|Fear and Courage
Author: Katerzzz PM
1963. King George VI receives a midnight telephone call from a familiar place. He arrives at a scene of tragedy and leaves with his terrified brother under his care. He realises, more than ever, the importance of Prince James in his life and how, despite their major differences, they are an invincible, indestructible force. Fear and Courage. BrothersRated: Fiction M - English - Family/Drama - Words: 8,068 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 10-16-12 - id: 3066090
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Okay, just had this little (though it will actually be quite a long piece) idea for a oneshot about life post-E&A, basically the children are all grown up (it's the 60s) and stuff is going down at Windsor Castle (mainly between the two brothers), Georgie and James. Nothing will be revealed to do with TOPY (Ostrich Plume Years) as that is set forty years backwards. Alrighty, you'll get to see what James has been up to (which is a lot) and how big brother Kingie reacts to it (badly). Hopefully this is a bit darker, showing the side that the boys didn't have as children and also showing how, whilst Georgie has found his lil' bit of happiness, James may be forever in search of his.
Also, for my own enjoyment, I'm chucking a couple o' Easter Eggs in there at the end just for good measure. See if you can spot them.
King George never usually saw red for two reasons; one was because he was, by nature, a compassionate and generous person who often said what had to be said in a calm yet solemn voice and the second was because physically his lungs, which had been weakened by an almost fatal bout of tuberculosis back in the fifties, would simply not be able to take the extra stress.
However, this night was to be a test of his very well honed skill.
He sat hunched up in the back of the Rolls Royce having received a midnight telephone call from his private secretary telling him that he had been contacted by a very distressed sounding young lady at Seaford House.
The King, upon hearing the location, had immediately got out of bed, rung down to the chauffeur to ask if he could drive him and had then pulled on a pair of trousers over his pyjama bottoms and thrown a coat over his shoulders.
The prestigious houses of Belgrave Square were lit up by the lights of the car as the chauffeur drove into the most exclusive residential area in Britain. George knew the one he was looking for, "Just ahead, Marks," he pointed the chauffeur in the direction of the house. Seaford House, a white stucco four-storey mansions, took up the top right-hand corner of the Square and had been given to the King's younger brother, the Prince James, as a twenty-first birthday present by their mother Alice, who had been the previous owner.
George could, at that moment, only speculate as to what had made the young lady, who his personal secretary had named as Lady Gwen Fitzalan-Howard, telephone so late and in such distress.
But as the car pulled up alongside the pavement, the King realised why. Poorly parked side-by-side were five black cars each sporting either a blue or red siren on their roofs. Why were the police here? George wondered as he reached out with his right hand and twisted the thin gold wedding band around his left ring finger. Unlike kings before him, he wasn't afraid of showing his commitment to one woman.
"Would you like me to come with you, Your Majesty?" Timothy Marks, the King's new chauffeur, asked him.
"No, Marks, I'll be alright," the King replied "Though if you could wait out here that would be most appreciated."
"Certainly, Sir," Marks nodded as he turned the key down in the car ignition and the rumbling of the engine stopped, leaving monarch and chauffeur together in an unnerving silence.
George hated silence.
The King then swallowed "Right, I'm going to go and see what all of this is about." He opened the door and stepped out into the frosty air of a February midnight. He looked up at the sky, starlight could be seen dimly twinkling behind a veneer of smog and the full moon was hidden behind a tree.
As the King stepped forward towards the front door, which seemed eerily quiet, he heard another rumble of a car, and turned to see a little black Morris Miner pull up to the pavement. There was a crank of a handbrake and a little man wearing a pinstriped suit exited the vehicle. The King thought, out of politeness, that he would wait for him. It would seem rude, and also be unfair on the poor man behind the door, to open it twice in the space of a minute.
The little man, who wore small, round glasses and a Homberg hat which covered what little hair he had left, noticed the King standing on the pavement waiting for him, and bobbed his head in respect.
"I take it you're some sort of authority," the King held out his hand.
"Yes, Your Majesty," the little man, who held a small Gladstone bag in one hand and took the King's outstretched hand with the other, replied in a faint Dutch accent "My name is Dr. Abraham Bernstein, I was contacted by a young lady who sounded rather ill," he gave a haggard sigh "And when I was told the address I had to ask her to repeat it to me. I would've been here earlier except there was an overturned lorry on the bridge, so I had to come a way which is unfamiliar."
George smiled in response as the two men; one the head of the Anglican church and one more than likely a thread in the blanket of one of the most ancient religions in the world, headed towards the black front door.
"Dr. Bernstein," George turned to enquire again, stopping en route to the door "You said the woman who contacted you sounded ill. Did she give you a name?"
The little doctor looked at the King and answered him "She did. But she sounded like she was struggling to speak and when I asked for the address a second time she could give me only the name of the house, not the street."
George nodded and then continued up towards the door which was opened onto a lifeless party. Entering the marble-floored entrance hall it was as if somebody had flicked a switch and a fluorescent lamp had gone out.
The music had stopped playing, champagne had stopped free flowing, canapés had stopped
being eaten, cards had stopped being shuffled, marijuana bongs had stopped being passed around person to person.
The one, big, never-ending party which was being an acquaintance with His Royal Highness The Prince James had came to a sudden, tragic stop.
Four policemen, wearing black uniform, stood at the foot of the impressive, ornate staircase, of which almost every step was occupied by a young man wearing a tuxedo or smoking jacket, or a young woman wearing a beautiful silk dress. Above him, staring down from the first floor lobby, George could see more dapper looking men and perfectly coiffed women looking like rabbits in headlights. The woman who was sat on the bottom step of the staircase looked up as the King entered the house, her eyes were rimmed with red and she stood and stepped towards George, whispering hoarsely "Your Majesty, I-."
She was stopped in her tracks as a policeman held out his arm, barring her from the monarch "Sorry, milady. I cannot allow you to talk to His Majesty, not whilst we don't know the full extent of the situation."
George raised his hand in objection "Pardon me, officer, I think I know who this is," he turned his eyes to the young woman "Lady Kitty, am I correct?" When she nodded in response, George once again addressed the policeman politely "Officer, may I please speak with the young lady."
Reluctantly, the officer nodded and lowered his arm, allowing the young daughter of the Duke of Norfolk to step a little closer to the King. Behind George, the Jewish Dr. Bernstein had already been spoken to in a quiet voice by the on-duty detective inspector, and then led through the throngs of shocked young men and women, towards a doorway leading to an old servants staircase and up to the third floor and the room the investigating team had swarmed on.
"Now, Lady Kitty," George's voice was calm as he addressed the young lady, who insisted on lighting up a cigarette in his face, "Can you tell me exactly what happened?"
"Well," Lady Kitty swallowed audibly as she tried to hold back tears "No, I can't, Your Majesty, not really," she sniffed loudly, crossing her arms as she inhaled from her cigarette and touching her dark, perfectly styled hair as she continued "As soon as we heard that scream we knew that we should call someone. We only had the number for the Duchess of Suffolk so we called her. And she gave us the number of your personal secretary."
"You were right to phone Louise," George acknowledged his sister's involvement "I don't think James keeps any of my contact details here," he gave a brief pause on mentioning his beloved little brother "What's exactly happened, Kitty?"
The society beauty shrugged "Nobody quite knows. James went upstairs to find Isabel, who had gone to bed complaining of stomach pains after taking some marching powder, and then ran back downstairs screaming for somebody to call the police and a doctor. We all thought he was floating, so I," she prodded herself in the chest as so to make a point "Offered to go up there and see what the fuss was about, considering I am drug-free until after my wedding. And...," the soon to be Duchess of Nottingham covered her hand with her mouth, concealing a sob "It was horrible."
Knowing what the euphemisms 'marching powder' and 'floating' meant, George asked Kitty another question "And where's James now?"
Kitty looked at the King with large grey eyes "He's collapsed upstairs in bed. He found the opium, practically assaulted Young Vic to get it," she motioned to George's cousin, Victor Spencer-Churchill, who stood in silence at the top of the stairs "And well," she shrugged "Even an experienced user like him knows what a cigarette full of opium can do to you."
"But he's alive?" George asked an obvious question.
"Yes," Lady Kitty nodded.
"Good," George nodded reassuringly "That's something at least."
Lady Kitty nodded before motioning behind George, urging him to turn around.
A fair haired, thin man tipped his hat to the King "Your Majesty, we're so sorry to have called you out so late at night."
The King again raised his hand slightly in objection as he muttered "Inspector, a midnight telephone call twenty-four years ago saying that somebody I loved had died changed my little life beyond recognition forever. This is slight in comparison."
The Inspector looked up and nodded "We'll need Your Majesty to come and try and wake His Royal Highness up. He's not responding when my officers ask him to open the door and we've no way of getting inside without knocking it down."
"Well," the King spied the Seaford butler out of the corner of his eye "He's not responding to you because he's barely aware of his surroundings and you may not have a way of getting inside," he paused as he turned and ushered the terrified butler forward "But I do."
He once again turned to the butler and addressed him "Mr. Travis, may I have the key for the Armada Bedroom?"
The butler nodded, mumbling "Of course, Your Majesty," as he searched inside his inside pocket for the right key "Here you are," he brought the little silver key out and pressed it into George's open palm.
"Thank you," George nodded. He spun back round to the inspector "Shall we?"
Before George dared move the key towards the lock of the white painted door of the Armada Bedroom, he knocked loudly, calling out to his brother "James! James! It's Georgie!" At that moment, whilst conscious of the policemen behind him, George was more concerned with the welfare of his brother, and therefore didn't mind referring to himself by his childhood nickname "James, if you can hear me and you can move I'd like you to open the door for me?"
He knocked loudly again "James, James, talk to me."
The first floor landing was deadly quiet, but even that coupled with George pressing his ear to the door still wasn't enough to hear much more than a quiet murmur.
"James..," George breathed, trying to keep his calm as he grappled with the key, forcing it into the lock and turning it.
The door clicked.
George turned back to the detective, who stood with a police officer flanking either side of him, and told him "I'm going in on my own. I don't want him startled."
"Will you bring him out?" The inspector asked "This is a potential crime scene, Your Majesty, we need to speak to key witnesses."
"Key witnesses!" George hissed "My little brother has just found the girl he loved dead in her bed! Have some respect!" He paused and then tuned his voice back to one of propriety "I apologise, inspector, that was ill-judged on my part," he swallowed "Of course I'll bring him out. All I'm asking is to not put him through too much."
The detective only needed to blink in reply for George to turn back to the door and slip inside the dark room.
The stench was unbearable. The hideous, pungent odour of opium was mixed with the strong and potent smell of vodka and the underlying scent of nights spent wasting away on bed sheets drenched in sweat.
George didn't know where he was going or what was in front of him. He squinted and let his eyes adjust to the darkness, feeling more reassured as the outline of various pieces of furniture emerged through the blackness. There was moonlight filtering in through a crack in between the window and the wooden boards which had been placed over it; George stepped lightly over to the window, groping around with his hands he found that the nails holding the thin boards to the wall were old and with one hand on either end, the King managed to rip the boards from the wall one by one.
The King had to shield his eyes from the almost unnaturally bright moonlight which flooded through the room; turning away from the window and back into the room, he found himself to be beside an ornate, antique, Louis XIV-style roll-top writing desk. The flap of the desk was rolled down, refusing to reveal to George anything beneath it that James wanted to keep hidden.
Above George, staring across the room with acrylic brown eyes, was a portrait of his father wearing the purple coronation robe, his ageless face noble as it appeared to watch down from the heavens. Beneath that, in a little silver photo frame, was a photograph of the late Edward VIII holding James, his youngest son, at around two years of age. George quietly reached out and placed the frame face down on the desk; a father didn't need to see the ramifications of an encounter between his sons.
George then glanced up and saw his little brother laying, fully clothed, on a bed with nothing but a mattress and thin cotton sheet. He was at an angle, George having passed his bare feet on his initial trek across the darkness towards the window, and his head was up the left hand side of the headrest, almost wedged between the bed and the side of the bedside cabinet. His left hand rested, almost peacefully, on his chest and his right arm was stretched out over the bed, and following his brothers fingers, George noticed an ashtray underneath James' limp hand and inside it was a rolled cigarette which was still smoking slightly.
George then dared move his eyes towards James' face. His lips and nose were still, not giving the impression of him doing anything other than sleeping , but then looking at his eyes would be the giveaway. They were wide open, and blank-looking, with an empty, glassy, almost lifeless appearance to them; the moonlight shone on them, lighting up the irises and making the young prince appear almost dead.
For a heartbeat, George thought he was.
The King moved closer towards his brother, reaching out with his right hand to check his breathing as he neared his neck. But, all of a sudden, James clapped his left hand over his brother's wrist.
"Why did you do that to Daddy's picture?" He asked monotonously.
"Do what?" George asked.
"Why did you put it face down on the desk?" James still stared into space as he repeated himself "I saw you with my own two eyes."
"It doesn't matter," George sat on the bed beside his brother, grappling with his brother's hand so he took James' fingers in his "What matters here is what happened to Isabel."
"I didn't do anything," James' voice was still monotone, highly unlike his usual highly-strung self, but George knew he felt something as he began to cry, tears silently stroking his cheeks "I never touched her."
"Nobody's saying you did," George continued gently.
"Then why are they here?" James sat bolt upright and pointed to the closed door; his pupils, whilst now fixed on his brother, were still tiny and constricted "I know why they're here, Georgie, don't pretend otherwise."
"They're here because an unfortunate young girl has been found dead in mysterious circumstances," George reassured him.
"NO!" James was still having none of it as he bellowed at his brother "No! They're here because they think I had something to do with my beloved Izzy's death!" He made a sound resembling choking "But I didn't! I didn't, Gee, I didn't! I came up to see how she was and I found here like...like...like that! I didn't do anything!"
"I know you didn't," George spoke to him softly, trying to calm his brother down as he descended into hysteria "I know you're blameless!"
"But they don't!" James wailed like a child. He snatched his hand away from George's and scurried off the bed and sat hunched up on the floor in between the bedside cabinet and a dresser. He pulled his knees up to his chin and wrapped his arms around his legs, lowering his head so all George could see was his hair, shining in the moonlight.
There was another couple of minutes of silence before George heard a muffled sobbing, he moved from the bed and crawled on his hands and knees over to his brother.
"James?" He asked gently.
"Leave me alone," his brother grumbled in reply "If I'm going to be arrested then I want it done privately."
"You're not going to be arrested," George was still talking calmly to his brother despite James' tenacity "You're protected by the Crown, you know that. And even so you won't need to be protected by the Crown because you didn't do anything."
"But they think I did..," James' grumbling gave way to whining again as he slipped back under the influence of opium "They think I killed her."
"No, James," George reassured him for one final time "They don't. Come on," he reached out and took James by the arm, slowly and methodically raising him to his feet. Afraid his little brother would go limp and collapse back down, George took him by the shoulders and helped him walk back through the room, towards the door and the hallway beyond where the policemen waited.
George stepped, still securely holding James by the shoulders, out into the hallway. His brother, still affected from the cigarette, barely blinked as light hit his retinas. He was revealed to be wearing a dishevelled dinner jacket, the bow tie undone and slung around his collar bone and his dark blonde hair was equally as messy.
"Gentlemen," James spoke quietly as he addressed the police officers and the detective.
"Your Royal Highness," the detective inspector addressed him formally "May I first extend my sympathies, such a tragic event in your own house-."
"Don't beat around the bush," James interrupted him, staring at him the same way he had George "If you think I was anything to do with her death then say now and I'll reply that you can't touch me."
The inspector's eyebrows knotted "No, Sir, I don't think you were anything to do with her death," he paused and then added "As such."
George looked up at this, noticing that the little Dr. Bernstein had appeared at the inspectors left hand side. He had taken his jacket off and his sleeves had been rolled up. What caught George's attention was the six, clearly visible numbers stamped on the doctor's arm. 443211.
The King stared for a moment before the inspector caught his attention again "Your Majesty, if you would both like to follow myself and Dr. Bernstein, we'd like a word."
"Just a moment, inspector," the little doctor piped up "I have asked your men to bring her out," he shuffled on the spot, looking down and pushing his glasses back up his nose "It's a shame. Such a pretty little thing."
James' eyes flicked over to the doctor, before George, who still held him by the shoulders, heard his brother catch his breath in his throat. Along the now empty hallway came two policemen carrying a stretcher. A blanket covered the body of the young, tragic Lady Isabel Douglas-Hamilton, but as the men turned towards the stairs, George caught sight of the sleek Titian red hair beneath and noticed a limp, lifeless hand peeping out of the blanket.
Beside him, he thought he heard James say something. Quietly so nobody could hear him.
The inspector, who was more than used to seeing bodies of one sort or another, feigned sincerity for another minute, before his professional side took over; he turned to the King "Your Majesty," he motioned with his hand as he had done downstairs "If you'd like to follow me."
George turned to James, who had shed a single, silent tear, "Will you be alright while I talk to the inspector?"
"I'm not a child anymore, Georgie," James' reply was quiet "And I'm not one of your children," He barely looked at his brother as he added "So I suppose I'll have to be."
George blinked at his brother and then nodded, patting him on the shoulder as he did so "I won't be long."
James barely made a sound in reply as George let go of him, watching him to make sure he didn't fall over. When he stayed standing, the King turned away from his little brother and back to the inspector, who led him towards a small room beyond the Armada bedroom where he was told of what had really gone on and was told by the little Dr. Bernstein how the beautiful red-headed Lady Isabel had really died.
After his meeting with the inspector and he doctor, the King was approached by the detective "Will you be able to take him back with you?"
Assuming the inspector meant James, George nodded "Yes, of course I will," he paused, considering what he had been told "Should I tell him?"
The inspector pulled a face. "If I were you, Sir, and something like this had happened without my brother knowing the true circumstances, I'd tell him."
George nodded "I will. Not right now though, I'll get him back to Windsor and tell him after he's rested"
The inspector nodded "Very well," he paused for a moment "He needs to know the whole truth, it would be cruel to keep it from him."
George didn't look at the inspector as he replied "I know what it's like to be kept in the dark about something important; at least in part. I don't intend to do the same to him."
A few minutes later, George stood downstairs again, helping James into his long overcoat as one might a helpless child. It was almost frustrating asking him to lift each arm and then have no help from him in getting his coat over his shoulders .
When George was finished dressing James for the outside weather, the door which led to the drawing room opened and Lady Kitty, now wrapped in a big fur coat, slipped through and walked over to James.
"Oh my poor darling," Kitty whispered; she reached up with her hands and pulled James to face her. As with everyone else who he had looked at that night, James' eyes were blank, barely blinking.
George watched as Kitty pushed herself up, pressing herself against James, who still barely reacted to her presence. The only time George noticed him react was when Kitty kissed the side of his face, pausing and whispering something in his ear. Whatever it was, it made James smile and he nodded softly, kissing Lady Kitty on the side of her own face, this time whispering something back to her.
George narrowed his eyes, he watched a further quasi-lover interaction between his brother and Lady Kitty and then called sharply "James!"
James looked up with, for the first time that evening, a familiar human glow in his eyes.
George cocked his head and then moved towards the door, taking James by the shoulders again and shuffling out of the door and into the night.
As George rounded the car again from putting James inside, he came across little Dr. Bernstein, who was adjusting the collar on his jacket, and decided to call out to him "Dr. Bernstein!"
The doctor turned round and smiled "Your Majest-"
"No, no," George shook his head "No formalities, please. It annoys me no end when there's no need for it," He came to a stop and looked at the floor with his hands plunged into his pockets "To...to tell you the truth I wasn't expecting this when I was woken up,"
"Really?" The doctors eyebrows knotted "What were you expecting?"
The King looked at him and shrugged, admitting "I don't rightly know," he sighed "But not this. Not something which could have been," he paused and then repeated himself "Which should have been so wonderful turn out so tragic." He looked up at the sky "I guess we'll never know now will we?"
"There's a lot we'll never know, as a race and as individuals," the doctor's voice reached across to him "As a race we'll never know why it is we love the people we love, why we forgive those people everything, and why, whilst we have the capacity to love, we can be so cruel to one another," he paused and sighed, he took his glasses off and wiped them with a handkerchief from his pocket before replacing them "Whereas as individuals, well, that's a very personal thing."
"I'll never know how much my father truly loved me," George shared his thoughts aloud; he paused "That's if he ever loved me at all."
"And I'll never know what it's like to see your first child born," Dr. Bernstein's lamentation was equally as tragic, but a lot less bitter.
The King turned and looked at the doctor; the doctor smiled back "My wife, Zipporah and I, were expecting our first child in 1941 when we were deported from Amsterdam to Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Nazis. She was lucky enough to be in the early stages, so it didn't show for a while. We were split up, she in Camp II and myself in Camp I. Despite my years as a doctor, I was put to work hauling the bodies of the elderly, of children, and most poignantly of heavily pregnant women, from gas chambers and into lorries for mass burial," the doctor stopped mid sentence, and breathed for a minute before continuing "I never saw Zipporah again. I can only imagine her pregnancy was discovered and she was either gassed immediately or," he shuddered violently "Or she was delivered of the baby, our baby, and was then forced to watch as the doctor had it suffocated."
The King stared and said quietly "That is too horrible," he paused "I'm sorry."
The Doctor snorted "You needn't be. It wasn't your fault. It was the generation I belong to. They voted that monster into power and now, because of them, their own history is tarnished."
George blinked, glancing back to the car to see James sat in silence, not even trying to make conversation with Marks before asking "What made you determined to live? The thought that you might see them again?"
The doctor shook his head "I think a part of me knew I'd lost her the moment our hands ceased to touch," he paused and then looked up at the young King with tears glistening in his eyes "It was a golden haired angel, waiting at hell's gate."
Knowing what, or rather whom, the doctor meant, George smiled,he patted Dr. Bernstein on the shoulder "Thank you for coming so far so late at night. You're a good man."
The doctor smiled behind ageing amber eyes, his words rolling off his tongue in typical Dutch fashion as he nodded and stepped towards his car "The man who saved me was a good one. He said to me, or rather his friend did, that wonderful psychologist, that fear and courage were brothers; whilst they quarrelled they couldn't be more different, but when they worked together, when they realised they weren't that different, they were invincible," he paused "Look after your brother; when he is fear, you are courage, and when he is courage, you are fear. Remember that."
The King nodded "I shall," he glanced back as he heard a sound to see James heading slowly towards him "And thank you again."
Dr. Bernstein tipped his hat and then disappeared almost as silently as he had came, his little Morris Miner chugging to life and then disappearing into the night of London.
George sighed and watched the lights disappear and fade into darkness. He turned back to the car and got inside, slamming the door behind him.
"You were a long while," James observed as Marks turned the key in the ignition and started the car back on the road to Windsor Castle.
"I know," George replied. There was silence between the two brothers before the King spoke again "James...you...you must know that I don't blame you for what happened, none of it."
James turned away "But what if I do? Blame myself? What if it was all my fault?"
"James...," George breathed; he watched his little brother lean his head against the opposite window, staring out into the dark night. The King sighed and decided to change the subject, wondering whether a more conversational approach would be the best way to broach what he knew he must.
"I see you were quite cosy with Lady Kitty," George raised his eyebrows "Is she a friend?"
"She and Isabel were friends, yes," James answered, still refusing to turn round "And she's nice enough."
George shifted in his chair and muttered "If I wasn't mistaken I thought you and her were more than just friends. And if Lady Isabel had noticed then, well, it was hardly fair on her was it?"
"You can't die of a broken heart, Georgie, it's just not possible," James mumbled back. There was silence between the two brothers for a moment before James spoke again "After all, if that were possible then Mother would've died long ago."
"Oh, you think so?" George managed a smile as he thought of their sixty-something year old mother; Queen Alice, who had apparently ceased to age at forty-three "I don't, no, I think Mother is made of stronger stuff."
"Quite right," James agreed. He fell silent once more, the rocking of the car almost lulling George to sleep before he was addressed sharply by James again "So what'll happen now?"
"Well," George paused and yawned "I suppose we'll let the police officers do their job and once that's out of the way I'll have Their Graces over for tea-"
"You do like to stand on ceremony, don't you?" James scoffed "Inviting the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton for tea won't bring their daughter back, Gee. No little tea party of yours can change this," he paused and scoffed "You are so strange, especially when compared to your predecessors."
"No," George tried to correct him "No I am similar to Grandpappa, he was fairly-"
"Boring?" James finished the question for him "You know, brother, I'm starting to believe in those rumours.."
"James," George growled at him "You dare."
"...that you are not the son of Edward VIII and therefore not the rightful king," James mused; it was unclear to George whether his brother was being deliberately spiteful or it was the after effects of what he had taken "I would make a good king."
"Oh!" It was George's turn to scoff, suddenly becoming angry as the car rolled on out of the city and nearer to Windsor "Oh would you really?! You've messed up the job of prince so heaven forfend you ever become king! And those rumours have been going for years! Who's to say you're the son of Edward VIII?!"
"I look like him!" George realised that James was being serious due to the ferocity of his reply "You don't! There's not an ounce of him in you! And why do you think Uncle George was so close to you before he died? Uncle Bertie and Uncle Henry were never that enamoured with you! In fact, Uncle Henry preferred Louise to you, and that's saying something when somebody in the family prefers the forsaken sister over the golden child!"
George forced himself not to reply and had to lock his jaw, forcing his teeth shut, so he couldn't physically open his mouth to react. He turned away from his brother, feeling the blood pounding in his ears and his heart beating to escape his chest. He swallowed and then replied, almost as coldly, "At least Louise was preferred. And not just a spare part."
James muttered something indistinctly under his breath and turned back to the window.
The two brothers sat in silence for the rest of the journey; one comfortably in his thirties and enjoying married life, the other desperately trying to cling to the life of the twenty-something's and refusing to even think of marital bliss. Courage and fear. Brothers.
The sound of James slamming the car door as they reached Windsor courtyard woke George up with a start. He scrambled out of the car in time to see James being welcomed at the open door by a petite woman dressed in a white chiffon night robe.
James smiled and greeted the woman with a kiss on both cheeks and the woman hugged him briefly in reply.
George quickened his pace in order to catch up with them, hissing after the woman "Jane! Jane!"
The woman spun back around and smiled, her gentle blue-grey eyes blinking at George as she said "There you are," George wrapped an ever-protective arm around her as she said "I've told him his room is waiting for him upstairs," she paused and glanced up at George who stared at the shadow of his brother as he disappeared into the depths of Windsor "Gee," she stroked the side of his face gently "What is it? What happened?" She asked.
"I have to tell him," George replied hoarsely. He moved away from Jane and followed the route he knew James would've taken up to the bedroom which had been made up for his arrival. He left Jane, his beloved wife and consort of nine years, wondering what on earth was going on. The daughter of Lord Waldegrave sighed and slowly ascended the stairs, intending to head back to bed.
George meanwhile, meandered his way through the hallways of the Castle, remembering the weekends spent playing hide and seek with his mother and Uncle George and old equerry Lord Charles Fairfax on the rare occasions he was allowed to stay in London during the war. If he remembered hard enough, he would be able to recall how on unsteady legs he had chased his father, the fabled Edward VIII, through the long, echoing hallways, which to George then had been huge and daunting. And if the King's memory was stretched to its limits, he could recall turning into certain little rooms and cubby holes to find his grandfather, elderly and with his greying beard, waiting to tell him a story or pretend they were stuck in a cramped ship's locker with the wind howling around them and waves rocking their imaginary boat to and fro.
The memories that emitted from the very walls of Windsor Castle were both beautiful and tragic for George. So much had happened here that had defined his entire life. It was here where he had spent his first few days as King after the sudden, tragic, and now legendary death of his father in 1939. He had listened to the German Surrender on the wireless in the Crimson Drawing Room in April 1945 as a attuned, savvy fourteen-year-old boy-King. He had left St George's Chapel in the Castle after morning prayers on the morning of his coronation in 1950. It had been in the Blue Room-the very place where his great-great grandfather Prince Albert had lost his life-that he had stopped breathing for two minutes after being struck down with tuberculosis 1951. He had proposed to his beautiful Jane in the gardens on a cold Autumn day in 1953. It had been where he had become a father for the first time when his eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, was born less than two years later. It had been where he had watched his baby sister Charlotte fight to marry the untitled Scottish RAF pilot whom she had fallen head over heels in love with. Princess Charlotte finally got her way and had married Group Captain Andrew Darnley in St. George's Chapel the previous October. And most recently, to bring in the New Year, the King and Queen had welcome all the local school children to the Castle as the first official visitors under the new scheme of opening the Royal Residences to the general British public. He smiled as he remembered seeing his own children watch from the windows of their nursery, baffled by the hundreds of strange children playing on the lawns and running through the place they knew of as their weekend home.
By this time, George had made his way upstairs towards the rooms that James would be using. He pondered the brother whom he had watched grow from baby to child to adolescent and now to young man. He couldn't quite work him out. Was James reacting to the fact that he could remember very little of the man that he still called 'Daddy'? Was he trying to be what he thought a real prince was? Or was it something deeper? Something that he wasn't consciously aware of? George considered it as he neared the door. The madness of Prince James.
No answer. George opened the door to see the shadowy figure of James hunched in a chair by the television, watching some movie with Marilyn Monroe. The volume was so low that George had to walk up behind his brother to hear what the late American bombshell was saying.
"Is it a good film?" George asked quietly as he placed a hand on the back of the chair.
James stepped out of the chair and leant forward, switching off the television he answered "Not really, no."
"You seemed fairly engrossed," George rounded on his little brother and sat on the pouffe opposite as he asked softly "Why don't you go to sleep?"
James didn't look up at George as he answered tight-lipped "I can't sleep. Physically I can't," he paused and looked up at George, the light from the lamp behind George making his brown eyes glow amber "I won't wake up otherwise."
George nodded slowly "I understa-."
"No, you don't!" James snapped and pulled the silk dressing gown he had changed into further round his pyjama clad torso "You've never taken this stuff before! I bet the nearest thing to drugs you've had is penicillin!"
"You wouldn't be wrong there," George smiled at his brother, his eyes warm and supportive despite the hostility his little brother was showing towards him.
James smiled back briefly and then said "It's odd. To think that she's gone. It was only a few hours ago that I told her I loved her more than anything and wanted to see her as my wife."
George glanced down at the floor, taking in the intricate patterns on the Persian rug beneath him, and sighed deeply.
James noticed and looked down at George, demanding "What? What was that for?"
"James," George breathed and scratched the back of his neck as he looked up "There's something you need to know. About how Isabel died."
James' eyebrows knotted and he leant forward with his elbows on his knees. His voice was firm "What?"
George took in his brother's face; so akin to their father's that there could be no doubt as to James' paternity. Unlike George's. He was their father. Down to the few creases that appeared on his face when he smiled. The curve of his nose. The deep set of his cognac brown eyes. The intensity with which he now stared at the rather Cavendish face of George.
"Georgie!" James exclaimed, his voice breaking "Tell me!"
George closed his eyes, exhaled, ran his fingers through his hair, and then told James slowly "She was pregnant." He heard James mutter something under his breath and snigger. George looked up at him and saw him sat back in the chair, his eyes glittering menacingly and an expression of disbelief passed over a face cast half in shadow.
James turned his face away from George and snarled "You're lying."
"I'm not," George insisted. He could hear the emotion in his own voice as he repeated himself "She was pregnant, James. She was...," he paused and placed a hand over his mouth as he recalled what Dr. Bernstein had told him "It was a ectopic pregnancy according to the doctor-."
"You're making this up!" James hissed "You're lying!" He stood up as to make himself bigger than George, his silk dressing gown catching in the light and shimmering "You don't even know what a 'ectopic pregnancy' is!" He exclaimed.
"It's when the foetus grows outside of the womb!" George told him firmly, his voice quietening as he watched James' defences crumble as he realised his what his brother was saying was true "And that's what happened to Isabel. The doctor said it couldn't be helped and it could've happened at any time. It was just a tragic accident. Nothing but a...," his voice trailed off as he saw James collapse back into the chair "...tragic...accident."
James made a noise resembling a whimper as he asked "How long had she been...?" He faltered "You know...? How long..?"
"The doctor said she would've been just over four months," George's response was met with a gasp from James.
The prince covered his hand with his mouth as he cursed himself and stood again "God, I am so stupid! I'm so stupid! Why...?" He looked at George with the eyes of a child "H..ho..h..how?! I am such an idiot!"
"James, there was nothing you could've done that would've prevented it happening-" George began to tell him.
"She was pregnant!" James cried "With my child! My chi-! M...ma...m..my baby!" He spun around "My baby! My son! My daughter! My-," he paused, making a gargling sound "Oh my God," he muttered "Oh my God...". Glancing at George with his left eye he asked breathlessly "Do you know...do you know what it was?"
George nodded solemnly to which James cried "Oh God!" His legs buckled beneath him and he crashed with a thud onto the floor.
For a moment, the King thought his little brother was crying again. It was only when he looked up with a dry face that George was proved otherwise "What was it?"
"Do you really want to know?" George asked gently.
James paused for a moment and then nodded.
"Very well," George sighed. He prepared himself and then looked at James "It was a little girl."
James gasped and breathed "My daughter...," he swallowed and whimpered "My darling daughter." He spluttered and laughed "Why didn't she tell me? Did she think it would make me love her less?"
"We can't know, James," George lowered himself to the floor and took James' hand "But none of it matters now," his grip tightened around James' fingers as his brother let out a sob "None of it matters because there is nothing anybody can do about it," the King told James firmly "Nothing."
James sobbed again and then asked "Was it my fault, Georgie? Did I do something wrong?"
George shook his head "No, James," he stood and then held out a hand for his little brother who he then pulled to his feet "Everybody tries to blame themselves when something tragic happens. But we can't change what has happened," he took James by the shoulders and stared at him "We just have to muddle on."
James scoffed and nodded, his eyes glistening "Keep calm and carry on, eh?"
"Yes," George nodded "Exactly. And if you're scared, James, if you're ever fearful," his voice was confident as he repeated the words of the little doctor "I'll be your courage. Brothers," he patted James on the shoulder before saying "Now, go on. Go to bed. You're no use to anyone in your current state."
James nodded, muttering "Thank you," he turned away from George and shuffled towards the bedroom door. George watched as he went to open the door, but he paused and looked up, saying softly "I should like to phone Their Graces myself tomorrow, to explain what happened under my own terms rather than that of the police."
"That's good," George approved "They'll have likely heard from the police by now, but you phoning them may make it a little better."
"Because if I can make it just a bit less painful," James turned to face George and smiled weakly "I would like to," he paused and gave a little smile "Fear and courage."
George smiled back and reassured him "Brothers."
And brothers they would stay.
Done! Oh my life! You've no idea how long I've waited to actually finish something...! Since starting Uni my life has just been jam-packed full of reading. Lots of reading. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and that this gave a insight into the future of the Royal Children. I am hoping to one day do one which includes the girls, who by now are all grown up, and I may include Alice. But in the meantime, keep a watch out for The Soldier!
See you later!