiet enough so that no one but him could hear me. "I didn't know this is how you treat people you admire." I wanted to say more, to comment on how I hated his laugh because it was fake and insincere, hateful. But my breath was caught in my throat when I felt him giving in to my pulling, and suddenly found myself between the cold of the wall behind me and the heat of his body before me. "Then how do you treat people you admire?" My eyes widened, though I didn't know whether it was because he ever so casually placed his leg between my thighs, tucking me to the wall, or because I realised something. Was it possible he truly didn't know what to do when he was around me? Swallowing thickly, I drove my free hand up his chest, letting my fingers curl into the blue cloth of his collar. “I'm not trying to drag you into anything, Becket." he said in a whisper just like I had. Except that his voice wasn't filled with disgust, it was soft and truthful.
I felt my knees weakening. "Then why are you doing all this?”
“I told you. I just … wanted to.”
“Monarchs." I hissed, "You always take what you want, don't you?” I pulled him closer. It wasn't anything I did consciously, no violent or too noticeable action. I knew that the tip of our noses were almost touching, and yet my body, my muscles, they refused to let go of him. “I don't believe you. You know I'd rather leave Canterbury than give in to your immoral games." Did he understand what I meant when I spoke of his game? My body was longing for more of his touches, and it was none of that that scared me. It was the lies that lay within corruption. "Is this it? Do you want to me to leave?"
He sighed and there was so much desperation and honesty in his eyes as he continued speaking, that I was once again scared to breathe the same air as him. “Becket, don't you listen?” His arm went to circle around my waist and I felt my heart missing a beat. “I want you. I want to feel you, to taste you, I want to touch you everywhere only God and you must touch you. Do you remember how we joked about that? I want to keep joking with you, and I want to hear your laugh, and see you as the first thing in the morning. I ... I want what I keep dreaming of.” I looked at him, horrified. The grip around his collar had loosened, my hand had turned to lie flat on his chest, ready to push him away. He noticed. Unfortunately, for suddenly the honesty disappeared from his eyes. A playful grin came back to his lips, a grin that never reached his eyes. “And you?" he went on. Even his voice had changed. This was an entirely different person. "What do you want? You want to be Archbishop, no? I know you do, you told me so many times. You know that it's me who chooses whoever is going to be the next one, so you only need to give me what I want. It could be so easy for you to reach your dreams. You know it, you know what I want.”
I pushed him away. “You can't blackmail me.” I said, giving my best for my voice to sound firm, but it was slipping. Slipping away. I was dragged to hell, just when I thought I had reached heaven, and my heart ached. “I don't care if I'll never be the next Archbishop. If you need someone so badly, get yourself a wife.”
He smirked as I spoke, and when I finished a laugh escaped him. He brought our lips together in something that surely didn't resemble the kiss I had longed for, and I jerked back, hitting my head against the wall. I didn't want to admit it, but it was only thanks to his knee between my legs that I hadn't risked stumbling down the stairs and hurt myself more seriously.
"You're a disgusting human being.” I said, loudly now, and let go of his wrist to push my fingers against the back of my head.
The King only smirked. I hated it. I wanted to wipe it off. “But I can see that you want me.” His eyes darted down to my crotch and I followed the glance hurriedly.
Luckily my robe was hiding what there was to hide and with something that resembled a sigh of relief I looked back up at him and said: “You can't see anything at all.”
“But there would be something to see?" Contrary to what I thought his reaction would be, he just grinned a little wider. "You do want me, Becket."
"I did, yes." I nodded, feeling the ache in my chest pound heavily against my ribcage. "But now you're just confusing the flesh with the mind."
“Becket-..." "Let me go." He stared at me. Gone was the grin, but gone was any other emotion too. Only a blank face remained. I wished I could believe him, believe that he was merely clumsy and inexperienced about how to talk to someone he admired. But why would he admire me? If he confused the flesh with the mind, he was also confusing lust with honest admiration. He let go and stepped back. "You're a disgrace.” I said softly, indifferently. I could finally breathe again, yet every inhalation hurt as if it was only meeting a rotting body. What a shameful, disgusting body, truly. It had always kept people from noticing my mind. “Go confess to God. With everything you just told me I could have Theobald take away your crown easily, so I would advise you to stay away from me from now on. If you disturb me during my studies and work again, or bother me in my free time, I will denounce you. Even if it will have no consequences to the Monarchy, it will at least have consequences on your life. I won't leave Canterbury, no matter what you do, and I won't yield to your dirty games. I will become the next Archbishop, and nothing can stop me. Not even you.”
I am pretty sure that the expression "Career Ladder" wasn't invented in 1163 yet.
Chapter 7: Jesus Fucking Christ
Writing this chapter while sitting next to my mother was a wild experience.
Oh, but it was easier said than done. Cutting the contact. Physically being apart from the King was mentally easy, but mentally staying away from him was physically painful.
It was about two weeks of doubts and dreams about my dreadful decision later that I woke up drenched in my own sweat. I could have had him. I could have had it all. Both my mind and my body knew so. The summer sun was shining through the window on me, but that wasn't the cause for the heat. It was me, I was hot from the inside. Unspeakable dreams that were tormenting my mind even now in my awoken state, and plastering my inner eyes with pictures so tremendously wrong, that I should be damned saying any of them out loud. My night shirt had slipped up my chest and I felt my erection pressing hard against the woolen blanket.
“Oh, please.” I ran my hand through my hair and hesitated for a long moment, just staring at the ceiling of my room.
Maybe if I could distract myself? I tried to think about the epic poem I had read a few days before. It was about this young prince – prince.
Now, this wasn't going to work, was it? I found myself wondering how Henry had looked like when he was still my age, a prince indeed. Would we have been friends if we had grown up together? Would we have gotten used to strange habits like old friends do? Would we share a bed from time to time? Spend the nights together, lazily wrapping our limbs around each other and holding each other during the coldest of winters? During the hottest of Summers, too, whether his slow, warming breath would wet my neck and warm me even more, or not. Would it, then, be less forbidden to let his legs shamelessly rub against my thigh, let his red, swollen lips trail over collarbone and make my heart race up? Would I, then, not have to resist the strong urge to roll my hips against him? Resist to grab his arse, squeeze, pull our bodies closer together, to feel his stiff cock against mine...
“Oh, bloody hell.” I cursed in English, hoping the French God under which I was currently serving would mind it less. My hand reached down to push my erection to my thighs. For whatever reason I thought that the touch of my palm would bring me some release but it obviously only increased the desperate need to fuck myself immediately, right here and now. Only furthered the wish to replace my own hand with the King's. To have him be the cause for the heat inside of me, inside of my chest and lower abdomen, to have him bite my neck, to have him pull my hair with his free hand, to have him suck my lips and tongue and to have him dig his finger nails into my neck, my back, my legs.
I begged for someone to save me; Even my thoughts were being vulgar! I remembered that I had actually planned to distract myself and tried to direct my thoughts back to innocent, calming pictures. But my palm kept pushing down on the source of all pleasure, and as the calmest picture I could think of came to my mind – the King's beautiful, bright blue eyes – I felt how my fingers wrapped around it.
The smallest movement of my wrist caused a moan to escape my throat, and from then on there was no going back. I finished myself and all this vulgarity, quickly and mindlessly, only to bring this to an end, to stop the pictures of the King's naked flesh, to stop the dreams of his body writhing with pleasure and arching into my touches, in need to be released from this burning desire to an end.
With a shamelessly loud, gasped moan I came into my hand. My head which had lifted itself from my pillow fell back down and I let out a long sigh.
After a long, hauntingly silent moment, my eyes finally opened again. I regretted it immediately for the first thing they appeared was nothing else than the face of Jesus Christ. Well, rather his effigy on my wall. I locked my eyes with him and frowned deeply. “What is it?” I asked defiantly. “It is not my fault that you made me like that, and that you brought me here to meet the most beautiful Lord who has ever reigned on earth. I mean, right after you of course. I mean-... Oh, to hell! And that you have him tell me that he wants me! Me! The King wants a poor peasant's son! And then you take everything away from me again because the only way I can have him is by agreeing to corruption! What am I supposed to do with this nonsense?! You're to blame, so don't you judge me!” I stared at Jesus' pained face a little longer, then rolled my eyes, whined, wiped my hands carelessly at the blanket and turned to lie on my stomach.
I had thought that allowing myself to give in would bring an end to this excruciating lust which haunted me for weeks now. But it hadn't. It was there again. Not physically, but deep inside my chest was still the same need pulsing through my veins with every drop of blood that met my heart. And I knew that nothing I did would end it. Nothing. Only he could free me. And with He I certainly didn't mean my friend Jesus Christ.
I thought that if I avoided the King as best as possible, my mind would release me from this need of thinking about him all the time, but the opposite effect happened. The castle was big, yes, but not big enough for us to never see.
Every time we met in a corridor, sat in the same banqueting hall, walked in the same garden, every time I was near enough to theoretically be able to talk to him freely and alone, my entire body ached. The thoughts never stopped. The dreams of his lips wetting my skin, his tongue trailing from my collar bone down over my abdomen, down, down, down, they became less strong eventually. So did this need, this lust, this inflammable, burning desire of devouring him with kisses and embraces. But the wish to talk to him, to hear his laugh and have him say silly things? This never really left me. I only needed to catch his glance, appear his blond locks or hear his voice when crossing the throne hall during early mornings, and my thoughts would derive to when my hands were still shaking with anticipation.
The only times we talked was during the hours of political discussions about Angevin. No one knew about our fight, but I doubt that anyone missed how cold my tone was when I spoke to him. All governmental conversations we lead were distant and loveless, and I was soon known for putting the King back into his place whenever his ideas got too wild.
Guards, consultants, knaves, politicians, churchmen. We never talked when we were alone.
Only for one evening during a cold November night, we spoke more than just a few words. We gave a feast for a noble's wedding, and the rules wrote that the King and I had to sit next to each other. We did, and it was the first time in months that we had a private conversation. But although it was only brief and of no interest, although the King seemed tired, defeated, yes, almost unhappy, although for the first time it made neither of us smile, it was enough to revive the flame inside of my chest. Maybe because I so desperately wanted to bring his sincere smile back.
Another few months passed, March arrived, and with it the first anniversary of my advent.
I was cleaning the banqueting hall along with a friend of mine, an older, very friendly monk, – no matter how high my rank was supposed to be, I refused to skip my lower duties, – when the news reached us.
“Archdeacon Becket, Brother Lothrin, you need to come to the Cathedral immediately!” We exchanged a glance before following the Deacon Marion to the chapel. Everyone was gathered there, monks, clerks, nobles, and loud, excited chattering echoed through the holy place, making it impossible for us to understand a word and what had happened.
I tried to make my way through the crowd but there were too many people and too little space. I could neither move forwards nor backwards. When I tapped someone's shoulder to ask him to let me pass, he didn't even notice me, and when I called a fellow clerk's name, my voice barely cut through all the noise.
I sighed, told Clerk Lothrin to wait, and went to my knees. Through the legs and robes of all those important people, I crawled to reach the front of the Cathedral. “How graceful, Tom.” I mumbled to myself. I knew that I earned quite a few strange looks but I deliberately ignored them and with a quick jump I climbed onto the altar, grabbing the heavy, old holy testament. “ON SE CALME!” I shouted from the top of my lungs. From up here my voice reached every bit of the hall. I appeared a few people near me startling and with a grand gesture I dropped the bible purposely to the ground, which caused a loud sound. Hollow, yet piercing enough to be heard by everyone. It was a success. Everyone turned around to me immediately and when they saw me standing on the altar, their voices died.
It was completely silent for a few, long seconds. I saw mouths gaping, foreheads frowning, jaws clenching, lips smirking, I saw all kinds of reactions, and as I stood there, panting slightly, I tried to figure out whether I had done the right thing, or completely messed up. Well, it was surely not the most elegant way to do it, but at least it had worked.
“Isn't that Thomas Becket?” someone eventually asked and I blinked in surprise, dropping my arms.
“Well, great. There he is. Problem solved!” Laughing arose and I looked around in confusion. I found faces staring back at me with the same questioning look, but I also found smugly grinning faces, others who seemed to be very spiteful.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“We were looking for you, Becket.” A man said who I remembered from a political fight about the monarchy's affairs in Wales and who had repeatedly taken the King's side, instead of mine. Sir d'Ile, his name. “The old Archbishop Theobald is dead. He died on his journey to Paris.”
I quickly did the sign of the cross and clasped my hands, trying to ignore the fact that I was still casually standing on top of an altar. In a Cathedral. With a Bible thrown to my feet. “May his soul rest in peace."
" The news have only reached us now but the King has already announced who his successor is." The man crossed his arms. “A certain Thomas Becket from London?”
For a moment everything in front of my eyes blackened, my head felt dizzy and my limbs numb. Me?
This situation came all too suddenly. Never had I guessed that after only a year in Canterbury people would think me worthy enough for such a job. Never had I dreamed of becoming the Archbishop. All this power, all those duties and privileges that were awaiting me now. All those plans and ideas I could now finally let become true. I would finally be able to speak up to everyone, to have them listen to me, to have them change the constitution and its relationship to the Church. I would be able to do it all! A poor peasant's son, a simple man would now finally be able to change and free Angevin of misery and the remaining paganism. Of criminals and their sins! Of illiteracy! My heart pounded in excitement, I had troubles breathing.
“I hope you are happy, Becket.” Sir d'Ile said, casting me a glare which was so dark that I immediately understood what was awaiting me in the next few years. I didn't reply. I just looked back at the man and tried to make myself believe that this was real. It certainly didn't feel real.
How did I deserve such a position? How did a twenty-year-old deserve such a right?
And then I suddenly realised.
I didn't. Deserve any of that. I was too young. Too uneducated, too inexperienced, too … new. I didn't deserve being the Archbishop, and all those people staring up at me in this very moment knew it. The King had made me Archbishop. The King, and no one else, believed that I deserved this job.
Very slowly I climbed down from the altar. The silent crowd hadn't moved but this time when I tried to cross the Cathedral, it moved to the side to let me through.
I don't like this chapter..?
Chapter 9: Henry and Thomas
I panted. My feet were carrying me through the castle in such a fast pace that my heart and lungs were barely able to keep up. My eyes were fixed to whatever was right in front of me, I didn't pause once, the people who I walked past stepped aside when I approached. They saw my determined look on my face, and knew that it wasn't the time to make me stop. Perhaps they also saw my Archdeacon robes and knew that they were already not worth my rank anymore. My eyebrows furrowed as the scenery of a few minutes ago replayed and replayed in my mind.
The King wanted me gone. Maybe he thought that his offer to make me archbishop in return for some favours would repulse me so much that I wouldn't stay. Maybe he thought that now that I had accepted this position, he had the right to use me for his games. Or worse. Maybe he thought that I would actually play along in his morally reprobated game. But he was wrong. I wouldn't leave. Not now.
For one, because I wanted to be the Archbishop. It was no secret that when I had been offered the job as clerk in Canterbury I already started making plans for the Angevin I wanted to reign over one day. It didn't matter that I always knew that it was just a dream. What mattered was that I wanted it. No matter how often I told myself not to think about this all-too high goal, deep down, I knew that I always wanted it.
Secondly, I didn't want to leave Canterbury and give the nobles in the King's council the satisfaction of having been right about me all along. I was well aware of the fact that they had probably voted against me. They hated me, they hated me during the meetings, they hated me on a personal level, they hated my attitude of disrespect – or what they called disrespect – towards the King. Every time I made a suggestion, they took the opposite's side and ever since I had started working on my tasks as Archdeacon, they had tried to trick me into failing, only to prove the churchmen wrong who had elected me back then a few months ago. Yet the decision of who would become the new Archbishop had laid in the King's hands, and no one else's. And it was obvious that they were going to attempt making me fail, too now. They wanted to prove that the King had made the wrong decision, finally prove him that I was of no good, and make him kick me out of Canterbury. Having me flee after all this would be a perfect way to say “we always told you so”. And there was no way I wanted to give them this satisfaction.
And thirdly, as contradictory as it sounds, I didn't want the King to win either. Corruption was the most disgusting sin of them all, and I refused to succumb.
So where were my feet carrying me to, if not out of the castle, you ask? To you of course. To the King himself.
I didn't knock, I didn't wait, I didn't care. As soon as I reached the door to the King's chambers, I threw it open and made my way in.
“Why did you do that?!” I yelled, storming in and pointing at the King who was sitting on the ground next to his two hounds. He raised his eyebrows and his face was free of his smug grins. “Why are you doing this to me?!”
He turned to me but his hand kept patting his pet's head. When he spoke he sounded resigned. “What am I doing to you, Becket?”
“You made me the new Archbishop! I didn't ask you to make me the new Archbishop, I told you I didn't want to! I told you that you couldn't blackmail me, that I would do what you want just because you make me the Archbishop! I won't play this game! I won't -... I won't do what you want just because you chose me! So why did you do it?!”
“Oh that.” the King mouthed, pausing a moment before speaking audibly. A polite but very delicate, melancholic smile appeared on his lips. “So the news finally reached you?”
“What do you mean finally? When did you make this decision?”
“Three days ago.”
“Three days ago?! And you didn't tell me?! Are you aware that everyone knows about it now? That I can't decline the position now without making it look weird?! Without embarrassing yourself and your decision?! I don't care what you thought when you made that choice, but know that I am not going to-”
“Oh, Becket, shut up already.” the King interrupted me with a sigh. He turned back to his dogs and buried his face in their fur.
I don't know what actually made me shut up. The fact that the King dared saying such a thing to me, or the fact that the King dared saying such a thing to the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Pardon?”
“Just. Shush. I don't want to screw you.”
Again. I didn't know what offended me more. The fact that the King thought I thought he wanted to sleep with me, or the fact that the King didn't want to sleep with me. “Pardon?” I stuttered again, my voice slipping a little higher.
“I didn't make you Archbishop because I'm in love with you. I made you the Archbishop because you're the only one fitted for this job.”
I stared at him, how he ruffled his dog's fur and nudged their noses together, and my angry mind had terribly big troubles to convince me that this adorable, soft person could actually be so two-faced. Besides, it still made no sense. I licked my lips and cleared my throat. “Love?”
He looked up, as if I had called him, then closed his eyes and almost seemed to laugh at himself. Shaking his head, the smile disappeared again. “Never mind.”
“Excuse me, but I do actually mind.” I was still angry, but the surprise replaced the harshness in my voice with softness. I crossed my arms.
He sighed. “Becket, I … You talked about your dreams. You talked about your plans, your opinions, your ideas. Everything you've shown me who you are, all those discussions we had, in private and during council meetings, every single word that you uttered was something that only someone deserving to be the Archbishop would say. The whole … taking-your-duties-serious-thing. You're self-assured, and strong-minded, you're gentle and just, people would listen to you. Want to listen to you. This alone would be the greatest change Angevin has seen in a long time. I will probably need a lot of help with all those rebellions, especially if the English plan another uprising again. With your help, I could actually manage to keep the empire together, keep it the way my grandfather wanted it to be. You could talk to the English. Not only because you're one of them, but because you know how to please them. You know what they need, you know how to change this country enough to bring wealth to everyone. Regardless of what I said to you before, I made you Archbishop for the sole reason that you are the most fittest for this position. I know you have plans to build, lead and maintain my country, and even if you didn't know how to get there, I'm sure we could figure it out together.”
For a moment I forgot how to breathe. My gaze was fixed on the King, sitting on the ground and talking about me as if he actually believed in me. Not in the newness of my body, but in me; In my mind. He favoured me for the right reason? I wanted to throw up. My entire body ached, my head and my lungs and my heart, fighting over whether to trust him or not. “Together.” I repeated, panting.
He sighed again, defeated. “I'm sorry, Becket. For what I did. I really am. You are right, we monarchs /do/ always take what we want. Another reason why I want you to lead the Church. You have no idea how it feels like when for the first time in your life you suddenly meet someone who doesn't just obey your every order. Who prefers to stick to the rules of their own mind than to let me charm them in a hope to somehow get a benefit from it. Everyone always just wants to see me smile, no one gives a shit if I'm doing the right thing. They're all using me and I thought you-... Ever since my father died, they're all weird to me, as if would hang themselves if I told them to, rather than to stick up for their own life. And then there was you, all of a sudden, and I mean, yes, I've never seen someone as handsome as you are, but you also never lied about the fact that you would rather die for your beliefs than to live a liar. And I've never, ever, wanted anyone to believe in me more than I want you to believe in me, because you only-... To be something you could believe in. So that if you die for me, you'll have done it because I'm one of your beliefs." He paused, his mouth opened and closed a few times before he continued. "You made me realise how wrong my actions were and I don't want to be a liar. Not if everything you want is truth …” One of his dogs barked and he lovingly patted its snout. “Becket, could you please sit down? You're making us nervous. You're always making me feel as if you could turn around any second and leave me.”
I didn't move. I was still feeling dizzy. If not even more than ever before.
“Becket, please.” He sat up on his knees to straighten his back as he looked up at me, his eyes were wide, once again filled with desperation and panic. “Fine. Yes, together! Yes, I want to reign with you together. Everything I said to you, I wasn't lying. I do dream about you, but more than that I just want you to stay at Canterbury and help me. I need your help. I didn't realise it until you arrived, but I can't charm the whole empire into obedience. I need reason, and facts, and truths. And I need you. I confess my mistakes, I apologise for my behaviour, I was overwhelmed because to me you're the only one who can save my grandfather's legacy and I admire you so much for it. I thought that if I-" He interrupted himself. His eyes still seemed to beg for forgiveness but the pleading in his expression was fading, as if he was already preparing himself to lose everything.
Our eyes locked. "Henry..." My feet detached themselves from the ground, and not because I was falling. Well, I was falling, but I had been falling for a whole year now already. They started to carry me over to him. As I sat down, one of the dogs came to sniffle my hand and I carefully put it on its back. I had hoped that the pain in his eyes would disappear from up close, but I had been wrong. “Why didn't you tell me? About all of this?”
Henry's lips curled into a shy, almost embarrassed smile. It was honest anyway. “I thought I needed a reason to make you stay first. If I wasn't something you could believe in, I wanted to be something you ... want. Something that holds you here."
“And you thought black mailing me was the right way to do that, yes?”
“To be honest, I didn't think much.”
“I figured." I smiled, and warmth spread through my chest as I saw Henry's eyes widen, the pain inside of them slowly disappearing. "You hold me here already. But not with making me lust for you."
“Am I still making you lust for me?" he asked, and although there was this cheeky grin crawling onto his lips again, his voice was still timid and sincerely curious.
“Not by blackmailing me.” I chuckled and his smile grew wider.
"I love you."
I kept my eyes on him, felt my chest beat to the rhythm of my heart, those words pulsating through my veins repeatedly, now, and now, and now, again, and again, and again. I could hardly remember the last time I had felt this alive. "So you said." I replied, my voice nearly failing me.
To my surprise, his voice sounded quite like mine. "And do you love me?" I swallowed thickly and thought of the chime of his laugh, and his witty responses, the strength in his voice when we argued over Angevin, the way he had pointed the arrow at me, his sincere smile. "Not if you blackmail me." I had never meant to interrupt his laugh, but when both, love and lust find together, it is far more difficult to control the urges of the body than when those two go separated paths. Thus, I kissed him. Doubtlessly. For a few blissful moments, I was all too aware of Henry's lips, and how I could feel his heart beat way too fast. For those same, few, blissful moments, I courted the idea of trying to make sense of what I was doing, of reminding myself that people did not simply believe in me, that they always demanded something in return, that I wasn't anything a King would want to kiss. But as Henry's hand, shaking ever so slightly, met my cheeks, I knew it was too late for reason. I closed my eyes, and decided to just feel. To feel his lips parting and our tongues meeting, feel how my own hands weren't shaking, feel it all at once; Confusion, excitement, fear, happiness. Feel how Henry didn't push me away. The drumming of his heart and the stillness of his breath, and the ache behind my collar bone. Softer, louder, sweeter, warmer, I wanted more of it. More. "I'm sorry." he breathed, as I pulled away. Not much, just enough so I could look at him. My hand found its way to his collar again, holding onto him as if even while sitting, my knees could still give in. I leaned into the caress on my cheek and hoped Henry could see that I did not want it gone from there, that I did not plan on going anywhere. Not by my free will. "I didn't think..." Henry let out a chuckle that could only be described as a little shy and a little nervous. "I figured." I pulled away some more, just to be able to throw my head back as I laughed. My own words, in his mouth. He had listened and still carried them within his mind. I was in his mind. Oh, what a marvellous thought. When I looked at him again, his smile was the same smile I had grown to love so painfully much. It was so sincere, almost proud. "And you kiss quite well. You did have a girl in Paris, didn't you? I knew it all along. Admit it, priest!"
“Clerk.” I replied as a reflex.
Henry's lips parted into another laugh and I felt a strong urge to capture it with a kiss again, make his lips my own, taste the sound on my tongue until I forgot how even the ripest apples tasted. “There, I got you! Archbishop, Becket. Archbishop, not clerk. Not anymore.”
I was silent. He was right, wasn't he? I was the Archbishop now. The head of the Church in the whole empire. And here I was, starting to unbutton the collar of the King's robe. "How about you call me Thomas from now on?"
Chapter 10: End of old Doubts, Start of a new Faith
“Are you not sleeping?” a very quiet voice asks into the darkness. Thomas turns his head to look at Henry and smiles. It doesn't matter that Henry can't really see the smile, he still knows it's there.
“I apologise. Did I wake you up?”
“Not in the least. Are you all right?”
Thomas nods and presses a kiss to Henry's temple. “I just remembered what a terribly immature kid you were back then, when I first met you.”
Henry lets out a quiet laugh. “You have to admit that you were just far too mature and serious.”
“Excuse me? I just took my duties seriously and cared for Angevin, you can't-” But Henry doesn't want to know what he can or can't do. He pulls Thomas closer and kisses him. He has always loved the way his clerk got far too upset far too easily.
It doesn't take much for Thomas to give in, and Henry isn't surprised. He knows that although Thomas had always enclosed his feelings behind a mask of coldness and indifference, he loved him just as much as Henry loved Thomas. “I can't believe that you actually ran away.” he eventually says, after the long kiss ends. “For five years you were the best head of Church Angevin had ever seen. And then one morning the guards tell me you fled the country. No letter, no last words, no goodbyes. As a king, I understood, but as your friend, it hurt me a lot. I didn't think you were capable of such cruelty.”
“I didn't think so either.” Thomas sighs, wrapping his arm lovingly around Henry's body. His thumb brushes over the soft skin of the King's back. “That's why I left without a word. Every minute with you that could have made me doubt my decision, was endangering my life.”
Henry stays silent for a moment. “So it's true what they said? You were forced to flee?”
Thomas nods. “They never liked me. But with your stupid Constitution of Clarendon, literally everyone started hating me. Before that it had only been your nobles being unhappy with me taking my job a little too serious – as you say – but with me not being able to keep the new law from happening, even the clergymen started hating me.”
“I am deeply sorry. Yet, know that I didn't decide on Clarendon alone. It was my council telling me to do it, you know that.”
“I do know that, yes, but the others didn't. Besides, you could have just not signed the decree.” Henry sighs. They fought about this before, over and over, again and again. He knew that he had ruined everything back then, but it was too late to change it now, wasn't it? “We should have just reigned together, as I planned on doing it when I elected you to be the next Archbishop.”
Thomas' voice is a little colder now. “Well, I'm sorry, Henry, but I told you before and I'm telling you again, I refuse to succumb to black mail. The Church is the institution that is closer to God, thus should be valued as more important. I refuse to see the earthly King rule over the Church.”
Both stay silent for a moment. They know each other's arguments all too well. There's no point in fighting again. And so Henry just nestles into Thomas in an attempt to diffuse the negative mood that has suddenly arisen. “You could have told me where you went.”
“Because you think that no one reads your letters?” His voice is still cold, but not as upset anymore. “There was no reason in telling you, Henry. You couldn't leave Canterbury, and I couldn't come back.”
“I could have come visit you!”
“In a tiny monastery near Paris? Working hard for your daily bread and living on nothing but water? No wine? Are you sure?”
“I most definitely am!” Now Thomas really can't hold back a laugh and nestles back, pulling himself closer to the heat of the other body, as if scared that he might not be able to do that again any time soon. "You know that for you, I'd do everything." It's silent for a moment, and the darkness has never felt any safer. "So you were in Paris?”
“Every now and then.”
“Did you have some lovers there?”
“Sire!” Thomas laughs, reaching up to cover Henry's mouth. Given the fact that both of them are lying in bed together naked, the reaction makes only very little sense, it is a purely playful gesture, and both of them know it, thus Thomas doesn't resist when Henry takes his hand away and guides it down to the heated centre of his body, where his thumb slowly starts brushing along the length meeting it there. Henry lets out a voice-filled sigh and presses a kiss to Thomas' neck, grinning against the skin when his Archbishop continues: "You've got a dirty mind, Sire." That's what the King likes about his Thomas Becket from London, the ability to be chaste, even while in face of sin. Perhaps because to him, certain acts of the body aren't sinful as long as they are guided by the mind and the heart.
“I missed you.” he admits. Thomas' doesn't reply, but his hand is stilling. “Did you not miss me, too?”
“No reason to sound as if someone just died.”
Thomas chuckles and pushed Henry onto his back, so that he can pull himself closer still, rest his chin on the King's chest, drive his free hand into the blond locks of hair, and slip his leg between those ravishingly hot thighs. Henry feels the reassuring weight on him, and a reassuring grin on his face, and yet doubts that anything could have been more reassuring than how his question is being answered to: “Day in and day out I thought of you. I woke up with you on my mind, and I fell asleep with you on my mind. You, my king, my monarch, the crown of my kingdom, my love. My beautiful Henry. I promise. I did miss you. But I tried to make up for my sins. The fact that I was, perhaps, favoured by you for all the wrong reasons. Those nobles hated me for a reason. I thought that maybe they were right, and maybe, if I proved them that I could reign on my own without you, maybe they would change their opinion of me. And the clergies? If I found a way to bring the Church to more power again, I thought, maybe they will give me another chance.” He pauses. “I missed you. But it took me ten, long years to understand that people will always only see what they want to see. And you were the only one who has ever seen the truth."
Henry smiles, his body is tense from the proximity, from Thomas' touches and words. It was more of an answer than he expected, yet more of a riddle than he could stand right now. “So you finally believe me?”
Thomas lets out a shaky chuckle. “I think I'm finally starting to believe myself.”
He falls into a deep kiss, and Henry's legs are around his waist quickly, making sure he won't disappear again, making sure he will never doubt himself again.
“Thomas, my little priest, Thomas, wake up.” Henry is bent over Thomas, and as latter doesn't move, he starts kissing down his jaws and neck, planting love-bite after love-bite on his friend's chest.
Eventually Thomas starts stirring, little moans escape the depth of his throat, and with closed eyes he tries to find Henry's hair, tangling his fingers into its blond locks.
“Henry!” he gasps when he feels his neck being nibbled on. His eyes fling open and he sleepily glares at his King. “You're impossible.” he mumbles. “It's too early for this. I was sleeping!”
“You were.” Henry smirks and sucks on his lips, causing Thomas' hips to moan into the cool morning air.
“For Christ's sake, Henry.” he breathes, voices shaky, pulling at the King's hair ever so slightly and ever so needily. "Were the three times last night not enough?"
“The sun is almost up.” Henry laughs, sitting up. He straddles Thomas, who lets out a long sigh, focusing his entire concentration on not accidentally bucking his hips against the other's.
“Maybe it has changed, but the last time I checked, you weren't so keen on getting caught on your way out of my chambers.”
"Oh, merde." Thomas closes his eyes again. He forgot about this. Henry laughs. “Can't we just stay here until tomorrow morning? Who needs food anyway, I'll just feed on your-...” He stops himself and they just look at each other for a moment, before Henry breaks out into another loud laugh. His entire body is shaking, and now that the dawn is breaking through the window, Thomas get let his gaze graze over his perfectly formed shoulders, his chest, his abdomen...
“I'm giving a big party for you tonight, remember?" Henry smirks as he catches Thomas' hungry eyes. "And if neither the host nor the reason for the party actually come, people will surely be a little confused.” Thomas doesn't reply, but he reaches out, and his hands are almost cold on the muscles of Henry's chest. He knows what this means. 'Just a few more minutes, please.', and thus he smiles, giving in. Smiles at the long, black eyelashes, at the gracefully shaped cheekbones and jaws, at the so maidenly curved lips, at all those beautiful features with which he fell in love the moment he had first appeared them across the throne room. Even when he leans down on Thomas again, he keeps his eyes on him, gazing at him from the side until his eyelids are too heavy to be kept open. And even as he slips into slumber, he keeps seeing Becket, his beautiful image haunting him even in his deepest dreams.
When he wakes up one or two hours later, the sun is shining brightly onto his bed and Becket is gone. “This man will be my death.” With a small smile, Henry rolls to the side, burying his face in what is left of Becket's scent. His heart is hammering with happiness. His Archbishop. He is back. Finally. "Someone kill him for me." Or I'll die of happiness.
I've only recently been woken up by aggressive cuddling, because the person in my bed considered that 7am was a good hour for sexy time. I tell you right now; it definitely isn't.
Chapter 12: A Blue Dress Of Golden Embroidery, Part Two
For the feast, Henry puts on a red robe. He gave up wearing his comfortable knave's clothings a few years ago. It became a bother to explain the noblemen from other countries why he was wearing clothes which were beneath his dignity. Besides, he did look very fashionable when draped into the black cape, no doubt.
“So it's true, yes?” a boy of maybe thirteen years says to his friends as they carry in the plates of soup. “The Archbishop really is back?”
“He is!” the other says, nodding vividly.
“And the King is really happy about it? I thought they didn't like each other.”
Henry laughs, and the boys who obviously didn't notice that they were followed by someone, startle. “You'll soon learn that fights and disagreements spice up a relationship. Do you really think I'd give a feast for him if I didn't like him?!”
“Your majesty...” Both of them startle and attempt to bow but the narrow corridor and the many plates they are carrying make it nearly impossible.
Henry waves them back up to their feet. “Don't worry about that. Hurry, I'm sure everyone is waiting for the soup.”
The boys obey, scurrying away as fast as possible, and Henry smiles. As he enters the big dining hall, the soup is already served. Thomas is not there yet so Henry decides to wait.
“I can't believe you let him come back.” One of the noblemen says as he sits down next to Henry, who refuses to even look up.
“I am not surprised that your mind is too narrow to understand the concept of forgiveness, Sir d'Ile.”
“Forgiving a friends is an act of greatness, but you are forgiving our enemy. The head of the Church who tried to take away your power.”
Henry turns to face the man, smiling at him coldly. “Believe it or not, but Becket is both. Archbishop and my friend. I would appreciate it if you could tame your snarky tongue, for I absolutely do not care what you have to say.”
“Of course you don't.” Sir d'Ile hisses quietly, reaching out of his wine.
Henry stops his arm and forces him to look at his King. “This is a warning. You made him flee Angevin once, you will not force him to leave twice. I'm watching you. Rather will I lose parts of my power than my friend again. It is my choice to keep him here and you will not interfere.”
Sir d'Ile glares at him, the people close enough to hear the conversation have started talking purposefully loud to drown their voices. “I will not interfere, your Majesty. But I hope you realise that you made the wrong choice.”
They look at each other for a moment, before Henry shakes his head. “I hope you realise that I do not care.”
Sir d'Ile frees his arm and takes his wine. “I do realise that. And I regret.” With that he lifts his cup to his lips and emptied his drink.
The night proceeds and Thomas is still not there. Henry barely worries, he knows his friend and his only mild enthusiasm toward parties. It is only when it is almost time for the desserts to be served that he gets up to go look for his friend. Maybe he fell asleep again, they really shouldn't have stayed up so late last night. But the dessert!
“Sir Rollanz?” he calls his knight to come closer. “Would you help me find the Archbishop for whom I am giving this feast?”
The reliable and good knight nods and both disappear in different parts of the castle. The banqueting hall is so crowded that their absence is barely noticed.
Henry makes his way to Thomas' chambers, but they are empty, and all the lights are off. No one has been here in a while. On his way back, the gardens come to his mind and he decides to check them. Maybe Thomas felt a sudden urge to check how his beloved roses are. But the gardens, too, are empty.
Walking back to the dining hall, Henry tries to remain calm. Thomas hasn't left again, has he? He wouldn't do that to him. No one could be so cruel to a friend, especially not twice in the same life. Hadn't they admitted their love for each other? No one who loved him would do such a thing, would they? Maybe, and the thought passes Henry's mind so painfully suddenly, that it hurts his entire body, maybe Thomas does in fact not love him.
He reaches the banqueting hall slightly panting, and finds everyone staring at him. The music has stopped playing and most people are on their feet. In their posture Henry sees that they have been turned to Sir Rollanz, who is standing on the other side of the hall.
“Your Majesty!” he exclaims and runs over to him. He grabs him by the shoulders and Henry startles, watching some of the people following his knight. “You're alive!”
“I- … What?!” Henry asks, wide-eyed, the confusion mingling into the panic.
“We thought you were dead! We found your body in the Cathedral, I have just announced your death, I-… You're alive!”
Henry frowns and takes a step back, freeing himself from the tight grip of his knight.
“What do you mean? That doesn't make any sense, what are you talking about?”
“We found a dead body in the Cathedral, wearing your clothes, we thought it was you, we-”
“Then who is it?” Henry cuts into Sir Rollanz' words. His eyes roam around the room, trying to find an answer in the other people's eyes. Everyone looks back at him, but no one answers. “There's a dead person in the Cathedral and you don't care to find out who it is?!”
He turns around on his heels and leaves the banqueting hall once more, this time heading into the opposite direction of his and Thomas' rooms, with all his might he forces himself not to run, not to panic, not to submit to the darkest thoughts which are suddenly polluting his mind. He doesn't want to think about it, but he can't get rid of the strange, piercing feeling that there was a gruesome reason forThomas absence tonight.
The moment he enters the Cathedral, he sees someone's body bent over the altar, a single arrow driven through his back. As he goes down the middle aisle, he recognises his own blue robe, the one with the golden embroidery, the one he loved so much. But the closer he gets to the body, the clearer it is that the man there doesn't have his blond hair, but ebony black curls.
“Thomas.” Henry breathes, now unable to stop himself from running, running to the body of his friend, his only friend, grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him off the altar. He falls to his knees and holds the body that drops motionless into his arms, the body which is too cold and too pale. “Thomas!” he shouts now, but Becket's open eyes are not looking at him, they are looking through him, through the ceiling of the Cathedral to the sky, to Heaven maybe, but they're not looking at him, looking at who they are supposed to look at. “Look at me!" he shouts again, "No. No, this can't be, Thomas! You can't be dead, Becket, Becket, do you hear me?!” Bitingly bitter tears of sheer shock and pain start blurring out Henry's vision. “You promised me to stay, you promised me! You said you wouldn't leave me again, Thomas, no!” The blue cloth around Thomas' body is drenched with blood, blood so crimson that it appears black as it mingles into the tissue of the blue robe. “Stay with me, please, stay here with me.” Henry presses a kiss to the white lips of his friend. “Don't do that to me, don't leave me here...” And another kiss.
Suddenly, eventually, finally, he feels hands grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him up to his feet. The tears are flooding his eyes and he can't see anything at all anymore, yet his eyes stay fixed on Thomas' face, the way his blood-drenched body falls to the ground, crudely, gracelessly. He doesn't look like himself, and for a moment Henry wants to wipe his eyes to realise that this isn't Thomas, that he has just mistaken him, that this is just a misunderstanding and that he will turn around and see that the arms who pulled him up belong to his friend, and that everything is all right, and he'll be able to smile and laugh again, and they will stay together for so many more years.
But as he turns around he only sees Sir Rollanz' dull, brown eyes, and the breath he takes feels like the sharp blade of a knife. He breathes, he stands here, and Thomas has left, left by lying there on the ground of the Cathedral, making Henry want to stop breathing for ever, too.
“Who did that?!” he asks, his voice filled with the pain that makes his whole body shudder. “Who did that to him?!” Who did that to me?
There are so many people, so many eyes staring back at him, but for the second time today, none of them answers, for the second time today Henry feels helpless and so terribly alone. He turns back to his friend, but before he can move, he is held back, pulled down the aisle and all the way through the castle. His screams and sobs mingle into each other, sobs that make him feel like drowning, and screams that no matter how loud they are, can't help him to get rid of this brutal feeling of being so absurdly powerless. He wants to scream until his last breath is exhaled, but his lungs fill with air again and again, and again and again, and no matter how often he tries to empty them with screams that send Thomas Becket's name a thousand times into the night, no matter how often he tries to run out of life, he stays conscious, stays by Sir Rollanz' side, who brings him carefully, quietly to his chambers, who's face shows so much pain for Henry, and so much respect for Becket. When Henry's voice gives up, and he brings his own fingers around his throat to finally set an end to the ever-re-entering air, Sir Rollanz takes his hands away and holds them, holds him, sinking with him to the floor and keeps him there in a tight, fatherly embrace until the next morning, when Henry finally gives up on dying, for he realises that he will not be living now anymore, anyway.
After that, Henry II of the Angevin empire never cried again.
Not at Becket's funeral, not when they said that he was the reason of Becket's death. Not when the Murder In The Cathedral was mentioned again and again, when he was accused of being the murderer, when he was called the reason of his best friend's death. He didn't cry when he visited Becket's grave, and he didn't cry when his wife asked if she could name her son Thomas, and Henry had to decline her this wish. He just wanted to forget, knowing that he never would. He never cried again, but he also lost his smile forever. Every laugh was buried deep down in the cold earth next to Becket's body. He was soon known as heartless and ruthless, and for the longest time he made himself believe that people only misunderstood him, that they didn't see that he was innocent in all this. But as time passed he realised that he did become heartless, ruthless, realised that when they killed Becket, they killed him, too. Realised that, perhaps, he wasn't innocent. For he was the reason that Becket had returned.
His hair soon turned ash-grey, as if it refused to let anyone see that he once was this joyful, young, blond-haired boy who had nothing but nonsense and jokes on his mind. As if Becket left by taking all his passion with him, all his glamour and beauty.
When many years later, on his death bed, Sir Rollanz told him that he knew who the murder of the Archbishop was, Henry just shrugged and shook his head wearily.
“I wanted to protect you.”
“It does not matter anymore, my friend.”
And it really didn't. Henry knew that nothing could change the past, and the only thing he could hope for now was that all the happiness he had buried along with Becket's life was waiting for him in the Afterlife. That Becket had taken good care of his smiles and his laughs, of his blond hair and his jokes. Of the energy and enthusiasm that had left him forever after he had screamed and cried himself into slumber decades ago. It didn't matter that this life would soon be over, for at least now he would finally meet the lips of the chastest sinner again, and love and happiness would return once more.
Voilà, I hope you enjoyed all this. Leave me comments, leave me thoughts, leave me smiles?