Title: Needs Must
Word Count 870
Kyd and Marlowe
Kit had walked this hallway five times now.
The first time he had been very afraid. Later he had had time to admire the gloss of the dark wood. The fear had still been there of course. It was there now, like a lump of ice in his vitals. The coffered ceiling was white and far, and the dark walls pressed. He felt small, as he was meant to do. There was a man at the end of the hall, dressed fine, in green and scarlet. He opened the door without a sound. Kit crossed the threshold. Here was a desk and a man sitting at it. The window behind the man cast him into into shadow, as it was meant to do, Kit had the dazzled impression of a body without bulk, dark eyes, dark robes. Plain. He stood, a supplicant. This old body had an agile mind, and the white hands moving papers were never still.
“Thank you, Withers. Shut the door as you go.”
The man, Withers, bowed and left, silently. He was a new one. Kit had never seen the same one twice.
“Now, son, what is it?” The voice was weary, dismissive. Kit felt the anger come. No son of yours, my Lord. My own father still lives and he would never-- The old voice gave a laugh, guttural and cloggy.
“Allow the conceit, Christofer. I am old enough to be your father. Believe me, I have never meant you harm.”
Kit exhaled strongly through his nose.
“Sit you down--” The hands waved. They were thin, and the blue veins crawled over their white backs. There was a bruise on the left hand, purple. Kit sat.
“What is this about?” Francis Walsingham asked again.
Kit had had a whole speech ready. He had his reasons ordered his the tongue. But the truth burst free, bare naked and simple.
“Mr Secretary-- Sir. I cannot do this anymore.”
He sat, hunched, miserable, waiting to fight the coming coercion. The silence drew long, Walsingham let it grow and press. Kit waited. He did try to wait it out. He felt himself shivering like a wet dog. He raised his own gaze finally. There were the dark eyes, implacable. The words burst out again.
“Your man Skerries, has insulted me. It is intolerable. He has been to my lodgings, he has assaulted my landlady, he has made baseless accusations, he is a --”
“He is a poor tool with one dull edge. He is of limited use. But I must take up the tools set before me.”
The voice was, thin and old, but the wry bite of was itchingly familiar. Kit had heard it last from a perfect golden throat, from the skin beneath his own lips. 'Let me stay' Thomas had said. His skin had been warm. The memory hurt. It had no place here. He pushed it down.
“Had he not been with Mr Poley I would have taken my sword to him. As it is I can hardly explain why I did not. I am made to look the coward and he-- I want--”
Walsingham made a small sound. Kit stopped to wait.
“You want a world where a man may live his life in safety. You want to to write, no doubt, and roister, and pursue the-- the gratifications of youth. You think of little else. You are young. I was young once too. I was older than you in '72, though it seems long ago now. I saw a slaughter in the streets. I saw the innocent butchered. Children kicked men's heads through the street for footballs. I saw it done.”
Walsingham stopped to draw breath with a rasp.
“I will not have that here. I will not have London burn. I will not see--”
He coughed, a wet sound, and his lips paled. He pressed his hands to his side. The scent of illness came to Kit, like windfall fruit left to rot.
“Skerries may be wicked. I will use him. I must use you too. I will do what I must. Do you understand?”
The outrage was burning off, leaving Kit, leaving a sludge of sadness behind. He wanted the heat of it back. Walsingham moved some papers aside, took up one covered in close script. He held it at arms length to read, as old men do.
“I see that Mr Kyd has come to share your room. He is a clever man. Not every clever man has been to university. Be careful of that. And you are renting from a respectable woman— very good. So, you may you both avert much trouble. I am sure we can think of something to tell them. Now, as long as I have you here---draw the chair closer, let us set to work.”
The clocks were chiming when Kit reached the street again. Walsingham had kept him precicely an hour. The chimes came on the wind, off-set slightly by distance. He pushed down his regret and he turned for home.