Chapter 3: Part 2

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Robert was staying in a decrepit part of London. It was a far cry from the palace and as I took in the one-bedroom flat with its bare minimum necessities and lack of anything warm and inviting, I found my heart breaking. Because Robert had been living like this for quite some time now, it was evident in the way he moved around the space with familiarity and comfort. I looked at him and thought about what he was like before, the heir to the throne with habits as extravagant as mine and Liam's. As I observed his living conditions, I was struck with guilt, guilt over how I had been living my life, squandering it and taking advantage of my family wealth like there was no tomorrow. And Robert? Robert had been barely surviving.

"Take a seat." He told Jasper and me and I looked around the small space. There was no seating save a battered old sofa and a bed that looked very uncomfortable. Jasper followed me as I gingerly took a seat on the stiff, worn sofa. He placed a hand over my trembling one and leaned in to whisper in my ear, "It's going to be okay."

It was odd that at the moment his presence was more comforting than Robert's. As glad as I was to have my brother back and to see that he was alive, I just couldn't wrap my head around this version of him. I hated to even think about it but with his guarded expression and the secrets he carried with him, Robert felt like a stranger.

And Jasper felt like home.

I shook my head of the thoughts and concentrated on my brother. He was moving around, making sure the door were locked. He had drawn the blinds so that we couldn't see out the window. He had been doing much the same as we had made our way to his flat and I could tell that he appreciated Jasper's stealth in that regard. The two men had managed to sneak out of the palace without being noticed, had evaded my security detail and helped us get here without being followed. Still, Robert was being paranoid. He would turn around repeatedly and check the surroundings, not saying a word until we had gotten to the flat. Even now, he moved around fluidly making sure that all was secure and it made me wonder what it was that he knew, what it was that had his guard up.

I realized that there had been an assassination attempt on him but with Ted Pryce no longer in the picture, shouldn't there now be a weight off his shoulders? I knew that Robert had been keeping up with the latest developments, the text messages had alluded to that. Wasn't that the reason that he had waited until now to show up? Now that Ted was behind bars, he was no longer in danger. He could come back home and he could take his rightful place on the throne.

But why did I suspect that it was never that simple.

"Robert," I started, my throat still raw from crying so much, "I don't understand what's happening."

He took a seat on the bed in front of us and stared intently at me and Jasper, his gaze moving back and forth and then settling on me.

"You trust him?" He gestured toward Jasper with a nod of his head.

I looked at our hands, still clasped together and found myself telling him yes. "He's one of the few people that I do."

I knew it was apparent to Robert that the two of us had been romantically involved and given how protective he used to be of me, Jasper would've have been warned to stay away from me back in the day. But now it seemed as though we were treading new ground and that there would be new rules. He clenched his jaw and I could almost see him holding back the elder brother lecture, the one about me staying away from the staff. Maybe it was all the time that had been lost between us that made him think that he couldn't say those things to me, not when I had been on my own for so long.

"Robert please, say something. I... I'm this close to losing my mind. What happened? Where have you been? We thought you were dead for so long... Dad, we lost him." I cried and I felt it again, the heart wrenching sobs that were choking my throat. I told myself to control the overflowing emotion, to not show signs of weakness, that Robert had faced much worse than I could ever imagine but I was so tired of being strong and seeing him was the last straw.

All the games, all the intrigues, the move to abolish the monarchy, the struggle for the throne for which we had all sacrificed so much, it had all stemmed from Robert's death. The event had been a catalyst for so much destruction and to see him, to know that he had survived perhaps made it all worth it.

"I don't even know where to begin." Robert's voice was raspy as he let out a bitter laugh. He leaned back on his hand and tipped his head back, his eyes closed. "There's so much you need to know, so much I need to say but Len I'm so sorry about Dad. I'm so sorry that you had to go through that so soon after you'd heard about me. I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner..."

"Why?" I interrupted him, "If you were safe, if you were okay then why did you wait for so long to come back?" I didn't mean to sound accusatory but that's how the words came out and they had the intended effect.

Robert flinched and bowed his head as though he was ashamed, "I would have... I wanted to but I needed to make sure that I came back at the right time, when it was safe. After I heard about Dad, I knew they were still out there and that either you and Liam would be next. I had to make sure I was ready to take them on before I returned."

"Ted Pryce is behind bars, the Domino's source inside the Palace is gone. We now know more than we ever did before. It's safe Your Highness." Jasper spoke up for the first time and I saw as Robert regarded him carefully and realized that he probably knew more than he was letting on. How long had my brother waited in the wings, watching, observing and gathering secrets?

"It's not that simple but I wish it was." He gritted his teeth, "Pryce was one part of the problem but there's a lot more to it and the deeper I dig into this, the more I realize that somehow we've surrounded ourselves with people that wouldn't be afraid to take our lives for a sum of money. I stayed hidden because I wanted to be prepared to fight when I returned. The only way I'll ever get all the answers I need is if I go back to where it began."

I took in his words, realized what they meant. As the shock wore off, another worry grew and that was how we would all deal with his return. It would have serious repercussions for everyone involved but mostly for Mum, Liam and Cyrus. I felt relief for Liam, who had been thrust into the limelight without ever wanting it. He would have made a great King but he had never wanted it, not as much as Robert did.

Jasper and I told him about Boone and how he'd alluded to the murderer being someone on the inside. In lieu of recent events we had deduced that he was talking about Pryce but Robert seemed to think that it ran deeper, that the Domino was more entrenched in the palace than we had imagined. It was surprising that Jasper seemed to agree with him as the two men reached an understanding.

"I don't know when I'll be heading back, but for now, I need you to keep this between us okay? I have to think about how to do this." Robert seemed wary, as though he had a heavy burned placed upon him and I guessed that he did. He was the rightful heir and the power and responsibility of it hung over his head like a sword.

But unlike the rest of us, I knew he was prepared to do whatever it took to claim his rightful place and no one deserved it more. 

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