Author's note: Okay, this is my first Reign Fanfiction. I only start watching this show last week and finished the first season in a day. I love Bash and Francis and their relationship (Brothers not slash), although Bash is by far my favourite character. This story is a re-write of episode 16 in season 1. I was really annoyed about the way Bash was treated after Francis's return and hence I had to write this to make myself feel better. It ended up longer than I intended. I really hope you like the story and if you don't...that's okay. Just be warned, this is very much a Bash fic.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. They all belong to The CW.
Warnings: Un-betaed. I try to re-read my stories a few times to correct grammar and spelling mistakes but many still slip through.
Sebastian laid on the rack. His father and brother believed him to be a usurper. Accused him of trying to take his throne. He was guilty of many things, including loving his brother's wife but the throne was forced upon him by his father and Mary. True, he could have refused. Faced the executioner with his dignity and morals, but then what of the prophecy and what of Mary and his brother. He could not risk the prophecy coming true. He loved Mary and he could not lose his brother. It's ironic that in the end, he had lost both. All of it was torn from him and he was exiled. Or he was supposed to be. Instead, someone tried to have him killed. He had been betrayed so thoroughly but he needed his brother's help now. A friend of his, Rowan, has been taken by the darkness in the woods and he needed the court's help to remove the threat once and for all. He never wanted to return to the palace. This place held nothing for him and yet oddly enough it held everything. He came here for his brother and father's help, but what he got was torture. "Let this be another lesson to you." His father had said as the torturers turned the wheels on the rack. "Remember this pain when you are thrown out. Remember this pain before you step foot in this castle again." He had already been cut and whipped and now this. His skin tore where he was cut as he was stretched…then…pop.
"AAAAHHHHHHHH!" He screamed as his right shoulder was pulled from its socket. "AAAAHHHHH!" He was on the verge of blackness when a voice pulled him back.
"Stop. Stop this right now!" It was Mary. She had asked around since learning of Sebastian's return and was aghast to find the King had ordered his torture. "He is the King's son."
The torturer stopped but he remained suspended in the air by the ropes. "This is by order of the King, your Grace."
"And is it your order to kill him?" Mary glared at the torturer. "Because I assure, if you do not stop, he will die!" She soften her stance and voiced. "I will take responsibility." The torturer nodded to the men at the wheel. They released their hold. The pain of being released was almost worse than the torture itself, but Sebastian didn't have the strength to scream. He laid there, unable to move. "Cut the ropes and bring him to Nostradamus." She turned but stopped when she heard a groan from Sebastian. "Be gentle. I don't want him in anymore pain than he is already in." The men bowed as she left.
Mary hurried to her chambers in search of her husband. She loved her husband dearly but she hated what Sebastian brought out of him. Francis was a kind and good man. If only he could put aside what was done to him and forgive his brother. "Francis." She called in relief when she found her husband in their chambers. "Francis." She took him by the hands.
"Mary." Francis looked into her eyes and saw her worry. "You are worried about Bash, I can see, but you need not. I have spoken to father and he had merely cast him from the palace."
Mary couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Is that what he told you?" Francis nodded. She shook her head at him. "He was having him tortured in the dungeons. If I hadn't found him, he would be dead!"
Francis took a step back, clearly in disbelief. "Tortured?"
"Yes, on the rack and I see that's not all he's endured. He is with Nostradamus now and you must go see him." Mary urged.
Francis's expression turned cold, shaking his head as he turned away from her, walking over to the window. "I am sorry for what my father has done but he did it for his love for me. Bash tried to take everything away from me. He can't stay here and I will never forgive him."
Mary's expression was filled with regret. "Bash did nothing wrong but love his brother and me." Francis turned to her but she put her hand out to stop him from talking. "Let me finish, please." He sighed and nodded. "I told him about Nostradamus's visions. I dangled your life in front of him and begged him to save you. He never knew what I was planning."
"But you ran away with him." Francis reminded her.
"I did, but it was a coincidence. He had his reasons for running away that night, but it was not I. He never wanted the throne. It was forced upon him by your father and by me." Tears ran down Mary's face, her guilt eating at her. "The only thing he is truly guilty of is having feelings for me, but I led him to think I felt the same way. I used him and as soon as you returned, I turned away. None of this was his fault. He is more of a victim in this than you." She took Francis's hand in hers. "You say your father is doing this because of his love for you. Why are you doing it? You love your brother. I know it."
Francis sighed. He was still angry and he was weary of his brother's feelings for his wife but if he had to admit the truth; he still loved his brother. Francis framed her beautiful face in his hand. "You know me better than I know myself." He kissed her gently. She smiled at him. "Let's go see Bash together."
Nostradamus sighed at the condition his patient was in. It was fortunate that Sebastian was strong. A lesser man would have died before reaching his chambers. He stitched up the dozen cuts over his chest and back and put salve on what he could not. His shoulder was popped back in place and put in a sling. There wasn't much else Nostradamus could do. His injuries were not grave but they were severe.
Sebastian was slowly returning to consciousness. Nostradamus placed a gentle hand on the young man's shoulder, waiting for him to wake fully. Sebastian gasped as he woke, his eyes flying open. "Calm, Bash. You are safe."
Sebastian was breathing heavily as his eyes darted around the room. "How?"
"Queen Mary had men bring you here." Nostradamus told him. "Your injuries are plenty and quite severe. You must rest."
Sebastian shook his head. "Not here. I must go." He shoved at the hands that tried to keep him on the bed. "Get out of my way." He managed to swing his legs over the side of the bed and sit up.
"I assure you, you are safe here."
Sebastian stopped fighting for a moment and grabbed Nostradamus by the upper arm. "I will never be safe here." He growled, before pushing the man away and standing. He ignored the pain as he stumbled to the door. Just as he reached it, it opened. He froze at the persons on the other side. Francis and Mary.
Francis was shocked to be facing Sebastian as soon as he opened the door to Nostradamus's chambers. He didn't say anything at first, only looked at the weary man in front of him. He saw something he's never seen in Sebastian before. Fear. And just like that, all his anger melted away and made way for guilt and regret. Mary was right. Sebastian was only a pawn in all of this. None of what happened was his fault. He had to rectify everything that was wrong between them. He needed his brother back. "Bash." He breathed, reaching out a hand to his brother.
Sebastian broke out of his frozen state when he saw the hand come towards him. It was not a threatening act, but Sebastian perceived it as one. His eyes dropped to Francis's sword and, in his delirious state, drew it from its sheath. Before anybody knew what was happening, Francis's sword was pointed at his chest. "Bash!" Mary called out, but Francis pulled her behind him and put his hand up to show Sebastian he was no threat.
"I'm not here to fight you, Bash." Francis spoke as Sebastian backed into the room with the sword still pointed at him. He worried for his brother's health. The man was shaking, barely able to stand.
Nostradamus's eyes widened in shock at what was happening. "Sebastian!" Sebastian swung the sword in his direction, making him step back in reflex. His hands came up, much like Francis's.
"Bash…" Francis was about to take another step but took it back when Sebastian's attention turned back to him. "I'm not going to hurt you."
It took all of Sebastian's effort to stay standing. Sweat ran down his neck and back. "No, you're here to kill me." Another step back told him he had nowhere else to go as the back of his leg hit the bed he was lying just minutes ago.
Mary stepped out from behind Francis. "Bash, that's not true. We are here to help."
"I don't need your help." Sebastian's vision was darkening around the edges. "I was wrong to think this place meant anything more to me than a death sentence."
Francis shook his head, "No…"
"Don't deny it." Sebastian swayed as the room started spinning. "You tried to have me killed once already." Francis frowned at the accusation. "They were your guards."
"My orders were for them to take you to the ship bound for Spain." Francis explained. "That was all."
Sebastian smirked, "Then you must have been shocked when they never returned."
"We found their bodies where they were killed." Francis tried to remain calm while his heart pounded. His brother was not well and he needed to get him into the bed and tended to. "Please, Bash, put down the sword and I will explain everything."
Sebastian would not be so easily fooled. "What did you think when you were told they were dead?"
Francis took a breath and closed his eyes. Mary squeezed his arm, giving him strength. "I thought…" He opened his eyes. He knew he had to tell the truth but he knew how it would sound to Sebastian because there was no other way to interpret it. "I thought you killed them in cold blood."
Sebastian scoffed, adjusting the sword in his hand. He could feel it slipping but he had too many grievances, too much anger, to just let it go. "Of course that is what you thought…to believe the worst of me." Francis shook his head, desperately denying it. Sebastian's expression turned from anger to anguish. "All my life my mother told me that I was a part of the King's family, no matter what others called me, so I treated all of you as such. I loved all of my brothers and sisters. There is no memory of me without you! I would give my life to protect you and yet you think of me as nothing but a cold-blooded killer!"
Francis didn't know what he could say to fix this. Such a mess has been made and he had blamed it all on his brother when in truth, Sebastian had little choice in the matter. "I'm sorry, Bash. I was angry and vengeful. I hated that Mary was taken from me and that my mother was being executed. They are the two most important women in my life and I was losing both. I…"
"I DIDN'T ASK FOR IT!" Francis jumped at the volume of Sebastian's voice. "Nobody gave me a choice!" He glared at Mary. "The only thing I am guilty of is loving you, but you were only using me!"
"No, that's not true. I truly believed that I could be happy with you." Mary cried, pleading for Sebastian to believe her.
"And yet when my brother returned, I am thrown out like I was nothing more than dirty cloth." Sebastian shook his head in defeat. "I was wrong to return. There is nothing here for me. Only pain and death." With those words, all his strength left him, the sword falling from his fingers and all else plunged into darkness.
"Bash!" Francis caught Sebastian under the arms before he could hit the floor.
Nostradamus rushed to the other side. "Quickly, get him on the bed."
"He's burning with fever." Francis gasped at the heat, even through the thick fabric of his clothes. He eased his brother back on the bed.
"That is expected, considering what just happened." Nostradamus said, as he undid the laces of his patient's shirt while Francis swung his legs onto the bed. "He shouldn't have been talking, let alone on his feet and wielding a sword." He gently pulled Sebastian's arm from the sling and pushed it aside to allow him to re-evaluate the wounds after the strenuous conversation with the Prince.
Francis stumbled at the sight of Sebastian's wounds. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. Mary took him by the arm. He looked at her. "My father did that." He whispered in disbelief. "He did that to his own son."
"He's strong, Francis. He will be fine."
Francis gestured sharply to his brother in the bed. "Does he look fine? Did he sound fine?" He ran his hand through his hair, pulling at it. "I betrayed my brother. He's been my best friend since before I can even remember and I threw him out… and for what? I had a chance to save him. To keep him in the castle, but I did nothing because I didn't want him near you."
"Francis, it's not your fault. The King wanted him gone. There was nothing you could've done."
Francis shook his head in disgust. "How can you say that?" He hissed at her. "It is my fault. It's our fault!" He looked over at Nostradamus. "It is your prophecies that started this." He turned back on his wife. "And yours and my mother's belief in them that caused all of it to come to pass. And it is my anger and jealousy that drove my brother away. But in the end, who is it that pays the price of our stupidity and anger?" He dropped into the chair next to Sebastian. "Bash."
Mary knelt between her husband and Sebastian. "Nothing is stronger than a bond between brothers. Bash will forgive you. He loves you."
Francis chaffed at that. "Were you not here just now? Did you not hear the pain I have caused him? He hates me!"
"Yes, I heard the pain but the pain equals his love for you not his hate. He hurts so much because he loves you that much." Mary held her husband face in her hands. "Sit with him. Be at his side and show him that you love him just as much." She kissed him. "I will return to our chambers. You are not the only one he is angry with." She took his hand. "I'm the one who chose to believe Nostradamus's visions. Bash was not the only victim of my decisions. I have come between you and Bash. Maybe if I am not here, you can talk." Francis sighed and nodded to his headstrong wife. "I love you."
"I love you too."
Nostradamus remained quiet as his Prince and the Queen of Scots conversed. He was uncomfortable. He hated his visions and there were times when he wished he was far away from the French Court. Francis was right. The Queens were acting in response to his visions. Sebastian acted to stop his visions from becoming reality. This was as much his fault as it is anyone else.
Nostradamus placed a cold compress on Sebastian's brow. "He will recover, Your Grace."
Francis shook his head, "How can my father do this? Bash surrendered. He wasn't threatening us in anyway."
"The King is a proud man. Sebastian defied him by returning." Nostradamus answered, gesturing to the wounds. "This is his response." He took the towel and submerged it in the bowl of water by the bed.
"Allow me." Nostradamus stopped and looked at the Prince. "Please, Nostradamus. Let me do this for Bash."
The visionary nodded and handed Francis the towel. "I will be in the next room if you need me." He bowed and left the room.
Francis wiped around Sebastian neck and cheeks. Sebastian used to be content with his life. He followed orders given by the King and when he wasn't following orders he was out in the woods hunting. He never asked anything of his father or his brother. He had their love and that was all he needed. It hurt so much when his father and Mary announced that Sebastian would be the next King and he will have Mary as his Queen. Francis thought back to the day he confronted Sebastian in the dungeon. He was filled with rage then, but now that he thought back he could see the shock on Sebastian's face. He had no idea what Mary had planned. He had no choice in the matter. "I'm so sorry, Bash." Francis folded the towel and pressed it to his brow. He then picked up his brother's hand, holding it between his. "Please forgive me."
It was hours later before Sebastian woke again. He groaned at the pain in his torso and back as he returned to consciousness. Everything was blurry when he opened his eyes and he wanted to rub at them, but his right arm was in a sling and his left had something weighing it down. He looked at it and found Francis sitting on the cold floor with his head pillowed on his forearms, his hand wrapped around his wrist. He closed his eyes and shook his head, clearing his vision. He couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. What was Francis doing here? He tried to pull his arm out without waking his brother but that wasn't possible. Francis's head flew up as soon as he moved. For a moment their eyes met before Sebastian turned away and attempted to get out of the bed. He stopped, grunting in pain as his tortured body complained. Francis got up and sat on the side of the bed, keeping a hand on his brother's good shoulder until he got the pain under control. "Here," He handed Sebastian a cup of water. "You should drink." His brother hesitated, eyeing the cup suspiciously. "It's just water." It hurt Francis that Sebastian couldn't even trust him with a simple cup of water. Sebastian finally gave in to his thirst, lifting a shaky hand to the cup. "I'll help you." He ignore his brother's flinch as he moved to lift his head to help him drink. After a few mouthfuls, Francis lowered his head back onto the pillow. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been tortured." Sebastian growled. "Why are you here? To watch me die?"
"No! And you're not dying. Your fever has already broken." Francis filled him in. "Nostradamus says you will make a full recovery."
"Nice to know. I think I'll take my leave now before father decides I haven't learned my lesson." Sebastian tried to get up but Francis pushed him back down with a hand on his chest. Sebastian was so weak he wouldn't be able to fight off a little girl. He glared at Francis. "What do you want?"
Francis shook his head, "Just for you to get better."
Sebastian scoffed at him. "I won't get better here in the castle. Everyone wants me dead. You and father made sure of that!"
Francis sighed, "Bash, I know I have wronged you, but please believe me when I tell you that I had no hand in your torture. Father told me he threw you out of the castle. That was it."
Sebastian smirked, "You think the torture is what this is about? That is just physical pain." He closed his eyes and sank back into the pillow. "I thought we were brothers. I thought I was privileged to have your trust but I'm beginning to doubt that I ever had it."
"You did. You still do!" He moved to put a hand on Sebastian's shoulder but his brother flinched, making him take it back. Francis hated that he couldn't make such simple gestures anymore. Gestures that came so easily to them before all this. "I do trust you, Bash."
"Well, I don't trust you. So if Your Grace won't mind, I will be taking my leave." Sebastian glared at Francis, daring him to stop him again.
Francis sighed. He could tell Sebastian would not give in and Francis knew his brother well enough to know that when he was determined, no one could stop him from doing what he needed to do. Francis stood, giving his brother room to get up. He knew it was wrong, but he prayed that Sebastian's injuries were bad enough to stop him.
Sebastian refused to let the pain stop him from leaving this place. It was excruciating but he managed to stand before the room started spinning. He felt himself losing his hold on consciousness.
Francis watched as his brother swayed and his eyes rolled back. "Bash!" He grabbed Sebastian by the arms just as he jolted back from the darkness, but it was clear he was still disoriented. "Bash." When Sebastian didn't respond he took his head in his hands and smacked him hard on the cheek. "Bash!" He let out a breath of relief when he saw clarity in his brother's eyes. "Are you with me?"
Sebastian was breathing heavily as he tried to figure out what just happened. Francis was directly in front of him with so much concern in his eyes and that just made him angrier than he already was. His hand came up and gripped Francis's wrist, slowly pulling it off him. "Step out of my way." He grilled through his teeth.
Francis removed his other hand, about to do as his brother requested when he decided that he could be just as determined and stubborn as his brother. He rested his hand on Sebastians's shoulder, feeling him tense further under his hand. "I know you hate me right now, but…"
"I don't hate you." Sebastian tried his hardest to not lose control. "I'm angry and I hurt and all that pain intensifies when I see you, but I don't hate you. I can't hate someone I've loved my entire life! And it saddens me to know that you can't see that!" He pushed past Francis towards the door.
Francis closed his eyes as he tried to think of words that would prove to Sebastian that he felt the same way. "Bash!" He called out. Sebastian stopped at the door, his hand on the handle, but he didn't turn around. "I love you and I need you. All my life, I hated my duties as the Dauphin. I hated that one day I would be King because I hate how father rules France. I remember one night coming to you after I fought with father, yelling and screaming. I was drunk. I barely remember what I was screaming about, but I do remember your words. Amongst all the drunkenness and rage, your voice was so clear and so calm. You said, 'Little brother…'"
Tears ran down their faces as they both remembered that night. It was as clear in Bash's mind as it was in Francis's. "You will be France's greatest and kindest King because that is who you are." Bash's voice shook as he recalled his own words. "Your hands are free of innocent blood and while I can't promise that you will never spill any, I will always be at your side to help bear your burden." His hand dropped from the door, his resolve weakening. Why did Francis have to remind him of that night, of his promise?
Hope, that this could be fixed, started filling Francis's heart. "It was your promise that made me believe in myself, to see myself, one day, as King of France." He stepped towards Sebastian, placing a hand against his shoulder blade. "I never imagined being King without my big brother at my side." He could feel his brother's tremors and he so badly wanted to pulled him into his arms and protect him from everything that has happened, but he knew he had to wait for Sebastian to be ready to accept it.
Sebastian felt his anger fade with every word Francis spoke. He didn't think anything would make him forgive his brother for what's happened but being reminded of his promise and remembering how good Francis truly was, made it hard for him to hold onto his anger. He hated feeling this way. All his life he knew what he wanted, what he needed to do. He was confident in his own skills and he was confident in his brother's love for him. He thought he had lost it all the day Francis returned to the palace and he was exiled, never daring to believe it would return. Not until he felt Francis's warm hand on his shoulder. It was so simple but it represented so much. He lost control of his emotions then, shaking violently until he could no longer hold himself up.
Francis caught his brother as his legs gave way and they both dropped to the stone floor. "I'm so sorry." He whispered as he hugged his brother, tightly, to his chest. "Please forgive me." He couldn't stop the sob that broke from his chest when he felt Sebastian nod against. His arms tightened. "Thank you. Thank you!" The relief he felt was beyond words but it was also short-lived as he felt Sebastian go limp in his arms. "Bash?" He pulled back and saw that his brother was no longer conscious. "Nostradamus!" He adjusted himself so that he could pull brother's arm over his shoulder. "Nostradamus!" He grunted as he stood, pulling his brother up with him. The door opened and Nostradamus entered, shocked at what he was seeing. He quickly took the other side of Sebastian and helped him back to the bed.
"What was he doing out of bed?" Nostradamus asked as he checked over Sebastian's injuries.
"He was trying to leave." Francis wiped away the last of his tears. "Did I do more damage?"
"No!" The visionary answered quickly. The boy felt guilty enough without this adding to it. "He is fine, but I gather he was in a lot of pain." He was pleasantly surprised when Sebastian seemed to be returning to them so soon. "Sebastian." He called gently.
"What happened?" Sebastian asked, groggily, annoyed that he was in the bed again. He turned to his brother who was looking at him nervously. Francis didn't know if Sebastian even remembered what had just happened. Did he remember forgiving him? Was all that anguish for naught? Sebastian was starting to worry when Francis didn't say anything. "What's wrong?" He pushed himself up, growling when he didn't get far.
Francis dropped to a knee beside his brother. "Stay still and let Nostradamus take care of you."
"You haven't answered my question. What's wrong? You look worried." Sebastian was pale and exhausted but he was worried about his little brother.
A chuckle burst out of Francis. "I'm fine. I look worried because I'm worried about you and…" Sebastian frowned at his hesitation. "Do you remember what we were talking about?"
Sebastian was confused, "How is it possible to forget?"
Francis leaned forward, "Well, in case I was not clear. I am truly sorry for everything I have done and not done."
Sebastian gave him a small smile and held a hand up to him. Francis took it in his. "It's not all your fault. I didn't react well to any of it."
"You reacted exactly the way anyone would have. Father was merciless in his dealings with you and I promise I will protect you from him." Sebastian nodded and Francis gripped his hand tighter.
Nostradamus held out a small glass vial. "He needs to rest. This is a draught to take away his pain."
Sebastian shook his head. "I don't want to sleep. I've wasted enough time. Rowan is most likely dead already and the darkness in the woods is growing bolder and stronger. It needs to be stopped before anyone else is killed." He tried to get up but Francis stopped him. "Francis…"
"You are in no condition to do anything but lie here and rest." Francis took the potion from Nostradamus. "Please stay here and let me take care of you. Once you are strong enough, we will ride out together." Sebastian hesitated before giving in. Francis smiled in relief. He uncorked the vial and poured it slowly into his brother's mouth, waiting patiently until Sebastian drifted off. He stood once he was sure Sebastian was resting soundly. "I'll be back, brother." Then turned to Nostradamus. "Watch him and send for me if he wakes up. Do not let him out of your sights. His life is in danger as long as he is here in the castle. I will post two guards outside your door."
Francis ran to find his wife. He needed to ensure his brother's safety and to do that he needed Mary. Mary was the means to getting England and his father was obsess with England. He entered their chambers and found his wife. "Mary." He held out his hand. "Come with me." Mary frowned but took his hand and allowed him to lead her from the room.
"How is Bash?"
"Resting for now. I need your help. Bash is in danger until my father can grant him amnesty for everything, but his pride will not allow him to do that. I need you to take the possibility of England from him until he can see past his pride and give Bash his life back." Mary couldn't help but smile proudly at her husband. This is the man she chose. "Do you think you can do it?"
Mary smiled confidently. "I do."
"Good, because my other plan was to take you and Bash away from this court and live our lives on a farm in Spain." Francis grinned at her.
"I like that plan better."
"I thought you might." Mary giggled, so happy to have her husband back.
Francis barged into his father's office. "Everyone out. I have private matters to discuss with the King." The scribes and scholars bowed and left in a haste.
King Henry remained in his seat, looking uninterested in what his son had to say to him. Francis glared at his head. "You had Bash tortured."
"A necessary evil." Henry still hadn't looked up.
"He could've died. You told me you exiled him."
"Which is what I would've done as soon as he's learned his lesson and knows never return here again." Henry finally looked up. "I did it for you. He tried to take your throne and your wife."
Francis slammed his fist on the table. "We both know the throne was forced on him. He never wanted it!"
Henry shrugged, "He still took it."
Francis stepped back and took a breath to calm himself. He would not do Sebastian any good arguing with his father. "Give Sebastian his life back."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because I, the future King of France, am asking you to and if you don't grant my request, my wife will publicly withdraw her claim to the English throne." Sebastian threatened.
King Henry clenched his jaw and stood from the table. He rested his hands on his desk and leaned forward. "You dare threaten your King?"
Mary stepped forward. "It is not a threat. It is a promise. You will allow Bash to come and go from this palace without fear of death or I will take England from you and you will never set foot on their soil as their King."
The King stood his ground. Francis sighed. "Bash can never be a threat to my throne. He never was. All he ever wanted was to serve his King. He is my brother and I will never find a more trusted advisor when I am King, than he." Francis stepped back. "If I am to be a great King, I need Bash at my side and if you ever wish to take England, you need him too."
King Henry was still angry but he nodded. "Then Sebastian is absolved of all guilt." Francis closed his eyes and let out a breath of relief. "Now get out of my sight!"
Francis nodded, but he needed one more thing. He has dealt with his father enough times to know that the King's word means nothing. "I need you to write down those orders and sign it with your seal. The King was fuming at being blackmailed but he was also impressed that his son had it in him. He expected such things of Sebastian but not Francis. Maybe allowing Sebastian to remain at his side was a good thing. He pulled out a letter of pardon and wrote in Sebastian's name, signing and stamping it with his seal. As he handed it to Francis, his expression softened. "How is he?"
Francis took the letter and folded it. "Nostradamus says he will recover." He stepped back and bowed, as did Mary. He took her hand and left the room. When they finally got far enough away from his father's office they stopped and allowed themselves to breathe. "We did it?" He laughed as Mary threw her arms around him. "Bash is free."
"You did it." Mary pulled back. "I am so proud of you."
"Come, we must tell Bash the good news." They walked hand in hand, smiling as they made their way through the corridors. They froze when they turned the corner in time to see a half conscious Sebastian being dragged by the arms from the chambers and Nostradamus in chains. "What is going on?" Francis ran up to the soldiers.
"Your Grace, by order of the King, this man is to be thrown from the castle and Nostradamus is accused of harbouring a fugitive."
"Sebastian has been pardoned of all crimes." Francis pulled out the parchment and handed it to the captain of the guards. "This is his letter of pardon, signed by King Henry himself. Now release them both."
The captain read the letter, then handed it back. "Yes, your Grace." He nodded to his men.
Sebastian felt the grip on his arm fall away. He fell back on his knees. It took all of his effort to remain upright, but he couldn't keep it up and felt himself falling to the side. He was confused when he didn't fall far.
Francis ran up to his brother and dropped to the knees, just as Sebastian was about to fall to the floor. "Bash!" Sebastian's head lolled against his shoulder. "Bash." He tapped his cheeks. "Stay with me." He looked up frantically and called over two of the guards. "You two, get him into the room." The two men carried Sebastian into Nostradamus's chambers.
Nostradamus put a hand on Francis's shoulder, seeing the panic in the prince grow. "He will be fine, your Grace." He went into the room after the guards left and quickly checked for a fever and any torn stitches. "He is healing well. Your brother is sleeping not unconscious. The sleeping draught I gave him is strong. He won't wake up for a while."
Francis folded his arms as he looked down at his sleeping brother. Mary gave his arm a squeeze. "I will have the servants bring a bed in here so you can watch over him."
Francis turned and smiled at her. "How is it that you can read my mind?"
Mary shook her head, "Not your mind. Your heart." She knelt beside the bed and picked up Sebastian's hand. "Recover quickly, Bash. I have missed you." She brushed aside his hair and kissed him on the forehead before leaving his care to her husband and Nostradamus.
Francis fell asleep in the bed beside Sebastian. He had stayed awake for as long as his body would allow him. Nostradamus words were true. The sleeping potion was strong. Sebastian remained in a deep sleep until morning.
Sebastian groaned at the light coming through the window, interrupting his restful sleep. He squinted, lifting his hand to shield it from the morning sun. When his eyes finally adjusted to the light, he looked around the room. "I really do hate this place." He turned to his right and was shocked to find his brother asleep next to him. "What…" Suddenly the worst case scenarios started running through his mind. Was Francis hurt? Is he ill? Why was he here? He vaguely remembered being dragged out of the room yesterday. Did Francis incur their father's wrath? In a panic, he pushed himself up, ignoring the pain and shook his brother. "Francis!"
Francis shot up in his bed, woken up by a frantic shaking. It took him a moment to realise it was Sebastian that had woken him. "Bash, what's wrong?" He was confused when Sebastian started running his hands up and down his arms and sides. "Bash, what are you doing?" He didn't like how Sebastian was breathing. It was too heavy and he was sweating profusely. He was about to check for a fever when his brother beat him to it, checking him with the back of the hand to his brow. "Bash!" Francis stilled his brother's hand by the wrist and held it down. "I'm fine."
Sebastian was confused. "Then why are you here?"
Francis chuckled at his protective brother. He missed this the most. "I'm here because I wanted to stay near you." Sebastian frowned, not quite understanding what his brother was telling him. "I didn't want to leave you alone, especially after what happened yesterday. Do you remember being dragged out of here by the guards?"
Sebastian relaxed a little now that he knew his brother was fine. He rubbed his eyes, the little panic over his brother exhausted him. "Vaguely."
Francis got off his bed on the other side and walked around to his brother. "Let's get you back in the bed." He reached down to help his brother up but Sebastian stopped him.
"I'm fine. I don't want to sleep anymore." He looked up at his brother. "Help me up?"
Francis hesitated. "I don't think that's a good idea. Your injuries are serious. You have to rest."
Sebastian rolled his eyes at him. "You act like you don't know me. I know my own body and I've had worse injuries. A walk is what I need." He pulled his arm out of the sling and threw it aside. "Are you going to help me and do I have to do it alone."
Francis gave him a small smile. "Never. You'll never have to do anything alone again." He took his brother's hand and pulled him up. Wincing at the pain he knew it caused. "Where do you want to go?" He asked, giving his brother time to catch his breath as he grabbed his brother's jacket.
"Wherever I won't get arrested or killed." Sebastian said, wincing as he eased his jacket on.
Francis realised then that Sebastian didn't know he was pardoned for his crimes. "You're going to need to be a bit more specific because that covers all of France." He grinned at the look on his brother's face, pulling out the letter of pardon. "Father signed it." Sebastian opened the letter and read it. Francis frowned at Sebastian's expression. He wasn't happy like he should've been and Francis realised why. He placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. "I know you are being pardoned for crimes you did not commit. I know that now, but it was the only way I could ensure your safety within the castle."
Sebastian folded the parchment and handed it back to his brother. "Hold onto it for me." He gave Francis a sad smile. "I did actually take the throne, willingly or not. Men have been executed for far less. Thank you for giving me my freedom back."
"It wasn't just me." Francis led him out of the room, keeping a light hold on his brother's arm. "Mary was instrumental in convincing my father to grant you that pardon."
Sebastian forced himself to smile at that. "Be sure to thank her for me."
"Why not thank her yourself? I'm sure she wants to see…"
"No, thank you." Sebastian said quickly, keeping his eyes on the path in front of him. He felt his brother's eyes on him but he tried to ignore it. He could forgive Francis for what he did. After all, he had little choice in the matter but he was not ready to extend the same forgiveness to Mary. It was Mary's decision to legitimise Sebastian and make him the next King of France. It was Mary's decision to take Francis back and she did nothing when Sebastian was banished from the castle. He also couldn't forget the look in her eyes when she and Francis consummated their marriage. It was their father that made him watch but he didn't see any regret or guilt in her eyes when she saw him. He wondered if she ever cared about him or if she only saw him as a means to get what she needed for herself.
Francis could see his brother was deep in thought as they walked aimlessly through the castle. The mention of his wife was not wise on his part. He knew how much Mary wanted to see Sebastian and he was hoping he could grant her that. He should have known that it would take time for Sebastian to put that part of his life behind him. "Where do you want to go?" Francis asked, hoping to draw his brother's thoughts from his wife. He sighed when Sebastian didn't respond. "Bash."
The call of his name pulled Sebastian from his thoughts. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
Francis smiled, "I asked where you would like to go with your new found freedom?"
Sebastian gave him a genuine smile this time. "There are many things I want to do…"
"Bash! My bastard son is back on his feet!" Francis and Sebastian gave each other warning looks as their father strode up to them. Sebastian had to bite his lip from calling out in pain when his father threw his arms around him, giving him a rough embrace.
Francis grimaced and firmly pulled at his father's arm. "Father, to what do we owe the pleasure?" He grunted as he pulled his father and brother apart. He kept a firm hand on Sebastian's arm as he stumbled back. He knew he was trying his hardest to not show how much pain he was in. Francis kept himself between his father and brother without being too disrespectful to the King.
"I have a way of solving this problem between the two of you!" King Henry announced, clearly proud of himself.
Francis turned to his brother, then back to his father. "There is no longer a problem between us. We have spoken and the matter has been put behind us now."
King Henry shook his finger at him. "No, no, no, no, no! There is a big problem named Mary, Queen of Scots, between you and I have the solution. Come with me!" He turned and strode purposely down the corridor.
"Father, Bash is not…"
"NOW!" Francis and Sebastian both jumped at the order.
Francis sighed and took his brother's arm. "We better follow. Can you make it?" Sebastian nodded, already regretting insisting on this walk.
They arrived at the throne room. Francis was surprised that Mary was already there, along with his mother, Greer, Lola, Nostradamus and Kenna. The latter was dressed in white. A priest was also present. "Father, what is this?"
"I have found the perfect way to preserve the harmony between my sons." The King pushed himself between Francis and Sebastian, pulling his eldest, none too gently, to stand beside Kenna. "You will marry Kenna this day and all our worries will be over."
"Father, you don't need to do this. I hold no feelings for Mary in any way." Sebastian said as he looked at Mary. Mary felt a slight pang in her heart at those words. She could see that he meant it and it hurt her more than she thought it would. "So there is…"
"You will marry Kenna by order of your King on pain of death!" King Henry looked mad, not angry…mad.
Sebastian closed his eyes and bit his lip. Kenna stood next to him sobbing. "You promised me someone with a title."
King Henry rolled his eyes, "Fine! Bash, I hereby declare you…" He came up with a brilliant title, "Master of horse and hunt!" Sebastian turned to his brother and Mary. It was clear by their expressions they all thought the same thing; their father has lost his mind.
"What does that even mean?" Kenna cried.
"Shut up and say the words!" The king was sick of her crying.
"Please!" She begged, "This is marriage. It can't be undone!"
"Say the words!" The King yelled as he drew his sword. Everyone started at the order.
Sebastian grabbed the sobbing girl, turning her to face him. "I, Sebastian, take this woman to be my lawful wife under the eyes of god from this day forward." He looked to his father to ensure he was satisfied, sighing in relief when he saw that he was.
"Well, we are done here. You may go do what married couples do on their wedding night and I will go do what Kings and Queens do in their beds." He held his hand out to Penelope and left the room.
Kenna fell to her knees sobbing at what she was forced to do. Greer and Lola ran up to her, hugging and comforting her the best they could. "Take her back to her room." Mary told them.
Sebastian stood there as everyone started leaving the throne room until just Francis, Mary and himself remained. "I am so sorry." Mary stepped up to him but Sebastian put a hand out to stop her.
"Please, I was given my freedom not too long ago, only to have it taken from not two minutes ago. I am married to a woman I don't much like. Your apologies will do me nothing but make me regret ever loving you." Sebastian stumbled back as the event started taking a toll on his battered body. Francis rushed forward, wrapping his arm around his back to support him as he swayed on his feet.
"We should get you back to Nostradamus." Francis worried.
"No, please, just take me to my room." Sebastian begged. He needed to put distance between himself and all that had just happened. Francis nodded, pulling his brother's arm over his shoulder to take more of his weight. He looked at his wife and shook his head, slightly, telling her to leave it be for now.
"Let's go." Francis supported Sebastian as they slowly made their way to his old room in the castle.
Sebastian remained quiet as they walked. It worried Francis. It was not only his brother's physical injuries but his state of mind as well. "Bash, I'm sorry."
Sebastian turned to him. "Why? It was not your idea. You couldn't have done a thing to stop it, so let's not talk about it."
Francis hurt for his brother. He wished he could help him but there was nothing he could do or say to take away the pain. "How are you feeling?" He changed the subject. "Shall I call for Nostradamus?"
Francis wanted to laugh at Sebastian's glare. "Is my day not bad enough that you have to make it worse?"
"I'm sorry." He said, but he couldn't keep the mirth from this voice.
"Great. I am married to a woman I don't love and leaning on a brother I want to kill." Sebastian had to smile at his little brother's cheeky grin. "Thank you."
"For what?" Sebastian asked, incredulously. "I have done nothing but make your life miserable."
"For somehow making me smile even in such an abysmal situation." Despite the situation he was in, there was still light at the end of it all. "At least I know that I will make good on my promise to you and be at your side when you are King, as I am not going anywhere."
They reached Sebastian's room where he almost collapsed onto the bed. Francis made sure he was comfortable under the covers before he took a seat near the bed. He thought his brother had fallen asleep, hence was startled when he spoke. "I've just realised something." Sebastian opened his eyes and turned to Francis. "Father hates me. He forced me to watch your consummation with Mary before your guards escorted me out of the castle. It was father that ordered my execution."
Francis slowly nodded as he thought on those words. Sebastian was right. It made sense now. "I don't want to believe that father could be so cruel to his own son, but I have already seen it with my own eyes. You wear the scars of his hatred."
"How will I ever feel safe within these walls again?" Sebastian closed his eyes. "This is a prison now, with a death sentence hanging over me every day."
Francis shook his head. He got up and sat on the edge of the bed. Sebastian opened his eyes when he felt the bed sink. Francis put a hand on his brother's. "You've protected me my entire life. Now, let me return the favour. As long as I am alive you will be safe. That is my promise to you. You are my brother."
Sebastian smiled and squeezed his brother's hand. "I trust you." He said as his eyes drifted close.
Francis bathed in those words. He feared that he would never hear them again from his brother. "Thank you."
The next day …
Francis kept a watchful eye on his brother as they rode out to the woods. He had pleaded with Sebastian to wait another day. The soldiers sent out yesterday after the 'wedding', returned with no news of Rowan or the darkness in the woods. Sebastian suspected they had only rode out for show, enjoyed a day off and came back empty-handed. The order was given by a man with a laughable title who had just been pardoned for treason. He was lucky they were willing to even put on a show. Sebastian knew there was no hope for Rowan. It has been too long. It was a mistake, returning to the castle. It had delayed the investigation by too many days. Any trail would be cold by now. He knew he had little chance of finding Rowan's body but the threat was still real and it had to be stopped. Sebastian couldn't wait a day longer. He had resulted in emotional blackmail. Francis would not have permit Sebastian to ride today if he had not threatened to ride on his own. Francis contemplated keeping him locked in his room with guards at his door, but they have only just reconciled and imprisoning his brother would not do well for their friendship.
Sebastian tried to ignore his brother's constant watching. The thought that his brother worried about his health warmed him but he was the older brother after all and it was his job to take care of Francis, not the other way around. "Francis, if you keep looking and me like that, word may get around and Mary will get jealous."
Francis chuckled, happy to hear his brother joking. "Mary asked me to keep a close eye on you, Bash. She is concerned for you. And I look worried, not in love."
"Tell Mary, she does not need to waste her concern on me." Sebastian told him.
"You will need to speak to her at some point. You can't keep avoiding her when you're both living in the castle." Francis tried to catch Sebastian's eye as he spoke to gage his reaction.
Sebastian stopped his horse and turned to him. "The castle grounds are extensive and I am not avoiding her." He winced as he dismounted from his horse. "This is where I tracked the darkness to." He rolled his injured shoulder, the ache there was uncomfortable. He turn to the men. "Go that way. Look for anything unusual."
Francis tried to ignore the signs that Sebastian was in pain. He frowned as he looked past Sebastian. "Bash…tracks."
Sebastian turned around. "How is that possible?" They started following the tracks. Half way Sebastian knelt in the snow. The snow fall in the last two days should have covered any tracks from the day Rowan was taken. These were fresh but they looked the same as the ones he found that day. He didn't notice that Francis had walked on ahead of him.
"There's something ahead." Francis called out to him.
"What is it?" Sebastian stood and started towards him.
Francis stopped. It was woman's hand. He looked towards the trees. It didn't make sense. "The tracks just stop." They were in the middle of a frozen lake. There was nowhere to go.
"How is that possible?" Sebastian called out to them.
Francis was about to pick up the hand when a cracking sound froze him. "Don't come any closer!" He warned just as the ground below him gave way.
Sebastian watched in horror as his brother disappeared beneath the ice. "FRANCIS!" His legs felt heavy as he trudged as fast as he could though the snow. "FRANCIS!" He got down low as he reached where Francis fell.
"My Lords!" A soldier called out from where they had tied their horses.
"Stay back. The ice is too thin!" Sebastian reached into the freezing cold water. "Where are you?" He stood, looking around. "There's a current." He whispered to himself and ran back along their tracks. Desperately, he dug through the snow until he reached the ice. "FRANCIS!" He slammed his hand against the ice as his brother floated by, a look of panic on his face. Sebastian ran further back and dug again. This time he used his sword to break through the ice. "Francis!" Once the ice broke he wasted no time in reaching in, dunking in his head in the freezing water for further reach and pulling his brother out of it. Francis was unconscious. "Come on, Francis." He hugged his brother to his chest. "Please, please, don't leave me." He let out a gasp in relief when Francis spluttered up the water he had swallow. Sebastian looked up to the heavens. "Thank you." He grunted as he lifted his brother onto his shoulders and carried him back to the horses. Nostradamus was not going to be happy about tearing his stitches. The soldiers relieved him of the Prince. "Get his jacket off!" Sebastian pulled off his own jacket and covered his brother. "Give him your cloak as well and get him on my horse. I will ride with him back to the castle."
"Yes, my Lord." Sebastian got on the horse behind Sebastian and rode back as fast as the horse could carry them.
Francis sat in front of the fire with a fur coat around his shoulders. It felt so good to be warm. "How are you feeling? Has the chill left you?" Sebastian asked him as he handed him a cup of wine.
"I feel lucky to be alive." Francis smiled at him. "You saved my life."
"You're my brother. I will always choose to save your life no matter what the situation between us is." Sebastian sat down next to his brother, rubbing his eyes, exhausted. Now with the adrenaline from all the excitement gone, he felt drained.
"I think I look better than you, brother."
Sebastian gave him a tired smile. "I've sent word to Mary that you have returned. I'm going to head back to my room. I'm exhausted." He was about stand when Mary called out her husband's name. Sebastian closed his eyes, annoyed that he didn't make his escape earlier.
Francis winced at his brother's expression and quickly stood to intercept his wife so that she didn't get too close to Sebastian. "I'm fine."
Mary looked over her husband, running her hands over him to reassure herself that he was indeed fine. "What happened? You're so cold."
"I had an accident. I fell through the ice at the frozen lake." He turned to his brother who still had not acknowledge Mary's arrival. "Bash saved my life."
"Bash…" She was about to go over to him but Francis stopped her, shaking his head. He knew Sebastian wasn't ready to talk to her. She sighed. "Thank you for saving Francis. I don't know what I would do if I had lost him."
Sebastian clenched his fist in an attempt to control the anger that seemed to rise with each word Mary spoke. He took a breath and stood, turning around to face her. "He's my brother. I didn't save him for you."
Mary shook her head, "Bash, that's not what I…"
"I'm very tired." Sebastian was fast losing his strength. He managed to move past the royal couple before he started feeling light headed.
Francis's eyes widened when he saw his brother sway. He let go of his wife and grabbed his brother by the arms to steady him. "Bash, what's wrong?"
Sebastian shook his head, hoping it would clear it. "Dizzy."
Francis looked to his wife, apologetically, knowing she wanted to be with him. Mary nodded, understanding that Francis needed to take care of his brother. "I'll help you back to the room."
The dizziness abated. "I'm fine, Francis. Stay with your wife." Sebastian gave him a pat as he stepped past him, making his way back to his room.
Francis sighed as he watched his brother leave. Mary came up to him, wrapping her arms around him. "He is still angry with me"
Francis put his arms around her. "Give him time. Ever since his return, it's been one thing after another. There's been no peace for him." He smiled. "Come. Let's go for a walk. I feel like I haven't seen you in days." Mary nodded, linking her arms with her husband's.
They were enjoying their walk through the palace gardens. It was cold but the snow covered grounds were beautiful. "I remember playing in the snow when we were children. You, me and Bash. Bash was older and faster. Even then he was strategic. Two against one in a snowball fight and we would still be cover in snow by the end of it."
"Mother kept a close eye on us, so when we played, Bash would stand aside. He always kept a watchful eye over me, even as a child, but that day was different. Both mother and father were out of the castle." Francis remembered those memories fondly. "How long did it take us to convince him to play?"
"I almost gave up!" Mary laughed. "He was so serious then."
"I know. After you left, I had no one to play with. Bash saw how sad I was. One day, when mother and father weren't in the palace, he took me out riding. I had so much fun and Bash…" Francis shook his head, laughing. "He got in so much trouble that day." His smile faded. "But father loved him and he wouldn't allow mother to punish him. Plus he was secretly proud of him of daring to do it." He stopped walking and turned to Mary. "Father has always loved Bash. I don't understand how he could do this to him."
Before Mary could answer Lola came running up to them, frantic. "Lola, what is it?" Mary asked her.
Lola stood there, trying to catch her breath. "It's Bash."
Sebastian immediately grabbed her by the arms. "What about Bash? Is it my father again?"
Mary grabbed her husband's arm. "Let Lola talk." She said calmly.
Lola calmed herself. "The guards found him collapsed in the corridor. They've taken him to his room."
Francis bolted towards his brother's room, charging into it, huffing. "Bash." Sebastian didn't even wake at the sound of the door flying open. Francis took in the condition of his brother. It looked as if he was just thrown on the bed and left there. He was laying on his back, arms out to the side, his legs hanging off the bed. Francis's fist clenched at how his brother was being treated by the guards. He walked back out the door and yelled. "GUARDS!" Two guards came running down the corridor.
"Your Grace." They bowed.
"Go get Nostradamus and find the guards that found my brother. I need to have words with them." His voice was icy.
"Yes, your Grace."
Francis went back inside and closed the door. He took off his brother's shoes and jacket, growling when he saw the spots of blood in various places on his shirt. He swung his legs onto the bed and tucked a pillow under his head. "Would it kill you to tell me the truth?" Francis complained as he unlaced his shirt, pulling it open. He hissed at the torn stitches. It still shocked him at how brutal his father was. He sat on the bed and held his hand to his brother's brow. It was a little warm. He prayed the injuries were not infected.
"Your Grace." Nostradamus called from the door.
Francis stood. "Quickly, he's torn his stitches and he's developing a fever."
Nostradamus hurried over and put his bag down on the bedside table. "How did this happen?" He asked as he pulled out his scissors and tweezers.
"He must've have torn them when he pulled me out of the frozen lake." Francis shook his head. "Here he was worried about me when he was worse off."
Nostradamus pulled out the torn stitches, working meticulously. The wounds had already started healing. A couple of the cuts did not tear, though they were red and inflamed. He reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle of medicinal alcohol, pouring it on a clean white rag. He gently wiped at the open wounds, cleaning it with the alcohol to stave off infection. Sebastian groaned and tossed at the pain. Francis sat on the other side of the bed and took his hand in his. "Squeeze my hand if it hurts." Sebastian gasped and squeezed his hand when Nostradamus poured alcohol on the more severe wounds. Francis winced at his brother's grip on his hand. He watched as Nostradamus restitched the wounds. Finally, it was over and Sebastian's grip on his hand loosened, but Francis realised he wasn't ready to loosen his. Nostradamus packed his things and stood. "I'm going to have the kitchen bring up some tea for you. It'll help with fighting off any chest infections."
"Chest infections?" Francis frowned.
"For the both of you. It's just a precaution. After taking a swim in the frozen lake, I would rather not risk you or your brother contracting a chest cold."
"That was me. Bash didn't fall in." Francis told him.
"Still, he was out in the cold after already fighting infections from his wounds. His body is weak and is very susceptible to illnesses."
Francis nodded, "Thank you."
Just as Nostradamus was about to leave, the door opened, revealing the guards. "Your Grace, you summoned for us."
"Nostradamus, please wait a moment. I need your assistance with my guards." Francis pulled the quilt over his brother before he went to address his guards. He step outside the room but kept the door ajar in case his brother woke. "Nostradamus, will you please show these two where your chamber is?"
Nostradamus bowed, "Of course." He answered, though he was confused by the request.
It seemed the guards were confused as well. "Your Grace, we know where Nostradamus's chamber is."
"Is that so?" Francis glared at them. "Then why would you not send for him or take Bash to his chamber after finding him unconscious in the corridor?"
The guards kept their head down. "We didn't think he was injured, Your Grace."
"He was unconscious!" Francis reprimanded. He stood up straight, hands behind his back. "I will only say this once. Sebastian may only be the King's bastard son to you but he is my brother. The next time any of you see him, you will remember that and treat him as such. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Your Grace."
"Good. Make it clear to every soldier and every guard in the castle. You're dismissed." Nostradamus and the guards bowed and left the fuming Prince. Francis calmed himself before re-entering his brother's room. He was surprised to find Sebastian was stirring. He sat down on the bed, smiling when his brother's eyes fluttered open. "Hey."
Sebastian frowned at him. "What are you doing in my room? Shouldn't you be with Mary?"
Francis chuckled. "Do you remember how you got back to your room?"
Sebastian opened his mouth to answer when he realised he couldn't remember. He sighed, "What happened?"
Francis folded his arms and glowered at him. "You tore your stitches and passed out in the corridor, bleeding. You have a slight fever now. Would it kill you to take care of yourself or at least tell me you're unwell so that I can get someone to take care of you?"
Sebastian rolled his eyes, "I'm your big brother. I can take care of myself."
"Clearly." The sarcasm was un-missable. "That's why the guards found you in the corridor. Unconscious."
"Hmmm…" Sebastian pushed himself up to sit against the headboard. "I'm surprised they didn't leave me there."
"They brought you back here and dumped you on the bed. If Lola hadn't heard I don't know what condition I would've found you in." Francis sat forward, gripping his brother's arms. "You're not safe in the castle. You need to be careful."
Sebastian gave his hand an affectionate pat. "Father hates me. There's nothing anyone can do when my safety is threatened by the King. I have to live here for the rest of my life. I'm not going to walk around in fear."
"It won't always be like this." Francis promised. "I will be King one day and you will be the King's brother. I will give you a title. A real one!" Sebastian chuckled at that. "The guards and soldier will respect you for who you are."
Sebastian gave a lopsided smiled. "For now I'll just rely on my little brother's protection." He waved his hand at his head, "It's a little blurry but before I woke up I heard someone yelling something about being your brother and being treated as such. I am guessing that was you."
Francis grinned. "Don't get sentimental. I was testing my power on the guards. If I can get the guards to take orders from the King's bastard son, my power must be vast."
Sebastian narrowed his eyes at him. "You're using my life to test your power?"
Francis shrugged, "Your life is at risk anyway, why not make use of it?"
"I'm so lucky to have you as my brother." Sebastian said, deadpanned, though in his heart, he meant every word.
A knock at the door drew their attention. It was Lola. The brothers smiled at the beautiful lady in waiting. "Lola, what do you have for us?"
Lola smiled as put down the tray on the table. "Nostradamus ordered this tea to be made for the two of you. It smells of ginger, lemon and honey." She poured out two cups of tea and brought it over to them, handing them one each. "I passed the maid on her way here and decided to bring it here for her to see how you are. Mary is worried about you, Bash."
"Tell her I am doing well." Sebastian sipped at his tea. "Why are we drinking this tea?" He asked his brother.
"It's a precaution. Nostradamus found out I went for a swim in a frozen lake so this is to ensure we don't get ill." Francis wrinkled his nose at the tea.
"You went for a swim. I did no such thing."
"That's what I told him, but apparently for you, a simple ride out in the cold is enough for you to catch your death." Francis shrugged as he took a sip of the tea.
"Hmmm…I do feel better after drinking it." He handed Lola the empty cup. "Don't let him know I admitted that."
Lola smiled, "What is it with you and Nostradamus? You believe in his visions and yet you act like you detest the man."
Sebastian gave her a thin smile, "Who says it's an act?"
She shook her head at him. "You are quite impossible at times." Then she changed the subject. "About Mary…" She sighed as Sebastian's stoic expression. She turned to Francis who shook his head at her, subtely, telling her to not talk about it. "I'll tell her you are recovering."
"Tell her she should only be concerned for her husband. I am married after all." Sebastian's tone was cold. He was sick of everyone trying to push him to talk to Mary. She didn't need his forgiveness and he wasn't willing to give it. They could live in the castle and have nothing to do with each other.
Lola looked at him sympathetically. She wished there was something she could say to make him understand Mary's choices. "Rest." She ordered as she collected the cup to take them away. Shesitated before she left. "Am I still welcome to visit you?"
Sebastian smiled at her. "Your worried frown makes me feel better." She beamed before leaving the room. He turned his tired eyes onto his brother. "Are you planning to stay here all night? I'm sure Mary is waiting for you."
"I don't trust you to stay in bed if I leave." Francis told him. "You're impossible to keep in bed which is ironic because it keeps you in bed longer than necessary."
"Francis, the threat in the woods…"
"Has been a threat for a long time. A few more days will not make a difference. I will send out a warning to everyone to stay out of the woods. For now, that will have to do." Francis stood his ground. "You can call me selfish, but your life is more important to me than anyone beyond the castle gates. Promise me you will stay here until Nostradamus says you have fully recovered."
Sebastian smiled, "Will you leave me alone if I promise?" Francis wasn't sure he could trust his brother to keep this promise. He was never a good patient. "Call for Kenna. She is my wife, is she not? She will keep an eye on me. Will that suffice?"
Francis slowly nodded. Kenna wasn't the most reliable of Mary's ladies but she had a good heart and she's quite strong-willed herself. She would probably drive Sebastian crazy enough that he will stay put. "I will send for her. It's time you two consummated your marriage anyway." He laughed at the glare he received from his brother. "Rest. I will come by tomorrow."
Sebastian closed his eyes and lean into his pillow. "Go and don't come back. I don't want to be blamed for France not having an heir." Francis rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
It turns out Nostradamus was correct in his diagnosis of Sebastian. His temperature continued to rise as the night went on. Kenna had called for Nostradamus who had determined that the fever was due to an infection in the chest rather than an infection of the wounds. He gave her a salve for his chest to ease the cough and a potion to control his temperature. Kenna pushed up Sebastian's shirt and massaged the salve into his chest. She wiped her hands on a cloth before pulling his shirt back down. She was startled when Sebastian grabbed her hand, pulling it to his chest. "Why…" Kenna frowned. "Why did you leave me?" Sebastian jerked in his restless sleep. "I loved you. I would have…" He drifted off.
Kenna sighed. She knew Sebastian was speaking of Mary. "She really hurt you, didn't she?" She brushed aside the hair sticking to his forehead. "You need to understand that Mary places her duty to Scotland above all else, including Francis. She does not take pleasure in hurting you."
Sebastian started tossing again. "No! NO! Father! Please, let me go! Don't do this. Please! NO!" He bolted up on the bed, shocking Kenna. He was breathing heavily, feeling his chest. "Not dead." He focused on Kenna. "I'm not dead."
Kenna placed a cool hand against his cheek. "Of course you're not dead."
Sebastian started trembling, he was not quite awake. "Am I not a good son? Have I not been a good brother to his children? Why does treat me this way?"
Kenna shook her head. "It seems we have that in common. We have incurred his wrath without knowing how." She combed her fingers through his hair. "But I grew up here in the castle and have seen you with Francis, Claude and the little ones. You love them and protect them despite the entire castle calling you the King's bastard. The King is not well. Do not think of him as he is now but as he was when you were a child? Did he not love almost more than he did Francis?" Sebastian calmed as she spoke. She lowered him back onto the bed and picked up a cool towel, tending to his fever as she continue talking. "Remember the days he carried you on his shoulder and the hunting trips you went on together. He did love you." Sebastian's breathing evened out and he drifted into a more peaceful sleep. Kenna smiled. She realised she could've been forced to marry someone much worse.
Sebastian woke the next morning feeling groggy but better than he been in a long while. He rubbed his chest. It felt as if an elephant has been sitting on him the entire night. He sat up, about to get out of bed when he saw Kenna asleep in the chair next to the bed. Sebastian vaguely remember a woman's voice speaking calmly to him, bringing back good memories from his childhood. He pulled the quilt off his bed and covered his wife, protecting her from the cold morning air. He changed his shirt and grabbed his jacket, heading out of the room.
Sebastian coughed into his sleeves as he walked down the corridors. It felt like a new day for him. Something happened last night, giving him a need to speak to Mary. It was late morning, which meant Francis and Mary were most probably having tea in their dining room. He stopped at their door and waited for the guard to announce him. "Is it possible for him to stay put?" He grinned at his brother's irritated voice. The guard gestured for him to enter. "Brother, you are exhausting me." Francis pulled him over by the arm and sat him in his seat, pushing his plate of food in front of him. "While I have you here…eat!"
"Stop worrying, Francis! I'm fine." He would have been more convincing if a cough hadn't travelled up his throat. He turned away, smothering is cough in his arm.
"Forgive me if I don't believe you." Francis glared at him.
"It's a cough, Francis. I've had worse as a child." He threw a grape into his mouth. "I don't understand how I contracted this cold when you were the one in the water."
Francis and Mary exchanged amused look. There was something different about his brother this morning. Mary shrugged. She didn't dare to speak in fear of driving Sebastian away. "Would you like me to start coughing to make you feel better?"
"If you don't mind." Sebastian answered without skipping a beat. Mary couldn't help but burst out laughing. She quickly smothered it when the brothers looked at her.
"Sorry." She stood from her seat. "I'm sure the two of you want to talk in private." She was about to leave when Sebastian stopped.
"Mary, please stay."
Mary looked at Francis, who smiled at her and nodded. Francis turned back to his brother, looking at him suspiciously. "There is something different about you today."
"Maybe it was the fever last night." Sebastian revealed. "Kenna said some things to me. It's all foggy but she brought back memories of good times with father. He didn't always hate me."
"He's not well, Bash." Francis gave his shoulder a squeeze.
"I know." Sebastian smiled up at him. "She also mentioned you." He said to Mary. "Your decisions are governed by your duties to your country and as much as it hurt, I can't resent you for being a good Queen."
Tears started running down Mary's cheeks. "I…"
"Please don't tell me that you loved me because we both know it would be a lie." Sebastian pleaded with her. "I forgive you for what you did and I will stop avoiding you, but from now on, the only thing we will have between us is our love for my brother."
Mary wiped away her tears and nodded. "I'm just happy the wedge I drove between you and Francis is no longer there. I like seeing you both look out for each other and I would give everything to take back all the pain I've caused you both." Francis walked over to her and took her hand, pulling her to her feet.
"It's time we put that behind us." He wrapped his arm around her waist and turned to his brother. "Thank you, Bash."
Sebastian smiled at him. "We're brothers. I would do anything for you." He was about to take his leave when Kenna's panicked voice came through the door.
"I need to speak to the Prince and Queen Mary. Bash has gone missing. I'm supposed to be watching him!"
Sebastian winced. He didn't think him leaving her would cause this much panic. Francis shook his head at him. "See the trouble you cause? Guards, let her in." The door opened and Kenna charged in only to stop in her track when she saw her husband sitting at the dining table.
"What are you doing here?" She asked, annoyed. "I've been looking everywhere for you. Would it kill you to leave me a note?"
"You'd think it would kill him to do anything logical." Francis folded his arms, reprimanding his brother.
Sebastian glared at Francis before standing and taking Kenna by the shoulder. "I'm sorry I worried you. I didn't want to wake you after you spent the night taking care of me."
She frowned, "You remember?"
He smiled, "More than you think."
"It seems you have quite the influence on our Bash." Mary smiled at Kenna. "In all his madness, I think King Henry may have done something good."
"Come, let us return to our room before they decide they want to witness our consummation." Sebastian shook his head at the laughter from the two.
"Did I miss something?" Kenna asked him.
"Nothing important." Sebastian kissed her on the cheek as they walked out with his arm around her. He sighed as his nightmare finally ended. He may yet to find something of his own, after all. Maybe even have a family.