[FICATHON] Is There Not Employment?, for [livejournal.com profile] likeadeuce

Sep. 3rd, 2012 05:55 pm
[identity profile] lareinenoire.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] thisengland
Title: Is There Not Employment?
Author: [livejournal.com profile] gileonnen
Play: 1 Henry IV
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] likeadeuce
Characters / Pairings: Bardolph, Mistress Quickly, Westmorland, York (Aumerle), Falstaff, Peto, Hal
Warnings: Cursing, inappropriate funereal conversations
Rating: PG
Summary: Bardolph isn't sure who he's spying for, after the Duke of York dies.



When the Duke of York dies, no one is much interested in answering Bardolph's questions. Edward (formerly of Cork, Aumerle, Rutland, et al) just raises grave, aggrieved eyes from his beads when Bardolph asks, "Who do I work for, now?" as though this is not a completely reasonable question and as though this church is not a completely reasonable place to ask it.

"Hell if I know," says the new Duke. "Who are you, anyway? How did you get in here?"

"Bardolph, and I came through the door, just like everyone else," he answers. It doesn't seem to clear anything up.

He takes his leave, politely, when the mass for the dead begins.

*


"I used to belong to the Duke of York," Bardolph explains, trotting to keep pace with Ralph de Neville's horse.

"What did you do in his employ?"

"Kept watch on the young Prince Henry," says Bardolph promptly. "Developed ties with him and his crowd and reported on their activities. Kept a record of their crimes, debts, and associates. Cleared names where I could, smoothed things over where I had to ..."

"Arranged a fortuitous accident or two, where things persisted in being rough?"

Bardolph breaks into a relieved little smile. "You understand the line of work, then. And at the moment, the younger Duke of York's not disposed to manage information on his own breakfast, let alone the heir to the realm--but you, m'lord, you're a man of action. A man of business. You've taken most of the late Duke's duties on, and by rights, that makes you heir to his network of informers."

De Neville reins in his horse. By now, they're on the edge of the yard, and the morning mist is thick today; they'd be impossible to observe, if anyone were there to observe them. "You," he begins, calm as a clear blue sky, "are proposing to inform me about the unlawful doings of the prince. I take it you'd expect pay for your services."

"The late Duke was always a generous man," says Bardolph with what he hopes will be taken for reserve rather than diffidence.

"Well, I'm not a generous man," de Neville tells him. "I'm a man whose morning ride has been interrupted by some cock-eyed, ingratiating footpad who's offering to sell me a prince. I hope you understand why that gives me pause."

"Pause as long as you like," Bardolph replies, "but when the prince gets up to some tomfool scheme with that so-called Sir Jack Falstaff, I hope you'll remember that you have someone with a hand on his shoulder, as it were."

"Or a finger in his purse."

"Or a finger in someone else's purse, at the prince's request. There's power in that, too." They can play at tennis as long as de Neville likes, but Bardolph is assured of his superiority. Given enough time, and enough steady volleying, de Neville will have to capitulate.

Rather than reply, though, de Neville digs his heels into his horse's flanks--and in seconds, he has outpaced Bardolph and left the mist swirling thickly behind him.

Bardolph kicks idly at a clod of horse leavings, folding his hands behind his back and taking a deep, steadying breath as he stares after the Earl of Westmorland.

"Damn," he says, after a moment of breathing. "If it keeps going like this, I might actually have to find work."

*


Mistress Quickly puts another tankard on the bar in front of him. "You look like you could use a drink," she says, all warm sympathy.

"I could use a drunk," mutters Bardolph. "I thought I'd had a nice line of work all sewn up, but then the old man left the business to his do-nothing son, and all of a sudden there's no place left for me."

She clicks her tongue and takes the tankard back. "No credit if you can't pay. I lose enough business on that good-for-nothing Jack Falstaff's account. Put a spigot in that man's belly and you'd make a barrel of him!"

"It'd be one way of getting your investment back," Bardolph allows, wistfully watching the tankard drift ever further away.

Mistress Quickly purses her lips. "You'll find something," she says. Maybe she thinks it's comforting. "What's your trade, anyway?"

"Trade? Just the conveyance of a thing from one place to another." He waves his hand in what he hopes she'll take as a dismissive gesture.

Her eyes narrow, but he thinks there's more calculation than disapproval in them. "There's always work for a man who conveys things, in London and around it."

Not that kind of conveyance, he almost says, but then he catches the look in her eyes, and something makes him keep his mouth shut. "If there were a bit of work coming our way," he says casually, "would you pass the word along?"

*


The setter's name is Gadshill, and he has regular intelligence on the Exchequer's men; he knows a bit of well-traveled road between Rochester and the vaults, and he knows which wagons are likely to be guarded and which to be disguised. It's easy enough to be sure that he makes the prince's acquaintance--they're men with a common interest, after all.

It's even easier to be sure the prince happens to hear Peto telling that old story about Robin Hood robbing the robbers.

As good as Bardolph is at planting seeds, he should leave off the intelligence work and take up gardening.

*


The knock comes, right on schedule, shortly after the affair of the thieves. Bardolph rises from the bed that he and Falstaff and Peto are all sharing, leaving the other two snoring and muttering sleepy nothings about canary, and leans casually against the doorframe. "Westmorland's man, I presume?"

"Your sort oughtn't to be making presumptions," the man sniffs.

"Ah, so you are one of his."

A faint, muffled clink. Bardolph holds out his hand, weighs the sack pressed into it. Weight's a better measure than counting coins, if he wants to keep the transaction quick; whatever his measure, though, it's little enough. "Smooth things over, he said."

Bardolph smiles and doesn't let himself glance back at his confederates. "I can do that. A word or two in the right ears--"

The man cuts him off with a gesture, lowering his voice over Falstaff's sleepy snores. "And when your knight raises a head for the war, you'll march with them. He is your new assignment."

"But he's--" The first word that comes to mind is nothing, which ought to make Bardolph feel guiltier than it does. "--the prince's primary confidante."

"If he's too much for you," says the man snidely, "the Earl has other agents."

Bardolph weighs the coin purse again. His own has been too empty of late. "Fine," he says. "I'll take it."

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