AN: I have willed myself to forget that the finale happened. So to ignore it I will hide behind the historical fiction genre which I adore so much. This will occur earlier than the Elizabethan Chair fic Forever and a Day but after the War of the Roses Chair fic Yesterday's Roses.
If you are waiting for the two happy WIP fics, you will need to bear with me as I work through—in my own head—the darkness the characters are in by historical romance therapy. As my longfics are always happy endings, I hope this will put me on the right path.
In Scattered Bliss Do Our Bodies Lie
He was a prince. He used to be. In the life before this one, he had been a prince. In another existence he had risen to the very top, had kissed the stars and dined in the clouds. And if hatred had not seeped into his bones he would have woken up still a prince, yet in his own kingdom forgotten.
Charles Bass was the son of a man as powerful a noble as he had been fearsome. He had been everything that Bartholomew had wished him to be, and when Chuck won his first tilt in his majesty King Henry's court the pride which sparkled in an old man's eyes was cause for celebration. It was that day that Bartholomew, with a smirk of arrogance that Chuck had often seen grace his lips many times before, placed an arm around his armored shoulders and pulled him towards the younger king.
In title, perhaps they were not princes or kings, but Bartholomew carried himself as well as any king and Chuck was his prince. An earldom was nothing to scoff at, and the earldom with all its honor and nobility was theirs.
"My liege, majesty," Bartholomew called, his familiarity apparent.
And Henry, affable in his manner at the height of his claim to an annulment with the queen, turned and held out his hands in welcome of the rich lord. Even then, young as he was, Chuck noticed the grim line around the king's mouth, could almost see the gold in the kingdom's treasury slowly draining from those cracks on Henry's visage.
And Henry turned to the young man, slapped a heavy hand and grinned. "The boy who felled Lennox," the king recognized, much to Chuck's overwhelming pleasure. "I should have known the boy who felled that beast of a man is the spawn of Big Bad Bass." And then Chuck held his breath when the king's eyes slid over his face. Henry's lips curved once he met his eyes again. "And this face is, fortunately, more Evelyn's than yours, Bass."
At that, Bart laughed heartily. "I can be no more thankful than I am for that grace of God."
He had been, he was quite certain, well on his way to becoming the king's favorite.
But Chuck had realized early on that the best things in life could just slip away and be forgotten. On that same night Henry had sent his father on a mission to the pope. "I shall ensure your place in Henry's court, Charles," his father had told him. With a pat on his cheek, Bartholomew swore, as they stood at the docks where they would last be together, "When I return, with the pope's blessing for the king's union to the Boleyn girl, I shall expand our empire."
"To lands as far as our eyes can see," Chuck declared, knowing full well that one vision that his father had for their wealth.
"Lands far beyond," his father added. "You shall not lack for wealth, my son." Nor power. Nor favor with the king.
A lifetime ago, Chuck remembered, it was so full of promise. His mother was in anticipation for Bartholomew's triumphant return. Once his father returned, they would forever be at the right hand of the king who only sought the hand of the girl who had bewitched him. The king's heart was on his sleeve.
Dark-eyed women. Dark brown hair. Lustrous, pure skin. Where Henry's eyes rested on the bosom of Anne Boleyn, Chuck's were drawn to the playful, secretive smile of the young woman behind her. Even as his mother waited for Bartholomew's return, Chuck drew closer and closer still to that girl in the shadows, and he prayed not out of loyalty to the king that his father would succeed in negotiating for the divorce of the king and his Spanish queen.
"Blair," he greeted, as he grasped her elbow and drew her with him towards the columns, pulling her into the shadows and pressing her backwards against the pillar. "You are as lovely as I remember."
Her lips parted; he felt her breath on his face. Her dark lashes intrigued him, infuriated him, titillated him in the way she hid her eyes from his view. "You are ever so forward, Bass."
"And you are a tease."
Her lips curved—his cock jumped. He knew now how Henry could be so bothered, be so very thrown from the kingdom's affairs to his hellish journey to a divorce. Blair had come along with the Boleyns, educated and crafted from the French courts. If she had learned from the same masters as Anne, then Henry was a lost man. She placed a finger on the base of his exposed throat. He swallowed. She told him, "I am no tease. I find myself, however, very drawn to you, my lord."
"Then," he told her, his voice thick with his desire, "come to my bed."
Very gently she pushed at his chest to free herself. "You will wait for me tonight?" she had asked him, very slyly, and he nodded even though she had asked it for nights now and she never came. "Goodbye, my lord."
And as she passed by him he took her hand in his and lifted it to his lips. He kissed her knuckles, and promised as she glided away, "One of these days, Blair, you shall wear my jewels."
And she would be his. One hour home, and he would take them and adorn her in them, declare to the world that he had found his bride. One contract and it would be done, and there would be no escaping each other.
Weeks passed, and he was called to the presence of the king. Chuck appeared before an enraged Henry. At the sight of his mother weeping to the side, and his father's brother stoic by the king, he knew.
The dark shadow of his father's death, and the failure that hung over the king's demand, would follow him home. His gaze went from Henry to the woman sitting beside him, often seen laughing merrily with the handful of ladies that surrounded her. Anne Boleyn's dark eyes shimmered with her fury. Right behind her he could see Blair meet his eyes.
Perished in the Vatican, and not a whisper would slip from beyond those walls to share how it was his father died.
And it was he who first turned away.
"Chuck," she had called to him as he walked away from the court. "Chuck!"
Under those shadows it was dark. He was surrounded by a thousand mad whispers and through them he barely heard her voice. It was not until he felt her hand on his arm that he stopped, that he turned to look at her.
"Stop," she asked him.
"There's nothing here for me."
Under the shadow of Bartholomew's failure, there was no light to see her face. "And what am I?"
His little cocktease, who had been promised jewels he no longer owned, who he had imagined ensconced before a fireplace he no longer had, who would bear the title of which he would soon be stripped.
Her touch he could not feel, even when she cupped his cheek and for the first time spoke to him without that playful grin, without the lilt that so delighted him. "You have me."
And he shook his head, wondering why of all the skills the French court had taught her, it did not teach her this. "I do not."
"Chuck," she said.
"Not now, Blair."
"Then I'll wait," she offered, and he answered with silence.
That was a lifetime ago.
In that life, which ended the day his mother turned to his father's brother, married that man a decade her junior, and committed that sin that took her life, he had lost the fortune his father had meant for him. With one stroke of a pen Henry punished Bartholomew for his failure and signed his wealth to Jack Bass, who had curried favor for himself by becoming Anne's lapdog.
The wisest said, those who were closest to God, that marrying your brother's widow was a sin.
It was a sin that the king himself had committed. He had wed Catherine and thus was cursed without a son. Jack had paid for the sin himself. A month after wedding Evelyn, and taking the lands and the money that Bartholomew had intended to be his son's, Jack was widowed. And because Evelyn warmed another man's bed before Bartholomew began rotting in his grave, no one saw her son in the funeral.
His father's brother, widowed yet wealthy, he thought to himself.
Three years later, the missive was his invitation. The wax seal that held it closed was black, and before he even read it his heart flew with joy. It was the day he had waited three years for, and it had finally arrived. He had grasped the missive in a fist so tight the paper crumpled in his hand. He raised it to his mouth with a kiss.
Jack Bass was dead.
He closed his eyes as he imagined the warm home, so familiar, so treasured. The holdings were humbler now, his gold squandered by his father's brother in his unskilled management. Someday it would once again flourish under the care of the Bass who should have received it. With a sinking feeling he realized, "All gone."
Chuck jumped from his horse and raced up the barren steps, pushed open the heavy doors of his childhood home. The rushes were dirty, not been replaced for months it seemed. It was cold, dank. He heard the dripping water and surveyed the rotted planks of wood that sealed the windows. Black cloth was placed on all the boarded windows in a mark of mourning. A woman scurried from the kitchen with a bowl in her hands.
"Stop," he barked.
The woman stopped in her tracks, then looked up at him wide-eyed. She was a full woman, with cherub cheeks and guileless eyes. Chuck walked forward to her and glanced at the bowl. He placed a finger at the bottom and felt the heat.
"You started a fire." The woman lowered her head in admission. "This holding has no gold, and yet you start a fire for a bowl."
"I know, my lord," murmured the maid.
"And you. Who are you?"
Her voice trembled when she answered, "Dorota."
"You mumble. Mumbling is done by those with secrets and lies." He said more loudly, "What is your name?"
"Dorota, my lord."
He nodded. There were no other servants about. At least they did not waste what paltry sum there was. "And you know me."
She nodded. "My lady was informed to expect you, my lord."
"Lady," Chuck whispered.
"The countess, my lord. Lord Jack's wife." His mother had been countess, and now Jack so easily handed the honor to a stranger. And then she stammered, began again. "My lady—Lord Jack's wi—widow."
Chuck paused. His eyes narrowed. Goblin's arse. That dung-ridden goblin arse. The vile son of Lucifer had a wife! It was not in the missive. If it had been he would have assessed the partition of the holdings before he returned. He wondered what stupid woman—as desperately old and fearful of dying alone like his mother perhaps—married Jack Bass's desiccated arse.
"So the bastard married again, some woman he hoped would keel over before he did and leave him wealth to run dry?"
Dorota shook her head. "No, my lord. Lady Bass is young and hale."
Chuck smirked. "So at his age he thought to find himself a young filly to inherit what is not his." Yet what she did not know was she would get nothing. "Not one piece of gold, not a quid."
"Really, Chuck, do you truly need to strike the fear of God in my dear Dorota?"
His furious pounding heart staggered. Chuck's eyes widened. His brows furrowed at the vaguely familiar voice. His gaze slowly turned from the trembling maid and towards the direction of the voice. He looked towards the shadowed figure standing midway down the stairs.
If the windows would have been unboarded, and the ridiculous show of grief removed, then the sun would stream in and it would be easy to see her. But even in the darkness he knew who it was.
At his mention of her name, he wondered if there was a small smile on her face. "Chuck Bass." He confirmed that smile when she rushed down the steps and walked towards him, across the pitifully stinking rushes at their feet. She took off the dark veil over her face, and he noted the heavy, somber garment she wore. She was clothed like a widow. Yet when she looked up at him she was that young girl again, playing at being a coquette.
"I have missed you, Chuck."
In fact, it seemed she played it too well.
And so he returned with, "You married Jack."
She drew in a sharp breath, then frowned. And then, as if it slowly dawned on her, she nodded. Blair took a step back. "I did."
"And I was not invited to the wedding."
At which point, it seemed to him she had read exactly what he felt. Her eyes narrowed, and she lashed, "You were asked to your mother's funeral and you did not come. How can I expect you to grace my wedding?" He flinched. She bit her lip and placed a hand on his chest. "Chuck—"
He raised a hand to silence her. "Just tell me, countess. Do you have a son?" She took a breath, then shook his head. He nodded. "Then you and I shall go to the king and we will know to whom my father's lands shall go."
"Do we need to go to the king, Chuck?"
"I shall not lose again," he told her. She shivered at the cold air, or perhaps it was just the ice in his voice. He noticed the fireplace behind her, where he had once imagined they would sit together. Once in these three years past she had enjoyed that fireplace, sitting with his father's brother perhaps. "Better for you to be informed in court, so you can quickly vanish behind Queen Anne. She can easily help you fish for another titled, landed man. You are so talented, Blair. It would be such shame if you cannot show them your skills."
She looked away. And then, when he said no more, she gathered herself and walked towards the stairs. At the foot of the steps she turned to him, then asked, "Shall I vacate the master's bedroom then, now that you have arrived?"
Once upon a midnight past he had dreamed of laying her on that large bed, and taking the lace and silk and pearls of a wedding dress off her body. He tightened his jaw. "Stay. I would not wish to sleep on sheets you shared with Jack."
When stiffly she walked back up the steps, and he continued, "When you wake, perhaps you can ask for the rushes to be changed, and an extra chamber aired. You are, my lady Bass, unfortunate that you are not a good keeper of a household. This was once elegant, and now my home is in shatters."
He had thought she would continue on, but instead she paused and turned to him with a glare. "If your home is in shatters it is not my fault," she snapped. "Your home was in shambles before I arrived, and your uncle certainly drained my purse to put it to right." Blair huffed, then turned her glare at Dorota. "It is cold, Dorota. Take me my broth, if you please."
"I can help you keep warm, madame!" he called back as she stormed up.
Dorota hurried after her mistress. Chuck stopped her. "Light a fire and heat it again. It's become cool in the air." He looked back up towards the empty steps, then shook his head. "Lady Bass should have steaming soup as hot as her own tongue."
"Your history shall not be kind to me," she said in hesitation as she sat on the cushioned seat. Blair looked up at the queen, then smiled faintly to veil her reluctance. "I know it," she said to the earnest young man who dipped a quill into the ink.
"Nonsense," the queen insisted. She walked over to the historian, than patted his back. "Daniel has come highly recommended by Henry. Remember, Blair, people shall remember us by the stories we write."
The scholar looked up from his parchment and assured her, "I only seek to tell the truth, my lady. These stories shall be here long after we die."
Blair cocked her head to the side. Anne tittered and clasped her hands before her chest. "Master Humphrey, we are yet too young to think of dying." She turned to Blair for agreement.
Blair gave the queen a faint smile. "You would think it, majesty," she said. "You have always been the most alive."
"The most happy," Anne added. She tightened a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Life is meant for love and happiness, cherie. It was so in France when we were mere courtiers and it would be more so here when we have the power for anything we desire." And then, the queen leaned down to kiss her cheek. "I shall find my husband and give you some privacy with Master Humphrey."
Blair watched fondly as the light in the room that was the queen flew through the doors. In the silence at her tail, Blair turned to the scholar and asked, "Does the king truly wish for the truth?"
"The king wishes history to be written by his hand," Daniel informed her. "But tell me the truth, Lady Bass, and I shall endeavor to keep most of it. Your husband was the king's favorite. He would be most grateful for your retelling."
"I am not certain then that the king would wish to keep my story." She took a deep breath. "But I shall tell you anyway. And then, Master Humphrey, perhaps you and your friends shall weave it into a story that the king would appreciate."
Daniel shook his head, then put the tip of his quill onto the paper.
"My name is Blair Cornelia Bass, and when I was young my heart was torn from my breast," she told him.
"You are yet young," Daniel prompted.
Blair shook her head. "No," she said. "Not these three years past."
"You are a widow, my lady."
Her lips curved. "I was a widow long before Jack died. I was a widow long before he wed me." She shook her head. With a fond smile, she continued, "I was a young girl, Master Humphrey, newly come from France greeted by my cousin who told me she would soon be queen. I had come for a thrill, Master Humphrey, and what thrill I found."
"A thrill. What thrill, my lady?"
Her voice dropped, and she confided, "I fell in love with a Bass."
Daniel Humphrey smiled, because he had supposed it from the beginning. Still, he wrote it. He began to ask, but there was an abrupt knock on the door. Blair looked up and saw Chuck. He glanced at Daniel, then dismissed him at once. "The king shall give us an audience in an hour, countess," Chuck told her.
"Courtesy is a virtue I learned in Paris," she said, for Daniel's benefit. "Just because I have lived here three years does not mean barbaric London has severed it from me. For your story, Master Humphrey," she told him. And then, to Chuck, she said, "This is Daniel Humphrey, who writes my story at the king's behest. He would like a history of his court, and Jack was an integral part of it when he was alive."
"And he is dead," he said, and she almost heard the bitter glee. He said to her, "Let us conjure stories of dear Jack slaying dragons and saving maidens."
"Master Humphrey only writes the truth."
"Pity," Chuck drawled. "We know you have a talent for weaving lies, my lady."
The scholar abruptly stepped forward at the perception of disrespect. Blair shook her head and placed a hand on the historian's arm. "Forgive him." To Daniel, she said, "And this is Lord Bass."
Daniel glanced at Blair in surprise. "A Bass," he repeated, then glanced at the script on his parchment.
"Aye, Master Humphrey. The last Bass, in fact."
Daniel nodded in understanding, but corrected her, "Apart from you, Lady Bass."
"Oh," she said at that reminder.
Chuck turned to Blair, then said, "A half an hour, and we need to be seated in the waiting chamber. The king shall not wait for us. I find patience is not a virtue those in the court possess." He turned to leave, then closed the door behind him.
Testing with the first part. Hope you enjoyed.