*** Your Title Here ***

      Category: SLASH, Story, Angst, AU
      Fandom: Guiding Light - Richard/Edmund
      Rating: R (for adult situations between two men, implied incest)

      Summary: A tale of the royal Brothers Winslow.

      WARNING & Note: Richard & Edmund are half brothers, so this
      makes this fic half-incest, or something like that. If this
      upsets you, please GO NO FURTHER! Also, it takes place at
      some imaginary pre-GL time, so if there are inconsistencies
      with current canon, mea culpa.

      Title: All The King's Horses
      Author: Mako

      [][][][][][]

      It was a royal rage, one I'd never seen the likes of before,
      lining Richard's normally serene face, twisting it morbidly
      as pale and crimson washes of color fought for dominance. He
      was infuriated beyond measure ...

      And to think, all I'd done was kill his horse.

      Normally I have as much respect for horseflesh as any other
      gentleman, but this beast, he was Richard's and obviously hated me
      as much as the rest of my so-called family. The animal
      fought my mount desperately but I'm not one to be outsmarted
      by anything, let alone a fool horse. I ran the creature
      hard, true, but it was his stubborn refusal to accept me as
      his rider that lead to his downfall and it was through no
      fault of mine he skidded across a rocky stretch, his front
      leg cracking beneath the violence of his fall.

      Really, it wasn't my fault at all.

      But try explaining that to our good Prince Richard. "It was
      an accident," I insisted.

      "It was no accident. You knew you were forbidden to ride
      him." My brother's upper lip twitched, a novel, rather
      amusing sight. "You knew that his temperament wasn't suited
      to your ... style." The last word was spat out is if it
      burnt his tongue.

      "It's a horse, Richard." I pulled off my riding gloves
      casually, hoping to make him look foolish in his fury. "You
      can get another."

      "How dare you!" he cried furiously. "It's a living creature."

      "Not for long." I laughed, not caring how cruel the truth,
      and I, sounded.

      The slap across my face came so quickly and was so violent, I
      saw stars.

      For a long moment I was dazed and fought to catch my balance,
      the initial sting turning into a burning flush of heat along
      the entire side of my face. To my horror, my eyes began to
      tear, first from the shock ... then from the memories the
      slap provoked.

      I'd been hit many times like that -- by my parents, my
      tutors, the courtiers -- it seemed as though anyone who came
      in contact with me in the palace had given me a crack across
      my face at one time or another. So many of them, taunting
      and hitting me, and there was no escape, except for ...

      Except for Richard's room, where he'd place his cool hand
      along the welt, soothing it with his soft touch. Sometimes,
      I'd receive kisses as well, his lips gentling the hurt away
      and I remembered those caresses clearly -- they often burned
      as much as the wounds, but in a much better, brighter way.

      Embraces followed, a favorite toy shared and he'd walk me
      back to my tiny room downstairs, his arm slung protectively
      over my shoulder as if daring anyone to hurt me again. Oh,
      they always would, eventually, but a silent warning from the
      Crown Prince was always good for a few days worth of peace.

      Then, it would all start again. God, how they hated me, the
      bastard son, the inconvenience, the whipping boy for all and
      sundry, except for Richard, who, for whatever reason, loved
      me dearly. He never joined them, he stayed far away, and as
      for his kindness -- I knew better, didn't I? It was just
      another way of proving himself better than all the rest,
      aloofly staying above my tormentors, proving himself royal
      with his blasted benevolence.

      It's a wonder then I didn't rejoice when Richard finally
      broke down and hit me across the face, proving once and for
      all his life of lies. I ran instead, staggering away from the
      trail and took off toward the woods, tripping over roots,
      getting thrashed and cut with sharp overgrowth. The slap
      still stung and I could hear Richard yelling my name, telling
      me to stop, but I wasn't going to obey him because I knew the
      truth.

      I knew that he hated me too. Finally.

      My boot caught on a tangle and I went crashing toward the
      ground, hitting more than a few rocks. I heard Richard
      panting breathlessly and telling me that it was going to be
      all right, that he'd take care of me. He knelt beside me and
      took me into his arms, still babbling, his voice filled with
      regret.

      "Get off!" I cried, struggling to escape his touch. "Damn
      you, Richard ..."

      "Hush," he whispered angrily. "Be quiet, Edmund. You're
      hurt."

      I shoved at him, wishing I carried a dagger on me at all
      times, just like Father did. "GET OFF!" I screamed, a
      thousand scars tearing through me at once.

      Richard didn't love me, no, not ever ... not even when we
      were children. It was all a lie. He was just like them, my
      tormentors, those who wished me alive so they could hurt me
      for one more day. "You're the bastard, Richard," I snarled,
      half mad with pain and shame. "So high and mighty, but I
      know the truth and you can't deny it. You're just like they
      are. Admit it, Richard! Admit it!"

      Richard stared at me and I winced beneath his sharp blue
      eyes. Then suddenly, his lips were atop mine, harsh,
      demanding silence and acquiescence. My heart faltered, then
      began to pound wildly as Richard's hands, those smooth,
      perfect hands that had never known labor of any sort, brushed
      against my cheeks and his long fingers carded through my
      hair, eliciting fire everywhere they touched.

      He pulled away, breathless, his lips puffy and wet. "Now will
      you shut up and come home with me?" he asked quietly.

      Stunned, I nodded. "Yes," I murmured, touching a finger to
      my mouth, wondering if it had all been a dream.

      He helped me up, his arm encircling my waist protectively and
      I winced as I walked, my right ankle twisted. "Lean against
      me," he commanded and I obeyed, my face hotly flushed, my
      body warming where we touched. "Watch your step."

      We limped out of the woods together and the courtiers were
      waiting for us with a car. One of the attendants was
      carrying a gun, obviously to put Richard's horse out of its
      misery. Shame suddenly flooded me, and I was near tears
      again. Riding a helpless animal into the ground ... maybe I
      was the monster of San Cristobel.

      The monster who deserved everything he got. "I'm sorry," I
      whispered thickly, as we got into the Rolls.

      Richard slid in next to me and turned away toward the window,
      giving a signal to the groom to go ahead and shoot his
      beloved steed. "I know," he said sadly. "You're always
      sorry, Edmund. As am I."

      For some reason this undid me, and I turned away, fighting
      against full blown sobs. It ... it was wrong, everything was
      wrong, and I heard a grinding sound as the bullet proof
      window shields descended and the black partition that
      separated us from the driver rose. We were alone, ensconced
      in metal and darkness, my princely brother and I, the lowly
      monster that had to be kept in the palace basement, even now,
      lest he destroy everything he touched.

      Richard didn't say another word and I didn't ask for one. We
      rode in silence and as the horse trail faded behind us, the
      castle of San Cristobel grew closer, larger and more ominous,
      as ever my castle, my home ... my prison.

      [][][][][]

      Weeks passed and no mention of the incident was made, not
      that I saw Richard all that often. He was always in his
      office, surrounded by his ministers all of whom acted as if I
      simply did not exist. They brushed passed me wordlessly,
      looked through me even when I stood in the same room; they
      virtually made an art out of ignoring my presence.

      The only courtiers who even bothered with me were the
      outcasts, the various losers who'd been sent down from the
      tower or the ambitious climbers who thought that befriending
      me was their way into Richard's good graces.

      Those delusions didn't last very long.

      The only one who visited regularly was my royal brother
      himself, popping his head into my so-called office, a dusty
      room in the very back of the palace, asking if everything was
      well to which I invariably answered "yes" in as bored a tone
      as I could muster.

      He'd look annoyed, I'd get my tiny ration of smugness for the
      day, and that would be that.

      But even those visits had stopped and I wondered what was
      going on. While I relished the quiet, too much silence in a
      palace was an ominous sign. Even my usual toads, the one or
      two hangers-on I could count on to irritate me daily were
      avoiding me and I knew from long experience that something
      rotten was in the air.

      One didn't survive the Royal Family on one's good looks alone
      and I soon realized that I was at the center of something
      dangerous. The next morning, I raced to Richard's office and
      cursed myself for not paying better attention to the latest
      undercurrents. Royal politics had a bad habit of ending
      men's lives, even under the so-called rule of law and I had
      no intention on meeting the business end of the hangman's
      noose any time soon. Fortunately, Richard's hard-earned
      standoffish sensibility would invariably save my ass, if it
      was my ass that was on the line this time.

      Then again, it was always me, wasn't it?

      But by the time I reached Richard's office and saw the grimly
      happy faces surrounding his desk, I knew I was too late. I
      glanced from face to face, noting the ministers' malevolent
      glee as Richard stared at me from behind his desk, looking
      torn between rage and despair.

      I focussed on him, trying to dissect his thoughts through,
      God help me, our bond as brothers, as slim and tenuous as
      that was. But I could read little, except that he was angry
      at me, very angry, as well as bitterly disappointed.

      I swallowed hard and drew myself up. I was still a prince in
      my own right, no matter how hard they tried to deny it. "Are
      we still upset about Flaubert?" I asked lightly, kicking
      myself even as the words came out. It was pretty obvious
      this wasn't about the damned horse, but for the first time in
      my life, I was at a loss for sensible words.

      Silence followed and I could see Richard's throat working as
      he struggled to speak. He rose, opened his mouth, then
      closed it again, before simply throwing a paper onto his
      desk, silently motioning for me to pick it up and read.

      Slowly, I approached the desk, feeling every eye in the room
      on me. I picked up the sheaf and studied it, immediately
      confused by the sight of my own handwriting on something I
      knew for a fact I'd never written.

      It was an outline of a plot to end Richard's life and take
      over his throne.

      It was incredibly detailed, masterful even, with payoffs and
      promises, strategy and deceptions, and I'd almost had to
      admire it, except for the fact that I wasn't its author.

      No thanks for small favors, I suppose.

      "I've never seen this in my life," I said haughtily, and
      tossed it back onto Richard's desk. I didn't expect him to
      believe me, it was one of the few truths I'd ever told in his
      presence, but I was very surprised to see a wash of relief
      immediately fill his eyes. He did believe me, straightway,
      or maybe it was just something he wanted to believe ... I'm
      not sure.

      One of Richard's ministers, the insufferable Carter, glared
      at me. "Does His Highness deny this is his handwriting?"

      I snorted. Now I was "His Highness," was I? "Yes," I
      smiled sweetly. "His Highness does." I flopped down into an
      empty Queen Anne chair and casually put my feet up on
      Richard's desk, enjoying their shocked faces.

      The minister continued. "Does His Highness deny that he has
      plotted to kill Prince Richard?"

      I examined my fingernails. "Absolutely not. I think about
      killing him half a dozen times a day." I paused, ignoring
      Carter's scowl. "But I'm certainly not stupid enough to
      commit it to paper."

      I peeked up, expecting Richard to be furious, but to my
      surprise he still looked relieved rather than otherwise. I
      suppose my rare candor was good for a few things, perhaps
      even saving my life.

      Dax, one of Richard's wilier ministers leaned in toward him,
      speaking in that infuriating quiet voice of his. "Your
      Highness, there is proof of treason here, and until this
      matter can be resolved, it is best to think of safety first."

      "Ah, but it won't be resolved, will it, Dax? Not until we're
      both dead," I said, feeling a droplet of sweat trickle down
      my back. The game was afoot and I was quickly turning into a
      Frenchman on St. Crispian's Day. "There is a plot here,
      Richard, but it's not against you ... yet. I'm to be removed
      as a distraction, while the real traitors wait for you to let
      your guard down and then strike." My mouth was dry with fear
      but I kept rambling, hoping against hope that Richard would
      see the plot for what it truly was. "If you don't listen to
      me, we're dead men, both of us."

      Richard stared at me, his expression unreadable. Silence
      hung between us for what felt like an eternity, until he
      nodded toward the door guards. "Place him under arrest."

      The goons hauled me to my feet and I was unceremoniously
      dragged out the door, kicking and screaming at the top of my
      lungs. I was never much for decorum, it's far overrated,
      especially for the bastard son who was headed toward the
      castle prison, just as he knew he'd been fated to since the
      day he was born.

      [][][][][]

      My cell was freezing and the similarities between it and
      my old "bedroom" were too close for comfort. San Cristobel
      had only one jail, with only one comfortable cell, obviously
      not fit for royal prisoners. So I was taken to the ancient
      castle dungeons where I was locked behind rusted bars without
      the any of the conveniences of modern day living such as
      heat, bedding or hot food.

      I paced for hours, my fury keeping me warm. That eventually
      faded and I was alone in the darkness, with cold and hunger
      gnawing at my gut. I huddled in the corner and shut my eyes
      tightly, trying to will away the demons that circled. How
      many nights had I spent alone as a child, hungry and cold,
      still aching from a day of relentless abuse? Too many, and
      this was the final straw, as far as I was concerned.

      Damn them, damn them all to hell, especially His Royal
      Asshole, Richard the First.

      I wanted to cry, but couldn't. The tears refused to come and
      I smacked my fist into the dungeon's bricks, crying out
      against the pain I'd just caused myself. Idiot, such an
      idiot, I thought miserably, when the cell bars creaked open
      and a familiar figure snuck in, carrying what looked like a
      large basket.

      It was Richard, no doubt hoping to carry my head out with
      him, and I lunged for him without thinking, flailing away at
      whatever parts I could reach, pummeling and rolling with his
      punches. I tried my best to kill him, would have settled for
      hurting him badly, but he was still stronger than I, a big
      brother to the last.

      I ended up beneath him, squirming under his heavy length,
      hating him more than I thought one human being could hate
      another. "You son of a bitch!" I yelled, struggling against
      the rough hands that held me against the cold stone floor.
      "I wish I knew who wanted to oust you! I'd be first in line
      to help them!"

      "Be quiet," Richard hissed, as his hand clamped tightly over
      my mouth effectively silencing me. "Stop being a fool before
      you get us both killed." I blinked with surprise, and
      slowly, he took his hand away. "I know you're innocent, so
      there's no need for this idiocy."

      "Then why the hell am I in here?" I snarled, spitting at him
      for good measure. "Explain that!"

      Richard glared at me. "You're in here so whoever it actually
      plotting this coup thinks they've succeeded in putting the
      blame on you. With you incarcerated, they'll get careless
      and I can weed them out, thus saving both our hindquarters.
      Besides, it's safer for you in here than anywhere else at the
      moment." He huffed, then painfully sat up, brushing my saliva
      from his shirt with a grimace of distaste. "Idiot."

      "Oh," I said sullenly, feeling not quite as bright as I did
      just a few moments before. "You could have placed me under
      house arrest then."

      "Edmund, this is house arrest," Richard sighed. "Unless I
      locked you in a closet."

      My anger waned. I knew he was right, but I wasn't ready to
      give up the fight, not just yet. "It's freezing in here," I
      grumbled. "And your friends have forgotten to feed me." My
      tone edged toward whining, but I didn't care. I was tired,
      hungry, cold and no longer angry at Richard.

      Things don't get much worse than that.

      "I know," he said, with surprising gentleness. "That's why
      I'm here." Richard tugged the fallen basket open, pulling
      out things that looked suspiciously warm and comforting. He
      draped a blanket around my shoulders, then handed me a tall
      thermos. "Hot chocolate. I can't vouch for it, I made it
      myself. But there's brandy in it, so that might make up for
      what it lacks."

      I opened the thermos and sniffed at its contents. "You made
      this? When did you learn how to boil water?"

      "This evening. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
      Here, I found where Cook keeps the leftovers."

      "Isn't this lovely," I scoffed, rolling my eyes at the
      offered sandwich. "A family picnic in the family dungeon."
      I grabbed it and took an angry bite, my stomach rumbling
      appreciatively. "I hope you know how utterly ludicrous this
      is."

      Richard nodded. "The irony isn't lost on me, have no fear.
      But we have to protect the kingdom, as well as ourselves, and
      this is the only way we can. "

      "No, it's not. Why don't you just kill them all?" I said, the
      brandy hitting my empty stomach running. Nothing like a shot
      of Dutch courage to get the gears grinding. "I'll get the
      rope, you get the scaffold and we'll be done with them."

      "You can't be serious."

      "I've never been more serious." Another long slurp of cocoa,
      a pleasant thought of Dax and Carter's execution and I felt
      warmed to my toes. "Or we can just shoot them if you like."

      Richard gave me an incredulous look. "You know as well as I
      do it doesn't work that way. This isn't a tyranny, Edmund
      and I don't plan on making it one anytime soon."

      "Then you're a damned fool. I wouldn't let anyone get away
      with anything if I were the ruler."

      "Thank God you're not then," he replied gravely. With a
      sigh, he settled in besides me, leaning against the stone cot
      that was supposed to serve as my bed. "Edmund, how did we
      get like this?"

      Here we go, I thought, my throat tightening. "Don't make me
      nauseous, Dr. Freud," I said acidly. "I'm not in the mood to
      discuss our traumatic childhood at this particular moment.
      And if there's another sandwich in there, I suggest you hand
      it to me before I bite your nose off."

      "Because talking about it will make it end and you don't want
      it to end, do you? You feed off your hatred of me, like a man
      at a banquet." He handed me the second sandwich, which I
      devoured in nearly a single gulp.

      "And quite a delightful banquet it is too." I wiped my mouth
      on my sleeve and finished off the thermos. "Unlike your moldy
      leftovers and watery chocolate."

      "That's not water in there." He smiled, in spite of my
      insults. "But I think you're feeling it already, aren't
      you?"

      I hiccoughed then shrugged. "Water, cheap brandy, what's
      the difference?" I shivered and hiccoughed again before
      leaning against him, my drunken anger turning into sloppy
      sentimentality at an alarming rate. I snuggled closer,
      ostensibly to steal whatever heat I could, but in truth being
      cuddled beside him looked more attractive than I'd have cared
      to admit.

      To my surprise, he wound a tight arm around me and pressed a
      soft kiss to my temple. Amazing. The man I'd wished dead
      almost my entire life, the brother whom I considered less a
      brother than a mortal enemy, the one whom I insulted,
      degraded, plotted against and scorned ... still seemed to
      love me. Deeply, honestly ... passionately.

      How wonderfully ridiculous.

      "Why are you doing this?" It was the brandy talking at that
      point, but it sounded enough like me for me not to care. "Why
      do you insist on being noble with me? Isn't there some other
      slob you can be benevolent with, one more deserving than I?"

      "I'm not being noble," he protested. "And I think you're
      most deserving of all my care, especially ..." He hesitated.
      "After that traumatic childhood you don't want to talk
      about."

      I scowled at him. "I don't need your pity, Richard. God,
      that's the last thing I need or want. If you hated me, life
      would be a lot easier, mind you. For both of us."

      "Sorry, I'm not up to hating you at the moment," he shrugged.
      "I don't pity you either." He laughed mirthlessly. "As if a
      man like you would need my pity." A narrow glance. "Or
      should wish for my hatred."

      My teeth grit so tightly, my jaw began to ache. "Why?
      Because it's only by your gracious goodness I'm being kept
      alive?"

      "No," he replied and tilted my face up toward his. I could
      see his eyes in the dim light and they were blue, bluer than
      a spring sky and twice as hopeful. "Because I love you.
      With a part of me that no one else will ever possess, a part
      of my soul that no one else can touch. And no matter what
      you do or say, that love will remain."

      My heart skipped a beat and the blood rushed through my ears
      in hot, pounding waves.

      "You've sorely tried me, Edmund, many times, but never have I
      hated you for it. Not because I've pitied you, but because
      you do something to me I can't understand. You're my other
      half; you complete me. You're the part of me I'd deny if I
      could, but embrace instead, because I must. Do you
      understand?"

      "No," I whispered. "But don't let that stop you."

      He smiled crookedly, his eyes crinkling beautifully in the
      corners. "Stop me from doing what?"

      "From doing this," I said, before capturing his lips with my
      own. Oh, I'm sure it was wrong and that we were going
      straight to Hell after all was said and done, but that didn't
      matter. What mattered was that he returned the kiss, sweetly
      at first, then with growing hunger after I made it clear I
      was no lady to be wooed or won.

      I was his dark side, the half he'd deny if he could and there
      was no escape, for either of us.

      I reached for him, tugging viciously at his clothes. He
      fought me, cautiously at first, then grabbed my wrist and
      squeezed it to the point of pain, stopping me in my tracks.
      "No," he gasped. "Not here, not now."

      "Why not?" I asked, yanking my arm away angrily.

      "Because I want it to be ... good," he stammered, more
      flustered than I'd ever seen him. "And here's not the place
      for it."

      I laughed bitterly. "There's no good place for what we're
      doing, Richard. Don't you know that?"

      "There is," he said solemnly. "Don't you remember?" He
      kissed me again and I could taste his lips -- terrifically
      sweet, part peppermint, part scotch ... all Richard.
      "Remember when we first spent nights together?"

      I inhaled sharply. Those were memories I didn't want. "We
      were children then." And we were, two terrified teenaged
      boys, lost in a maze of mortar, stone and hatred, huddled
      beneath a single blanket, entwined together for what we
      prayed was eternity. "That was different."

      "It was the same," he intoned. He pulled me closer and I
      could feel myself tremble with fear, or with lust, I wasn't
      sure. "Except we knew nothing then, we were all the other
      had. Hate me as you will, Edmund, I was all there was,
      wasn't I? And for all your deception, you were all I had.
      It's the same now."

      "Is it?" The walls wavered before me and my stomach churned.
      "Have you looked at us lately, Richard? When was the last
      time we shared anything, let alone our bodies and a bed?"

      "We share our souls, every day. Whether we know it or not."
      He nuzzled my cheek and I groaned, unable to resist his
      touch, feeling as if my heart was tearing in half. "I love
      you."

      My throat burned as the brandy tried to force itself back up
      and I pulled away frantically, gasping for air. Too much,
      too soon and I didn't know how to reply. If I loved him, I
      could no longer hate him and without my hatred, I was as good
      as dead. I wanted to plead with him, tell him to turn away,
      to take back what couldn't be erased, but instead, he rose
      and stood over me, the Prince of San Cristobel once again.

      "Rest, Edmund," he said, bending down and touching my cheek.
      "And have no fear, not tonight, not ever." His thumb traced
      the outline of my chin. "You're not alone."

      The cell door creaked again, and like a phantom, Richard was
      gone. I huddled in the blanket, the darkness settling in
      again, my spirit shattered, its jagged pieces lying on the
      dungeon floor and I heard a children's rhyme singsong
      through my mind ...

      // ... and all the King's horses, and all the King's men
      would never put Edmund Winslow back together again.//

      [][][][][][][]

      Richard came back the next morning, with ten trembling ministers
      standing behind him. He opened the cell door with his own
      hands and inclined his head toward me in an unheard of show
      of humility. The Crown bows to no one but that day it
      appeared I was the exception.

      Surprise, surprise.

      The ministers behind him bent themselves double at me, but I
      ignored them, waiting for my brother to speak.

      "A mistake has been made," said Richard finally. "The letter
      was a forgery and the traitor has confessed, been tried and
      is no longer among us." Formal tone, and I blinked.

      Discovered, tried and "no longer among us" -- all in one day?

      "That was fast," I said mildly. "Are you sure you got the
      right one?"

      "Quite sure," replied Richard edgily. "However, if he did
      have accomplices, I'm sure they'd do well to remove
      themselves from our island, post haste. If they value their
      lives."

      I wanted to laugh, wondering how many ministers we'd be less
      in a few hours, but questions still nagged at me. Even
      trials for traitors usually take a couple of weeks, but ...

      "So, is our traitor banished?" I asked, walking beside
      Richard down the hall to the staircase that lead to the upper
      floors and freedom.

      "Yes," replied Richard. "To heaven or hell, may God rest his
      soul."

      The blood drained from my face. "I see." I swallowed, hard,
      feeling a sudden bout of queasiness. "Sire, may ... may I
      speak with you alone for a moment?"

      "Of course," said Richard as the ministers gladly scattered
      away from us. He smiled, his eyes still blue, still
      beautiful, but something was missing, or worse, something
      new had invaded their clear depths and I was afraid I knew
      what it was.

      "Richard, are you telling me you executed the man without a
      trial?" I asked, hoping, no praying, I was wrong.

      "There was no need for a trial, Carter confessed outright.
      And as for death, he deserved it," Richard replied darkly.
      "I heard what you said last night, Edmund and I thought about
      it. I think you're right ... I think these things need to be
      dealt with a more timely and absolute manner."

      "Richard ..." My hands raked nervously through my hair, and
      it took a moment, but I steeled myself against the weakness I
      knew would inevitably come. "I ..."

      "You'll be joining me in my room tonight," he finished for
      me, smiling so brightly, I thought I would melt at the sight.
      "I've missed you so much." He touched my cheek and I had to
      force myself to pull away, because, there was to be none of
      that ... never again.

      Because Richard, my Richard, had no need for the darkness I'd
      bring to him.

      It would only destroy him, just as I destroyed everything
      else I ever touched.

      "No," I replied stonily. He recoiled at the harshness of my
      tone, but I averted my eyes, not willing to lose my nerve at
      the sight of his hurt face. "I've been doing my own thinking,
      and it's madness what you propose. We can no sooner go back
      to our childhood than we could leave our stations here and
      live some other life. Go, go back to your throne and
      cronies, Richard, and leave me to do what I do best. " I
      smiled grimly. "Which happens to be hating you."

      He blinked, then paled a terrible shade of white. His mouth
      opened, then clamped shut and he made no move to stop me as I
      tripped carelessly up the stone stairs, without a backwards
      glance. "Oh, and another thing, brother mine," I called down
      without turning around. "Next time you find a letter like
      that, it will most likely be mine. But you'll find it too
      late, I assure you."

      And I slammed the door behind me, willing my knees to carry
      me just a few more steps so I could collapse out of sight,
      and cry, out of Richard's earshot, least he call in all his
      horses, all his men ... and try to put what I knew was the
      love of our lives back together again.

      Something that I was never going to allow to happen ... ever again.

      [][][][][][]

      the end

      Reviews are welcome.
      Flames used to turn my cat's farts blue.
      Thanks for reading, mako.