That was it. The war was over. Thirty years of fighting, and he had ended it in one final battle. Henry was now king and it was overwhelming. Finally he would get to see his mother again and that brought him indescribable joy. It came with a twinge of sadness though when he realised he could never introduce her to... him. So many people had been lost to this war but Stafford was the hardest to accept. Henry couldn’t help but wonder what Stafford would say, seeing him as king.
After the battle, a large group of nobles had gathered to greet him and the other soldiers. He spotted his mother instantly and embraced her tightly. He hadn’t felt this at home since the night before Stafford left for England. That night everything had seemed so perfect and stable. They were both away from the dangers of London, and York's schemes. For once they were safe.
“Henry” Stafford whispered, turning to face Henry in bed. “Henry? Are you awake?”. When no reply came, Stafford started poking his shoulder. “Henryyyy” he whined again. Stafford had this awful habit of complaining like a toddler when he was impatient. As much as it bothered Henry sometimes, he still found it very endearing.
“What?” replied Henry, mockingly exasperated.
“I can’t sleep”
“I just... can’t”
“You’ve got to have more of a reason than that. Did Stanley say something?”
“No I just- what if it goes wrong? What happens if I make a mistake and you don’t become king and England is in ruins and it’s all my fault?”. Henry stared at him for a second, then smiled and brushed his floppy red fringe away from his face tenderly. “That’s not going to happen” They both knew this was a lie. Henry had chosen to trust Stafford, but he’d never seemed like he quite knew what he was doing. For all Henry knew, Stafford could betray him at a moment's notice. But all it took was one look into his sweet eyes and all doubts washed away.
The two lay in silence for a while, until Stafford piped up. “What will happen when you’re king?” Henry thought for a moment. “Well. There will be a coronation of course, and I will move into a palace.”
“Yes I understood that much” Stafford remarked. “But what happens to your family?... Who do you live with in your big palace?”
“Well, I suppose... I will have to marry”
“There has to be a queen for the king” Neither sounded particularly happy at the prospect.
“There’s Elisabeth of York…”
“You’d really marry Richard’s niece?”
“It would unite York and Lancaster, bringing an end to the war.”
“But-” Stafford stopped himself before he said anything he would regret. He had so much he wanted to tell Henry, but the words terrified him, despite how comfortable the two were around each other. It was much easier to leave everything unsaid and just ...be with him. “You know, I was a ward of Edward IV. Technically I could also unite York and Lancaster.” he joked. Henry smiled. The thought had never crossed his mind before. “I would like that,” he whispered.
“What was that?” Stafford asked, unknowingly.
“Nothing” Henry retreated. “We should try to sleep again,” he offered. “Everything will work out just fine.” Then he gently planted a kiss on Stafford's forehead and turned over. Stafford moved closer to him and wrapped his arm around Henry’s waist. For one final night, he was safe in Stafford's arms.
When Henry woke up the next morning, Stafford had left for England. That was the last time they had seen each other before…
When his mother finally released Henry from her embrace, she was shocked to see tears in his eyes. Before she could question him however, a voice called from a way off in the distance. “Henry!” Neither of them thought much of it, everybody would want to congratulate the new king, until he noticed an unmistakable red figure approaching. As the figure grew closer, Henry’s face dropped in fear. How could he be here? Stafford was dead. “Henry!” he called out again. His mother looked at him dubiously. “Well Henry? Aren’t you going to talk to him? He’s clearly very excited to see you.” He approached cautiously.
“Well you don’t look as excited as I’d hoped” said the figure mockingly.
“But... you’re dead. Richard had you executed. You’re dead, this is just an illusion.” he was beginning to get very upset now. “This is just my mind playing tricks on me. Stafford is dead and he’s never coming back. Please just leave me alone, whatever you are!” Henry turned away, desperately wishing the figure wasn’t there. To this, the figure burst out laughing. “No no no. They just exiled me. Richard took one look at my face and remembered how we used to play as boys. He was much more of a softie than he seemed. He couldn’t bear to see me die. But now that you’re king, I thought... maybe... you’d let me stay…”
Henry turned round slowly and stared in awe. Stafford was alive! His head wasn’t on a spike! It was there, on his body, where it was supposed to be. Admittedly pretty messy and dishevelled, but Henry didn’t seem to mind that, in fact he quite liked it that way. Overwhelmed with emotion, he forcefully wrapped his arms round Stafford’s waist and held on tightly. “I’ll take that as a yes then” Stafford chuckled as he fell backwards onto the grass, toppled over by Henry’s sudden force. Embarrassed, Henry quickly stood back up wiping the tears from his eyes. Stafford just lay there laughing. Begrudgingly, Henry held out a hand to help Stafford up.
“Maybe we should try this again” offered Stafford sheepishly. Henry looked up at him slowly. Then wrapped his arms around his neck, lifted himself up on his toes, and gently kissed him. As he pulled away, Stafford’s hand reached comfortably around Henry’s waist and pulled him close again. Henry’s head tucked cosily under his chin.
“I’ve missed you Henry”
“I’ve missed you too Henry”