A little over twenty minutes later, Henry wove his way through the mostly empty streets of the marketplace, a few stray lights from the buildings surrounding him illuminating his pathway. He listened to the soft chirp of crickets from the woods that encircled the kingdom as he struggled to remember exactly which way to go in order to reach Jasper’s place. He had never actually been there before, but Jasper had mentioned it enough times that Henry was positive he could find it.
Although, it’d surely be easier if it wasn’t the dead of night.
As he continued to the edge of town, he mentally kicked himself for his impulsive decision, realizing then that even if he could find the right house, he still wasn’t exactly sure which room was Jasper’s, and it wasn't like he could just go up and knock on the front door.
Besides that, what was he going to say once he got there? He started imagining scenarios in his head as he walked, trying to find the right words to say, but none of them felt quite right.
He stopped dead in his tracks then debating whether it would be best to just turn around and forget about the whole thing.
What if Jasper had just been nice to him because he was a customer and the Prince? Maybe he didn't actually want to be friends with Henry, and what a mistake it would be to just show up to his house uninvited in the middle of the night.
Still, Henry was almost positive from their previous interactions that Jasper was being genuine, and he really did enjoy spending time with him.
He continued internally arguing with himself, pacing on the cobblestone street. He almost decided to return to the castle, but when he started back home, sure that his mind was made up, something inside him convinced him to continue on with his original journey. It almost felt as if something was pulling him towards the other boy.
Something as simple as asking someone if they wanted to remain friends shouldn’t have caused him so much deep-seated turmoil; it wasn’t like he was declaring his love or anything. But thanks to growing up as royalty, he didn't have any solid friendships with anyone his own age outside of Charlotte and Anais. He had no point of reference to base his interactions on and thus, this was all new territory to him.
When he finally reached the outskirts of town, he noticed a small, slightly rundown house at the very end of the road, and he was sure then that that was the place he was looking for. In the front by the pathway stood an old white picket fence that was busted in several places, the paint chipping off, matching the outside of the house, with overgrown weeds weaving around it. Lining the front of the house on either side of the front door was two flower beds, now full of dead withered flowers, with big patches of dry cracked dirt in between. The windows looked as if they hadn’t been touched in at least a decade. If Henry didn’t know any better he’d assume this place was abandoned.
Thanks to some lucky twist of fate, he noticed a light shining through a window to the left of the front door, and Henry was able to spot Jasper sitting at a tiny wooden desk with his nose stuck in a book. Despite the fact that it was the middle of the night, Jasper still hadn’t changed out of his work clothes from the day before.
The fence stood open just a crack, and Henry pushed through it slowly, the old rusty hinges squeaking loudly as they moved. He froze for a moment, praying that he hadn’t woken up Jasper’s parents with the noise. The inside of the house remained still and quiet, with not even Jasper noticing Henry’s presence, and Henry let out a sigh of relief as he made his way to the other boy's window as quietly as possible, the dead grass crunching softly under his boots.
His room was small, minimal. The desk Jasper was seated at stood on the right side of the room, and a twin bed sat against the wall opposite him. A wooden wardrobe was placed near the foot of the bed, and next to it in between the wardrobe and Jasper was his bedroom door which was fully closed.
Henry approached the window, and took a deep breath, raising his index finger to tap on the glass but he stopped just before making contact. Jasper still hadn’t noticed his presence, and Henry knew this was his last chance to back out. He still hadn’t worked out what exactly to say or what to do, and he contemplated it for a beat longer before deciding just to wing it, hoping that the right thing to say would come to him in the moment. He knocked gently on the pane, trying to be quiet enough so Jasper’s parents wouldn’t hear. Jasper jumped at the noise as he turned to see the Prince sheepishly waving at him. He noticed that Henry was still in his pajamas save for the jacket and his hair was an unkempt mess. It was the first time he had seen him in anything other than formal wear; the first time he had ever seen him as anything other than polished and put together. He did his best to conceal a smile as he thought about how adorable he looked. He moved out from behind his desk and made his way over to the window, softly pushing it open, doing his best not to make too much noise.
“Not that I’m not happy to see you or anything, but what are you doing here? It’s the dead of night,” he whispered, a hint of confusion in his voice.
Henry inhaled sharply.
“This whole thing is stupid!” he blurted out.
He mentally facepalmed, while Jasper narrowed his eyes a little and put his hands down on the windowsill in front of him, leaning his head out towards Henry.
“What is? What do you mean?”
“This whole situation! What I mean is...” Henry paused, his eyes shifting down as he started fiddling with his hands.
“Look… Do you enjoy spending time with me? I mean, do you want to continue to see each other?”
The corners of Jasper’s mouth slowly crept upwards.
“Yes. To both,” he answered. Henry’s eyes snapped back up to meet Jasper’s, a hopeful expression crossing his face.
“Are you sure you’re not just saying that? Because, it’d be fine if you said no, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings or anything. I don’t want you to feel pressured-”
“Henry,” Jasper interrupted, a crooked smile still plastered on his face, “I’m not just saying that. I really do like you a lot.”
Jasper noticed the subtle change in Henry’s expression at his last comment.
“I mean, I enjoy spending time with you a lot,” he hastily added. He was sure he had seen the slightest hint of disappointment in Henry’s eyes at his correction but he convinced himself that it had just been his wishful thinking.
“Cool. Because I enjoy spending time with you too. I know you've finished my sword, but I feel like we’ve kind of become friends in the process,” Henry replied, trying, and failing, to conceal the eager tone in his voice.
“I’d have to say I agree. Speaking of, is that my sword?” Jasper said, pointing to a scabbard hanging haphazardly off Henry’s waist with a leather handle sticking out. “Well, I guess your sword,” he corrected. Henry glanced down at the ground for a second as he felt the heat rising to his cheeks.
“Oh, uh...yeah,” he replied.
“You know that’s just for show,” Jasper said, as Henry looked up to meet his gaze again. Henry rubbed the back of his neck, his cheeks now bright pink.
“I know. I just...thought it looked cool,” he said timidly. Jasper’s smile widened.
“You’re right, it really pulls the whole pajama look together,” he teased. Henry cracked a smile and chuckled as he glanced down for a second, now entirely flustered. They stood in silence for a moment, not really sure what to do next but not quite ready to separate yet either. Henry started fiddling with the hem of his jacket while Jasper continued to watch him, a soft smile on his face.
“It’s really late so I should probably get going. Let you get at least a little bit of sleep,” Henry said finally, looking up at Jasper. Jasper’s smile immediately faded.
“I would invite you inside but if my parents even suspect I had someone in here without them knowing, I’m as good as dead.”
Henry nodded in response as his heart sank.
“I get that. As I said, it’s really late so I should go,” he responded, taking a step back to leave.
“Hang on,” Jasper interjected, straightening up again as Henry looked at him expectantly.
“If you aren’t too tired yet, maybe we could go somewhere. Like, maybe the Pixie Crystal River?” he suggested. Henry smiled.
“Yeah!” he exclaimed, “That sounds cool,” he said a little more calmly, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets as he tried desperately not to appear too eager.
“Just give me one second,” Jasper said, and he sat down on the edge of his bed while he pulled on a pair of work boots. He stood up and grabbed a sweater that was slung over the back of the chair by his desk, and he started to pull it on as he climbed through the open window, softly sliding it shut behind him.
A little over a half an hour later, the pair walked in silence through the forest outside Swellville, weaving around the trees and brush, careful not to trip over exposed roots, the dead leaves crunching beneath their feet. A chilly fall breeze picked up around them, giving an ominous howl as it blew through the trees.
They heard a loud snap of a twig behind them, and the duo whirled around towards the noise, trying to make out a figure in the blackness but to no avail. They exchanged uneasy glances before going forward again, this time a little more cautiously. They were able to move a few more feet before they heard another snap, this time slightly closer than before. Henry felt like his heart was beating in his throat, but he did his best not to show how terrified he was, with Jasper doing the same.
“What do you think that was?” Henry whispered, a hint of apprehension in his voice. Jasper glanced around them, looking for signs of anything that might give them a definitive answer, but it was too dark for him to be able to see more than a little ways ahead of him.
“Probably just an animal or something,” he responded, though deep down he wasn’t exactly sure. Jasper’s answer didn’t do much to ease Henry’s anxiety; even if it was just an animal, it sounded big enough that it could potentially become a threat to them if it got close enough.
They both heard a noise again, this time dangerously close, and they both spun around to see a figure approaching them from the darkness, with two more following suit. Henry instinctively moved closer to Jasper, so that they were shoulder to shoulder, and both boys steeled themselves, expecting the worst.
Emerging from the shadows were three gruff looking men, dressed in ratty clothes. The one in the middle, presumably the leader, had scruffy looking hair, and a scar on his left cheek. The other two were considerably smaller than their leader, but still rough-looking nonetheless, and all three of them towered over the two teenage boys. The leader of the pack had a sinister grin on his face as he eyed the two of them.
“Well, well...look what we have here,” he said, his voice raspy, menacing, “The soon-to-be King of Swellville. Now, what are you doing all the way out here in the middle of the night? Don’t ya know it’s dangerous?” he continued, getting intimidatingly close to Henry. Despite the fact that Henry was absolutely petrified, he wasn’t about to let the object of his affection or the thieves see that. He kept a stark expression as he put his shoulders back, standing up as straight as possible.
"We're not looking for trouble," Henry said, sounding as tough as he conceivably could, but there was still a bit of shakiness to his voice.
“Maybe we are,” one of the other thieves responded, taking a step closer to the both of them. Jasper moved a bit, putting himself somewhat in between the group and Henry.
“I’ll give you whatever you want, but you have to agree to let us go, unharmed,” Henry declared, putting his hands out in front of him as he continued to try to deescalate the situation. The leader shared an amused look between his two men before looking at the Prince again. A crooked smile spread across his face, revealing his rotting yellow teeth.
“That puts us in a bit of a predicament here, because see, what we want is you , dear boy. Say, boys, what kind of ransom you reckon we could get for the Prince of Swellville?” he said, addressing the two men on either side of him. The two men just chuckled as they took a few steps closer.
What happened next occurred in one hasty blur for Henry.
Jasper reached across Henry’s waist and pulled out his sword, pointing it towards the thieves as he put himself fully in between the Prince and the three men. He had a fiery look in his eye that Henry hadn’t seen in him before.
“If you want the Prince, you’re going to have to go through me and trust me, you don’t want to do that,” he growled, his voice low and threatening. The three thieves let out a hearty laugh, but Jasper continued to eye them, unwavering.
“You really think you can take on all three of us?” the leader asked, his voice dangerous. Jasper narrowed his eyes as he got in the thief’s face, refusing to back down.
“I don’t think , I know .”
The thief’s smile faded as it was replaced with a look of annoyance. He swiftly pulled out a sword and raised it above his head, thrusting it down towards Jasper. Jasper quickly reached up and put his sword in between him and the other man’s blade. Despite the fact that Jasper had acquired some muscle with his job, he was still significantly smaller than his opponent, and he struggled a bit under the thief’s brute strength. He could feel his knees beginning to unwittingly bend as he continued to try to push back. One of the other thieves lunged their sword towards Jasper’s stomach and Jasper lept back just before it could make contact with his skin. Before he had time to think, the leader was plunging his sword towards Jasper once again, and Jasper thrust his sword upwards, blocking the blows. His movements were a bit clumsy thanks to the added weight to Henry’s sword, and he instantly regretted using heavier materials in the production of it.
In his defense, it did look nicer that way.
Jasper ended up under the thief’s blade again, and he could feel his heels digging into the dirt beneath him as he buckled under the weight of both the sword and the criminal’s strength. Jasper mustered up as much energy as he could and he pushed back, succeeding in pushing the thief completely off of him. The thief was caught off guard by Jasper’s strength, and he stumbled back a little. One of his comrades took this opportunity to swing their blade at Jasper, but Jasper reacted quickly, blocking every one of the other man’s advances.
As Jasper fought off the two men, the other thief slowly made his way towards Henry, a menacing smile on his face.
“Um, Jasper...little help,” Henry said as he stumbled backward until he felt his back slamming into a tree.
“I’m a little busy at the moment,” Jasper shot back, blocking the thief’s blade mere inches from his face. Jasper was able to push the other two men back far enough to give himself a few seconds to grab a dagger he kept strapped to his ankle.
“Here!” he said, tossing it to Henry as Henry clumsily caught it.
“What do I do now?!” Henry asked helplessly. He had never been in a fight before, let alone a sword fight, and now he was stuck in one with an opponent much more skilled than he was, with only a dagger to boot.
“Don’t die!” Jasper shouted back, bending backward, just narrowly escaping one of the other men’s blades.
Before Henry had time to think, the other man was thrusting his sword right towards him, and he hastily ducked right as the thief’s sword dug deep into the tree behind him. Henry rolled out from beneath the thief’s arm, while the thief fought to pull his sword from the tree.
“Ha!” Henry exclaimed triumphantly, a wide smile spreading across his face. The man turned towards him and abandoned his sword as he pulled a dagger out from beneath his belt.
The thief jabbed his dagger towards Henry, and Henry ducked once more, instinctively lunging his dagger towards the other man. The dagger dug into the skin of his thigh, and the man let out a howl as he faltered slightly. Henry pulled the dagger out and grimaced at the blood that now stained the tip of the blade.
“Oh, that’s gross,” he said to himself, as he held the dagger awkwardly out in front of him. Before he really had time to react, however, he noticed that his opponent had now regained his composure, and was watching Henry with a dark expression. Henry’s eyes widened as the thief started slowly limping towards him, and Henry took off in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, Jasper continued to fight off the other two men, expertly blocking their advances and even managing to put a few minor scratches on his adversaries, but he could feel himself growing tired quickly. His arms were beginning to ache and he was running out of breath fast, and the added weight of the sword wasn’t helping matters much. One of the other men lurched towards Jasper, and Jasper took a step back, falling flat on his back after tripping on an exposed tree root. The impact knocked the wind out of him, and he coughed as he tried to refill his lungs. The leader of the group thrust his sword down towards Jasper, and Jasper rolled away just in the nick of time while the blade dug deep into the dirt. As Jasper scrambled to his feet, wincing at the pain shooting through his back, the other man plunged his sword forwards towards Jasper, and Jasper clumsily tried to block it, but not before it put a sizable gash in his arm. Jasper cried out in pain, instinctively gripping onto his arm while Henry froze as he looked towards the noise.
“Jasper!” he called out in concern, but before he had any more time to react, the thief that had been pursuing him stabbed his dagger straight towards Henry’s chest. Much to his surprise, Henry was able to block the other man’s blade with his own, and he took the split second the thief used to bounce back in order to get out of dodge once again.
“I’m fine, Henry,” Jasper declared as he did his best to ignore the searing pain. The leader’s crony tried to sneak up behind Jasper during his vulnerable moment, but Jasper used his non-injured arm that now held his sword to elbow the criminal square in the face. He heard a sickening crunch, and he knew then that he had broken the thief’s nose. The thief dropped his sword and fell to his knees as blood started pouring out of his nose.
The thief that had been chasing Henry caught up to him once more, and he thrust his dagger towards Henry’s neck. Henry took a step back and leaned backward, only just missing the blade. He lunged his dagger forward once more, using all the strength he could muster, and this time it sunk deep into the man’s shoulder, too deep for Henry to be able to pull it out again. The thief let out a wail as he fell to the ground. Henry looked on in horror at what he had done.
At the same time, the leader plunged his sword forward towards Jasper, aiming it straight for his chest. Jasper moved to deflect the hit, but given how worn out he was, he miscalculated, and the blade slashed across his face. Jasper hissed and took a few steps back, putting his hand to his face as he felt the warm blood begin trickling down his cheek. Jasper’s nostrils flared as a dangerous expression crossed his face. A triumphant look crossed the thief’s face as he lowered his sword ever so slightly. Jasper was visibly exhausted at that point, and the thief seemed sure that the boys were wearing down to the point of surrender. Jasper knew this was his one chance to deliver the final blow. He glanced around quickly, thinking over his next move swiftly but carefully. He jolted forward, using the thief’s lowered defenses to his advantage, and the thief was so thrown by Jasper’s sudden move that he staggered backwards, tripping over an exposed tree root, landing hard on the ground with a loud thud. The impact had caused him to drop his weapon, and before he could even process what had happened, Jasper had his sword pressed to his throat. The slightest movement would cause the sword to start cutting skin.
“I think it’s best if you and your crew move along now,” Jasper snarled. The thief looked at him, his expression unwavering for a beat before he finally exhaled in defeat.
“Fine,” he snapped. “Wouldn’t be worth it, anyway. Let’s go, boys,” he seethed as he reached for his sword, but Jasper moved so that his sword was in between the man and his weapon.
“I don’t think so,” he snarled. The leader’s nostrils flared in anger but he didn’t protest. He pulled himself back up, watching Jasper with a scathing expression. He started off in the opposite direction, grumbling as he went. The other two followed suit, but Jasper remained at the ready in case one of them decided to turn around to try to surprise them. He waited until they were well enough away before he allowed himself to relax. He slumped his shoulders and let out a deep sigh as he tried to catch his breath again. His arm and cheek were throbbing with pain, and sweat was beading down his face.
“Where did you learn to do that?” Henry questioned, awe and admiration dripping from his voice as he staggered over to Jasper. Jasper blushed a little and smiled as he shrugged.
“It gets kinda boring in the shop so Ray and I would mess around sometimes and I guess I just picked up a few things.”
“‘Picked up a few things?!’ Jasp, you just defeated two huge thieves, you know that right?” Henry responded, stopping just a few inches from Jasper. Jasper’s lips curled into a huge grin as he tried to contain his excitement over the fact that the Prince was impressed with him . He knew his cheeks were probably beet red at that point, but he prayed that the darkness would help conceal that fact.
Jasper stood up straight as he flipped the sword one-handed into the air, catching it by the blade, pointing the handle towards Henry for him to take it. Henry winced at the blood-stained on it before he grabbed it. He hesitated for a moment before finally placing it back in his scabbard. His look of astonishment was quickly replaced with concern as he began to study Jasper’s injuries. He reached out to gently touch the other boy’s cheek, but as soon as his finger made contact, Jasper hissed and instinctively pulled back. Henry quickly put his hand back down.
“That looks bad. We need to get those taken care of. C’mon, the castle is closer than town,” Henry said as he led Jasper through the trees towards home.
A little while later, Jasper and Henry stumbled into Henry’s room, with Jasper’s non-injured arm hung around Henry’s shoulders.
Henry’s bed was up against the wall right next to his bedroom door so Jasper only had to take a single step before he was able to plop down on the edge, letting go of Henry in the process.
“Wait here,” Henry said, as he left the room for a moment to go to the supply closet in the hallway where his parents always kept a set of emergency supplies.
Jasper leaned back on his good arm, flinching a little at the pain in his other arm and cheek as he glanced around the room. He had only been in the castle one other time before, but he hadn’t been able to see Henry’s room yet. Compared to the rest of the castle, his room was relatively small, but it was still at least three times bigger than Jasper’s. The bed was a king-size with four posts on each corner with intricate designs carved into the dark wood. Directly opposite the bed was two french doors that led out onto a balcony. On the wall to the left of the bed was two doors side-by-side. One of them was propped open slightly, and Jasper could see a huge walk-in closet behind it that he was pretty sure was the same size as his entire bedroom. The door next to it was shut, but Jasper assumed it was probably a bathroom. On the other side of the bed to the right, were a few steps that led up to a landing that stretched out and included a seating area. Underneath the landing on one side was a desk, and on the other side were cubbies built for storage that were overflowing with various odds and ends. A few of the items Jasper recognized as being sold by a lot of the merchants at the marketplace where Ray’s shop was. At the head of the bed, seated in front of Henry’s mountain of pillows was a red and blue stuffed dragon. Jasper reached for it and smiled a little as he admired it.
Just then, Henry made his way back into the room, carrying a bunch of gauze, bandages, cotton balls, and alcohol in his arms. Henry nudged the door shut with his foot before going to sit next to Jasper, allowing the supplies to fall on the bed next to him.
“I like your dragon,” Jasper said as he put him back in his spot in front of all the pillows. “What’s his name? Assuming he is a he.”
Henry felt his cheeks get warm as he began to pour some of the alcohol on one of the cotton balls.
“He is a he,” he responded, putting the cap back on the bottle before facing Jasper, “but he doesn’t have a name,” he lied. Jasper sat up a little and smiled.
“C’mon, what’s his name?”
“Roll up your sleeve,” Henry said, ignoring Jasper’s question. Jasper playfully rolled his eyes as he did as instructed. He put his elbow on his knee, sticking his arm out a little towards Henry. Henry moved a little closer to Jasper, and he started towards Jasper’s arm with the alcohol-soaked cotton ball, pausing for a moment right before he made contact.
“Ready?” he asked. Jasper’s smile immediately faded as he steeled himself.
“Just do it.”
Henry placed the cotton ball on Jasper’s cut and Jasper immediately hissed and squeezed his eyes shut at the stinging sensation in his arm.
“Will you please tell me your dragon’s name so I can focus on something other than the searing pain?” he pleaded. Henry took a deep breath as he continued to clean the wound, trying desperately to concentrate on what he was doing instead of thinking about the muscles in Jasper’s arm, or the fact that his dragon had probably the most embarrassing name in the history of stuffed dragons.
“Kid Dragon,” he mumbled. Jasper’s eyes popped open as a teasing smile spread across his lips.
“I knew I could get you to tell me.”
Henry’s mouth fell open a little as he stopped what he was doing for a second to meet Jasper’s gaze. He tried to hold his pretend offended expression at Jasper tricking him, but Jasper’s smile made him smile and he playfully hit Jasper’s knee before he went back to attending to his wounds. Both boy’s smiles disappeared when Jasper hissed at the renewed shooting pain in his arm.
“So...Kid Dragon, huh?” Jasper said, flinching.
“I named when I was five, okay,” Henry responded, his skin getting hot as he tried to ignore the embarrassment he felt, “And I can’t change it now, he’s used to it.”
Despite the pain, Jasper felt a small smile creeping onto his face as he watched Henry.
“I like it. It’s kinda...unique,” he responded genuinely. Henry grinned ever so slightly as he looked up at Jasper for a moment. Jasper was watching him, and there was a certain...tenderness in Jasper’s eyes that Henry couldn’t quite place, but nonetheless it gave him a warm feeling in his chest and for a moment he forgot about everything else besides the two of them.
He snapped out of it after a moment, tearing his gaze away from Jasper’s as he reached for supplies to start bandaging up Jasper’s arm. Once he was finished with that, he poured more alcohol onto another cotton ball and reached up to clean the cut on Jasper’s cheek. Jasper instinctively tried to move his face away from Henry’s hand, which only led to Henry trying to get closer, even though their knees were already touching and if he moved any closer he’d practically be in the other boy’s lap.
“I know it hurts, but would you please stop moving? You don’t want this to get infected,” the Prince pleaded as he tried to place the cotton soaked in rubbing alcohol on Jasper’s cut again. Jasper winced before he allowed Henry to touch his cheek and he flinched at the stinging sensation the alcohol caused. After Henry felt that the wound was clean enough, he gingerly placed a bandage over top. He put his hands down as he kept his gaze locked with Jasper’s.
“So, how does it look? Do I look tough?” Jasper asked jokingly. Henry grinned.
“Oh, yeah. Very manly,” Henry replied playfully. Jasper smiled. Henry studied Jasper for a second, and he felt a twinge of guilt over how beat he looked. He couldn’t help but feel that this was all his fault. If he had just waited until morning to go see Jasper… Not only that, but he had somehow managed to leave the fight unscathed, while Jasper was injured in a few places, Henry wondering then if there were other places he was unaware of.
A familiar yellow glow began spilling into the room, and both boys turned their attention to the double french doors to see the sun beginning to peek out over the horizon. Henry turned his attention back to Jasper. Even though he looked tired, his eyes were gleaming in the sunlight, and he had a look of admiration on his face.
“The sunrise is kinda cool, isn’t it?” Jasper said as he continued to watch, “Everybody always talks about how pretty sunsets can be, but we fail to realize how pretty sunrises can be too.”
“Yeah, we do,” Henry responded softly, although he wasn’t really sure he was talking about sunrises in that moment.
Henry suddenly became extremely aware of how close he was to Jasper. He became overly aware of the fact that their knees were touching, excruciatingly aware of the fact that he could practically feel the warmth radiating off of Jasper, they were so close. Henry felt like his heart was going to leap out of his throat. At that moment, an unexpected thought crossed his mind. He thought about sweeping the stray hair from Jasper’s eyes. He thought about just reaching out, brushing his hand against Jasper’s cheek. He thought about what it would feel like to just pull him close, to completely close the gap between them, imagining what it would feel like to have Jasper’s lips on his. He replayed that scenario over in his head about a dozen times.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he heard Jasper say, and he snapped out of his train of thought to see that he had leaned in even closer to Jasper, with Jasper looking at him with a curious expression. He also took notice of the fact that he had gotten almost uncomfortably close to Jasper and Jasper hadn’t made any effort to move away.
“Uhh, sorry. It’s nothing, I wasn’t looking at you like anything,” he replied, moving back a little. Jasper gave him an amused smile. He sensed that Henry was lying, but he didn’t try to press the matter.
Little did Henry know, Jasper was having the exact same thought.
Henry took a deep breath as he tried to shake the image from his head. He looked out of the double doors towards the sunrise as he tried to think of something, anything else, but it was no use. Jasper was already so close...it would be so easy...
“Henry, are you awake?” Henry heard Siren’s muffled voice call softly from the other side of the door, and the pair’s eyes went wide as they shared a panicked look.
“That’s my mom! Hide!” Henry whispered breathlessly as they both scrambled to their feet. Henry pushed Jasper into the closet and slammed the door shut behind him just as his bedroom door swung open.
“Hey, Mom! How’s it going?” Henry announced a little too loudly.
“Hey, sweetheart. What’s going on, I thought I heard voices?” Siren said as she scanned the room.
“Just talking to myself,” Henry replied as he plastered on his best fake smile and leaned awkwardly against his closet door. Siren furrowed her eyebrows and frowned.
“Are you alright, dear? You’re acting strange.”
“I’m fine. Just tired.”
Siren continued to study her son for a moment. She knew he was lying, but she wasn’t sure she really wanted to know the truth.
“Okay. Well, get dressed. Breakfast will be ready soon and after that, we need to go over the decorations for your coronation.”
“Oh, I can’t, Mom. I’m...going to Charlotte’s after breakfast. We have…” Henry started as he desperately searched for an excuse, “dancing lessons! She thought it’d be a good idea if we took some lessons before my coronation.”
Siren narrowed her eyes at her son as she watched him closely.
“Alright,” she said slowly as she started to shut the door, “but be back by lunchtime. We have a lot we need to get done today.”
Henry gave her a clumsy thumbs up.
“You got it,” he responded as he gave her a crooked smile. Siren furrowed her eyebrows again at her son’s odd behavior as she nodded and shut the door once more. Henry let out a sigh of relief as he relaxed and opened the closet door.
“That was close,” he said as Jasper stepped out. They stood in silence for a moment.
“I better get down there soon or she’s going to come looking for me again.”
Jasper nodded in response.
“I need to get to work anyway.”
“Now we just need to figure out how to get you out of here,” Henry said as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“I’ll just climb down the vines,” Jasper responded matter of factly, referring to the vines that were currently crawling up the side of the castle next to Henry’s balcony. Henry looked at him incredulously.
“You’ll climb down the vines,” he echoed dryly, “It’s like three stories down, do you really think you’re going to be able to do that?” Jasper just grinned.
“Piece of cake,” he replied as he opened the double french doors and went to the right side of the balcony where the vines were growing. Henry followed him out and watched as Jasper analyzed the plants for a moment. Once he had it worked out in his head, he turned and winked at Henry before he carefully climbed over the railing and started down the creeping plants. Henry went to stand by the railing in order to watch him. It was awkward at first, and Jasper almost lost his footing a few times, but after a minute he got the hang of it and he was able to climb the rest of the way down with ease. When he was a safe enough distance down he jumped the rest of the way and backed up a little in order to look up at Henry. A huge smile was on his face as he held his hands out in triumph.
“See? I’m more than just my devastatingly good looks,” he called up, loud enough so Henry could hear, but not so loud that he could be heard from inside the castle. Henry just rolled his eyes and chuckled.
“Goodbye, Jasper,” he called down, trying not to be loud enough for his parents or sister to hear.
“Bye, Henry,” Jasper said as he gave one last look at Henry before he started dodging behind different shrubbery in Henry’s yard, trying to avoid being able to be seen out of any window on the castle’s first floor. Henry continued to watch him for a moment with a goofy smile plastered on his face before he turned to go back inside to get ready for breakfast.