A.N: Words cannot express my regret over how long this bloody chapter has taken me. I was having quite a lot of trouble with it, and I am still unhappy but I need to press on with the story.
October 21, 1550
George entered his niece's room and sighed as his wife's spine stiffened at the intrusion.
He stepped further in and shut the door behind him before he rebuked more harshly than he'd intended, "Your... affection for Rachel has been noticed my Lady."
Quinn arched an eyebrow and George couldn't help the small smile at her daring, his father would have hated her, "I do not like what you are implying my Lord, my affection for Rachel is neither sinful nor inappropriate," She scowled at him and all but bit out, "Unlike your friendship with Master Smeaton."
George winced, he knew that Mark's continued coldness towards Quinn had been noticed, and apparently Quinn resented his lover's treatment of her.
He raised a hand, "It is hard for Mark my Lady, he has not had cause to share my... attention for years."
Quinn scoffed and returned her gaze to Rachel, "He has no cause to share it now. He knows better than most that our marriage is in name only, indeed our marriage and," She hesitated as her hand drifted to her swollen stomach, "Our child provide more protection for you and Master Smeaton than anything else ever could. Who would think to question your manhood now, with such a young wife, whom you so quickly got with child. I am indebted to you and to Rachel, but Master Smeaton's rudeness is unfounded, and unappreciated."
George scowled down at her, not happy that his wife was rebuking Mark, even when the other man was not present to hear it, "The King has commented on your fervent devotion to Rachel, wife and he can make trouble for all of us if he suspects that your relationship with Rachel has progressed..."
Quinn stood abruptly and for a moment George was sure his wife wanted to strike out at him as he hissed, "Which it has not. I love Rachel my Lord, but she is a princess, and I am..." She turned her gaze away and whispered, "I am unworthy... and a woman."
George cocked his head and replied gently, "The fact that he is a man has not stopped Mark and I." She softened further and brought his hand to Quinn's chin to force her to look at him, "And I would never have married you if I thought you unworthy Quinn." Quinn offered him a small smile before returning to her seat at Rachel's bedside.
George peered down at her and then commanded gently, "You will attend luncheon with the royal family and myself. Rachel is in no danger, and prying yourself away will do more to reassure the King than words could. He will say nothing for fear of angering my sister."
Quinn sneered, "No doubt the Queen would think he was trying to find another excuse to keep Rachel banished from court."
George inclined his head in agreement, "No doubt."
Henry watched his brother-in-law's young wife like a hawk as she spoke quietly with Elizabeth and Anne. Both women seemed to have decided that the Duchess was the best source of information about Rachel.
Anne had reached out a hand and was asking loud enough for the table to hear, "And is it true, that she can sing?"
Henry watched as his own Elizabeth seemed compelled to answer before she schooled her face and turned attentive ears to Quinn who beamed, "Oh yes your Majesty, indeed I was stunned when I first heard her, I was sure that no one could ever sing so beautifully."
Henry felt his chest puff out in fatherly pride, charmed by Lady Wiltshire's obvious admiration for his youngest daughter despite his suspicions about the nature of the admiration.
He couldn't help his smile as Anne smiled at Quinn, delighted at Quinn's words, "When she is well I should love to hear her."
Henry nodded and reached out to squeeze Anne's hand, "We shall have to hold a celebration when she returns to court I think, so that all can hear her talent."
Quinn and George grinned at each other with easy affection as George spoke, "Rachel would love that Majesty, indeed she loves to perform, often times with little prompting."
Quinn added with twinkling eyes, "Or none at all."
Henry cocked his head, confused at the affection between the Duke and Duchess, George was not a stupid man, and if he'd suspected that his wife's feelings for his niece were inappropriate no doubt he'd be cross, not at Rachel of course, who could fault the princess if Lady Wiltshire harbored feelings beyond friendship. The easy affection with which he regarded his young wife did not speak of a husband who had cause to fear for his wife's affections.
As George raised Quinn's hand to his lips with a gentle smile Henry decided he must have been wrong. He glanced at Anne who was now speaking with Elizabeth and let out a sigh, he was very glad he'd kept his suspicions to himself, no doubt Anne would have been infuriated to think that he might have been looking for an excuse to keep Rachel from court. Which he wasn't.
The physician closed the door behind him as he left the Princess's bedchamber, leaving Rachel alone with her dreams.
She tossed and turned with a quiet moan, indeed it was fortunate that no one was around to hear the tone, "Quinn..."
Her eyes fluttered as she dreamed of a memory;
She smiled shyly at Quinn as they walked quietly through the gardens at Hever, enjoying the July warmth, both grateful that the Summer showers seemed to have abated for the day.
Quinn took a deep breath and smiled happily, "I love it here..."
Rachel reached out a hand impulsively and caught Quinn's hand in hers, "I am glad Quinn. I admit I was afraid that you'd be homesick."
Quinn scoffed before she could stop herself, "I might miss my mother but I could never miss Grace hall."
Rachel hesitated before inching closer to Quinn, "Was it truly so awful?"
Quinn was quiet for a long moment before she sighed, "Imagine never knowing a moment of true peace, even in our quietest moments we were always waiting for my father to come raging in, infuriated over something, screaming at one of us, or when he was drunk at all of us."
Rachel's eyes narrowed as she pictured ordering Quinn's beast of a father into the Tower for making Quinn frown so, "I would see him flogged for such treatment!"
Quinn smiled at her as they sat on one of the benches, "When I was a little girl I used to dream of being rescued by a handsome prince, or a knight, and taken far away from him, where the dragon could never harm me again."
Rachel laid her head on Quinn's shoulder and sighed, "I am sorry you were never rescued Quinn."
Quinn tensed next to her for a moment before she whispered, "I was Rachel, and I think being rescued by a beautiful Princess is far better than being saved by some lowly knight."
Rachel jerked up to look at Quinn surprise as she felt her cheeks flood with color, "Quinn..."
Quinn ducked her head as she blushed herself before letting out a sigh as Rachel tucked her body back into her side.
Rachel's eyes snapped open as she tried to sit only to let out a hiss of pain as dizziness hit her. She wasn't even aware that one could be dizzy lying down. She let out a deep moan, apparently one could.
She cautiously opened her eyes, hoping to see Quinn but alas the room was empty. She pouted, well that was a bit of a disappointment, she'd been hurt, if the pounding in her head was any indication, and yet neither her Uncle nor her... her Quinn were sitting tearfully at her bedside.
She crossed her arms and closed her eyes, her pout deepening as she settled into the bed.
She heard the door open and didn't feel the need to smooth her face, no doubt it was either Uncle George or Quinn and they deserved to know that she was displeased, or it was a doctor, and really, she didn't much care what they thought about her.
"Now what has you frowning so sweetheart?" The jovial voice was completely unfamiliar to Rachel who snapped her eyes open despite the light and stared at the large man who'd entered her room. He was very finely dressed and very bejeweled, his rings and jeweled collar twinkled in the room's light.
She didn't make a move to sit up as she asked bluntly, "Who are you?"
The great bear of a man winced before he schooled his face and replied gently, "I am your father child."
Rachel gaped at him for a long moment before her good sense kicked in and she struggled to rise from the bed so that she could curtsey properly, heedless of the sudden wave of nausea that struck her.
She spoke almost desperately, "Forgive me your Majesty..."
The King moved quickly and placed a firm hand on her shoulder to guide or rather force her to lie back down, "Lie still Rachel, you were very gravely injured."
Rachel stilled under his hold as she stared up at him and stated fearfully, "I am still banished your Majesty..."
She wanted to flee from this man, this father, and hide. She wanted to beg him to love her, she wanted to ask for her mother, but more than anything she wanted to hide how afraid of him she was. Which was no easy task, as her emotions often shined through her eyes for all to see. She cast her eyes away from him, hoping he hadn't seen.
Henry stared down at his daughter and felt his chest tighten as she cut her eyes away from him and stared at her hands which lay clasped above her coverings. In the second she'd stared at him, he'd seen every ounce of fear in her eyes that he knew she was now trying to hide. The way her voice had trembled when she spoke of still being banished... he had truly been a beast to this poor girl, such that she had every cause to doubt his love for her, in a way that no child ever should.
He spoke gently, "I have lifted the banishment Rachel, and when you are well enough I should like you to come to court. Your mother and I would love to have you with us."
He watched as her hands curled into fists and in a controlled voice she replied, "If it pleases you your Majesty."
He knew he had no cause to feel angry or offended by her coldness, but to have his own daughter treat him so was not something he cared for and so gruffly he spoke, "It does please me now."
He turned on his heel and left the room. That was not at all like the tearful, joyous reunion he had pictured, and Rachel was no longer a young girl who needed her father, she was a young woman who had been abandoned by him instead.
Anne had known just by looking at her husband that Rachel's first waking moments with him had not gone as he'd expected. No doubt if she had even a drop of Boleyn blood in her, she would not be quick to forgive such a hurt, add Tudor pride, and their combined fire and they were likely to be dealing with a very angry young woman, who would not be quick to forgive her father. She could only hope that she'd inherited at least a little of the Boleyn shrewdness and was not blatantly rude to her father.
To Anne's dismay, she couldn't be sure her daughter would be willing to forgive her either, so it was with shaking hands that she entered her daughter's bedchamber.
Rachel looked up at her and Anne's chest tightened and then her eyes watered as Rachel breathed, "Mama?"
Anne rushed forward a second later, throwing aside any dignity she may have had as a Queen as she gathered her daughter in her arms and held on for dear life, as if she was terrified that if she let go for even a moment, life... or her husband would rip her away again. She closed her eyes as Rachel's arms circled her neck and let her own tears fall when she felt Rachel's splash against her neck.
She spoke softly, "I am so sorry my darling, so so sorry..."
She could feel Rachel shake her head as she choked out, "I don't blame you."
Anne brought a hand up to cradle the back of her daughter's head as she murmured, "I know sweetheart, I know."
She'd have to talk to Rachel later, she'd have to explain that it wouldn't do for her to alienate her father, who at the moment was feeling more guilty than anything else. God forbid though that her husband should rediscover his pride and decide that he could not abide his daughter treating him coldly.
But not now. Now she could comfort her daughter, her little daughter who didn't hate her.
She gripped Rachel a little tighter and buried her face in her daughter's still sweet smelling hair.
Sometime later she smoothed the covers down as Rachel's eyes followed her, "The Duchess seemed very devoted to you Rachel."
Her daughter smiled happily, "Quinn is a very good friend mother, and has been very kind to me."
Anne smiled, glad that her daughter had made a friend closer to her age. She loved her brother and Mark, but both men were quite a lot older than Rachel, and from what she'd seen of Noah Boleyn, she wasn't sure he was the sort she wanted influencing her daughter.
Rachel piped up excitedly, "And she is with child! She has already asked that I serve as the child's godmother!"
Anne smiled indulgently, and swore silently to be very kind to her young sister-in-law who was proving much more likeable than George's first wife. She frowned a moment later, it was terribly unkind to think so poorly of her nephew's mother, of the woman who had died giving birth to the Boleyn heir, but she couldn't help how much she'd detested the woman George had blatantly loathed. She could only hope that George would be as fond of his new wife if she delivered a daughter rather than a son.
Anne asked hesitantly, "And does your uncle seem especially invested in a son with his new wife Rachel?"
Rachel shook her head, "No Mama, not at all. In fact I believe he would much rather have a little daughter. I was a much easier child than Noah... most of the time."
Anne watched as her daughter's face darkened as she spoke of her cousin, which puzzled her. She'd always received reports that the two were the best of friends, more siblings than cousins, but perhaps that had changed. Perhaps Rachel resented that Noah had been so freely welcomed at court when she had remained banished?
Anne found herself wanting to prevent any rift between the two cousins as she spoke, "Noah was very worried for you Rachel. He tore from court as soon as he heard the news, I do not believe he even took time to pack."
Rachel frowned, "His worry means little after our recent... disagreement. He has proven himself to be the sort of man I care little for, and I do not wish to be in his company."
Anne let the subject drop, unwilling to argue with her daughter over anything. She stood slowly, hoping to stretch her back. She made her way to Rachel's wardrobe and without invitation she opened it and then stopped to stare. Her daughter's clothes could not be considered tatty or poor, indeed she would have gone after her brother and her husband if it was obvious that her daughter had been forced to wear cheap or poorly made clothes. No, the clothes were very fine, but the colors clashed, the fashions were outdated and indeed it seemed as if Rachel had not asked for or even ordered a new dress for sometime.
Anne turned to stare at her daughter, who was now scribbling on a piece of paper and humming to herself, "Rachel...?"
Her daughter looked up, "Your majesty?"
Anne ignored the use of the honorific and asked, "Why do you have no new dresses?"
Rachel cocked her head and then shrugged, "I don't have the patience to sit through the fittings or spend hours deciding what color best brings out my eyes." She returned her attention to the paper in her lap.
Anne stared, was this the price a girl paid for having no motherly influence? She herself was still a fashion trendsetter at court, indeed under her influence the ladies in Henry's court were as colorful and well dressed as those of his long time rival King Francis. Elizabeth had proved herself to as equally invested in clothes and fine jewels. Was Rachel's apparent lack of interest because she'd had no mother to teach her?
Tentatively Anne asked, "And what do you like to do Rachel? Hunt... sew?"
Rachel wrinkled her nose, "I don't like to hunt... I like to ride but hunting upsets me, and sewing is boring... and I often prick my fingers."
Anne blinked, "Why does hunting upset you my darling?"
Rachel glanced away as her cheeks colored, "I feel bad for the animals when they are killed."
Anne's heart melted yet again as she stared at her gentle daughter, "There isn't anything wrong with that Rachel, I admit to not liking that aspect of hunting myself..." She added a moment later, "Neither does Elizabeth."
Rachel perked up, "She doesn't?"
Anne nodded, "She would much rather take a simple ride than interrupt it with baying hounds and sweaty men."
Rachel giggled, "I agree. Quinn and I often ride together, though she'll have to stop once she's further along."
Anne returned to the bed and sat on the edge, "You like her very much don't you Rachel?"
Rachel nodded solemnly, "She is my very best friend."
Anne took her daughter's hand and smiled at her, "I am glad you have had her these last few months."
Artie watched his sister as she paced, "Should we tell mother and father that we've spent time with Rachel before Arthur?"
Artie started and then shook his head, "No Elizabeth, we cannot be sure that father will not be angry. Though we did not know who Rachel was, she knew very well who we were, and according to the law should have never spoken to us at all."
Elizabeth scowled, "That's what I was thinking. I don't think father will be cross with us or even Rachel, not now at least, but if Rachel is angry at him it won't be long before he decides he no longer feels guilty about banishing her for no reason."
Artie winced, "Bess... It isn't our place to question him."
Elizabeth turned to glare at him, "You are one to talk, your sex saved you the same fate Arthur, but Rachel paid for her's. He parades his bastard through court but we were forbidden from even seeing our own sister, our mother's own daughter."
Artie stood, "Do not speak of Sam like that, you love him as much as I do. He's as much our brother as Rachel."
Elizabeth shook her head stubbornly, "He is a bastard and yet because of what's between his legs he is respected more than a legitimate princess."
Artie folded his arms and snapped, "I said not to speak of my brother in such a way!"
Elizabeth turned slowly and then very deliberately curtsied deeply, "Forgive me... your Royal Highness."
Artie blanched as she stood and continued, "If it pleases your highness, I shall visit my sister."
He watched as his older sister turned on her heel and swept from the room with a cold, hard look in place.
He sat back down heavily and placed his head in his hands. What was he to do? He'd been less than honorable when he'd spent time with Rachel at Grace Hall, indeed he been downright disgusting in hindsight.
He'd taken the interest Rachel had shown in him as something vastly different than that of a sister desperate to know her younger brother. The night before she and her 'brother', his cousin as it turned out, had left he'd all but demanded that she let him bed her. He could still picture the look of horror on her face as she'd stared at him, hurt and confused by his coldness when she'd refused. He had been enchanted by her, with her big dark eyes, not the same color as his mother's or Elizabeth's but certainly the same shape, with her joyful laugh and bright smile that she'd offered him so readily. He'd been charmed at how little attention she'd paid to Finn, to all his other friends, indeed she'd seemed wholly his those few days. Now he could recall that she'd been equally interested in Elizabeth, but at the time he'd thought for sure that she'd fallen madly in love with him, and that he'd have his chance to finally bed a woman, away from the prying eyes of the court, and the overly concerned gaze of his mother.
He was just like his father, his pride had been wounded when she'd turned him down with her eyes wet with tears. He'd been so ugly to her that he was certain that she and her 'brother' had left the next day because of him.
He wasn't sure how he was meant to face her, to face her knowing that she'd seen a side of him that would break their mother's heart and infuriate Elizabeth, even their father would be enraged to learn of how horribly Arthur had treated his own sister, even if Arthur could have had no way of knowing who Rachel truly was.
He felt someone settle in next to him and grew stiff until a familiar voice spoke, "She's the one you spoke of isn't she? The poor Howard relation that would not bed you?"
Artie winced as he turned to look at Sam, "...Yes..."
Sam frowned, "Perhaps if you apologize to her?"
Artie shrugged listlessly, "I suppose."
Together the two brothers sat quietly, one Prince and one Bastard sat together as they contemplated their sister.
Read and Review, also I've always thought Artie was a bit of a ponce, he does seem to think little of women, and an Artie who is the son of Henry VIII might be just like his father. While he respects and loves his mother and sister, I think it is very possible that he would treat a regular girl as if she were his play thing... *Glares* I will never forgive him for calling Brittany stupid...