Disclaimer: I don't own Reign
The Queen's skirts whisked over the vibrant, dewy grass as she made her way across the northern lawn with the castle groundskeeper in tow.
"Hard as it may be to believe, there are other matters that require my attention, so do you suppose we could pick up the pace? I had hoped to see the blooming options for the northeast tree line sometime before the second coming of Christ, if you don't mind." Her impatience rang clear and one of the Queen's eyebrows arched precariously high causing the gardener to adopt an amusing scuttle as he struggled under his heavy load of shrubbery.
At the edge of the clearing Catherine paused and cast a glance around, almost certain that she had heard her name.
Again she heard a hushed voice calling to her. "Catherine! Psst, Catherine, look up h- WHOA!" With a crash the whisperer landed at the base of a large tree.
Uncaring for anything but the well-being of the crumpled heap before her, she knelt on the damp ground and began inspecting him for injuries.
"Oh! Are you alright, dear? No, lie still for me." With the tenderness of a mother, Catherine brushed away the tears that Bash was valiantly trying to hold back. She could not fail to notice the swelling present in his bare left foot.
Turning to the gardener, she kept her tone even for the child's sake. "While standing there with your mouth agape is exceedingly helpful, perhaps you should go fetch Nostradamus instead."
When the man remained frozen on the spot her lips curled into a snarl and she articulated her next words in a deadly calm voice. "Now if your life is of any value to you."
While the man scurried towards the castle entrance, Queen Catherine returned her attention to the little scamp before her and held up three fingers. "How many fingers do you see?"
Catherine's warmth made Bash feel a little better. "Ummm… ninety-seven." He managed a cheeky smile for her benefit.
The Queen returned his smile. "Oh-ho! So you think you're my new jester, do you? Now, where have you left your nanny this time?"
"I don't need a nanny no more 'cause I'm growned up." His chest puffed out proudly in spite of his sniffle.
"I see. So is poor Christine to be out of a job?" Catherine marveled at herself for recalling the name of the woman charged with the care of her husband's bastard.
The thought of his nanny being dismissed did not sit well with Bash. He had grown fond of her, even if he was too old for a nanny. "Hmmm… Maybe she can still be my nanny for a little bit longer."
"I'm sure she will be glad to hear it. If memory serves, someone has a name day coming up." Catherine had been subjected to an endless prattle over the upcoming name day. The festivities that Diane had planned in honour of Sebastian were lavish, if tedious, and the guest list consisted of only five children, including Bash. Francis was invited, of course, as was his bride-to-be, the little Queen of Scotland. Lizzie was also invited, but baby Claude had a touch of colic and Diane claimed that crying children were hardly suitable guests. Diane also had invited a wealthy noble Lord and his daughter, a prospective match for her son. The list of important courtiers invited to the child's celebration grew daily, as did the bill. A feast of rich delicacies was being prepared, hundreds of casks of the finest wine in all of France were collected, a troop of actors had been commissioned to perform a play featuring the goddess Diana, and the woman even had Bash practicing daily for the welcome speech which he was to recite before the Court. Catherine very much doubted that Bash would mind if the entire celebration was cancelled as none of the planned merriment seemed to cater to the interests of this rough-and-tumble boy.
"If you could have any one thing for your name day, what would it be?" She hoped that talk of gifts would distract him from his discomfort.
"Well… What I really, truly want is a dog. Papa has a bunch and Francis and Lizzie has ones, too, but my mama doesn't like dogs. She thinks they're smelly and messy, but sometimes I'm messy and she still wants to keep me." His beautiful blue eyes were downcast at the thought that he would never get the pup that his heart desired.
"Hmmm… That does present a problem." When has Diane de Poitiers not presented a problem? "Ah! Here comes Nostradamus. He will take you to the infirmary. I will have your father summoned to join you there." She made to stand as Nostradamus approached, until she felt a little hand clasp onto her own.
"Will you please stay with me?" The look in his eyes as he sweetly petitioned her got the better of her and her maternal heart could not deny his request.
She didn't quite meet his gaze, instead brushing some dirt away from his torn shirt. "I will accompany you, if you like."
Much comforted by Catherine's continued presence, Bash went willingly into Nostradamus' strong, but surprisingly gentle arms. It could even be said that he enjoyed being toted around by such a tall individual, as it gave him an excellent vantage point from which to see all of the goings-on. However, in the darkness of the infirmary, his joy evaporated and was replaced by an anxiety over what was to come next.
Nostradamus was careful as he splinted the injured foot, but Bash's face contorted into a frown and he dug his nails into the cot beneath him. The sight of a child, any child, in pain was something that Catherine could not bear.
Pulling up a stool, she pried his fingers off the bed linens and wrapped his white knuckles around her hand.
"You're being very brave, Sebastian."
An appreciative smile broke through the pained grimace. "I gotta be brave. Knights are always brave."
"Did you know that courage is not the only important part of being a knight? A true knight is also kind and fair. He always keeps his promises and, most importantly of all, he must help and defend those who need him."
He nodded solemnly, trying to keep his leg still. "I will do those things."
Gently squeezing his hand, "You already do." She leaned down and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. "Would you like to know a secret?"
His blue eyes were swimming with tears, but he nodded excitedly.
"I heard on good authority that all of the supplies to make a special chocolate cake have been ordered. I wonder who that could be for?" With her free hand she tapped her chin as though she were deliberating.
A short giggle escaped him before he winced as the splint was adjusted. Once he recovered his composure, he squeezed her hand as he whispered back. "Chocolate is my favourite."
Smiling, she nodded. "Mine too."
The feast was decadent, even if the company was a bore. Catherine enjoyed an apple tart as she watched the name day boy open his gifts. Because of his injury he had been regulated to one of the opulently festooned tables with his damaged ankle propped up all night long. There he sat, smiling gratefully as he tore away the paper revealing yet another leather ball. This one made four.
When at last the massive stack of presents was opened, the food had been devoured, and the guests, mostly strangers, were busy dancing or chatting, Bash was left on his own. The smile he had worn all night relaxed, finally revealing his disappointment. Laying his head on the table and swinging his one dangling foot, Bash imagined what his name day could have been like. Just himself, his parents, his siblings… and Catherine. They could spend the day by the lake. They could swim and ride and then his Papa would give him the present he wanted more than anything in the whole world.
Just then, his reverie was broken by something cold and wet grazing his hand. He opened his eyes to see a shaggy, spotted pup with a bow around his neck. Bash straightened his posture in amazement and the pup hopped into Bash's lap, licking his face.
All traces of Bash's gloominess vanished and he called with a jubilant shout over the loud music. "Mama! Papa! Look! A dog! Can you believe it? I gotted a dog!"
To a certain gift-giver's satisfaction, Diane's face revealed a mixture of disgust and disdain. Henry, on the other hand, was pleasantly bewildered as he made his way towards the newest addition to the family. "Who's it from, Bash?"
"The tag doesn't tell who him is from. It just says To: Sebastian." Bash's eyes searched the room hoping that someone would step forward to claim the surprise, but none did. He kept scanning until he caught sight of Queen Catherine speaking with one of her ladies and Bash was almost certain that he saw her wink at him.
AN: So I received several lovely reviews that encouraged me to continue this little story. I think it will be a short one, about 5-6 chapters provided that there is still interest, but I hope each one is enjoyable. The chapters are meant to be like random snapshots of Catherine and Bash's interactions over several years' time. Please let me know what you think. Xoxo!