love is all around, look and see - OnOurOwnTerms (magicandarchery), violetbaudelairequagmire - Red White & Royal Blue (2024)


“So how do you feel about a trip to the lake house in a couple weeks?”

“Hm?” Henry looks up from where he’s washing their dinner dishes. Since moving into the Brownstone, they’ve fallen into a comfortable routine of Alex cooking and Henry taking over the dishes. He turns off the tap and grabs a towel to dry his hands, moving to face Alex.

“Mandatory weekly check in with the parents,” Alex says, holding up his cellphone. “Dad invited us all out in mid-March, spring break. June and mom and everyone.”

Henry nods. “Sounds lovely.” He’d been thinking about what they should do for Alex’s upcoming birthday- top of the list is currently a singular cupcake and a replay of the first birthday they spent together in New York- but a trip to the lake takes the pressure off him for that. If he can stop Oscar and Ellen from going at each other’s throats for the weekend, that’ll be birthday gift enough for Alex.

Alex reaches out to take the towel Henry is still holding to start drying the dishes and Henry feels his gaze soften as he watches. He can’t help it when he’s looking at Alex; he just loves him so damn much and even now, after all of these months and everything they’ve been through with the leak and the media and their families, he can’t believe that he actually gets to have this life.

Alex puts a dish up in the cabinet and catches Henry’s stare. He hip checks him and then presses a kiss to his cheek. “Love you, baby.”

And still, no matter how many times he’s heard it, he still feels his face flush. “Love you.”

Their plane lands in Austin, and the fact that they were able to stay unrecognized in their hats and sunglasses is a novelty Henry’s still getting used to. They make their way out to the waiting car and Henry is surprised to find June and Nora in the car already waiting with the driver. The four of them exchange hugs and cheek kisses once everyone has piled in and the entire hour long car ride consists of them talking over each other to catch up on what they’ve missed in the time since they’ve last seen each other.

They pull into the driveway, and grab their bags to head in. All of the windows are thrown open, curtains billowing in the breeze. After a long New York winter, Henry is so relieved to be in the warm, Texas sun. Oscar yells out a greeting from the kitchen, where he’s mixing something in a large bowl. Ellen and Leo come in from where they were sitting on the porch to greet them.

It still surprises Henry when he gets swept up in the flurry of hugs and affection. He’d gotten used to the coldness of his own family over the years, but this- getting pulled into warm hug after warm hug — this is so much better than that. He returns the affection down the line: a kiss to Ellen’s cheek, reaching out to shake Leo’s hand and getting pulled into a hug. Oscar pours whatever he was mixing into a pan and slides it in the oven and comes over to join, not even giving Henry a chance to stick out his hand before he’s wrapped into a bear hug.

“Hey, mijo.” Oscar says quietly to him. “Good flight?”

Henry nods. ‘Not bad, as far as flights go. Thank you for having us, sir.”

“Come on, kid. I’ve told you to drop the sir at least a hundred times now.” Oscar claps a hand on his shoulder as he says it, and squeezes before he walks away.

He really shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the love Alex’s family shows him, but still, it’s Alex’s family, so he doesn’t feel entitled to it.

The next few hours are a whirlwind of Alex dragging him into their room to change, swimming in the lake, playing Chicken with June up on his shoulders and Nora on Alex’s and laying out on the dock to dry off.

At some point, he must have fallen asleep in the sun because he wakes up to Alex gently reapplying sunblock to his pale, English skin. He peers up at Alex, trying to get his eyes to focus and Alex winks down at him.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sleep so peacefully, we all just wanted to let you keep sleeping but you’d have regretted the sunburn,” Alex says quietly.

Henry lays still, letting Alex complete the job and enjoying the solid press of big hands against his own shoulders. Once he’s done, Alex lays down next to him, and Henry takes the opportunity to curl into him. Alex smells like the coconut of sunblock, the salt of the lake and home.

They lay there for a while, Henry’s head on Alex’s chest and Alex’s fingers carding through Henry’s hair until they hear Oscar calling from inside the house to let them know dinner is served.

They make their way into the dining room to find an impressive spread. Ellen is setting a tray of ribs fresh off the grill onto the table next to massive pans of enchiladas, tamales, braised pork and a slow cooker of chile verde. Henry’s eyes widen at the sight. Oscar’s enchiladas and tamales are his go-to answer for his all time favorite food these days, but when pressed, Ellen’s ribs are a close second. He was expecting rellenos, or maybe mole — one of Alex’s favorite dishes for his birthday. But, with a table full of people with varied tastes, he assumes the enchiladas and tamales are a crowd pleaser.

It’s a typical Claremont-Diaz meal with people talking over each other, reaching across the table, and fighting over last bites in a way that would never, ever happen with his family and all Henry can think is how much better this is. How it seems like these people actually like each other. It’s laughter. It’s embarrassing stories. It’s warmth in every single sentence and Henry doesn’t think he’s ever going to get enough of it. He’s disappointed when the food is gone, not because he isn’t absolutely stuffed to the gills, but because he’s not ready for the evening to end.

Oscar slips out of the room for a minute and comes back holding a decorated birthday cake. He flicks the lights off and sets the cake just slightly to the left of where Alex is seated, so the cake is in between the two of them. Henry turns to watch Alex, the way his eyes dance in the flicker of the lit birthday candles. Alex is looking back at him, though. He nudges Henry and tilts his chin down to the cake. It’s only then that he really notices that the even, cursive letters spell out ‘Happy Birthday, Henry.’

“Me?” Henry can’t keep the tremor out of his voice when he asks. “I thought we were here for—” He turns to look at Alex again and feels the tears starting to well in his eyes when Alex nods at him.

“Of course it’s for you, sugar!” Ellen exclaims. “Your birthday just passed, Alex’s isn’t for a bit. We’ll celebrate him before y’all leave at the end of the week, but tonight was for you. Didn’t Alex tell you?”

One look at Alex is all any of them need to know he absolutely did not. June flings a torn off piece of tortilla at Alex’s face.

“Can’t believe you thought this whole thing was for Alex,” Nora says, rolling her eyes affectionately.

“Happy birthday, mijo,” Oscar says.

Henry looks around the table- Ellen and Leo, Oscar, June and Nora, Alex. It’s almost everyone he’d want at a table just for him, and he doesn’t know the last time he’s felt so loved.

When he closes his eyes and blows out the candles, he doesn't even bother making a wish.


If there’s one thing Henry has learned about Alex in their time together: the first thing Alex is going to do upon entering any hotel room is immediately drop his bag into the first spot he sees and climb onto the bed. Or flop onto it, as is the case for this particular weekend away. Henry rolls his eyes affectionately, closing the door behind him. He crosses the tiny room of the colonial farmhouse turned bed and breakfast to set his bag on the seat of a high backed armchair before he unzips his jacket and shrugs it off, folding it in half neatly and laying it over the back.

“So neat and proper, still.” Alex says from where he’s settled on his side, propped up with his head in his hand. Henry hears the smirk in his voice before turning to see it.

“Well one of us has to be, and since you are absolute chaos …” Henry lets the thought trail off, one corner of his mouth tipping into a grin. He unzips his bag and starts unpacking, hanging things in the wardrobe one by one. “So what is the plan for the rest of the day, love?”

“No plan.” Alex is still grinning when Henry looks at him again. “I told you, sweetheart, this is just a weekend to get away, no work bullsh*t, no finding you asleep at your desk with your cheek adding unintelligible key smashes to your novel, as adorable as that is. Just us and the quiet.”

It isn’t that Henry needs a plan. It’s just that between his rigidly scheduled life before stepping away from everything royal, and Alex’s need to make list upon list for everything, it’s surprising.

Alex pushes himself up and sits cross legged on the bed, continuing, “I mean, I have ideas for what to do this weekend, but I guess we should try not to spend the whole time in bed.”

“Incorrigible!” Henry laughs, snapping a t-shirt at Alex playfully. “I suppose we could wander around town, come back and have dinner, and then relax the rest of the night.”

Alex checks his watch and pops up off the bed, almost knocking into Henry as he does.

“If that’s what you wanna do, baby, that’s fine with me.” Alex plants a kiss on Henry’s cheek. “I mean, I would love to show you all the places the Continental Army kicked some Red Coat ass.”

Henry scoffs. Alex pads over to where his duffel sits abandoned by the door and scoops it up before ducking into the bathroom.

“Oh babe they have one of those clawfoot tubs! We should take advantage of that later.” Alex calls out just before there’s a knock at the door.

Henry knits his brow. “Are we expecting something, darling?”

Alex pokes his head out of the bathroom, toiletry bag in hand, and shrugs at the same time he shakes his head. “Not that I know of.”

There’s a second knock and when Henry looks at him, Alex just shrugs again and turns back into the bathroom, leaving Henry to cross the room and open the door. He isn’t sure what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the dark-haired young lady from the front desk when they had checked in. Olivia, Henry sees on her nametag.

“I’m so sorry to disturb you, Mr. Fox, but this arrived downstairs for you.” Oliva passes over a large package, wrapped up delicately in gray embossed paper and an envelope tucked under the dark green ribbon tied around it.

“Oh.” Is all Henry can get out at first, but then everything seems to come back online and he punches out a quiet, awkward laugh. “Uh, thank you.”

Olivia gives a nod and turns away as Henry closes the door. He takes the box over to the bed, sets it down, and pulls the envelope from under the ribbon. He pulls out an invitation with a blue toile design and hand lettering and his jaw goes slack as he reads.

Lady June Claremont-Diaz


Lady Nora Holleran

Request the honor of your company in celebration of the birthday of

His Royal Highness, Prince Henry

March 12, 2023

Six o’clock in the evening

The Stony Brook Inn

“What’s – Alex…?” Henry looks up and sees Alex leaning against the doorframe of the bathroom, smiling fondly. He’s swapped his jeans for a pair of brown trousers, his t-shirt for a white regency-style shirt with lace cuffs, his running shoes for knee high brown boots, and Henry feels his heart swell. “Did you …?”

Alex shakes his head. “This is all June and Nora’s idea. I just had to get you here.”

There are still things, even after all this time, that Henry thinks are too good to be true about this life he has now: he has complete control of it, the love of the most intelligent and beautiful man Henry has ever known, and a loving and supportive family that accepted him as one of their own and without conditions.

Alex’s hand slides across the top of Henry’s back and comes to rest on his shoulder. “You should probably open that.”

So Henry does and pulls out a full costume with black trousers and waistcoat with two columns of silver buttons, and a gray tailcoat. Henry laughs at the color choice.

“I thought you wanted me to be more colorful?” he turns his head to Alex with a grin.

“I got told by a wise man once that gray is a color, so…” Alex presses a gentle kiss to Henry’s lips. “You should probably get changed, but don’t do it where I can see because I will not be held responsible for my actions.”

"You are a menace and a plague," Henry says lovingly, sliding his arm around Alex's waist and giving a squeeze. His voice is lower when he continues, "You can be responsible for your actions later."

Downstairs, Alex takes the last stairs ahead of Henry and clears his throat, pulls his shoulders back, and offers one arm to Henry, tucking the other behind his back.

"A perfect gentleman." Henry smiles and takes Alex's arm.

Alex clears his throat in the sitting room, where June and Nora, Ellen and Leo, and Oscar are all gathered, June and Nora in satin gowns of sky blue and lavender, Ellen in peach, Leo and Oscar in evening suits similar to Alex and Henry.

"Our guest of honor for the evening." Alex says, and Henry is quickly swept up in hugs and greetings.

"Lookin' sharp, mijo." Oscar pats Henry's shoulder affectionately before pulling him into a hug.

"Handsome as ever, Sugar." Ellen drawls and kisses Henry's cheek.

June and Nora pull Henry into a hug at the same time, and Leo offers an affectionate fist bump ahead of his hug.

Henry feels his chest swell and his grin grow broader until he's all gums and teeth, and crinkled eyes.

They enjoy a spread of tea sandwiches, cheeses, and an assortment of fruit, sipping on lemonade or tea as a bottle of champagne chills for later.

They move out to the deck, enjoying the last hours of the early spring sunlight. There's card games, lawn games, and laughter that has Henry's cheeks and stomach aching with joy.

Tiny cakes and glasses of champagne are served by the inn's staff as the sun begins to set. June and Nora gather everyone around.

"To our dearest Henry," June starts. Henry feels Alex's arm around his waist, pulling him in closer.

"We just want to tell you how ardently we love and adore you." Nora grins. "And wish you the happiest of birthdays."

Glasses clink together in a toast and Henry feels Alex press a kiss to his temple. Henry lowers his head, his cheeks warm and a smile spreading across his lips.

After a moment, Henry sets his champagne down and opens his arms to Nora and June, hugging them in close. It's been possibly one of the best birthdays he's had, and he hopes the way he tucks them both tightly into his sides tells them just how grateful he is and that he loves and adores them just as ardently.


It’s been quite a few years since Henry has woken up on his birthday in this particular bedroom. It’s still beige and boring with a massive gilded bed as a centerpiece; it still lacks anything remotely resembling personality. He’d only just started to consider actually decorating the room when he bought the brownstone in New York and picked up his entire life, so he never bothered. He’s made an effort to be anywhere but here on his last few birthdays, preferring to wake up wrapped in Alex’s arms and far away from this room.

But Bea had invited him to a fundraiser performance for her addiction and recovery program that happened to take place the weekend before his birthday and it had been so long since he’d seen her on stage that he just couldn’t say no. And then, once his mum had found out that he was going to be around, she asked him to stay to celebrate his birthday with the family. He almost said no, that he’d be happy to celebrate early but he was heading home for the actual day of, but then the unthinkable happened: Phillip called, and invited him out for a birthday pint.

So, Henry stayed in Kensington for his birthday.

Alex had stayed home with David, unable to get away from work and promising to make it up to Henry when he landed back in the states. Each day Henry wakes up and immediately misses Alex’s presence, but never more than when he wakes up on his actual birthday. He sits up in his bed, the same bed he woke up in on so many previous birthdays, on good days and awful days and every kind of day in between.

He wakes up on his birthday, and before his eyes are even open he’s already missing Alex. It takes him more than a few minutes to convince himself to open his eyes, to sit up and stretch. Once he does, he notices something that wasn’t there when he fell asleep.

There’s a little note card propped up in between the lamp and his cellphone on the bedside table. It’s made of pink construction paper and written on in sparkly purple pen. He has absolutely no idea where anyone in this forsaken palace was able to find construction paper and gel pens, but he has some idea who.

His suspicions are proven correct when he opens it up:

H- come find me in the kitchen when you’re up. penblwydd hapus.


Henry grins, running his fingers over the sparkly pen. No one ever speaks Welsh around here anymore, so the birthday greeting feels even more special.

He pulls an NYU Law tee on over his sweats, and slides into a pair of slippers to make his way down the endless hallway to the kitchen that he and Bea had shared since well before they were old enough for it to be theirs. It was where his family- him, his parents and Bea and Phillip- used to gather when they didn't want to do the whole royal song and dance. Quiet celebrations, birthdays with no official photographers, regular meals. This is where they happened.

Bea must have heard him coming because she's pouring water from the electric kettle over a teabag as he walks into the room. The mug catches Henry's eye first. When he was young, maybe six or seven, their governess had helped him press his handprint into the ceramic. She’d brought out paint pens and helped him spell “happy birthday love henry” in his freshly learned letters. Of course Bea makes his tea perfectly, and when she sets the mug down in front of him Henry can’t help but line his own hand up with his tiny child handprint.

“You used to do that when Dad drank from that mug, too,” Bea says softly. She pulls him into a hug, and murmurs “happy birthday” into where her cheek meets his chest. “It’s been a while, so I thought I’d give you a dad birthday, if that’s okay with you.”

“A dad birthday?” He releases her from the hug and looks down at her.

“A dad birthday.” She turns back towards the countertop and busies herself fussing over something for a moment or two. When she turns back towards him, she’s holding a plate of fairy bread with a candle stuck into one of the slices. She sets it down in front of him, and waits for him to blow it out.

Henry takes a bite, letting the butter and hundreds-and-thousands sink into his tongue. It’s been almost a decade since he’s had this breakfast, and he has to close his eyes for a second after that first bite.

"Remember when we were in Australia on Dad's birthday and he loved this so much he declared it the official Fox Family Birthday Breakfast?" Bea asks, taking a bite of her own slice.

He nods, a small smile on his lips. “Mum said it was almost not technically food, but dad didn’t let that stop him.” He takes another bite. “So that’s a dad birthday, then? A chipped mug and Fairy Bread?”

“To start, yes.” Bea agrees. “But not all. Every year dad would always get us—”

“He got us a book,” Henry interrupts.

“He got us a book, and he wrote our birthday card directly into it.” Bea reaches into her tote bag slung over her chair and pulls out two books and passes them over to Henry.

The first is a worn out copy of ‘Henry V,’ that must be at least thirty years old and shows signs of being read over and over with dog eared pages. Henry opens it up and reads the inscription written in the cover in their fathers angled and crisp script:

To my beloved Catherine:

Our dearest Henry was born this year, so it only seems fitting that for your birthday I would give you this story of his namesake. I thank my luckiest stars every single day that you wandered into my production of this show, that I managed to catch your eye and hold your attention. I truly am the luckiest man in the world to have had the opportunity to take you out even for one night, but these years with you have been nothing short of magical. I can’t wait to see how our own Henry adds to the beauty of the story that started that evening of the Henry V production. Happiest birthday, my love. I love you.

Yours always,


Tears are streaming down Henry’s face to the point where he almost doesn’t notice Bea pushing the second book into his hands.

It’s a beautiful, brand new, hardcover edition of ‘Little Women’. It’s green with gold embossed florals on the cover and a satin ribbon bookmark stitched into the binding. When he opens this one, Henry finds the same purple glittery pen that was on his bedside note this morning:


I can’t match you or dad for prose, so I’m sorry about that. This book always reminded me of us. Neither of us strictly align with a March sister, but through everything I know that we support each other just the same. You were the only one there for me at my absolute lowest, and I hope I was able to provide comfort to you at yours. I wouldn’t be standing here today without you, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but I’m so lucky to be your sister. Happy Birthday, H.



Henry wraps his arms around Bea, not even a little bit sorry for the way he’s soaking tears into her jumper. It takes him a moment to catch his breath to speak. “Thank you, Bea. This was so unexpected, but exactly what I needed today.” He nods, more to himself than anything else. “Dad birthday.”

They spend the next hour or so slowly working their way through multiple mugs of tea and half a loaf of bread’s worth of fairy bread. They talk about the things they’ve missed while Henry has been off in America and Bea’s been here. They talk about the highs and lows of the last decade without their father, and about all of the birthdays they can remember celebrating.

By the time Henry has to shower and scrub the tears from his face to meet up with Phillip for that birthday pint, they’re both emotionally wrung out in the best possible way. He wraps her up in another hug. “Thank you, cariad.”

“Happy birthday, brawd bach.”


"You're doing karaoke again, right Henry?" Nora asks, taking a couple pieces of bacon off the plate and passing it to June. Pez has ordered almost everything off the brunch menu, because it's his philosophy in life to never settle for one thing when you can try everything.

Henry respects him for it. Used to live vicariously through him, Pez able to live freely, love openly, everything that Henry never thought he'd be able to experience locked up in a gilded cage. And then Alex had happened.

"No. I am not doing karaoke." Henry shakes his head.

"Hazza, you always say no. And then you always end up on stage." Pez teases. It's familiar and affectionate.

And Henry hates that Pez is correct, if only because Henry can never say no to Alex, and Alex has been known to challenge him when he's had a little too much to drink.

"Queen or Bowie today?" June asks.

"Neither! I am absolutely not doing karaoke!" And he means it this time, damn it.

"I got $20 on 'Modern Love' again." Alex pops a homefry into his mouth.

The restaurant is packed. There's hardly room to maneuver around through the tables that are set up close together to maximize capacity around the stage where Nadia Nice is calling out bingo numbers. Someone from a bachelorette party in the opposite corner from them calls out her bingo.

Allison Chainz keeps their bottomless mimosas coming, flirts with Henry unabashedly, and Henry isn't sure if his cheeks are warm and pink because of the alcohol or the flirting. Alex won't — can't — stop teasing him about it.

"You should shut this place down for a night and bring the kids from the shelter here." Nora suggests.

"That is a topic for another day. Today is for Henry and there will be no talk of work." Pez claps Henry on the back, and it jostles the sparkly tiara on his head slightly.

But even as his head goes pleasantly fuzzy, Henry manages to think that Nora is on to something. The shelters are a place for the kids to come and feel safe, get resources to start navigating a new life, and have a place they can call home, but the one thing they never seem to have enough of is joy.

Joy in being yourself. Joy in being queer. Joy in life.

He makes a mental note to discuss getting a monthly event set up for the kids with Pez when they're back at work.

"That also means not thinking about work, Haz." Pez chides.

After an unknown amount of time has passed and Henry has consumed several too many mimosas, been convinced by a queen named Stormi Daze to dance on top of their table (he thinks Alex had cheered something about his hips while he did), and sung along much too loudly to a parade of queens impersonating and lip syncing to the songs of divas throughout the years, Henry grabs the mic for karaoke, the ungodly canary yellow feather boa around his neck being brandished fiercely throughout ‘Modern Love’.

Alex is collecting cash from Pez, June, and Nora when Henry is back at the table, having been right about Henry's song of choice.

And if that's how Alex is going to be, then ...

Henry drags Alex up to the stage with him, fully expecting Alex to have objections, but it's Alex that chooses the song and they make a production out of 'Ain't No Mountain HIgh Enough'.

When he looks at the photos shared in their group chat the next day while sprawled on the couch in sweats and one of Alex's NYU sweatshirts, there are several that make him laugh, but he knows the one that's getting framed and displayed prominently in his office at the shelter.

He's surrounded by Pez and his electric blue hair that clashes spectacularly with his yellow feather boa; Alex is looking at him, dimples in his cheeks prominent and like he's so in love with Henry he could die; June and Nora behind him, both hugging him around the neck.

Henry's chest swells and throat tightens, and he wishes he could show this picture to his younger self, to tell that version of Henry that he won't be caged forever. That he'll meet a boy he loves that will love him back, grow up with him, make a life with him. That the family that will love him the most is the one he found and made for himself.

That he will truly know what it means to be happy.


Henry is exhausted, honestly. He truly loves what he does; he loves every single minute he spends down at the shelter. He lives his life unapologetically out, he kisses his fiancé in public without checking to see who might be holding a camera. He helps queer kids get the help and hope that they need when their own families don’t provide it. He wears a rainbow flag and a pronoun pin on his suit lapel every time he puts on a suit (and on his office badge lanyard when he doesn’t). It’s a life he truly thought he would never get to have. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running a youth shelter and trying to finish a novel at the same time with the same lingering insomnia he’s always had.

He doesn’t want it to show, but it may be bleeding into his day to day business.

Like for example, a week ago when he forgot to order the pizzas for a movie night pizza party. It completely slipped his mind. Luckily, when Pez called their local favorite pizzeria and gave his name the owner was willing to put a little rush on the order — Pez’s tipping history is well documented in all five boroughs.

Or just a couple of days ago when Lane knocked on his office door and came in to talk about potentially replacing a few board games from the rec room that have worn out from frequent play. Henry called them both Luca and Lana before scrubbing a hand over his face, apologizing to them profusely, and promising to get doubles of every single game on the list.

Or even today. Henry was sitting at his desk with his laptop open working on the first draft of his manuscript. He was actually making some decent progress, or so he thought until he woke up with his cheek pressed to his desk blotter and the last typed line reading “It was then thtjfsk skdf kjjlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.”

So yeah, Henry could use a break. He stands up and stretches, back cracking and popping back into place after being slouched over his desk for so long and heads down the hall to Pez’s office.

He taps on the door frame and Pez looks up at him and holds up a finger to let Henry know he’ll be off the phone in a moment. He wraps up the call and beckons Henry in.

“Haz! How was your nap?”

Henry groans and drops into the chair by the desk. “Mate, I think I need some time off. My birthday is next week, so I was thinking of taking a long weekend? Monday and Tuesday, catching up on some sleep? Any conflicts there?”

Pez turns to his computer and clicks open the shelter’s calendar. It’s a massive thing, color coded by staff work schedules, shelter events and important court dates. Henry watches as Pez scrolls to the next week and grimaces. “We have that Smash Brothers tournament scheduled for Monday evening and both Sasha and Jesse are out. We need someone to do pasta and someone to keep the bracket up and —”

Henry cuts him off with a sigh. “No worries Pez, I’ll be here.”

Pez looks genuinely sorry. “Tell you what, come in Monday and Tuesday, then take the rest of the week. I know that means you’re stuck here on your birthday, but at least you’ll be able to catch up on sleep afterwards.”

Henry nods. That seems manageable to him. It’s already Thursday afternoon, and he only has to stop by for an hour or so on Saturday and Sunday just to check in. He can make it until Wednesday.

Friday drags. He finds himself taking a page from Alex’s book, switching to espresso from his usual tea purely for caffeine purposes. He spends most of his time pacing the halls of the building under the guise of routine maintenance checks but in reality is just doing his best to keep moving to keep awake.

Saturday he manages to sleep a bit so when he stops by to greet everyone at their weekly all-hands lunch, he does so with a smile and only a normal amount of caffeine in his system. He's able to make conversation with most of the kids around the dining room, and despite having to stifle a few yawns, he doesn’t mix up anyone’s names this time.

On Sunday Henry finds a stack of paperwork on his desk that he needs to sort through. He wasn’t expecting to be there for more than an hour or so, but by the time he reaches the bottom of the pile of requests, menus, invoices, and room assignments he can barely drag himself home.

Monday is Henry’s late day. He usually spends the morning writing before coming into the shelter for the afternoon and evening. This Monday, though, he has the tournament in the afternoon and needs to get ready for that.

He gets in around ten, and immediately goes right into the industrial kitchen to start making spaghetti for thirty. He's historically not a great cook, but living with Alex has been a great learning experience for him and pasta is something he's finally able to handle.

Once the massive vat of spaghetti is cooked and wrapped up in warming trays, Henry wanders out into the game room. He promised Pez he’d handle the bracket as well, so he wheels a big whiteboard out of the supply closet and sets about drawing out the lines on the board. He's midway through copying the first round pairings down the sides of the board when he realizes the shelter is… quiet today.

No one came in to chat with him in the kitchen at all the entire time he was cooking, and he doesn't think anyone has been in the game room either. In fact, he doesn't remember anyone in the front reading room when he entered the building either. Weird.

He finishes the last few names and sets off to figure out what's going on.

He heads over to the office wing. Pez’s office is empty, and so is the meeting room. The break room has a bunch of hoodies thrown over chairs, but again — empty. Finally he makes it over to the giant multipurpose room in the back of the building. He hears a quick shout from inside, but it's silent by the time he pulls the heavy door open.

He runs his hand over the wall searching for the panel of light switches, and once he finds it flips on all the lights at once.


Henry startles backwards, taking in the scene in front of him. There are balloons everywhere and a massive banner spelling out “Happy Birthday, Henry!” A table off to the side has a display of messily decorated cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles spilling out onto the table and — he laughs — warming trays of the spaghetti he had prepared just a half hour ago. Someone must have snuck them down while he was working on the perfectly straight lines of the brackets.

He feels his smile taking over his face even as he feels tears start to prickle in the back of his eyes. “This is for me?” He asks, trying to look at the collection of kids and staff assembled in front of him all at once.

Lane, who's name he will never forget again, steps forward. “Of course it is, Henry! You do so much for us here, we just wanted to do something nice for you for your birthday.”

Henry reaches out to hug Lane, and then he's wrapped up in a massive group hug, absolutely smothered by every single person currently in the building. He's crying by the time he manages to disentangle himself, big tears of joy at how great each and every one of these kids are as he looks at their pleased grins.

“Were you really surprised, Mr. Fox?” One of the slightly younger kids pipes up from the back.

“Henry,” he corrects her gently. “Please, Henry is fine. And yes — I was shocked. Still am.”

Pez appears from behind him, clapping a hand on his back. “Sorry I couldn't give you the day off, mate. They've just been working so hard and —”

Henry cuts him off with a laugh. “Of course. But I imagine there's no video game tournament, then?”

“Nope, no tournament. Just a party for you here and then the rest of the week off. And yes, effective immediately after the party ends, I don't want to see you until next Monday. I believe our dear Alexander has plans for you.” Pez winks and disappears into the crowd.

The next couple hours fly by with party games clearly planned by the kids, a hearty serving of his own passably edible pasta, and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday. When all is said and done, it ends up being one of the loveliest birthday parties he's ever attended, his own or otherwise.

He's warmed from the inside out with the care that everyone put into it for him. These kids, some of them barely even teenagers who were abandoned by the people who were supposed to be there for them no matter what, who hadn't been properly shown what it was to love had done this for him. Once more, tears are streaming down his face as he thinks about that single fact. He pours so much love into this shelter and these kids in spite of what he was shown by members of his own family and all he wants is for them to feel it and reflect it back out.

That is the true birthday gift they gave him this year


Paris is theirs. Has been ever since they were a working prince and a president's son, stealing away to whatever corner of whatever country one of them had an event or an appearance to attend, the picture of friends in public but a portrait of something so much more behind closed doors.

Paris had been the first time they'd stayed the night together; the first time Henry knew he never wanted to wake up without Alex beside him, yet still knowing that was a reality he could never have.

So it still feels like a dream when he wakes up even now and meets warm brown eyes framed by long eyelashes, wild curls, and lips that curve into a sleepy smile as soon as Henry's eyes are open.

"Morning, baby." Alex's voice is hoarse with sleep and he leans in for a gentle kiss. Henry can't bring himself to care about morning breath. "Happy birthday."

Henry's heart swells and his stomach does that swooping thing it's always done with Alex, the one that confirms just how hopelessly deep in love with Alex he still is.

He moves closer to Alex, letting himself be wrapped up in Alex's arms as he wakes up slowly, though Alex's fingers in his hair, gently scratching at his scalp aren't helping keep Henry from falling back asleep. They've been in Paris for a couple of days now, and they'll be here through Alex's birthday, but Henry still knows they shouldn't spend their time only seeing the inside of their hotel room.

"Should get up." Henry mumbles into the dip of Alex's neck. He feels the vibrations of Alex's laugh more than hears it, and Alex leaves a gentle kiss on his forehead, mutters something about a shower and breakfast, Henry's eyes popping open fully when Alex makes some smartass comment about needing his rest because he's an old man now.

"Thirty is not old, you absolute demon." Henry protests, suddenly wide awake and sitting upright, the sheets and duvet falling away from his chest and bunching at his waist.

"I don't know, it sounds like it's all downhill from here, sweetheart." Alex teases and grins.

Henry is aware Alex knows exactly what he's doing when his eyebrows wiggle upwards, and Henry scrambles up and out of bed, following Alex into the bathroom. Their shower is cold by the time Henry is finished demonstrating to Alex that he's still just as invigorated and capable.

It does, however, set them back and instead of a full breakfast, they find a small café near their hotel, sitting outside on a surprisingly warm, sunny day, sipping on espresso and sharing crepes. The rest of their morning is spent walking along the Champs d'Elysee, and even though there are a handful of people that do a double take out of vague recognition, Henry and Alex are just two people in a sea of thousands as they explore.

In the early afternoon, Alex slides his hand into Henry's, and there's no hesitation, no panic, and no fear bubbling up and causing Henry to keep his distance. Alex's fingers fold through his, gently tugging him into a shop. They leave laden with bread, cheese, and meat and find an open space to picnic at the Jardins du Trocadero.

Alex spins Henry under his arm, pulls him in close, and kisses him as they pass a street musician on their way to the Tuileries, and Henry remembers another time when Alex had reached for his hand and Henry had pulled away. He kisses Alex again for good measure, just because he can, because he gets to have this now. They're no longer naive kids falling in love while trying to convince themselves their meetings were just casual hookups, no longer the subject of every tabloid headline, no longer falling asleep in different beds on different sides of the world.

Henry brings Alex's hand up to his lips and presses a kiss against the back of his fingers, smiling as the sun catches the gold wedding band on Alex's ring finger just right.

They end their day back at the hotel, long after the sun has set with a bottle of champagne and a single cupcake with buttercream frosting. When they get to their room, it's Alex that kicks out of his shoes first, sets the champagne bottle on the nightstand and collapses onto the bed.

"Everything hurts and I'm dying." Alex groans dramatically.

"You act as though we had no points of rest today." Henry says, brow raised in amusem*nt, deliberately ignoring the dull ache in his knees and lower back. He toes out of his shoes, pads over to the bed, sets the cupcake box next to the champagne bottle.

"I'm not as young as I used to be, H." Alex laments.

Henry rolls his eyes, nudges Alex's knees apart enough to stand between them and leans down until his hands are braced on the bed on each side of Alex's head. Alex's hands instantly curl around his forearms.

"And here I thought I was supposed to be the old man." Henry teases as he hovers.

"Well, you are in a whole brand new decade, baby." Alex's mouth curves up into a smile.

"Oh I'm going to remember this for next year when you turn thirty." He grasps Alex's hands as he straightens up again, pulling Alex up into a seated position.

"Sounds promising." Alex pushes himself back against his pillows, criss crossing his legs and reaching for the champagne bottle.

Henry retrieves two champagne flutes from the mini-bar and digs a box of candles and a book of matches from his bag before he joins Alex on the bed. He sits facing Alex, and Alex pops the champagne open, fills each of their flutes, and swaps the champagne bottle for the cupcake box.

With a single candle lit on top of the cupcake, Alex holds it in his palm for Henry. "Make a wish, Hen."

Henry closes his eyes and starts twisting the gold wedding band on his own ring finger slowly. He inhales a long, slow breath and when he opens his eyes with his wish made, he blows out the candle.

"What'd you wish for?" Alex asks, plucking the candle from the cupcake.

"The same thing I do every year."

"Which is...?" Alex presses, pulling the paper away from the bottom of the cupcake.

"I can't tell you that." Henry swipes a finger through the frosting.

"Why not?"

"Because I quite like having my birthday wishes come true, you cretin!" Henry laughs, locking his eyes on Alex as he licks the frosting from his finger. "I tell you this every year when you ask."

"Sweetheart, you should know by now that I will never stop asking." Alex breaks off a small piece of the cupcake, seeming to make sure it has plenty of frosting on it.

"Mm, I suspect you do it to —" Henry trails off when a smirk starts to turn the corners of Alex's mouth upwards and Henry has just enough time to fleetingly think that look can't mean anything good before Alex smashes the bit of cupcake in his fingers against Henry's mouth, making extra sure to spread frosting over each corner.

Henry sits for a moment, too stunned to move, but he reaches for the cupcake in Alex's hand when he does, only for Alex to shift upward onto his knees and move it out of his reach.

Henry leans over and sets his champagne on the bedside table again before lunging on his knees toward Alex, but Alex catches him around the waist, pulling Henry tight against him and leaning in for a kiss that is slow and deliberate, his tongue licking at the frosting on Henry's lips.


Henry gives in to Alex, grabs at him to pull him in closer because it's never close enough, but then Alex is pulling away and putting the cupcake back on the table, and Henry grasps frantically for him once he's done.

There's messy kisses and fingers fumbling with buttons and zippers, clothes landing wherever they're thrown until there's nothing left between them. Alex's lips are on him again, licking frosting from the corners of his mouth.

Henry tilts his head back automatically and slides his hand into Alex's hair when Alex mouths at his neck, biting, sucking, and soothing. Alex's hands — big, strong, and sure — drag downward over the bare expanse of Henry's back and over the full curve of his ass, grinding slowly against him.

"Christ, Alex." Henry moans, tightening his fingers in Alex's hair. "Want you."

"You have me, baby. Always." Alex smiles at him and it's so full of love that Henry feels the pleasant sensation of flutters in his chest and belly. "Just let me take care of you tonight."

Alex travels a familiar path with his mouth, along the planes of Henry's collarbones, extra attention given to the scar that marks his shoulder. A shiver runs the length of Henry's spine, every inch of skin feeling set on fire at the press of Alex's lips, and Henry gets lost in the push and pull of it.

Henry is pliant in his arms when Alex maneuvers him down to the mattress and onto his back, continuing his journey of kisses on the map that is Henry. His broad chest, soft belly, his hips, and thick, powerful thighs, leaving no inch of Henry untouched.

Another shiver rockets through Henry when Alex looks at him, eyes soft but wanting, framed by those f*cking eyelashes. Henry gasps when Alex takes him in hand, stroking slow and easy.

"You're so beautiful, Hen." Alex whispers and for a second Henry thinks he forgets how to breathe. "So, so beautiful."

Alex settles between his legs and dots the inside of his thighs with kiss after kiss until he finally takes Henry's co*ck into his mouth. He's purposeful as he takes Henry apart; the whimpers that grow steadily louder with every inch Alex swallows down, and the wetness of Alex's mouth the only sounds filling the room.

"Alex, f*ck." Henry sputters, winding his fingers into Alex's hair again, tightening his grip and pulling as Alex's tongue teases along his foreskin.

When Alex backs off, Henry nearly sobs at the absence and warmth of Alex's mouth. He follows Alex's every move when Alex snatches up the bottle of lube from the table beside the bed and pops the cap open.

Henry draws his knee up toward his chest as Alex slicks up his fingers and sucks in a breath when Alex circles his hole, touch soft and light. He isn't sure how much more of Alex's slow teasing he can take, and he's about to let that be known until one of Alex's long fingers presses inside him.

Henry clutches the bedspread tight in his fingers as Alex works him, slowly but completely. One finger becomes two and Henry's chest heaves every time Alex's fingers find his prostate. He forces himself to look at Alex, watches him, working a slick hand over his own co*ck.

"Please. Alex, please."

And then Alex's fingers are gone and Henry closes his eyes and breathes as Alex presses slowly inside him, always both familiar and new, carving out that place that is his and his alone.

Alex settles over Henry, chest to chest, not a single breath of space between them. Henry pulls him in, slotting their lips together again, channeling everything he feels for Alex into the kiss.

Alex rolls his hips, sets a slow pace and Henry meets it as he wraps his legs around the back of Alex's thighs, pulling him in deeper with every forward movement. With each press of his fingertips, Henry can feel the way the muscles in Alex's back ripple beneath his skin, golden and heated under Henry's touch.

"Love you so much, Hen." Alex breathes, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against Henry's, and it's Alex's words that have Henry hurtling toward the edge as a familiar heat starts to pool in his belly, and he knows Alex is on the verge of falling over that cliff with him.

"Open your eyes, love." Henry says softly.

Alex does, his warm brown eyes blown wide. Henry slides his hands down the length of Alex's arms until Alex takes both of Henry's hands in his, pinning them to the bed as their fingers lock tightly together.

Alex swallows hard, starting to lose his rhythm, lips parted slightly on each breath he takes.

"I love you, Alex." Henry claims Alex's lips in another kiss, and it doesn't take long before they're letting go, falling over the edge of bliss together. Henry laughs softly as they wait out the aftershocks. Alex drops his head into the crook of Henry's neck, and Henry frees his hands from Alex's, wrapping him up in his arms as they lay there.

"f*ck." Alex says, voice barely more than a whisper. Henry knows without needing to see his face that Alex looks beautifully blissed out.

"Mmhmm," Henry hums, completely f*cked out.

Henry doesn't know how much time passes as they lay there like that; it could be minutes, it could be hours. Eventually Alex moves and Henry lets go so Alex can settle on the bed beside him.

Henry's release is sticky on both of their skin, but Alex seems unbothered when he props his head up in one hand and starts drawing random patterns over Henry's chest with the other.

"So you're really not going to tell me what your birthday wish was?"

Henry can't help but laugh. "You really want to know?"

"Yes! I have a need and a craving for knowledge. You know this, H."

Henry covers Alex's hand on his chest with his own. "Darling, it's always been you."

"Oh." Alex says and leans down for a kiss. His nose bumps against Henry's when he continues. "Happy birthday, Henry."

Henry knows they won't be tucked away in their own Parisian bubble for every birthday, but Alex is the only person he wants to spend the rest of his birthdays with, whatever adventure that brings.

He turns his head toward the bedside table, where the cupcake and their champagne sit abandoned, and then turns back to Alex, the inside of his cheek tucked between his teeth.

"You know, we still have a cupcake to finish."

love is all around, look and see - OnOurOwnTerms (magicandarchery), violetbaudelairequagmire - Red White & Royal Blue (2024)
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