Henry felt as through his heart had turned into a thrashing fish. He sat, frozen on the edge of the bed, feeling extremely stupid and vaguely sick, praying to anything that might be listening for the strength to keep from breaking down and weeping again.
Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!
Why had he said it? He had known that he shouldn’t. He had known that Seymour might react coldly. He had prepared himself for Seymour to laugh at him, mock him, but this was worse. It was as if Seymour had slapped him.
And had Seymour really known? Had his adoration been that obvious?
Rezyn, he hoped that nobody else had noticed. What if Alasdair or Mialina suspected him? Would they tell? If they did…
…then it would be over. That would be the end of Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund. Sure, they wouldn’t hang him in the town square like they would a commoner. Nor would they put him in prison—Seoc had only been locked up because he was underage. No, it would be to Brysail with him, to the royal court to be stripped of all titles and honors, and then it would be public decapitation by the king himself.
They wouldn’t tell, would they?
Seymour’s voice cut through his panic. “Henry?”
He really did begin to weep then, silently at first, then falling quickly into painful, wrenching sobs. Seymour sat down beside him and put an arm around his shoulders, hugging him gently.
“Henry, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “Shh…there, there…it’s alright, Henry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Right,” Seymour admitted. “I did. But it was cruel of me, and I’m terribly sorry.”
“You…hate me, d-don’t you? You th-th-think I’m…p-p-pit…p-pitiful!”
“No, no,” Seymour soothed him, pressing his cheek to Henry’s hair. “I don’t hate you at all. I think you are a genuinely good man, even if you did murder your parents…sorry, there I go again. Sometimes I think my tongue has a mind of its own.” He smiled wryly. “I really am sorry, Henry.”
“That’s…alright,” Henry said, sniffling.
“No, it’s not alright. I hurt you, and you’re scared, and I don’t blame you. Listen, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I did know, but I doubt anyone else suspects you. I’m good at reading people. It’s my job.”
“For what? Oh, never mind. Time’s slipping away, and if I don’t start putting together my disguise soon, we can declare the mission—and by extension the universe—royally fucked.”
Henry smiled through his tears, and then, to his surprise, Seymour leaned over and kissed him lightly on the mouth.
“Be strong, Henry,” he instructed him, grinning crookedly. He helped him to his feet and escorted him to the door. “Take care of yourself. Remember, you’re one of the Six. That’s all that matters now, I suppose. It doesn’t matter what we were before—we’re champions now.”
“We’ll see each other again before you go?”
“Yes, I think, briefly. Bring the others up here at five minutes to two.”