The Disease of Kings

“‘e iz in ‘ere,” the maid said in her thick accent, showing Arthur to Francis’ bedroom. “‘e iz not feeling well, are you sure you want to see ‘im?”

“I’m quite aware of his condition,” Arthur frowned, pushing open the door, “he’s been whining at me for days over the telegraph, like I haven’t got anything better to do.” The maid, hiding a laugh behind her hand, nodded and took her leave, and Arthur ventured alone into the bedroom. The curtains were drawn, a single shaft of sunlight slicing across the foot of an elaborately draped four-poster.

“Mon anglais?” a voice croaked out from the shadows, “Is that you? Come closer, my eyes…”

“You can’t see me because all the lights are out, you bloody fool.” Arthur strode over to the window and flung open the curtains, smirking to himself at Francis’ high-pitched whine. “What are you on about, anyway? I know you’re not going to keel over dead at any moment.”

“Au contraire,” Francis sniffed, jutting out his lower lip ever so slightly and wincing at the sunlight in his eyes, “I am deathly ill. I fear I shall be shedding this mortal coil very shortly.” He let out a few pathetic coughs into a silk handkerchief and pulled the duvet up to his chin before weakly gesturing Arthur to his bedside. “Ah, ma petite chenille,” he sighed, “all I could think of was seeing you one last time before I go.”

Arthur rolled his eyes and only barely managed to keep himself from being sick all over Francis’ very expensive bedspread just to prove a point. “You don’t have the damned black plague,” he said, “you just have gout like the decadent bastard you are.”

Francis coughed daintily into his handkerchief once more and gave a very pointed sniff. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered, “the doctor’s just been by and–“

Here, Francis was forced to pause as Arthur prodded at his big toe, eliciting a nearly deafening yelp.

“I am almost certain,” Arthur said with a smile, “that if he’s been by, then he’s told you that you have gout.” He gave the toe another gentle prod. “Your womanly screech just confirms my suspicions, you realize.”

Francis glared, tried to move his foot under the covers and immediately regretted it. “You’re enjoying this,” he pouted, thrusting his foot back out as the color returned to is face. “I didn’t laugh at you when you had rickets.”

“You did too, you pointed at my bow legs and you laughed until you cried.”

Francis scoffed. “I was a child then, one must overlook this sort of thing. You should know better by now, but you are enjoying my pain.”

“A little,” Arthur admitted with a smile. “‘Just try some, mon anglais,'” he exclaimed in high French falsetto, his hands clasped in front of him and his head tilted dreamily to the side, “‘Fois gras iz ze food of kings.'”

“I regret nothing.”

Arthur laughed and sat on the edge of the bed. “I brought you some gin,” he said.

Arthur poured two glasses and Francis made sour faces as he gulped his down. “Have you ever been with a man with gout in his toe,” he asked after the third, eyebrows waggling.

“Not yet,” Arthur answered.

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