"You'll never be that knight for me," she says, shaking her head tears beginning to fall. "You'll be my husband, but never that."
"Stop," I reply, shaking my head, stepping away and sitting down.
"This marriage is based on nothing," she continues.
I sigh. "What a pair my father tied together for a lifetime."
She'd cried whilst standing before me once before - at our wedding - but that was about my father and what he was forcing the both of us to do. Tonight the tears are ones I've caused.
I move to get a pillow and blankets, making a pallet for myself at the foot of what used to be my bed. This has become my place to try to find rest since we wed. Some nights it's fine, while others like tonight I find no comfort and fear that I shall find no rest, either.
She might not be who I wished to marry, but she is the woman to whom I'm wed. Her tears due to my hurtful words and presumptions are unacceptable - I can still hear her quiet sobs as she gets into bed and adjusts herself for comfort. She's made clear more than once that she considers her relationship with Henry to be over, but he's the king - what he says and commands is law, which we are both now figuring out. Denying a request of a king is impossible - obey or death. Denying a command of a king going mad before our eyes would prove even more dangerous. We both know this. Otherwise we would not be wed.
But it reminds me of something she said, something I don't think I wanted to hear or think about.
"For Mary - my queen."
She went to Henry's rooms for Mary. Her queen.
I push the thought away. It's something I don't wish to ruminate upon.
I am dissatisfied with this arrangement, but then so is she. She has made clear I am not what she wanted anymore than she was what I wanted. She dreamt of titles and wealth. She dreamt of station and respect that couldn't be taken from her. She dreamt of a man who wasn't the bastard son of her former lover. No, I cannot say she is anymore satisfied with this arrangement and circumstance than I am.
I turn, trying to find a comfortable position.
But then I remember that girl who came to me for advice about my father all those months ago. That was a girl who wanted to be loved, not played with - she just chose the wrong man to want those things from. My father loves games, but he loves no one so much as he loves himself. He wanted her, he got her, and what happened to her after that was not his concern. After all, he is the king.
He took her innocence, not just in a physical sense but also in a way that stripped her of her wide-eyed romanticism. The girl from that night wasn't cynical, she was frustrated and hurt. She got caught in a game I've seen played too many times to count. A game my mother, Henry and Catherine have perfected. There are three players - the rest are just interchangeable parts to be discarded when done with. Kenna honestly got more from her relationship with him than most women did.
She got him to actually name her his Mistress, officially discarding my mother if by point of fact he never did. She got him to promise to find her a good husband - something he has never bothered with in the past. I remember a beautiful, charming girl who grabbed what life offered and didn't let go. I remember a beautiful smile. I remember a musical laugh. I remember a girl who at one point any man would have been happy and proud to call his wife.
I'm now that man. I told Francis I wanted something of my own - Kenna is now mine. A year ago, she probably would have seemed like a dream come true. What we make of what we have now is up to the two of us.
"For Mary - my queen."
I try to clear my mind, but it won't settle, won't let me find rest or sleep. Instead my mind is drawn to the look on Kenna's face as she came before me to wed - the tears, the horror.
I'd always assumed I would marry one day - recently I looked forward to that moment with anticipation. But I never imagined a woman dragged before me, my father wielding a sword, commanding us to say the sacred vows on pain of death. Her cries, her tears. This was not the woman I wanted to stand before God with and pledge my troth. I wanted a woman I loved, who my heart could treasure. Who I would call family from the moment I said my vows. Instead I got what Henry made me take: his former mistress who he no longer has use for.
She doesn't want this any more than I. We are both dissatisfied with our fates. Is it then right or fair of me to keep blaming her? Does not one of us have to make the first step and begin to try to move forward? Should I wait for her to realize this too before I make any effort? Or do I begin on my own, show her we are ultimately in this together and that what we make of things is up to us?
"For Mary - my queen."
It comes back to me again. Something my mind won't let go of, something I now know I have to think upon. To me, Mary has always been that beautiful girl in the reeds, innocent, kind, stubborn and willful. Her huge eyes and quick smile capturing me in their lair. I let myself be caught in that web, trying to ignore the rest, thinking if I could just get her to look at me the way I'd seen her look at Francis then she would finally and truly be mine.
To Francis, she is that girl -she's the one he tried to keep at arm's length. But he has also always seen that other side of her, the one I tried to ignore at times because it kept her out of my reach. The queen. But today Kenna's queen, Mary, asked her to risk her life and possibly our tenuous understanding between us for her country. I may have grown up at court, but I've always sought to keep the politics and all the conniving, lying and backstabbing it brings out of my life.
To Kenna Mary is her friend, but she's also her queen - something Kenna can never forget. A queen who can request her subject do something that could be risky or even dangerous. A queen who can ask her to enter the chambers of an unstable man, a man who - just days ago - made Kenna wed at sword point, to which Mary bore witness.
Would I have cared had Mary and I wed if she treated her Ladies as I've seen Catherine treat hers over the years? As pawns in her schemes? Ladies like Charlotte and the rest are notorious for being Catherine's spies, and everyone at court - at least those of us who live here permanently - know exactly how they procure information. They seduce, they steal, they blackmail - all in the name of their queen. And when they have stopped being of service, they are found suitable matches because of services rendered to their queen.
Is that who Mary expects my wife to be? For her? For Scotland?
"For Mary - my queen."
And Mary is Kenna's queen. Kenna's queen who knows Henry is unstable. Kenna's queen who knows how much Henry has mistreated Kenna. Kenna's queen who knows how frightened of Henry Kenna is. Kenna's queen who knows Kenna is now married to another man, one Mary herself claimed to love and still calls friend.
And, yet, knowing all of this she still requested Kenna do what was necessary for her queen. I'm sure Mary framed it as something Kenna could turn down. But as the bastard son of a king I'm all too aware of the danger in turning down your sovereign. It's not something one does. To fall out of favor with your sovereign is never a comfortable place to live. I was taught this lesson recently as my father - who I thought had always loved me - forced me to watch as my brother and the woman I loved and had hoped to marry consummated their union before me. And then he tried to have me killed.
She has been an unattached young woman living in a foreign land, sent here to serve her queen. Kenna isn't here just to be Mary's friend. Her parents sent her here for a purpose - to serve her queen and find a match. To serve her queen. To be of service to her queen.
And who but Kenna could gain access to the King's private chambers? Neither Lola nor Greer could. Only Kenna. My wife. So Mary sent her into the lion's den, risking her life in service to her queen and country.
I give up on sleep and stare at the fire. When that gets tiresome I stare at the ceiling, moving back and forth between the two as I give up on finding rest this night.
As I see the lightening of the draperies indicating a new day is upon us, I get up slowly. I rise and wash quickly with the water left in the pitcher and dress, trying not to wake Kenna..I leave our room, boots in hand, afraid the heaviness of my treads will wake her. I ask a servant to bring fresh water for Kenna and arrange for something after she's left our room for the day.
One of us has to begin to thaw the chill between us. It does neither of us good to try to wait the other out. Small steps.
I head to the kitchens for food then to the stables, hoping to clear my head and make sense of all I spent the night considering. A good hard ride on a cold morning usually works.
"Because you're not safe in this castle," I reply. "And I will always defend you, because you're my wife," I finish realizing the truth of that declaration. This woman is my wife. Mine to care for and protect. She is my family. If I am ever to have children of my own one day, they will be hers. I push my father's ravings out of my mind. I choose to believe Kenna's version of their encounter.
She smiles, the first genuine one I've seen directed at me - or anyone - since we wed. She squeezes my hand, putting her head on my shoulder.
It feels...right? No, not quite the correct sentiment. Nice. It feels nice. Perhaps that's right. No, neither of us is the other's first choice, but we could each have done a lot worse. Nice is good. Nice might work.
"Where are we going?" she asks, smiling up at me, her dark brown eyes shining.
"Just back to our rooms for a bit. I have something to show you," I reply.
"What?" she eagerly questions.
"It's a surprise," I laugh, shaking my head. We continue through the corridors and galleries of the chateau to our now shared room. I ask her to stay put while I check to make sure the servants have made the changes I requested before I turn back to her. "I'd like to cover your eyes till we get into the room."
"Why?" she returns, her chin jutting out, her stubbornness showing.
"Could you just humor me? I want it to fully be a surprise for you," I request. "It can't be if you're not already in the room when you see everything."
"Fine," she huffs, turning her back to me. I cover her eyes, then tell her to begin moving forward. I feel her cheeks lift in a smile. When we get a few steps inside our bedchamber, I lift my hands away so she can see.
I've had the table I use for grooming taken away and replaced with her dressing table and large mirror. Also, a large armoire for her clothes has been placed near the doors. I had the maids bring in some of the fringed and embroidered pillows she used all over her old rooms, to decorate a long couch that I plan to use for sleep for the time being, and some small tables to be placed at the ends. I had my table and uncomfortable chairs moved out.
The room is definitely more feminine and feels smaller, but it also feels more comfortable and cozy at the same time. The couch is quite agreeable, unlike the hard chairs or the floor.
She turns swiftly to take in all the changes, moving to look inside the still mostly empty armoire. The dressing table - with crates of her things next to it.
"Thank you!" she enthuses, throwing her arms around my neck. A grin overtaking her face.
"I figure I can use this mirror when I trim my whiskers," I shrug, trying to pass it off as no big deal, but her gratitude touches me. It makes me glad I took the time to make her feel welcome in our room.
"Don't," she stops me, taking my hand in hers with a squeeze, smiling up at me. Her smile is beautiful and genuine, nice. It warms something inside me to know I've brought this out in her. "This is the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a long time. It's a small gesture, but those matter as much - sometimes more - than the grand ones. They're genuine; they come from a good place, not expecting something in return."
She swiftly wipes a tear, continuing to smile as I remember the romantic overture my father made to her with the candles spelling her name. So easy, costing him nothing.
She reaches up to kiss my cheek before moving to arrange both of our things on the top and in the drawers of her dressing table, turning to tell me just where I may find my things as she finds a place for them. My hand touches the place her lips just touched, a smile pulling at my lips. Her being buzzes with happiness and excitement as she goes about her tasks - the first time this has happened since we wed.
Courtesy, respect, common ground, treating her as I hope to be treated in return, looking out for one another and perhaps the beginnings of friendship - many couples have begun with less. Maybe where we've been doesn't matter, only where we're heading. Perhaps we can forge a new path and find a new purpose - together. It seems a good place to begin again.
1) As always, many thanks to my beta, Justcallmesmitty, who makes everything I write so much better.
2) For those of you unfamiliar with my writing I use chateau instead of castle because this is France and that is the French equivelant.
3) This is the first time I have written in Bash's voice. I hope I got it right, especially as this is a fic that is more about ruminating than anything else. One of the things I tried to do in contrast to say Francis is simpler language, simpler punctuation. Some of it might not be quite technically correct, but it felt right stylistically.
4) Thank you to Tessa/frarys for the icons & banner for this story. Love!
5) playlist, listened to two songs over and over while writing & editing this, Begin Again by Taylor Swift & Everything has Changed by TS & Ed Sheeren. Such great KB songs!
6) disclaimer: I own nothing, never have never will. I just like to play!
Comments, reviews, faves, likes & kudos are always appreciated.