A/N My inspiration came from the following quote/poem.

For a star to be born

there is one thing that

must happen: a gaseous nebula

must collapse.

So collapse.

Crumble.

This is not your

destruction.

This is your birth.

-N.T.

It was maddening watching him stand next to her, coo at their daughter in front of her court. The thunderstorm inside of her soul was so like the one raging outside. That child, although innocent and blameless, was the reminder of her inadequacy, a reminder of a certain relationship she did not share with her husband. It didn't matter that he slept with her every night, that he kissed her good morning every dawn, or that he sat beside her on a throne in front of their people. She was supposed to give him an heir, and yet she was failing him. Now she had to watch her best friend, if that's what she could call her still, cozy up to her husband over their offspring.

"Are you alright?" The question broke her glare at Lola, and she turned to Greer who handed her a glass of wine.

"Fine." Mary replied swiftly drinking the wine. Greer urged her to slow down, but Mary shook her head. "If I'm to get through this," she gestured to her husband and Lola, "I'm going to need something."

"Oh Mary," Greer said softly. "They don't mean to hurt your feelings." She offered meekly knowing it was a sore subject.

"Then maybe they shouldn't parade it in front of me." Nearby members of the court turned toward Mary at the sound of her tight raised voice. Mary rolled her eyes, but then saw Francis; he was watching her too, not looking too happy either. "Here." She thrust the cup at Greer. "I'm retiring to my room. I have a headache. I don't want to be disturbed." She took a deep breath and went to her husband and Lola, knowing she needed to do the right thing and at least acknowledge Lola's presence, the child, and say goodnight to her husband. The eyes of the court were on her, and she knew Francis was expecting her to handle this situation gracefully. Instead, she could feel it darkening her soul.

In Mary's approach to Lola and Francis, she smiled as real as possible. She greeted Lola and the baby, running her index finger gently down the child's cheek and cooing softly at her. She felt Francis's hand on her back, and she was quickly repulsed by the touch. What were they, she wondered. She backed out of his embrace, and he gave her a strange look. She knew his eyes were boring into the inner-workings of her soul; she knew Francis could tell she was upset. "I wanted to say goodnight; I have an awful headache." She mentioned to Francis. She let him kiss her cheek, and she caught Lola eying them. He whispered in her ear that he wouldn't be long and to not wait up for him. She nodded, said goodnight to Lola, and disappeared out of the throne room.

Her walk back to her chambers was accompanied by a sharp ache down the center of her chest. She clutched her hand to her heart, willing the pain to go away. It was crippling, and she felt her breaths becoming shallow. She reached her chamber quickly and shut the door behind her. It was there that she stumbled to her chaise, bent over clutching at her chest. Tears fell down her cheeks and she gasped for air. She felt her knees buckle, and she sank to the floor in a sea of weeping, her ball gown spilling around her covering her small frame. She curled her body up, urging the pain to stop, the anxiety and stress to cease. As if the physical pain wasn't enough, her brain was racing. Every detail, every moment of her life with Francis and then her imagined visions of Francis and Lola's one night streamed through her mind, followed by the two of them with their daughter. She felt a scream ready to claw its way out of her mouth, but she held it in. Her eyes were clenched as she tried to erase the images. It was all coming to a head. Francis had wanted to introduce his child to the court, which was the call for the evening's gathering. Mary had agreed, but never imagined it would be this difficult. She felt that she was now further than second in his heart. First was France, then his daughter, then her. But she wondered if she was even third. She wondered if she was even on his list at all. She curled herself tighter together, tried to control her breathing, stop her tears, and ease the ache in her heart.

Later that evening, Francis quietly entered his chambers. He didn't want to wake Mary as he undressed, but a careful look around the room revealed lit candles and an empty bed. He wondered where she was. His eyes slid over the chaise and the dying fire, to her limp form. He knelt near her taking in the sight of her. Her arm, an outstretched pillow for her head, the other fisted under her chin, her knees, from what he could tell under the skirts of her gown, were drawn to her chest. Why was she on the floor? He tried to wake her, but her breath was even; she was out. He carefully lifted her, heard her moan, and cling to him in her sleep. She curled her head into the crook of his neck and tightly wound her arms around him. He brought her to their bed and slowly, carefully undressed her the best he could. When she was settled, nightgown on, covered up to her chin in blankets and sheets, he took a step back to watch her sleep. He couldn't deny knowing what this was about. Her tear stained cheeks left clues for him to find; she had probably worked herself up. He ran a hand through his hair and wondered how long it would take for them to adjust. He wondered if she'd ever adjust.

When Mary woke the next morning, she was snuggled deep in her bed covers. She fluttered her eyes open and examined her position. How did she get here? All she remembered was falling onto the rug in front of the fire crying. Francis. She turned to find an empty place next to her in bed, but she took comfort in noticing his rumpled sheets, thrown covers, and night clothes lying at the end of the bed. She stretched and got up to find her robe. She was brushing her hair, examining the purple bags under her eyes when her door opened. It was Francis, followed by some servants carrying trays of what she assumed was their breakfast. He directed them, and then came to her.

"I thought we should have breakfast together this morning." She nodded and let him guide her to the balcony where the food was laid out. They took seats at a small table set for two, and Mary graciously thanked the servants before dismissing them. Francis was quiet as he gathered his breakfast. Mary watched him – toast, eggs, a dish of blueberries and strawberries, a sausage. He carefully cut his own food before setting down his utensils and looking at her. "You're not eating?" He asked. She jolted out of her state of observation and nodded yes, reaching for a pastry. "I thought we should speak about something." Mary chewed slowly listening. "The baby and Lola." He looked away and Mary took a deep breath. "First, I appreciate your willingness to allow for her to be introduced to court. It was gracious of you."

"I-" Mary started, but Francis held up his hand to stop her.

"But, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that finding you passed out on the floor upset me." Mary looked down at her plate. "Having her doesn't change my feelings for you."

"I know." Mary acknowledged. "But you can't possibly understand how it feels."

"You may be right, but Lola is not my mistress, nor will she ever be."

"It isn't about that Francis." Mary responded. She kept her voice even, her tears away. "She is the mother of your child, a role I should have. To watch you together is a painful reminder of what I cannot give you."

"Yet." He jutted in. "Yet." Mary smiled slightly.

"Yes, hopefully."

"What are we going to do with this Mary? What will become of us?" He asked seriously. She shrugged her shoulders feeling defeated already. "Will you resent Lola forever? Will you ever stop resenting me?" She turned her face sharply toward his.

"I don't resent you! Nor do I resent her." She paused trying to find her words. "I resent this!" She threw her hands up and her body out of her chair. "This! The fact that our marriage rests on an heir from me, not her! And I cannot give you one, but she did."

"Like I said, yet." Francis replied. "Sit down." He ordered gently. She stared at him, and he gestured with his fork toward her chair. She sat.

"I don't even know where I fit into your life." She looked sullenly at her listless hands in her lap.

"What do you mean? You belong here, next to me! You're my wife, my queen, my partner. You're exactly where you should be, right here beside me." He said irritated.

"Don't be upset with me."

"Well, you say these things, and I don't understand them. Have I ever told you any different?" He asked.

"No, but you've made me feel different." He sighed. He set down his utensils.

"I guess I'll just have to prove it to you otherwise." His napkin hit the table, and he stood up. "I have to meet with my advisors." She nodded looking up at him. He was tall and powerful to her, and she respected him; he was trying so hard to be a good king, a good husband, and a good father. His hand gently lifted her chin higher, and he kissed her lightly. "You are my Queen. No matter what you think, I need you before anyone else. Without you, my world would not exist." She felt the corners of her lips tug up into a smile. "I'll see you later." He left her, striding to his duties as King. Mary lifted her face toward the sunlight streaming across the table. If he said it, then he meant it. She would just have to trust him. She would have to trust their love. And somewhere in her heart, she would have to find peace with the ending of one type of relationship of a boy and girl to make room for the beginning of a new one of a king and queen.